I am a Christian. I say that unapologetically yet knowing that there are people who will make assumptions about me that may or may not be true. I watch the things that some who call themselves Christians do in the name of Jesus, and I cringe. A “church” shows up to protest at the funerals of soldiers. “People of God” practice and espouse white supremacist values and violence against those of other races. I witness the lack of caring and the degradation of our fellow human beings because they aren’t from the same social class, because of the way they dress or their tattoos, because the are gay or transgender, because they abuse drugs or alcohol, because their skin color is different, because they are from another country and speak a different language, or because they practice a different religion. These are decidedly not scriptural attitudes or behaviors. I am often horrified and want to distance myself from the name of the church embarrassed by what these people do and the reputation they have given Christ. To many people who are not involved in the church, these are the characteristics of all Christians because it is what they see in public venues and in the media – including from programming that presents itself as speaking for Christ. (Example, an evangelist on television stating that the events of 9/11/2001 happened as punishment from God for our acceptance of gays.) These actions of hate are driving the public opinion against Christians.
I do many things wrong. But I sincerely pray that I don’t do things that embarrass the Lord. I hope that I don’t practice “situational Christianity” as some people do “situational ethics,” but I’m sure that there have been times when I have done so. I have overlooked a situation or a person’s statement that challenges everything I believe for the sake of keeping the peace with friends, family, and co-workers. I fall short – usually on the side of what I don’t do – because of a lack of courage. But I know that I don’t condemn, look down on, hate, degrade, or do things to harm those who are different than me. I have things that I don’t understand in the way others choose to live their lives and things that I fully disagree with, but I try to acknowledge that the person is still a child of God who is as fully lovable as any other child of God. I try hard to speak in terms of actions or ideas in my dissent…but I know that I often fall short, very short, especially in my comments about one person.
Our leaders are no different than the rest of us. Our parents, teachers, pastors, stars, and leaders are human. We’d like them to be perfect, or at least better than average, but they are mere humans. Some seem too good to be true, and the public promptly sets out to bring them down a peg. We can still look to leaders and mentors as examples without their being perfect. The disciples, the apostle Paul, and other heroes of history were not perfect, but we still look to their example as they were trying to do their best and were people of character.
We don’t have to agree with our leaders on every issue. If I held out for that as the measure of a teacher, a pastor, or a candidate, well, I would learn nothing, attend no church, and never vote. However, I must agree on most of the things a leader espouses in order to follow and listen. In the case of a political leader, I cannot support someone on one issue alone. I certainly could vote for dog catcher based on a candidate’s stance on animal cruelty alone. But there are very few positions that only have influence in only one area. A candidate who has ideas I can support on just education, just taxes, just human rights, just immigration, just the abortion issue, or just…whatever one hot button issue there is would not be a candidate I could vote for. Similar stances on issues are not enough either. No matter where they stand on the issues, we should to be able to see character, honesty, and a true concern for others in our leaders. We should know that what they say today will be the same as what they say tomorrow. Obviously politicians are known for promising lots of things that they never accomplish. We should, at least, have the comfort of knowing that they honestly would like to accomplish those things and that their promises are not based on convenient lies meant to gain our votes and nothing more. We should know what their core values are not only through their words but through their actions both on and off camera, both in and out of the arena.
This is why many people have a great deal of difficulty understanding how Christians and their leadership can back certain candidates or leaders. The argument that most give of “well look at the other candidate” – whoever he or she might be – rings hollow. We should never have to make a choice between two lousy choices. We should be involved early enough that it doesn’t come down to that. We can also jump ship on both political parties and vote for a different candidate or write in candidates.
In this blog I usually stick to my own thoughts and my words (albeit with lots of quotes). I don’t often share articles here, but I am doing it for the second post in a row. The article I am sharing presents some ideas and questions I have been very challenged to understand.
More often than not my blog shares my love of books by recommending titles. I told someone this week that my next post would recommend books and so it does. Here are some books (both for children and adults) on character and leadership and people who demonstrated it:
- Believe It by Nick Foles
- Character Counts by Os Guinness
- The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen
- The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard and S. Truett Cathy
- I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
- I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire by Melba Beals
- The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
- Principle-Centered Leadership, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and First Things First by Stephen Covey
- Profiles in Courage by John Fitzgerald Kennedy
- Profiles in Courage for Our Time by Caroline Kennedy
- Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton Johnson (picture book)
- She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World and She Persisted Around the World by Chelsea Clinton (children’s book)
- This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel by Trevin Wax
- Uncommon Life by Tony Dungy
- Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country by Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy
BACKGROUND ON SHARED ARTICLE: The article I am sharing is written by Dr. Benjamin L. Corey who “is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and who received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. http://www.Unafraid-book.com” It appeared on the website patheos.com which says of itself:
Patheos.com is the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality, and to explore and experience the world’s beliefs. Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information about religion. Patheos brings together faith communities, academics, and the broader public into a single environment, and is the place where many people turn on a regular basis for insight, inspiration, and stimulating discussion.
I do not know enough about the website to comment on the site overall. I do know that, while there are some elements here I would debate with the author, I found the article very thought provoking and illustrative of a dilemma I have in understanding things today.