Most of you have probably never heard of Lee Atwater. But Lee Atwater was one of the most significant American political advisors of our time. He became great in the 1980’s by making popular the tactic of lying about his opponents in such a skilled way that the lie became the public truth. And even though Atwater is the father of ‘negative and hate politics’ that we see used so much today, at the end of his life he had a profound transformation. This transformation began when Atwater collapsed with a brain tumor that left him paralyzed and soon took his life. But before he died this illness became his gift- his illness became the very catalyst needed to change his heart and mind.
Atwater describes his transformation in an letter to a politician who’s career he ruined…he says…
‘My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring—acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth... I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of… society…’
Dear friends, just like Lee Atwater, within every one of us there is this capacity to transform, to transmute the pain of our mistakes, shadows and weaknesses into deep wisdom and love. This transforming power is The Christ in us- The Christ in Lee Atwater- the father of hate politics.
May we learn to see this Christ power working in us, working in others, even when it lights up in the most despised.
For the new mission as striving Christians is not to convert souls to Christ by what we say, but like Peter in our gospel today – The new Christian mission for our time is to recognize Christ when He comes alive- when He comes alive in any soul, even our enemy.