How To Head To The Polls Without Losing Our Souls

 

The following is a transcript of a lecture given on October 5, 2016 at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana for the OPEN Faith conference.

The lecture and an impromptu Q&A with the audience were both recorded. You can listen to the recording embedded at the end of this post if you wish.


RATS

I believe in plain speaking. I believe in telling it like it is.

Sometimes this gets me into trouble.

I was in the park with my daughter a few weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon. If you’ve never been to Central Park before, it’s filled with all of these giant rocks that you can climb on. It’s great fun for adults and children alike.

Another thing that Central Park is filled with is rats.

So my four year old and I are climbing on a rock and a boy about her same age comes running over to us looking a bit nervous and says, “Did you see that big rat over there?”

And as a person who believes in plain speaking, I answered him with the unfettered truth.

I responded, “Yeah buddy, there are rats everywhere in New York— even in the park. They come out of the subway tunnel that runs underneath Central Park West and we’re real close to it here, so there are more rats in this part of the park.” I continued, “You probably don’t know this because you’re a kid, but there are more rats living in New York City than there are people.”

And as I stood there pontificating about my extensive knowledge of rat-anthropology the kid started crying. Then he looked up at me with these big-puppy-dog-eyes and whimpered, “Are they going to bite me?”

I felt terrible that he was crying but I didn’t want to to lie to him, so I just kept giving him more information. “Probably not,” I said, “but it’s been know to happen on occasion. Many of the rats have rabies and other diseases, so don’t try to pick them up or play with them. They’re not pets. They’re dangerous.”

And before I could finish my sentence, he was shuffling down the side of the rock screaming, “Momma, Momma, there are rats everywhere! I want to go home. They’re going to bite us!”

Face palm.

As I said, I believe in plain speaking. I believe in telling it like it is, but I should probably make an exception when I’m talking to four year olds.

And strangely enough, this brings me to my point today.

 

ADULTS

This probably won’t come as a surprise, but guess what? There aren’t any four year olds in this room today.

We’re adults.

We know the world.

And today I’d like to speak plainly, because we’re grownups.

I want to share some concerns I’ve been having about the upcoming presidential election— something that has the potential to alter the future of our country for better or worse. I think we need to know how to deal with the rats that crawl out from the tunnels every four years and try to infect us.

But the rats that I’m referring to are not the candidates.

 

MY G.O.P. FAMILY

I was born into and raised inside of a Fox News watching, Milton Friedman loving, Ayn Rand reading, politically conservative family.

When I got married, I married into a Fox News watching, Milton Friedman loving, Ayn Rand reading, politically conservative family.

That’s my history.

To this day (to the best of my knowledge) I am the only person in my family to have ever voted for a Democrat.

I’m the lone progressive wolf in my family.

I believe in healthcare for everybody, especially for those who can’t afford it.

I believe in public education. I believe that our schools should be like lighthouses for our children— the very best schools in the world.

I believe that those who have made giant profits from those who make smaller profits should give back to the society that has made them so wealthy by paying their fair share of taxes.

I believe marriage to be a union between two people who love each other, regardless of their gender.

I care very little for political parties. I’ll vote for any candidate of any party that I see most closely embodying the things that I believe. That is my right as a citizen of this republic.

 

THIS ELECTION

I’ve never seen an election season quite like this one in my lifetime. It’s dividing our republic, the electorate, and our faith communities in ways that are alarming.

In Matthew 10 Jesus said,

I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Matthew 10:35)

And I think we could all agree that the 2016 election is fulfilling those words of Jesus.

Many of us in this room today are supporters of progressive values, and I think that is very good.

But how do we live out those values?

Time and time again, whether it’s on social media, in the press, or even in the many conversations that I have with people of faith from all over the country, I’ve started to see a trend that scares me. Our language has become angry and insulting. We’ve come to a place where many of us no longer embody the very values that we believe in and that we want to see from government.

Jesus also said this, and it stings:

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (idiot) is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of hellfire.” (Matthew 5:22)

And the concern that I have is that I hear God loving, Jesus following people saying these very things about the candidates.

“Donald Trump is an idiot.”

“Hillary Clinton is a fool.”

And Jesus says that doing this only brings hellfire upon the world.

We have become a people who are very gifted at articulating what we are against and why we are against it, but not so gifted at articulating what we are for, and why we are for it.

Mother Teresa, during Vietnam was invited to be a part of a march against the war. One would think, “My God, if anyone would participate in such a march, it would certainly be Mother Teresa!”

But she turned the invitation down and many were confused as to why.

When she was asked why she turned down the invitation, she said:

“I will not march against anything. But when you decide to have a march for peace. I will be there.”

And it begs the question of us today. “Are we just angrily rallying againstsomething or are we courageously rallying for something?”

We are told in the scriptures to “hate what is evil and to cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)

We are not told to hate WHO is evil and cling to WHO is good.

The scripture makes this distinction because at their core, people are not evil. Evil is something that is learned... and therefore can be unlearned.

Candidates aren’t evil. They may have just learned some evil things along the way.

We’re all created the same.

It’s why the writer of Ephesians wrote,

Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Our struggle is not with people. Out struggle is not with a candidate or a political party. Our struggle is with principle, policy, and precept.

 

HATRED

Hatred contaminates everything in its proximity, and if you only believe in what you believe in politically because of the people that you hate, you’re struggling against flesh and blood. Your struggle is not just. You’re fighting the wrong war. You are, in fact surrendering to the very thing that you are against.

Whatever happened to just living quiet and peaceable lives?

Whatever happened to gently bringing people along with us, seeking to understand instead of needing to be understood?

There’s no question as to whether people of faith should be involved public discourse or not. We absolutely should, but how to do we involve ourselves? In retaliation and anger, or with love?

Brian McLaren, who was just up here speaking before I was said it beautifully months ago when he wrote the following,

“The real campaign is the campaign of love versus hate, prejudice, indifference, and fear.” - Why Love? Why Now? by Brian McLaren

Nothing could be more relevant as we head to the polls next month.

 

MY HOPE

My hope for all of us who live our lives under the banner of Jesus is that we would be pillars of strength, standing tall amidst the politics, the punditry, the arguments, and the insults.

I pray that people would see us immoveable in the divisive winds of this election season.

Our union as people of faith is at stake. Will we welcome hatred into our pulpits, our classrooms, and our programming, or will we stand for love?

“If the light within us is darkness. How great is that darkness.” (Matthew 6:23)

Selah.


Listen to an audio recording of this lecture and an impromptu Q&A below.