Whoo, boy. This is a tough one. No harm done if you wanna hit the back button and come back next week for a light-hearted post.
I’m going to talk about things I’m seeing lately and my own experiences. I’d like you to bear in mind that I was obsessed with “the culture war” before I delved into the Living Word and really started pursuing God. Over the course of 2-3 years, He pruned me and made me realize how I wasn’t reflecting Him or following His commands. It’s been painful at times. In light of my ongoing santification journey, I hope you’ll receive my words graciously rather than reacting rashly. I’ve been guilty of a lot of things I speak against here. Before God started working on me, parts of this post would’ve “triggered” me. And now, I’m the one writing it. That’s a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit working in my heart.
If the first couple paragraphs set you on edge, please, just stick with me to the end.
FYI: “Hyper-conservative” means far right, and “hyper-leftist” means far left. Though American conservatives refer to leftists as “liberals,” I feel weird using the term “hyper-liberal” because a classical liberal supports the free market, generally considered a conservative viewpoint. Yep, it’s really that convoluted.
When social media turns sour
As I write this post, I’m thinking about something I saw this morning–the image to the right. Great question. Incidentally, I’ve found that the true pursuit of God’s heart and will is complemented by a deeper humility. Criticisms of Christianity used to put me on the defense immediately. Now, I acknowledge those critiques and ask how I or we, as the church, can do better. Maybe it’s a side effect of actually loving my neighbor…I want to address and correct the ways we have ignored or harmed them.
I’m feeling emotional as I write this post. Tears are stinging the back of my eyes. Why? We American Christians have made partisanship an idol. It’s horrible and heart-breaking. I won’t say “most”…but too many American Christians have turned their Facebook profiles into a billboard for minimalizing problems and spreading hate. Racial inequity? A hoax. Liberals? Deranged and evil pedophiles who want to destroy our country. People who have a problem with America should GET THE HELL OUT! Trump 2020–bet you liberal snowflakes won’t have the BALLS to post this! [I’ve literally seen all of these and worse.] Oh, and here’s the occasional verse from a Bible that I evidently don’t read much…
OUCH! Was that too harsh? I’ll tell you something. When I did things like refer to liberals as “autistic” and insist that Muslims deserve to be persecuted and tell people of color that their experiences were invalid, I sure wasn’t in the Word. In fact, I was more in Daily Wire and the Trump supporters’ subreddit than the Word.
I don’t want to leave conservative Christians out in the cold. Liberals post divisive things on social media, too. My prayer lately has been to balance peacemaking with Godly justice (listening to my neighbors, advocating for equity, standing with the needy). In my observation, hyper-leftists prioritize justice, and hyper-conservatives prioritize peace. But one without the other is incomplete.
The official Black Lives Matter organization has some Marxist leanings I don’t support (but I’m down with the grass-roots groups). Though I condone social programs to help communities thrive, I’m not a socialist (though I think crony capatalism is out of control, and it’s immoral how we treat third-world workers who produce our cheap goods). Before editing this post, I watched a YouTube video from a Christian hip-hop artist who immigrated to America but grew up in the Soviet Union. He responded to another American Christian artist who regularly tweets about abolishing capitalism. He described how his family actually had to wait in line for food rations during his childhood, and he strongly advocated a free market system. I think God puts these reminders in my path that, in the process of turning away from one extreme, I must be cautious not to approach the other.
In America, political oppositions have transcended to a full-scale culture war; if you critique one side, you must be a member of the other. I’d love to hear from some non-Americans in the comment section: how does this dynamic look in your country? This sentiment is repeated so often it’s practically a cliche now, but I’ll say it again: we are losing the ability to appreciate nuance. The guy I just referenced has another video where he speaks on white fragility and supporting the BLM movement (but not the actual organization).
Gasp–someone who supports capitalism and calls out young hyper-leftists for thinking they’re so woke yet also speaks on white fragility and racial inequity? You’re not allowed to have all those opinions at once! You can be right or left–now pick one! (BTW, where is Jesus in all this?)
Caring about politics without being enslaved to them
Aren’t Christians supposed to be “separate from the world” in a sense? Of course, political decisions affect our lives, so we should care. But, how can we justify being so intertwined with politics that it basically shapes our personalities? Jesus said to give Caeser what is his and give Him what is His. But now, we walk around wearing Caesar hats and talking about Caeser constantly and insisting God anointed Caesar to save us from (fill in the blank).
I’ll wrap it up by returning to the meme from the beginning. In this post, I discussed how American Christians have gotten way too swept in a culture war when ours is a spiritual war. HOWEVER, it is important not to confuse that message with the notion that Christianity is an individual, personal, spiritual experience that has no bearing on the real lives of real people who are suffering from pain, poverty, oppression, abuse, etc. As with politics, we must appreciate the nuance here.
We are not called to put a political (or any other) identity before our identity as a follower of Jesus, God’s adopted son or daughter. But we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Being His hands and feet means striving for Godly justice AND peace. We Christians, especially American Christians, need to seriously reflect on our priorities and the ways we’ve thrown “WWJD?” out the window, all in the name of winning a culture war. Let’s reject the divisive idol of partisanship.
Thanks for reading! Have you seen the American political divide morphing into a no-holds-barred culture war? Follow up question: How did this dynamic look in the past? [I’m just 26-years-old.] Do you embrace nuance with your viewpoints? Are you more loyal to God than a political party? Please be civil. Thanks and God bless you. ♥
Here’s another video from the guy referenced earlier in which he discusses racial issues, why he feels the immigrant mindset is actually a privilege, growing up in communist Russia, and more. Say it with me: WE LOVE NUANCE! 🙂
P.S. Just as Jesus healed people spiritually and physically, and just as He said that we can’t live by bread alone but also by God’s words, I think we need to work at providing spiritual and physical nourishment. The Kingdom of God is not just a far-off place; it’s also here, now. Also, living out our faith can open the door to more witnessing opportunities. Some ways of being the hands and feet of Jesus include:
Advocating for affordable housing, school funding, and job opportunities with a livable wage
Supporting or hosting community programs and mission efforts–food banks, free clothing closets, tutoring/GED, after-school care, sports, a program to help with a different family’s bills each month, collecting and distributing school supplies, packing UMCOR kits, you name it
Supporting legislation that addresses inequities and becoming educated on social issues
Hosting Vacation Bible School, revivals, Christian music shows, and other events to bring new people to the church to hear the Gospel
Prison/nursing home/etc. ministries–taking the Gospel outside the church walls