Politics and religion have clashed for centuries, but the last few years in America have given us quite the taste. The internet makes us more aware, more often, of injustices. Tragedy strikes, both new and old uncovered. Hurt people hurt people. Headlines scroll. We take sides. We post. We vote. Some churches talk about it. Others don’t. Christians are left to choose their own way, led by an outspoken pastor, or a silent pastor, or a news station. Sometimes, we just default to the way we were raised. Most of the time, we go where we’re most comfortable, where we feel most right and where we will not be challenged.
I could write a fascinating case study after watching people react to the 2016 election and beyond. I don’t watch the news anymore; it’s too sad. Let’s not talk about that subject; it’s too divisive. I’m moving to Canada. I’m sure there’s an explanation for this, and the media is just hyping it up. I hope he gets impeached. I hope she goes to jail. Standards and preferences and levels of tolerance change, depending on the day and the story and what’s at stake.
I’d like to think I have a unique perspective into this cultural clash. I grew up at a Christian school, in a predominantly white and wealthy community. This is where I first developed rich relationships with people of color, and where I was also given space and time to choose Christianity for myself. My education included a year-long, rigorous apologetics course, culminating in a twenty-seven page thesis. I also maintained a diverse group of friends “on the outside,” who taught me about everything from veganism to LGBTQ issues to the difference between agnostics and atheists. This is where I first learned to answer the very important question, Why do bad things happen to good people?
I am grateful for both of these environments, as the combination prepared me well for the world beyond high school graduation. I’ve felt both grounded and challenged ever since, secure enough in my identity to have open conversations. It feels natural and necessary to ask questions about what I believe, what others believe, what Scripture says, and how it affects everything from my everyday-life to the folks appointed to the Supreme Court’s bench.
Although there was never a single person who told me how to think and what to believe and for whom to vote, there was an overall understanding of how we did things. It continues to this day. It’s all over the internet and in our break rooms and church lobbies and around the table. Christians are under threat. We must protect our way of life.
It’s become difficult to reconcile the trusted voices of my youth with the trusted voice of Jesus, because I don’t see threats and protectionism mentioned in Scripture. If we consider ourselves to be children of God, we are not under threat. We are in Christ. Our way of life is the way of the Cross, not American culture. The Bible is straightforward in its accounts of Jesus and his positions. He remained very consistent throughout his life on earth.
Jesus never denied the existence of problems like systemic injustice, sexism, and racism. Jesus never isolated or insulated himself with his own kind. Jesus never blamed groups of people for their plight. Jesus elevated women. Jesus prioritized the poor. Jesus condemned racism. Jesus addressed injustice. Jesus was divisive and radical. Jesus boldly identified sin, but he brought the solution. Jesus became the cure. Jesus showed up ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of others. Jesus taught us that although the good news may be messy at times, it is never heavy nor condemning.
I’m done tiptoeing around the conversations America needs to have. I’m done worrying about a reputation of divisiveness within the Body of Christ I love so dearly. Jesus is my measuring stick, and he turned a table upside down in a church.
I’m not a lost liberal. I’m a concerned Christ-follower. So help me, God.