Grieving and Hope After the Election

Many people are grieving for our country today. My Facebook feed, made up mostly of conservative Christians, is like the day after a bomb dropped. Early polls showed 80% of evangelicals voted for Governor Romney, and many are shocked and grieved by the outcome of the election.

I am grieving for the church.

Many people are posting on Facebook that this win signals people want handouts and don’t want to work, signals the death of our country’s ideals and an electorate who doesn’t care enough to be informed, and is a national endorsement of abortion, gay marriage, and weed. Most of these posts that I saw came from people who are Christians, and to those posts I have to give the following response:

I humbly and sadly disagree. I think this split in our culture is about the church. I think it is about the marginalized (the people the church should love and support). The Democrats made a compelling case that they cared about those people. We in the church have not made that same compelling argument. Even on election day, in some of our responses, we demonstrated a lack of care for people, a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty, and a lack of obedience to His commands to not fear. I am going to get into the issues and hopefully present a thoughtful view of these things so that we can understand the “other side” a bit better and respond in love instead of rhetoric – but first of all let me say this – Jesus gives hope to each of these issues. We have hope in Christ.

“The Handouts”: On election day, thousands of people tweeted jokes like “Don’t worry if Dems are leading, Republicans will vote once they get off work.” I also saw comments about the over-half of our country that voted for the Democrats that go something like this – “they want something for nothing so they’ll take our country down in debt.” And it breaks my heart. The rhetoric simply isn’t true, and this attitude is what is alienating us from not only the voting world but from the lost world. Our country has one of the highest levels of childhood poverty of any industrialized nation. Over 18% of our children don’t get enough to eat. And the assumption and the rhetoric states that is the lazy parent’s fault. But the facts, according to the Institute of Child Development, are that 75% of poor children have at least one parent who works. The remaining 25%? Mostly single women who cannot afford quality childcare to be able to work. And some call them welfare queens. But guess what, 1 out of 4 of those women don’t qualify for any federal assistance whatsoever. And the ones who do face restrictions to protect them from living off “government cheese.” There are some lazy Americans, yes, but for the most part, the working poor are just that, working poor, and not lazy Americans. These are desperate hurting Americans trying to make a living wage and failing. For example, over 50% of Walmart employees don’t make enough to live and because of this, qualify for food stamps. But they are working. Not full-time, because Walmart fights to keep employees at 39 hours per week. But hard. They aren’t looking for a handout. They are trying. And we as the church have bought into the rhetoric and ignored the reality. Church, we have to quit buying into this political “us vs. them” rhetoric of the working versus the lazy and instead buy into church’s command to love the least of these. Because our command to love is absolute, even when people take advantage of the system and are lazy. We in the church certainly do help the poor – but in the last 20 years we have helped the poor quietly and shouted the rhetoric loudly. Let’s stop the rhetoric and instead let our quiet consistent support of the poor define us.

“The Gays”: What if, in the early days of AIDS in the 1980s, the church had embraced homosexuals as they struggled in terror to understand this new disease that was wiping them out? What if we had been the ones known for our care for them? What if instead of fighting them on every right and constantly reminding them of their “terrible sin,” we remembered how Jesus treated the tax collectors and sinners and how he got to know them and ate with them, and they followed him because they loved him and knew he loved them? Dr. Stanton Jones, provost at Wheaton College, said at Dallas Theological Seminary that the church has failed in the treatment of homosexuals by treating “them” as our enemy in the culture war, and considering “their” sin as irredeemable while failing to consider our own sin and brokenness. A study by the Barna Group showed that when asked, 91% of non-Christians defined Christianity as anti-homosexual (in fact, this was the first word they used to describe the Christian faith). We have failed. We have defined the grace, love, and death of Jesus Christ to a lost world as “anti-homosexual.” Father, forgive us. Do you think they would still seek protection in a political party if we had been their ally instead of declaring “war” on them? I think that is what this election was about for them. They were aligning themselves with the party who demonstrated care for them.

