Trigger Alert: Political Post Straight Ahead!

Hopefully, this will not be your average political post, however. I am working on a theory, and need to flesh it out. I could be wrong, but I won’t be able to figure that out until see it written down. If I am wrong, I welcome feedback and discussion. Deep breath…here goes…

I am an American, and as such, I have a certain idea of what political engagement should be. I have a specific understanding of government, a democratic republic, and my role in it and relationship to it. I don’t know anything outside of this paradigm. I live in a country where dissent is allowed, and we vote for our government representatives. I also live in a country that has as part of its national character a civil religion that borrows heavily on a “Judeo-Christian” ethic and therefore liberally applies biblical language and imagery to our public and political life. The American way of life is highly individualistic, focused on rights and freedoms, and champions the lone ranger who pulls himself up by his bootstraps and makes something out of next to nothing.

How much of that is really “Christian” though? That’s a post for another day, but I post that question to make this statement: America is not the Kingdom of God. And government can only go so far. No matter the structure, political philosophy or economic policy, every form of government is flawed. There are elements that are good, and elements that are sinful, because government is made up of a bunch of sinful people. It seems reasonable to me that if an institution or system is set up by people who are all sinners (a biblical doctrine, no?), then there will be things about that system that are sinful. Again, another topic for another day. My bottom line is this: Certain things are simply not biblical or Christian, no matter how many Christian words your sprinkle on them. And even in our most eloquent speeches advocating unwavering national pride, throwing God in the mix doesn’t make it Christian.

But, I digress, as usual…back to the point of this post.

Full disclosure: I am a left-leaning Christian. Not that anyone who reads my Facebook page or Twitter feed would be surprised by that statement. There are a few (extremely important) issues where I do not fall in line with the left side of politics; but for the most part, I would say I lean left. I own this preference, and will not necessarily apologize for it. What I will apologize for is that I at times ignore that I do look at things through this lens and therefore do not account for that particular bias when considering political commentary or news. If this past weekend has taught me anything, it is that I need to sit back and reassess how I’m seeing things.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a particular political preference. What I do think is wrong, and what I’ve seen in myself personally this last week is the fact that I allow my political preference to inform my reading of the Word versus the other way around.  There are elements on the left and the right that are God-honoring and very biblical. But there are elements on both sides that are diametrically opposed to Scripture. Naked Capitalism has winners and losers; it’s the nature of the beast. But applauding capitalism while ignoring the very real suffering of its losers and blaming them for their losses is not biblical. Treating men and women with equal dignity and respect in the home and workplace is a biblical concept. But redefining life in order to justify our desire to do as we please with our bodies is not. As you can see, I live on both sides of a very contentious fence. But things are not so black and white, and the lines we have drawn in the sand are proving to be more arbitrary by the day.

I point this out to suggest that perhaps we are focusing on the wrong thing, or better said, depending on the wrong thing to effect change in our culture and world. No matter what issue we’re debating or what side we are defending, all policy has unintended consequences. We are not omniscient. We cannot see all sides of everything. Fixing one problem can create a dozen new ones we never saw coming. When that happens, who is there to pick up the pieces and help those who have been hurt? Should that not be the church?

This is where I’m going: How would things look if we owned our political biases and allowed others to own theirs without automatically dismissing them as sub-Christian because they disagree with us? Or spent more time comparing our particular stances with Scripture and allowing Scripture to correct them instead of going to Scripture to proof-text the validity of our positions? Or stopped stereotyping each other and allowed facts to drive our discussion, even if they don’t support our position? This would require that we be willing to see the flaws in our positions and accept that the other side might have something valid to say. This would require that we hold our position loosely enough that we are willing to be wrong and change our minds. It would require more listening as opposed to speaking. It would require humility, some discomfort, and the potential loss of reputation and/or influence in the world.

But wouldn’t it be worth it?

