Friday, August 21, 2020

Religion as Politics

Dear Church,

We have profoundly lost our way. And it's up to us to correct our errors before it's too late, before we lose control of our own narrative forever.

Several weeks ago, while the world was in an uproar over black lives matter and police violence and historical monuments and our own past, Christianity began trending on Twitter. a political topic.

It centered on comments made by one man who was talking about our image of Jesus. One man had the power to set Christianity as politics on fire around the world. And a conversation ensued, but it wasn't the conversation that we should have been having.

What happened was that Christians began to chime in and either defend or deny what the man had said. We came out in force to talk about what he said, to weigh in on it, to try to approach the subject with both grace and truth. All the things that we're taught to do as followers of Christ. And yet, what we were not addressing was the larger issue:

Our faith was being hijacked as a means to a political end. Our faith was being used politically. Our faith had become a political issue.

Two thousand years after Jesus, I thought, put to rest the issue of whether or not He was that kind of King, are we still willing to let our Savior be politicized in the hopes that...what? I don't even know. What I do know is that there were not a lot, if any, Christian voices - particularly not the "big" Christian voices - saying, wait a minute. Our faith is not political. It's not a tool. It's not a rhetorical point. Stop using it for your gains.

And the way we responded to this man didn't send that message either. We engaged him on his terms. Across the board. And in doing so, we gave up our right to tell our own faith story. We gave up our authorship of God's story in the world. We let him dictate how we talk about our faith, and we wasted the moment responding to the world instead of truly standing up for what we believe, who we are, who our God is, and what is supposed to set us apart from all of that.

When I mentioned this on my personal Twitter, I was met by silence. On my Facebook, I was told that it was all because of this one man and that we can't control what the world thinks of us or what one guy says. Christians were willing to take a hands-off approach because they didn't think they had any personal stake in the issue. After all, they didn't say what he said; they were just responding to it.

But it shows how reactionary our faith has become. It shows that we are a people living on the defensive, taking out of context and centering our faithfulness on Peter's admonition to "always be ready to give a defense" instead of grounding ourselves in Jesus's "go and make disciples." We have let the world tell us how we have to talk about it instead of boldly going forward with what they need to hear. We have let our faith become rhetoric instead of love. And that's on us. That's on the way that we've chosen to live our faith in these times.

It's complicated all the more by just how entangled faith has become in politics, despite the fact that there are loving, God-honoring, God-fearing Christians on both sides of the aisles. We've made our elections about so-called religious ideas, setting up our camps on this side or that based on what we think Jesus said about this or that issue. Forgetting, of course, that Jesus didn't talk about issues; He talked about hearts. He talked about human beings. He talked about "one another." And here we are using faith to make an "us" and a "them." No wonder we've lost track of ourselves. No wonder the world doesn't expect anything more of us than they do, say, a politician. We have become politicians ourselves, under the guise of righteousness, and we are no such thing - either politicians or righteous.

So yes, it is on us. One guy may have said it, one comment may have started it, but the fact that we, the church, did not come out and put our foot down and declare, unequivocally, that Christianity is not politics says something profound about who we have become. And if we don't, right now, put our energies into unbecoming that, into recapturing our Gospel message, into reclaiming our own narrative, then we are on the verge of losing it forever to a world who is going to expect nothing more of us than that we tell it what it wants to know, rather than speaking boldly in love what it needs to hear.

The Gospel has always been countercultural. Christianity as politics is so mainstream, so blah, so inconsequential to a lost and dying world that it hardly bears mentioning, except, of course, when it explodes. It's time to take our story back and remind the world Whose pages of history it's living in. It's time we love the way Jesus called us to love - one another. And it's time we stop pretending, two thousand years after He couldn't have made it more clear, that Jesus ever desired to be that kind of king.

Christianity is not politics. And until and unless we rise up en masse and defeat that kind of heresy, the world will never know the life-changing, life-saving grace of the Gospel. 

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