“The Illegals”: The Hispanic vote overwhelming went Democratic, despite their dominate Catholic pro-life worldview (much more conservatively pro life than even most evangelicals). Why? I think it was more “us versus them” rhetoric. What if we were the ones fighting for immigrant children, brought here because children have nothing to eat in the place where they live, instead of the ones calling them “illegals” and demanding their deportation, many of them to a place where they don’t know the language and have never lived? What if we not only supported but demanded programs like the Dream Act? And I know there is a legal path to immigration, but I also know it is broken and takes sometimes decades and that path is terribly narrow and needs to be fixed. My friends in ministries like International Friends and refugee ministries, you are doing great work – and we need to partner with you more in those ministries as we seek to reach out to and love on our minority population in this country.

“The Stoners”: What if, instead of seeing the weed legislation movements as “slacker stoners” wanting to toke in public, we recognized the reality that our “war on drugs” has not raised the price of drugs or limited access, but instead only succeeded in imprisoning more Americans than any other country in the world? We have a broken legal system that criminalizes the social and medical problem of addiction. In 2010, 1.64 million people were arrested for drug violations, 80% of those were for possession. A friend’s son took his own life before a mandatory minimum sentence would send him away to prison after a repeat possession charge. The cost of that to my friend is unmeasurable. Over 2.3 million people in the United States are imprisoned, over half of those for non-violent drug offenses. This is devastating the African American community (which plays into both the poverty and abortion problems in that community). I’m not saying legalization is the answer – in fact I think it isn’t, but maybe if we looked at the problem with sympathetic hearts and a willingness to work together toward solutions instead of cynical political goggles, we would join together to find a better solution. Big Brothers and Sisters does great work on the mentoring front, which helps prevent this problem, and Prison Fellowship does an excellent job once people are in prison, but there is room for us to minister alongside these groups to help this marginalized group.

“The Babies”: I’ve addressed this many times before (here, here and here), and my views on abortion are clear. Abortion is terrible and we are all paying a terrible price for it. But even if reversing Roe was a possibility, which I truly am not sure it will be  until there is a major worldview change (which comes from the inside), abortions didn’t start with Roe. My family was affected by abortion long before Roe v Wade. Abortions are a consequence of spiritual, family, and economic factors. When marriages are strengthened and divorce rates go down, the number of abortions go down. When women escape poverty, abortion rates go down. When the healthcare and childcare options for women improve, the number of abortions go down. When women are in community with people who care and feel supported and encouraged, abortion rates go down. When women find hope, abortion rates go down. Legislation is not the best answer to the abortion crisis. Jesus and the church is. Our crisis pregnancy centers have done more for life than any legal battle we have ever fought. Well done friends who are part of those powerful ministries. The church is starting to get this right – and we need to continue on that path.

There is a sense that America rejected God in the voting booth yesterday. But I think there is an argument that we as the Church rejected these groups first, either directly or through the party we have closely aligned ourselves to. Church we are not the Republican party. And by the way, we aren’t the Democratic party either. In fact, the parties may be hurting us not only in mindset but also in reputation. I think we need to remember that both political parties, and partisan media sources, have not only financial interest but ultimately derive power from us suspecting each other, fearing each other, and not compromising with each other. And that is the exact opposite of what our faith is about. We cannot let the “us versus them” mindset of the political landscape hijack our message of love for all people and grace by faith in Christ alone. In this political environment, if you disagree (or even compromise or seek to understand) you are the enemy. But Jesus taught us that we not only love our enemies but lay our lives down for them. We can disagree, but we must disagree well because we don’t just represent us, we represent Christ in us.

