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Attention

 

There was a time whenever my sister would come home to visit my parents would urge her to attend church with them.  

Eventually, they stopped.  

The problem was that when we were growing up, we had a series of remarkable preachers – people who inspired us and changed the way we looked at the world. When we were raising our own children, our pastor shook hands with everyone after the service, and when it was my turn, I'd sometimes say, “Man, I hate you...” because he'd just spent an hour telling me things I would have preferred not to hear.  

But times change, and great pastors became a little thinner on the ground. At this particular time, we had a preacher who hovered quite a bit lower on the inspirational food chain.  

My sister sat next to my parents, listening carefully to the sermon, and then fumed all the way home. She’d carefully explain everything she found objectionable about the sermon, only to find that my parents hadn’t heard a word of it. They attended church for many reasons: they liked the work of the church, they loved the people and fellowship, they saw themselves as the type of people who went to church every Sunday...many reasons.  

Oddly enough, one of those reasons was NOT listening to this particular pastor.  

Why do I mention this? The same sister has a theory that, much like my parents sitting through sermons that were substandard and lazy, and not in any way an accurate reflection of what they truly believed in their heart of hearts, politics and political parties are going the same way. People are choosing sides, going with what’s comfortable, copying what their friends are doing. Again, many reasons.  

But they’re not paying attention to what is really being said, and whether what’s being said is a true reflection of what they believe.  

That seems like a mistake.  

I think about issues like this when I read about the need to get more people to vote. I'm not completely convinced that's a good idea. 

Don't get me wrong. I think we should make it easier for people to vote. Election Day should be a paid holiday, if we're going to require identification it should be provided free of charge to every citizen, and by all means we should reduce the barriers that keep people from voting. In exchange, though, it would be nice if people had to know what/who they were voting for. It would be swell if voters had read the WHOLE Constitution, not just their favorite amendments. If we're going to talk about foreign aid, either reducing or increasing the amount or the destination of that aid, it's not outside the ability of the average voter to understand the web of rights and responsibilities that bind us to the world, how something that happens continents away might not just be important as a moral imperative, but also deeply, selfishly important to us as Americans. Nobody likes homework, but sometimes it should be unavoidable. 

My sister would get frustrated with our parents, because they'd put up with incompetence or incoherence from the person in the pulpit. In their defense, they'd fought a lot of battles over their many years of involvement in the church and I'm sure it was a temptation to stay comfortable, to coast to the finish line. 

The rest of us don't have that excuse. We need to pay attention. 

Copyright 2024 Brent Olson 

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