We could then focus on being a prophetic voice instead of a political mouthpiece. We could a refuge that would help clean up the mess those unintended consequences of policy decisions will create. But most importantly, it would shift our focus as the church back to what we ought to be focusing on. Caring for the least of these, for the poor and afflicted. Caring for the orphaned and widowed. For the stranger. That is not a left or right position: it is a biblical position. It is uncomfortable and would require sacrifice. But I ask again: wouldn’t it be worth it?

I realize that opens up another can of worms. How best do we help the least of these? But that is a discussion worth having and should be had in the church. We have the resources within ourselves to do these things. We don’t need the government to do them. We need each other.

Again, this is a work in progress. I haven’t thought out all the implications, and as you can see, I haven’t yet dug deeply into scriptural content yet either. All or some of this is subject to change. I just know there is a better way than what we are seeing and have been seeing for a long time.

So this is part one of a multi-part series that will go on for who knows how long. I will take breaks from this topic because it is so thick that sometimes I have to come up for air. But since I don’t think this problem is going to get better any time soon, it’s not something I can ignore.

More later…grace and peace…

To March or not to March?

This lightstock.comSaturday, women all across America will be marching in response to our recent election of Donald J. Trump as president. He will be inaugurated this Friday, two short days away, and I have to admit I’m not all that excited about it. As Inaugurations go, I’ve never been one to get super excited anyway. It was pretty phenomenal to see President Obama sworn in, not because I am a die-hard Obama enthusiast, but because I never thought I would see the day that a Black person would make it to the White House. To witness that was breathtaking; I can’t explain it adequately.

I find myself not being able to explain my feelings this year as well, but for vastly different reasons. I am not excited, or welling up with pride, or feeling we’ve overcome a major milestone with the election of Trump. I feel like we have regressed. I feel like someone punched me in my gut and have yet to catch my breath again. I feel as though the things he promised, the things so many of his supporters are looking to him to do, will not come to pass, or worse, will blow up in our faces and make things worse. I feel we elected him for all the wrong reasons, and that it is not going to be pretty. And it’s not because I hate him, or because I hate people who voted for him; I just believe that he is not what we need as a country. That we are at a turning point right now in our history, and that his presidency may just push us in the wrong direction, to the point of no return.

Aren’t I a bowl of sunshine today?? But this is where I am. And this is why my impulse to march, to speak out is so strong. Because I want us to stop the train before we reach the edge of the cliff.

But…

Earlier this week I read that the organizers of the march had pulled one of their sponsors because that particular group is a pro-life group. In other words, this group is against abortion. The platform of the organizers is adamant that abortion, or what they term “reproductive rights” are a core part of being pro-woman and that any group that would differ on this point does not deserve to march with them on Saturday. I think that is wrong and very unfortunate.

Today I read an article in the Washington Post about the architects of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Susan B. Anthony in particular was highlighted in this article. The writer explained that Anthony would not have marched on Saturday, and in fact would have probably been uninvited because she and her feminist comrades were staunchly anti-abortion. On nearly every other point held by the current iteration of the “Feminist” movement would have been agreed upon except this one, and for that reason, she would have been shut out of a movement she helped found. How sadly ironic. And how telling of the fact that we do not know the history of the very movements we say we support.

I’ve been called a feminist a few times, sometimes as a compliment, sometimes as an insult. If believing that all people, regardless of ethnicity, religious affiliation, body type, physical ability, gender, or sexual orientation (yeah, I said it) should be treated with dignity and provided the same access to opportunities to flourish within a society, then yes, I suppose I am a feminist. But if I must support a something I am theologically and personally opposed to in order to be a feminist, then that is not me. I believe the potential of an unborn child is just as profound and worthy of protection as my potential. But this would make me unwelcome in the organization that is seeking to mobilize and unite women for positive change. Why is that? Why has the movement been boiled down to this one thing, this one litmus test?

