Moving toward Hope
- Ferguson, MO.
- Confederate Flag license plates in Texas
- Indiana Religious Freedom Bills
- Arkansas’ Prohibition of Anti-Discrimination Ordinances –
All flash points in a growing battle over the issues of racial injustice, insensitivity, and the LGBT discrimination. A battle that has created a polarized reactionary environment that I’m fearful may lead many well-meaning Christians into adopting a stance that serves a social conservative agenda without fully measuring that agenda in contrast to the cause of Christ.
I’m a southern white man and a proud member of a Southern Baptist Church. My voting record leans notably Republican but admittedly this is often due to the lack of a more principled option. I’m also an egregious sinner that treads paths of unconsidered pride and selfishness naturally. So I speak as neither the antidote or an alien to these ailments a the intersection of conservative policy and Christian theology.
I’m simply trying to ask the question: Are my actions and words surrendering to the glory of God and advancing hope to a dying world?
Recently both Arkansas and Indiana have passed laws that seem geared to protecting people of faith if they choose to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual identity or lifestyle (LGBT). At first glance it may seem foregone that Christian’s should support such measures but I ask you to pause an consider discrimination in the light of actions and heart of Christ.
Christ repeatedly challenged the moral norms of his day by seeking out not the well-heeled religious folks but rather the scoundrels and out-casts. Long before he was a popular children’s church song Zacchaeus was the town pariah and a blatant thief. Any morally upright person was more than justified in shunning him. Yet, when Jesus encounters Zacchaeus he says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5 ESV).
Not only did Christ stop and do the unthinkable by speaking to Zacchaeus he caused a scandal by going to this man’s house. To be sure he didn’t excuse or endorse the actions of Zacchaeus but he did the exact opposite of discriminating against him. He went toward him.
That direction is a direct challenge to any reaction that would relationally stiff-arm someone due to their position as a scoundrel. For we are all scoundrels.
To simplify the question: How do I bring glory to God as I interact with every single human?
Yes, but what about legal protection
So what of the risk of legal persecution of someone taking a moral stance regarding their faith?
I certainly don’t discount such a possibility. In fact, a biblical worldview indicates more of this is on its way in coming decades. (Revelation doesn’t exactly read like a Disney cruise brochure but that’s okay because I know how the book ends.)
The question for me is, where am I placing my trust? I can by no means say that God is against laws that protect his servants but history says that if I’m placing my trust there I’ll be sorely disappointed. When I examine the persecution and flourishing of the early church and that most of you have at least heard the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer then I must entertain the uncomfortable notion that God may allow persecution to accomplish his purposes. Perhaps my faith shouldn’t be in the words of legal protection but rather rooted in the Word of God.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)
I’d be remiss to not mention the my entire salvation depends upon the unjust persecution of Jesus Christ.
The question: Am I more concerned with self-preservation and security than I am with following after Christ?
(Yeah, I don’t much care for that question either.)
Hope not Hate
[Disclaimer: I believe the issues surrounding LGTB discrimination and that or racism are VERY different issues. I should have broken these into separate posts. However, my mind an spirit has been greatly troubled and all these words have spilled out over recent days. So please forgive me for writing about both together.]
I’m woefully ignorant about many of the challenges that my black brother’s and sisters face in today’s society but I’m grateful for dear friends and exemplary Christian Pastors that God has used to peel back my naivete in recent years. Yet even with my limited understanding of the racism they face I found myself flinching at posts and comments from Christian white people in the days following the Ferguson shooting and subsequent protests.
Regardless of the facts and or fault in such a tragic situation I feel a divine responsibility to confront injustice. Not to be dismissive or hostile. Even a willingness to accept our own ignorance and listen is a starting point.
The question: What does loving my neighbor look like?
Which brings me to the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Texas who are currently asking, under the premise of free speech, to put a Confederate flag on a license plate.
Bless their hearts.
Before I continue let it be known I spent a good number of years as a Civil War reenactor (Grey & Blue mind you and relished every moment). I have been invited 3 times to join the SCV in Arkansas and I have the documentation of family records to have my membership approved. I’ve got kinfolk with their names etched in a wall in Chickamauga, GA and I can sing the words of the “Bonnie Blue Flag” from heart. So if you’d care to attack my love for the South with all her blemishes and bruises you’d better pack a lunch. You’ll need it.
My experience with the Illegitimate Sons of the Confederacy (my PG approved moniker) has greatly jaded my view and unfortunately their actions continue to bear out my prejudice against them. Honestly, for the SCV to have any shred of legitimacy in heritage preservation they would lobby for using the actual flag of the C.S.A., pictured below. To be clear I would not support that measure either. So I’ll try to abbreviate my derision of this organization that continues to be an ignorant stain on Southern Heritage and return to the issue of faith.
As a Christian standing in line at a the Texas DMV considering a confederate flag license plate how can I ignore that I might unnecessarily offend and also limit my usefulness as a vessel of hope and mercy? I can just see a Baptist church with a parking lot full of trucks with confederate flags praying over how to reach their community.
The question: Whom do I love more? Me or them?
I echo the words of Dr. Moore (a white Baptist)
— ERLC (@ERLC) March 26, 2015
And from the Apostle Paul,
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NLT)
Advancing a Higher Agenda
Brothers and Sisters I do not propose that these thoughts should lead to a single or simple answer nor be used as a litmus test. I just want to take a moment and ask sincere questions of myself and my brother’s and sisters.
My goal is to challenge ourselves to consider, to pray, to seek wisdom and above all else seek to advance only one agenda: that of the kingdom of God.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)