Of Conventions and Desolation

America is like watching a couple travel together but yet out of step.

Looking down from the wall encircling the Jerusalem’s old city wall, a man on his cell with woman in tow.

Having viewed the 2012 Republican and the Democratic presidential conventions, I am reminded of Jesus brooding over his beloved eternal city:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! “See! Your house is left to you desolate …”

Some conventions are about drawing a grand vision of what the future  could be. Others are about “how to” make it happen.

In 2012, American politics is about neither. The seeming sole objective of both parties seems to be solely about bludgeoning the other side. And the house is left desolate.

The 10 commandments opined: “Do not kill.” 2012 campaigning is all about maximizing “road kill.”

Jesus said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In a world of cryptic texts and tweets, this has been reduced to “love yourself.” Associate only with those who feel and act just like you.

As the challenger, Romney’s campaign suggests getting more for less – by cutting taxes when we already can’t pay the nation’s bills.

As the incumbent, Obama suggests getting more for less – by universalizing health care but with no way to pay an ever mounting price tag with what is already the most expensive, least efficient medical delivery system in the civilized world.

Republican George Bush started us down the path to rescue GM and Chrysler; Obama finished the job; Romney would just as soon let both companies go under – a tribute to Darwin’s survival of the fittest.

In 1998, then President Bill Clinton spoke to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff concerning the need to deny Saddam Hussein the weapons of mass destruction. In 2003, George Bush acted on a continuing (but ill-conceived) suspicion of WMD and authorized the invasion of Iraq. In 2008, Barack Obama promised to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home. He did and Iraq threatens to descend into either renewed civil strife or the arms of nuclear prone Iran. What little constancy of purpose and wisdom!

As follow-up to the Republican convention, a presidential-sounding Barack Obama has predictably denigrated Romney’s acceptance speech: “It was a rerun; we’d seen it before. You might as well have watched it on a black and white TV.”

And Mitt Romney has critiqued Mr. Obama and the Democrats for removing “God” and reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel from their platform – citing this as “one more example of Israel being thrown under the bus by the president.”

And so it goes … on and on and on and on again. Where is the substance and where is this all taking us?

Jesus believed in creative conflict – but not just for the sake of inflicting maximum punishment. The purpose is to reach beyond each conflict to new solutions, in ways we might never have previously imagined. As the master said: “I am come that they (meaning all of us) might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Jerusalem as viewed today from the Mount of Olives. Not hard to understand why Jesus felt so protective, yet despairing, of his city on a hill.

And rather than simply denigrating his opponent by words, Jesus demonstrates his capacity to set things right by stressing what he’s doing — as when he tells his detractors to let King Herod know that he (Jesus) is not just talking but actually doing something, like healing the sick.

America is confronted with massive issues, not readily addressed by the usual partisan conventions. Left untreated or maltreated without a renewed social compact between haves and have nots, between do-gooders and bean counters, the malaise only deepens.

Less than 40 years after Jesus looked down on his City and a bleak future, Jerusalem was reduced to rubble. Will the same be said of our city on a hill – this global beacon of freedom, opportunity and equality –  1-2 generations hence?

As Jesus said to his own family and to the scribes – the leaders – of his day: “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” So, let this be fair warning again today…

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