Public Discourse vs. Public DisCOARSE

Public discourseSocial media and the evening news are both making me tired.

Sad.

Discouraged.

Done.

Today, I hit my limit.

A friend posted a link announcing the president had signed an executive order correcting a difficult, complicated, and sad policy.

(I’m not taking a politically partisan position here—just making an observation.)

Her post acknowledged the Executive Order stopping family separations. She simply wrote “Thank God!” with a link to a major news outlet.

The comments that followed made me cringe. Instead of acknowledging something positive had occurred, comments ranged from “Trump will still get criticized” to “How is the genius planning to reunite the children with their parents?” One person wrote, “So he is now fixing an ‘issue’ started under the Obama admin.” Another wrote, “There is nothing to celebrate…this was a chance for Trump to show off.”

Let me say again, I am not taking a partisan position here. The point I’m making is that as a nation, we’ve lost the ability to discuss anything even remotely related to politics, civics, or culture in general.

Public discourse has deteriorated to public discoarse.

Namecalling.

Hyperbole.

Personal attacks.

I’m sure you’ve seen and heard some of these quotes:

  • “You can’t fix stupid.”
  • “I’m unfriending anyone who supports this.”
  • “USA. Like it or leave it.”

Do I have strong opinions on civic, moral, and political issues?
You bet I do. Most of us do.

But when 50% of our nation appears to despise the other 50%, I’m reminded of Jesus’ observation in Matthew 12:25 (ESV), “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”

Celebrities have called for the death of the president. Supporters of the current administration vilify his critics.

The two sides are talking over each other.

At each other.

But they’re not talking to each other.

Allow me to amend that last sentence: We’re not talking to each other. Because it’s not us versus them. We’re all us.

The people who voted for the other side (whatever “the other side” is for you), are the same people who you:

  • grew up with
  • went to school with
  • attend church with
  • or share DNA with.

Delete KeyHave we come to the point where we cut people out of our life—or our social media feeds—simply because we disagree with them?

If so, we’re choosing to live in an echo chamber, hearing only what affirms our preconceived opinions. Demonizing the other side instead of seeing them as people like us who have different beliefs.

How can we hope to persuade others if we’re preoccupied with vilifying them?

And for those who are Christians, how can we follow Christ’s command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 ESV) if we’re obsessed with demeaning them?

As the originator of the post I mentioned above noted:

“At some point, we begin to sound like nothing more than clanging cymbals.”

Hmmm…clanging cymbals. That’s how the apostle Paul describes us when we speak or act without love (I Corinthians 13:1).

So the next time you and I hear someone we disagree with, will we determine to:

  • Converse instead of criticize?
  • Discuss instead of demean?
  • Persuade instead of pummel?
  • Dialogue instead of demonize?

And if the “other side” refuses to dialogue, will we at least resist the urge to vilify?

Most importantly, will we purpose to love instead of loathe?


Christmas and the Hearts of Kings…and Presidents

Christmas

Are you unhappy with our current president? Perhaps you didn’t like the president before him. Complaints about political leaders have existed about as long as nations have had rulers.

Still, how we express our dissatisfaction says much about our worldview…and our view of God.

This is not as big a leap as you might think. That’s because we view our circumstances through the lens of our perspective of God.

When Christians curse their leaders, they’re forgetting the One who turns the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21:1).

Consider the pagan rulers included in the pages of Scripture. For example:

  • The Egyptian Pharaoh whom God used to receive glory during the exodus.
  • Cyrus, the king of Persia, who fulfilled prophecy when he released the ancient Israelites to return to their land after the exile.
  • Caesar Augustus, a ruler as far from the one, true God as anyone could be. Yet God used him and his census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem at just the right time, also in fulfillment of prophecy.

So what do Christians communicate when we get so worked up over political leaders that we destroy relationships with anyone who does not agree with us?

For one thing, we’re showing the world that we’re looking for salvation in political offices. And we’re communicating that even though we say God is sovereign, we don’t really believe it…that somehow His plans and purposes will be thwarted if our candidate is not elected.

Of course, we should be involved in the governance of our community and nation. At the very least, we should exercise our right to vote for trustworthy men and women who will lead with wisdom, honor, and courage.

But when our responses to political wins and losses begin to emulate children fighting in a sandbox, something is very wrong. We are free to disagree. But disagree without being disagreeable. When you’re in a political discussion with someone who supports the “other” side, would a bystander be able to discern if you are a Christian by your words, tone, and body language?

Romans 13 tells us to submit to governing authorities. We are to honor and respect those to whom honor and respect are due…if not for the individual, then for the office they hold. That doesn’t mean we agree with everything they say and do. Finally, we’re to pray for those who have authority over us (I Tim. 2:2).

Work to elect godly leaders who uphold a biblical worldview. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s discernment as you vote in each election. And pray for those leaders already in office. But don’t speak of the “other” party with language you wouldn’t use if Jesus were standing in front of you.

