7 Reasons Christian Churches Must Play A Leadership Role in Post-Election America 2020
As we meet on this historic Sunday after the election of 2020, President-elect Biden has won a sufficient number of electoral college votes to become president.
If you are excited that your president-elect Biden won, I say congratulations. I hope you celebrate and pat yourself on the back. In that group, no one person deserves more praise than our own church vice president, Annabel Park, who broadcasts daily to activists how they can get involved. Annabel, please take a bow.
If you’re disappointed that President Trump lost today, and I know we have many in our community who feel this way, I suggest you take some down time. It’s okay to feel sad and frustrated. Give yourself a break from social media and news.
Trench Warfare Moment
Both sides in this election have something to be happy about, but all Americans should be concerned. What strikes me in the results is that there was very little movement from one side to the other, but instead both sides dug deeper into their own tribe for more votes. It’s clear the Donald Trump lost votes among Republicans who voted down ticket to help the GOP hold the Senate increase votes in the House. Republicans did well and Donald Trump did poorly, and our nation continues to be deeply divided.
Political tribes on each side have always want to wipe out their opposition in one crushing election so they would never have to think about them. This plan is not working for either team.
Today, Americans on both sides must decide if they want to keep digging deeper trenches, gaining a few yards today but losing a few in the next as the political carnage to our nation mounts.
Partisans I’m sure will choose the deeper trenches strategy—they always do. It makes them feel pure and right and requires no self-examination. There’s an entire business and media industry making millions of dollars on this model.
It doesn’t build the common good.
America has created an entire industry that makes lots of money by incentivizing hatred and grievance and polarization. The only way to address is to create a movement with equal power to bind us together. We must create a vision of the future together if not for ourselves for the next generation.
I want to focus less today on what partisans need to do going forward and ask what Christians can do to help heal the nation.
Christian Churches must play a leadership role in healing America. Here are seven reasons churches must take a leadership role in healing our nations.
1. Christian must welcome differences
Churches, like ours, are one of the last remaining diverse places. In our small group, we have attendees in their 80’s and in their 20’s. We have all races, sexual orientations, and political affiliations. We have strategically used our ministry to serve diverse religious groups that do not share our theology.
Annabel and I even started a podcast last year to discuss politics called Democracy in America with the overriding message that we don’t need to agree, we do need to love. Across the nation, churches remain as the last places people meet in person and many are not completely polarized.
2. Christians must love our enemies
One of the greatest differences of all the religions of the world are that Christians are called by Jesus to love our enemies. We largely ignore it, but it makes our faith unusual and it places a the challenge on each of us.
Jesus modeled this when he helped a Roman soldier and called tax collectors to follow him. His followers recruited Paul who had taken place in the stoning of the disciple Stephen.
Think now of the person or party or candidate you dislike the most, visualize that person. Our job as Christians is to love them and have empathy for them. This is not something we can do alone. It is something we can only do with the Lord’s help.
Week after week in my recent sermon series on sermons ministers don’t preach you’ve noticed a trend. Jesus is under attack by the rule keepers, the self-assured, the politically correct, the ideologues, the religious establishment.
Unlike the Old Testament, Jesus doesn’t give us a list of rules to follow. He says show compassion for others even those you hate. That’s the rule. You cannot say you love God and hate your sister. In the same way, we cannot say we love America, but hate Americans.
The natural diversity in churches is the perfect place to begin training ourselves as disciples to take the log out of our own eyes as we focus on the things we hate about others.
There has never been a more important time for followers of Jesus to tap into that spiritual power of Jesus in finding ways to love our enemies.
3. Christians must reflect
The first step in Christian spiritual growth is reflection. In the gospel today, Jesus teaches us again that we must use our anger at others to reflect on ourselves. Whoever we are and no matter how justified we feel we have an obligation as Christians to imagine those we dislike and transform that energy into self-reflection. When are we like that? Why do our views so offend people? What can I do to change?
But he warned all of us that as soon as we get on our high horse of self-righteous to stop and reflect on where we need to grow. In America, all of us need to grow in our empathy for those we don’t understand.
