Proclaiming Christ in a Politically Divided Nation
It hasn’t even been two weeks since the inauguration of President Donald Trump and as expected we’ve already seen our fair share of protests, riots, slander, and name calling from all sides of the political hemisphere. Mainstream media as well as social media is filled with filth, hatred and spewing from both supporters and haters of America’s 45th President. Donald Trump will be the 6th President I’ve had since I was born. I remember as a kid growing up and seeing George H.W., Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and then finally as an adult, Barack Obama all come into office. I also remember that with each new transfer of power there was lots of disagreement from the American public about policy and how America should be run. And yes, there would also be a level of “bashing” from all sides of the debate. However, in over 3 decades of my existence on Earth I have never seen the political division as brutal and as intense as it is today. We are more divided as a nation than any other time in my life.
Nothing new under the sun
This, however, is nothing new. Political division is as old as government itself. It’s simply impossible for free thinking people to unanimously agree on how government should operate. It’s even more expected in our nation where we have the freedom to disagree as loudly and as passionately as we want without fear of being hung (at least physically) for our beliefs. So the division, though intense and ugly, is not a surprise to me. What is a surprise, however, is the Christian response in participating in the ugliness.
The addictive hodgepodge of clamor
Social media has transformed into an addictive hodgepodge of angry, noisy clamor. A defeated straw man, followed by a demeaning caricature, followed by oversimplified rhetoric, followed by out-of-context soundbites, followed by cute puppy pictures, followed by gym fails. You see a headline or a meme that has something defaming to say about “the other side” and instantly you want to join in all the fun. Either to “amen” those you agree with, or “destroy” the opponents with your witty one-liners (or 5,000 word essay in the comment string). Once you get a response and realize that the one responding didn’t answer your carefully crafted post with something reasonable, you can’t just let that go – you gotta let ’em have it! Four hours and 83 comments later you both finally agree to disagree and move on with your life posting pictures of your dinner… until tomorrow.
The struggle is real
I get it. I really want to weigh in sometimes, too! As someone who esteems logic and reasonable thinking, and as one who prefers to weigh a subject by looking at facts and considering variables and contemplating consequences before just blindly following the masses, I too want to instantly reply when I see ridiculous posts that clearly lack thoughtful reflection. I’ve fallen victim to the quick replies and the impulse shares. However, before being quick to the gun on replying to nonsense, I have to stop and ask myself “what is the desired end result I’m wanting, here?” Not only when replying to nonsense, but this is also true when it comes to posting and sharing things I agree with. Is this going to hurt or help my witness for Christ? Is this going to advance or hinder my ability to make much of Jesus? These are questions every Christian ought to ask before every post or comment they plan to share, but it’s especially true when the subject matter is political, considering the intensity of the political divide.
My fear is that my fellow American Christians have become more American than Christian. We have preferred winning the battle of the political debate over winning the war over souls. I’m referring to the Christian who already has a rebuttal welling up against this article. The one who has more than 5 political posts in a row on their timeline, today. The one who often gets into political debates and probably has a really good “Christian” reason for doing so. If that’s you, stay with me for a couple more paragraphs to just think about something.
WDJD? The Political Atmosphere of Jesus’ day
You’ve heard of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do), right? Well, I have a better question – What DID Jesus Do? Again, there’s nothing new under the sun. Political division is as old as government itself – remember? That means it was around during Jesus’ day. In fact, the political division was even more intense in His day than it is now. In Jesus’ day, Judea was a Roman client – operating “independently” under the rein of Herod, but really under the rule of Rome. So in Israel, there were those who were pro-Roman (the Herodians, for example) and those who were pro-Jewish. And within the pro-Jewish segment, there was even more division. The Pharisees and Sadducees (who were the conservatives and liberals of their day), as well as the Zealots (a radical group of Jewish patriots who terrorized the Romans) all had their ideas about politics, and all of them radically opposed one another… and then Jesus stepped onto the scene.
One thing you notice is that Jesus didn’t side with any of them. Throughout His ministry on Earth Jesus was constantly drawing His followers out of those political constructs, because his “kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:26). In fact, the only thing that unified all of these parties in the end was that they all ended up anti-Jesus. You know why? Jesus, the Messiah, didn’t fit within their political agenda. Yes, they had ways of reading the bible into their agenda (or vice versa). Eventually their agendas trumped God’s agenda (excuse the unintentional pun) and they became an enemies of Christ, executing him as an enemy of the state.
What am I saying?
Before I summarize what I’m saying, I want to be clear about what I’m not saying. I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics. I am not saying that Christians ought to keep their politics to themselves. I am not saying that politics are unimportant. I do believe that politics are important and that Christians should have an active role in them. I do, however, wish we’d be more thoughtful before just whimsically posting the first thing we feel when the political emotions flare up. I wish we’d prioritize Christ’s mission over and above American politics – and keep in mind that Christ’s mission includes reaching out in love to those who radically differ from you politically.
The goal of this article is to remind my fellow believers that we are Christians before we are Americans (Galatians 3:27-28). We do not belong to this world (John 15:19). Our mission is to make disciples, not to preserve conservative values in America (Matthew 28:18-20). I want to encourage my comrades to prioritize preaching the gospel over winning a political debate. I want to challenge believers to ask “will this hurt or help my witness for Christ?” before posting, sharing or commenting. Brothers and sisters, let’s all be a bit more thoughtful in how we can proclaim Christ in a politically divided nation.