We the People

What happens when organizations begin to flounder and lose their way?  They go back to basics, don’t they?  If a football team loses 5 games in a row, the coach will focus on fundamentals in practice.  If a business starts losing profitability, top management will analyze every system and process to determine what’s not working.  If a congregation loses vitality over a period of years, church leaders assess attendance and giving trends as well as spiritual health and participation in mission and outreach.  In every case, leaders of struggling organizations must start with their mission.  

  • Does their mission statement still express the core values and vision of the organization?
  • If the mission statement is outdated, how does it need to be tweaked to reflect current reality?
  • If the mission statement is still appropriate, how do current practices need to change so that all departments align their practices with the company’s mission and vision?

Did you know that a week ago today was the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution?  On September 17, 1787, 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention voted to approve and sign the final draft of the Constitution, which was then sent to the state legislatures for ratification.

Why is it important to know that bit of trivia?   First, the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution contains the mission statement of the United States.  Second, with presidential, national, state, and local elections looming, it behooves each one of us to assess candidates according to how their views align with our country’s mission statement.

It is embarrassing that we allow political campaigns to degenerate into name calling, exaggeration, and outright lies, catering to special interest groups, and soliciting enormous amounts of money for negative advertising.  The elections on Tuesday, November 6, are not about Republicans or Democrats, left or right, conservative or liberal, Obamacare or Romneycare.  They are about which candidates will best be able to fulfill our country’s mission statement, the Preamble to the Constitution:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to:

form a more perfect Union             

establish Justice,

insure domestic Tranquility,

provide for the common defence,

promote the general Welfare,

and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Because the general welfare of our country is always in flux, the U.S. Constitution is a living document.  Over the past 225 years the Constitution has been continuously interpreted by Presidents, Congress, the Supreme Court, and ordinary people.  Although the Constitution has been adapted to changing times, it remains committed to protecting the rights of all people.

For example, the Supreme Court ruled in 1896 (Plessy vs. Ferguson) that separate institutions for black and white citizens were legal as long as the institutions were equal in power (separate but equal).  However, in 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned this doctrine in Brown vs. Board of Education by declaring that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

As we prepare for the November elections, what does it mean to align our voting with our country’s mission statement as well as our Christian faith?

  • This election is not about what’s best for me or you or anyone else’s personal welfare.  It’s about the general welfare of We, the People. 

Over the past 225 years our country has moved away from an emphasis on the collective good to a focus on individual success and the acquisition of wealth.   “Pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps” has become synonymous with the American dream.  In reality, no matter how much we achieve in life, others help us along the way.  Our country’s growing edge is to move beyond entitlement, status, ego, and power to a genuine desire for all people to enjoy quality of life.

  • Will you vote according to what candidates promise to do for you or how they promise to promote the general welfare?
  • This election is not about coddling the desires of special interest groups or using religion as a weapon.  It’s about We, the People, advocating for those who do not experience liberty, justice, and tranquility.
  • In the gospel of Luke Jesus begins his ministry by preaching in his hometown of Nazareth and citing the words of the prophet Isaiah as his own mission statement, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
  •  Most of human history has been written from the perspective of those in control of the dominant institutions.   The Bible, however, is an alternative history written from the perspective of the poor, the outcast, and the oppressed.  Following in the footsteps of the prophets, Jesus spoke truth to those in power but was eventually put to death by those whose status and privilege were threatened.  Jesus always took the side of those under domination.
  • If both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution agree on the primacy of liberty and justice, how do we hold candidates for political office accountable for platforms and policies that protect human rights?   How do we need to work on ourselves, knowing that most of us are those in power?  We are those to whom much has been given.  How do we move from being the rich who are invested in keeping others under control to bringing in the kingdom of God as expressed in both Jesus’ mission and the Preamble of our Constitution?
  • This election is not about rhetoric that divides and labels that separate.  It’s about We, the People, forming a more perfect union through collaboration, cooperation, and fulfilling a common mission.

Did you know that the terms “left” and “right” originated in the French Revolution?  On the left side of the Estates General of 1789 sat the common people, and on the right side sat the nobility and the clergy(?!).   It’s most unfortunate that “left” and “right” are political terms today because the concerns of those sitting on the left or supporting those on the left go far beyond identifying with Republicans or Democrats.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is much larger, broader, and deeper than any political party.  In fact, if we follow the teachings of Jesus, we’ll be attacked by both the political “left” and “right.”

  • Are you willing to move beyond stereotypes to model civil conversation, work together to form a more perfect union, and fulfill the mission of our country by always advocating for We, the People?
  • God calls us to another way. 

The temptation is great for candidates to succumb to vitriol and damaging remarks, with the justification that it’s just politics, it’s expected.   But there is another way, and it involves you and me.  What will it collectively take for We, the People, the common people, to rise up and say, “No more outrageous lies.  No more negative commercials.   No more running against.    Only running for.”

Which candidate will one day have the courage to say, “I will not say a word against my opponent.  I will simply share with you how I intend to work toward the fulfillment of the mission statement of the United States as expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution.”   Do We, the People, have the will to break the cycle?

  • Will you pray for all leaders and candidates to promote the general welfare?

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high places, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.  This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (1Timothy 2:1-3)

We are the People.  We are the ordinary people, the justice-seeking people, the people who seek tranquility, a common defense, the general welfare, liberty, and a more perfect union.   We, the People, All the People, will vote on November 6.  May God help us all.