Staying Christian on Social Media

I tend not to write much about current events. The times I do, I’m more addressing how I see people (Christians typically) responding to events on social media rather than the events themselves. Two passages in Scripture lie behind that concern.

The first one is Mark 7:20-23. In this passage, Jesus makes the point that a person’s words and actions can be traced back to their heart (see also Proverbs 4:23). In the context of social media, this means that your Facebook status and your Twitter feed are a peek into your heart. They reveal your values and priorities and in many cases are a reflection of what you believe is wrong with the world and what you believe is going to fix it.

The second passage is 1 Peter 1:13, where Peter tells Christians to set all their hope on the Second Coming of Jesus. All areas of our lives he says should be affected by an eager expectation of his return. In fact, the affect of this hope on our lives should be so drastic and visible that it catches the attention of the non-believing world around us, causing them to ask us about what makes us different (1 Peter 3:15).

The question for us today as Christians who engage with social is this: what does this window into my heart reveal? What would someone learn about me simply by scrolling through my Twitter account? Do my status updates reflect this other-worldly hope that Peter commands us to have?

I’ve got tons of Christians in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And if everything I knew about some of them came from what they posted, all I’d know about them is that they are conservatives who think Obama is the worst president in U.S. history and that a vote for Hillary is effectively a vote for Hitler.

 

How do I add Spock to this meme?

How do I add Spock to this meme?

Obviously I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t have political opinions or that they shouldn’t post those opinions in a loving spirit. I’m also not going to naively pretend that your faith doesn’t affect your political views. But if you’re constantly slamming politicians on Facebook, at a certain point I have to question where you think the real battle lies. What is victory to you: more Republicans in the House or more sinners in Heaven? And how would the non-Christians who see your updates answer that question?

I think we learn an important lesson in this area from Paul. In Romans 1, he offers the following commentary on pagan society: “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

 

paultweet

Sure, Paul sounds pretty harsh here, but we should remember the context. Paul is writing this to Christians in order to make the theological point that all people are sinners so that he can later magnify just how big God’s mercy is. What’s fascinating though is to see is how Paul actually interacts with the kind of people he’s describing here:

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.” (Acts 17:16-17)

Paul was deeply disturbed by the pagan culture around him. But rather than retreating from them in anger or disgust, he moves toward them in love and preached the gospel to them. Darrell Bock unpacks this:

Despite being aggravated by all the idolatry he sees around him in Athens, Paul manages to share the gospel with a generous but honest spirit. The Paul of Romans 1 who speaks of the sad state of society is still able to love and connect with that society in Acts 17. This also is an important lesson: sometimes we Christians are so angry at the state of our society that all that comes through is the anger and not the love we are to have for our neighbour in need. Those who see this anger and want to represent the faith differently can overact the other way, almost pretending, as if there is no idolatry as long as the religious search is sincerely motivated. Paul avoids both of these extremes. He knows how to confront but does so honestly and graciously. Both message and tone are important in sharing the gospel. Here Paul is an example of both.

Bock’s words carry enormous implications for what we do with social media. In a fallen world with constant media coverage, you can always find things to be angry about. The question is, will you respond with love or anger? With that in mind, here are some diagnostic questions for us as Christians to work through when re-tweeting things other than hilarious Cat Fails:

