Tourist No. 1: What is that awful smell?
Tourist No. 2: Oh, they say that’s the smell from the paper plant off Highway 17.
Liberty County resident: Naw, that’s not the paper plant. It doesn’t smell that bad.
Tourist No. 1: Well, then it must be the mud from the marshes. They say it’s full of organic material.
Liberty County resident: Yeah, smells like the mud. But that isn’t the mud neither. Wind’s coming off the surf and we’re in a building. You can’t smell Georgia marsh mud from here.
Tourist No. 2: That’s peculiar. It seems to be coming from the newspaper stand over there.
Liberty County resident: You got that right! That there’s the smell of Georgia politics!
It’s political campaign season in Georgia and the mud has been flying fast and furious. When I lived on Jekyll Island serving as the pastor of a Presbyterian Church, voter turnout for mid-term elections was usually low. One excuse given for low voter turnout on the island was that they kept moving the voting place.
“It’s harder to find than a floating craps game,” a volunteer poll tender once said to me.
But, is it possible that the real reason for statewide low voter turnout is that people may not want to take a mud bath?
Georgia political mud is slung so deceptively fast that it is difficult to find a candidate — Democrat, Republican, Tea Party or otherwise — who is not either tossing or covered with some.
I realize that mudslinging in politics is part of the American way, but what troubles me is the method by which the mud is slung. In Georgia (as is true throughout our nation), one slice of a person’s past is dredged up, expanded upon, exaggerated and blown out of proportion. It can be a past vote, agenda, personal life, finances or peccadillo. This then becomes the focus of an opponent’s political campaign (sludge for the slinging).
Armed with a fragment of personal trivia, the insidious mudpies begin to fly: “He’s soft on crime.” “She’s a women’s libber.” “He caters to pornography.” “I’m a born-again Christian” (meaning my opponents are all pagans). “He stands for big government.” “She’s been divorced and has a son who’s gay, but I’ve got family values!” “He spends on education that doesn’t educate.” “She can’t stay within her household budget. How do you think she’ll manage your money?” “He shook hands with a felon. Pretty soon our streets will be full of criminals.”
It’s a good thing the saints of the New Testament aren’t running for office. Can’t you just smell that Jordan mud flying?
“Jesus forgave the two thieves on crosses. He’s soft on crime.” “Paul defended the Roman Empire. He supports big government.” “Martha would rather work in a kitchen than listen to Jesus teach. She is against improving education.” “If you want your taxes raised, vote for Matthew. He used to collect them.” “Andrew was a professional fisherman. He supported saltwater fishing licenses.” “Peter can’t keep his promises. He denied knowing his best friend.” “Mary Magdelene has a past that’s suspect. But I’m for family values.” “Silas prayed open the doors to a prison. He would release hardened criminals into our streets and neighborhoods.” “Titus helped start a Christian welfare program. Is he the kind of man you want spending our tax dollars?” “Barnabas is from Cyprus. Do we want to be represented by a foreigner?” “Lydia running our government? She’s too busy running her household and her own
Well, you get the idea.
“We have all sinned and fallen short of political glory (as well as the glory of God). There are none that are righteous, no not one.”
When it comes to the doctrine of election — that is, being one of God’s elect — our past record is of no account. Through Jesus Christ our sins are forgotten and forgiven. The slates of our pasts are wiped clean. These are the politics of God’s kingdom.
Unfortunately, that is not the case in Georgia politics. In Georgia, if you love God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul and your neighbors as yourself; and if you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and take care of widows — you may have difficulty being elected to public office. Nevertheless, you will definitely be in good company.
When election time comes around, be sure to vote, but carry an umbrella!
Baroody is director of the Fraser Counseling Center in Hinesville.