Here’s the thing about Heretics. Heretics can often be the most loyal person to their beliefs. The Heretic is often the one who is so diligently after truth they stand up to the majority. The Heretic is willing to ask, “Is everyone else right?” The Heretic is often the one so devoted to God and truth they bravely take on the hatred and criticism of their own tribe. They seek to expose the majority wanderings from the truth and to bring relevance to the new age. Christ himself was accused of this blasphemy. The Apostles were killed because of it.
The German Scholar Helmut Thielick put it this way,
“The unfaithful witness is the one who simply transmits the conventional and familiar, unchanged and undigested. He is unfaithful, in the first place, because he is lazy. For the labor of interpretation and contemporization, the work of ‘translation,’ is grueling work and it is never done without abortive trials and breath-taking risks. . . . He who simply repeats the old phrases takes no risks; it is easy to remain orthodox and hew to the old line. But he who speaks to this hour’s need and translates the message will always be skirting the edge of heresy. He, however, is the man who is given this promise (and I really believe this promise exists): Only he who risks heresies can gain the truth.”
-(The Trouble with the Church)
The other day I read the widely shared article by Wayne Grudem on the moral imperative of voting for Donald Trump. Now I have yet to voice my political choice (truth be told, I don’t have one yet) but for such a renowned theologian to post that particular article met me with great trouble. The whole thing felt like a scapegoating of the democratic or liberal leaning platforms. Here’s all they do. There’s all of their sin. And yet he casually dismissed the questionable character of Trump. That’s just heightened by those against Trump. No big deal.
It all came down to policy by which he so plainly stated that a vote for a liberal candidate is a sin. Which means if you want to be obedient to God you must vote for Donald Trump this year. Now if that sounds like I’m just grossly paraphrasing something here you go:
Under President Obama, a liberal federal government has seized more and more control over our lives. But this can change. This year we have an unusual opportunity to defeat Hillary Clinton and the pro-abortion, pro-gender-confusion, anti-religious liberty, tax-and-spend, big government liberalism that she champions. I believe that defeating that kind of liberalism would be a morally right action. Therefore I feel the force of the words of James: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17)
I saw many of my friends come out of the closet to finally have a logical, moral reason to publicly support the campaign of Donald Trump and that’s fine. It’s well and good to be able to affirm your decisions. If he’s your candidate, if his policies are what you believe best for the nation then absolutely you should vote for him. I’m not going to argue that point. I’m more interested in the idea promoted that to vote for the alternative is the unchristian thing to do. Which is an idea held by many if not most evangelicals. (Call it a brash assumption but man I’ve encountered it my entire life.)
-Why we should speak out from within.-
I’ll submit that I, too often for my own good, am the Devil’s advocate. I pride myself on trying to understand how certain people come to certain conclusions and I deeply want to understand the other side. Which sometimes means that when people on my side of the aisle grossly misrepresent the cores of our beliefs I get upset. It’s like if I go to a Florida v. Florida State game I expect the Gator fan to be the inferior human being. (Hahaha!) In that environment when someone from my tribe (Go Noles) decides to lower themselves and misrepresent the honor and pride of my team it upsets me more than when a Gator does it. So when many Conservatives start sharing articles that call Liberals sinners for approaching issues through different perspectives it hurts my heart because it is completely at the core just evil scapegoating.
Scapegoating being defined here as “when you have your own sins that you need to atone for and you instead throw them on another thing.” In other words look at their problems so you don’t have to look at ours. Look at what THEY did and don’t ask us to acknowledge our faults. It’s less unity in positive values and more unity because we all agree on what we are not.
Now do Liberals do this as well? Sure they do. Do they have their faults? Of course they do. But when my tribe (conservative Christians) misrepresents itself, or abandons the truths we found ourselves on, someone from the inside needs to speak up.
I validate this point by the constant argument Conservatives make on how they desire more Muslims to openly speak out against Terrorism. (Which most Muslims do.)
