Category Archives: 2016 Presidential Election

Politics and the Kingdom of God Part 3

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My Facebook feed today has, not surprisingly, been filled with responses to last night’s results. I have to admit that I was more caught up in the event itself than I ever thought I would be. It was about 10:30 p.m. when I realised that Trump might actually pull it off that I decided what the hell, I haven’t slept well lately anyways and they should have this figured by 12:30 a.m. or so and why not stay up for it? Trump actually winning would be something to see, regardless of personal views on the man himself. By 1:00 when they still hadn’t called it I gave up and went to sleep. Anyways, back to the post at hand. In all of those posts and comments on social media (and I apologise in advance for adding yet another one to that particular multitude), I noticed a couple of things I wanted to comment on.

First of all, I am fortunate enough to have friends with views right across the political spectrum. I have also, in my desire to reach out to people of differing views, been following news pages from a wide variety of backgrounds. The end result is that on Facebook in particular I’ve seen reactions to last night from both sides of this thing. Some are ecstatic that Trump won, some are terrified, and others (like me) are cautiously optimistic. What caught my eye, however, was that these comments and responses represent not only differing opinions but also differing worldviews and narratives. The directions from which both sides approached last night’s results are so different as to not even be on the same compass. Even more alarming is that neither side has seemed all that willing to step outside of their own viewpoint to see things from the other direction. Take for example the divisiveness that characterises this country at present. One comment I found from the Republican view was that this was a product of the Obama era and something that Trump will now have to deal with. The corresponding Democrat view is that this divisiveness is a direct result of how Trump ran his election campaign. The crazy part is that neither view can be totally dismissed. I’ve seen arguments for both, and they are both somewhat credible. The bottom line is that we seem to be divided not just in our opinions but also in the narratives we ascribe to and the basis we use for making judgement calls on events like last night

Church for Misfits has always been a place for people of all backgrounds and viewpoints to interact in a dignified and respectful manner. If you’re reading this and in the near future you find yourself engaged with someone who disagrees with you, reach out to them. Try to understand. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll find that we’re not that different after all, and who knows, we might be able to put some of this divisiveness to rest. Please hear me when I say that, although I am a conservative myself, I am not writing this solely for Republican supporters to “win over” Democrats. This kind of respectful interaction goes both ways.

The other thing I wanted to comment on is that there a lot of people out there right now who are very afraid of how things will look going forward. If my understanding is correct, this administration will see a Republican President, a Republican majority in the Senate, and a Republican majority in Congress (at least for the next 2 years). What that boils down to is that Trump can accomplish a lot if he wants to and this is what has people terrified. Those posting on LGBT pages in particular are singularly freaked out by this. Trump has, as I’ve written elsewhere, raised the possibility of reversing the legal position on same sex marriage in this country, effectively stripping that right from those who fought so hard to get it. This community is genuinely frightened at this prospect, and rightfully so. What’s even more upsetting is that Christians in general have fought to oppose these rights, and now we are seen largely as the enemy. The very people we should be reaching out to see us as the enemy. I know I’m hitting the same points over and over again in these political posts, but for me at least it’s a major concern. They will be watching us as Christians as the coming weeks and months unfold, and I’m not at all sure what they will see. Will we reach out to them in love and respect? My own experiences with Christianity tell me we probably won’t, but I’m still hopeful.

At the very least, this is not the time to become guilty of the things we are already accused of being. Are there political developments from the last few years I’d like to see changed? Yes. Obamacare tops that particular list. I grew up in Canada, where we have a universal healthcare system that isn’t perfect but which gets the job done far more effectively (and cheaply) than that hot mess. I’d like to see it replaced by something that doesn’t hit my paycheck so hard. That being said, I don’t want to see us fight to restore a Christian culture in the U.S. while totally missing out on the fight that we should be focusing on. We will, I expect, fight to put traditional marriage back in place as the only legal definition of marriage. We will do so despite the fact that more than half of these marriages end in divorce and there are, in reality, gay marriages that outlast traditional ones. They will see that, and they will judge us, and the God we serve, accordingly. What if, instead, they could see us reach out to a broken world and truly engage with those around us? What if we offered hope, respect, and love? Imagine how they would see Jesus then.

