Tension in the Pews

The results are in, though Michigan is still taking its sweet time. The battle was supposed to be over, but it continues. Sadly it is between even conservative and liberal voting Christians. There is also the one between democrats and republicans in general calling for faithless electorals but that is not this concern, but that would be a travesty. I was hoping that post-election would grant a respite. It is done. No more being worried about the outcome just moving forward with our lives? Well Facebook has erupted like twitter and name calling is on the rise. I have already seen some of the typical “if you voted Trump please unfriend me stuff”.

Well unfriending is a sad response to what is simply another election cycle coming to an end. Perhaps this added emphasis of our emotions is really the problem? Perhaps people are always upset at the outcome but we simply have a megaphone to our anger with social media? Streets probably needed to be burned and this was a convenient time? But remember, the whole country did speak. Because we are a democracy we deal in majorities and when the minority is identified afterward there should be reflection not condemnation.

Remember, people whom you love very likely think differently than you do.

If unfriending is now on the table for you then I have to ask what really your friendship was all about? What friendships are truly defined by same thinking, similar for sure, but same? It is the same with our relationship with God. Is God somehow now shaken?

Understand that the caricature of either candidate that some had in their mind which caused them to vote the way they did, either for or against, was different from someone else’s. I say caricature because that understanding is quite different from the picture someone else was working from, and this is why even a vote is way more nuanced than simply, who are you for? People aren’t simply for someone are they? They are also against someone, they are also for or against positions, they are also for or against change, they bring their hopes and fears and so the reasons multiply. Everyone had a whole gamut of reasons for going the directions they went. Everyone has different perspectives, different backgrounds, different passions, different concerns, different values, even different religions, and in each with different degrees that caused them to vote for the many different reasons that they did.

My opinion of someone does not necessitate other’s reasons for doing what they did. My assessment is not all-encompassing and therefore binding and neither is yours on other people. If we cannot believe this then it is a wonder how we possibly even function in a society. If we are reduced to weeping sessions and fire in the streets then we really aren’t grown ups at all, because the hallmark of maturity is recognizing other people. This means understanding things won’t always go our way, and also understanding that things happen because of many more factors than simply those that I hold dear. Because if we can empathize in this way, we can also empathize with people’s reactions. We attempt to understand both the hopes and the fears. We try to understand the concerns and the even the glee. And if we can, we should also come to a point where we can say enough is enough. I pray there are no Christians rioting in the streets causing destruction. I pray we can see this.

We need to understand what went on before we critique, and empathize a little before we condemn.

This goes both ways. I pray there are no Christians unfriending people and falling to name calling that has defined so much of our political season. But I fear they have. So this is my calling home. Continuing to alienate people over such an unbelievable election is as much part of the problem as was the voting choices themselves. If we can’t move forward as brothers and sisters then we have completely lost our focus and purpose on the earth which is the promulgation of the Gospel. If brothers and sisters can not dwell together with unity in Christ, especially with differing politics then our message really is worthless.

Jesus did not pray for our unity so that we would have identical minds but because he knew we do not and would not. The ties that bind us are a common faith, a common Lord, a common hope, never donkeys and elephants. If we have these ties we should also move in our common tenants of forgiveness, mercy, grace, love and certainly peace.

If we want to come to a place where the conservative political force is not such a divisive monolith then calling for peace now is how we get there. It will never happen by demanding it change from red to blue. We do not get Christ’s work apart from politics in that all Christians are necessarily a part of the polis. However the call to have politics not married to the church is a good one. But don’t think that means what some may think it means. American Christians will always vote, they will always attempt to honor God, they will probably never have a Pastor to vote for, so they do their best. It will probably not always agree with someone else.

The call for the divorce in this respect is from the church failing to show grace when others do not vote as they, we shouldn’t demand a unified voice in this instance. But maybe pray for it. I think that is the bigger problem then the way we actually vote. When these divisions arise they reveal where hopes lay, where faith is planted, and dare I say it where some idols may be tucked. The desire to have politics make America Christian is not a bad thing in-an-of itself; it is when it becomes the foundational vehicle for Christian peace, practice and hope. I say foundation because no Christian would say politics is primary over the Gospel, but it is worth noting our interactions sometimes cause others to question this.

Our ministry is founded in Christ, our peace is founded in Jesus and our hope is in his return. If anything moves close to upsetting these positions and that holiness, then they should be fiercely back away from. If politics tends to replace any of these for us then perhaps politics aren’t for us. But understand they are for a lot of people. Most Christians will vote and they will vote in a way that they think honors God. I don’t think it is by accident that the church values seem to go one direction rather than another, but the church should be shrewd. If politics merely manipulate a vote then we should be aware of that as well.

I want to believe that the call to create distance between ourselves and politics is an honest one, but the reality is that this should have to do more with hearts and not political leanings. I can rightly, no pun intended, align my heart to God weigh difficult decisions and try to honor God with a vote. The question is do our hearts allow others to do it differently? Discuss it, absolutely, but divide over it? If not, then we have made a polity into an essential and that is never what a Christian should do. So understand the call for the distance is not about necessarily changing the vote, but it is entirely about our hearts.

Another part of this is about more than simply voting. If our passion for said polity doesn’t stretch beyond a simple vote, then we may not be as on board as we say. So recognize the work of Christ is loving, living and ministering among the people more than once every four years in November. Politics do not replace prayer, nor do they replace actual ministry to those that need it. So recognize the way you talk about and feel about politics and check to see what place they hold in your life. Is it perhaps too prominent?

We all understand that it is important because it has impact, but this is only true as Jesus sits on the throne. As a Christian I am called to pray for the President, who is now President Elect Trump, in the same way I was called to do it for Obama despite how I voted or think of them. Perhaps it may have been easier to pray for Bush than Obama but we were still called to do so. Now we are to do it even if we don’t know if we can do it with a smile, frown, or a stomach ache. But I still have to do it. A Christian lives in faith and hope in God and God alone. I thank God that I live in a country that gives me a small voice in shaping policy. Christians will always influence, I guess the question is how? I can speak, I can share, I can minister, I can love, I can even debate, and I also can vote. But screaming and fire is never the Christian way. God is in control, so let’s have some discussions as brothers.

thanks

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