So as a Conservative Christian may I shout from the rooftops:
-YOU CAN BE A LIBERAL AND BE A CHRISTIAN.-
All human beings have been gifted with different levels of comprehension and understanding and if your God is too small to be included in it all than you should evaluate your understanding of God. He’s not limited to your gaze of the world, He’s not limited to your political party, He’s not limited to your denomination. He’s not limited to your own candidate. You do not own God. He is not made in your image.
You can be a Liberal and a Christian in the same way you can be an atheist and a Republican.
Grudem brings up many of the hot-topics of this election and argues for his beliefs but does not suppose to understand the other view. So allow me to try.
-You can be for a Pro-choice candidate and be Pro-life.-
Christians don’t like to think of paradoxes and yet our faith is riddled with them. Virgin and Mother, Father and Son. We tend to think there’s only one or the other when so often there’s an all-inclusiveness that we set aside because we rarely try to think in ways that are non-dual.
“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”-Sister Joan Chittister
We often get so focused on the evil that is a society that would kill unborn children that we restrain the words “pro-life” to be exclusively about the unborn. Which here is appropriately revealed as pro-birth in a way that overlooks the gravity of the statement “pro-life.” We often don’t think of the mother and many times when the mother decides to keep the child we shame them for being a single parent, judge them when they enter our church and thus create a culture that greatly impacts a woman’s fear of choosing life in such situations. We often overlook the mother which is something pro-choice supporters do not. Are there societal issues with hunger and poverty that affect the number of abortions had in a year? (The answer is yes.) Are there ways to systemically reduce the number of abortions while also providing safe substitutes that protect the life of the mother? (Yes again.) Could government aid, that would support human flourishing and provide hope to many people, who are afraid to bring a child into their difficult lives, dramatically reduce the number of abortions? (Abortions are at a 45 year low under President Obama according to a study by the Guttmacher Insitute.)
If the goal is reducing abortions, does eliminating abortions and clinics that provide these options do so? It’s the same argument as “taking away guns won’t stop people from getting guns!” While the end goal may be totally eliminating violence, the immediate goal is reducing it. And many pro-choice supporters see a love and care for women AND for the life of the unborn children. And so many vote for both. *Rachel Held Evans has written an amazing piece furthering this point.
It’s a liberal approach to the same Christian goal.
–Socialism or Income Policies-
When it comes to higher taxes to support universal healthcare or socialized university. Or what could make you lean towards a candidate or party with policies like those promoted by Bernie Sanders? (First off you should listen to his speech from Liberty University)
There are deep poverty needs in our nation and the fact of the matter is Christians (myself included) are not meeting this need. And when we don’t, poverty cycles continue from generation to generation. Eventually, other groups (non-Christian groups) will notice this great unmet need and advocate to do something about it. For example, lessening the gap between the rich and the poor. Which believe it or not is a pro-life issue.
In 2009, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson did a study published in a book called “The Spirit Level” where they determined that in countries and societies where the gap between the rich and the poor was closer, human flourishing and education went up, anxiety and illnesses, excessive consumption, physical health issues, mental health issues, drug abuse, obesity, violence, teenage pregnancies, infant mortality, all of these went down in societies where the gap was smaller.
-“Gender Confusion” and Homosexuality-
When fighting against same-sex couples people argue that having the identity of gay is to say that “God made a mistake and God doesn’t make mistakes” but maybe WE are saying God made a mistake in how he created a person! There is so much science out there that now helps us observe what makes us, us. There are many species that display homosexual desires. Species like the clownfish can actually naturally change it’s sex. We see that with amazement and then shun our species when confusion is displayed about gender. The fact of the matter is we just don’t understand it and many of us don’t try to understand it and it is far easier to condemn it. We are shocked by it in such a strong way that we don’t even seek out the evidence of this “gender confusion” in nearly all the species on Earth.
Some Christians see the science and find God’s truth revealed through it. Other Christians who still stand for traditional relationships read passages like Romans 1 and see how “God gave them over to their disobedience” and infer that perhaps the loving thing to do at times is surrender control of another person. If God lovingly gives up his desire to manipulate us into doing right, perhaps we should not overstep God and make people obey him. Maybe the goal is to advocate for the ways of God but allow people (and Nation) the freedom that God allowed us to disobey these teachings.