And remember, if it weren’t for God’s sovereignty over a certain pagan king in Rome, Mary and Joseph would not have fulfilled Micah 5:2….and we wouldn’t be singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” this Christmas.


When Our Foundations are Shaken

Christians are feeling betrayed.

Motivated by a desire to be good citizens, many of us have taken an active interest in the welfare of our country. We’ve participated in the political process. We’ve supported candidates we thought would lead this nation according to godly principles.

But no matter who you identify with—right or left, conservative or progressive, republican or democrat—it doesn’t matter. Right now, we all feel betrayed because every candidate for president is fatally flawed.

What’s a Christian to do?

Perhaps the first thing we need to do is evaluate why we’re feeling so betrayed.

foundationsWhy is the depth of our disappointment causing normally civil people to spew uncivil comments about the supposed “enemy” in public forums?

Why are we desperately trying to justify the support of equally blemished candidates?

Why are we so divided among ourselves that we bear no resemblance to Jesus’s request to the Father “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21 ESV).

Then we wonder why the world doesn’t believe that the Father sent the Son. The reason is as close as the nearest mirror.

When did we fall for the lie that the answer to our nation’s troubles is found in a politician or political party? Or that the victory of “our” political party is of utmost priority?

It’s time we—Christians—regardless of denomination or church affiliation, remember we are citizens of a heavenly country before we are citizens of this earthly country. Our U.S. citizenship transcends all other loyalties with one crucial exception:

“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior,
the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20 ESV).

Regardless of who wins in November, Christ is still the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Regardless of who wins in November, this nation will continue for as long—or as short—as the Lord wills it.

Regardless of who wins in November, our culture will grow increasingly hostile to Christianity. Christians in other countries shake their head at what we call persecution, knowing we have yet to experience the real thing.

We have been commanded to be salt and light in a corrupt and dark world. “But if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13 ESV).

How sad that in social media and public arguments, Christians have, indeed lost their saltiness. There is often little or no difference between comments made by Christians and those made by unbelievers in attacking the opposition. Name-calling, vulgarities, and false statements abound…by Christians! “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing….these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10 ESV).

It would be nice if we had ideal candidates to vote for in this, or any, election. But we live in a broken world that is getting worse, not better. There isn’t a candidate alive who can stop the downward spiral. Perhaps God has allowed the current pool of fatally flawed candidates to shake our faulty foundations and remind us the solution to our problems will never be found in human government.

If we forget who we are and whose we are when our foundations are shaken, then shame on us. Of course, we need to do our homework and support candidates who best reflect our values. But if we forget our identity in the political process, then even if our candidate wins, we will still lose. And no candidate can ever fix that.


Do You Have Dual Citizenship?

Are you an alien or a citizen? If you’re a citizen, do you have dual citizenship?

Before you answer these questions, they may not mean what you think they mean.

This week, the U.S. presidential election generated deep divisions throughout our country. Is President Obama a messenger of Satan or the man who can lead this nation forward? Was Mitt Romney our last hope or a tool of greedy capitalists determined to line their own pockets?

Now that the election is over, half the country is gnashing their teeth, and the other half is cheering. Even those who identify themselves as Christians are not in agreement about how to characterize the election results.

Some Christians are convinced President Obama was the only choice to implement compassionate solutions for a troubled population. Besides, he must be the right choice because the Bible tells us to “submit [ourselves] to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1).

Other Christians believe the election doesn’t matter, because as Philippians 3:20 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” We’re just passing through this temporary world. Where once we were “foreigners and aliens” in God’s kingdom, now we are “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). And since we are to look to the heavenly kingdom, we are to “set [our] minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).

Still other Christians remind us we have been called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in a corrupt and dark world. That includes getting involved in the political process to elect leaders who will reflect biblical values.

So, is President Obama established by God in his position? Or should Christians ignore the political process since our citizenship is in heaven?

Maybe the answer is all of the above. Nothing takes our sovereign God by surprise. Whether or not we believe President Obama is the right man for the job today, he may be just the man God wants in that position to fulfill His plans for our nation and for the future of the world.

Getting involved in the political process is a good thing. Looking to government to solve all our problems is not. Being a responsible earthly citizen is a good thing. Forgetting we have a dual citizenship is not. Becoming angry over values that conflict with God’s Word is a good thing. Arrogantly cursing those who hold those values is not.

How will an unbelieving world come to know the King of Creation if His subjects don’t behave differently from unbelievers? The apostle Paul wrote, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1-2).

Does this passage describe you? Are you gloating because your guy won? Or are your conversations anything but gentle because your guy lost? Are you committed to praying for the president – and all our elected officials – regardless of their party affiliation?

Our behavior should proclaim our dual citizenship as clearly as our passports do. There’s nothing wrong with Christians getting excited about the politics of our nation. Just don’t forget about the other kingdom…and that you are a subject of the King who rules there.

What do you think?