Church and Politics

First, an Apology (as in, I’m sorry)

Recently, during my final message in the “Pound It” series, I was talking about the irresponsible young men that Rehoboam surrounded himself with and that he decided to pay attention to. In that message, I decided to use as an illustration something that had been in the current events of the previous week. I made a comment about now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the allegations brought against him. Two comments really. One of my comments was that even though the allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh had not been confirmed, one thing that seemed indisputable to me (because he confirmed it in his testimony) was that he had been at times an irresponsible drinker in his past. I said I wasn’t going to comment on whether he was fit for the Court or whether I thought he was guilty of sexual harassment, but I also said I was annoyed by his past irresponsibility. I jokingly said I felt like smacking him. Secondly, I said that I really brought it up because he was an illustration of how hanging out with the wrong friends can lead to big problems. If he had better friends when he was younger, he wouldn’t have made the same mistakes, and no one would every have been able to bring an accusation against him. I was trying to make a point about friendship.

Still, I have found out this past week that a few families in the church took offense at my comments feeling they were too political for church. Some have even been courageous enough to challenge me about it face to face.

I appreciate that. Thank you.

I’m writing this post to accomplish two goals:

  1. I want to offer an apology.
  2. At the same time, I also want to (slightly) defend my decision to address a political issue in the context of the church.

So first, of all, I am sorry for the offense I caused people. I realize now that by bringing up a heated and divisive issue without spending a significant amount of time on it, I created great potential for misunderstanding. No matter what I actually said or intended to say, the brevity of my comment gave too little context for people to understand my meaning, and the already existing emotions around the issue dissolved the intended impact of my illustration. I should have told a story about my own experience with bad friends instead of trying to make a point based on a heated political issue.

Second, an Apology (as in defense)

Most of the people who know me know that I’m not a very political person. That is, I usually don’t fixate on the political issues of the day and promote them. I don’t post my political views on social media, and I generally don’t share my position on political issues from the stage on Sundays.

However, most of the people who know me also know that I’m not reluctant to talk about any topic at all. I’m not afraid of sharing my opinion when appropriate (and sometimes when not appropriate, to my chagrin), and furthermore, I’m convinced that there are no “taboo” topics when it comes to Christian conversation. I’m a firm believer that we need to train ourselves and our community to be able to talk about even controversial matters with grace, curiosity, and love.

Additionally, there are some issues that our world has labeled “political” that I see labeled by Scripture as “moral,” and on these issues, I feel an obligation as a teacher of the Bible to address them whenever I can.

So these are my few reasons why I think my Kavanaugh comments were justified.

First, I am absolutely outraged at the centuries of abuse that men have dished out toward women (see my message on #feminism). In the Bible, God regularly commands men to take the lead in bringing honor to women. But for most of human history, men have exploited women in many ways, especially sexually. This exploitation continues today through pornography, advertising, professional sports, and yes, catcalls and unwanted advances. Men of all strata have been implicated and women of all strata have been victimized. This is not a political issue. This is a God issue. God made women and men. God made sexuality. And God intends for us to be people of integrity who treat others with dignity! Whether you take the side of the women or the men in the #MeToo movement, whether you support Bill Hybels or think he’s a liar, whether you support Brett Kavanaugh or his accusers doesn’t actually matter to me. My outrage is over the issue at hand. My outrage is over the fact that men have failed to treat women with dignity, and other men have failed to stand against it. I feel that my congregation needs to know not only that this issue is wrong, but that this issue is also disgusting to God. Wrath is the proper response to this kind of injustice.

You and I might have different opinions on the evidence presented in the Kavanaugh accusation. Maybe you are offended by his yearbook, and maybe you excuse it. It doesn’t matter to me. But I’m asking you to join me in being saddened by the fact that he has had three accusers (who could be lying, I grant) but that he does not have any women from that time saying he was an advocate for them. I wish there had been a woman from his high school days who said, “the other boys were harassing me, and Brett came to my defense.” Maybe she exists, but I’m saddened that I never got to hear her voice if it’s out there. The high school years are sadly exploitative environments, and I wish there had been a man/boy in Brett’s high school who was strong enough to stand against that exploitation. If not him, then one of his friends. Someone should have done something.

Secondly, I’m also very bothered by the current state of political discourse in our nation, and I’m deeply committed to training those followers of Jesus under my care to change the tone of political conversation. Let me be frank. I’m a Republican. I voted for Donald Trump. I voted for him purely for legal reasons and for the future of the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh, aside from the personal accusations levied against him, is my ideal Supreme Court Justice, and I voted for Trump specifically so justices with his legal perspective would end up on the Court. You and I can disagree over whether my legal perspective is correct or not. In fact, I welcome your disagreement so that I can learn from you and grow as a person.

You see, my Republican bent does not make me blind to the abuses of the people who share my party. Donald Trump offends me on many levels. The way he talks about and treats women, the way he talks about illegal immigration, the way he treats his political opponents, the way he handles the FBI, the way he handles taxes and regulations and diplomacy, I could go on and on. The fact that I’m a Republican does not make me blind to the moral failures of the party with which I affiliate. I reject the Republican box, and therefore, I also reject the Democrat box. It’s my conviction that we should treat each other as people and not as categories.

Therefore, I’m an equal opportunity offender. I’m going to talk positively about people who disagree with me, and I’m going to expose the weaknesses of the people who agree with me, and vice versa.

If you have made it all the way here to the bottom, there’s a good chance I have irritated you. I’m way better at irritating people than I wish I were. Ask my sister. She’ll confirm I have the spiritual gift of annoyance. However, if you have made it here, I hope to communicate one final thing. Let’s make a commitment as followers of Jesus to disagree well. Let’s make a commitment to treat each other with dignity and respect. Let’s make a commitment to keep our minds open to the perspective of others so we can grow and learn. Let’s make a commitment to change the tone of the world around us by speaking out and taking action against injustice wherever it shows up, and let us not fall for the easily believed perspective of our own echo chamber just because it “makes sense.”

Never forget, the person who holds an opinion so different from yours that you find it and them offensive holds that opinion with a mind and heart given to them by God. There’s the image of God in there somewhere. Find what God is doing in their heart, learn how God has shaped their mind, identify the impact of sin in yourself and in all of us, and you just might end up growing from an interaction with them. You just might end up becoming more the person you were created to be.

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