It baffles me why so many politicians who tout their Christian credentials are millionaires. They claim they’re willing to follow Jesus Christ straight to heaven, but they’re unwilling to follow His example here on earth and sacrifice a little luxury for the benefit of others. And — shame on them — they think all voters are as materialistic as they are.
I hosting a Friday, midday show on radio station WMRA called “The Spark,” during which I talk with creative people. Yes, I talk to artists, musicians, writers, but I also talk to people who live creatively – among them Ben Wyse and his wife, Anna; whom I’d like to offer as evidence that Americans are better persons of faith than our politicians give us credit for.
Ben and Anna, who have two young children, grew up steeped in the Mennonite faith traditions of peace, love, family, community and simplicity. Anna, a nurse, now chooses to be a stay-at-home mom. And Ben, who graduated from college with honors, has chosen to earn his family’s keep as a mobile bike repairperson, a job that Ben says “has me running all over town taking care of broken down bikes. And I do this on a bike with trailer in which I keep tools and parts.”
Ben and Anna Wyse live and raise children very frugally. I’m sure our current crop of Christian politicians – so determined to conflate patriotism with materialism – find their lifestyle choices baffling because they necessitate accepting that being a person of faith means practical things about how one lives and not just things about one’s destiny in the afterlife.
For example, one of the couple’s deeply held convictions is that peace is better than war. I think it’s safe to say, after my one conversation with him, that Ben Wyse sees our country’s dependency on foreign oil as a major energizer of war. “Back when I was a high school junior,” he says, “the first President Bush got us involved in a conflict in Iraq that’s ongoing. And that conflict is in some degree about Mideast oil, even though I think it’s far too simplistic to say that conflict was only about oil.
“I’m pushing forty now, and it’s increasingly hard for me to think about the amount of suffering our conflict with Iraq has caused in the lives of soldiers and their families and the Iraqi people. Even during the Clinton years, up to 5000 children died in Iraq every month because of sanctions. Yet when Lesley Stahl approached then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with these numbers on 60 Minutes, she responded that it was worth it.
“The rate of attempted suicide among our veterans is at critical, unprecedented levels. Those suicides, I think, tell us something about how troubling the experiences of these young men and women have been.
“So, anyway, there’s all kinds of reasons for me to want to do what I can to help change our foreign policy, but it’s very easy to feel impotent about affecting change in something that big, and simply give up trying.”
Ben Wyse had biked for fun and transportation since he was a kid growing up on a farm. “I started to see using a bicycle as transportation – and facilitating other people’s use of bicycles for transportation – as something I could actually do to work toward a world with less suffering and violence.
Their kids, Ben says, have given him and Anna motivation to live their beliefs. “It’s one thing for us to talk to our children about what we believe in and what we care about. It’s another thing for us to live what we believe in. Then maybe we don’t have to talk as much about our beliefs and they’ll just see them.”
There. That’s it. That’s why I think Christian politicians should get to know Ben and Anna Wyse; take a lesson from them. They’re people of faith who, unlike our leaders, want to live their faith. And they are perfectly willing to give up material possessions and convenience if, by doing so, they help makes things better for the rest of us.
I truly believe Ben and Anna Wyse are not alone. Americans are a great and generous people.
Where is the politician who will dare to recognize this?
Martha note: This post runs as a feature of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, civil, respectful conversation about faith I invite you to participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the Web site), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.