Archives For politics

Mandy and I have been watching the Egyptian political crisis with extraordinary interest. Her name is printed on a plane ticket scheduled to leave all too shortly for this volatile area of the world, where military tanks roam the streets like minivans as protesters violently clash with the Mubarak regime.

Surreal.

When I think of Egypt, my mind effortlessly conjures up images of camels, pyramids, and Yule Brenner. But my wife is (was?) heading there to encounter the effects of extreme poverty. To work with people who have literally built a community among the city trash dumps. (This story may help you re-frame the romanticism and understand a small piece of the unrest).

Now it appears the only Egyptian flights any Americans will be taking are out of the country. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Admittedly, I probably understand as much about the Egyptian political environment as I do about fixing my furnace, and the last thing we need is another ignorant American spouting his opinions about a global crisis he only thinks he understands.

But something hit me square in the face as I watch this unfold. Something that hits close to home. In me.

Control, fear, and manipulation won’t work forever.

Yet our human nature is to control. To demand our way. To gain power and then preserve it. To manipulate the behavior of others from the outside-in.

We see it in governments. In businesses. In churches. In families. In every kind of human interaction.

What we’re watching unfold in Egypt is ugly. It makes us angry. And rightly so. But at its root is something that resides in us all. A sinful desire to hold all the marbles.

Which is probably why Jesus’ example is all the more mind blowing. That the Son of God, at the pinnacle of His earthly influence, would give up His power. Lay down His life. Relinquish control. In fact, it was in letting go of Himself that He actually changed the world forever.

Maybe Mubarak should learn a little something from Jesus.

Maybe I should, too.

I don’t think I was the only Christian to bristle at conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s strong statements this past week against churches that support, or even use the term, social justice.

“I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words [for Communism and Nazism]. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”
Glenn Beck

I’m a white, middle-class, suburban-raised, Evangelical christian, so you can quickly deduce toward which side of the political aisle I naturally lean.  And while I do understand what’s at the core of Mr. Beck’s concerns, I think he’s wrong.  Or at best misinformed. Although I’m sure I could never out-argue a pundit of his wit and verbal capacity, I at least want to share my own personal awakening as it pertains to the issue of social justice.

People are broken.  And spiritual leaders, unfortunately far too often, fall victim to using their influence to manipulate God-fearing people towards their own human, political perspectives. There’s no doubt that some pastors push social justice, and the ultimate “God-said” trump card, to promote liberal personal agendas.

But so do conservatives pastors.

And rather than digging for God’s truth, we use Him as as circumstantial support for our selfish motivations.  We form sides aimed at protecting our way of life, rather than submitting to The Way that is greater.

Here’s the (probably) overly-simplified way I see it:  Conservatives desire to preserve personal freedom.  Liberals wants to mandate universal fairness. And depending on which side of the equation benefits us most, we go to battle.  But what if there’s another way? A third option?

The Bible unfolds God’s perspective, His ideals, His Kingdom. The way I read it, God is all about freedom and all about fairness. The catch?  What happens when free people willfully choose to use their freedom to serve one another?

“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” (Gal. 5:13-15 MSG)

Mandated justice never works. It spirals towards corruption. Even God Himself doesn’t mandate we follow Him (without choice there is no love).  That’s why I love America, because this freedom gives us unbridled opportunity to live out God’s Kingdom calling.  But only if we choose it.  When we willfully submit to serve, we truly become free. We willfully begin to make right the injustices that permeate the world.

Let’s be clear, the Kingdom of God is certainly not only about social justice (if it were, every secular Hollywood mogul and rock star would have achieved sainthood).  But to ignore the justice thread and call to serve the poor woven throughout Scripture is plain ignorance. Dangerous.  Incomplete.  A puzzle with missing pieces.  A stool with missing legs.

So here’s the ultimate question:  Are we building God’s Kingdom or just fighting to preserve a way of life? What are you willfully submitting to?

I don’t always like answering that one either, but it’s worth asking.