Which Way do we go, George?

Cary Grant as Roger O. Thornhill in "Nort...
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I’m aware of this hypocrisy within myself.  I am intolerant of wedding politics with following Christ, when the politics are at odds with mine.  I think I’m quite a bit more tolerant about it when the politics being married to Christianity are political beliefs I already agree with.   To put things a bit more specifically: If somebody says that you have to be a Republican in order to follow Christ, I am the first person to cry “foul.”   However, I’m much more likely to be quiet if the implication is that you ought to be a Democrat to follow Christ.

Much of this is worth repenting over and working on.  And I am working on it.   But I think we need to be careful.   You know those bumper stickers, the ones that say “Jesus is not a Republican” and “Jesus is not a Democrat.”  I believe that they are right.  But this doesn’t mean, that Jesus is (in the broadest sense) apolitcal.

I believe that Jesus has strong opinions on many political issues.  The sense in which he is apolitical is in that his opinions do not fall along party lines.  I suspect that his opinions are that both parties are asking the wrong questions in the first place, in many cases.   Given that we are called to unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and also that we are called to speak the truth in love, we are presented with a tension to navigate here.

I guess I’m trying to navigate this tension by writing this post.  And by proclaiming a truth.  The truth is that Jesus’ kingdom is something we must progress into.  It is not something that we should regress back to.

I heard a person speaking the other day.  She used the refrain “We have to get back!”  And I found myself wondering, “Get back to what?  Get back to when?”

If she meant getting back to the intimacy with God that we lost in the Garden of Eden, I agree with her.

If she meant getting back to the 1950’s, then I have to say I don’t want to get on board that train.

It boggles my mind, the way people look back to that era as some sort-of golden age.  There were good things about it.  But there were also terrible things: racism, fear of the unknown, materialism, soul-crushing conformity, sexism, ageism…

I tried to suspend judgement.  Eventually though, she very briefly hit on a hot-button political issue.   A recent legal change.  She mentioned it very briefly.  I wonder if she meant to mention it all.  But it made things pretty clear to me, just what she wanted to get back to.

I don’t want to unleash a rabbit trail discussion about the specific topic she mentioned.  Maybe she’s right about it.  Maybe she’s not.  In a world full of evil, it’s a pretty small potatoes thing to mention, especially if you’re only going to mention one thing.

This is not a rant against this person.  She is doing amazing work for Jesus.  There was real value in some of the other things she said.  This is a meditation on a really important divide in Christianity.

Interestingly, I recently also heard the passage in the bible where Jesus asked Simon Peter what people were saying about him.  Simon says that the people are comparing him to what went on before.  When Jesus asked Simon what he (Simon) thought of him, Simon proclaimed that Jesus was something unique in human history.

The relevance here is this: We have this temptation to want to retreat safely into our individual and collective past.  We have a tendency to define our new experiences in terms of the old ones.  But we can’t put this new wine into old wine skins.

We’re called to march into a new kingdom, a place we’ve never been before.  Revelations does not describe the tranquil garden of Eden.  We’re not going to edit out the whole of human history.  Instead, we’re going to use and redeem what we have done, and where we have been to bring us to a place that is new and different from what has gone on before.

And if people are trying to bring us back to where we were, then they are not leading us into Jesus’ kingdom.

 

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “Which Way do we go, George?”

  1. Well said Jeff. When people try to lump others into one group based on thin ties it never works. I have always been a republican, but have supported democrats who have better ideas. I have not always been a Christian and there are some who call themselves such that I certainly don’t share the same views with, like the ones that protest the funerals of soldiers.
    Jesus never really judged a group, he delt with everyone as an individual. We should do the same. No matter what a persons place in life when they meet Jesus, he looks at all the same way. His heart breaks for us to come to him.

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  2. i have found that there’s a profound disconnect at the juncture of “government”. Too often folks assume the Christian mandate is to make some kind of Christ Kingdom here on earth with the human tools of trade. The government over which Jesus seeks to preside and upon who’s shoulders the prophet Isaiah foretold would rest is that of the heart.
    As of yet i haven’t been convinced that there’s a collective heart. Man seeks to make a society through legislation and brute force of law that conforms to his image. Even when we say “in God’s image” we fail to understand the impossibilty of that undertaking. Ours is a nature that seeks to coerce and be satisfied with white-washed outcomes while only God’s Spirit searches the hearts of men to make change from the inside-out.
    Jesus’ politics are unlike any we have seen or can hope to recreate. He intends for us to be changed so that others may also be by the work ONLY he can do. Our politics and systems are afronts to the first three Commandments.

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  3. “God’s image” has been a confounding idea for many… myself inculded. i am of the opinion that this is not one simple thing (like just about everything God). It seems to me that the fallen state of man precludes and excludes him from achieving the true image of God in this life – i’m not certain in the next one either.

    The context of this in a political world is the impossibility of completing this image so we are inclined to compete with it. We work towards a satisfactory world in which God’s bidding is done, but is “satisfactory” really the image of God? Making the world a “better” place is a fool’s errand without induction to the Kingdom of God in Christ. Even then that isn’t a promise or a guarantee of property or prosperity.

    i bristle at the notion of Utopian dreams. They are all constructs of humanism and i believe the Church in error when it tries to claim heavenly morality using earthly powers regardless of party or politics. The reason i have such strong opinions about government is because i desire for it not to be at enmity with the Church.

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