Cal Jernigan – Senior Pastor
In a recent post I commented that I have found myself surprised (discouraged? disappointed?) by the degree of vitriol that is being spewed out in this election season. I am certainly not alone in noticing or commenting on this. Sadly, you hear it everywhere, but especially on our own news media. It’s gotten so bad that violence surrounding politics is now deemed by some to be “normal.” In some cases, it’s the politicians who are doing the inciting. What a disturbing state of affairs! Has it really come to this? Yes it has.
Mudslinging is certainly nothing new to politics. The practice has a long and storied history and these days just about everyone is aware that it’s “just the way things are done.” It’s what we’ve come to expect. But what’s most disturbing to note are two relatively new developments: 1) It’s not just the politicians who are now doing the slinging (their followers have been actively recruited into the fray), and 2) It’s no longer mud that is being slung. It’s far viler than mud. Mud washes off. This, I fear, won’t. This leaves a very dark stain.
Which brings me to what’s on my mind. How is one who is a follower of Christ supposed to respond/relate/react to all of this? Is this behavior “fair game” for believers, you know, when in Rome do as the Romans do, kind of thing? Is doing so appropriate behavior for those who would claim a relationship with the Christ who died on the cross? Is the world of “politics” beyond the limits and expectations of Christian ethical behavior and standards?
I ask this for two specific reasons. The first is what made our local news this past weekend. For the first time in its history, The Arizona Republic gave its endorsement to the democratic presidential nominee. This is something they have never done in their 125-year-old history. This is something to note, to be certain, and it indeed says something about the changing political landscape of Arizona. But this wasn’t the most noteworthy part of the story. What was far more eye opening was the reaction to it by some. Now let’s be clear, whether you or I like it or not, the Republic has the freedom to endorse whomever they wish. But what followed the giving of that endorsement were genuine and legitimate death threats to their staff. They were told to watch their backs. They were threatened with having their homes burned down to the ground. Threats were given which were reminiscent of what happened to the reporter Don Bolles in the 70’s (his car was rigged with a bomb and he was killed). Then the story got really ugly… the name of Jesus was brought into the conflict. Apparently the reporters were told that Jesus was going to judge them all and he was going to send the whole bunch of them to hell, or so they were informed. Would “non-Christ followers” say things like this? No, this is an “inside” job. Sadly, Jesus is presented to be as crazy as some of his followers.
So Christians are now associated with all of this?
Which brings me to the second thing I want reference. While just as odious, this is of a far more personal nature. I am referring to the way those who are associated with the name of Jesus are using their voices to communicate their thoughts and displeasure regarding both politics and politicians. I know of this first hand because part of the assault has been aimed at me, my family, and my church. Yeah, this one is personal.
Let me say loud and clear, we are all given the right to disagree with what we disagree with. No problem there. I am glad we are given the freedom to think and to express our thoughts. I love this about our country. I am all for free speech…
But not Christian hate speech. No, not that. Ever.
As I have observed, read, and heard, I’ve come to the conclusion that we must have decided we have immunity from accountability to God when it comes to such things. It seems we have concluded we can say what we want, as biting as we want, as often as we want, as viciously as we want with no personal consequences. We must have decided all political involvement is outside of the realm of our faith.
And this is where the problem lies. This is where we are wrong. This is where we need to slow down, take a pause, recalibrate our spiritual gyroscopes, and regain our bearings.
Let me remind you of a few words Jesus uttered. They’re not really all that tactful. They are his, though.
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
This incredibly sobering statement comes just after another very disturbing thing Jesus said…
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” Matthew 12:35
Our mouths reveal (betray?) what our hearts are all about. What they are really all about. Our words are the great revealer of reality. The story of our heart is told in our words.
I want to suggest something that I plead with you to ponder deeply.
The more certain you are of your convictions, the less threatened you are by opposing points of view. A contentious response is always a dead giveaway of a deep insecurity.
We will not all agree on all matters we are faced with. Some people will agree with you, and you with them. Some will disagree…and you with them.
Never allow a disagreement over politics or any other debated subject prompt you or goad you into betraying the greater cause of your life… being an ambassador for God. And yes, this applies to me as well.
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“Always let others see you behaving properly, even though they may still accuse you of doing wrong. Then on the day of judgment, they will honor God by telling the good things they saw you do.” 1 Peter 2:12 CEV