A palpable cynicism surrounds many of the political discussions in the United States. We see the increasing political polarization in our country and the continued ineffectiveness of our national government to answer the growing challenges that we face. Since 2005, the approval rating for Congress has averaged 21 percent. And it seems that no matter who the President is, those in the other party have become committed to seeing him fail from day one.
It would be easy for us to throw up our hands and say that the American experiment is hopeless. However, the United States Constitution says that the government of the United States is made up of “We the people.” This means that if something is broken in our political system, it is up to us to put in the hard work to make things right. Of course, it is impossible for one citizen to fix all that ails us, but there are steps that you can take to help stitch the torn fabric of America. And, if we all work on this together, we can see a drastic change in our government in our lifetimes.
Here are four concrete steps to get you started.
Get Involved in Local Government
The most important politics that takes place is that which is closest to you. The mayor and city council of your town, as well as the sheriff, county commission, superintendent and school board, make decisions that affect the roads you drive on and the schools your children attend. While it feels like there may be little we can do nationally, there is much that we can do locally. Attend a city council meeting a learn about the issues affecting your town. Have coffee with the mayor and discuss how your town could become a better place. Stop fretting over the things you have no control over and get involved where you can.
Write Your Representative and Senators
One of the most confusing aspects of American life is that we tend to loathe Congress but continue to send our Congressmen and Senators back to Washington decade after decade. One of my state’s Senators, Richard Shelby (R-AL), has been in the Senate since 1986 and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1978.
Do you know what is really important to your Congresspeople and Senators? Getting re-elected. If you have an issue that really matters to you, write to them. If they hear from enough constituents about the issue, they will do something because they want to keep the people they represent happy. When you write them, don’t simply send an email or tweet at them–write a letter. Taking the time to write shows how important the issue is to you.
Volunteer in Your Local Community
One of the reasons that our politics is broken is because many of our best institutions are falling apart. Many of the local volunteer associations– Lions Club, Civitan, Kiwanis –don’t have the involvement that they did when our nation’s fabric was stronger. It is often through these organizations that we serve our community side by side with our neighbors. It is an opportunity to partner with others to serve those in need. It will help us become more acquainted with the needs in our community and rebuild the social bonds that our society desperately needs.
When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about American democracy, he highlighted our voluntary associations as part of the American experiment. He spoke of how American’s defeated “excessive individualism, the tyranny of the majority, and the stifling effects of administrative centralization” because “Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all minds” were “constantly joining together in groups.”
What if the solution to what ails our democracy was not in the halls of Congress but in Kiwanis, band boosters and the PTA?
Pray for Your Leaders
We often give lip service to this, but I am afraid that we do not make it a regular part of our lives. 1 Timothy 2 instructs us to pray for those who are in authority, particularly so that Christians may live quiet and godly lives that please the Lord.
We should do some honest self-reflection and ask if we give this the priority that we should. Our prayers for our leaders need to focus on asking the Lord to give them wisdom, to bring them to Jesus, and to give them compassion for the people they lead. What if we prayed for our leaders in our personal devotions, around the family dinner table, and as a regular part of our church worship services? Don’t you think the Lord would do a major work in our hearts as well as the hearts of our leaders if we did this?
Pray for your leaders. Get involved in your community’s government. Serve your local community with your neighbors. Write your Senators and Congresspeople. These are all little steps, but if enough of us take them together, we can see real progress.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: Aaron Burden/Unsplash
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”