Inauguration Day is wrapping up. Conveniently, as yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I had no class and no work, which freed me to watch the festivities in Washington, follow what people were saying on Twitter, and converse with my more politically-minded friends – in which I include both those who follow politics heavily and those who (for lack of a better way to put it) just like to offer their opinions on everything. In these discussions, a lot of heated issues came up, and a lot of behaviors and trends came up that were worrying and not at all reflective of the lives Christ calls us to. Disclaimer #1: Parts of this post will be very similar to my previous post. Disclaimer #2: I write this while somewhat frustrated and troubled, but at the same time I feel called to address these issues while they are fresh and on my mind. Disclaimer #3: I am not a Republican, nor am I a Democrat. Both parties have their merits, and both parties have their flaws. Please do not assume that I am attacking or defending either one.
In my conversations and monitoring of Twitter, I noticed (just like on Election Day) a strong uptick in disrespect towards the President. I have heard and read statements personally attacking him. It is one thing to disagree with his policies. It is another to attack his person. Whether we like it or not, he is the President. Respect him and pray for him. It is possible to do one without the other. For example, take Mark Driscoll’s tweet. Is he praying? Yes. Is he respecting? Well, his words seem rather overly abrasive for that, “lacking love and charity” in the words of a fellow tweeter. On the other hand, you have a figure such as Louie Giglio (who I could understand being angry as he felt the need to pull out of the inauguration ceremony) who simply tweeted, “The word benediction literally means ‘good + to speak.’ Seeking to do this today.” and is quoted as saying, ”I will continue to pray regularly for the President, and urge the nation to do so. I will most certainly pray for him on Inauguration Day.” No name calling. No attacks. No insinuations. Simply an offering of prayer on behalf of Obama.
I also noticed a strong series of attacks on Obama’s faith (see Mark Driscoll’s tweet again). Most of it came from my proud, conservative, Bible-thumping, card-carrying Republican friends. They base their attacks primarily on his support of abortion and gay rights, charging murder and homosexuality, both of which are condemned at some point in the Bible. I’ll get to my thoughts on those issues later. These are the same people who vehemently oppose welfare and any remotely non-private healthcare. Check out Matthew 25:31-46:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (ESV)
Also, look at Acts 2:44-45:
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (ESV)
Christ has a strong compassion for the poor and less fortunate, and a strong desire for his followers to care for them. Yes, Obama does act counter to some parts of scripture. But this isn’t because he’s a Democrat. It is because he is human. You know who else is human and claims faith? Republicans. Libertarians. Independents. You. Me.
Some might contend that Obama is bound as a politician to uphold practices such as abortion and gay rights on “legal grounds.” I had a lengthy debate over this earlier tonight with a dear friend. As you likely can guess, we stood on different sides of this topic. After much debating and talking, it essentially boiled down to the relationship between faith/belief and action. Essentially, this friend held that there is and should be a separation between a person’s beliefs and actions. However, I see a problem with this perspective – it puts God in a box. It reserves part of your life and says, “God, you can have that part, but this part is mine.” Recall Jesus in the temple:
In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” (John 2:14-16 ESV)
Now, I can’t claim that the people Jesus drove out did or did not believe in Yahweh. However, judging by the fact they were in the temple, it is a safe bet to assume they did. If compartmentalizing belief from action is ok, then why were they driven out? In short, because that is not ok. Belief and action are directly related. Look at James 2:14-17:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (ESV)
Faith begets works. A love for Christ brings with it the desire to do as he would do. It places a longing inside a person’s heart to be more like him. I’m not saying all of this to condemn Obama. I’m not saying all of this to condemn Republicans. I’m saying this to remind everyone that we are all human, that we all mess things up, and that we can all still strive to right our errors and give more of ourselves to Christ every day. I pray for Democrat leaders to do so. I pray for Republican leaders to do so. I pray for myself to do so.
The final thing I noticed was a behavioral tendency of people with whom I was disagreeing. If I disagreed with them on a single topic, they would lump me in with either the rest of “those Bible-thumping conservatives” (a paraphrase) or “those liberal douchebags” (a verbatim quote) depending on which party they disagreed with. So, in the interests of setting forth my beliefs so people can understand where I actually stand on several heated political debates, I shall present my stance on each and a short defense thereof.
- Welfare and healthcare – I believe that Jesus called us to help those who are in need. He showed an immense amount of compassion for those whom society had forgotten (Matthew 25:31-46 and Acts 2:44-45).
- Gay rights – While Jesus says nothing about homosexuality, I believe that Jesus called us to love – both those like us and those unlike us. In biblical times, Jews hated Samaritans. The parable of the Good Samaritan was shocking to his listeners. But it wasn’t just a parable. Jesus himself showed care and compassion for those whom were typically ostracized – Samaritans, tax collectors, lepers, and more. They were won to the kingdom of God not by criticism and hate, but by love (John 4:5-42, Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 2:16-17).
- Abortion – I believe that God’s heart breaks when we end a life, particularly the life of an infant. To be completely honest, the Bible says nothing about abortion. People in biblical times had a different understanding and knowledge of reproduction and life. However, it does say that man is unique in being created in God’s image, and that murder is wrong (Genesis 1:27, Exodus 20:13).
- Environmental reform – The earth belongs to God, and as he placed us in stewardship of it, we should care for it (Psalms 24:1-2, Genesis 1:26)
But in the long run, these are just small issues, little pieces in the great puzzle of the cosmos. While they are important, I stand on one thing above all else – Christ.
I sincerely hope I have not been offensive, but rather thought provoking and encouraging. I understand people will hold opinions different to mine, or be unsure of my stance. Please, by all means, look into it. Do some research, talk to people who are versed in these issues (or me, I love talking). Don’t simply take me at my word. I am no less fallible than anyone else.
Blessings upon you for reading this far, and for the encouragement and provoking thoughts and material you send my way. I appreciate all of it.