Saturday, October 15, 2016
It's troubling how polarized our society has become. What's more, the church hasn't been immune to this alarming cultural trend. Christians on the Left and the Right often champion a one-dimensional God who affirms all their preferences and pet peeves, while simultaneously turning a deaf ear to other aspects of God's heart that don't appeal to the prevailing conservative or liberal narratives.
The God of the Bible cares immensely about the dignity and sanctity of human life, even at its most humble and fragile beginnings. He has a divine purpose for gender, marriage, and human sexuality, and he's deeply grieved when we deviate from his good design. He's in favor of a fair government that administers justice and carries out unbiased sentences against criminals. He commands his people to love their countrymen, honor their leaders, and faithfully fulfill their civic duties.
The God of the Bible also cares about the environment. He gave ancient Israel specific instructions to tend to the health of the soil. At one point he warned them not to unnecessarily destroy trees during warfare because the land and everything on it belongs to him, and he expected them to behave as "stewards”—not "owners." He eventually expelled them so, among other things, the land could "rest" for the 70 years he had incrementally mandated. He cares about fair wages for laborers and justice for the marginalized, minorities, immigrants, homeless, people of other religions, etc. He names himself their avenger and warns us not to ignore or exploit people who are voiceless. He requires us to willingly lay down our rights as we selflessly serve others. He condemns economic greed and unbridled excess. He loves charity and mercy.
It should concern us when we, as Christians, approach our world with very partisan/tribal lenses—when we see issues in regard to their red or blue, Right or Left, appeal instead of viewing them through God's eyes. It's shameful when we irrationally deify or demonize political candidates, propositions, or ideologies due to our tribal affiliations. The resulting cognitive dissonance will make fools out of the best of us. If after personal introspection we find that we typically embrace or outright reject things simply because the spokesperson has an “R” or a “D” next to their name, then we have fallen into this trap.
We increasingly live in artificial worlds of our own making which contribute to our ever-growing polarization. On social media, we can surround ourselves with or “un-friend” people, for example, that agree or disagree with our preconceptions until all we hear is a single note. While this may make for an initially easier existence, it ultimately produces ignorance of the universes next door and eliminates the opportunity to grow in Godly wisdom and understanding. Multiple “news sources,” editorial blogs, infotainment, and quasi-journalists are also available to cater to our insatiable desire for affirmation of what we already believe to be true about the world. Confirmation bias runs rampant in the “information age.” If we happen to hear something that challenges us or, God forbid, makes us angry, we can quickly banish it from our digital world. However, I would strongly encourage my brothers and sisters to resist the urge to take the easy way out. We can only live in our comfortable, artificially affirming worlds for so long before we inevitably collide with numerous other “hostile” worlds, which we are now, due to our own censorship, unequipped to understand or engage. Such is the tragedy of much of what has been labeled the “culture war.” What if we were to instead invest in friendships with people who are very different from us, and genuinely consider opposing views? Perhaps our current perspectives will be made more certain, or maybe our misconceptions will become apparent to us upon review. Either way, we win.
God is even now taking back his rebel world through the person and work of Jesus. True Gospel transformation—not legislation—will revolutionize the way we view culture, politics, economics, human life, sexuality, immigration, healthcare, environmental conservationism, race, foreign policy, mercy and justice.
Jesus doesn't fit comfortably into the Right or Left's agenda. He's certainly not a Republican or a Democrat. Those who claim to follow him haven't joined a political party, we've offered up our unconditional surrender to a servant King and his counterintuitive kingdom. All of our preferences and pet peeves are to be unreservedly relinquished and superseded by his all-encompassing agenda. American Christian, decide now. There simply is no other way to follow him.
“[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
“Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” — Ecclesiastes 7:18b