I knew it was a bad idea as soon as I clicked “Share.” I had just realized that I hadn’t blogged in a month, and I asked my Facebook friends for ideas on a topic.
And from my friend Don, who I went to high school with and have recently reconnected with through our mutual love of fly fishing, I got this:
…the Christian Coalition and the Party of Family Values
I’ve tried to stay away from politics on this blog. Not because I don’t value good political discussions, but because the conversations so often quickly degrade into personal vitriol. People get really angry when you propose ideas that run contrary to their belief system. And more often than not, they begin to argue before they even hear or read the point the “other side” is trying to make.
It’s as if somehow even listening to another point of view validates it. Like the very existence of an opposing perspective in some way threatens our own.
But Don quickly reminded me that if I’m going to talk the talk I need to walk the walk. And he’s right. If I’m going to post something like that on a social networking site, I have to be ready to respond. So here ‘goes:
The thing about the whole Christian Coalition/Family Values notion as a political concept is that it starts, I believe, from the wrong set of assumptions. It starts from an assumption that God is for some people and against other people. “God is on our side” is the battle cry of much of the “religious right.”
The problem is, a careful examination of scripture and the life of Jesus tells us, above everything else, that God is on EVERYONE’S side.
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:1-10 (NIV)
In perhaps his most well-known sermon, Jesus starts out by making the case that God is on everyone’s side. The sick, the oppressed, the poor, the downtrodden. The depressed. The broken. The sinful.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a relativist when it comes to values, and I do believe that as a society our value system has degraded. But I don’t believe the fix for the problem comes through religious strong-arming of the political system. I believe it comes through building personal relationships. By one person reaching out to another and offering help and love and healing.
In his 2007 book, Everything Must Change, author Brian McLaren outlines four prevailing schools of Jewish thought on how to fix the ills of the nation during Jesus’ time on earth. Tthe two dominant “parties,” the Zealots and the Pharisees, espoused worldviews that put physical and moral might at the center of their agenda for a national revival.
The Zealots believed that a military uprising against the oppressive Roman empire was the path to reclaiming the sovereignty of Israel. If God raised up David to slay Goliath, why wouldn’t he send a Messiah (King) to defeat the mighty Romans? Israel needed only to prove to God that they were ready by initiating the action. God would use violence to restore his nation.
The Pharisees, sympathetic to the Zealots, believed that a revival of morality was in order. That if only people were more “religious,” that if people would just follow the rules to the letter, then all would be right with the world. God would only send his Messiah (Religious Savior) to the nation once it got its collective act together. And those who couldn’t conform were to be excluded (kicked out, shunned, stoned to death, etc.) God would use the strong arm of relgion and politics to restore his nation.
You don’t have to be a political genius to see the kinds of modern parallels that can be drawn here. Zealots and Pharisees still exist today (as do adherents to the other two belief systems: Herodians/Sadducees, whose solution was to go along with–and profit from–Roman occupation; and Essenes, who chose escapism as their preferred method of problem-solving).
But in First Century Israel, and 21st Century America, Jesus offers a radically different solution: Love. Forgiveness. Humility. Servanthood.
The fatal flaw in the Christian Coalition/Family Values political movement is that it ignores Jesus’ clear call to love EVERYONE. Even our enemies. Even the people whose lifestyle we disagree with.
He doesn’t say it’s not OK to disagree. He just says “love ’em anyhow.” Forgive them. Put their need for love and healing above your “right” to be “right.”
Something amazing and beautiful happens when we choose to genuinely love and forgive people instead of fight them. All of a sudden, civil conversations can happen. Dialogue can be initiated. A better way of life can be demonstrated, rather than coerced. Change happens to people not when they are forced into it, but when they are compelled to seek it.
God doesn’t pick sides. He loves adulterers and murderers and liars (just ask David) as much as he loves preachers and monks and soccer moms. He loves gays and televangelists equally. He loves Mexicans and Americans and even Canadians with the same radical passion. And yes, he loves Democrats as much as Republicans, hawks as much as doves, sinners as much as saints.
So there you go, Don. And remind me to never, ever, solicit input on Facebook again!