To My Non-Christian Friends This Election Season

To My Non-Christian Friends, dearfriends_black

This election season has been something else, huh? (Here is a video of puppies if you need something to cheer you up.) Take heart, it is almost over. We have at least until February before people start openly campaigning for 2020.

In the meantime, I’d like to say something to you. Specifically, I’d like to say sorry. I think you have seen us Christians at our worst lately and for that I apologize.

I’m sorry that you’ve seen so much fighting between us. We can be brutal to each other and we call ourselves family. We fire missiles from all sides of the aisle and don’t worry too much about collateral damage. It probably isn’t very inviting when we behave this way. I’m sorry if you are less likely to want to be around us after all this.

I’m sorry that you’ve probably gotten into a debate or two with one of us. I’m sorry that we don’t often fight very graciously. I’m sorry that we stoop to things like name calling and rapid dismissal.

I regret that we often want to be heard, rather than hear. That isn’t very kind of us.

I’m sorry if you were unfriended because of your political views. I’m sorry we value our opinions more than your friendship. I’m sorry that we let partisanship get in the way of relationship. There are things we will all never agree on, but that shouldn’t stop us from sharing meals and photos of our kids and life in general.

I’m sorry that you see us defending things that are indefensible. Things Jesus would oppose. Things we have routinely and loudly condemned. I’m sorry that we hold a double standard so that we can excuse our candidates and condemn someone else’s. That’s not consistent and its certainly not Christlike.

I’m sorry for all the false memes and bunk articles we have posted. We don’t think very highly of lying, but we are at times in such a rush to be right we fail to check our information. That isn’t very good of us.

I’m sorry if we have led you to believe that a person’s eternal destiny hinges on how they vote. We don’t actually believe that, though we sometimes act and preach like it. Sometimes we (rightly or wrongly) put a lot of hope and energy into these things, but if you give us a time to catch our breath we will remember it is grace, not ballots, that save us.

We sing a song that says our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus. I’m sorry we haven’t acted that way lately. While we want to have a say in government, ultimately our hope is not in presidents and senators and legislation.

I’m sorry if you’ve been hurt by the way we talk about the candidates and their supporters. Regardless of politics you and they are loved and cherished by God. We’ve failed to reflect that too often. That grieves me.

I apologize that regardless of which side we are on, we are often unable to understand where you are coming from. I’m sorry if we talk down to you or figure you couldn’t possibly know or have hurt you with our assumptions.

I know it is probably hard to see through all the nonsense, but Jesus is better than we represent. I’m not sure of a lot of things, but I’m absolutely positive of that. I’m sorry if we have failed him and you this election season.

If we are honest we are just regular ole humans. We mess up, we don’t always do what we want. We can be too passionate, we can be misguided, we can be flat wrong. Please don’t hold that against Jesus.

I can’t speak for all of us, but I can speak for me. I would trade in all this election stuff if it meant people would be more likely to consider following Jesus. His ways are better. We have a saying that goes like this, “His grace is sufficient.” The grace of God is sufficient to cover our weakness and our mistakes. We greatly depend on that.

Now I’m asking for grace from you. Please forgive us for our actions and attitudes, our words and our compliance. Please forgive us for pointing you toward a political party more than Jesus. Please forgive us when we cross the line, wound others, or look no different than any other person you know.

We are supposed to do better than that. We have been wrong. Maybe not all of us, but some of us, including me. And I’m sorry.

What Kaepernick, Immigrants, Republicans, and You Have In Common

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source: generationnblog.wordpress.com

There have been several stories in the news over the past few days that have bothered me:

I have this question: What is wrong with us? How has this become the way we respond to people who are different? It isn’t that we are just so passionate or a little too polarized. These things speak to a lack of decency and a seemingly increasing inability to see value in other people. This is not okay and we need to reconsider some things to bring it a stop.

So let’s start with the basics.

What do Colin Kaepernick, Republican campaign workers, and Somalian refugees have in common? They are human beings. Just like the people who responded to them in evil ways.

And being a human means a few things. It means they are someone’s son or daughter. They could be someone’s mother or father, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, grandfather or friend. They are loved by people. They matter to somebody. They are connected to others.

Being human means they have hopes and dreams and fears. They have plans for their kids. Their dogs are counting on them to be home in time to let them outside. They have projects around the house that need attention. They hate when their cereal gets soggy. They have seasonal allergies. They are real people.

