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June 30, 2008

Politics and Potlucks

I love the story Chuck told a few days ago about William Wilberforce, and about how he and a band of like-minded friends bought homes near one another in the Clapham neighborhood of London and spent 30 years fighting the slave trade and other social evils. But I wonder how do-able this would be today.

For one thing, how many people stay in the same home for 30 years these days? Hardly anybody. And even if someone committed himself to living in D.C. and spending the next two decades fighting social evils, he might find himself, just a few years later, married to a spouse who gets a job transfer to the West Coast.

Fast and easy communication and travel, of course, make it less necessary for social reformers to live near one another, and near the seat of power, than it was in Wilberforce's day: Certain public figures can affect what happens in the Capitol even when they live nowhere near the place (think James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh, and Chuck Colson, all of whom can influence voters to jam up Congressional switchboards when an important vote is at stake).

Even so--it's still considered important enough to be in Washington that an entire road--K Street--is known for the thousands of lobbyists who have taken up permanent residence there. Imagine if a Washington street were known as the street where Christians lived and worked to better society.

The closest we come today to what Wilberforce and his friends did is churches that become and remain politically involved with issues like abortion and poverty and persecution. And we should certainly search out churches that have this type of ministry. There are also great organizations like Freedom House in D.C., but employees of such organizations and ministries often leave after just a few years.

There's much that needs to be done in our own local communities, of course. But some of us might consider, if we are led in this direction, to committing ourselves to moving into a Capitol Hill neighborhood close enough to the homes of other social activists that we could frequently walk to each other's apartments and houses for discussions about political strategies while sharing a potluck dinner. Even if our work is--for a time, at least--dwarfed by powerful lobbyists, we would share the joy of living in community with one another.

If anyone knows of such a group already in existence (made up of Christians), I'd like to hear about it.


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Funny, most people where I'm from are in the same home for 30 or more years, and even generations.

Maybe this should be attempted far away from the beltway in the heartland? In real America, far from the corruptions and temptations of D.C.?

Imagine the different perspective as you find out how the other half live, that half of America that lives in small towns and on farms?

With high-speed internet and webcam teleconferences, just how important is it for the bulk of such a community to live in that fever-swamp?

Even the Founding Fathers thought that delegates to the federal government should be only temporary, and senators recallable by their State legislatures at any given time.

Considering the differential life living expenses and housing, maybe some flights to and from Dulles plus living in the heartland might be cheaper?

Maybe PF should consider colonizing some rural midwestern tiny town and rotating a lobbyists through a rented apartment periodically?


Inamongst more pungent sneering (Do you save it up for several months, like a superheated boiler?), labrialumn wrote: "With high-speed internet and webcam teleconferences, just how important is it for the bulk of such a community to live in that fever-swamp?"

It's fascinating that "virtual worlds" such as Second Life are exploring issues such as how (in the context of trying to conduct collaborative business activity) to establish trust with persons you never meet physically. There's something to be said for being able to actually shake someone's hand, look them in the eye, etc. Every culture has trust cues, but in a virtual world they must be invented - and that, plus the fact that virtuality conveys some anonymity, enhances the ability to deceive. This is far more difficult to do face-to-face, which makes interactions go much smoother and more efficiently.

So Anne has a point (as she always does).

That said, labrialumn, you do raise some valid issues with how to do this practically, and how to combat insularity (which is, of course, a constant danger for Christians anyway). I would argue that it doesn't matter whether it's D.C. or Colorado Springs or Lexington, Nebraska; staying in touch with what's really going on (either in the halls of power or in the heartland) is difficult. It probably only occurs when everyone over-communicates.

Which is why you have to watch your tone; it's interfering with your message and killing the very conversation you'd ultimately like to foster.

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