THE SITUATION IS CRITICAL
“So let me tell you about the situation on Capitol Hill,” I said to my friend as we drove to South Carolina for a wedding. He had just picked me up at a Starbucks outside Charlotte, where I had spent some time reading Visioneering by Andy Stanley, about how Nehemiah went to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall of the city but when he got there, he first did a self-guided tour so he would understand the situation before he called everyone to rebuild. In reading it, it struck me that maybe one of the key components of moving LIBERATUS forward would be having a good description of what’s actually happening on Capitol Hill. I began wondering if I hadn’t done enough to lay out what the problem actually is, because when you cast vision, you have to take note of the current situation so you can call people to something better.
The crazy thing about doing so—or trying—is that when you try to address something that you know needs healing and life and freedom, you immediately begin to doubt whether or not it is a problem after all and if you shouldn’t just quit and pack your bags and decide to turn LIBERATUS into a cool website where you travel the world so you can post awesome pictures on your LIBERATUS website and write and run because those are the things you love and no one cares if American politics is a mess, and besides that now you’re being negative and you’ve got nothing true or beautiful to say, and so probably no one will ever catch a glimpse of true liberty, true freedom, the kind that transcends time and government and calls you up into a crazy adventure, more insane than climbing a mountain.
And speaking of mountain, maybe if I could get the intro video I have in my head created people’s jaws would drop at how awesome the LIBERATUS brand is, and we’d spend the rest of our lives running down some wide open road towards a huge mountain and then God would be there and it would be magical.
Maybe it would be so magical I should start this note in my journal talking about running down a road and being on a journey. Or maybe I should write a beautiful story about an oak tree that grew tall in a wide open back yard, and how people would come and run happy and free in that yard, and how there was a gardener who took care of it and the house to which it belonged, and how he planted flowers at its base but one day a storm came and the tree fell across the house and divided it in two, but the people just kept living in the house even though it was broken and eventually started blaming each other for the tree being there—for the brokenness—and how that’s a picture of what’s going on in the U.S. House and we need Jesus to come and lift the dead broken tree out of the house so we can be united again and live strong and free and happy.
But then I thought a story like that would never work and so maybe I should go read a book to get inspired, because already I looked at pictures of beautiful landscapes this morning, took a shower, went to Whole Foods, and took two walks around the block because I have nothing to say, and if I really start talking about bringing healing to the Capitol and what the work culture is like there people will think I’ve just become one of the pigs in Animal Farm and just worried about being fat and happy and now that I’m in Washington I don’t realize that there are Marines who go to Iraq and die and some Christians are getting their heads cut off and all I’m worried about is making a thing out of “burnout” and office cubicles.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Action. Sober-minded. Hope. Somehow I knew when I read that this morning it would come in critical for writing today. We are to prepare our minds, and then take action, doing so with our hope set in Jesus.
Now we’ve circled back to the Great Story, and this is critical. The thing about growing up in church and being familiar with the Great Story is that it can become easy to pretend like you’re not really broken and there’s really not a huge oak tree you can’t lift that’s fallen and dividing your house in two. It’s as if in order to be holy—to live a better story of truth and beauty—you have to pretend you don’t experience your own issues, forcing yourself to go numb inside by working yourself into this weird semi-human, distant half-reality where you elevate yourself right out of being desperate for life and freedom, no longer imagining a world filled with life and freedom because you’ve gone numb. But if you go there, all you have left is a quiet, self-indulgent, timid existence where Jesus is coming but you're too ashamed to be authentic and if you’re not authentic you can’t offer people true hope and true freedom and true life. It’s as if we think ignoring our hearts’ deep cravings will set us free from them, instead of feeling the weight of the craving and crying out to a God who truly can set us free.
The thing about our political culture and the situation on Capitol Hill is that it is nearly inextinguishable at times from our religious culture—and by religious I mean absolutely everything that is not an intimate relationship with our Creator. We are stuck both pretending there is nothing wrong with our political work culture and that there isn’t a greater reality, a better story for our political communication, and as a result, our personal well-being is destroyed. This is happening to the very people who are called to care for and lead a great nation.
My sister sent me a meditation from Richard Rohr recently, about how you have to recognize the reality of pain and suffering and that “the greatest enemy of ordinary daily goodness and joy is not imperfection, but the demand for some supposed perfection or order.” LIBERATUS was started not because we are delusional and thinking if we ignore brokenness we can have joy and good feelings as we go climb mountains and run on the beaches of truth and beauty, but because we recognize its existence and want to bring healing to those dark places to join God in his work to restore all things, especially in our political culture.
If you’re going to restore something, you have to know exactly what is broken, and so the reason coming back to the Great Story is critical is that Jesus recognized brokenness in full, entered into it, and was even killed by it. No one has experienced our desperation more fully. If we pretend our American political culture is anything but a desperate broken mess we will deny our own humanity, and the humanity of those around us to whom we could be offering true hope. If we go on pretending, the last gasp of our work in politics won’t be of hope because of the great freedom we have, it will be the conclusion of a sorry narrative that placed ourselves at the center of a war we never won, a battle in which we never triumphed over the people we were actually called to love and serve.
The truth is, it doesn’t take a whole lot of market research to realize that burnout is a constant problem on Capitol Hill, that Members are pulled in so many directions it’s nearly impossible to think straight or lead, and that our communication is built out of a weird fear that we will lose something precious to us, instead of a great wild, adventurous, eternal freedom.
But there is one who came to shake up this broken reality to offer us something more – to set us free. Jesus calls us to follow, and that calling is directly tied to the situation in which we find ourselves. So maybe–if we saw Capitol Hill as Ground Zero in the work to bring healing to the nation, and if we realized the impact greater vision and clearer focus would have on that work, we would follow. We would be set free from the political idols–like significance, power, and building an earthly kingdom—that are driving our decisions. We would care that 79% of staffers rate work culture as highly important, but only 41% are very satisfied (see Executive Summary, page 4). We would care that 72% think it’s very important to use their skills and abilities in their work, but only 32% are very satisfied (see Executive Summary, page 5). And most of all, if we caught a true glimpse of our work as a creative pursuit of truth and beauty we would follow with reckless abandon, jumping into political culture, touching all of these broken places with a new narrative, and working to set them right, to set them free. We can at work each day set our hope on a simple anthem: LIBERATUS—we are set free!