Categories
Commentary

Why I’m Politically Homeless

I’m looking for America
I’m looking for a place to breathe in
A place I could call my home
I’m looking for America
I’m looking for the land of freedom
A place I can call my own

America who are you?
Am I asking for too much
America who are you?
Has your dream become out of touch
America who are you?
Do you get what you deserve
Between the violence and entitlements
Which nation do you serve?

These lyrics from the song “Looking for America” by Switchfoot and Lecrae encapsulate the feelings of many young Christians in America. We’ve felt this for a while. But murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests, riots, tensions, politicizing in DC, and media mess have brought it to the forefront.

We are looking for America. The idea of America, where all people truly are equal and free. Not just white ones. Where all people–particularly black people–have the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

And while many of us were raised to find it in one of the two political parties, we haven’t found it yet. We’re politically homeless. And sometimes, it feels like we are “asking for too much.”

It’s not just young Christians who feel this way, of course. A couple years ago, Tim Keller (an old, white pastor for those who don’t know) wrote in the New York Times that all Christians do not (or should not) fit into a two-party political system.

He exposes the problem of “package deal ethics,” as British ethicist James Mumford calls it. This means that a party says you can’t work with them if you don’t adopt all of their positions. So, it puts pressure on Christians to join one party or the other. And it prevents Christians from doing what is right in the name of politics. Like work to bring racial justice to our nation.

I’ve used another term for this problem in my conversations with friends: guilty by association. We think if we associate with anyone on one issue, we are guilty of siding with them on every other issue.

But that’s a lie from the pit of hell.

Keller gives a helpful example, “Following both the Bible and the early church, Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family. One of those views seems liberal and the other looks oppressively conservative. The historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.”

Do you feel that tension?

I do. If I agree with a perspective or policy advocated by a Democrat, many Christians would (wrongly) assume I am “adopting the whole package.” And essentially forsaking the gospel itself!

That’s quite an oversimplification. And Justin Giboney recently tweeted something that shatters this fallacy to pieces: “Being conservative or progressive on every single issue is intellectually lazy & unfaithful…Make conservatism sympathize & pursue racial justice. Make progressivism acknowledge absolute truth & the sanctity of life.”

As ones who believe that Jesus is all and over all, and that our allegiance to him is infinitely more important than political affiliation, we should be leading the way. This should make the most sense to us. Our political convictions and ideas should be the most robust and nuanced. And it should cause both sides of the aisle find us attractive or repulsive at different moments.

This will leave us politically homeless. But this is the way of Jesus.

Categories
Life

“I hate all your show…”

In Isaiah 1:11-17, God scolds his children for their external, self-righteous, neat-nick religion.  Read the passage.  It will be convicting, I promise. If we can paraphrase, God basically says:

Stop going to church! Stop singing! Stop your Sunday school classes and your Wednesday night Bible studies. It all drives me crazy! And stop praying, too, because I’m going to stop listening. Your prayers are an abomination to my ears. I’ve had enough of your religion. You need to learn justice, mercy, and goodness.

That is quite an indictment, but that’s how God feels towards fake religion. If your worship is rooted in self and reputation and not Christ, then God says, “I hate it.”  If you aren’t familiar with the rest of Isaiah (which some scholars call “the fifth gospel”), you would probably think that God is a cranky old man who loves making life miserable for human beings. Joyfully, that is not the case. In verse 18, God says, “You repent, and even though your sin stains your life like blood stains clothes, I will make you white as snow.”  Ultimately, this is fulfilled in Jesus, who shed his blood on the cross in our place.

Jon Foreman, in one of his solo projects, records a song called “Instead Of A Show” about this passage.  Foreman writes:

I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals…

…Your eyes are closed when you’re praying
You sing right along with the band
You shine up your shoes for services
There’s blood on your hands

I have read comments on this song on blogs and people have said things similar to: “He’s expressing what he has seen in the church and in the lives of Christians.”  One comment said this: “Is Foreman fed up of christian bands singing vanilla pop so records appeal to the vast majority? Is he pulling back the facades to worship from the heart — and not a rehearsed performance?”

These kinds of comments frustrate me.  From listening to Foreman’s other songs, both solo and with Switchfoot, I don’t get the feeling that Foreman is pointing his finger at Christians. I don’t think he’s fed up with Christianity.  I don’t think he’s tired of the Church, Jesus’ beloved Bride.

I think he’s pointing his finger at himself. I think Jon Foreman is fed up with Jon Foreman.

When I listen to this song, and most of Foreman’s music, and especially when I read the Bible, I see my own sinful self. And when I don’t see my own sinful self? Then I need to reflect, confess, and repent to God instead of pointing at and blaming other people. When Foreman sings, “I hate all your show.  I hate all your show,”  I think he’s reminding his soul that God is telling him, through Isaiah, “Jon, don’t be religious. Don’t be a Pharisee. Don’t play church. Don’t worship publicly if you never worship me privately. That makes me want to vomit.”

True Christians don’t sing about how religious and plastic and messed up everyone else is. Don’t get me wrong: there is a place for calling out sin. But we first preach to our own souls.  True Christians sing about their own sins and tendencies toward fake religion, and the greatness of a Savior who takes all of their blood-stained rags and gives them robes of righteousness because of the blood he shed.

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Listen to “Instead Of A Show” by Jon Foreman.