A comment from yesterday’s Catch reads: “John…. Would you please elaborate on your comment, “Followers of religion and politics are angry and fearful. They are trying to get America back. Followers of Jesus are loving and hopeful. They are trying to give America away.” Please be clear.”
Gladly. To be sure, these are trends, not categories that we put people in. They capture some primary differences about popular trends in thinking. Part of my goal with my writing in the Catch is to think out loud about how I think. In regards to worldview especially, there are ways of thinking we often adopt with little or no examination. They come with a certain amount of justification which may seem right in relation to current trends, but further thought might reveal errors or dangers in thinking that way. By thinking out loud, I am trying to encourage you to examine your own thinking. I don’t expect you to agree with me on everything, but I hope I might inspire you to think critically about your own thoughts. This is what I was referring to yesterday.
This is what I think is going on, and I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of this for about 30 years. Followers of religion and politics are Christians who have been highly influenced by the importance of morality and controls on society that hold back moral decline. They see America as getting worse and worse and want to harken back to a time when society was more “Christian.” Not that people were all Christians, but Judeo-Christian ethics affected policy in the marketplace more than it seems to today. Therefore to “take America back” would be to have Christian values reflected in society, and it is popular to believe that can be politically attained. I personally don’t think it can, but that’s for another discussion.
Embedded in this kind of thinking is a fear of how bad things are getting and a certain helplessness about being able to do anything about it, so when someone comes along and says, “No, you can do something about it; you can vote for this guy and get behind this agenda” many Christians responded out of this fearful, desperate place.
With this fear about society comes a focus on morality. Indeed, an argument can be made that morality has been more important to Christians in culture for the last 30 years than the gospel. We even called ourselves the Moral Majority for the longest time. And alongside a call for a certain social morality (what I am calling “religion” in society) comes a tendency to judge that which is immoral and feel justified in a certain amount of anger or righteous indignation at that which is evil. All conflicts are put in terms of good and evil and Christians are suppose to hate evil and cling to what is good. The problem here is that this very rapidly escalates into Pharisaical condemnation and self-righteousness – a certain blindness to the evil in oneself.
In contrast to this Dan Merchant introduced in his film the fact that a real encounter resulting in a relationship with Jesus changes all this. In Jesus we realize we are all in sin. In Jesus we realize we have all already been judged on the cross. In Jesus we realize that God isn’t counting people’s sins against them any longer – God isn’t mad anymore – so why should we be? This is the acceptable day of the Lord. This is the day of salvation. In Jesus, we realize that regardless of what is happening in the moral decline of culture, we can love everyone as being in the image of God and someone for whom Christ died. In Jesus, we cease to focus on the sin of others and be more inclined to confess our own sin, and in confessing our own sin, we can be more hopeful towards others, knowing that God loves them and has already forgiven them just as He loves us.
So Christians who are following Jesus have kindness and love to give away, and they, like Jesus, care especially about people who are poor and oppressed, who are in prison or dying with AIDS among other things. These followers of Jesus are taking the great concept of freedom in America and using it to serve those who are needy both here and abroad. That’s what I meant by giving America away. A good idea, I think.