After spending a substantial part of my adult life with ideologues on the right and left, I have planted myself squarely in the middle. I sway side-to-side depending on the issue. I still consider myself an ideologue, but appropriately balanced. “It’s where Jesus is,” I boast to friends.
Getting off the ideological spectrum is not an option for me. I know that now. Striving for justice runs through my blood. And frankly, if you’re in the U.S. and somewhat engaged, it’s tough not to be sucked into cultural tussles.
I experience sharp emotions as a middle-of-the-road culture warrior. There’s anger, sadness, exhilaration, pride, outrage, and the occasional dip toward hate. The jumble of emotions produces static—and static keeps me from fully thriving in my relationship with God. It’s just the truth, people.
In the next couple of blogs, I’ll talk about this more. In the meantime, here’s a brief list of what trips me up. You’ll likely see yourself on this list (sorry about that…). And you’ll see me, too. And be forewarned: it’s a bitter brew.
In no particular order:
1. Liberal Christian bloggers that water down scripture and bow to the culture.
2. Conservatives that perpetuate a biblical worldview saturated with secular ideas, partisan politics, nationalism, and gun ownership (threw that last one in just for fun).
3. Those on either side who use scripture to beat on people, or harp on past offenses.
4. Christians that waltz with legalism and judgment and think everyone else should do the same. (They call it something else, like biblical authority…)
5. Those for whom being right is everything, and far more important than understanding other perspectives, building relationships, showing mercy, and seeing the image of God in fellow human beings.
6. Christians who shun the unlovely, the outcast, and the lost—or those who willfully live in ignorance.
7. Christians who shut out injustice, poverty, and suffering in the world (like most Americans). Christians’, who focus on all these things, but for a variety of reasons, leave out Jesus. What’s up with that?
8. Those who whine, stomp feet, or cry foul whenever a political wind doesn’t blow their way. Or they lash out whenever another person says something publicly that maligns their worldview.
9. Churches that carry on about abortion, but give no ink to other expressions of the sanctity of human life, including defense of the exploited, the homeless, the prisoner on death row, and the degradation and vulnerability of human beings the world over. I’d also toss in environmental concerns and those that lack access to health care.
And one more thing on this note: Churches that claim to be pro-life yet don’t seem to care who made the crappy plastic fish “Jesus is Lord” keychain they carry in their bookstore. Was this hot item made using child labor, slave labor? For the love of God, let’s at least ask the question.
10. Those who harp on specific sins at the expense of other sins. And those who give a nod to specific sins because other sins aren’t equally considered by the “harpers.”
So there it is. My ugly list.
With social media and a wide swath of friends, I’m bothered a lot. I argue my points on Facebook. In meetings. Over coffee. Through dinner. In bed, in the dark, with one tired eye trained on Twitter. In the car. On the phone. Over cubicle walls. In readers’ comment sections. (There will be a special wing in hell, guarded by trolls, where comments are endlessly read out loud.)
I’ve spent hours making my point and thinking about my point. I’ve been broken in the process. And yet… I am not bothered any less. The static has worsened. Those on to my right have become more peeved and defensive, like cornered cats. And those to my left respond to the vitriol with their version of passive aggressive righteousness. Both sides seem to care less and less about Jesus and what He would say and do.
Cultural engagement pulls me toward the abyss and away from God.
It wasn’t always this way. I focused on Jesus early on in my faith journey. I thrived as a new believer. Little interfered with my relationship with God. Yet year-by-year the cultural battles chipped away at what was good, and holy, and pure, and lovely and praiseworthy. I became a lukewarm Christian—the kind we’re told is “spit out.”
There were other factors in play, too.
As I moved through a couple of major life events, I discovered that being on the defensive increased my passion for justice. I grew in discernment and wisdom. I argued more articulately. And a heap of compassion soaked into the broken places and came out within the context of ministry. I just wasn’t connected to the source of life.
I see others in the same boat or heading down that river. I pick up the vibe. These are dynamic people reacting against injustice and human idiocy and trying to live out their faith. I want to exhort them to find ways to hold onto Jesus… or warn them they’re in danger of losing their faith completely.
I’ve been making a comeback faith-wise in the recent days, and learning a ton. Tune in again to find out how.