Neither Jerry Falwell or Shane Clairborne, Trump or Hillary but Christ Alone
I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.- 1 Corinthian 1:10-17
I imagine most pastors are probably spending their week much like myself, juggling their hours to accommodate people’s request for counseling, visitations, yet encouraging volunteers who run a food pantry for the poor, lead studies and pray for the sick while also prepping to deliver a weekly sermon that hopefully will inspire their people to move from conforming to the patterns of this world to being transformed by the spirit. In the midst of this we pray and genuinely desire that people will have an intimate encounter with God.
Meanwhile in the media there brews a controversy between Rev Jerry Falwell, the President of Liberty University who is an avid Trump supporter linked to the right wing Republican party and the likes of Shane Clairborne, a Christian activist, who is the founder of a small “intentional community” in Philadelphia who may be likened to the millennial’s version of a Christian “hippie” who claims to represent the other side of evangelicalism not tethered to Falwell’s brand of the same.
If we were to believe the media reports about the kind of dynamics that are being played by these two sides we would come to believe that Christianity is at the verge of a civil war. However, as a pastor involved in the day to day engagement of ministry while you are engaged in "living" your life allow me to share those popular words spoken by police at an accident scene, "There's nothing to see here, move on." I urge the church, the ekklesia or the movement animated by the Spirit of God to continue on in their work and ignore the bombastic and politicized rhetoric that in the end fails to represent the vast majority of us. In the end, what we see is the polarization of our faith on a political spectrum. What emerges from such polarized confrontations? Distrust, rhetoric, oversimplification and mostly conflict and discord, and at worst - hate.
I consider myself an evangelical with strong conservative theological values. My values are defined by my understanding of scripture. Now, it so happens that there may be some positions within the Republican party that I support. At the same time, while I may not support the Democratic party in its totality for various positions it upholds I can support certain efforts, movements or decisions that are compassionate, more reflective of what it means to love my neighbor or to look out for the needs of the poor even if such policies may not totally benefit me. Regardless of the positions of either party, neither represents who I am because I am uniquely making decisions, as most other Americans, based on internal values and not political alignment or party talking points.
In the same way that many of us as Christians, attempt to refrain from so strictly aligning with any such political party I contend that the feud between Falwell and Clairborne is not reflective of the majority evangelical or Christian realm. I'm also dismayed that such disagreement by Christian entities is playing out in the hands of a secular and cynical media. The public arena, whether it's a march, protest, or public display of prayer, is not the place for any significant discussion on how we Christians should aim to get along.
Any such discussion should be done out of the purview of cameras and media microphones and conducted privately in prayer where both parties can confess sins and seek to restore one another in real reconciliation – not show each other up in the eyes of the world.
In the three years of ministry recorded by the apostles and Luke we have no indication that Jesus of Nazareth allowed the message about the Kingdom of God to be hijacked by the Sanhedrin, the Zealots or Rome. Does Jesus speak against some of these movements, yes but its always directly to them and when confronted by them. Jesus was not spewing a message against of any of these detractors in his time, he focused on the Good News of the Gospel. According to Mark he spent his days in Galilee healing, teaching and edifying the masses who would listen. He warned of false prophets by correctly teaching not engaging in media stunts, gossip or social relevancy.
I again reiterate that the sides being lined up to the right or the left represented by these public figures are not representative of the Kingdom of God concerned with the discipleship of believers.
Following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus the church grew exponentially and became a witness in Jerusalem and in the world. Political alliances rose and fell during those initial years and the church was not affiliated with any of them and yet prevailed.
Our allegiance in this journey is neither with the likes or politics of Jerry Falwell or Shane Clairborne but with Jesus Christ. When are we to understand that a political party or forum is a feeble attempt for us to feel important and relevant but has nothing to do with trusting in the enduring power of God's message. For anyone to claim that they have the “correct” manifestation of how the Gospel is to be proclaimed and lived out through secular alliances on the right or the left are by default corrupt in their perspective. Jesus Christ has established his Kingdom and that Kingdom is not monolithic or remotely confined to the borders of this great nation. We are not the saviors of the Christian movement, Jesus is.
Thus our allegiance has to be to the daily struggle of how we live life every day in accordance to the word of God. Our struggle is not of this world and thus I urge you my brothers and sisters to cease interpreting God’s will in your life or in our community through any political activity and instead genuinely live out your faith by loving God with all of your soul, your heart and mind and then love your neighbors as thyself.
Do this at the local level every day and God will take care of the universal strategy to make it happen at a larger scale. Get your eyes off of the patterns of this world, and be transformed by the spirit of God and learn to trust Him.