  • Why am I posting this? Do I think it will accomplish something? If so, what? Am I just venting? Who is the audience I expect/hope to reach? Is this a passive-aggressive post targeted at one person or a particular group of people?
  • What “hope” does this post communicate? What values am I displaying to those who see this? Is the dominant tone of this post anger or love? Am I demonstrating calm trust in a good, sovereign God who is at work in this world? Or the anxiety of one who has forgotten that?
  • Does this honor and reflect the character of the God who has told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? (Matthew 5:43-48) Can you, in good conscience, post that comment or link after spending time in prayer for the people it’s about or for the people you hope will see it?
  • Is this true? This should go without saying, but the World Wide Spider-Web is a big place, and with enough time you can find arguments for anything. This means that as Christians we need to be discerning readers. Since truth is an essential ingredient of biblical love, we can’t be posting things that are misleading or downright false. While we can’t always be certain all of the time that a headline is true, here are a couple of tips:
    1. Snopes.com is your best friend. Check the story there first.
    2. If a judge or policymaker is said to be doing something so egregiously unconstitutional that you can’t possibly believe it’s true, it’s probably not. Or at least there’s more to the story. Give them the benefit of a doubt. Some stories only get published because they’re so out there.
    3. Read the article, not just the headline. As NPR hilariously demonstrated last year, some people share articles based solely on the headline without actually reading it.

 

Brian Regan, Mitt Romney, a Gay Veteran, and the Art of Bad Arguments

“I’m trying to learn how to play chess. That game’s not right. That game does not end properly. You’re just looking at the board and your opponent goes ‘CHECKMATE!’
‘I thought you said you were supposed to take my king.’
‘Yeah but no matter what you do in the next move I take the king in the following move, so it’s a checkmate.’
He’s in the car headin’ home.
No other game lets you do that. You never see a quarterback walking up to the line…
‘TOUCHDOWN! The way your corner is playing we’ll do a slam pass underneath the coverage. Too much of a cushion. 6 points! Touchdown!’
Don’t just announce that you’re going to win.”
Brian Regan, stand-up comedian extraordinaire

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about arguments and how so often people give just flat-out bad arguments for their positions.  This led me to blog about theological debates that are often crippled by bad arguments, and I’ve got about fifty more blog ideas in this same line of thinking.  This one was inspired by an article I read last month about Mr. Mitt Romney.

Apparently Romney was confronted by a gay Vietnam veteran named Bob Garon at an event in New Hampshire who asked whether or not he supported gay marriage.  Saying he did not, the conversation got pretty awkward.  Garon proceeded to say, “It’s good to know how you feel…That you do not believe that everyone is entitled to their constitutional rights.”

BOOM!  Checkmate, you unconstitutional jerk!

Look, this entry is not about Mitt Romney as a political candidate nor is it a statement on whether or not gay marriage should be legal.  Rather, it’s an example of how bad arguments hinder understanding and thus any hope of progress.  Comments like the one above made by Mr. Garon are about as pointless as the quarterback in Brian Regan’s joke just declaring “touchdown” without ever running the play.  You can’t just declare yourself the winner in a debate without ever even debating your opponent.  And that’s exactly what this veteran did.

His claim is that Romney doesn’t believe everyone’s entitled to their constitutional rights.  But the debate on gay marriage isn’t about whether or not we should give gay couples their constitutional right to marry.  The whole debate is about whether it even is a constitutional right.  Garon’s comment, whether he realized it or not, assumes a universal agreement that gay marriage is a constitutional right, thus making Romney unfit for office for wanting to deny homosexuals that right.  But since such agreement doesn’t exist, comments like the one Romney received are weightless.  It’s like asking someone, “Why do you love bad music?”  No one loves bad music.  They simply love music that they deem “enjoyable” and you deem “bad.”  Besides, until there’s a universal agreement on what constitutes bad music, it’s impossible to truly condemn someone for loving bad music.  (Remember…Nickelback does have fans, guys.)

To pull back and add another dimension to this whole incident, Bob Garon never actually made an argument at all.  Rather, he made an unfounded claim.  I still lump that under the umbrella of “bad arguments” because so often in our culture simply declaring your beliefs seems to take on a role that should be reserved for intelligent debate/dialogue.  A huge part of intelligent debate is describing your opponent’s views in a way they would be happy with, so when no attempt at understanding is made, what should be two people debating becomes two people mocking each other’s views.  Internet comment boards are flooded with this to the extent that I’m not even sure we understand the difference between “mockery” and “debate” anymore.

