I’m a fan of politics. I love reading political news, opinion pieces, and wrestling thoughtfully with the real issues of our day. But I’ve noticed something over the past few years, and that is a growing rise in hateful and inflammatory rhetoric. The comments on many of the political/current events articles I read end up turning into an endless array of president bashing posts and calls to revolution in order to restore the US to its supposed glory days. And to top it all off (not to mention the thing that irritates me to no end), most of the posts have some type of reference to God, and or Jesus, in them. I started to wonder then, because I had seen the same thing during the Bush administration (only the posts were coming from the other side of the aisle), why was there was so much fearful and hateful rhetoric, especially from Christians? Why were people so angry about all this stuff? So I began to think back into my own life, what happens when I get angry? What are the root causes of this anger and what do I do to quell those feelings?
Well, if I’m brazenly honest, when I get angry it’s usually because something deep down is causing me to be stressed out, and usually whatever is causing me to be stressed out is some type of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of dying, fear of not having enough finances, fear for my physical safety, so basically, fear. Something deep inside stresses me out so much that my mind becomes clouded with anger at whatever person, object, or thing I believe is causing my discomfort, or allowing it to happen . But, I will argue that this is not the way that us Christians, are supposed to live. So I began to look at many of the posts and many of the arguments that I saw online, and it seems that there’s one central theme to almost all of them, and that seems to be that people are afraid of losing their way of life. They’re afraid of losing the comfort that they have grown accustomed to. And honestly, that’s completely understandable! But, I think that as Christians we should maybe have a greater perspective on the world and our life than just our present comfort. In fact I think as an American church we’ve forgotten some of the great meanings behind passages of scripture found in books like Revelation, Hebrews, and Acts. For example, the Christians that Revelation was written to were suffering under the persecutions of Nero and other Roman leaders. It was written to say that while this life may have joys and pleasures, heartaches and depressions, there is one coming who will not only destroy and defeat all pain and sorrow, but who will restore, redeem, and resurrect our physical world and bodies and universe, into something new and so good that we are told one day there is better than a thousand elsewhere. So those under this persecution could look towards a hope that was bigger than the terrible circumstances they found themselves in.
We find in Hebrews chapter 11 stories of Biblical figures who were,
“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11: 35-38, ESV)
And then in Acts (yeah, I’m a Pentecostal, I had to go there) we see so many stories of Paul and other early Christian leaders escaping death, prison, and just generally bad situations. Sometimes Christians were sent to prison, or accused of doing something wrong, or shipwrecked, or being sent to Prison, or surviving snake bites, etc… And I mean Paul wrote many of his letters from a prison cell in Rome, he did not live a “cushy nerf life.”
So what am I saying through all of this? Well first off, I am saying that I think churches need to preach a little more about perspective. Now, I am not advocating that we remove ourselves from public discourse or stop having a righteous anger over the great injustices in this world (take abortion for an example), but I think that through a proper kingdom based perspective, we can reframe our arguments in public discourse and use less fearful and hateful rhetoric, realizing that this world is not final, and in fact this country is not final. We are not called to defend a posh and comfortable American life. And that life sure is nice, don’t get me wrong. I love being able to wake up on a Saturday morning, play video games, go out and get coffee, and hang out with friends in the afternoon, grab some dinner at a trendy downtown restaurant, and end the night with a good movie from Redbox or on Netflix. But this is not what God has called us to defend. God has asked us in fact to lay all these things aside. So I think that if we remember some of these base principles next time we hear something about the government coming for us, or some conspiracy to take our rights away, let’s stop for just a moment and consider it reasonably. Let’s respond with peace and in a well thought out manner: because the Kingdom of God is not concerned with the success or failure of any one nation. God can continue to work whether Stalin is in charge or George Washington is in charge. We must keep our sights on this fact that God is in control in any and all situations. Christ has called us not to defend or to seek after a comfortable life but to seek after Him and His kingdom.
Our mindset should be eternally focused. Not so much that we lose sight of helping those in need in the present, but in fact so eternally minded that all we want to do is bring forth the real Kingdom of God into the here and now by loving the poor, helping the widows, and providing for the orphans and aliens. Again, I want to make sure that what I am saying is not misconstrued as me advocating an isolationist or non-politically active mindset. On the contrary I love politics (as I mentioned earlier) and I think that Christians should be involved in their community and world. But I just think that our perspective should be larger and greater than just focusing about our one lone country or even time period that we exist in. God is God throughout this time and throughout all time. No matter what happens on this planet, come hell or high-water, God will still always be God. And yes, we should stand up for truth and justice when at all possible, but it should be done in a way that always keeps the kingdom of God in mind and in perspective, not the nation of America, China, Japan, Australia, or any other country (however much we think that their political system or economy aligns with scripture).
Ultimately, if we profess Christ as King, we are citizens of heaven and under an economy of grace, and it is that country which we truly serve, and I believe with that in mind we can approach a national debate on health care, immigration reform, gay marriage, and whatever else we’re discussing at the time, in a much more reasonable light. We should absolutely stay away from conspiracy theories and vindictive and fearful language/rhetoric because we should be a people of peace and of confidence. Christ has won the victory, and we can discuss anything knowing full well that whatever happens, or whatever anyone says, God is still in control.
Jesse R. Segrist earned a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Vanguard University and an M.A. in Applied Anthropology from Macquarie University (Australia). He is currently pursuing an M.Div at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, MO. He also works full time as a Word Processor at the Assemblies of God World Missions and hopes to one day work in the fields of diplomacy and international Christian missions in Washington D.C. Follow him in the twittersphere @JRSegrist.