In the past few weeks, we've seen several presidential candidates first mock and then, in the same day, flip flop and embrace the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In a desperate attempt for media attention, another candidate (yet again!) questioned the birthplace of President Obama only 10days after supporters of the candidate maligned a major U.S. faith tradition by calling it a cult.
And yet another candidate, in the name of government reform, proposed wiping out six federal agencies focused on education, housing, energy, urban development, the environment and other essential functions.
To hear some political candidates seeking the nation's highest office, America is a place where fear has replaced opportunity, a nation where the most vulnerable are costly tax burdens to be abandoned and, a place that, if one doesn't believe what they believe, your voice simply doesn't matter.
This is a politics of exclusion rooted in fear, blame and demonization of others, and Main Street America is sick of it.
It's time to adopt a new brand of politics--the politics of radical inclusion.
As an ordained Christian minister, I am compelled by my faith tradition to proclaim God's boundless love and extravagant grace for all people--including those seeking to be our elected leaders. I am comfortable with the tension that exists for those of us who regularly seek divine insight into matters of human destiny--such as the process underway now to choose the woman or man who would be President of the United States.
But at the intersection where the divine meets the new brand of politics I advocate, radical inclusion is the cross street, and the signposts declare hope.
Imagine a political debate in which candidates for thenation's highest office articulate a policy aimed at moving those marginalized by society--the poor, people of color and immigrants, for example--into the mainstream of economic and political life.
Imagine a group of presidential candidates who rely onrational intellect rooted in science, the humanities and spirituality, as they seek to create a moral vision that instills confidence in America's future, establishes stability amidst vast technological change and imparts a new appreciation and respect for global neighbors.
Imagine a debate during which presidential candidates celebrate points of difference in political opinion and religious belief ascore values of the American political system.
And, imagine a political debate in which candidates affirm, celebrate and call us to action around a set of common goals that embrace--not demonize--race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status and disability.
Sadly, the politics of exclusion attract most of the media's attention. Cable television news networks thrive on the outrageous statements of politicians, on the heated exchanges among candidates during debates, and--perhaps most pernicious of all--the "reaction to the debate" commentaries that seem to frame today's politics as a form of reality TV and about as inane.
The fact is that most Americans don't organize their lives with extremes in mind. They live somewhere in the middle with their friends, family and neighbors who judge them not on the basis of religion or political opinion or sexual orientation, but how they share their lives in community with oneanother. These Americans are the Middle Majority and someone needs to speak for them and lead on their behalf.
This middle and often silent majority of people do not rely on fear to manipulate their political views; mostly, the majority finds such attempts by political candidates and their supporters annoying.
Until presidential candidates stop practicing the politics of exclusion--"what's wrong with others who are not like me"--the Middle Majority of Americans living on Main Street will likely reject them, but in doing so, may also reject the political process altogether. What a grievous loss.
Yet we who "preach" inclusion must be careful (doggedly faithful) to practice it no matter how wacky the cable news shows might portray those who do not.
In their inspirational book, If Grace Is True (Harper San Francisco 2003), Philip Gulley and James Mulholland remind us of our challenge: "The work of reconciliation must continue until every last person is redeemed."
That is truth even I'd be willing to watch Fox News to see.
Jo Hudson is senior pastor of Cathedral of Hope, a congregation of the United Church of Christ, based in Dallas, Texas.