So when Richard Dawkins for example says that faith “is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence”  and that it “is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence”, he’s calling out “Touchdown” without any intention of even snapping the ball.  Not only is he defining “faith” in a way that no theologian would define it,   he uses his perception of faith to further reinforce the thought held by many that it is opposed to science, which does think and evaluate evidence.  Dawkins’ definition of faith demonstrates a great reluctance to truly understand those he disagrees with.  And as I said already, when understanding isn’t present, mockery will be.

Another fine example of this is Ricky Gervais’ article “Why I’m an Atheist.”  Gervais, like Dawkins and Garon, declares his victory throughout without ever really giving a substantial argument.  With mockery taking the place of intelligent debate, I personally feel like atheistic comedians get away with a lot.

 “The Bible truly is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. … It was written thousands of years ago, when people were even dumber than they are today. … It’s absurd to believe in that s***.”
David Cross

The REALLY Cool Thing About Tebow’s Game Against the Steelers…

A week ago, Tim Tebow led the Denver Broncos to victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Of course the real story was how the chosen one threw 316 yards, averaging 31.6 yards per completion, on a televised game with a rating of 31.6, an eerily obvious allusion to the area code of Wichita.  And some are also seeing something of a connection between those numbers and John 3:16, a verse that Tebow wore on his face in his final game with the Florida Gators.

I’ve never really understood why people have felt the need to have such a strong opinion (whether positive or negative) about Tim Tebow.  It’s almost as confusing to me as why the Kardashians are famous (something I’ve Googled and still don’t have a clear answer on).  Some look at his 316 stats above and feel like it was God’s blessing on him.  The skeptical see the stats as nothing more than coincidence.  I’m of the mind that those stats are actually really amazing.  Why?

Because “coincidence” or not, those stats put “John 3:16″ at the top of all Google and Yahoo! searches for a time.  That means that the number one search on both search engines yielded this: “‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who put up an ad on Google to appear when people searched for the verse, reports that 8,000 people clicked on peacewithgod.net.  And they are also reporting 150 people placing faith in Christ as a result of reaching the site.  

Are Tebow’s stats proof that God’s hand is on him to bless him and the Broncos with Super Bowl rings and a Hallmark channel original movie about the 2011-2012 season that almost certainly would have followed?  Well, in the words of Isaiah, “it was the will of the LORD to crush” the Broncos in the Divisional round.  So no.  But if some “random” stats in one playoff game spread the most concise statement of the Gospel far and wide, leading to the eternal deliverance of at least 150 people, then you better believe God’s hand was directly responsible for every single one of those passing yards.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
Proverbs 16:33

On The Negative Reception Among Christians Toward Obama’s Victory

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
C.S. Lewis

Many Christians have heard these famous, beautiful words from C.S. Lewis. While meant in the context of worldly pleasures versus the highest, spiritual pleasures, the principle behind what Lewis is saying makes these words relevant in the sense in which I want to address my brothers and sisters in Christ concerning the 2008 presidential election, and in particular its outcome. Imagine if you will that someone came up to you and said “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that I ruined your favorite shirt.” “Uhh, okay, the good news better be good.” “The good news is that you won the lottery.” “I really liked that shirt, you know.”

It’s a dumb example illustrating an absurd reaction by you, the recipient. Forget the shirt. It’s a sad loss sure, but the good news exponentially eclipses the bad news. The point is, joy and peace surround the heart who has received the best news in the world, and all the world throws at them can only hurt them for a moment, for they will rise again, and in darkness the Lord will be their light (Micah 7:8).

This is written in response to the cavalcade of smears I’ve seen directed at President Elect Barack Obama from my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. When it comes to government, many a Christian’s faith takes a backseat to his politics. He votes on certain issues because they are “constitutional” without taking into account whether or not they are “biblical.” Consequently, he becomes defined by his nationalism and not by his Christianity. Such verses then that command us to be subject to the governing authorities and honor the king are forgotten while he lobbies for his candidate of choice and ridicules the opponent. When this happens, the Christian is judged by the very Word to which he appeals.