We have to remember that everyone is a person first. It seems simple, but it’s not.  They are a person before they are a statistic, before they are a candidate, before they are a Christian or a Muslim, before they are “all that is wrong with America today.” They are flesh and blood, heart and soul, people.

They may make you irate, they may do things you consider immoral, they may vote from opposite worldviews, and they may be different than you in every way, but they are people. Which means you have something in common with them. If we can start with our common humanity, perhaps we can begin to move toward something better than hate and division.

In the book To Kill a Mockingbird Scout quips, “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” Her brother dismisses her as young and naïve, but I think she is on to something.

There are a lot of ways I may be different from another person. Religion, politics, economics, culture. Some of those differences are things I am not able to set aside. I can’t or won’t change who I am in a lot of ways. For instance, I will never be a New York Yankees fan. This is unthinkable. I have principles. But it doesn’t mean that I have to reject the humanity of those who support that team. They are folks just like me.

Despite our differences, we share something first. And it’s not just that we share tangible things like skin and bones, but there is something deeper that connects us all and informs the way we should treat one another.

The Scriptures say that people are made in the image of God. All people. Not just a select few, not just the ones with the right beliefs. All of them. It extends to all political parties and sports fans and nationalities. It crosses religious divides and language barriers and class systems. If you are human, you bear the image of God.

So I can’t hate you. We have too much in common. We are image bearers. We are people. All of us. And people are meant to be loved.

For me and my tribe, the followers of Jesus, this is not optional. Not one bit. Even if we are confident that protesters and party leaders and immigrants are the enemy, Jesus says to love them anyway. In fact, the more we are convinced they are the enemy, the more our love toward them should grow. That is the way of Jesus.

I believe the more we look at our story, the more we see all the things we share universally. For all have sinned. For God so loved the whole world. Good news of great joy for all people. There is plenty here for us to build on.

So let us start with what we have in common. Let’s start with the fact that we are people. We are all folks. Even when we are different, even when we disagree, even when we are confident we are in the right.

We have got to do better. We have to refuse to be part of the continued dehumanization of “the other.” We cannot allow our world to be a place where people are hated or dismissed or hurt because they vote differently or worship differently or think differently or have a different skin color. We have far too much in common for that to continue.

You and I must remember our shared humanity with the people on the news and the people across town and the people around the world. We share something with the person who is driving much.too.slowly when you are in a hurry. With the waiter who is neglecting your long empty sweet tea. We share some things in common with the annoying guy at work. With refugees and Democrats and The Donald. With the people we don’t understand. With our neighbors.

They are human. Just like you. They aren’t perfect. Just like you. They have experiences and stories. They have hopes and fears. Just like you. They aggravate someone. Just like you. They are made in the image of God. Jesus died for them. They are meant to be loved. Just like you.

Let’s start there and see if we can’t make this world a better place for everyone. Let’s set aside as much “us and them” language as we can and stick to the things that make us “us.” Let’s see the shared humanity in everyone we meet.

Church, We Have No Dog In This Fight

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One of the worst aspects of an election is that it pits people against each other. We start noticing who is with us and who is against. We draw lines and form ranks. Its us versus them.

As we line up to choose sides the candidates lay out their battle plans. Pro-this and anti-that. We (hopefully) weigh the pros and cons and we chose our side.

We select our candidate. We stand united. We rally behind them. We argue as to why they are the most suited to hold office. We applaud their good nature. We justify their bad behavior. And we stand at the ready to defend and fight for their rightful place. This is our normal.

The question I have been wondering this election cycle is, why do we, the church, feel the need to pick a candidate? Why do we feel like we have to take a side? And perhaps most soul searching, why do we feel like we have to baptize our candidate of choice and line them up with our religious beliefs?

This is a concept foreign to many Christians in the world today and for most of church history. Things like democratic elections are still rare when you consider the breadth of human experience and existence. Yet here we are lining up, doing battle, anointing our candidates.

What if we decided we don’t have a dog in the fight? What if we said, you know what, these candidates are so flawed, so disingenuous, so other-kingdom focused, that we’re not even going to bother taking sides?

I believe this is what the early church would do. As the church was being born, first making its way across foreign lands, the Roman Empire held much of the known world and would soon experience great politic unrest. They didn’t hold elections and they didn’t care too much about what the church thought, but I think there is a lesson here for us.

