The recent senate race in Alabama and the win of Doug Jones, and loss of Roy Moore, has stirred up a lot of negative feelings. I’ve seen people on both sides of the aisle who wear the mantle of Christian deride the other side, claiming moral and theological superiority.
It is my hope that I do not fall into this pit, which is why I will refrain from naming names or adding screenshots of Facebook posts or tweets. I myself have some strong feelings about politics, one of which is the abhorrent nature of abortion—the almost 60 million innocent lives burned or torn from their mothers seems to me the greatest evil this nation has ever committed. It is not, though, the only terrible evil this nation has ever committed. Slavery surely stands in the top two.
But “this nation” includes me. I have participated in its great evils. The loss of respect for authority, the ramifications of which we have only begun to experience, I have helped further. The Bible teaches us to respect our parents. I have disrespected my parents and others who are my elders—wiser and better than I. Plato, too, warns of what happens when a society becomes “democratic” so much so that even young people believe themselves equal to their elders, and so need not listen to them—anarchy, then tyranny follows, with their concomitant death and destruction.
Sneering and derision are dangerous. We can criticize, surely, as I am about to do. But I must do so with the realization that I, too, am a sinner. I have participated in the apathy, weakness of morality, hatred, division, and injustice about which I complain. Perhaps, I am in a running with Paul for being the chief among sinners.
Let me first make a simple (but sobering) point: The most capable deceiver of you is you. Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). We are quick to believe that which supports our ends and hurts those whom we consider opposed to us. Modern psychology bears this out, suggesting that whenever we think of reasons for actions, these reasons are formed after the choice was made. They justify what we’ve already decided to do—they are rarely used to decide between choices.
This goes for everything from interpreting the news to interpreting the Bible.
This special election could not have done a better job of proving this point. Conservatives—both the everyday person and some very informed—were almost invariably convinced of Moore’s innocence, while the more liberal—both the everyday person and some very informed—were almost invariably convinced of Moore’s guilt. They had the same evidence, but different conclusions. Why? Because most, even (perhaps especially) those in the “intelligentsia,” believe first what they want to believe, and then justify their choice with reasons only afterward.
This is not an unsolvable problem. But it is perhaps even more difficult to overcome in a day of social media. When once those of us who are of little note had either to face those we condemned, or share our judgments in the company of few, now we can damn the masses through the shared public space of social media.
To shout loud condemnations into the public gives us an immediate pleasurable rush that quickly evaporates, leaving us empty and hungry for more. Attend to yourself and you’ll see that this is true.
So, too, to withdraw, to practice the same silence that Jesus practiced before those who condemned Him, gives us the time to reflect on our thoughts, to consider our reasons, and ultimately nourishes patience, love, and a deep joy. The first thing we must do is remember that God is in control. For like Israel’s desire to have a king and chariots to win their battles, thus showing their lack of trust in God, so too we desperately fight to gain the upper hand in everything from political battles to social media spats, showing that we believe God is no longer involved.
And we end up weary, angry, divided, empty. What is accomplished? Whose mind is changed? Perhaps we feel we’ve defended God’s glory or His commands in some manner, like Job’s friends who fail to grasp both that God is beyond their simple understanding and is in no need of their defense.
I’m not saying that we should not be involved in politics and political dialogue. Quite the contrary. I think we should be involved in political dialogue. Stop trying to win and attempt to see the other person’s reasons—for those reasons expose the desires of their heart. And then reflect on your own reasons and the desires those reasons expose. From that, dialogue may indeed arise. What we’re doing now isn’t dialogue anymore than a screaming match between two toddlers over an envied toy is a dialogue.
Consider the question: What do you think about abortion? Well, I’ve made my own views clear above. I’ve stated that I think it is a tremendous evil. I’ve even acted in some small ways again abortion (including an unsuccessful attempt to discourage a friend from having an abortion). But, to be honest—and consider with me—abortion isn’t a huge weight on my mind. But as soon as political discussion arises, abortion becomes a sledgehammer I swing around in political discussion, without much concern for who or what gets hurt or destroyed.
