Only You Can Renounce Your Right to Do Good
You can tell you’ve hit some sort of nerve when a post gets responses ranging from, “Now this looks more like what one would expect of someone who claims to love God and imitate Jesus” to, “Woe to them who call evil good and good evil." You can imagine the spectrum in between. There have been so many conversations, in so many places.
We have been accused of taking our theology too seriously because we have asserted that for Christians, politics is simply one small aspect of how we fight for justice and good and to bring the kingdom of God, and that there are other more powerfully fundamental means of transformation at our disposal. This leaves us wondering if some of the people who take politics so desperately seriously, some of the people who believe it a sin to disentangle their political involvement from their faith long enough to ask if the way they are going about their politics is harming or helping the goals of their faith, don’t take their theology seriously enough. Or maybe they just have a screwy theology that they take too seriously.
Imagine for a moment if we all actually believed that the gospel was the power of God. You know, unto salvation, the salvation of lives and communities from broken futility at their deepest roots. What if we actually believed that we are the fully adopted heirs of the Most High God, that our action in this world actually is in the power of our Father and is taking possession of our rightful inheritance. We are not on enemy territory, there is no enemy territory, we are in our own backyard. The life of faith, service to others, love for our neighbor, compassion and mercy, etc. is participating in the complete redemption and completion of creation. If we all believed that, what would we do?
Would we elevate our political ideology above the real human beings around us? Which is more valuable, our doctrines or the people we assault with them?
Would we pay lip service to the power of prayer and the testimony of our lives and then spend money and energy grasping at manufactured power in a man made arena? Look at where you put your money and time to see what you in fact love.
Would we spend more time fighting for laws in order to punish behavior or would we fight to do something directly helpful and loving that will change people?
Would we claw at our friends and family on facebook when we disagree with their political positions?
Would we yell at people we don’t know on their blogs because we disagree with their political positions. (We’re not talking about discussion or expressing an opinion in a respectful and well thought out manner. We’re talking about that other thing I know you all have seen people doing.) What is more important, to win the argument, or to transform the person?
Would we make dire predictions about the coming apocalypse and God’s judgement on a sinful nation, or would we get on our knees and pray to be shown what we can do to heal the brokenness all around us? Is it better to yell and scream about some coming judgement or is it better to repent and work to bring wholeness to broken people in order to avert the judgement?
It isn't people we are really opposing anyway. Our fight is against the evil and destructive chaos that tears at the heart, chaos that deforms and stunts human life and community, destroying our capacity to thrive. Unable to remedy this chaos, external legislation lays a blanket of judgement over a festering infection, pushing it out of sight so it can kill us in the shadows. This truth shapes how we raise our kids now. “How much pain must that person be in to act like that. I wonder if he has anyone who really loves him at home. Let’s pray for him that he will know Jesus love. Let’s be as kind as we can to him when possible. Don’t let him be mean to you, but don’t be mean back. Choose to be kind.” Not, “They are bad and need to be punished for that. Their mom and dad are stupid failures of parents. They need to be cut from assistance so that they get their act together.” The actual ways that we are given to fight evil are so much more effective at healing the infection than the ways we fight with each other, in the name of fighting evil.
It is life changing to listen to someone, to see them clearly, and to honor their humanity. For both of you.
No matter who is president, we are never powerless.
No matter what happens, only you can renounce your right to do good.
If you want to do something to prevent abortion, do something to prevent abortion. Listen to a teenager. Care about them. Talk to the girls about their value as women. Talk to the guys about their value as men, as someone who cares enough about them to listen and invest time in them. Try and figure out how you can do this in the communities where the demographics show the incidences of unwanted pregnancies are especially high. These are easy to find because they are usually the poorer neighborhoods. Take care of a mother who wasn’t planning on being pregnant. Give her somewhere to stay if she needs it. I have friends who did exactly that with a little suite on their house. Do something to help your local economy. Start a business that creates jobs. Offer to help pay for health insurance for an impoverished mother. Go through the process to adopt a child. And don’t be picky about the race. Or something else. How could you make a difference in the situation of an actual woman who might be considering abortion? Start there.
If you don’t like the way Planned Parenthood does it’s sex education, do something better. Make a video, or 10. Talk to the kids you know, starting with your own. And make sure your talk isn’t, sex is bad, and kissing on the mouth causes babies. Because that’s not educating. (Though it’s very cute when my 5 year old thinks it. “That’s what you and daddy do and now you have babies!”)
Organize your city to care for aids patients in Lesotho. Live your family life such that it is a beacon of hope to many who are hungry and lonely.
This is the last post we intend to write on the subject of Christianity and politics, and least, for now. It’s time for us to get back to the real work now of actually working to bring justice and mercy, rather than just talking about it.
I believe that we can make a difference, and that there is nothing stopping us from doing so.
What is in front of you to do?
It doesn't have to be big. Mother Theresa said if you want world peace, go home and learn to love your family.
Your home, your life, your family, your conduct is a witness. Start today by doing your best with what you already have to do, and loving well the people you are already given to love, and leave your heart prayerfully wide open to accept more people into it. You have no idea where that might take you.
Aaron and Carrien (Look, we write stuff together too!)
A note about Candyland
I thought, when I wrote the first post, that, because I was writing to Christians there would be some common ground for my analogies and I wouldn't have to explain them. That was a bad assumption because, while I am sure that we are all familiar with the parts of the bible that say things like, "For though we live as human beings we do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down of strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NET Bible) and that we all had to memorize Ephesians 6:12 in Sunday school. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens." I did not directly reference this line of thought in my post. Which led to some confusion. (For all you non-Christians following who think that this sounds totally weird out of context, which it probably does, it just means what we have been saying. People aren't the enemy. Evil is the enemy. We don't fight evil by fighting people with human weapons.) It was these kind of verses I had in mind when I compared politics to CandyLand. Because on a cosmic scale, I believe it's a fair comparison. The politics of America are nothing in light of eternity. It is our conduct, and our treatment of people in this season that will matter, and I think that anyone playing at politics without understanding that politics is not the real battle, simply an avenue by which we participate in it, is like a person playing child's games on a front line convinced that their efforts in the game are making a difference.
This was not intended to insult those who care about and participate in politics, simply to remind us all to keep them in their proper perspective. It was a rhetorical overstatement of the case as well, and an analogy that breaks down in the end since a child's game is always useless and I don't, obviously, believe that participation in politics is useless, just simply not the final objective. All that to say that I apologize if the title offended you.
You might find this post written today by Aaron's brother interesting as well. It comes at this topic from yet another perspective.
The Immorality of Mass Charity "We have the same opportunity we have always had. Will we love God and our neighbors, thereby making government irrelevant, or will we find peace in statements of "should" and the justification of intent? Will we be known by the way we love, or by our ideology? Neither is wrong, but one is useless without the other."