It is hardly news to note that America’s political public square is less than civil. We may use different terms to describe the status quo, but words like shrill, unkind, combative, and argumentative are often invoked. I know enough history to realize this is not an entirely novel phenomenon. It seems that people have long been deeply exercised over politics, and have reflected that in their rhetoric. And I know enough of Holy Scripture to be convinced that our rhetoric as Christians—about politics and anything else—comes under Christ’s Lordship.
Recently I noticed an acquaintance—in Facebook’s terminology, a “friend”—had under “Likes and Interests” clicked on:
O.B.A.M.A. (One Big Ass Mistake, America)
About which I offer a few reflections.
1. Let’s keep this in perspective--it’s just a click on Facebook. True enough and so easy to do that many clicks are done with minimal reflection. As Christians, however, we do not believe that the ease in doing something removes our responsibility for having done it. And for blessing or for curse, our Facebook profile is a public statement before a watching world.
2. Is this not a direct violation of Scripture? “Show proper respect to everyone,” St Peter instructs us, “fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). The emperor in power when the apostle penned these words was Nero. We may not like a particular President or agree with his policies but we are forbidden to be dismissive or disrespectful. Bible believing Christians would be a lot more believable if they actually took their Bibles seriously.
3. One of the great errors of our day is the marriage of conservative ideology and evangelical Christianity. Perhaps you find that this political ideology most closely matches your convictions as a Christian. Even so, we must always be careful that political convictions not seem to become an aspect of the gospel. Talk to young adults who are non-Christians and a significant number are unwilling to seriously consider the claims of Christian faith because they cannot imagine voting Republican. The gospel is faith in Christ, not faith in Christ and conservatism. Regardless of the arguments in favor of conservatism, this state of affairs amounts to nothing less than adding to the gospel, of placing a (political) stumbling block in front of non-Christians hearing the good news of Christ. How we touch on politics—even on Facebook—reflects intimately on how a watching world hears our gospel.
4. The gospel, like the Scriptures themselves, begins with Creation. And Creation teaches us that all people are made in God’s image. All people. Including President Obama and those who voted for Obama. This is not merely a poor application of this article of faith it is a practical denial of it.
5. The fact that people are made in God’s image means we Christians should take the lead in demonstrating civility in the public square. To the extent we don’t, to that extent we are being conformed to a fallen world, squeezed into its mold (see Romans 12:1-2).
May we as Christians live in the political arena as followers of Christ, demonstrating a proper respect for each person as a creature made in God’s image. May our clicks on Facebook be thoughtful demonstrations of lives lived intentionally. And as Os Guinness argues so convincingly in The Case For Civility, may we exhibit civility, even in politics, to the glory of the One we serve as King who loved his enemies unto death.