So I find myself in a bind here. With a few notable exceptions, I agree with most of the things that the Women’s March is speaking out against. But on this point, I strongly disagree. I am willing to join hands with my fellow sisters to fight for those things we hold as common causes, and dialogue on those things with which we differ. The question is: would they be willing to return that same open hand to me?

I will not be in DC this weekend; but a sister march will be taking place here in my town. I will probably be marching. I am willing to fight for the basic right of dignity that all people deserve – and I strongly believe I can support that position scripturally. But I will do so with a twinge of sadness in my heart, that even in “unity”, we will be torn asunder by this one issue, the one issue the movement’s founders likely would have wept to see come to pass.

More later…grace and peace…

“True tolerance demands civility with those with whom we disagree.” – Randy Boltinghouse

Sometimes silence is golden…

Another day, another tragedy. Last night I watched a horrific scene unfold in Dallas. This morning I am equal parts hopeful and appalled at the varied response to that scene.

A peaceful, lawful protest took place in Dallas last night, similar to others across the country. As the crowd was dispersing, someone suddenly began opening fire, raining down bullets from above, directed at police officers. Utter chaos ensued.

This morning we know that 12 officers were shot, 5 are dead, and 2 civilians were caught in the crossfire. A large section of downtown Dallas is considered a crime scene and is closed off. One shooting suspect was killed after an hours long negotiation broke down. His statements to police were that he was upset with Black Lives Matter, he wanted to kill White people, specifically White police officers, that he was not affiliated with any group and that he acted alone. This remains to be seen, as the investigation is far from over.

Today, my heart is heavy. Yesterday was tough enough as I sought to absorb the loss of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul. But the utter terror I watched unfold in Dallas last night was just too much. My heart is undone today. I am grieving.

I have so many thoughts running through my head right now; I don’t even know where to start. Words seem trite and useless, but words are all I have. I am a writer. I have fought the urge to use my writing to speak on social issues, wanting to live in the relative safety of motivational stuff, encouraging stuff. But part of this journey to wholeness is facing the brokenness head-on and calling it what it is. So I will use this platform to do what I can to contribute meaningful, thoughtful dialogue in the face of pain and suffering.

I am still processing all that has happened and how I feel about all that is happening in our world and in our country right now. My only thought right now is this: Social media can be a double edged sword when these things happen.

On the one hand, social media may have actually kept Castile’s girlfriend alive in the aftermath of his shooting. There have been instances where social media has helped law enforcement as they pursue criminals or deal with an emergency situation. Social media is invaluable during disasters and emergencies of any kind, providing a readily accessible outlet for people to let loved ones know they are okay, or to reach out for help if they are not.

But there is another side to social media. The side that polarizes people and reduces complicated realities into memes. And even if the meme is spreading a false narrative, it spreads like wildfire among those who agree with it. Judgement is passed, motives are questioned, slander abounds, and misinformation is treated as gospel truth. Reading the comment section of some of the posts has led me to the decision that it’s time to take a nice, long break from this madness.

Sometimes silence is golden. As with the Orlando shooting and its aftermath, time should be taken to grieve, to process, to let ourselves be human. Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas were human beings, made in the image of God. Slandering the character of any of these victims while their families and communities mourn is deplorable. Turning this into a political talking point is ridiculous. Using one event to justify the other is just plain wrong. To grieve one is to grieve all. It is all senseless.

I have a right to remain silent. And so I shall. Only speaking when necessary, when I’ve had the chance to think and process and grieve. I think we all need time…

At a loss…

Please give me grace to express my lament. I am beyond frustrated, sad, confused, angry…sitting here at work in tears. For families in Orlando…Turkey….Bangladesh….Iraq….Saudi Arabia…Baton Rouge….St. Paul. How long, O Lord? How long? My heart breaks anew each day. Our leaders sit on their hands and do nothing; our media focus on the insanity of presidential candidates and their self-indulgence. And people die; children lose their mothers or fathers; spouses lose their life partners; families and friends grieve the empty space that person can no longer fill in their lives.

