Hunger and thirst for righteousness

I don’t want to go overboard on this Mayor Pete thing but when I examine myself and also look at the extraordinary response he is stirring in others I have to wonder what is going on, exactly. So do many analysts, like Amber Phillips in today’s Washington Post (Why is Pete Buttigieg so popular?). She puts forth the theories she’s gleaned: his novelty, the parts of his resume that appeal to liberals (he’s young, he’s gay), the perennial search for leadership from outside the Beltway, his potential to beat Trump (highly speculative at best but at least he seems unflappable), and finally, simply that he’s got “the intangibles.” Which means that the analysts haven’t come up with a name for whatever it is. Phillips cites what she hears from voters about Pete’s calm personality and communication skills.

She also illustrates “the intangibles” by quoting Carolyn Engelhard, a professor at the University of Virginia. “At the most basic human level, I just want to believe in something good, I want to revel in the promise of the next generation, and I want a leader who believes in compassionate caring for those less fortunate.”

There is actually a pretty good Biblical term for that kind of “intangible.” I would call it the hunger and thirst for righteousness, from Beatitude number four in Matthew 5. It is the basic human desire for the good, to be good, to do good, to seek out the good in others.

Whether or not Pete Buttigieg deserves to be the focal point of this longing, I would contend that he stirs it up in a lot of folks and that is the basis for his surprising appeal. Just as Obama stirred hope, just as Trump stirred fear. These basic impulses exist in all of us and some leaders have the capacity to bring them out in powerful and unexpected ways, especially if they come on the scene when the time is right for them.

After a few years of Trumpism, perhaps the hunger and thirst after righteousness in this country is at an all-time high. Pete is not the only righteous kid on the block but he conveys that appeal more articulately and genuinely than most others, not by preaching but by being upfront about who he is, what he believes, and how that affects what he does.

Should we be skeptical about the way leaders affect our emotions, both superficially and deeply? Absolutely! But I would contend that, along with skepticism, we should exercise curiosity. Why does this politician make me feel this way? Why do others stir no emotions at all, and what does this mean about their leadership? Am I being manipulated, and if so, into believing or doing what?

The promise for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness is that they will be satisfied, not by any political leader, surely, but by their own determined quest. It is a good thing, though, to honor this hunger and thirst in ourselves and others.

In any case, I’m trying to look at how other candidates appeal in any “intangible” way to me, to others. What do you think? Or, may I ask, how do you feel about any of them?

10 thoughts on “Hunger and thirst for righteousness

  1. Again, Amen! I’m almost frightened by his goodness. It’s not just because Pete and I are both gay Episcopalians, but his demeanor feels totally genuine. He cares about other people, he isn’t angry at himself or the world. So far we’ve heard no BS from him, his “yea is yea.” He also has no stake in protecting the wealth of the wealthy. He will make mistakes but will probably acknowledge them and make amends.

  2. There is something about Notre Dame burning and Mayor Pete. I think both of them have tapped some deep root of longing. “Hunger and thirst for justice, peace, compassion, integrity, meaning…” all these come to mind. In the case of Notre Dame I also would add, “Hunger and thirst for beauty, for ‘deep values,’ yes, for God.” Here’s the trick. Later in the “blessings” list we also take on the willingness to be persecuted for the very things we hunger and thirst and act upon. That’s the whole deal. That’s Holy Whole Week. I am glad you are IN, Nancy. I am feeling and intending my way as well.

  3. Thank you for making that link that I was sensing but not quite putting together. The photo of Notre Dame’s interior from high up, in which the charred beams fallen from the roof look like palm branches strewn on the way. This is really not about the church or the Church or politics. It is about the stirrings deep enough to call us into something better than we are. And yes, the persecution, suffering, and pushback that inevitably follow our longings (Law of Three). No accident that the politician is now being heckled, the human construct goes up in flames.

    • I try to hold my enthusiasms lightly but also be grateful for pleasant surprises. We can’t pin our hopes on any one person but support each other and our leaders who are doing good work and saying good things. I love your down-to-earth reports and I’m NOT surprised that Pete articulates what you feel!

  4. You ask some very good questions. One being “Am I being manipulated, and if so, into believing or doing what?” I too have a thirst for righteousness. I just want to see fair and just standards for all. However, how many times have we been deceived by a charismatic politician only to see them change their views or believes once in office? I’ve lost faith in man’s ability to govern fairly and justly. My hope is in God and I trust that Jehovah will soon govern to ensure everyone experiences justice and righteousness (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:3,4) not just a select few.

    • Heather Jo, I certainly agree that we cannot put our faith in a few human beings and that political leaders are imperfect humans, as we all are. I also believe that we all have to do our part to bring about justice and righteous in society. I have no illusions that any of us can do the impossible, but I believe God loves the world and longs for humans to grow into His likeness. I am looking for leaders who encourage the good in all of us, who encourage love and justice, rather than fear, hatred and division–and leaders who are willing to be held accountable for their actions once in office. Some are clearly better than others! Pete and a few others, by their words and actions, do “manipulate” me into wanting to do better at loving my neighbor, including my LGBTQ neighbor, my African-American neighbor, and even the neighbor who is at the opposite end of the political spectrum. So far, that seems promising to me.

  5. Love this essay, Nancy. You name the deepest of all longings and the one most sacred. We can’t place all of our faith in any human being if we are people of faith, But when we see a leader who apparently also hungers and thirsts for righteousness, and not just for power, and I believe Pete Buttigieg has this, I will allow his hunger to speak to mine.

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