Christians & COVID: Politicizing, Theorizing (& Apologizing)

The only maladies more contagious than COVID right now are the rapidly-mutating accusations and politically-charged conspiracy theories surrounding it.

Wow.

And yikes.

I haven’t heard them all yet… but I’ve heard a smattering. And a whole lot of them are coming from Christians. (Disclaimer: I realize that some people who’d identify themselves as such don’t know a whole lot about what Jesus said, did or taught.)

Frankly, I just don’t get it.

Because what does polarizing/politicizing/promoting conspiracy theories – in a pandemic (or ever) – actually accomplish? Especially in regards to what Christ told us to do?

Jesus made it pretty clear that we’ve got two essential tasks before us:

Love God with everything we’ve got.

And love people. Strangers, friends and foes alike.

^ I’m not exactly sure how speculating and insinuating and implicating fit into that.

If we really want people to be drawn to Jesus (and all His goodness/grace/mercy), then we – the people who follow Him – ought to (at least try to) be good and gracious and merciful ourselves. If Christians aren’t the kind of people others are drawn to, then it would seem we’re not doing our job. (Love draws people in and makes them feel heard… seen… safe… special. Not scolded/slandered/dismissed/detested.)

News flash: We’re supposed to point people to Jesus by looking – and living – like He did.

There’s a surprising number of people who know something’s broken/wrong/ missing/stuck in their lives. And they’re just waiting for someone to introduce them to the One who can fix/forgive/fill/free them.

I’ve said this before (probably during the last election cycle) but I think it bears repeating:

My dear brothers and sisters, if we want to win some, we need to be…

Winsome.

Based on what I see on social media lately, I’d say we’re falling embarrassingly short.

I’ve seen some pretty insensitive/offensive/capricious remarks in response to people with differing views on COVID and the issues surrounding it. That over-the-top defensiveness smacks of pride… or paranoia. And it hurts my heart.

And really, what good does it do? The odds of convincing someone with an opposing view – on a platform like Twitter or Facebook – are next to nil.

Maybe these folks can’t find anything better to do.

Or maybe (after two months in lockdown) they’re starting to lose it.

(Coronanervousbreakdown?)

Ranting and raving rarely convince anyone of anything… except that the person doing it is out in left field (or right, as the case may be.) Explain how being argumentative – or spittin’ mad – is going to invite others to love and follow Jesus?

Can we all just take a deep breath… and a step back… and remind ourselves:

The enemy is… the enemy.

Not people created in God’s image and loved like crazy by Him. (Regardless of political perspective, party affiliation, personal preferences or past mistakes.)

We Christians need to pull it together (and pull together). We need to ask the Holy Spirit to empty us of ourselves and fill us full of His love. We need to listen and pray, give and forgive, serve and bless.

when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. ~ Galatians 5:22-23

Peace… not pot-stirring.

Patience… not pushback.

Kindness… not contempt.

Gentleness… not hostility.

Self-control… not volatility.

A friend of mine recently shared this quote from Oswald Chambers, and it struck a chord:

The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women; or they are making us more captious and fault-finding, more insistent upon our own way. The things that happen either make us fiends, or they make us saints; it depends entirely upon the relationship we are in to God. If we say — “Thy will be done,” we get the consolation of John 17, the consolation of knowing that our Father is working according to His own wisdom. When we understand what God is after we will not get mean and cynical. Jesus has prayed nothing less for us than absolute oneness with Himself as He was one with the Father. Some of us are far off it, and yet God will not leave us alone until we are one with Him, because Jesus has prayed that we may be. 

The response to this pandemic has elicited all kinds of politically-charged accusations and public shaming. I’m not denying there’s lots of lousy reporting, misinformation and not-so-hidden agendas – money and power come to mind – in both political parties and every media outlet around. But why this startling impulse (of some individuals) to push conspiracy theories and wild speculation and gloom-and-doom prognostication? 

None of it is helping. It’s not healing a single sick patient or helping a weary front-line worker or feeding a hungry family or lifting anyone out of despair.

So let me be the first to apologize.

To our doctors and nurses and pharmacists and first-responders.

To our grocery store workers and truck drivers and delivery people.

To our researchers and scientists and statisticians.

To my neighbors, friends and fellow citizens whose newsfeed looks uglier by the day.

And to those who have lost loved ones… or their livelihood.

I’m sorry.

Please don’t reject Jesus because of those who claim to follow Him including…

Yours Truly,

Wendy

P.S. I know I’ll probably get some grief for this post… and that’s okay. I may hear some explanations/generalizations/justifications like: “I want the truth! I’m just trying to educate people! Jesus spoke truth!”

Yes He did. (He IS truth.) But when Jesus spoke truth, it was thoroughly wrapped in humility and grace. He wasn’t presumptuous or pushy. Ever.

In fact, the only times He got really riled?

He was calling out…

Religious hypocrites.

