What Are We For?

The Witness of Whittaker Chambers

In the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate victory for Republican Scott Brown, I thought it might be good to reflect a little on the approach we should have for political action.

One of my favorite historical figures is Whittaker Chambers, who became one of the most profound ex-Communists of his time [shortly after WWII]. Chambers had something to say in his masterpiece book entitled Witness that I believe has a direct bearing on what needs to happen today.

In discussing the many ex-Communists who were popping up all over the place back then, Chambers issued a word of caution on the proper way to “break” with the ideology. He says,

[Some] remained Communists for years, warmed by the light of its vision, firmly closing their eyes to the crimes and horrors inseparable from its practical politics. One day they have to face the facts. They are appalled at what they have abetted. They spend the rest of their days trying to explain, usually without great success, the dark clue to their complicity. As their understanding of Communism was incomplete and led them to a dead end, their understanding of breaking with it is incomplete and leads them to a dead end. . . . There is before these ex-Communists absolutely nothing. . . . For they have, in fact, broken not with the vision, but with the politics of the vision. . . .

Not grasping the source of the evil they sincerely hate, such ex-Communists in general make ineffectual witnesses against it. They are witnesses against something; they have ceased to be witnesses for anything.

Now, how does this apply today? In the presidential election of 2008, many voters decided to make a statement by voting for Barack Obama. That statement was “I’m against George Bush.” In the Massachusetts election, much the same occurred. Many voted against the trend they saw in government and reacted by putting the Republican into office.

Here’s the real issue: do these voters really know what they are for? It’s one thing to be against what you see happening [like the ex-Communists], but another thing entirely to have a vision that you positively promote. It’s easy to be against something—much harder to know what you stand for. My concern is that a lot of voters don’t really know what they believe. They simply react.

God calls us to be more than reactors. We must have a clear concept of truth and how it applies to the political realm. Then we need to actively promote the positive concepts rather than spend all our time criticizing the negative. Critique is part of the overall package, but it cannot be the centerpiece.

What do we really believe? As a nation, do we believe much of anything anymore that is connected to God’s truth? The next few elections may tell us. I’m hoping we still have some principles for which we will remain firm and committed.