You may have noticed things have been a little quiet on here the last few months (or maybe not, that’s fine too).
I’ve been struggling to find words the last few months to properly describe my feelings about the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. I start trying to write and all that comes out are words that are going to be offensive to one side of a political fence or the other.
And so, I press “Delete” and move on, hoping that maybe some time later I’ll be able to express some of the things I am feeling to toss out there in the hopes someone will read them and consider what I’ve written.
It’s not that I think my ideas are better than others and its not that there aren’t enough words already floating around out there, but I do think sometimes crucial ideas and perspectives get lost because people are not willing to consider things outside of their own viewpoint.
The art of discernment appears to have been lost. The art of considering alternative viewpoints honestly and evaluating which should be accepted and which should be rejected appears to have been abandoned in favour of planting a flag. Nuance has disappeared and been replaced by inflexible, fundamental stances.
I have pressed “Delete” more in the past two months than ever … and I think that is a good thing. Some may call this “political correctness”, but in reality it is basic decency and respect for people with whom I may share a differing viewpoint; relationships with real, living and breathing people are always more important than where I may choose to plant my flag on any issue.
Given the amount of times I have self-censored myself in recent months, you could say I have put a lot of thought into some of things that are currently going on in the world of politics, most definitely and obviously in the US, but also in other places around the world (hi Brexit!) and I did want to share a few thoughts.
(Now, I obviously have my own political opinions and am asked every few years to express them with my vote in Canada, but I am trying to keep these thoughts as non-partisan as possible so that they are things that could be said of either side. Sometimes they may be more obvious on a single side, but that is not for me to say.)
1. The deterioration of “political correctness”. AKA: Compromise is Dead!
One of the things that has been heavily hammered on in the past year of campaigning in the US is the need to get rid of political correctness and speak openly what you have always thought and wanted to say. The implication is that showing self-control and respect for people with differing opinions than yourself is somehow a bad thing and should be cast aside as quickly as possible.
This happens on both sides of the fence and the cycle quickly deteriorates to mud-slinging and blaming everything (including the coming end of the world as we know it) on the opposite side of the political fence.
In reality, compromise is what living in a society is all about. It is the foundation of any and all relationships. From the time we have our first “play-date” as children and have to share toys for the first time, to learning to live in a marriage with another warm body, until the day we breath our last breath, life is about compromising.
In order to be in relationship with other people, we must give as much as we take. It is impossible to build a society without listening to others and meeting in the middle on many (if not all) issues.
This forms the basis of human relationships. It forms the basis of community. We cannot exist without it.
So, while it may feel energizing to simply ignore those voices and impulses that tell us to keep our mouths shut and instead just say “what we really think”, we are actually destroying the foundation of what allows us to live in community with others.
Self control is a gift of the Spirit for a reason. Let’s use it more and embrace it as a good thing rather than something to be sneered at.
2. Nuance Ain’t A Nuisance
We spend far too much time planting flags and not enough time planting seeds. We put our foot down on a lot of issues, but refuse to take a step toward understanding other people and the reasons for what they do and believe.
It is easy to make a blanket statement. I work in marketing and the only way this industry exists is by creating wide-reaching generalizations about people; what they like and what motivates them.
And when talking about large groups of people, these generalizations often prove accurate – at least accurate enough to decide that a person who would buy a new Apple Macbook Pro may also be interested in purchasing a new Mercedes Benz.
The problem is that a group of people is made up of many individuals and each individual has a story. Each individual is a unique blend of their culture, environment, education, and genetics. Each individuals is motivated by unique things and any generalizations don’t usually work.
The same can be said of any issue. It may be fine to draw a line and say “here and no further” on an issue as long as we are speaking generally, but the second that issue is given flesh and bones, lines tend to need to be re-drawn or even erased.
The reason goes back to relationships and an individual’s circumstances. Once you hear a person’s story as it relates to that issue – be it social assistance, child care, abortion, gay marriage, refugee relocation, the State of Israel – you realize that lines in the sand either need to be nuanced to death or simply put to death.
A person’s story is a powerful thing and no two are alike. Stories change your perspective. Stories show that an individual’s experience has a dramatic impact on how you view a issue in the future — even those issues you thought were cut and dry.
3. Truth and Perspective Aren’t the Same Thing
There is an old saying that “Perception is reality”, and that phrase is an important one for people who are tying to communicate with others, but it isn’t actually true.
The purpose of this saying was to explain to communicators that while what you are saying may be true, if people have already been convinced that it is not true, your job will be twice as difficult because you first need to change their perception before you can then present them with truth.
The point is not that whatever you believe to be true is actually true. That would be nonsense.
And so, just because somebody says something loud enough, strong enough, and often enough does not make that thing true.
Truth can be verified. It can be backed up and demonstrated to be true. It will be shown to be true time and time again.
Saying things like “Trump is just like Hitler and is going to take away our freedom”, or “Hillary has the Jezebel spirit on her and wants to open the borders to 650,000 refugees who we know nothing about” does not make them true.
Saying that God told you these things does not make them true.
Truth is not something we simply believe might be true. Truth is something that we can know for sure. There may be a lot more perspectives than actual truth in any election or situation, but we should be very careful about saying something is TRUE unless we know it actually is based on evidence.
It’s always best to vote based on things that are actually true about the candidate or party you are hoping to cast your vote for, but at the very least, try not to demonize others based on opinions or fears rather than truths.
4. Apocalypse Now! AKA: The Light Has Come and Revealed Much Darkness
The meaning of the word apocalypse is actually “to reveal”. No matter what you may think of either candidate in the US election, either side in the Brexit debate, and many more similar situations around the world, how many things have played out recently has been very revealing. And what it reveals isn’t pretty.
It reveals that we are far more likely to vote based on fear than hope.
It reveals we are far more likely to be against something than for something. We like to have something to blame for what is wrong.
It reveals we are far more likely to compromise a Kingdom of God vision for a kingdom of this world promise of temporary _______ (security, economic growth, morality laws …).
It reveals we still divide ourselves into tribes based on things like race, sex, nationality, religion …
It reveals that these tendencies are still in us all and no matter how hard we try to eradicate them, they are still simmering below the surface.
And what is worse is the fact we too often project these fears, compromises, tribal thinking, and scapegoating onto God. We claim his approval for things that are quite obviously opposed to his Kingdom way of thinking and convince ourselves that this is the better of two evils.
But the Kingdom of God never chooses between evils — it always works for good. And so God is never on the side of evil even if that evil is lesser than the other. To claim otherwise is just wrong.
To say God has chosen _____ as the next leader of the country, when in fact their proposed policies look nothing like the Kingdom of Heaven is quite simply a lie intended to persuade people to support your way of thinking.
This is the true tragedy of politics. In our desire for control, we take our politics and make them God’s politics rather than letting God’s politics dictate our politics. We reverse the equation and claim God’s support for our actions rather than looking at Jesus and modelling his actions in our politics.
The truth is that the Kingdom of God is not like any political party of this world. This is stated by Jesus himself when he explains why his disciples will not fight even when he is about to be crucified (“My kingdom is not of this world”).
Jesus tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will take care of itself.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies, bless those that persecute us, welcome to widow and the foreigner, to give more than is asked of us, and to sacrifice our very lives for the sake of others.
No political party exists that will do this and so no political party should have our allegiance. Of course you should vote your conscience, but God doesn’t endorse any political party and there are many ways to work with God in order to see his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
And isn’t that our priority as followers of Christ?