*******

Father, forgive us.

 

Pacifists and Warmongers

The nations rage. Kingdoms totter. 

Sounds pretty accurate.

An engulfing fire. An erupting war. A trembling world. It’s like we’ve been holding our collective breath for days…

I feel faint.

And the background noise is deafening.

Moments like these beg for discernment, restraint, prayer.

Instead, provocation and contempt threaten to overthrow us. (If our socio-political divide grows any wider, we’ll likely do ourselves in. Our enemies need not exert any effort at all.)

I went to journalism school… and I can’t stomach the evening news. But I can’t bear not knowing what in the world is going on either. I find myself taking little sips of headlines and big gulps of scripture. (Which is where I read the line about nations raging and kingdoms tottering. Prophetic, don’t you think?)

Peace on earth ought to be the prayer on every tongue and the hope in every heart. (“Love your neighbor” leaves no room for the bloodthirsty as far as I can tell.)

But here’s what I don’t understand.

The pacifists.

Don’t get me wrong. With every fiber of my being, I long for peace. I pray for it. That peace would prevail on earth… as in heaven.

(Pretty sure that’s what God wants… His Hebrew name literally means Prince of Peace.)

But in case you haven’t noticed… this ain’t heaven. And there’s a whole lot of dark and ugly going on around here.

And while I ache for peace and global good will, it seems spotty at best. (Yes, a few bad apples can – and do – spoil the whole bunch. And the wormy, rancid, rotting remains are creating noxious fumes. *Insert poison warning here.)

Sometimes there’s good reason for anger.

Cruelty ought to invoke an outcry.

Atrocities ought to elicit outrage.

Evil ought to evoke opposition.

And while I’d love it if throwing up peace signs and sending good vibes and hashtagging #cooltobekind would solve those vexing problems, the reality is…

Sometimes we’ve got to fight.

Please understand, I’m not saying unequivocally that this is one of those times. I don’t know if it is. I’m not privy to all of the information… and I’m certainly not omniscient. (Nor are you, by the way.)

But I know this:

If no one will take up arms to serve, protect and defend… we leave ourselves vulnerable to any and every power that rises up against us.

And ultimately we will succumb to oppression.

Or annihilation.

(That’s the story where no one lives happily ever after… because no one lives.)

The end.

*******

Then there’s the warmongers.

Not only can I not understand them; I can’t conceive they’re anything other than stark raving mad.

War is horrific.

Those who’ve been there say it’s a living hell.

(You can take their word for it… Or you can Google PTSD and suicide rates among combat veterans. Both provide a pretty clear picture.)

Even for the “right reasons” (combatting genocide, for instance), war is ghastly and sickening and barbaric.

And anyone who thinks otherwise is certifiable.

And dangerous.

(Given my preference I like people who are serene… and sane.)

Our democracy (imperfect as it is) bestows on us vast freedom. Freedom to say and do and be who we want: pacifists… warmongers… or anything in between.

We can disagree about every topic under the sun. (And boy, do we.)

But can we please agree on this:

Common decency.

You know, good old-fashioned respectfulness… bestowed civilly on one and all. The people like us. The ones who aren’t. And the folks who afford us these freedoms…

Our soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines.

They aren’t the ones starting the wars. They’re the ones trying (desperately) to finish them.

So they can return home.

And so home remains safe… secure… free.

JFK put it this way:

Word to the Nation: Guard zealously your right to serve in the Armed Forces, for without them, there will be no other rights to guard.

Well said, Mr. President.

The brave souls serving in the Middle East and around the world (and those ready to deploy) deserve nothing less than our deepest gratitude and our strongest support.

To those flesh-and-blood heroes, I simply say:

Godspeed.

And I cover them in prayer.

(My youngest son will soon be among them. I’m both proud… and petrified.)

When I was a young girl, I learned a beautiful song in church.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. With God as our Father, brothers all are we. Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.

If we truly wish for peace, we’d all do well to start there.

Blessed are the peacemakers…

And the peacekeepers.

Praying for their protection… and peace on earth.

Join me?

Wendy

P.S. For what avail the plough or sail, or land, or life, if freedom fail? ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Intersection of Politics & Religion

The way I see it, there’s a four-way stop at the intersection of politics and religion.

In order to move forward, everybody in every lane needs to come to a full and complete stop, look both left and right (double-check those blind spots) and proceed with caution…

Otherwise there’s bound to be a horrific crash.

(With casualties.)

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying the two shouldn’t intersect. I’m simply saying we should be cautious. I cherish the far-reaching rights our democracy has afforded us, including freedom of speech. We are a country of ideals and ideas. (And yes, a handful of idiots too. < Let’s just try to ignore them.) You have the freedom to believe what you like and speak your mind about it, anytime, anywhere. And so do I. And that’s a good thing.

But we need to be careful or we’re going to lose the graces of mutual respect and collective strength in all of our clamoring to be heard and heeded.

