Christians And Politics


When I was teaching, I used to feel somewhat resentful that teachers were not allowed to voice their opinion in their classroom about things like whether or not they believed in God or if they opposed same-sex marriage and the like. Granted, I taught in a Christian school, so I did have the privilege of saying what I believed, though I’m sure that’s because my beliefs aligned with my school’s.

But seriously, I thought, this is America where we have the Bill of Rights, with the protection of both free speech and freedom of religion, right there in the first amendment, and teachers can’t stand before their classes and say, I believe in God?

Slowly that restriction on a person’s freedom to express an opinion seems to be spreading, to the point that just recently a Christian agent felt compelled to apologize for stating political opinions in the articles he wrote for his agency blog. I suppose if there was some confusion that his opinions represented those of the organization, then there might be justification in refraining from making a statement about his beliefs, but I can’t help wondering where this trend will end.

I mean, those lining up at Chick-Fil-A this summer were accused of hate speech. And I’ve been in a discussion on line at a public forum in which someone says Christians have no business voicing their opinion on public policy if their religion informed their beliefs. That’s crossing the line between church and state, this person claimed.

Really?

Christians are now to be seen and not heard, even when talking primarily to other Christians, all for the fear of offending someone? I have to admit, I’m astounded by this and equally dismayed.

On the other hand, I don’t think Christians should be offensive in the way we talk to or about other people.

There’s a way to speak that is demeaning by its sarcasm or condescension and I don’t think Christians should speak that way–not because I don’t like it, but because Scripture calls us to speak with grace so that we will know how we should respond to each person (See Colossians 4:6). We’re supposed to honor all people (1 Peter 2:17), love others, and not be a stumbling block that causes someone to turn from the gospel.

However, it’s a mistake to think we should correct our way of speaking by holding our tongue altogether. What will set us apart from the world is not our closed mouths. It’s our willingness to say what we believe in a manner that puts our content front and center rather than our expression of it.

Take Clint Eastwood, for example. Many people talked about his “speech” (clearly it was a piece of theater, an ad libbed monologue) at the Republican National Convention. Those who disagreed with it found it bizarre; those who agreed found it clever. Not very many people talked about the ideas he expressed.

The Democrats worried about Bill Clinton in the same way. Would his powerful rhetoric overshadow President Obama?

In other words, in our day and age perhaps more than in any other, style has become the first measure of public discourse. Christians, then, should pay attention to how we say what we believe. And we should keep on speaking, because we live in a country that allows us to do so.

Published in: on September 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Way We Speak To One Another


The public is often appalled at the negative ads on TV during election campaigns, and once again much is being said in the news about all the trash talk flying over digital transmissions and into average voters’ living rooms, and cell phones, and tablets.

How odd, I think. Mitt Romney is going after President Obama, accusing him of all kinds of things. But apparently he doesn’t realize that something like 48 percent of voters still approve of what the President is doing.

Why, I wonder, can’t politicians wake up and realize that everyone they attack has fans who in turn may become defensive and much opposed to the one on the attack. Wouldn’t it be wiser to give the opponent the benefit of the doubt as another citizen who wants to do what’s best for the country, but who has a different vision for how to achieve that?

Seems to me, then, that people who are tepid about the President’s performance just might embrace this kinder, gentler approach that doesn’t tear down the man or besmirch the office, but that lays out a plan that will bring about different results.

But no. We live in the age of Jerry Springer.

Yet, how we talk to one another isn’t so different from how people talked to each other down through the centuries. Job’s friends prove this. Though they are often characterized as having bad theology, which they did, they also ended up getting into a sparring contest with Job, as if it was more important to win an argument with a man devastated by grief and loss than it was to let him talk out his problems.

In chapter 16 Job called them mockers, and apparently Bildad took offense. He responded in chapter 18, “Why are we regarded as beasts,/As stupid in your eyes?” But he wasn’t content to ask Job why. He himself went on the attack. Some of what he said doesn’t sound so bad — until you remember who is sitting across from him: a man who lost the bulk of his wealth, whose children had all been killed, who was covered with oozing sores, and was sitting in an ash heap.

Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out,
And the flame of his fire gives no light.
The light in his tent is darkened,
And his lamp goes out above him.
His vigorous stride is shortened,
And his own scheme brings him down.
For he is thrown into the net by his own feet,
And he steps on the webbing.
A snare seizes him by the heel,
And a trap snaps shut on him.
A noose for him is hidden in the ground,
And a trap for him on the path.
All around terrors frighten him,
And harry him at every step.
His strength is famished,
And calamity is ready at his side.
His skin is devoured by disease,
The firstborn of death devours his limbs.
He is torn from the security of his tent,
And they march him before the king of terrors.
There dwells in his tent nothing of his;
Brimstone is scattered on his habitation.

His roots are dried below,
And his branch is cut off above.
Memory of him perishes from the earth,
And he has no name abroad.
He is driven from light into darkness,
And chased from the inhabited world.
He has no offspring or posterity among his people,
Nor any survivor where he sojourned.

Those in the west are appalled at his fate,
And those in the east are seized with horror.
Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked,
And this is the place of him who does not know God.
[emphases mine]

Here’s Bildad’s speech in summary: So, Job, all the horrible things that have happened to you? That’s what happens to people who don’t know God. Guess what that means about your spiritual condition!

I’m sorry, but that was nothing short of mean!

Of course, the apostles weren’t far from this same way of thinking when they asked Jesus if they should call down fire on the Samaritans who didn’t welcome Him because he was headed toward Jerusalem (see Luke 9:52-54).

In contrast, this is what Paul said to the Romans:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Rom 12:14-15)

Jesus makes a radical difference in how we talk to one another — or should. I wonder how a Christian campaigning like a Christian would fare in today’s political climate.

I wonder if Tim Tebow would consider running for office. 😆

Published in: on January 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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What Are We Saying


Steve Jobs died.

I’m not an iPod, -Pad, or -Phone person, but I’ve used Macs ever since the little SE30 came out, before they put the i in front of the name.

I consider Steve Jobs to have been a genius, a techno and marketing genius. Whether we realize it or not, he revolutionized the way we live. His inventions changed our lives as much as Henry Ford’s did a century earlier.

But he died young.

And although people praise him for his work, I’ve heard little about his family and nothing about his faith.

All this makes me think about how fleeting life is.

At ninety-two Andy Rooney finally stepped down from Sixty Minutes, and in his final show said how short life is, how he doesn’t want it to end, and he wishes he could keep doing what he’s doing. But he can’t.

Those two men are well-liked it seems, and people for the most part say nice things about them. But two other men who’s lives are also fleeting receive regular ridicule. I’m thinking of Pat Robertson and Harold Camping, but I suspect I could have named a half dozen others and would not have exhausted the names that came to the minds of different readers.

Eighty-nine year old Harold Camping was vilified — by talk show hosts and Christians alike — for his false prophecy about the end of the world. Soon after, he had a mild stroke and has been in a nursing home until recently. Apparently his recovery allows him to hold onto his new prediction that the world will end (or finish ending) October 21.

About Pat Robertson, one Christian blogger said, “He’s an idiot,” a reaction to Robertson’s recent unbiblical statements (since retracted) about divorce.

Much loved or much hated, these four are mere men with fleeting lives. They will much sooner than we realize come into the presence of their Maker and ours. And how will we answer for what we said about them?

Don’t speak ill of the dead, the proverb says. Speaking ill of them after they’re gone doesn’t hurt them. And praising them as the world is doing with Steve Jobs doesn’t help them. They’re gone. We either used the brief time we shared with them here on earth to bless them or to curse them.

But someone may well point out that some things, some people don’t deserve to be blessed. Actually that isn’t true. None of us deserves to be blessed. If someone thinks we do, it’s because they don’t know the parts of us that reveal our sin nature. They don’t realize that the good they see wasn’t something we manufactured but rather the result of God’s magnificent creative power and astounding grace.

So we don’t remember our own sin and we don’t give God the credit He’s due; therefore, we feel superior enough to (publicly, no less) call someone else an idiot. Why, I wonder, do we Christians think this is OK?

God’s pretty clear about the fact that it isn’t.

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. (James 3:9-10)

Published in: on October 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm  Comments (8)  
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