I want to take a quick moment, to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to Dan Evans and their children. I believe Rachel Held Evans will be seen, in the future, as a pivotal person God used to bring people out of fundamentalism-evangelicalism, into something much more love and mercy driven. But also, justice driven. She has joined that great cloud of witnesses, but she will be greatly missed.
As Christians, we don’t believe politicians, the state, kings, or empires will save us or the world. And yet, we know there is a place for organized community government. We like clean water, air, safe food, decent roads, and not to be robbed whether in our homes or on the streets. We want fire-fighters and police nearby. We want communities that are flourishing and healthy. We want to live in peace.
In a system like ours, even recognizing how diluted it can be, and overwhelmed by greater forces (money), we do have a voice in these matters. While we know the political cannot save us, it can provide roads without potholes. Thus, Christians have a view of government that keeps it in its place. Recognizing its practical use as a means to an end, government, the political, is neither idol, nor worthless. It is neither friend nor foe, it is more like a rake or shovel.
Of course, until it isn’t. It can become an idol (nationalism) and it can become a foe. We should never want it as friend, because such will normally mean we have lost our prophetic voice (our current problem). And if it becomes a foe, we are happy to take our place with the martyrs who have gone before us.
There is one area though where we must speak out, and that is when our government becomes, not our foe, but the foe of the, “least of these.” When it becomes a bully, when it stirs up violence against the “other,” when it cares no longer for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner, the stranger, or the marginalized, then we have no right to stick our heads in the sand, check out, and yawningly drawl, “I’m tired of politics.”
From our place of privilege, we whine, “I’m tired of all these political memes in my social media feed; I want to see kittens playing with yarn, and butterflies landing on pretty flowers.” Yes, we all do. But you know who doesn’t have that luxury? All the people being run over by this current government. All the people struggling. All the people who live very different lives than most of us.
We are also incorrect to think it purely partisan. Yes, I get it. The modern, Enlightenment, Western, Liberal project, with its hyper-capitalist bent, is probably on its last legs. It may have run its course. But that shouldn’t prevent us from speaking up for those still suffering under its wheels. It’s lazy and stereotypical to whine, “Oh, they’re all evil, the Democrats and the Republicans are all the same, all corrupt, all bought and paid for.” That may be true. It doesn’t matter right now. The house is on fire. We can talk about what started the fire later. All one is doing with such tired and cliched responses is giving themselves a way out. It’s a back door, an exit, for the people who don’t really give a damn.
And I would be writing the same whether a Democrat, Republican, independent, or third-party person, were president. If they were anything like the current president, a person morally and intellectually challenged, unfit for office, unfit as a leader, void of any integrity or principles, I would write the same thing, regardless if I agreed with them on anything as far as policy or political philosophy. Basic decency has to be the test, the bar.Speaking up for the least of these, in the face of this current administration, has nothing to do with partisan politics. It is not a liberal or conservative thing. It is not a Democrat or Republican thing. It is not a progressive or leftist thing. It is the decent thing. It is a Christian thing. A duty, a responsibility, something linked to our salvation and identity (Matt 25:31). Anyone compelled by love to do what’s noted in those verses, should also be compelled to speak up for the same. When people say they are tired of politics, or that it means those speaking up think the political will save us, that our religion is politics, they show they understand neither the political nor religion.
And I am not saying we all need to speak out in the same way. Perhaps social media is not the way one feels it should be done. Fine. But, then, how are we speaking out? Through prayer? Great. However, prayer without action is too often only a salve for a guilty conscience. We must pray, but we must do more than that. What are we doing?
I will leave it to the reader to ponder how they might speak up for the least of these in the face of an administration that could care less about them. What we can’t do though is blithely, sipping our lattes, ramble on about how much we hate the current political scene and how we would rather talk about our dogs, cats, or children, the latest movie, music, vacation spot, cocktail or wine. Let’s be clear. What one is saying in those moments is: “I don’t like all this stuff put in front of me because now I have to choose whether or not I’m going to respond like a decent person and faithful Christian.”
History is littered with moments where the powerful crushed the vulnerable, and, it would appear, like background cosmic radiation, is something always with us. And in such a world, there are always opportunities for us to speak up for the less powerful. Still, there are moments that cry out with an even greater sense of urgency, of crisis, of a pivotal turning point in time, where the outcome could be grave, and the gravity of the decisions made, felt negatively, for generations. In my opinion, we are in one of those moments. We could play the, “but what about…,” game all day long, and it would not change the fact what we are currently seeing play out as a result of this administration’s words and actions is not normal and something not seen in most of our lifetimes.
We must speak up for the vulnerable and that means speaking against this administration. And, when we do so, it has nothing to do, or shouldn’t, with being political or religious. It has everything to do with being a decent human being. We are not donning a role, putting on a hat, acting, or stepping into another realm, being partisan, or favoring any modern political ideology over another. We are not speaking out, or acting out, of a “religious” commitment to the political as salvific or saying any solution must be a modern political one.
What we are doing is lifting the vulnerable, the “least” of these up before a watching world and letting the principalities and powers know their efforts to grind the less powerful (which, by-the-way, is not white, Western, evangelicals) to dust will not go unchallenged or unnoticed. Call doing that whatever you will—I don’t care. I call it being a decent human being and a faithful Christian. Let’s hope when we hear people tell us they are “tired of politics,” they don’t really mean they are just tired of being decent people and faithful Christians.
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