Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

3 November 2008

The Boogie Man

It's the penultimate day of the American election. After hearing the platforms, speeches and SNL sketches... I think I've whittled the primary issue of the campaign down to one single thing. Wait for it...

"Ohhhh... this isn't going to be about Jesus is it?"
Homer Simpson

Why yes. Yes it is.

I watched a very thought provoking documentary last night called "The Boogie Man". It was the story of a man that I only vaguely remembered named Lee Atwater. Lee was a professional spin doctor for the Republican party during the Regan and Bush Sr years. He is credited with nearly inventing negative campaigning in the modern era. But it was his running of the 1988 campaign of George Bush Sr where he really took it to another level.

He distracted the GOP's eyes from the Iran Contra Affair and turned a very confused Bob Dole into the Boogie Man... followed shortly by leaving Michael Dukakis looking like a flag burning, non-pledge-of-allegiance-saying, mental patient. Lee Atwater was the man who did this. Openly. Unabashedly unapologetic. He was know as the "Happy Hatchet Man" and the "Dark Vadar" of the Republican Party.

On the surface... most of us would look at Lee Atwater's legacy as somewhat despicable. He's often described as Machiavellian (def:"characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty"). Lee would say that wrestling was his favorite sport... because it was the only one that was honest about being fake. That was Lee Atwater.

Truth be told, without Jesus... I would be Lee Atwater. I'm a darn good lier. I can orchestrate a conversation to result in my desired destination. And there was a time that I couldn't have cared less about who I hurt in the process. Old ugly parts of me used to truly enjoy hurting others (since I was gripped with paralyzing insecurity).

I was recently asked (on TV actually) what I would have been if I didn't accept Jesus. The host expected me to give a sob story of a life ruined by the demon alcohol. I responded:

"I'd be a very wealthy and influential member of the media, entertainment, politics or business"

And I would be because just like the scene in Ground Hog day where Bill Murray learns to manipulate Andy McDowell's emotions, living day by day to artificially create the perfect date... I learned how to do this. Still do actually. I study people's reactions to various "stimuli" and handle myself accordingly. And I'm really good at it. But just like Bill Murray... and just like Lee Atwater... I found out (before I went too far down this road) that Matthew 16:26 is true.

"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?"

There's more to Lee Atwater's story. As a young boy... he watched his younger brother die in a home accident with a deep fryer. It stunted him emotionally and caused him to shut down his "is this right?" sensor. But during Bush's presidential term... Atwater was diagnosed with a huge brain tumor. It began with a seizure at public Republican event. As a man in a dog eat dog world, he knew he was one PR liability hit away from being the recipient of the heartless darts he was accustomed to throwing. He immediately went into spin mode. One comment he made was that this was medical proof to the Democrats that he actually DID have a brain.

You should read this very long story in the Washington Post called "I'm Still Lee Atwater" about his last years. I was captivated by this article today. As his days slipped away... Lee Atwater began searching for something deeper. The "something more" that he had spent his whole life trying to fill with political success by any means necessary. What he found was Jesus. From the Washington Post:

Life magazine hit the newsstands featuring "Lee Atwater's Last Campaign." The subhead explained, "Battling an inoperable brain tumor, the bad boy of Republican politics discovers the power of love -- and a dream for America."

Atwater's "deathbed confession" remains controversial to this day. Many interpreted it as a renunciation of the political decade he had helped make possible. "Long before I was struck with cancer, I felt something stirring in American society," he said. "It was a sense among the people of the country -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- that something was missing from their lives, something crucial. I was trying to position the Republican Party to take advantage of it. But I wasn't exactly sure what 'it' was. My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood."

This is a tough story to look at and have much faith in the political process, but it's not just politics. It's everywhere we look... whether we see it or not. I write advertising. It's my professional job to find an emotional void and "position" a company as "THE ANSWER". The best ads don't tell you what a company does... they convince you that a company can solve your felt needs (even if they don't actually do that). I once sat down with a "life coach" to create ads with the context of "I want to search out the richest, most insecure people you can find, exploit their fear of failure, and make them afraid NOT to come to see me".

I guess this is my point. Putting HOPE or FAITH in something man-made is like defending Barry Bonds as the greatest home run hitter of all time. Trick is that we're created to need to put our HOPE and FAITH in something. Even jaded, cold, Machiavellian Lee Atwater knew it... and he eventually found it. It resulted in personal peace, asking for forgiveness, and eternal life. Quite a bit better than the alternative wouldn't you say?

Why is Jesus the main issue in this election?

Because "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" and putting your hope in something other than Jesus will leave you empty. He wants to imprison you with hope. Honoring God with your actions (both as a person and a nation) IS what leads to the type of prosperity that our best laid plans don't.

24-26Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

27-28"Don't be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You'll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. This isn't pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory."

Matthew 26

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