We also have to be careful with the reputation of our faith. We cannot let extreme personalities like Trump with his “I’m a real Christian” and his honorary doctorate from Liberty, alongside his twitter rants and conspiracy theories about long forms and secret Muslim allegiances, define us. And why do so many I know believe him, but we have a president who has claimed faith in Christ, but people discount that? People seem to be mourning as if all hope is lost and the President’s heart is beyond God’s realm of control. Instead, we should be praying that the Holy Spirit would convict and lead him. The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it wherever he will. Prov 21:1. The President’s heart is in the hand of God – so when we pray, we can affect where it turns. That is power we have in Christ! We should be encouraged by it. We truly have no reason to fear.

It feels like we have forgotten that Jesus is our hope. Jesus alone.

My former pastor, Brandon Thomas, tweeted today “Bringing people to Jesus will build our great nation to its best days, no doubt! Life in Christ = love God, love others.” I say Amen. Max Lucado tweeted “Lord, please: Unite us. Strengthen us. Appoint and annoint our president.” I say Amen. I am not saying compromise on any of these things – nor are these pastors. I’m not saying change your vote or party alignment. I’m not saying you have to agree with the Left or the Right. I am saying let’s assume a position of humility in dealing with these really difficult issues and seek to understand each other so that we can reconcile with each other. I’m saying when we are kind, we lead people to Jesus, and we make our country stronger.

Courtesy CathNewsUSA.com

I’m visual – so I keep thinking of nuns (habits and all). Everyone knows what they believe. But how do you see them portrayed, even in liberal Hollywood? Positively. Why? Because they are known for helping people – for humbly working toward the good of the people around them. So they are beloved. We could learn from their example. We need better PR and we need a return to our true hope.

America is not the hope of the world. Neither is a political party. Jesus is. Church, let’s return to him and follow His lead in loving the hurting.

The Backup:

Dr. Russell Moore on a Christian response to the election: http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/11/07/christians-lets-honor-the-president/

Abortion statistics: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_07.pdf

Prison Statistics: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/20/americas-invisible-incarcerated-millions

Drug War Statistics: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/business/in-rethinking-the-war-on-drugs-start-with-the-numbers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Childhood Poverty Statistics: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/

Dallas Theological Seminary Article on Homosexuality: http://www.dts.edu/read/5-failures-on-churchs-treatment-sexuality-5-ways-forward-jones-stanton/

Non-Christian Perceptions of Christianity: unchristian by Kinnamon and Lyons

Rich Stearns, CEO of WorldVision, author of The Hole in Our Gospel, wrote this response to the election: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-stearns/goodbye-christian-america-hello-true-christianity_b_2082649.html

Tim Keller on Signs of Political Idolatry: http://kellerquotes.com/the-signs-of-political-idolatry/

Ian Simkins on Politics and the Church: http://isimkins.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/politics/

This post has been shared far beyond anything I ever thought possible. Thank you for sharing. I want to clarify a few things. First of all – pretty much everyone I know, love, and respect is a conservative. I am not saying that every conservative feels this way or has responded this way since the election. Most people I love and many millions more have not. And although I am not in the liberal Christian circles, I’m sure there has been a ton of rhetoric in that camp as well. This post was intended as an encouragement for us, in the church, on both sides, to open our eyes to each other and shut off the rhetoric – to see that the things that unite us (a love for country, a love for God, a love for people, and a desire to achieve the best for our family and people we love) are far greater than the things that divide us (our differing ideas for how we achieve change in our country).  I believe in Christ we have hope and in Christ we are brothers and sisters and that disunity, even because of partisanship, is a tactic of our enemy. Thank you again for reading. 

Community in a Political Season

Right now is a challenging time to relate to other people, in my opinion. I’ll be talking to someone at church or work or school, and the conversation will turn in the slightest direction where it may head toward politics, and I’ll feel it. Not every time or every person, but you know it when it is coming. There is a shift in the air. A tension and what feels like an underlying anger. Suddenly where our conversation was light and full of life, it becomes something different. And it will happen. The person will lean in, speak quietly, and state some joke, position or assumption about politics, confident that I share their fears and frustrations.

