Monday, February 27, 2012

Is Loving Liberals a Solution?

To most evangelicals, it's an incontrovertible fact:

America is going to H-E-double-hockey-sticks in a hurry.

And the corollary to that assessment is that liberals are the reason.  They're America's enemy.

Of course, the truth is a bit more complicated than that.  Yes, America is facing some serious challenges to our global dominance and enviable quality of life.  Standards of morality in the United States continue to be falling ever lower.  And, at least according to conservative media personalities who claim to be experts on these things, recovering our country's future has been stymied by liberals in the Democratic party and their entitlement-enabling policies.

But even at least one recent Republican administration wasn't innocent when it came to inflamed partisan politics and inflating the size and role of government.  That's why the truth about America's problems isn't as easy as many conservatives assume it is.

I'm wondering, too, if we evangelicals aren't at least party to blame for even more of our problems.

Consider this inconvenient little passage from Matthew 5:43-48:

43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The inconvenience of this passage comes in its portrayal of a mindset that runs contrary to how most American evangelicals interpret our country's condition these days.  Even though we're supposed to, we don't love our enemies, do we? Especially not our political enemies. Particularly since the days of Bill Clinton's presidency, evangelicals have felt entitled to ruthlessly defame politicians who don't fit the narrow right-wing leadership mold.

Let's assume, at least for the sake of argument, that the Bill Clinton's, Nancy Pelosi's, and Barak Obama's of the Democratic party are genuine enemies to Christ's church.  How often do you and I pray for them?  If we really think they're persecuting us, then we're to be praying for them. 

Not only that, but we're supposed to love them.

Love?!  If there's one thing of which Rush Limbaugh, his peers, and many of their admirers in evangelical Christianity can never be accused, it's loving Democrats.  You know:  the people who are supposed to be our enemies.

You can't love with the level of vitriol and spite which gets slung about the national media each day by right wingers and evangelicals alike.  You can't love by basing voting records on party affiliation rather than individual policy merits.  You can't love by inciting your followers with partisan rhetoric.

Granted, we evangelicals benefit from living in a nation which affords us the ability to participate in how it's run.  However, as long as we're basing policy opinions on Biblical principles, we shouldn't be surprised - or even angry - when we encounter resistance from others who don't share our faith.  People who are, by definition, enemies of Christ, and therefore, our enemies, too.

To what extent might America's problems be due to the fact that God's people prefer getting snarky and belligerent towards our "enemies" than loving towards them?  Remember, life isn't about politics and comforts; it's about being perfect children of our Father in heaven.

And that word "perfect?"  That's not mine; that's Christ's.  And if you don't like this little passage from Matthew, then you're certainly not going to like the passage which immediately precedes it:

38 "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Doesn't that sound completely unreasonable?  But then, look at how well the partisan bickering with which we evangelicals have colluded has worked.

What might God be able to do through us for our country if and when we decide that Rush Limbaugh has it all wrong?  It's not just the liberal policies of our "enemy" that are harming the United States.  It's also the lack of love you and I show those with whom we disagree.

Through the apostle Paul, in Romans 12, God reinforces His Son's teachings in Matthew regarding how we're supposed to behave even to our political opponents:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
.. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil... 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Two million years from now, when you and I are just beginning our eternity in Heaven, which will be more important:  the fact that we gleefully belittled politicians with which we disagreed in 2012, or the fact that we earnestly sought to honor God by loving the politicians with which we had strong disagreements in 2012?

Yes, there's a lot that's wrong with America today.

And part of what's wrong is the way we're dealing with what's wrong.

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