The comments I address come mostly from the status bars of friends of mine on Facebook. Such statuses speak of the end being near, the coming failure of the nation, a critique of Obama’s acceptance speech, attacks on his character, the using of his middle name (give it a rest, we know what you’re trying to do), and one remark on the stupidity of a nation that would elect Obama. (For the love of God, please don’t declare war on your mission by calling those you’re called to serve “stupid.”) Every one of these came from Christians. And that’s just been from tonight, post-election. My friends, such words are out of place. They are not becoming of someone who professes the name of Christ.

Paul instructs us: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1-2). He tells us to pay our taxes (Romans 13:6-7). We may not like the tax rate, and that’s okay. Get someone in office who will fix that. But until then, obey. In 1 Timothy, he instructs us to pray for our leaders: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4) Brothers, how long will it be, if ever, before you drop to your knees and pray to God for Barack Obama? And I don’t mean “God don’t let him screw up America” or “God get him out of office” but “Adonai, Lord, you are the Sovereign over the universe. Nations rise and fall by your hand. I believe your Word when it says that the king’s heart is a stream of water in your hands to be turned at your will. I pray that you would move in President Obama’s heart and direct it toward your purposes.”

Let us look to David who, after being anointed as king but before he took the throne, was fleeing the king Saul, who sought David’s life. David came upon him with Abishai while he was sleeping and Abishai wanted to take advantage of their fortuitous circumstances and kill Saul in his sleep. But David refused, saying “who can put out his hand against the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?” And he left Saul alive, his attempted murderer (1 Samuel 26:9-11). God will dethrone when he wills to dethrone.

Let us look Chinese Brother Yun who, in his biography “The Heavenly Man” writes: “Once I spoke in the West and a Christian told me, ‘I’ve been praying for years that the Communist government in China will collapse, so Christians can live in freedom.’ This is not what we pray! We never pray against our government or call down curses on them. Instead we have learned that God in in control of both our own lives and the government we live under. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, ‘The government will be on his shoulders.’ Isaiah 9:6.” He goes on to write “Don’t pray for the persecution to stop! We shouldn’t pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure!” This comes from a man who has suffered severe persecution at the hands of the communist Chinese government. This book is one I encourage everyone to read.

Let us consider the words of James. James has some of the most harsh words to say about misusing the tongue. In his epistle he states “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:9-10) Quick reminder: people who are made in the likeness of God refers to ALL people (Genesis 1:27).

Finally, let us also look to the example of Paul. During Paul’s defense before a council, the high priest Ananias commanded him to be struck. In retaliation Paul said “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Paul did not realize that Ananias was high priest, so those around him, startled by his audacity said “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And I love what Paul does here. Every Christian should take note of it, especially those of you who speak against Barack Obama. He says “I did not know brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” (Acts 23:1-5) He showed respect to those who were clearly theologically misguided. He honored Ananias’s position.

Perhaps the most damning indictments of such cynical and hostile sentiments towards an elected official come from Titus, Philippians, and 1 Peter. Paul writes to Titus and addresses slaves in his letter saying “Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” (Titus 2:9-10) How much more should the Christian submit to the governing bodies? To the Philippians he writes “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15). Peter tells us to “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people…Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-15, 17)

There’s a very significant pattern in those three references. Not only are they commands to obey the governing authorities, but they give us the reason for doing so: “they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior,” “that you may be blameless and innocent…in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” “Be subject for the Lord’s sake…” We are to obey for the sake of the glory of Christ. The brilliance of the Gospel is to be magnified and adorned, and this CAN’T happen through argumentative, non-submissive subjects, for then the world sees us as politicians above all. When we slander any leader, we drag the name of Christ through the mud, not because they are Christ but because they have been appointed by him. They are our leaders and we are commanded to honor them.

