Maybe I’m wandering into a minefield here, but here goes…
The video I posted yesterday of the guns-rights protestors yelling insults at Shane Claiborne, and drowning out the Lord’s Prayer with “God Bless America” deeply disturbed me. At the risk of coming off as a wimp, I’ll admit that it brought tears to my eyes. To his credit, in the piece he wrote for Sojourner’s about this, Shane said he’s sure that these folks didn’t fairly represent supporters of the Second Amendment. But I find that video chilling. When folks gather to mourn the death of a young man in their community, and they are met by gun-toting, flag-waving protestors who boo the Lord’s Prayer and scream out “God Bless America” while people are praying, then we have a major problem.
But there is a deeper issue here. Let’s put it on the table.
Our culture of 24-7 news channels populated by talking heads whose jobs depend upon fanning partisan flames guarantees the ugliest of public discourses. It seems as if nearly every day I get forwards of emails insulting Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Barney Frank, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, and nearly every other politican of any significance. Usually the allegations are so ridiculous it is hard to believe anyone would consider them legitimate. But it constantly amazes me that we are willing to believe nearly any allegation, no matter how outrageous, if aimed at those on the “other team.”
So back to the subject at hand–what are the consequences of attaching Christianity to a particular set of political opinions and what are those of us who don’t fall into the convenient pre-packaged political containers supposed to do in this culture?
You would be hard-pressed to find a more adamant defender of the rights of gun owners than me. But I want nothing to do with those people who, in the name of gun rights, shouted insults at Shane Claiborne and profaned a solemn and holy moment. Count me in as one gun owner who would have been privileged to join Shane and his friends in mourning the death of that young man, and who would have reverently joined them in prayer that God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, and that his kingdom come.
And that happens a lot with folks like me (and probably many who read this blog). Regrettably, I have often seen people whose views I share, expressing them in hateful, vicious ways. And I want nothing to do with that.
I usually feel unwelcome in the camps of either of the competing political teams. To most of the so-called liberals I am too conservative, and to most of the so-called conservatives, I am too liberal. Many of the so-called religious folks among the competing teams would likely batter me with their Bibles while advocating their particular version of political righteousness.
For example, I am “pro-life.” But to me, that means a lot more than just being “anti-abortion.” I try to be consistently pro-life. So while I oppose abortion, I also oppose torture, war and capital punishment. Yes, I support the rights of children in the womb, but I also support their right to live outside of the womb free from starvation, bombs, disease, childhood obesity, juvenile diabetes, and a poisoned environment.
Why do so many of my brothers and sisters so adamantly oppose abortion, while cheerleading for warmongers and remaining indifferent to poverty, environmental degradation and social injustice? Why do they rally in passionate intensity in opposition to homosexual marriage, while seeming indifferent to the disintegration of heterosexual marriage?
And why must I see people who share my support for gun ownership insulting and shouting down a man of God like Shane Claiborne? Why should I feel uncomfortable when some of my brothers and sisters in Christ advocate socialism and the hierarchies of this fallen world?
Is there a Christian political agenda? Or is real Christianity incompatible with any political agenda?
I don’t ask these questions to judge anyone. I have been as partisan as anyone, and I have trusted in political solutions. And the last thing I want to do is present my own political principles as being somehow known by me to be God-endorsed. But for now, for my sake, I’ve given up on the idea that politicians and governments can do anything but evil. Granted some are less evil than others, but in the end these are not the institutions in whom our trust and hopes should lie, in my humble opinion.
How convenient it would be though to just tow some political party line, comfortable that Jesus himself approves. Maybe then I’d never find myself agreeing politically with people who I just find it hard to like.
The bottom line for me is that I am firmly convinced that there is no political tent into which all believers must fit. In fact, I am increasingly convinced that those are tents that are best avoided altogether.
The inner circle of Jesus’ followers while he walked the Earth included folks from the political far right and the political far left. I believe the same is true today.
I also believe that after a few years with Jesus, Matthew the Roman tax collector and Simon the revolutionary Zealot, were probably the closest of friends, having come to recognize that their true allegiance was to a kingdom and a king who makes their earthly conflicts seem petty. My guess is that they came to know that they had discovered a way that renders the political authorities of the world irrelevant, if not evil.
And 2,000 years later, I believe that following Jesus will still lead to that conclusion.