A Plea For Grace In A Too Often Graceless Debate
Few movies have generated more mainstream quotes than the silly movie Airplane and that movie is, of course, one of my favorites. Having claimed intellectual high ground I offer this dialogue with very anxious flyer Ted Striker and a fellow passenger.
Ted Striker: Yes.
Passenger: First time?
Ted Striker: No, I've been nervous lots of times.
I sometimes think of that line when I write these humble ramblings. I have certainly been nervous a number of times because I attempt to communicate truth with grace and represent Jesus humbly even as I tackle tough topics. Nothing makes me more nervous than writing about faith and politics. I wrote a piece with the tongue-in-cheek title “Will Democrats Go To Heaven?”. Here is an excerpt from that article.
“Christians are not to seek “power over” others – by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should seek to have “power under” others – winning others hearts by sacrificing for those in need.” – Dr.Gregory Boyd, Pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minnesota
That is indeed what Jesus did. That is EXACTLY how a group of men and women in the first century with NO political power turned the world upside down.
Dr.Boyd also noted that “America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”
Hard to argue with that. American has been blessed beyond measure. But I fear we are in danger of forfeiting the blessings God has bestowed by becoming self-absorbed and not generous. I have written often about the lack of giving in the evangelical community. We (protestants) give a paltry 2% on average. Evangelicals are only slightly better at 4%. If we simply tithed we would have enough resources to feed every hungry person AND have enough left over to fund outreaches to tell the world about Jesus. But we choose to buy a better car, a bigger screen TV, and demand that the government make a difference in the needs of others. The fact is that laws and government can only restrain. Jesus can change the heart and change behavior from the inside out.
I am not smart enough to decide what God has called people to do. If He has placed a desire for people to impact the culture through political action I am not about to question their motives. But I do agree that His house (the church) should be a house of worship and not a house of political promotion. Political outreaches should, in my opinion, find venues outside of the sacred space that is God’s sanctuary.
I am active politically. I study issues and candidates and I always vote. I give to causes that I believe in and I would be willing to work for a candidate that shared my goals for our country. But Sunday should be about Jesus. I agree with Dr.Gregory Boyd. I might argue with him about some of his views (I know a Yale Divinity and Princeton Seminary grad would be terrified of me). But I believe his heart is right on this one.
I think the church (on Sundays) should steer clear of politics. God’s Word taught effectively will mold followers of Jesus that will view social issues wisely and vote accordingly. My goal is to introduce people to Jesus, disciple them into a real relationship with Him and then watch as the Holy Spirit changes what my sermonizing cannot.
The body of Christ is about Jesus. About being a good citizen that respects authority. And about demonstrating His amazing grace to a desperately needy world. The message should be grace, redemption and the forgiveness available to everyone. All parties are welcome at the foot of the cross. We need to spend more time there…for the good of America.
That sets the stage for today’s gentle plea. May I challenge my fellow followers of Jesus to show grace in the debates ahead? I confess that I get angry when I witness the personal attacks on Sarah Palin. I know that my friends who are Democrats (yep, I have a bunch of them) get angry when people of faith blindly forward untrue emails about Mr.Obama. We must do better with the dialogue. The style of dialogue demonstrated by Gloria Steinem in the LA Times rallies the zealots but does nothing to further the debate. Here is a bit of her op-ed piece.
Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton's candidacy stood for -- and that Barack Obama's still does.
I would suggest that Sarah Palin shares much more than a chromosome with Mrs.Clinton. Both have shared the difficult battle of succeeding in what is still a man’s world. Both are loving mothers. Both want to make America better. Both are smart, tough and successful. They have very different beliefs about how to accomplish their goals. Demonizing Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton because you disagree with their beliefs is polarizing and counterproductive.
I was guilty of that sin with President Clinton. I said ugly things about him. I did not pray for him. I did not trust God consistently to accomplish His plan and I thought that my politics had to prevail for God’s plan to prevail. How arrogant on my part. I was obsessed with politics and it was dangerously close to idolatry. I am sure I crossed that line at times. As we head into some spirited debate I am begging my fellow followers of Christ to be graceful in your debate. Things will be said that are maddening, unfair and mean. Responding in kind damages the name of Jesus. Solomon wrote these words that are so timely today.
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing,
but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. (Proverbs 15, NLT)
And later this wisdom is written.
Patient persistence pierces through indifference; gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses. (Proverbs 25:15, NLT)
You cannot change the minds and hearts of others by strident arguing. You cannot change the minds of some with a 2 by 4 up the side of the head. You can change a few by demonstrating the grace and good news of the Gospel of Jesus. I love the United States deeply. But I do not believe that the hope of the world is democracy even though I believe there is no better system of government. The hope of the world is Jesus. That is my message. I want to be a good citizen but I must be a grace filled representative for Christ.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.