I am sitting in JFK airport putting the final touches on this, after an overnight flight that ended my two week stay in Senegal. While there, I’m pretty much cut off from most things I do that distract me, but when the sun is in the east, the breeze out of the west, and phase of the moon is right, I can get a bit of bandwidth and browse Facebook, even Twitter at times.
I’m sure you haven’t noticed that there’s a bit of hysteria out there about the elections on Tuesday.
My first encounter with electio-mania was with a high school friend who basically anathematized anyone who would consider voting for any Republican. This friend, a Christian with some leftist leanings, would not even countenance the possibility that a follower of Christ could support followers of Trump. I suggested maybe that rhetoric was a bit overheated, that perhaps we’d be better off toning things down a bit. Nope, she said. We have to confront evil and the GOP is a moral evil.
Of course, that rhetoric is matched and possibly exceeded on a daily basis by my red state friends who believe that Christians are biblically mandated to vote the Dems out to save America. Honestly, I couldn’t believe some of the vituperation I saw directed by conservative Christians at those who would vote differently than they do.
I saw a report last week (Baptist Press?) that said Christians are making political unanimity a part of their church selection process. They want their church to reflect and support their political views. That deeply disturbs me and I do not believe that Christ, who died to unite Jews and Gentiles, slave and free into One Worshiping Body is pleased when we retreat into isolationist partisan churches.
I have heard pastors declare without equivocation that no true Christian would vote Democrat. I’m still waiting for my paperback copy of the Book of Life – wish I’d gotten mine as some of these men have.
We badly need to find our political sweet spot. Certainly, the answer is not to retreat into political isolation. That is generally our response when there’s an issue on the table we don’t agree with or support. “Let’s ignore this and just preach the gospel.” We should focus on preaching the gospel, of course, but we are also called to be salt and light, to impact this world for Christ. We cannot retreat from the public square.
The marriage of the GOP and conservative Christianity is often syncretistic and idolatrous. It is a false religion that we must confront, reject, and call what it is. False religion. A friend linked to a series of tweets by Brian Kaylor from the Word and Way concerning an event called “ReAwaken America” which was a nauseating moment of Pentecostal prophets and paganism masquerading as patriotism. You can go to his Twitter feed (@BrianKaylor) to read the tweets and look at the pictures. Don’t eat before you do.
I do not think most of our readers support the level of extremism and craziness of the Reawaken America conference, but passions run high when political things are discussed.
We have a tendency to define the extremes as the only options, then demand we choose one side or the other. When Calvinism was the hot topic in Baptist blogging, people often told me that I couldn’t take a middle position. I must either be a Calvinist or a non-Calvinist (by whatever term that group was using at the time). Nuance was eschewed. Now that those two groups have united to fight “wokeism” they are demanding that there are only two groups politically. Either you fully support their views in all things or you are woke.
After the January 6, 2021 insurrection, I lost a close friend. I made a comment here that I thought some of Trump’s words were inflammatory and my friend said that if I didn’t fully support everything that Trump did, I was supporting the abortionists and he could not sit under the preaching of a pastor who was pro-abortion. Either I was for Trump 100% or for abortion 100%.
Political passions in America have risen to a dangerous extreme. Issues matter. Abortion. Racism. Immigration. Gender and family issues. We cannot walk away from engagement in the public realm but we also cannot engage as we have been. It is my belief that our current engagement does more harm than good for the cause of Christ.
We need to find that ability to engage the world in Christ-honoring and effective way. Here are some of my random thoughts on the issue. I am trying to get this posted before my next flight, so I am resisting the tendency to go on and on…and on.
I would point out that these points are alliterated, which demands the attention of a Baptist readership!
Perspectives on a Political Sweet Spot
1. Remember Our Calling
Let me be direct. Democrats are not the enemy, they are our battlefield. We fight for souls, not against them. Yes, it would be nice if the candidates I support and the ideas I like prevail on Tuesday, but Nancy Pelosi, as much as I dislike what she stands for, is not our enemy. We are here to win people to Christ, not beat people in elections. Christ is our primary purpose.
Can I ask a question? Have you ever heard of anyone won to Christ by snarky Facebook memes or insulting political posts? Yes, expressing your opinions online has its place, but angry, sarcastic, demeaning posts do not win people to Christ. They create anger and resentment.
If our desire is to win people to Christ, then we need to change the way we do things. Honestly, if we want to change minds and hearts, we should probably change our ways as well.
2. Remember Our Citizenship
Paul clearly valued his Roman citizenship and used it when it came in handy, but In Philippians 3:20 he made it clear what mattered most.
Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He recognized that ultimately, he belonged to Jesus, to heaven. He lived here on earth as an ambassador for Christ, representing the interests of heaven here in this sinful world. Remember the words of the old song? “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.”
We Americans sometimes forget that. I love America and appreciate it, but it is not my home. Our duty here on this earth is not to “Make America Great Again” but to make the name of Jesus known.
3. Remember Our Enemy
Paul made it clear who the enemy is, in Ephesians 6:12.
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the truth, according to Paul in Ephesians. If that is the case, yelling at them, insulting them, demeaning them – probably not good strategies. We need to love people, build relationships, discuss things within the boundaries of relationships, without the snark and insult. Christ can change hearts.
4. Represent our King!
Permit me to be judgmental here, and non-specific. I read a man’s Facebook feed a few days ago (I have a lot of “friends” I’ve never met – this is one). It was half and half. Half was Bible verses and evangelistic memes and the other half was vile insults against Democrats. I am not kidding. The stuff he said was harsh. If he’s right, and you live near a Democrat, you should move!
I don’t think he represented our Savior well. He got a lot of attaboys on his political insults from those who agreed with him, but all the political stuff would have completely turned off anyone who didn’t know Christ to the point where they would not listen to his “yay Jesus” posts.
We need to do better.
5. Restore the Primacy of Christlikeness
I saw a discussion, and if I can find out where this came from, I will give credit. A Facebook friend said he thought we should start talking more about being Christlike, not just about being biblical. I believe every word of the Bible, and strive to be biblical, but some use the term badly. Yes, there are harsh sections of the Bible. Jesus cleansed the Temple and confronted the Pharisees, but to hear some people, that’s ALL Jesus did. He just went around beating people up and yelling at them. There are people who seem to think that being “biblical” means hounding heretics wherever you can find them.
Perhaps our goal should be Christlikeness. The Beatitudes. The Fruit of the Spirit. The essence of love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13. This isn’t squishy, emotional, weak stuff. This is hard, sacrificial love that reflects the character of God and calls on us to live like Christ, to love like Christ, to speak like Christ, and to be conformed to his image.
Let’s be Christlike.
6. Review Our Work
I have a tendency, at times, to be too self-critical, to brood about things and that isn’t healthy. It is healthy, from time to time, to read what we’ve written, our Twitter, Facebook, and other social media posts and ask ourselves two questions.
- Would someone who reads my posts tend to be drawn to Christ or turned off to him by my words?
- What would Jesus think of my posts? (Remember, ever idle word will be called into account!)
7. Resist Demonizing
It just needs to stop. (I used the term resist to keep the Baptist-approved alliteration.)
We demonize those who disagree with us. We demonize the “woke.” We demonized Calvinists or Arminians or whatever other group we were dealing with. We demonize those who don’t support our political views.
As Bob Newhart said in his counseling sessions, “Stop it.”
You can disagree with someone without treating them like the antichrist. You can express your disagreement without acting as it that person is the spawn of Satan seeking to destroy all things decent and good.
They are about to start boarding my flight to Minneapolis. I should probably edit this another time or two, since politics always makes people mad, but I think I’ll just post it. You had