Sometimes I leave the television on in the garage. This past Saturday I was working on my truck with the background noise of MSNBC, CNN or FOX in the background. I can’t remember which. The political pundits were hard at work in constant analysis of the current political election. Endless analysis…
There was a man and a woman, addressing the “struggle” that Christians are having with this election. The man asked the woman “With one candidate accused of lying and the other accused of inappropriate conduct with women, how can a Christian support either candidate? I just don’t understand it. Both candidates are so very unchristian in their behavior.”
From listening to their commentary, I thought I could tell the man was not espousing ideas that you would think would come from a Christian. He was very judgmental of Christians, with the attitude that Christians are all hypocrites. They try to live by “the Book” and in their effort to mirror the life of Christ, they say one thing and do the opposite. That is exactly what he sees is happening in this election.
His comments bothered me as they should all Christians as we see “evangelicals” [what the pollsters call us] take to television and declare their views for the whole world to see. There does not seem to be any awareness about the idea that our public declarations can be used as evidence against us. Unchurched people don’t need any more ammunition than they already have.
I post this blog at stjohnstudies.com but I also post it on Facebook. Sometimes I check Facebook to see if what I have written has been posted. I don’t stay on Facebook long because I see too many of my Christian friends who post political broadsides that I guess are designed to incite a reaction from those of the opposing party. The problem is not the reaction from the other political party; it is the unchurched people who see the post and wonder about the true nature of our faith.
When I began to blog on Adam Hamilton’s book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, I had a Methodist minister who was very familiar with Hamilton’s writing say to me “you sure picked a “doozy” of a book to blog about”. The implication was that it is going to be tough. I began posting on the book on March 29, thinking it may do me good and someone else good to have a political discussion about avoiding extremes. Maybe in this country founded on free expression we could dialogue without reacting in a hate-filled manner. I could have never predicted on March 29 that this country could be mired in an election of this nature. I don’t use the word mired loosely. Look it up; it means to be stuck in the mud.
I watched the primaries with some interest as both parties wound their way to the presumptive nominees and then I watched with interest the candidate’s behavior at the political conventions. As this election season began, I soon began to understand that all of the prior rules of civil discourse would be thrown out. I have cringed many times as charge and countercharge has been leveled at the opposite side.
In the last debate, there was only one peaceful moment when the person from the audience asked if either candidate could say anything good about the other. Hillary Clinton talked about Donald’s Trumps nice children and Donald Trump said he admired Hillary because she was not a quitter. That got them to shake hands, which was noticeably absent at the start of the debate. Otherwise, the whole town hall forum was one uncivil attack after another. I winced as I heard things I thought I would never hear at a Presidential forum. When it was over, I was so glad for the last question and the handshake, a modicum of civility.
Don’t get me wrong; I am going to vote. But I am going to try so hard to be even-handed in my last posts on the book. The drama is intense on a daily basis as no one knows what tomorrow may bring. My goal is to comment on politics and ethics just like Adam Hamilton tries to do in his book. I am not trying to sway anyone to vote one way or the other.
I just want Christians who read this blog to think long and hard about the value of trying to push one candidate or the other in a public form–the cost of that declaration. Not only does it cost so much mental energy on your part to twist your faith to fit a candidate’s behavior but it may cost even more than that; you may cause an unchurched observer of your behavior to remain unchurched.
That day in my garage I waited to hear what the woman would say in response to the man who had such a negative view of Christians. She said she understood why he would be so disturbed by Christians who stood by their man or their woman. She then said a key idea. “Most Christians believe in the doctrine of grace. None of us is perfect. We all need God’s forgiveness. Maybe Christians are just extending grace to the candidates.”
Think hard about what you are getting ready to do on November 8. It will be your vote and your vote alone. You will have a curtain to pull as you cast it. That privacy is a good thing. Think about the cost of your public declaration.
Public declarations can cost you, but maybe more importantly, public declarations can cost others even more as they listen to your words and find just another excuse to turn away from the church.