I had one thought about the hurt, anger and even violence during and after Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings: How does the church minister in such a time of rage?
If, as Andrew Breitbart observed, “politics is downstream from culture” then the Kavanaugh hearings proved that the divide between the right and the left in modern America isn’t just political. There’s a deeper rift that has to do with perspective, expectations and even with the immaterial parts of life that some call spiritual. What emerged as the hearings dragged on was already there and simply waiting for the right moment to erupt into plain view.
The sources of rage aren’t hard to find
The sources of the rage aren’t hard to find. Many were inflamed by the shift of the Supreme Court in the more conservative direction that Kavanaugh represents. But just as many celebrate that movement. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual abuse were polarizing in their own right. But while everyone took her testimony seriously, one side accepted it without question and demanded Kavanaugh be defeated in response while others questioned the lack of due process the Senate Committee seemed to be following by allowing her to speak. When you add the unrelenting opposition of President Trump by most of the opposition party, you have such a combustible mixture that the explosion of anger that followed Kavanaugh’s confirmation shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
But it did. I’ve never seen anything like the collection of protestors pounding and clawing at the doors of the Supreme Court as Judge Kavanaugh was being sworn in. Maybe it was staged, maybe not. But whatever led to it, the lesson was impossible to miss. We live in a day of rage.
Churches have to figure out how to deal with it. That’s not easy to do.
On the one hand, there’s the example of First Baptist Church, Dallas TX, and its pastor Robert Jeffords, a great church that’s made the decision to go full-bore in support of the President and align its gospel mission to fit his political agenda. For instance, the church’s choir anthem for their celebration of freedom service last July 4th was especially written for the occasion. It was called “Make America Great Again.” Their response to this moment in history has been to double down on the side of those in power.
On the other hand there are the many, more liberal churches that are havens for the #resistance movement and make no secret of their agenda to see the President discredited or even removed from office. They seem to be making the same mistake as FBC Dallas in substituting a political agenda for a biblical one, only from the opposite direction. Their reaction to the rage is to embrace it as critical to their own mission.
It’s not easy to do ministry today
And for the rest of us, we’re just trying to reach out to hurting people in a culture so filled with anger and stress that our message risks getting lost. It’s not easy to do ministry today.
We need to be very careful and intentional in how we lead our people to understand and act in these days. So here are some things to keep in mind:
• Keep the main thing the main thing. Churches can’t stick their heads in the sand about politics but our priority is always the gospel of Jesus. And the gospel isn’t so much concerned about governments as it is about Government, the Kingdom of God. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever,” the book of Revelation promises.
• Rage isn’t a Christian option. In fact, Galatians 5:19f speaks directly to the stark and clear choice we make when we choose to follow Jesus. We are to abandon “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries” and adopt a lifestyle instead characterized by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Today, it’s a profoundly counter-cultural stance to live in peace and love instead of giving into the anger coursing through our nation like a flood. But it also may be our most effectiveness witness.
• Keep politics and politicians at arm’s length. Not because many of them aren’t fervent believers—many of them are. But simply because their agenda of getting elected can’t be allowed to piggy-back off of our agenda, which is the Kingdom. We should continually remember the wisdom of the First Amendment (a Baptist contribution to the Bill of Rights) that when church and state and get entangled, it’s the church that loses. The direction some politicians and evangelical churches are taking that seeks to change the tax code so that non-profits like churches can endorse political candidates is not only oblivious to the realities of diverse congregations but also destructive to the distinctiveness of the church’s witness.
• Don’t be fooled. The long-term trajectory of our nation and culture—regardless of the respite we may have right now—is toward the rejection and alienation of the historic Christian faith. Whatever degree of political influence we seem to have right now won’t last. Our children and our grand-children will face challenges to their faith in ways we can’t imagine right now. If we fail to prepare them for that, we’re abandoning our responsibilities to them and to God.
Yes, we live in a day of rage. But the peace of Christ is real, present and available to every church that makes him and his gospel their priority.
Thanks to the Daily Wire for the picture at top.