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>Forgive me, but I’m going to paint with a very broad brush today, because frankly politics are not my strong suit.

I need to be upfront and admit that, yes, this post was indeed prompted by the tragic shooting in Tucson this past weekend. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out the victims and their families in the wake of Laughner’s actions. Though I may not agree with Representative Giffords on every point, there is in no sense at all any reason for her, or anyone else there, to have been shot over a political philosophy. That’s ridiculous! And certainly not the act of a sane individual, seeking to engage in civil discourse regarding differences of political opinion. (All reports indicate that Jared Lee Laughner is one seriously unhinged man).

For goodness’ sake! We’re Americans! This is not how we behave! The blame for this tragedy rests solely at the feet of one man: Laughner. I don’t blame Sarah Palin, or the Tea Party, for the shooting (but perhaps they could have been more careful with their rhetoric). Tell you what: I blame folks on both sides of the aisle for creating a climate where this kind of rhetoric thrives. It is way less than kind to call your ideological opponent either “wingnut,” or “bleeding heart.” And today’s political climate is certainly a natural outgrowth of that invective. Frankly, I’m sick to death of the demonizing that goes on in the ranks of both liberals and conservatives. It’s childish in the extreme.

For myself, I’m neither liberal, nor conservative (because life is simply not so black and white as that)–I resist those appellations, those labels. If anything, I’m a Christian, and that is a horse of a different color entirely. I believe in rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s. If I let you nail me down, I would say that I’m a “both/and” guy:

(And here is that broad brush I referred to above) It seems to me that Democrats are basically “give the man a fish” kind of folks. And this has worked out very well for them–they’ve garnered the support and trust of millions of people. But it seems also to have created a cycle of dependence that is well-nigh impossible to break free of.

Republicans, on the other hand, seem to be largely “teach a man to fish” folks. In other words, if people want something, they’ve got to earn it. Learn the skills, and ply a trade. Insofar as this goes, there is nothing wrong with this: people do thrive when they have a sense of accomplishment. But this message comes across as less than compassionate in a culture of dependence. People don’t know how to break free.

What I believe, why I am a “both/and” guy, comes from Jesus. What I mean is that neither method outlined above is entirely wrong, but neither is it entirely right. Giving and giving and giving creates a cycle of dependence and a culture of entitlement. Teaching, without giving, creates resentment (it’s cliché, but true: people don’t care how much we know, until they know how much we care). We must earn people’s trust. So, like Jesus, I propose that we both give the (metaphorical) fish, and teach folks how to “fish.” And then bid them go and do likewise. We both provide–thereby earning trust–and empower: thereby engendering that sense of accomplishment. Call it “Relational Politics,” or “Pay-It-Forward Politics,” call it whatever you want. In fact, call me foolish, or naïve, but let me ask you this: what are you doing to help your neighbor? On the day you stand before the Lord, will you be named sheep, or goat?