My aunt, as long as I’ve known her has always been an extremely liberal Democrat and a staunch atheist. That is, until a couple who were planting a church in her housing development befriended her and invited her to start attending their church.
At first it seemed like an unprecedented change was happening in my aunt’s life. I couldn’t believe she had even said yes to the invitation, but somehow going to church became intriguing to her, and from there it was only a few months later that she told me, with daring and nervous tones, that she no longer considered herself an atheist. She told me wasn’t quite ready to believe in a “personal God” and didn’t yet know what to do with Jesus, but that she had decided that there was “something out there.” From my theist perspective, having known my aunt my entire life, this was unprecedented progress. She laughed at herself as she agreed with me at the change in her viewpoint that she had never thought possible.
And she kept going. Something was drawing her to continue going to this church, even though she told me their Republican-sounding views on Israel she found somewhat annoying to her liberal, secular Jewish sensibilities. But she found it something she could overlook, and continued fellowshipping with her friends.
Until Trump was elected. As his magic pen signed executive order after executive order, the leadership of her church rejoiced and extolled that the man they had helped elect was taking what they considered to be such glorious stands for righteous lawmaking.
My aunt, still reeling with grief about the fact that this man was even in office, was repulsed beyond measure that the leaders of the church she had come to call home had not only helped elect him, but were proclaiming the very executive orders that sickened her and kept her up at night worrying about the future of the world were their pride and joy in the man.
She quit going to church, and now tells me she has a real ax to grind with Christians for ruining the country.
Another story, if you’ll allow me:
I knew a man named John, he was a brilliant concert pianist who had destroyed his life with drugs and alcohol. My friend Rob, who was John’s brother, told me that he could barely believe his ears when this brother he had prayed for his entire life suddenly asked him one day on the phone to buy him a Bible. By some very strange event, John, who was now in his mid-60s, after spending a life carousing and studying all types of philosophies and intellectual pursuits through a drug-induced haze, had met a Korean pastor in a McDonald’s one morning. Somehow the pastor managed to entice him to come to his church – and John became a regular, going to Bible studies regularly.
John attended this church and incredibly enough, gave his life to Christ.
But then, he started to tell me and Rob that he needed to find a new church. Apparently the church had started railing against legislation that had been passed allowing homosexual couples to marry; and John, who had dabbled in homosexual relationships in his life and said, “I think it was wrong what I did, and I don’t want to live that way anymore, but I just can’t agree with the way they are talking about people who are gays and lesbians and the way they want to make laws against them. And it’s not just that: I’m also bothered by the way they keep holding these classes teaching pseudoscience trying to prove evolution isn’t true.”
The “moral” of both these stories:
I think the evangelical church has some serious questions to ask itself…the biggest one being,
“Does someone have to have a Republican view of politics to feel comfortable finding Jesus with you?”
Have we gotten ourselves so confused that we don’t even know the difference between presenting the Bible and the gospel to people and what our derived viewpoints are that are actually just Republican or Democrat?
Are we comfortable in creating a church culture where a political platform and leanings are so married together with what it means to follow Jesus, that if someone wants to find God and Jesus in your church it will be presented to them that they can’t really do that without accepting Republican beliefs too?
I suppose liberal and progressive churches can ask themselves the same question in reverse. I know many churches where Republicans coming into the church will find themselves inundated with so many leftist ideas of what it means to follow Jesus that they may well walk out of your church before they’ve really had a chance to know much more about Him. But this is not the norm as much as the conservative version of this, so I aimed this blog post more at my conservative friends and thus I ask:
Do we expect that as soon as someone begins to open their hearts to Jesus and finds His message and work attractive, that they will immediately adopt our church’s version of political leanings? Have we taken the typical salvation message and added to it our political leanings, thus essentially saying,
“Accept Christ into your heart, and please change your voting registration to Republican or go find other friends to fellowship with?”
(And how soon after ….or even before….accepting Christ are we assuming peoples’ political viewpoints should become the same as ours?)
I fear our emphasis on “politics emanating from our understanding of the Bible” has created a situation where, we’ve conflated teaching people to be Jesus’s disciples with teaching them they have to vote the platform of a particular party, or they may as well leave our churches because we don’t need Christians that think like THAT – that “other party’s” way of thinking.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians against factions and parties in the church. At that time the issue was parties arising over spiritual leaders in the church, not political ones. He called such party thinking “carnal” – fleshly, unspiritual. I don’t think he ever imagined the church would divide up over something even beyond that – earthly politics.
If his answer to that was “all things are yours” – the very name of this blog, in fact, is there something to be said for the idea that both the Republican parties and the Democratic parties in the USA might have ideas on BOTH sides of the fence that the church could see Jesus agreeing with? Perhaps ALL things really are ours? (After all, Jesus did ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, not an elephant. Ok, bad joke…)
That will take some really outside-the-box we’ve created for ourselves thinking. Until we can go there, let’s not forget that there is something to be said for creating a church culture that has something of this at its heart:
“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)
Otherwise, we end up promoting one of the kingdoms of this world – the Republican kingdom (driving away all the Democrats from Jesus and our churches) or the Democrat kingdom (driving away all the Republicans from Jesus and our churches) – not to mention all the independents and Third Party folks among us too. All of these kingdoms are the kingdom of our God, and His Christ, Jesus – He’s at work in all of them, and owns all of them. So let’s learn to reflectively listen to the various perspectives represented by people in our society, and make sure the only thing that someone would be sick of if they decide to leave our churches, is Him… not our love affair with some party platform (or our hatred of it either.)