Sure, you can conquer the world riding an elephant. Just look at Hannibal. But you cannot conquer the human heart that way. It is time that the evangelical church get off the elephant and start reaching out to the people they are so afraid of. It is time they became the friend of sinners, not the friend of Pharisees. Here is a blog post that somebody passed on to me. It says it all:
Many many people are grieving for our country today. My Facebook feed, made up mostly of conservative Christians, is like the day after a bomb dropped. Early polls showed 80% of evangelicals voted for Governor Romney, and many are shocked and grieved by the outcome of the election.
I am grieving for the church.
Many people are posting on Facebook that this win signals people want handouts and don’t want to work, signals the death of our country’s ideals and an electorate who doesn’t care enough to be informed, and is a national endorsement of abortion, gay marriage, and weed. Most of these posts that I saw came from people who are Christians, and to those posts I have to give the following response:
I humbly and sadly disagree. I think this split is about the church. I think it is about the marginalized (the people the church should love and support). The Democrats made a compelling case that they cared about those people. We in the church have not made that same compelling argument. Even on election day, in some of our responses, we demonstrated a lack of care for people and a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty and a lack of obedience to His commands to not fear. I am going to get into the issues and hopefully present a thoughtful view of these things so that we can understand the “other side” a bit better and respond in love instead of rhetoric – but first of all let me say this – Jesus gives hope to each of these issues. We have hope in Christ.
“The Handouts”: On election day, thousands of people tweeted jokes like “Don’t worry if Dems are leading, Republicans will vote once they get off work.” I also saw comments about the over-half of our country that voted for the Democrats that go something like this – “they want something for nothing so they’ll take our country down in debt.” And it breaks my heart. The rhetoric simply isn’t true, and this attitude is what is alienating us from not only the voting world but from the lost world. Our country has one of the highest levels of childhood poverty of any industrialized nation. Over 18% of our children don’t get enough to eat. And the assumption and the rhetoric states that is the lazy parent’s fault. But the facts, according to the Institute of Child Development, are that 75% of poor children have at least one parent who works. The remaining 25%? Mostly single women who cannot afford quality childcare to be able to work. And some call them welfare queens. But guess what, 1 out of 4 of those women don’t qualify for any federal assistance whatsoever. And the ones who do face restrictions to protect them from living off “government cheese.” There are some lazy Americans, yes, but for the most part, the working poor are just that, working poor, and not lazy Americans. These are desperate hurting Americans trying to make a living wage and failing. For example, over 50% of Walmart employees don’t make enough to live and because of this, qualify for food stamps. But they are working. Not full-time, because Walmart fights to keep employees at 39 hours per week. But hard. They aren’t looking for a handout. They are trying. And we as the church have bought into the rhetoric and ignored the reality. Church, we have to quit buying into this political “us vs. them” rhetoric of the working versus the lazy and instead buy into church’s command to love the least of these. Because our command to love is absolute, even when people take advantage of the system and are lazy. We in the church certainly do help the poor – but in the last 20 years we have helped the poor quietly and shouted the rhetoric loudly. Let’s stop the rhetoric and instead let our quiet consistent support of the poor define us.
“The Gays”: What if, in the early days of AIDS in the 1980s, the church had embraced homosexuals as they struggled in terror to understand this new disease that was wiping them out? What if we had been the ones known for our care for them? What if instead of fighting them on every right and constantly reminding them of their “terrible sin,” we remembered how Jesus treated the tax collectors and sinners and how he got to know them and ate with them, and they followed him because they loved him and knew he loved them? Dr. Stanton Jones, provost at Wheaton College, said at Dallas Theological Seminary that the church has failed in the treatment of homosexuals by treating “them” as our enemy in the culture war, and considering “their” sin as irredeemable while failing to consider our own sin and brokenness. A study by the Barna Group showed that when asked, 91% of non-Christians defined Christianity as anti-homosexual (in fact, this was the first word they used to describe the Christian faith). We have failed. We have defined the grace, love, and death of Jesus Christ to a lost world as “anti-homosexual.” Father, forgive us. Do you think they would still seek protection in a political party if we had been their ally instead of declaring “war” on them? I think that is what this election was about for them. They were aligning themselves with the party who demonstrated care for them.
“The Illegals”: The Hispanic vote overwhelming went Democratic, despite their dominate Catholic pro-life worldview (much more conservatively pro life than even most evangelicals). Why? I think it was more “us versus them” rhetoric. What if we were the ones fighting for immigrant children, brought here because children have nothing to eat in the place where they live, instead of the ones calling them “illegals” and demanding their deportation, many of them to a place where they don’t know the language and have never lived? What if we not only supported but demanded programs like the Dream Act? And I know there is a legal path to immigration, but I also know it is broken and takes sometimes decades and that path is terribly narrow and needs to be fixed. My friends in ministries like International Friends and refugee ministries, you are doing great work – and we need to partner with you more in those ministries as we seek to reach out to and love on our minority population in this country.