The lack of compassion and complete disregard for human life is amazing, even among we who call on Your name. Perhaps we have become calloused and desensitized. It seems everyday something new happens. Lord, give Your people hearts of compassion, hearts that break with the brokenhearted, hearts that cry out for justice, hearts that are moved to act on behalf of our neighbors. Begin with me, Father, begin with me…

What’s on your mind, Michelle?

This is the question that greets me every time I open my Facebook page. Today, that’s a loaded question. Here’s a sampling:

I have grown tired of the politicization of the human tragedy that has occurred in Orlando… and of every human tragedy that happens these days…

I am spent on the fact that only the fringe element of the church is being portrayed as the voice of Christians in response to this tragedy…

I am disheartened that there are people out there that would consider the slaughter of human beings something to be celebrated…

I am exhausted that my response as a Christian can turn into a litmus test for how properly “orthodox” my doctrine is…

Can we just mourn the fact that 49 souls were lost? Forty-nine families are trying to figure out how to live without their loved ones? That there are 53 others whose lives were spared, but will bear the scars of this night from this point forward? Is this not the human thing to do? If my salvation in Christ does anything, it should make me more human, more prone to lament the horrific effects of fallen humanity and our capacity to hurt one another. It should make me more compassionate, not less…at least that is what I think it should mean…

In this moment, I don’t want to debate the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality; I don’t want to debate whether or not stricter gun laws would have prevented such a tragedy. I don’t want to talk about “radical Islam”. Right now, I just want to be human, to feel the emotions that God has given us and mourn…All these debates can be for another day.

Right now, I just need a good cry.

That’s what’s on my mind…

I just don’t get it…

I always seem to be inspired to write when something alarming happens in the news…and lately it seems those “alarming” things have all centered around race and the police.

This week there is the case of a resource officer in a Columbia, SC high school arresting a student for disturbing class. The fact that he arrested her is not the issue; the issue is how he did it. You can watch the video here. At least three videos of the incident are circulating on the Internet; one of the videos appears to show the student hitting the officer after he grabbed her arm. What happened after that is what is the most disturbing aspect of the incident.

The officer pulls the student out of the desk, flipping her and the desk over in the process. After he frees her from the desk, he throws her across the room.

He throws her. Across the room.

There are a number of things that could be – and have been – said about this incident. I have read comments from both sides of the issue, either defending or condemning the officer’s behavior. The officer’s superior stated that the actions of the officer were not proper procedure, which is why this officer lost his job. I have a few observations – and a lot of opinions. I will outline a few:

The student was insubordinate to her teacher and the officer and should have been disciplined. This is an important aspect to the story. The student did disobey her teacher. Based on the rules in place, the teacher was within his/her rights to call in the resource officer to arrest the student. The student was wrong to disrupt the class, and equally wrong in disobeying the officer.

The officer was doing his job. Hear me out on this one. The officer was doing his job. This is a fact. The fact that a student can be arrested for disrupting a class is disconcerting to me (unless the student is being violent, which in this case she was not); but that is acceptable in this district, and therefore, the officer was doing what his job required of him.

This is where it gets tricky…

There was no reason to throw the child across the room. If a parent does this while “disciplining” their child, we call it child abuse. Why is it okay for an officer to do this to a child? Extracting her from the desk is tricky; but throwing her? Where is the justification in that? Is it enough to say “she should have done what she was told”? If this officer was her father, and she was sitting at the dinner table at home, would we defend the father for manhandling his child and throwing her across the dining room?

Police officers are human beings that make mistakes in judgment. This officer did that. He should not have been that physical with the student. Additionally, pointing out that fact does not negate her responsibility for her actions.

I don’t expect this will change anyone’s opinion on the matter; but I have a concern here that whenever something like this happens, there is the kneejerk reaction to defend the officer, no matter how egregious their actions. In the face of that I have to ask myself why.

I admit…I just don’t get it…