Once upon a time, common courtesy was…

Common.

*sigh*

In the heartbreaking aftermath of 9/11, we witnessed something truly extraordinary. The profound comfort and consolation our country found in this one (big) little gift:

Togetherness.

(Remember that?)

Somehow that solace succumbed to an outbreak of sputtering, spewing, ranting and reviling in the public square. Cable news became a round-the-clock purveyor of angry rhetoric, relentless accusations, and irresponsible/inflammatory/biased/bombastic reporting. And the emergence of social media provided a platform for all sorts of strife.

It’s an alarming cultural shift…

And it’s effectively eroding the “United” in our States.

There’s a rising tide of “us” versus “them,” rather than “we the people.” And it’s threatening to flood/drown/destroy America the beautiful… from sea to shining sea.

I know there are some folks that share my faith who struggle to accept those who have rejected it. (And as much as I’d love for everyone I know to experience the amazing grace and peace I’ve found in Jesus, I willingly acknowledge that each one gets to decide for themselves who He is and what they believe.) Many of those same folks can’t fathom how other people who do share their faith can disagree with their positions and politics. Christians on both sides of the political spectrum seem stunned that their brothers and sisters could possibly oppose what they perceive is the “right” way to think and vote.

And that’s when they/we/I tend to get reckless, run a red… and T-bone a big blue Buick.  Underneath all the wreckage, there’s a mangled mass of pride, prejudice and judgment.

Not saying our deeply-held convictions shouldn’t influence our political views. Not at all. I’m simply saying we shouldn’t be trying to manipulate our theology – or worse yet, scripture – to “fit” our political views. (Though some try mightily, manipulating God is not an option… Thankfully, He cannot and will not be crammed or contorted into a manmade container.)

Abraham Lincoln said this during the Civil War, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

And I daresay the only way to know what and where God’s side is… is to walk with Him.

Pray. Soak up His word. Follow His example. (If we really want to know WWJD, we can read His authorized biography in the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.)

In order to align with God’s cause, we’ve got to abide by His Book. We have to search it, study it, ponder it, pray it and (here’s the hard part) live it. The whole of it… not just the “sliver” we select to serve our purpose, promote our cause, advance our agenda.

There’s a notable difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus. One is subject to the whims of mere mortals. The other isn’t.

“Will Christians turn once again toward an approach that imposes its will on the rest of society? By doing so we would betray our founder, who resisted a temptation to authority over “all the kingdoms of the world,” and who died a martyr at the hands of a powerful state. In the words of Miroslav Volf, “Imposition stands starkly at odds with the basic character of the Christian faith, which is at its heart about self-giving—God’s self-giving and human self-giving—and not about self-imposing.” ~ Philip Yancey, Christians and Politics: Uneasy Partners

I think there’s some pretty clear directives in scripture about who’s supposed to do what around here. And I think some people (myself included, more often than I care to admit) think it’s their responsibility to do God’s job. But the older I get, the more I understand that I can’t possibly. (I don’t have enough foresight, strength or smarts. And besides that, I’m sorely lacking in mercy and patience.)

So I’ve decided to let God be Judge…

Jesus be Savior…

His Spirit be the One who corrects and re-directs.

(None of the above is in my job description.)

My mission is simply this:

Love God.

Love people.

(All of them.)

Whether we agree or not.

In middle age, I’m finally learning something I wish I’d learned a long time ago:

How to lovingly disagree.

Loving well doesn’t mean never getting angry. Jesus did… particularly in the face of hypocrisy, injustice and greed. At one point, He got so furious He flipped over tables in the temple and drove out hucksters trying to turn a profit in the name of religion. (Hmm. A handful of media-mogul/mega-church preachers might want to keep this in mind.)

Absolutely, there’s a time to fight for what you believe in.

But I’m convinced that some people want to fight about everything. They don’t choose their battles; they invite – or incite – conflict. (Not sure why. Attention-getting? Anger problem? Power grab?) They’re habitual pot-stirrers/troublemakers/flame-throwers… and that’s not doing anybody (including them) any good.

But here’s the beautiful thing. We don’t have to take the bait.

We can simply ignore the insults/irritation/idiocy and just keep swimming…

Surfing…

Scrolling.

And if we choose to engage in meaningful, constructive conversation – and why bother with anything else? – we need to…

Listen.

Really listen.

And learn the fine art of loving disagreement.

Or we’re going to do ourselves in.

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. ~ Jesus 

Listen, we don’t have to agree to stick together. We don’t have to share political views to care about one another. We don’t have to see eye-to-eye on every issue to stay united. We don’t even have to like each other… to be respectful and kind.

May we pledge ourselves to remaining…

Indivisible.

May we celebrate both our diversity and our unity.

To those with whom I vehemently disagree, I just want to say this (loud and clear):

I’m happy to be stuck with you!

Wendy

P.S. “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.” ~ St. Augustine