–The Other Nations-
When you set aside your nation to see God’s creation I think you are beginning to understand the kingdom of God. I’ll never forget reading the words “How you treat the creation, reflects how you feel about the creator.” It can be incredibly Christian to desire to help the immigrant and the refugee. Using fear to overstep God’s call to love all (including our enemies) is actually anti-Christ.
If you see the destruction the Syrian Refugees have faced and you turn inward and do nothing or say nothin, that is against the teachings of Christ. If you only see someone who has broken a law and not the human, the created person, who thought that law was worth breaking – if it meant a more safe and secure future for their children . If you are unable to recognize that you were born into blessings they had to break the law to get then you are not respecting their Creator and you are prioritizing nation over kingdom and love.
Advocating for aid and treating these people like humans is actually one of the most Christian topics in our current climate and yet those who speak out against it the loudest are often Evangelical Christians. Building a wall and shutting HUMAN BEINGS out sends a loud message to our Creator. But so does trying to help share our God given blessings with other nations. We can do that in ways that are secure.
Too often we spotlight one incident and make an entire people group responsible. We do this with people that are unlike us. The Mexican Immigrant and the Muslim Refugee being very clear examples currently. When locally more white teenagers have caused grand destruction in our nation than ANYBODY else. But again, we see that scapegoating is easier. “They are the problem” Or “they cause more problems and evil than we do.” This should be obvious in that we don’t fear the average white teenage male and we fear the Muslim. It’s easier to be afraid of the different things and this is often a great strength of the Liberal Party in that I rarely see them fearful of the new and different things.
The point of this article is to say this; making things as simple as black and white actually complicates everything. Leaders like Grudem and many other Evangelicals teach people to see that the GOP is God’s political party when many values from the Liberal side of the aisle actually seem to greatly favor the teachings of Christ from many people’s perspectives.
God’s plan for humanity is not conformity, but restoration, love, and healing. And this isn’t reserved for you and the categories by which you define yourself, but rather for “everybody, everywhere.” We should vote and advocate for the things that embody that grand reconciliation of all things. I submit there are different conclusions and methods on how we are able to do this politically. And that’s fine. Paul and Barnabas differed on how they would move forward and yet they approached the same ideals from different paths until they eventually returned together. Being a Christian is not about having all the perfect correct understandings of the world. It’s not even about being correct. But rather trusting God with all we’ve got.
The Liberal Christian is often doing some of the hardest work for Christians by taking our beliefs and helping to make them relevant to today’s hours and needs. Of course the Liberal Christian will be seen as a heretic because they are willing to stand up against a perceived majority while trying to bring a modern relevance to share the truth of God to the needs of this hour. They appear different and contrary because it is unusual to the current tradition. They are often willing to dig deeper into the truth of God beyond the normal containment of the mystery. Even though it approaches the same heart of it all. And I greatly admire and acknowledge this.
I desire Conservative policies because I desire a society where people aren’t forced to do the right things they should be doing anyways. But my God isn’t so small that he can only use my desires and methods to heal the world.
Sometimes we need to see our wounds to heal. And maybe this election will prove to be that kind of healing. Maybe the candidate I eventually favor doesn’t win.
Hillary Clinton has been a vocal Methodist her whole life. A couple of months ago news broke out that Donald Trump had been “born again.” We can spend our days with useless energy about which one of them is more or less Christian or we can pray for God to use them in his ongoing salvation of the world. Vote for that healing. Don’t vote against someone. And don’t justify or lessen sin because of the other option. No candidate is Jesus. And salvation will not be found in either of them. Rather we members of Christ’s body can use the mind of Christ that we have been gifted to seek out the heaven that Christ has revealed in our hearts. Vote towards that. Even if it’s a vote for a candidate different than mine. Because that’s the paradox of this election. Neither is near perfect, yet they both will move us in ways backwards and both will move us in ways forwards towards eternity. Who you vote for is insignificant. Why you vote isn’t.
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Vote for that. Even if it’s a half step.
May God get the glory.
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