He dwells among us: Building according to code

Home improvement jobs are a good lesson in how to approach our vote for a ‘country improvement’ project

Like many people, I have a favorite TV network I enjoy watching. Mine is the “DIY Network” featuring a number of “do it yourself” home improvement and landscaping programs. Coincidently, these popular programs are part of Scripps Networks Interactive that is based in Knoxville.

I think the appeal of these programs stems in part from the desire we all have to see the possibilities of life turned into reality and the things of our world transformed into something better.

We also like to have our creative spirit ignited and to have our confidence built up. Politicians and political campaigns aim to do no less. But when it comes down to choosing a “country improvement” project, we would do well to approach it in much the same way we should a major “home improvement” project.

Being overly inspired and under-informed can jeopardize the good outcome we desire in more than just home improvement projects. And inspiration can so easily become impulsive and overlook important details that might otherwise change our approach to an endeavor or even our decision to undertake it, which prompted someone to coin the saying, “the devil’s in the details.”

The home improvement programs I like to watch try to inspire and inform. One of the ways they do so is by helping the viewer develop a list of the materials needed and their cost, and to better understand how these items will be used within the overall design.

Political parties have this type of list as well, and conveniently enough for our analogy their individual items are referred to as “planks,” which taken as a whole form the “platform” of a party and its vision for improving our country. I highly encourage you to read each party’s platform available online.
But in doing so, I also would recommend you give reflection to God’s platform and read one of the Gospels as well, for earthly inspirations can lead even people of good faith to join voice with an all too familiar chorus, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).

By familiarizing ourselves with these platforms, we better understand that our vote is for more than just an inspiring vision for our country, but is a vote for all the means the party will employ to achieve what they believe a better society should represent. With our vote, then we are essentially approving for purchase the entire list of materials for that specific blueprint. The part of this that should concern us is that these lists are unalterable—we can neither add nor delete items, nor can we even modify their use.

Only candidates in their elected capacity have this ability to the extent it is theirs to exercise. That is why it is so essential to know where the individual candidates stand on the issues and whether they completely support their party’s platform or with exceptions, supporting most, but on record of opposing others.

In comparing lists we will discover some areas where there can be legitimate debate about which option is better to choose, neither one necessarily being right or wrong but involving different tradeoffs and benefits to achieve a similar end. In a home improvement project, this might resemble the pros and cons of using costlier but more durable materials with a promise of future savings in lower maintenance costs compared to using those of lesser cost and quality but with the cost savings permitting the purchase of additional needed items.

But there are some things in the construction world, to continue with our analogy, that would violate established building codes, some of minor infraction and others significant. Even redefining something so as to put it in a different category of utility for a far different use than it is meant does not make it right to do.

You can call a “two-by-four” a “support beam” all you want, but it won’t fulfill that function for very long without dangerous consequences. I doubt any of us would choose a contractor to build an addition to our home who is known to ignore building codes, cut corners, or use materials improperly.

We should all be able to agree that some things are always and everywhere wrong, of which no excuse can permit. Can we ever imagine there being a reason why adultery could be OK to commit under some circumstances? Is there anything about this act that can be said to honor God or the image of God in one’s spouse much less that of our own dignity?

As you read over the platforms, what are those issues that fit this category? And for the sake of an earthly vision, are you willing to accept this as the price of progress? Asked another way, what building codes designed to protect public safety are you willing to overlook so that construction can begin?

The issues before us are many and the promises to address or correct them cannot be said to exist completely on any one single list—religious freedom, conscience rights, abortion, euthanasia, poverty, health care, comprehensive immigration reform, the economy and job creation, nuclear proliferation, wars, the environment….  In choosing a “country improvement” project, which list of materials best reflects the goodness of our God-given abilities and dignity? Will we abide by God’s building codes or someone else’s interpretation of them?

When I think of inspiration on a national scale, I think of the 30-minute speech President Kennedy first delivered in 1961 challenging us to do the seemingly impossible—to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. At the time these words were spoken, we barely had managed a few weeks earlier to put our first astronaut into space, and only then for just a few short minutes.

And yet this baby step in the advent of space travel would become a “giant leap for all mankind” with the moon landing in 1969. But between the inspiration and the goal was a span of eight years that brought out the very best of man’s ingenuity and abilities. I pray we can say the same of the next four years.

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