 

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Politics and the Kingdom of God Part 2

ft-trump-clinton-1024x576My Facebook feed over the last few days has been, not surprisingly, full of election-related posts. With early voting now underway, most of these posts assert that one candidate or the other is “winning by a landslide” while the other one is doomed. You can take your pick as to which candidate is in which position, and also as to whether or not any of these posts are even accurate. The way I figure it, this thing isn’t over until it’s over and it’s not November 9th which means it’s not over yet.

As I definitely come off as having a bit of a conservative bent, it may surprise you to find that I have concerns regarding the potential victory of either candidate. Again, I’m a Canadian citizen living in the South which means I can’t actually vote, so this isn’t a pro-Trump or pro-Hillary thing. Like I said in my previous post, when it comes to Christianity in the U.S. I think we have two kingdoms at work. One is the Kingdom of God and the other is the kingdom in which we have our churches and the freedom to worship openly without fear of persecution. My concerns are more with how we as Christians are going to handle the next few weeks in particular, and with how those two kingdoms are going to interact in general.

I spend a lot of time on Facebook on LGBT pages, mainly just looking for opportunities to support them through apologising for things other Christians have said or done and trying to show that we’re not all assholes. Sadly, I don’t have to look too far for such opportunities. One that came up this week was when Christian author and speaker Jen Hatmaker made comments supporting gay rights and treating members of the LGBT community with respect and in response Christian bookstore chain Lifeway pulled her books from their shelves. (The article I found can be seen here.) As she mentioned, and I totally agree with, the LGBT community are watching us as Christians, looking to see how we care about them and whether or not we even do care about them. In the time that I’ve spent interacting with the LGBT community on social media, I’ve come across many that don’t understand what Jesus is all about but who don’t want any part of Him because of the way that we His people act towards them. And when our ideas of outreach and evangelism include a “hell house” depicting the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I can’t say I blame them for how they feel. Generally speaking, we as Christians have done precious little to even treat them with the respect we owe to a fellow human being. The end result, as far as I can see, is that they don’t care who we believe in because we’ve shown we don’t care about them.

What does this have to do with the election? If Trump wins, he has promised to look long and hard at overturning the same-sex marriage laws in the U.S., which means that under a Trump presidency Christians could potentially have the opportunity to undo some of the changes made in this country over the last few years and work to restore the U.S. to something resembling a Christian nation. My concern is that we will try to do just that. If we do, and even worse, if we succeed, we’ll be winning the battle for our own kingdom at the expense of the Kingdom that really matters. We’ll be showing members of the LGBT community, and others that disagree with us, that we care more about our own comforts and our own viewpoints and our own beliefs than we do about theirs. Why would they want any part of our Jesus if that’s how we portray ourselves and, by extension, Him? Jesus Himself said that His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Why then do we fight so hard for our own kingdom in this world? The cost of having that kingdom may very well be turning others away from Jesus, and that, quite frankly, is too high a cost. Am I saying that we should just give up on this world and the problems that we see around us? Of course not. I’m just saying that we need to be very careful with how we address these problems. The world around us sees very clearly when we fight to keep traditional marriage as the only legal definition of marriage while at the same time roughly half of all such marriages end in divorce. It’s hard to take us seriously when we approach it like that, you know?

If, on the other hand, Clinton wins, we as Christians are likely to see further changes in this country that we don’t necessarily agree with. Again, my concern is not whether or not we engage with these questions but rather with how we go about it. If we fight tooth and nail for legal definitions while at the same time ignoring the brokenness around us, we’ll wind up damaging both kingdoms.

I know this is a lengthier post, and I apologise for that. My concern regarding the upcoming election is ultimately that we not use it as an opportunity to become guilty of the things we’re already accused of being. Regardless of who wins, we need to engage with the brokenness around us, reach out to those we disagree with, and treat them with respect. The changes to the social fabric of the U.S. do not mean the loss of the Kingdom of God in this country. It’s time we Christians stopped acting like it does.