If you would please allow me a moment for a brief history. Just a few decades after the death and resurrection of Christ, the Roman emperor Nero had become so unpopular that the empire turned against him. In response he took his own life, leaving a vacancy for the throne.

In the year that followed, four different men would hold the title Emperor of Rome. Galba would be the first and hold office for seven months. He withheld payment from his soldiers and they in turn killed him, backing the authority of a man named Otho. Otho would take the throne only to learn that yet another man was marching on Rome. This man, Vitellius, would conquer Otho’s forces and be recognized as the legitimate ruler of the empire. That is, until Vespasian arrived from the Middle East and dispatched Vitellius and his sympathizers, and took the throne for himself.

Talk about a crazy twelve months. It makes 2016 look fairly tame in comparison.

The reason I tell you this story is because I doubt the early church, our foremothers and fathers, put much stock in which emperor they supported. I’m guessing they didn’t pass out voter’s guides at the weekly gathering or put signs out in their yards. I am fairly certain they weren’t overly concerned with which one was going to raise or lower taxes and which one had a better economic policy or even which one was more pro-life.

I am positive they weren’t looking to see which candidate would more closely line up with their Christian values. They would have never tried to force one of them to fit their worldview in order to justify their support. I don’t imagine them saying, “Well if you don’t like Vespasian you must be pro-Galba.”

They likely would not have chosen a side. They had no dog in the fight. No horse in the race. Whoever sat in the Roman equivalent to the Oval Office made little difference to the church. I can hear them saying, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

The church didn’t pick sides because no matter who is emperor, Jesus is Lord. They didn’t pick sides because the options laid out before them were unsatisfactory. They didn’t pick sides because the laws the Romans passed had very little to do with how they were called to live. They didn’t pick sides because God already sat on the only throne that mattered.

There is the Kingdom of God and there is the empire of Rome. They are two different realities. The church firmly established that they were Kingdom people. “Strangers in the world,” one writer would say.

Kingdom people have too much to do to worry about who is going to be the next Caesar. In the Roman world when babies were abandoned to die, the church brought them in and built orphanages. In the Roman world when health was fleeting and disease was rampant, the church brought them in and built hospitals and administered healthcare. It was the church who brought in strangers and foreigners and took care of the poor and widows. It was the church who stood against a world full of racism and sexism and classism and slavery. And they did it without petitions or lobbyists or super pacs.

The early church didn’t look for the government to legislate morality or justifiably use tax money. They didn’t look to the government for tax breaks or religious liberty. They looked to Jesus and tried to live faithfully.

Galba. Otho. Vitellius. Vespasian. Why pick a side? We are pledged to Christ.

Church, I truly believe in this election (and probably most elections) we don’t have a dog in the fight. I don’t think it is worth choosing sides. We have the two least liked candidates in our nation’s history and we keep saying you can or can’t be a certain kind of person if you don’t pick the right one.

To be so emotionally invested in picking the next Caesar is a waste of energy. To put our hope in whichever one we think will protect our freedoms the most is dangerously shortsighted. Emperor-to-be Otho promised the world to his soldiers, they put him in power, and then he withheld everything he promised and was forced out three months later. Don’t sell yourself to the highest bidder.

You don’t have to do all the lining up behind your choice. You don’t have to become their champion. You don’t have to justify their every move or attempt to get their world and your world to line up perfectly. Spoiler alert: they don’t fit. You don’t have to compromise your fundamental beliefs in order to pick one of the people desperate for power.

If you objectively study the candidates (and not just the top two) and can vote for one, okay. It is also a completely Christian response to say I can’t choose between these people battling for the throne. It isn’t a waste, it isn’t a vote for the other side, it is a matter of principle.

We are Kingdom people first. Our fight is a different fight. Our Kingdom doesn’t require borders or laws or military or taxes or presidents or elections. We have already made our choice. Caesar can have the throne, the land, the money, the power. None of that matters. Caesars come and go. Presidents come and go. Nations come and go. But the Kingdom of God endures forever.

So don’t worry. Don’t fret. Don’t feel like you have to pick between the lesser of two evils. Pick Jesus. Live faithfully. Love people.

If you feel you must make a choice and just have to put out a yard sign or bumper sticker, go with one that says, “I’m with Jesus.”