And the truth is, I don’t. I’ll say something noncommittal, change the subject. Try to return the conversation to the million things we agree upon. But the tension remains. The person I am talking to may have expected me to join in or pile on, but I didn’t, and it has thrown them. My attempt to change the conversation has surprised them. And they’ll soon walk away.

And there it is – disunity.

Courtesy Businessnewsdaily.com

I feel outside. Other. Less than. Because I don’t share a political leaning – I am no longer in community like I would be if I did.

And that’s been a hard feeling to live with this political season. I’m not sure why my friends walk away, maybe they feel exposed or embarrassed? Maybe they are questioning me? I’m not sure. But it happens on both sides of the aisle.

So I don’t speak up about politics even though I have a point of view. Because over and over this election, I have heard friends throw down the gauntlet and say something like “In this election, you can’t be a Christian and vote ________________” or, “In this election, you can’t be a woman and vote _______________.”

And I disagree.

I am a Christian, and a woman, and I do approach the world with a Biblical worldview, and I am very engaged with politics, but I still contend that this election isn’t as simple as some people make it. This election is hard and complicated and I don’t see a savior anywhere in our political arena worthy of saying, “If you don’t vote for this person – you aren’t a true follower of Christ or a real woman.”

I don’t feel that either party represents me as a Christian or as a woman perfectly, so I can understand the rationalization for compromising to vote for either one of our less-than-ideal choices this election. Because of this, you are my brother and my sister if you are the bluest of blues or the reddest of reds. No candidate and no party platform fully encapsulates my views just as no political division overcomes our commands to love one another and live in unity.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph 4:2-6

I don’t think a political stance is worthy of disunity. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the disunity is an indicator that our political views trump our Kingdom view. Because our commands to love each other and respect the authority under which we are governed were given by men living in an actual police state. We think we have it bad – our environment is a carnival compared to the Roman occupation under which Jesus was crucified. And yet Jesus said to be known by our love and to render unto Caesar and Paul said to live in unity. A presidential race in the US in 2012 is not a worthy reason for Christians to walk away from one another or grow cold toward each other. After the election of President Obama in 2008, someone wrote on Facebook “To give him the power to destroy us is just as dangerous as to give him the power to save us” and I wholeheartedly agreed with that and add Romney’s name to it as well. There is no perfect candidate in this election, and there is no perfectly evil candidate – neither can save or condemn.

Jesus saves. Jesus brings peace. Jesus heals. Jesus provides. Because of Jesus, we live and breathe and have our being (Acts 17:28).

So can we please quit walking away from each other and growing cold toward each other for something so temporal? Who cares if others don’t share our view? Walking away and growing cold makes us small – and we are not small. We are children of Jesus, brothers and sisters who will live together forever in the land of our King, and the things which unify us are a million times stronger than the things which divide us. The enemy divides – Jesus unifies. Let’s join him in that.

Jesus, help us. We deeply desire to live righteous lives, and your command to live in the world but not of it is such a hard command to follow. This world seems all-encompassing and confusing. Please help us. We want to be light – please show us how to do that. It is hard when our self-interest and opinions and “rights” crowd into our perspective. Please help us, convict us and lead us. Please unleash your Holy Spirit to speak truth to us and use us for Your great glory to share truth with others. Please forgive us where we get it wrong. Please help us remove the barriers and cross the divide in relationships grown cold. Please unify your church. Please help us to love. We know you are in control – that you place kings in places of authority and remove them when their time is up. We trust you. Please protect, guide and lead those who lead us. We are in great need of you individually, in our churches and communities, and nationally. You are the source of all that is good in our world, and we need more of you everyday.

*By the way – I’m not equating passion with disunity. I have a friend who is DEEPLY passionate about one political leaning – but I have seen her do this well as she maintains friendships despite deep fundamental disagreements on policy. So the “I’m just passionate” argument doesn’t really hold water with me, because I promise you there are passionate people who are fighting to remain unified despite their passions. It may not be easy, but it is right and worth struggling for.