Now, I am not saying that you should not vote for pro-life candidates. Consider though: Even the so-called pro-life politicians, who speak with great zeal during elections about the horrors of abortion, seem to lose that concern once the election ends.
My purpose is not really to criticize politicians. But rather to suggest that their emphasis on something like abortion is very much like our own: We really only care during elections (or during our own political debates). The rest of the time, we are wrapped up in getting a nicer house, paying off our credit cards, and other things that have an immediate effect on us (which usually means stuff that messes with our money).
Again, my purpose is not even really to criticize you in your zeal regarding abortion (perhaps more zeal + some better strategy would be helpful). Rather, I believe that abortion is primarily a tool we use to condemn others and support those we like. When we really think of what abortion is doing, we feel the weight of it, and perhaps find ourselves overcome with sadness—for the baby, for the mother—and with repentance—for being part of a society in which such “choices” feel necessary, or even praiseworthy, to so many. (If you think you are not part of the problem, then consider how much you value individualism, even to the point where a church’s value—the church being the body of Christ, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1)—is determined by what it gives to you. After such reflection, then consider how you may feed into the problem of abortion, which also focuses on the idol of the self.)
We should be overcome by our need for repentance for our own culpability in such worship of the self, by the intense sadness even for those who celebrate abortion—for we, too, would be lost in the glorification of sin if it were not for the grace of God. (Even with God’s grace, I find my will constantly falling into the empty “happiness” of evil.) Instead of this sadness and repentance moving us to bring about change, abortion has become a tool to attack and besmirch, to ignore issues of character that may indeed matter.
Again, if you think I am saying that a vote for Moore was some terrible sin, then you are missing my point. If you think I am saying that refusing to vote, writing in a candidate, or a vote for Jones was some terrible sin, then you are missing my point as well. Reasonable arguments can be, and have been, made for both sides—both of which can be argued with, etc. etc.
I am saying that our hearts deceive us. That rarely do we allow the call of Scripture to transform us, but rather we interpret the teachings of the Bible and the political landscape in ways that support what we have decided beforehand—our already-chosen lifestyle, political party, moral emphases, and so forth.
And, I think, whether you voted for Moore, Jones, or wrote in Mickey Mouse, if you were so caught up in the empires of this world and so quick to throw stones, not recognizing your own sin, then, yes, what you did was a sin. The most dangerous sin of the self-righteous—which is dangerous precisely because it cannot recognize itself as sin.
And if you are on social media condemning those who disagree, claiming (for example) that Moore’s supporters (most of whom do not believe the allegations) have no problem with pedophilia, as long as they get their “R,” then I think you may have failed to really listen and learn from those you consider worthy of derision. That is, I think, sin.
And if you are on social media condemning those who disagree, claiming (for example) that Jones’s supporters apparently love abortion and support the homosexual lifestyle, then I think perhaps you haven’t listened. Many who vote Democrat religiously are in fact opposed to either or both of these things, but they vote Democrat for other reasons (have you not heard about the race relations problem in the U.S.?). So, too, many who voted for Jones this election cycle were simply disgusted by allegations they consider likely true. And if you are unwilling to listen to their concerns, but simply condemn them outright, I’d suggest that you, too, are sinning.
Perhaps, you will conclude from this that I hold these issues—abortion and unproven (and probably unprovable) allegations—to hold equal ground. But that’s not my point. My point is far simpler: Look to yourself first. I must take the plank out of my own eye. And if I spend a few moments concerning myself with what is ruining my own vision—my deceitful heart, quickness to condemn, my desire for self-righteousness—then perhaps I can assist my brother or sister in clearing their vision.
May God help me to see that I can’t see everything, so that I might never stop seeking, listening, learning, and repenting.