Over the past few months, maybe even the last year, there’s been a shift in my Facebook timeline. What was once countless Dave Matthews Band videos and movie trailers, Nerdy news and Theology, shifted towards a tense subject matter. One that I’ve seen countless statuses saying “I wish we could just go back to before everyone was talking about these things.” The word of course is Politics.
I often worry about my first impressions. I meet someone cool out in public or work, (I live in a new area that happens pretty frequently) they go and add me on Facebook and WOAH THIS guy is super political! hahaha. I see it on your faces when I talk to you in person. This look in your eyes like you are looking at someone who just returned from the war.
In truth I understand. For some my being in your presence likely means you know that I stand against a view you might hold or a vote you might have cast.
Now, my rule of thumb has been to only discuss issues as I see them pertain to my faith. In the past that’s been so easy to do, but this year was a different kind of beast. I think we all can agree on this. When the election year began I told myself I would not speak about any candidate by name in a critical way. I think I was actually pretty good on that promise until the whole “Pussy grab” thing.
And ya’ll I tried so hard to not ever say the words “Donald Trump” because it’s not fair to call out the power that would be “Donald Trump” and not equally spend time calling out “Hillary Clinton”…apparently.
The general public seems to believe the media should be fair and equal in their criticism even when one individual is drawing and accumulating far more content to criticize…but that’s an entirely different blogpost and I digress.
Now this blogpost is about the question should we talk about Politics? And likely I will speak towards my fellow believers but hopefully all will feel welcome.
Over the last year I have received more messages about the content I write than ever before. I’ll have people send me long messages about how they think I should not talk about political things, that it just causes more division, nobody likes it, and I should just go back to talking about theology and sharing about my ministry work. At the SAME time I’ve likely received fives times as many messages thanking me. Telling me that by my writings they feel heard. I have non-believers or skeptics asking me more about the God I believe in and I have believers telling me I should talk less. It’s a very interesting balance. Some people and even people I really respect say that I can’t both be a minister and talk about these issues. And maybe that will become true in a specific way, but it will never be true in the total way.
Very often whenever you take a stance on an issue you are lifting some and alienating others. But should this suggest to never take a stance on issues? After all Jesus said “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” I think these types of things are what Jesus meant by that statement. This is the violence of the gospel. Often the people who are upset with my advocating certain liberal stances as a believer, tend to have very strong conservative stances that they feel are threatened by me. Personally it is predominantly when my beliefs are threatened that I have actually dug deeper and learned something. Disruption has been God’s greatest tool in my life. Doubt a close second. No two things have strengthened my faith more.
Now here’s a bold claim I’m going to make. In our current climate, especially in the United States, it may not be possible to discuss God’s will on Earth as it is in heaven without talking about the system we use to benefit or damage every life in our nation. Now Jesus of course transcends politics and doesn’t subscribe to any particular political party but he’s also found in the middle of all politics. Because Christ compels us to fight for the least of these in our societies, to be prophets to the powers of our nation, and to be sure that all submit to God and one another. The collective tool we use to aid one another in America is democracy. Now as a Christian I don’t need such a democracy to fulfill my calling to my Savior, but if I believe that God is reconciling all things back into Himself… If I believe God isn’t just saving me but society and the world; well then the collective tool we use is very useful in gauging and executing God’s will on a giant scale. When I look at the Act’s 2 church I see a society sharing their possessions to help those in need. And so I can believe that God’s will is done on earth as it is heaven when a society shares their income, to help those in our society. I can see how the Israelites eventually kept all their power at the top and didn’t help the captives and the slaves and instead enslaved and made captives. I saw God’s wrath against Israel and so I can believe that when America does this to it’s citizens, God’s will is not being done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
There is actually a study (that is collected in a book called The Spirit Level) that discusses that societies where the wealth gap between the rich and the poor is closer to each other, human flourishing, happiness, life expectancy, birth rates, all were impacted positively. Where in societies where there was a larger gap suffered negatively.
I can’t say whether or not I would have voted for Bernie Sanders but in truth I’ve never….NEVER seen a candidate I believed to be more Christ-like. And if you have half an hour I really strongly suggest you watch his speech at the evangelical Liberty University.
