Why Christians Need to Calm Down
Wayne Grudem is so wrong. I am sorry I have to say this, too. He and a slew of other protestant conservative thinkers have mistakenly and rashly come to the consensus that supporting Trump is the morally conscious decision in this year’s upcoming election.
I am not suggesting that one’s political affiliation is a litmus test for one’s true identity. But as a person who daily lives at the nexus of seemingly conflicting identities (Christian, woman, POC, progressive), it pains me to see someone get so many things right and completely miss the point.
This year it is an election. Perhaps any other year it would have been a national massacre, a market crash, an epidemic — any issue that required us to think soberly about our convictions and sift the sand to find our true positions. My disappointment in many educated and “enlightened” Christian thinkers has less to do with Trump and more to do with the indication of a more disturbing reality that has laid dormant in many Christians.
I am sorry to be a Christian these days. I am sorry that as a breed of people, we are seen to be dismissive, belligerent, and narrow-minded. It is not true of all Christians, but still, if we are honest with ourselves, it is not completely unfair that popular opinion has branded us as these things. To deny this is problematic at best, and dangerous at worst. Christians do stupid things. They mess up, screw up, and say pretty terrible things about people who have do nothing more than simply endeavor to live their lives in a way that seems right and full to them.
And yet, many Christians these days are obsessed with the idea of persecution. Namely, that they are the ones being persecuted. That they are being made martyrs for their religious convictions, that they are not being thoroughly understood by the media, that they are being forced to pay taxes to a government that does not act on their personal convictions.
This is not only misguided, but it is deeply self-centered.
Christianity still, by and large, exists as the dominant religious culture in America. Atheism and secularism may be today’s postmodern church but of any other organized faith, Christianity still reigns as the accepted norm. Yes, you may feel uncomfortable speaking about your beliefs with your coworkers. Yes, movies and tv shows may make jokes about you in passing. But you will not be “randomly” questioned by the TSA every time you fly. You will not be branded a terrorist. You will not be robbed of your basic rights. You will not need to advocate for yourself daily. You will not send your son to fight and die in a war for a country that ridicules your faith.
Wayne Grudem argues that under a Clinton Administration, Christians would be forced to engage with a government that does not advocate for their best interests and personal convictions. What he fails to realize is that there already are entire groups of people who are forced to do this very thing. What he perceives as a threat is already a reality for some. When a black American pays taxes, he does not intend to fund a system that seeks to dehumanize and institutionalize him. When an undocumented immigrant pays taxes (no less to a government who happily takes her taxes while still threatening to deport her), she does not intend to give her money to a system that seeks to exploit her. When LGBTQIA residents in North Carolina send their children to schools, invest in their local economy, participate in their PTAs, they do not intend to give into a system that makes a national spectacle of where they choose to go to the bathroom.
This is the kind of thinking that selectively grieves over the execution of Christians in the Middle East, while staying silent and largely unmoved by the daily mass genocide of people in the same region. The thinking that motivates so many Christians to protect the lives of unborn children, yet disregard and ghettoize these children once they are born.
Lastly and most disturbingly is the unnamed assumption that Christians hold — that they are entitled to religious freedom. That somehow laws must be tailor made to protect their religious liberties and secure their rights to opt in and out of systems that do not align with their beliefs, when so many other creeds fight for the basics of this right every day. There is the temptation to liken modern day Christianity to the early church. This comparison is wrong, misinformed, and completely delusional. An American Christian’s plight is unlike that of the Apostles’. Even the apostles, who were actually publicly mocked, scorned, and executed, focused more on the plight of others than on their own religious liberties. They cared for the widows, the poor, the orphans, the socially marginalized, the outcasts, the diseased. They cared for tax collectors, and rich fools who did not understand the temporality of this world. They did not spend time in the synagogues arguing for the right to live out their faith. They were too busy already doing it.
This is the contrast between us and them. While we petition for the presidential candidate that secures our secondary priorities, we lose sight of the very thing that differentiates the gospel from every other practiced thought. Simply, that what I am afforded is secondary to the good of others. The call is the same for Christians today. Religious freedom was never promised by Jesus. Instead, he anticipated that we would be without it. Our job is not to petition God into governments, it is to love God into people. You do not need the government’s permission to do this.
Jesus talked about this during his days. I cannot get over the Pharisees — people who often got so many things “right” and “lawful” and completely missed the point. I cannot get over them because I know myself to be like them. My obsession with the literal and lawful will often cloud the reality of the spiritual. I will do this until I forget what was so truly remarkable about the gospel in the first place. That it affirmed me before it condemned me, that it loved me before it corrected me.
When Jesus was asked which commandment is the greatest of all, it was a question of priorities. “Which is most important, Lord?” a man asked.
To him, He simply said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36–40).