Only those who appear to be hoping in something otherwordly get asked about the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15). And when we resort to smearing, lying, and belittling, our hope is shown to be in a politician and not the reigning King Jesus whom we call on as Lord. Such slander is often the result of desperation, yet “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). What have we to be desperate about? Jesus is King. And he has commissioned us to tell about him. But that message does not come unadorned. If we are not honoring the President, it is because we are not honoring God most. If we will not accept the best news that Jesus reigns, then we will become dependent on our leaders to fill that gap, which turns the Oval Office into an idol. And for those of you who have become distraught at Obama’s victory, I fear that your heart is in dangerous waters. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that the fruit of lips that acknowledge Jesus is praise for him (Hebrews 13:15). And if we love him, we will obey his commandments (John 14:15), which includes rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s (Matthew 22:21). It includes “Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17)

It is always a desirous thing when the state cooperates with the Church’s mission. For that we need only to look at William Wilberforce in how he helped outlaw the African Slave Trade in England. But the lack of such support does not cancel the Church’s obligations. Don’t expect the state to do what God has called the Church to do. The honoring of leaders is most explicitly stated in the Bible by those who were living under the Roman Empire. We live in a land in which we are able to worship freely despite who is in office. And even IF that were to change, we would still be the Church, and we would still worship. The early church exploded and grew from such small numbers in a non-sympathetic government. Henry and Mel Blackaby write “For such a monumental task, they seemed to possess such inadquate resources- no seminaries, no beautiful church facilities or sound systems or multimedia tools, no such thing as a Bible in every member’s hand. They had no celebrities to endorse their cause, and very little freedom to promote their belief in Jesus Christ.” What’s our excuse?

In summary, you don’t have to be happy that Obama is taking office. That’s not the point. Feel free to be saddened by it. But honor him as leader. Don’t make crude jokes about him, don’t beat him down with criticism, and don’t slander him. Many of you have. I see it in your statuses and in your profile pictures. You drag the name of Christ through the mud with such venom. Take them down, repent, worship God, and honor who he has brought to the White House. And above all, BE THE CHURCH. For example, having a President who supports abortion does not mean we are powerless to stop it. No that doesn’t mean bombing abortion clinics. It means that if you truly care about the issue, start volunteering at a pregnancy crisis center. Love these women. After all, who we elect is a reflection of the current heart of the nation. We don’t need laws to engage the hearts of those around us. Only when we lovingly preach, live, and adorn the beautiful news of Jesus we will see changed hearts, and thus changed laws.

I close with two quotes. The first comes from Psalm 63:3: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Can we say that as Christians? Is Christ so beautiful to us that all other desires are eclipsed by the furious passion we have for him? For you who despair of an Obama presidency, I challenge you with these questions. Unhappiness about his victory is one thing. Despair is another.

Quote two is a transcript from “The Office.” I love you all, and it is with love that I grieve the actions that inspired me to write this. Let us look toward Jesus above all, and support whoever he allows to ascend to the office of President.

Michael: [starts to cry] I don’t understand why you keep picking on me.
Stanley: Oh, for the love of God.
Michael: You just, do, and I don’t know why, so… please help me understand.
Stanley: Fine. Here it is: you are a person I do not respect. The things you say, your actions, your methods, and style. Everything you would do, I would do it the opposite way.
Michael: Well Stanley, maybe you’re feeling that you don’t respect me because you don’t know me very well.
Stanley: Michael I have known you a very long time, and the more I’ve gotten to know you, the less I’ve come to respect you. Any other theories?
Michael: All right, you don’t respect me. I accept that. But listen to me, you can’t talk to me that way in this office, you just can’t. I am your boss. Can’t allow it.
Stanley: Fair enough.

Related: Can Christians Vote for Obama?

A Breath of Fresh Air

A couple days ago I read a very good article addressing the Christian’s proper mindset to politics.  It was a wonderful breath of fresh air that a lot of Christians (particularly the ones I addressed in my previous entry) need to read.  It comes from Capitol Ministries.  Enjoy!