4. Christians must uphold the truth
This past week, I’ve spoken to many leading church leaders who have said it is time to speak about Truth.
The concept of truth has been lost in post-modern culture where what you feel is your truth and what I feel is my truth and there is not capital “T” truth. But that should only give us humility.
There are many true and different stories. That’s the paradox about following the truth.
For those who say that America is a long deep history of racism that exists today at all levels of society, I would say yes that’s true.
For those who say that they fear a secular progressive culture has it in for their church and wants to put them out of business, I would say yes that true.
For those who feel that the elites have created an economic system that benefits them financially while making it hard for others to even break into the workplace, I would say yes that’s true.
For those who fear mobs of protestors frighten them, I would say yes that’s true.
For those who fear racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay forces who threaten physical violence, I’d say yes that is true.
For those who say America was founded on an the original sin of slavery, I would say yes that’s true.
For those who say America is a beacon of light to the world for freedom, I would say yes that’s true.
There are many Americans. Many have different stories. Many hold a different part of the “T” truth. We must act with humility realizing that each person
5. Christians must forgive
Christians are taught to forgive others as we would be forgiven. We are commanded that to be forgiven we must forgive. I’ve preached before on a politics of forgiveness, but I’ll just add that for democracy to work we need to constantly forgive and be forgiven.
No one sums this up better than the author, Marilyn Robinson on Ezra Klein’s podcast who described “democracy itself” saying:
“If you see another person as evil, you are effectively blinded. If we cannot assume that other people arrive at the positions they hold in good faith, then we have no basis for reconciliation, for compromise, for consensus – all the things we lack right now. If you put people in a position in which your resistance to them is non-negotiable, as theirs is to you, then we have already stepped out of the realm of what is possible in a democratic culture.
I know this is a very hard thing to hear, because a lot of the things I hear now from people I disagree with, I would consider to be non-negotiable. That’s absolutely true. Nevertheless, we have to keep democracy alive. It’s a huge concession on my part to say that that certain things can’t be considered non-negotiable, and I’m working on that. But we have to be able to talk to each other or we’ve lost the whole thing.
I don’t think we have any other option than courtesy, generosity, and a strong scrutiny of our own ethical soundness. I think we have lost trust in one another. The only way to regain trust is to deserve it, which will require real generosity, real magnanimity, real self-restraint, and a kind of ethical soundness that makes us able to assume well of other people because they can assume well of us. I’m talking about a very difficult thing, but what are the options?
Democracy, if it works, is a moral achievement. Sometimes we have to take into account the necessity of participating in democracy by being the sort of citizen that other people need to believe we are.”
6. Christians understand the value of conflict
We won’t move through by avoiding conflict. When I started the series on difficult topics that ministers never speak on, one friend asked how long before you get fired. Others in our group have cheered me on thinking I was on thin ice. But the reality is many of you didn’t agree with what I said but all the feedback was thank you for even trying to discuss this challenging topic.
That says something wonderful about you, our teachings and the ability to take on tough topics and get beyond comfort. Our Christian mystical faith is uniquely ecumenical believing all faith paths are good and recognizing that many who don’t profess faith follow Jesus better than the rest of us.
Have you ever read a good book or watched a great movie that didn’t have conflict? We need conflict to grow.
Our spiritual teaching is that we are on this planet to grow spiritually and that happens through conflict.
7. Christian take a long view
We realize our time here is vital but there’s an eternal life in heaven that puts this in perspective. This past week I heard a great poem that sums up a Christian view of time. I’ve never met a person who didn’t care about children. We must ask ourselves if we really love children, why didn’t we do everything we could in our life and the life of the church to turn this around. Our work must start now.
I love this poem by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw called the Romero Prayer that sums up taking the long view.
Prophets of a Future Not Our Own
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
an enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Our church must be a prophet of our future. Christians, if we truly follow Jesus, have what it takes to help heal our nation.
I believe our church of the holy city must spend time, money, and energy imagining how we can be leaders at this critical time. We can help lead churches to build bridges.
Let me close with this reminder from President Lincoln:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”–Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, 1861