'Tis the season: What don't you know?

August 9th, 2016

Read Rev. Howell's previous 'Tis the Season articles covering the 2016 election here.

In one of his clever songs, David Wilcox tells about arguing with his wife, and it was taking her forever to see she was wrong. Then they tried a different strategy: he took her side, and made her case for her, and she did the same for him. “Instead of getting an attorney, be the other person’s attorney.”

This might help with politics. Instead of denigrating or belittling the other guy, try to get inside his soul, which you don’t know much about. Dare to ask, Why do you feel this way? You listen, you begin to see he’s not a fool, she’s not wicked. Maybe you understand a little. Maybe she returns the favor. Maybe you see how your rock solid case is wobblier than you thought. Maybe you’ve fixated on a handful of half-truths, maybe even a fake idol or two, and now you’re finally learning something. What you don’t know is always more interesting than what you know.

As Christians, there’s an even tougher challenge. We apply the “Christian” tag to this ideology or that platform plank — but the truth is, we don’t really know all that much about what Christianity really is. We have a thin grasp, a vague sense of Jesus — but then we claim he’s with us. What we realize, in this season, is how little we actually know about Jesus.

Even those of us who think we know a boatload about the Bible have a nasty tendency to read into the Bible what we wish to find — and this then becomes ammunition for our ideology, which again rears its head as our real god. Lord, have mercy on us. Maybe I need to join an intensive Bible study before jabbering about a Jesus I don’t really know. 

Years ago, it occurred to me that the most violated commandment during election season is “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7). TV ads featured candidates attending church, even if this was unusual for said candidate. To pass muster you had to profess something positive about Jesus even if you’d not exhibited much interest in Jesus previously. God, and God’s will, got attached to all manner of policy. God’s name was taken in vain.
But nowadays I am detecting a shift. God isn’t talked about very much now by either party. Oh, a little curtsy to God is offered now and then. But there is less taking God’s name in vain — a good thing — but also less interest in God. The Church’s influence is declining. Maybe we Christians are weaker. Maybe we never clarified how we are different from party agendas. Maybe even Christians stopped caring about what God was hoping for, and we just decided to bracket God off from real life, shut God up in the churches, and go for whichever political ideology we preferred.
But the living God won’t hunker down in the church. God is out there. God cares. God is calling us, God’s people, to mend a broken world. To begin to do so, we have to ask what God is asking of us; and we’ll look into that next.

This post originally appeared on the author's blog. Reprinted with permission.
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