Tweets, Protests, and the Christian’s Response
It was 1999. I had just finished a viewing of M. Night Shyamalan’s first movie The Sixth Sense. Throughout the film Bruce Willis and Haley Joel had dropped hints at the eye-popping point of the story, but most viewers – like myself – were so caught up in the varying plot-line distractions and tormented characters that when the knee-buckling revelation arrived we were in fact gobsmacked. As I strolled from the theatre I remember feeling the pangs of both astonishment and anger. Astonishment at the brilliant, twisting narrative I had observed; and anger that I had been juked…that I hadn’t tuned into the clues…that I had missed the entire point.
The past week has been a frenzy of our President tweeting, players protesting, ignorance reigning, and Christians choosing sides. I wish I could say that the madness that has raged and frankly the stupidity that I have seen on all sides is alarming, but the disunifying rhetoric and actions of celebrities, the media, athletes and politicians have become sadly predictable. What is alarming is the response of the Christian community.
While the country tosses about in social upheaval, followers of Jesus are increasingly buying into the plot-line distractions and missing the main point. I hear ridiculous declarations seemingly coat-tailing off of media-promulgation, social acceptance, or personal bias. The cultural is winning. Christians are crumbling. So let’s examine our response.
This morning I broke my own rule and posted a simple yet perhaps controversial statement on one of my social media accounts. I did this because I saw Christians behaving badly while other believers stumbled about attempting to find the right response or hid from the cultural firestorm completely. My statement: I am a Christian. I am a patriot. The two are not the same but neither must they exist in opposition. After ten minutes and a couple responses I decided to remove the post. This was not because my position was indefensible but rather because I did not desire to deal calmly and rationally with the emotional and perhaps irrational barrage that was almost certainly to follow.
So, in an effort to instruct you, my friends, on how to respond in the face of this colossal chaos, I will unpack this declaration.
I am a Christian. For the true Christ-follower this reality always comes first. We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and our devotion and loyalty are above all others to our King. The Gospel is the only lasting answer to the questions of unity and peace. Jesus died and rose to defeat all sin including racism, white supremacy, bigotry, police brutality, hatred towards police, and false accusation. Do not let Trump, Kaepernick, ESPN, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the left, the right, or some uninformed, over-zealous, personal-ax-grinding friend on social media serve as a plot diversion. Our deepest allegiance is to Jesus. He is our creed. He is our peace. He is the only hope for this world. In this moment where eyes are watching and ears are listing, put Christ on display and speak of His gospel with absolute conviction and increased frequency. It’s what your soul and the souls of others need to hear.
I am a Patriot. Over the past several months I have heard countless Christians declare that “we are not citizens of the United States! We are citizens of heaven.” This poorly thought out pronouncement of amnesty from national citizenship is based off a misconstrued understanding of Philippians 3:20 and is akin to the hapless souls who cried “Not my President!” last November. Decrying reality does not change reality; it only proves the lamenter to be disillusioned or grossly uninformed. The reality is that we are in fact national citizens of the United States of America and, like it or not, Donald Trump is our president. Philippians 3 does not deny this reality. In fact, Paul is not even penning about national identity but rather soul identity. Peter and Paul both call on Christians to live in respect for and obedience under government. Christians should make the best citizens, as we represent Jesus in our fallen civilization.
Now I understand that being a citizen does not necessitate that same individual being a patriot. A patriot by definition is “someone who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.” That is a choice; and it is a choice that I proudly embrace. I am a historian, which almost necessarily makes you a patriot. I love our constitution. I cling to the ideas of our founding fathers.
On the morning of September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key gazed out a porthole through the fog and gun smoke to see a flag flapping triumphantly in the northeast breeze. Key, proud of the heroic men who had fought down opposing forces at Fort McHenry, and overwhelmed by the privilege that came with being American, sat aboard a British warship and put quill to paper. The product of his patriotism was a poem entitled “Defence of Fort M’Henry” – which we now know as the Star Spangled Banner. The anthem was intended to unify this nation and show deep appreciation for those who fight and die for the privileged citizenship we enjoy. Therefore, I will always stand at attention as our anthem is played and our flag is raised. I am an unabashed patriot; and I realize, that it is not a sin to be unpatriotic. This is a preference – a very strong preference – that I hold; and I have friends and fellow Christians who do not cling to this same patriotism.
These two statements are not the same but neither must they exist in opposition. I am sick of the stereotypes. You are not a racist if you are proud of your black heritage. You are not a white supremacist if you live in the suburbs. Your church is not in sin if it is 98% white or 98% black or 98% made up of any color. You are not in sin if you sit during the national anthem. You are not in sin if you place your right hand over your heart, salute our flag, honor our servicemen, and swear allegiance to our country. You are not in sin if you wear a badge and drive a cruiser. You are not in sin if you are nervous around police officers. You are not in sin if you support Trump and you are not in sin if you are disappointed in Trump. The list rolls on.
At the same time, you are a racist if you view your skin color as superior to any other skin color. Your church is in sin if you are not loving and reaching to people of all ethnic, cultural, racial, and socio-economical classifications. You are in sin if you use your authority as a police officer to inflict injustice. You are in sin if you hate all police officers. You are in sin if you refuse to honor and pray for our President – as difficult as that may be.
I am a Christian. I am a Patriot. These two are most definitely not the same; but it is certainly not anti-Jesus to be pro-America. As Christians, we should not run and hide from these hot button issues. Neither should we post to social media from our personal bias with little thought. We should be governed by Gospel wisdom. We should use the platforms God has given us to speak peace, not division. We should be careful what we label sin. We should be blatantly loving as we present Jesus as the only hope for this broken, jacked-up world.
Wise as serpents. Harmless of doves.