By Sean Wallentine

Capitol Ministries urges churches and individual believers to embrace the biblical mandate to pray for the salvation of the lost, especially those in the political arena (1 Timothy 2:1-5).

Unfortunately, in an election year biblical duties all too often take a back seat to the seemingly more urgent realities of pragmatic politics. As the November election approaches, Christians will spend vast amounts of time, money and energy supporting candidates running for office. But will God’s people remember to pray for the souls of those men and women seeking elected office?

Political involvement is a liberty we all enjoy as Americans, but it is not a biblical duty. Sadly, politics can become an idol for many people, even professing believers. Our duty as believers is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, yet all too often we mistake duty for liberty and liberty for duty.

When we confuse our biblical priorities, we can easily turn the mission field into the enemy. We laugh at inappropriate jokes, harsh criticisms, slanderous statements, gossip or other dishonoring statements about current politicians or those running for office. Many ignore the fact that our constitutional right of “free speech” does not trump the command of God’s Word to “honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13-17).

As the election cycle heats up, you may receive emails with content that dishonors political leaders. Resist the urge to laugh at these emails or forward them to your friends. Instead, let them serve as reminders to pray.

Vote and be involved in the political process, but don’t let it become an idol in your life. And don’t treat your mission field as the enemy. Instead, consider how you can invest your energies in the prayer, evangelism and discipleship efforts of Capitol Ministries and your local church. Such investments reap eternal rather than mere temporal rewards.

Apocalypse 2012! A Brief Rant on the Political Season

No, this actually has nothing to do with the whole Mayan/world ending in 2012 thing.  I’ll get to what it does mean in a second.

More and more, I hate election season.  Mainly because it brings out the worst in people, and being a Christian in a conservative state, most of the maliciousness I see comes from the actions of people who claim they follow Christ.  It infuriates me that those who talk the most about morals are the most fanatical people when it comes to politics.  It infuriates me that those concerned with truth in the ultimate sense of the word throw truth to the wind when it comes to facts about a man, namely Barack Obama.

Last month at work we had biography DVDs of both Barack Obama and John McCain side by side.  And so many times I’d walk by only to find the Obama ones turned around with a McCain one placed over it.  I tried so hard to catch people in the act, but I never did, which is probably best since I might have flown off the handle.  That’s not an endorsement of either candidate on my part but rather the annoyance of 1) having merchandise tampered with because of a customer’s political views, and 2) that being a really, really, REALLY stupid method of protesting.  I guess seeing two John McCain DVDs next to eachother with no Obama one in sight is a good campaigning strategy.

Like I said, I’m disgusted at just how petty my fellow Christians get during this time.  How dare we claim to be Jesus’ disciples and then launch smear campaigns.  Paul and Peter both commanded Christians to obey the governing authorities, and that was in the context of living in the Roman Empire.  How spoiled we have become in being able to worship freely.  How ungrateful we are to enjoy that gift that most Christians throughout the world don’t enjoy.

Some of this stuff has been boiling up in me for a while, but I was prompted to finally write this after reading the following article:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081025/ap_on_el_pr/christian_right_attacks.  Apparently someone has written a hypothetical letter from the year 2012 describing the woe that has befallen the nation as a result of Obama’s being elected president.  It is, as one pastor in the article says, desperation.  Frankly it disgusts me.

My brothers, if your hope is so tied to whoever sits in our White House, you have a pitiful view of God and a skewed view of the Church.

Again, this is not an endorsement of either candidate.  Go vote, but trust God to do what he will be pleased to do.  And whoever wins, pray for them.  Support them.  Obey them to the edge of your faith, and only refrain from such obedience when it is in direct violation to God’s Word.

But above all, if you’re a Christian, don’t you dare smear a candidate.  Show grace and truth.  Present your side in love and knowledge, and don’t be the uninformed voter who votes for McCain simply because Hussein Obama is a Muslim terrorist.  Smear is the result of desperate Christians who have forgotten who is ultimately in charge, and who have forgotten the real kingdom to which their citizenship lies.