The way Senator Sanders navigated and discussed the issues that mangle our society I kept seeing the Kingdom of God. He called out each and every system that oppresses others for the sake of Greed. He called on us to see the struggles of others in our country and encouraged us to work collectively to help them. That the greedy shouldn’t dictate how our country is run and hoard their wealth from those in need. Or as Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. Why? Because the Kingdom of God is us. The collective us. All of us. The world. It’s everything in it’s right place. It’s shalom. It’s the body of Christ that we are called to go and bring about everywhere. And God is fulfilling that through each of us. That’s the new creation. That’s heaven. Not some exit strategy to another place. Rather the words of Revelation that speak of God making his home amongst the people. And “Behold! I am making everything new.” That’s salvation. That’s the new creation. “He has made us to be a Kingdom!” Or as Jesus says in Luke: The kingdom of God is not place or a location “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
This is why for me the words of Martin Luther King Jr. speak so profoundly to me. Words like “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And words like “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” And so I talk about movements that I believe draw us out of oppressing others and into that freedom of Christ. A freedom I believe is for the whole world. So when I see posts saying “I wish everyone would stop talking about politics.” Or hear pastors say “I can’t talk about that from my pulpit I would get fired.” I say “Not I.” It’s all relative. Especially because silence in the face of adversity is a loud voice. In Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” he makes the piercing statement:
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
It’s this sentiment and my belief about the Kingdom of God that drive me to speak up and speak out. When we as believers don’t weigh in on a particular issue that is affecting marginalized or oppressed people, we are saying that Christ is silent on that issue. That we don’t feel as though Christ has called us to be concerned about your cries. I refuse to let that stand as a witness of Jesus and it’s why I spoke out against Donald Trump’s platform and will any other like platform. I have a fair amount of criticism towards what Americans know to be the “evangelical movement” that voted 80% for President Trump. Because I genuinely believe you could have had both. You could have “drained the swamp”, fought for better insurance policies, and stood against his values that demeaned others. You could have been prophets who spoke against the violence he encouraged in his rallies. You could have spoken against his belief in torture. You could have spoken against his views of Islam. Or his mocking of disabled people whenever he articulated something he viewed as “stupid.” You could have spoken against his views of women in such a way that spoke truth to power. And you could have exemplified Christ even if you felt voting for Trump was the better of two evils. But because there was and continues to be silence and justification of evil by this group it’s not just the sense that evangelicals are silent towards these issues, it communicates that Christ is silent as well. And the world is watching.
I identified as Evangelical and Conservative for all of my life. But not anymore. We want to protect our political party more than the marginalized. We want to protect our ability to win an election more than let people know that they matter to us. The way to conquer this…is to actually talk about things. A Christians defining identifier should be their love. And I think this is seen most clear when Christians desire justice and liberation of the oppressed. Even if it means critiquing “the greatest country in the world” where great injustice perpetuates.
Politics effects people. And so we Christians have a role to play in it. And so I’m willing to be criticized. I’m willing to protest. I’m willing to call my congressmen and women. I’m willing to allow people to think I’m not Christian enough. Because I’m not seeking your approval. I’m following Jesus. I’m not trying to prove I’m Christian enough to you. That’s never my goal in life. Rather I’m going to try and follow the example of Christ. And the example of the prophets. Especially the prophet Nathan who confronts the great and wonderful King David and tells him of the evil he has done to others. Because that’s how the great and wonderful King David proved that he was indeed a man after God’s own heart. Because a prophet rebuked his power and David owned it.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” – Proverbs 31:8
When the refugees become something to fear rather than something to help, I’ll rise up.
When a human is considered illegal, I’ll rise.
When America is the ultimate concern, I’ll rise.
When people of color continue to be treated as second class citizens, I’ll rise.
When all the power exists in the hands of a small few, I’ll rise.
When women are abused or not given equality, I’ll rise.
When a business is allowed to discriminate who they serve because of who that person loves, I’ll rise.
When a society decides they’d rather be wealthy than protect human life and planet, I’ll rise.
When xenophobia sits on a seat of power, I’ll rise.
And I’ll do it without shame. Because I know my God hears the cry of the oppressed. And so I will do all I can to hear it as well. Advocating for their justice. And speaking out against any power that refuses to give it.
Because I have a big God, whose on a big mission. And everyone is loved. And everyone is called.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
May we advocate for and liberate the least of these. For this is where we find God’s Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”