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With the world coming apart, the church still must be the church

I haven’t said much during this week following the violence in Charlottesville. I have followed the rhetoric on social media and have been saddened by what we have become. But I felt it unwise to say anything, even if it meant not expressing sadness. In truth, I really don’t know what to say that wouldn’t merely contribute to the growing cesspool that is social media. I have no idea how to fix this ugliness.

But my heart is churning.

Although I lean conservative, I am finding it impossible to take sides. I cannot, in the name of Jesus, stand with the white nationalist groups. Their ideology is repulsive and un-Christlike. Any attempts to hijack the name of Christ to their cause is an abomination. And nothing could justify the violence done.

On the other hand, I have watched the violence, intimidation, and hate perpetrated by the Antifa movement over the last several months, and also despise what they stand for. Using violence and silencing people who don’t agree with you isn’t the best way to persuade. Oppression used in the name of fighting oppression is still oppression.

Both groups are two sides of the extremist coin, one that historically never goes well. If either side truly gets their way, freedom ceases to exist. There seems to be no heroes, no “good guys.” Both sides effectively dehumanizes the other so successfully that when one group physically attacks the other, it becomes nearly impossible to express any kind of grief or outrage—even when an individual’s life is tragically snuffed out.

It is imperative to remember the person who was killed as a person and call out the violence against her for what it was—evil.

It is also imperative, as Christ-followers, to not allow ourselves to take sides. Both the Evangelical Right and Progressives are making the exact same mistake: instead of calling out the evil of the extremes for what it is, we are minimizing, justifying, or ignoring the evil if it comes out of the narrative with which we identify. We sacrifice our prophetic voice in the name of what we consider the “greater good.”

Karl Barth once said, “When the church weds itself to the spirit of the age, it will find itself a widow in the next.” Our nation, and even our church itself, is experiencing a serious identity crisis. We don’t know who we are anymore. We must not give in to the temptation to side with one extreme or the other.

Church, in the name of Jesus, be the church.

We are not the church if we allow our prophetic voice to fall under the submission of a political cause or politician. We are not the church if we justify or minimize evil acts from either extreme of the political spectrum. We are not the church if we are selective in our outrage. We are not the church if we liken the kingdom of God to any political cause. We are not the church if we take any side to the left and right extremisms for the cause of the “greater good” no matter how we define it.

We must be the church. We are the church when we are a church of love, loving and showing that love in the face of all forms of extremism. We are the church only when Jesus is our cause, not a political side (note: there is not a single political cause worth fighting for can fully represent the Kingdom of God). We are the church only when we are a church of prayer. We are the church only when we sacrifice our political voice at the expense of conservatism or liberalism. We are the church only when we look to Jesus as the answer and not some political cause.

We don’t know what this nation will look like if or when we ever solve this identity crisis. But rest assured that no matter how it turns out, Barth’s warning is accurate: if we allow our churches to wed to the spirit of the age—whether political conservativism or progressivism, then the entire body of Christ will be a widow in the years to come.

That is something we cannot allow to happen.

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One Comment

  1. I almost gave up looking for this comment box, thinking that you must have decided to remove the comment option for this post. Took a bit too much scrolling to get here, I think and may be the reason comments are sprse. Sigh. Not that a critique on your blog arrangement is the reason I’m here.

    My real purpose is to thank you for this post! I, too, have been grieved by what I saw on TV and have read on facebook. I appreciate this post because you did not fixate on whether or not rebel monuments should stay or go. The fact is–that “rally” was not about removing Gen. Lee’s statue; it was simply a front to allow the organizers to showcase their message and terrorize (or inflame) observers. How do I know this rally had nothing to do with the Civil War? Because we saw these people marching thru the streets and onto a small campus, in the dark, carrying torches, and shouting “Jews will not replace us.” The Civil War and Gen Lee were not about Jews. This demonstration was about spreading a message of superiority and instilling fear–nothing else.

    All of that to say, I have been most troubled by the conservative Christians who so align themselves with Pres. Trump that they can’t see the reality of what’s happening here. They are posting messages about people trying to “erase history” and defending the president and stating that slavery doesn’t exist today, so move on, among other things.. (Of course, slavery does exist today, but that’s not for this comment.)

    many Christians are failing to see that this is the work of the evil on. He was not erased by WW II. He is still embedding his message…and he is embedding it in the hearts and minds of US citizens. It will end no better on this soil, in this decade, than it did then–unless the church rises up and delivers the message of the church. Christ is Lord and His Words are the ones to be followed.

    Ahh, sorry for the length and rantishness of this. Delete after you read it, if you like. I’d understand.


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