Related: “Can Christians Vote for Obama?”

“Why the Heck Do I Live in Philadelphia?”

by Geoff Bradford

The Holidays brings it up again. A bad day where I feel unproductive and ineffective brings it but again. That question: why do I live here?

I vacillate between anti-suburban snobbery and being tired of Philadelphia. I enjoy not living in strip-mall-ville somewhere on a cul-de-sac, but then again, Filthadelphia is not a very pretty place. I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I love backpacking and scenery that is not man-made. There’s nothing really keeping us here-our extended families are 12+ hours away by car. Also, Philadelphia does not always seem like a “great place to raise a family.” I remember when we moved from the ‘burbs a few years ago-just at the time when my eldest son was starting kindergarten. People thought we were nuts. We were moving the wrong way. Everyone moves out when your kid turns 5, not in.

When I’m having a bad day, I generally like to visualize myself living in West Virginia. You probably have someplace-likely not West Virginia, but some place nonetheless-that you like to believe would be better. Actually, what most of us really want is a place that is not just better, but a place where I am better, where I am more actualized and fulfilled. Not just a new scene, but a better me.

Isn’t that why we move around so much? Looking for a better scene, I mean a better me? Every year, a sizeable chunk of the American population of our country moves (see Restless Nation, by James Jasper). Why? Do we really think that we will be different just because the backdrop is different?

So, why stay? Anti-suburban snobbery is not a very good reason-at least it does not satisfy my wanderlust. Laziness, either-the idea of moving makes me tired-but that also not a good reason to stay. Susan and I have wrestled a long time with this issue. With family far away, the challenge of finding good schools in Philadelphia, and the cost of living-we have wrestled with this. Why stay? Here’s what I have come up with:

1) Other backdrops don’t make a better me. I’m staying because I don’t believe the myth of a better me in a better scene. I’m looking for a deeper work of God in my life than cosmetic changes. And this has been a place where God is dealing with my discontent heart. It has been a laboratory for my soul, and this community at liberti* is a safe place to be a broken person who needs the mercy and love of Jesus.

2) Philadelphia is not such a bad place for kids. Yes, it is not really clean. Yep, not the safest place, either. But suburbia is also a dangerous place to raise children, for other reasons. My kids have exposure to the great cultural offerings of the city, are growing up in a place where they have to learn to deal with people very different from them, and have a lot of spiritual “aunts and uncles.” Not bad.

3) I want my life to count for something. I’m staying because I don’t just want to be a consumer of lifestyles. I don’t just want to shop for the best deal for my family. I choose to believe that by staying in one place, by putting down roots, by trying to build long-term relationships, my life and those of our family might have an influence-be it ever so small-on other lives and even on the great city of Philadelphia.

4) As C.S. Lewis says, “If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘Sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’ I know I am very fortunate in that respect.” [The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves]. We Americans re-arrange our lives around work. Isn’t friendship/community more valuable in the long run?

5) I recognize that the ability to “choose my own adventure” is actually a sign of my richness-the fact that I even have the opportunity to choose my own adventure shows that I have options, that I am rich. Most people don’t have such possibilities. Staying here is an identification with the poor. It is an admission of my spiritual poverty-that I really am here because God has brought us here to Philadelphia, and he will make it abundantly clear when and if we need to leave. But not ‘til then.

Finally, I am trying to live as if America were not my dream. As if this world were not my home. I’m trying hard to “look for a city whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10, 16). The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. And it will be a city beyond “our ability to ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). That’s my real home. This is just a taste. And with that, I can live and stay-even when things don’t work like they should. Even when life here is unsatisfying and even frustrating. Jesus promises it (John 14:2).

What about you?

* Liberti is an church in Philadelphia that is part of the Acts 29 Network.

http://www.acts29network.org/article/why-the-heck-do-i-live-in-philadelphia-