“The Stoners”: What if, instead of seeing the weed legislation movements as “slacker stoners” wanting to toke in public, we recognized the reality that our “war on drugs” has not raised the price of drugs or limited access, but instead only succeeded in imprisoning more Americans than any other country in the world? We have a broken legal system that criminalizes the social and medical problem of addiction. In 2010, 1.64 million people were arrested for drug violations, 80% of those were for possession. A friend’s son took his own life before a mandatory minimum sentence would send him away to prison after a repeat possession charge. The cost of that to my friend is unmeasurable. Over 2.3 million people in the United States are imprisoned, over half of those for non-violent drug offenses. This is devastating the African American community (which plays into both the poverty and abortion problems in that community). I’m not saying legalization is the answer – in fact I think it isn’t, but maybe if we looked at the problem with sympathetic hearts and a willingness to work together toward solutions instead of cynical political goggles, we would join together to find a better solution. Big Brothers and Sisters does great work on the mentoring front, which helps prevent this problem, and Prison Fellowship does an excellent job once people are in prison, but there is room for us to minister alongside these groups to help this marginalized group.
“The Babies”: I’ve addressed this many times before (here, here and here), and my views on abortion are clear. Abortion is terrible and we are all paying a terrible price for it. But even if reversing Roe was a possibility, which I truly am not sure it will be in our country again, at least until there is a major worldview change, abortions didn’t start with Roe. My family was affected by abortion long before Roe v Wade. Abortions are a consequence of spiritual, family, and economic factors. When marriages are strengthened and divorce rates go down, the number of abortions go down. When women escape poverty, abortion rates go down. When the healthcare and childcare options for women improve, the number of abortions go down. When women are in community with people who care and feel supported and encouraged, abortion rates go down. When women find hope, abortion rates go down. Legislation is not the best answer to the abortion crisis. Jesus and the church is. Our crisis pregnancy centers have done more for life than any legal battle we have ever fought. Well done friends who are part of those powerful ministries. The church is starting to get this right – and we need to continue on that path.
There is a sense that America rejected God in the voting booth yesterday. But I think there is an argument that we as the Church rejected these groups first, either directly or through the party we have closely aligned ourselves to. Church we are not the Republican party. And by the way, we aren’t the Democratic party either. In fact, the parties may be hurting us not only in mindset but also in reputation. I think we need to remember that both political parties, and partisan media sources, have not only financial interest but ultimately derive power from us suspecting each other, fearing each other, and not compromising with each other. And that is the exact opposite of what our faith is about. We cannot let the “us versus them” mindset of the political landscape hijack our message of love for all people and grace by faith in Christ alone.
We also have to be careful not to let extreme personalities like Trump with his “I’m a real Christian” and his honorary doctorate from Liberty, alongside his twitter rants and conspiracy theories about long forms and secret Muslim allegiances, define us. And why do so many I know believe him, but we have a president who has claimed and proclaimed faith in Christ, but people discount that? We should be praying that the Holy Spirit would convict and lead him, not accusing him of secret Muslim religious allegiance. The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it wherever he will. Prov 21:1. The President’s heart is in the hand of God – so when we pray, we can affect where it turns. That is power we have in Christ! We should be encouraged by it.
It feels like we have forgotten that Jesus is our hope. Jesus alone.
My former pastor, Brandon Thomas, tweeted today “Bringing people to Jesus will build our great nation to its best days, no doubt! Life in Christ = love God, love others.” I say Amen. Max Lucado tweeted “Lord, please: Unite us. Strengthen us. Appoint and annoint our president.” I say Amen. I am not saying compromise on any of these things – nor are these pastors. I’m not saying change your vote or party alignment. I am saying let’s assume a position of humility in dealing with these really difficult issues and seek to understand each other so that we can reconcile with each other. I’m saying when we are kind, we lead people to Jesus, and we make our country stronger.
I’m visual – so I keep thinking of nuns (habits and all). Everyone knows what they believe. But how do you see them portrayed, even in liberal Hollywood? Positively. Why? Because they are known for helping people – for humbly working toward the good of the people around them. So they are beloved. We could learn from their example. We need better PR and we need a return to our true hope.
America is not the hope of the world. Neither is a political party. Jesus is. Church, let’s return to him and follow His lead in loving the hurting.