Since the election I’ve had some real push back on a few of my beliefs and opinions about the Church and the election. I’ve been challenged on these themes before before, but because my response to Donald Trumps’s election has been quite passionate, the push back at me is more intense as well, which is only fair.
So I’m going address a few of the things I’m most frequently challenged on from fellow believers.
Why are you so tough on the Church?
Well I’m specifically tough on the white Evangelical/Charismatic church. There are a few reasons for this. One is that this is that is the crowd I come from. Just like you don’t worry as much about what the other families are doing and focus on your own family, I feel it is more appropriate to focus on how I believe my group should act than focusing on all the other groups.
Also, white Christians are the historically privileged group in this country. That means reconciliation and justice should start with us. Some many reject that idea, wanting to say that we are all just individuals and that the white church has no special responsibility to step up to the plate on our social divisions, but I reject that idea. I believe we ought to embrace the role of brother’s keeper and be the first to listen and be willing to change.
Lastly, because we Christians believe we are the body of Christ on earth, made alive and empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out the mission of Christ, taking His message of reconciliation and hope to the world. I believe it’s appropriate to call us to live that reality.
Are you saying it was a sin to vote for Trump?
No, I really can’t say that. Some people voted for Trump with a clean conscience. I try to reserve the word sin for times when people know the right thing to do and chose the wrong thing instead.
BUT I still think the Church collectively needs to repent for where we are and how we got here.
Let me unpack that. This election is a symptom of a more foundational problem. The underlying problem is this: We have failed to be reconciled to our neighbors and therefore have failed to love our neighbors. We have failed to understand our non evangelical and minority neighbors and failed to take their needs, wounds, and concerns seriously. We often aren’t even close enough to our Muslim neighbors, our LGBT neighbors, or our immigrant neighbors to begin to know that we don’t really know them.
(And no, the fact that there is a black gal at your church and she votes conservative isn’t enough. She is an image bearer of God, as valuable as any other person, but she is not a reason to gloss over the 90% of African Americans who vote for democrats. It isn’t fair to point to someone who is a major outlier from their group and say that that is all the understanding you need.)
All too often, white evangelicals lack deep open minded relationships with many people from very different perspectives. This leads to us assuming we get ‘those people’ when we really really don’t. Deepening our understandings of others is ESSENTIAL when it comes to reconciliation and love.
So when I say the church needs to repent- aka ‘reverse course’- this is largely what I mean. We as a Church are missing the mark and we need to be reconciled to our neighbor. I believe if we are reconciled to our neighbors our politics and rhetoric and ‘culture wars’ would really change. (And related note, our theology would be deeply enriched.)
Why do you have to be such a self-righteous condescending asshole?
It’s a gift.
No, really, it’s a couple things. Perhaps this is obvious, but I don’t actually mean to come across that way.
I’m extremely passionate about this topic. I’ve invested time, energy, and emotion into understanding different perspectives. I’ve shared the pain of people wounded and alienated by the Church. I’ve also had major shifts in my thinking about politics, moving away from the ‘take America back for God’ mindset and into what I might call a ‘Third Way’ or ‘Kingdom’ midset. It’s lasered in me as a deeply important value and I’m desprate for the church to make some changes in this area.
This passion can come across in both hurtful and healing ways, sometimes at the exact same time. Sometimes I might post a thing where I get these 2 responses: A gay formerly Christian friend might tell me ‘thank you for being willing to say that. You acknowledge that what the Church has done is hurtful. That is healing to me.’ And then a Christian friend might tell me ‘You are so harsh and judgmental of the church. You clearly think you are better than me. Why do you think it’s helpful to run down the body like that?’
The reality is that there is no perfect expression that will please everyone.
The reality is that sometimes words can be both painful and needed.
The reality also is that I need to do a better job of slowing down when anger or frustration is fueling my passion.
“Anything you can do WITH anger, you can do better WITHOUT it.”
I don’t recall who I heard say this, but it rings true to me.
It doesn’t mean I can eradicate all anger or should focus my attention on that. But it does mean that anything I do fueled by anger is likely to be with compromised judgement.
So with that in mind, I ask the forgiveness of anyone I’ve unhelpfully hurt through my words, particularly this week. It isn’t my intention to judge people’s hearts or shut people down. It’s my intention to challenge as well as open up dialogue that can be beneficial and helpful. So if I have made you feel misunderstood, condescended to, or written off, please forgive me.
If in the future I come across as edgier than you like, please know that I am trying to measure my words to be challenging AND gracious, daring AND wise. I’ll fail, and I’ll keep trying, because I believe somethings need to be said, conversations need to be had, and bridge building needs to be done.
You have some major criticisms, so do you just like to talk about what you think is wrong or do you have any helpful proactive solutions to offer?
Yes, one in particular at the moment. Church, please, I beg you, develop deep open minded and openhearted relationships with people who are different than you. People who look different, think different, vote different, believe different.
For the individual, this just means starting with one person and building upon that. We don’t diversify our social circles quickly or easily, but it’s very much worth a try. Facebook can help for some people if you can do genuine facebook friendships. It also might mean reading different news sources or books that give us a different angle on the world.
The church will experience greater reconciliation and oneness as we truly get to know and love each other. We will struggle to love our neighbor well if we don’t know them well. My hope is for us to grown in our breadth and depth of relationships with people who are unlike us… and that we would learn to love your neighbor like we love our own selves.