Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Taboo Subjects

We've all heard the saying, "there are two things one should never discuss: religion and politics."
There's a lot of truth to that adage. Discussing them is a great way to kill a friendly conversation and make enemies. I have to ("get" to?) talk about religion all the time...it's my job! But even I stay as far from discussing politics as I can (except for with my closest friends and family). One reason is because I'm in the business of influence. Even though I do have strong feelings about some issues that have political ramifications, and even though I'm a news junkie and read quite a bit about political issues, it could—no, it would—hurt my influence on many people if I wade often into subjects of politics. I've learned this lesson the hard way. Few matters cause people to be more defensive than ideology—particularly when one's own ideology is being challenged. For example, homosexuality has become political. There was a time (not long ago) when one could have a discussion about it with someone without being labeled and written off as an extremist. Abortion...same thing. Immigration...ditto. Racism... unions... healthcare... guns... marijuana... the Middle East... tax issues... voting laws... Do I need to continue this list? I'm not talking about discussing whether someone should be a Democrat or Republican (a toxic issue to be sure). I'm saying that you can't even discuss issues without offense because they have become so politicized—particularly with millennials. I've never seen such an easily offended generation. Comedians like Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld say so. They won't even perform on college campuses any more. I've witnessed this extreme sensitivity first hand. Recently a college-aged person marched up to me after a sermon, visibly shaking, accusing me of xenophobia and bigotry against hispanics because I mentioned a story in the news of a frequently deported illegal immigrant with a criminal record who had killed a young woman in San Francisco! I didn't even mention his race or country of origin! Yeesh!

It seems being offended is the new moral high ground. People can feel superior over others if they are outraged at someone's insensitivity. It is the new piety. I can share the plight of a victim if I express indignation over their victimization. Then I can vicariously become a victim, too! And THAT is virtual sainthood to the typical millennial.

But the presidential race has just begun. And there's no incumbent running. That means candidates in both parties are spending ridiculous amounts of money to be noticed. This means debates, TV ads, and non-stop media coverage of the horse race will be served to us ad nauseam. Because of it's ubiquity, people are going to want to talk about it. WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN TO DO? You will no doubt have incognito ideologues on both sides of the political aisle asking you coded questions designed to peg you. Once you're pegged, you are labled and influence is virtually impossible. Even more, you will be tempted to rant on Facebook and other social media or on a blog like this one.

Usually we are left with two options: 1. Jump full in and get politically involved and passionate about a political solution, candidate, party; or 2. Disengage entirely.

I've always believed there must be another option.

There is.

I just read a great blog post entitled, "4 Principles for Political Engagement as a Christian." I don't think I could have written one myself that I agree with more. Take some time and read it. It's important that Believers have a well-thought-out strategy for their own involvement in politics. In the post, Jared C. Wilson combines biblical testimony, Christian History (who else, but Augustine?), and common sense to guide the Christian through the tumultuous waters in which we find ourselves these days.

I would only add one additional principle that Wilson touches on but doesn't say outright: Sincerely live out your faith for all to see. One thing that Christians have generally failed to do over the last several decades is to genuinely practice Christlikeness—no, I mean to really live like Jesus and practice his principles! Turn the other cheek, take the load the extra mile, love your enemies, have compassion on the beaten man, forgive 70x7, get up before dawn and go to a solitary place to pray, give your wealth to help the unfortunate, stay up late into the night helping the hurting, open not your mouth to defend yourself, seek and save the lost, don't worry about what you will wear, show meekness, humility, poverty of spirit, boldness to speak truth to hypocrites, and be willing to die for people who hate you. In this way we, "let [our] light[s] shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). When we live like Christ, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit-filled life, we become a sweet fragrance that can draw even the most jaded, easily offended, vicariously victimized millennial to Christ. Paul said, "against such [a lifestyle], there is no law" (Galatians 5:23), including any "laws" of political correctness. The big problem is, many Christians don't look like Christ. Generally speaking, they themselves can act entitled, be easily offended, and seem holier-than-thou. They don't tip well, don't treat people kindly, and look the other way when someone is in need. They are products of our cultural Christianity, and share it's primary doctrine: God exists to make me happy. This is, of course, a bastardization of our faith. It is a false gospel. Even worse, it is subversive to the true Gospel.

In a strange way, the fact that we are living in a post-Christian America has helped me to see these shortcomings in myself. God, change me. Let me be more concerned about looking like Christ, than looking for a political solution that can make Christians a political majority.

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