Ministry that ignores politics does so at its peril. We are in an age where character assassination replaces honest debate. Instead of debating policy and looking to serve citizens of our country, there is a terrible void of ideas. The danger of politics like this robs people of their future. Is there a connection to our ministries? I believe there is. No matter how you serve, be it as chaplain, teacher, artist, writer, educator, healer, faith leader or marriage counselor, your voice is both needed and expected. Character assassination does not just destroy political candidates and incumbents, it also obliterates the concept that we are a people who are concerned about the well being of each other.
A clear example of this can be seen by the vicious attacks on President Obama. He has been compared to Hitler, called an illegitimate president, a secret Muslim, a liar, an elitist, a dictator, socialist, an appeaser.
The positive achievements of the Affordable Health Care Act get totally missed. How many West Virginia citizens know that they now have a guarantee that insurance companies can’t dump them or their children because of existing illness? In West Virginia, 17,900 uninsured young people can remain on their parents health insurance until the age of 26, a good step during a time of high unemployment. How many people know that 85 percent of insurance premiums must be turned back into health care services, not profits?
Character assassination reduced knowledge about the good things health care reform did accomplish. Using the term “Obamacare” is a way to undermine and disparage that which provides 379,500 West Virginians with preventive health services, and qualifies 21,200 small businesses with a premium tax credit to provide health care coverage for their employees.
Why is it that science about climate change is still being denied?
The fossil fuel industry successfully used the media to broadcast a steady stream of misinformation: “science is open to debate, science contradicts faith, God provided fossil fuels for humans to use, and everything is in God’s hands making humans absolved from responsibility.”
In this case, science was pitted against religion, which placed religious Americans in a fearful position.
One of the most ardent messengers for saving our planet was Al Gore. And so, presenting Al Gore as a babbling buffoon was a way to diminish the messenger and the message.
Another example of blatant dismissal and character assassination has been directed at the members of the Occupy movement. Politicians, supported by the Wall Street barons, have labeled those who stand for economic change as lazy drug dealing hippies, radicals, poor and envious, societal misfits, and uncultured unbathed scum. Many Americans have accepted the language and allowed those who would stand up to oligarchs to be dismissed along with their attempt at reform. Economic reform is essential if we are to remain a nation of, for, and by the people.
Lastly, in state after state, labor unions are under attack. It was the labor unions that protected laborers and children from unsafe and unfair working conditions. It was the labor movement that created a middle class.
What prompts politics to use character assassination? Money, power and silence. Ministers who don’t speak to injustice are failing those they claim to serve. Who can stand silent when Americans are deprived of quality health care? Who can stand silent when pollution causes untold numbers of asthma cases and destroys the very air and water all life requires? What minister does not find the time to demand health care as a right, speak up for economic justice or stand with labor unions in the face of suppression?
Politics and ministry both claim service to people. Politics and ministry can help improve the quality of life. Networking with other ministers may achieve more effective service. Networking among ministers may help make up for unknown facts, or lay the groundwork to stop false attacks on brothers and sisters. It would seem to me that establishing a community of ministers searching for ways to utilize the gifts of each other can only improve the quality of the service they offer.
—Virginia Lynch Graf writes from Jefferson County