In this last portion of this series, I want to look at one more filter we use when reading the Bible. This one has more power over our opinions, attitudes, and actions than anything else I’ve written about thus far. It’s also the most deceptive. Most people love it so much because it takes away the need to think critically about individual ideas, instead opting for a sort of “package deal” of bundled belief that are decided for us by others. Basically, we love it so much because it has the illusion of well-informed intelligence. When threatened, I have seen people tear apart friendships and families to protect it. You can tell me that desires may effect my interpretations of God’s Word; You can remind me that my childhood may filter some of the Bible’s stories. But don’t you dare…
Don’t you DARE…
say that I am blinded to the truth by my politics.
Let me tell you a story that, while true, I still have a hard time actually believing.
I was teaching the youth group one Wednesday night. It was normal for a few parents to be there to help watch the kids and listen in on the message. That night I was teaching on Biblical stewardship. Using the parables that Jesus taught on the subject, I was sharing all the ways we need to faithfully manage the gifts God has given us. I taught that we needed to steward our time, money, talents, and… ahem… the planet.
I didn’t see it coming. I should have. At one point in the message I apparently stepped in a mess of political cow dung when I said that a part of Jesus’ command for us to faithfully manage what we had been given was to recycle and not needlessly waste consumables. I really didn’t connect the implications until it was all too late.
Afterwards, I was talking to a parent about the message. He said that he flatout didn’t agree with doing a message about “being green” (yeah, because THAT was the whole message. Not.) When I asked if he thought it was wrong to recycle, the response blew me away: “No, I don’t. But I also don’t believe it’s right to kill unborn babies either!”
Yes, apparently to recycle is to murder unborn children. I was completely confused. I forgot all about this incident until the recent election reminded me of it. How on earth do we connect completely unrelated topics as though to do one is to approve of the other? Simple. We let politics put words into Jesus’ mouth. Don’t believe me? Jesus spoke 90% of the time about taking care of the poor. How much did the church talk about it during the political season? What most of us typically hear on the subject is that it isn’t the government’s job to help the poor. Funny, the Bible doesn’t spend any time at all saying who’s not responsible, but a lot of time talking about who is responsible. Can you see how hard it is to take an entire political platform and impose it as an immovable ideology over the Bible. Something has got to give because both can’t be 100% right. Sure, both line up on a few points. But both differ on on other topics (immigration, war, capital punishment, environmentalism, redistribution) Yes, I have heard all the rhetoric and side-stepping that can be done to make these topics agree. Heck, I used most of them myself to argue with hard left-wingers all the time in college. But I don’t think it is being entirely honest. It’s so easy to let a group of people (especially rich, educated, and powerful ones) hand you a list of right and wrongs for you to follow without question. But to pretend that the Bible and the Republican platform line up perfectly is just deception at it’s rawest. I’m not asking everyone to become liberals or change all their opinions about the roles of government. But I am asking us all to be honest. By that I mean this: When the opinion of the party doesn’t seem to match up with what your reading in scripture, which side do you have to make excuses for? Which one gets explained and annotated to make it work with the other? For instance, if you read about loving your enemies and have to add on, “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bomb them to keep them from bombing us.” Then obviously, you can see which part of your life is ceding to the other.
So if you can’t make the whole platform fit with the Bible, does that mean you should just jump to the other side?
That’s actually the problem; thinking we have to take one side or the other. Our political system is set up to make us do that. But you don’t have to do it! Your beliefs don’t have to compromise to take part in the freedom and wonderful right of American politics. Instead, take the parts that are good and throw out the bad. And refuse to compromise on that. Make the platform bend to your beliefs, not the other way around. When you come across verses like those in Proverbs about the value of working hard and doing your best; That sits well with Conservatism. No problems there. But when you get to later verses in same book of Proverbs about the evil of oppressing the poor to gain wealth, that doesn’t allow a lot of room for the “free trade” anti-regulationism that the Republican platform pushes. Did you ever see Blood Diamond? Then you know what I’m talking about. So, the politics have to submit on that issue. It doesn’t mean that it was wrong about the previous “working hard” piece. We are trained to take all this as a take-it-or-leave-it package, but if that’s the case, we can’t take part in any politics at all! For some, that is a good option. But for those of us who take it as a responsibility, we just can’t afford to take the filter that we’ve been given. After all, the Truth of God’s Word is way better than our filters make it out to be.
Thanks for sticking with me through this series of posts. A lot of sweat, prayer, and stress went into these. I hope everyone got as much out of it as I did. If the political stuff in this post made your blood boil, then I’m sorry for the stress and anger. But please remember I’m a real person before you light up the comment field like red and blue fireworks firing from the butts of elephants and donkeys. I encourage you to stick around because I don’t post political stuff very often, so I’m sure there are some other posts on here that you’ll be glad you read! Thanks again!