(I don’t even know why I bother writing. This article by Rick Segal is far more eloqent – and more hopeful – on similar themes…)
Why do so many of us have very conflicted reactions to social and political developments in our country? The turmoil we’ve been through as a nation over the past few weeks (racist shooting; flags; Supreme Court rulings) has brought it all to the surface in a new way for me.
You see, I am one person; but, like every one of us, I view life, and live it out, through two lenses. One the one hand, _____________. On the other, ___________________.
>> I have a personal worldview, and those beliefs lead me to think and speak and act one way.
>> I am a citizen of the United States, and that reality also shapes my feelings and actions into certain (other) directions.
Here’s an example. Let’s say I’m out walking my dog and you come up from behind and stab me – you stinking coward, you. Couldn’t even face me. I hope Mystic rips into your leg. Anyway, as a person, I may have a reaction of anger, perhaps to the point of desiring vengeance. I (and my rather imposing sons) may want to pound you into oblivion.
To spice things up, let’s also say you’re a Mexican, and I’m Donald Trump, so I now have some personal bigotry to throw into the mix as well…
Hopefully, I get some sense talked into me, and, eventually, I am even brought to the point of extending forgiveness.
All of those feelings and reactions go on at the personal level. What I am NOT allowed to do, however, is mix the personal with that which is at the societal level. That is, as a citizen of Franklin, TN, USA, I have to embrace the rule of law and let societal justice take its course with you, even if I still want to rip your head off – or choose to forgive you. As an individual, I may wish you well; but as a citizen, I may feel the tug of a certain double-mindedness about also wanting justice done.
And it doesn’t matter how you or I feel about racial heritage. I can’t enlist any sense of bigotry into the application of law. That is all out of my hands, and must be handled impartially by the government.
Do you see the two layers here? They produce different responses.
The teachings of Jesus inform me what to do on a personal level. But they aren’t to be applied one-for-one to our citizen/state relationships. <—(look, if you get nothing else out of this too-long essay, get this point. So much ill-informed Bible-verse-abuse happens by people trying to take the Bible’s principles addressed to individuals and the church, and applying it to the state. Judge not? Love your neighbor? Forgive? -these are not addressed to the state, but to the people of God).
That’s why I often find myself with layered reactions…because my response to things on a personal level may be quite different from my response as a citizen of this country. Hence, I think and speak with two voices at times.
Let’s take, as an example, the ongoing movement toward obliterating moral (and societal) categories of gender and sexual expression.
As a Christian individual, dealing with individuals who may not share my beliefs, it is my role (before God) to love all of my neighbors. That means I am to treat members of the LGBT community with kindness, respect, and open-heartedness; affirming not only our shared human fallenness, but also our shared human dignity. I may not wish to participate in, or affirm, specific beliefs and practices that I believe are contrary to the will of God (as is my right and duty); but that does not give me license to hate others whose sin happens to be of a different shade than mine. Jesus is our personal example – He welcomed fallen sinners of every stripe.
My Facebook stream was lit up last week with rainbow-colored avatars. I have many friends and colleagues who have a worldview different from mine. That’s not an accident – it’s a choice. I choose, as an individual, to build relationships with a myriad of people of many different backgrounds.
Also, I am not to try to impose my beliefs upon other individuals through coercion. Dialogue and persuasion, yes – that is the essence of freedom of speech and religion in a civil society. Coercion, no. I can vote my values (including moral perspectives), just as every other individual citizen can and will, but I cannot impose religious practices on others – just as I don’t want others to impose on my religious beliefs and practices.
Because, you know…..America.
And, the larger Christian community (the church worldwide, and individual churches everywhere), is to have a similar posture. We are to love our neighbors and welcome them to Christ, who cleanses each member of His community. We speak what we believe God has spoken, without fear – but it is not our job, as a church, to impose a theocracy onto our community through government coercion. The church may speak to, but it may not govern, society. This is not the place for Sharia law.
May I put it more bluntly? A church-controlled government would be anti-American. Why do you think our founders fled to this land?
HOWEVER…I am not only an individual with a personal worldview, I’m also a citizen of a nation founded on freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and here is where a “double-mindedness” comes in for many of our fellow Americans.
There are individuals who have a different take on gender and sexuality (the roots of this movement, from a societal perspective, reach firmly back into the cultural revolution that took place in the 1960’s). Cultural mores are shifting. Some would say this is progress, others would say exactly the opposite. We can agree to disagree.
But when a 2-3% minority can, fueled by the megaphones of the media and education complex, and backed by courts who have abandoned the Rule of Law in favor of Fiat by Opinion, impose its will on an entire nation – well, that’s a threat. Not merely a threat to individuals (though it is), and churches (though it is), but it’s a threat to our freedom, our heritage, as a nation.
This ruling – mark my words – will lead to suppression of free speech and free exercise of religion. To everyone’s loss. The mask of “equality” will soon drop off, and the aggressive marginalization of those who believe in objective truth and morality will accelerate. Don’t even try to argue with me. Just watch.
So – I can speak kindly with my neighbor, but does that mean I must feel kindly about an agenda that I believe, as a citizen of a free country, is unhealthy and destructive? Am I guilty of “hate” for having a conscience and a less-popular worldview?
Freedom does not mean eliminating opposition with court-issued clubs. We call that tyranny. Thousands bled and died for our freedoms. And when their blood flowed on the battlefield, it wasn’t so that bakers would be forced to compromise their sincerely-held convictions, then be penalized and silenced by a court order.
I resist imposed immorality and gag orders as a United States citizen, just as I (or an atheist) would resist a theocracy. I can love individual people and communities who are different from me, without embracing culture-cleansing agendas.
Many moderate people of a liberal persuasion actually understand the looming issue of religious suppression just now breaking on our shores. They may prefer live-and-let-live – but unfortunately, the tyrannical agenda is always driven by those on the extreme. Just ask the Muslim world.
Today’s minority can be tomorrow’s majority, and vice-versa. Yesterday’s oppressed can be today’s oppressors. Demeaning and dehumanizing other citizens by broad-brushing them (as individuals or groups) with labels like “bigot” or “hater” is nothing other than xenophobia dressed up in a new shade of hypocrisy. Have we really made progress, when an active suppression of those who believe differently from the new “in” group – nowadays, an imposition of secular values and practices, imposed by court strictures – is de rigeur in our society?
The seeds of moral relativism planted in the ’60’s have come to full flower. We are moving, progressively (pun intended), into the anarchy that leads inevitably to tyranny.
As an individual, and as a citizen, I get to love my neighbors AND speak my mind, even when there is more than one layer to these things. What you see above is civil discourse based on sincerely-held convictions. If you think it’s hate speech, then you, my friend, are part of the problem.
You may want to check your tyranny at the door.