"So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor." (Luke 20:20 New King James Version)
I don't live in New Hampshire and I've never lived in New Hampshire, but almost every time I turn on a television set, I feel like I'm being dragged into the gutter of New Hampshire politics whether I want to go there or not! I think people from outside of New England would be surprised to know that the major Boston television stations are overflowing with [mostly negative] political television commercials at this time. There are numerous pro and anti Trump ads and there are numerous pro and anti Clinton ads. This may seem strange in what's been called, "the bluest of all the blue states"! The fact is, those ads are all aimed at New Hampshire viewers, as the major Boston television stations are watched [mostly via cable and satellite] all over the state of New Hampshire. Along with the Clinton and Trump commercials, and along with commercials about the Questions on the Massachusetts ballot this fall [such as legalization of marijuana, and expanding the number of "Charter Schools"], there is an absolute flood of commercials about the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race. It's almost impossible to watch T.V. without being blasted by an ad (seemingly) telling the viewer that Senator Kelly Ayotte hates old people, hates college kids, and is a money hungry idiot who is funded by insane right-wing billionaires, and then being equally assaulted by a commercial telling the viewer that Governor Maggie Hassan is a sleazy, left-wing, tax raising fool who was linked to a pedophile who terrorized a Massachusetts private school. The anti-Ayotte along with the anti-Hassan commercials have been just so disturbing to watch! Listen, if you think the Clinton and Trump negativity is sickening, well, that's "small potatoes" compared to the vitriol between the Ayotte and Hassan camps, and I think even former Vice-President Dan Quayle would have to agree with me! (For you non-political types, the Quayle reference has to do with "potatoes", but never mind!)
I don't profess to be an expert on either Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte or her challenger, Democrat Maggie Hassan. Frankly, although I'm very much a "news and current events junkie" and even though at times in my life I've been quite politically active, I've been so disgusted by politics this year that I've scrupulously avoided writing anything about politics on my blog or on social media. But something happened a few days ago that really touched my heart, and has prompted me to write this piece. Many of my readers know I'm a registered Republican and I would be classified as a "social conservative" on most issues. Once in a great while I will vote for a Democrat, and once in a very great while, I'll take the liberal side of an issue, but for the most part, I'm a conservative Republican. If I did live in New Hampshire, I'd probably be voting for Kelly Ayotte. Again, I'm not an expert, but from the little I have read about the race, I'm in agreement with Kelly Ayotte on most issues. Kelly has come forward with a couple of positive campaign television commercials, most notably an ad which features her mother and her daughter. I've also got to say, I love the one in which she's wearing a Red Sox cap at home plate and belting a bunch of baseballs. There is an ad, however, that grabbed my heart a few days ago like no political ad has done in a long time! That one was a commercial for Maggie Hasson. I probably disagree with Maggie Hassan on ninety percent of the issues. Prior to seeing that ad, I hate to admit it, but I think I was beginning to think of Maggie Hassan as some sort of evil queen akin to the queen in Snow White! The ad that ripped my heart out featured the Hassan family and especially Maggie Hassan's very disabled son Ben. When you see Ben, it's difficult not to start weeping. He seems like a great kid, and it's gut wrenching to see a fine young man suffering with such severe disabilities. And, there was Maggie Hassan in the ad, no not a wicked Snow White queen, but rather a very loving mother pushing her son's wheelchair. The ad included Hassan's daughter talking about her mom and informing the audience that it was Maggie Hassan's love for her family that motivated her to get into politics.
You know, I just couldn't dislike Maggie Hassan after seeing that! Now, I'm not saying I'd vote for her, because I don't believe I would. And, I also genuinely have come to like and admire Kelly Ayotte. But since I've seen the ad with Maggie Hassan and her family I've been thinking, "These seem like two nice, hard-working, dedicated public servants. So how did our society get like this? How is it that we hate each other and 'trash' each other? How is it that I could have seen Maggie Hassan as a wicked queen and so many liberals could view Kelly Ayotte as the epitome of selfishness and evil?"
That's what I'm asking here. Part of me thinks it's too bad Kelly Ayotte couldn't just continue being a U.S. Senator from New Hampshire and that Maggie Hassan couldn't just continue being Governor of New Hampshire. But, I know that's impossible and it's just idealistic wishful thinking!
Incidentally, as soft-hearted and respectful as I've suddenly become toward Maggie Hassan, I do have sort of a bone to pick with her and her supporters: There's an anti-Ayotte commercial that particularly upsets me. I think it really "hits below the belt"; and I wish it would be pulled off the airwaves. That ad states Kelly Ayotte had stated she'd vote for Trump, then it shows her being asked during a debate if she'd recommend Donald Trump as a role model for children, and she eagerly states she would do that. Finally, it shows Kelly Ayotte speaking against Donald Trump and politically distancing herself from him. Maybe those weren't Kelly Ayotte's finest moments. But I have so much sympathy and compassion for her! Have you ever been asked a difficult "no win" kind of question in public and then badly "fumbled" your answer to that question? I have.
The quote I opened this piece with is from the passage where Jesus' enemies come to Him asking a bunch of tricky and ridiculous questions, trying desperately to get Jesus to say something stupid or inappropriate [or both] so that they could completely discredit Him. Well, it didn't work. But, Jesus is the Son of God! Jesus is perfect!
I'm not perfect. Have I ever "said something stupid" or said something in public that I later deeply regretted? I absolutely have! I pastored a small church for twenty-three years. I'm probably not much of a businessman and I'm probably not much of a leader, but I am a powerful public speaker and teacher. Despite my gifting as a teacher and preacher, I'm also fallible. During my years in the pulpit, I gave many wonderful sermons and I said many wonderful things. But I also said possibly as many as two dozen "really stupid and/or really insensitive things" from the pulpit. [And, I'm not including occasional "off the cuff comments" in causal conversations with people where I didn't always use a lot of wisdom.] I think two dozen comments I shouldn't have made during twenty-three years isn't too bad of an average. Even so, I would hate to see a television commercial which proclaimed something like, "Bob Baril- listen to the stupid things he said as a pastor..." (then they'd run a montage of me saying one dumb thing after another for about twenty seconds) and the announcer would ask the question, "...is this a man who belongs in the pulpit? Vote to rescind his Ordination on November 8!"
I can't imagine how ashamed and embarrassed I would be. Yet, it would be very unfair to judge my ministry and my speaking based on that alone! It's also ludicrous to judge our political leaders that way! An often used old expression says it well, "There but for the grace of God go I!"
I think it would be cool if I wrote for a newspaper with a circulation of over 100,000! In reality, a typical blog posting of mine gets about 60 "hits" in a month. So, unless there's a miracle, not too many people will read this. But, honestly, I'd love to see a miracle happen where both Maggie Hassan and Kelly Ayotte would read this blog posting, and where both of them would immediately agree to pull all their negative advertising off of radio and television! Maybe it would start a new trend, and wouldn't that be refreshing? I suppose they'd each say something like, "Well, I'll pull the negative ads if my opponent will." No, each should just take that step regardless of what the opponent did or did not do!
I'm publicly making a commitment to pray each day until at least the end of 2016 for Kelly Ayotte and her family and for Maggie Hassan and her family. I hope many Christians in New England will join me in doing this! I pray God's touch on each of them and that each would draw very close to Him. And I pray for God's perfect will regarding who wins that U.S. Senate race!
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