When I was a kid, Jimmy Carter was suspect.
He was under suspicion because he was a born-again Christian
who was involved in politics.
In our neck of the woods,
no one dared mention who they voted for,
but it was pretty obvious it was not Jimmy Carter.
The traveling preacher who came to our church told us to prepare for the end of the world because Jimmy Carter was bringing it. It was time to batten down the hatches of the ark because Carter, along with his drunk brother and rebellious sister who was a woman preacher, planned to destroy our religious liberty and take away our freedom of speech.
Around the same time, a man who supposedly worked at the Pentagon said he had Intel that all this was going to happen because two angels jumped in his car and said, “Jesus is coming soon” then they got out at the next exit to warn others. As I listened to this story, I had an adrenaline rush and icy chills ran down my spine. He also warned us that the Illuminati were in cahoots with Carter and the Pope had just sent Carter on a special mission to restore peace on earth, but it was all a ruse because sudden destruction was headed our way.
Back home, Daddy warned us, kids, to put all sin out of our lives. Then he read a quote about not making it to heaven if we left one forgotten sin unconfessed. I began to lay awake at night praying and trying to remember if there was one unconfessed sin that had alluded me. At night I begged Jesus to wait to come until after I could have sex and in the daytime, I gave up all my thirteen-year-old vices, which included eating no sugar, no longer chewing my fingernails and not reading the Sunday comics. My sisters relinquished these evils too, but my brother, well let’s just say my brother was a free thinker and he wasn’t interested in forming some animal-farm-type alliance, so he alternated between chewing his fingernails, eating penny candies and flaunting the colorful pages which were the only part of the newspaper I cared about. Of course, if I had read widely, I might have discovered Carter’s words and actions didn’t match the conspiracies I heard.
I looked up that traveling evangelist’s name on Facebook a while back, and he’s a realtor now. So the man who told us to sell our home and run for the hills is telling people to take out loans and buy houses four decades later. I think he was probably just a salesman all along.
Jimmy Carter, bless his soul didn’t live up to any of the conspiracies I heard about him. As an adult, I’ve read several of his books and he’s one of my favorite heroes. Carter, it turns out has more integrity than many of his critics.
We all laugh at the absurdity of those seventies conspiracies today. We might think we’ve learned a lesson, but even now conspiracies abound and one of the worst is the idea that true Christians will never speak out about politics.
In the last couple of years, it seems like our country has been circling the drain. I wish I had a dollar for every time a Christian told me to “Not talk about politics.” As best as I can tell they believe we are never to tell anyone who we voted for and not talk about the things that matter like black lives, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights or actually any human rights including that of crying babies who want to see their mothers.
Do I need to add that most of the people who warn me about talking about politics are long time republicans? They hold finance seminars and talk about how much we should be putting in the offering plate, but most show little interest in the homeless of their own city. Those who judge others for speaking of politics, often consider themselves “good” Christians. And since I am appalled, since I am paying attention, since I am outraged that babies are crying for their parents, I am considered a “bad” Christian. It’s all a mind-warp folks, and I can tell you this idea of sitting on a pedestal and not revealing who you voted for and shaming those who care about other people is not coming from Jesus. How do I know? Because I’ve read the gospels–especially the Sermon on the Mount.
I’m starting to wonder how many evangelicals read their Bible. Because if you look at the life of Jesus, he was a revolutionary and radical. It’s true his kingdom is not of this world, but even his advice to turn the other cheek was subversive. To turn the other cheek is to suggest the abuser hit you with the hand they wipe with, and this was a huge taboo and shame in the first-century culture. Jesus was both subtle and dramatic about his disagreements. He also called out the church leaders for being hypocrites and staged his own demonstration by overturning tables in the temple and driving out the money changers. It’s true this was church business, but Jesus came to do more than go along with the status quo. He ate with people that no one else would touch, and he taught us to love each other.
When it comes to how Jesus might take part in the political climate we are dealing with in America right now; I agree with those who say Jesus wouldn’t support a political party. This is not because he wants us to do nothing, but because no human agenda will ever represent his plans for humanity — not even Bernie Sanders, although he might be closer than most. But I think Jesus would still tell us to vote. He would tell us to vote for the best situation that we can imagine in order to help hurting people. For those who disagree, I offer up the Holocaust. Surely we are intended to vote against evil in any form.
Jesus is famous for saying, “Let the little children come to me.” He even went so far as to warn those who harm a little one saying it would be better to tie them to a millstone and throw them in the sea. Children are very high on Jesus’s priority list. And so are women. Look at all the women Jesus hung out with including prostitutes. He let Mary sit at his feet like a disciple. He spoke at length to Samaritan women, which reveals that shunning any race or people is not his style. Some of the things Jesus allowed women to do were scandalous.
And the people who were outcasts of society were not ignored by Jesus either. He touched and healed all who would let him. If we applied all these principles to our current national politics today, I believe Jesus would stand on the side of all marginalized people. He created and loves all of us whether we are male or female, white or brown, straight or gay. Jesus loves all people, and the one damn thing he has asked of us is the one thing many Christians seem to have forgotten — to love all people. If the church is so afraid of being political that it turns its face away from the plight of people who do not look like us, the salt has lost its savor.
The root word for war in the book of Revelation is polemic–which infers this universal war between God and his enemy was a political war–a war which started over a clash of ideas. God is no stranger to politics. Political arguments started in heaven and are still the cause of every war.
I had a conversation with a pastor the other day who said, “The church is supposed to be for all people.” He went on to say “If people say, ‘’I love the president! He’s a great president! They should be free to come to church.” I explained that I have no desire to shut anyone out of the church, but my concern is the church’s failure to call out evil by its right name. What I think this pastor might be overlooking is there is a big difference between being partisan and political. Silence is political too. Silence infers the church supports the current administration.
A huge reason the church needs to use its voice is that people in politics are using the Bible to justify their evil actions. If the Church wants to stand up for God’s character, it needs to counteract this misuse of scripture by current political figures. The United Methodist Church recently did this by calling out Jeff Sessions for using scripture to justify his racist agenda. If the church refuses to speak to the evil in politics, it will lose its prophetic voice.
As individuals, we have a part to play as well. If we can’t speak up for the “me too” movement because it’s too political, then how will we speak up in our church against a molester? If we vote for men who use and abuse women, then how will we discipline someone in the church who is having an affair? If we can’t say that black lives matter, then will can we encourage a diverse congregation where all people feel welcome? And if we can’t grant equality to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, then how will we love Jesus, because he tells us to look for his face in “the least of these?” (PS I don’t believe the LGBTQ are the least valuable in society — only that many white hetero Christians make themselves feel good by comparing themselves to our LGBTQ friends.)
The evangelical church, by bowing to the political agenda of saving more on taxes and telling women how to use their bodies, has downgraded Christianity to something that Jesus wouldn’t recognize. What good is a saved baby, if we legislate away all the resources the mother needs to raise her child? No, this is not Jesus’s agenda. It’s the agenda of men who will never have to face such a problem.
We can’t live in this world and not be political. Silence is taking a side too. Jesus was political. He spoke against the way people treated other people in his day, and he told us to love everyone. Many of these Christians crying out that we shouldn’t speak about politics are missing the point of why Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. Perhaps they’ve forgotten that Jesus is judging the nations and any church that goes along with the current agenda might be found wanting.
If you agree with this article, please share it and help us find more Christians who care about the people around us by doing what we can to make this nation a safer place for all people.