Note from CM: Michael originally wrote this for the 2008 election.
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Today being election day, and many of my evangelical friends being in somewhat of a foul mood, for reasons that, as of 12:28 p.m., are suspected and not yet clear, I found myself thinking about a fellow I’ll call Bob.
I met Bob while I was on sabbatical. He was a very dedicated conservative evangelical, and a pleasant enough fellow….when he wasn’t angry. And Bob was angry. Angry, afraid, frustrated and ready for a fight.
Bob was your stereotypical culture war evangelical. He was a Jesus follower, but his passion was what was going on in America, particularly the issues we broadly call the culture war: atheistic advances in the public schools, restrictions on Christian practice in the public square, the aggressive agenda of homosexual rights advocates.
Bob was obviously devoted to Christian and conservative media, particularly radio. He believed what he heard. Dobson. Point of View. 700 Club. There was some Michael Savage in there. Some short wave programs from the Art Bell side of the dial. And all the usual culture war channels on Christian radio and television.
In general, Bob was stuffed full of information that was only available through his devotion to a kind of Christian underground pirate radio, web sites and a regular diet of Christian authorities convinced the culture war was all-important.
Bob was mad and he was mad that more people weren’t mad. Of course, most people didn’t know what Bob knew. They had the general outlines of the problems, and sided with Bob on the issues, but few people had Bob’s zealous focus on the culture war. On more than one occasion, Bob’s assessment of the situation of Christians vs militant atheists, homosexual activists and the rising time of Islamists was quite similar to the attitude of the Confederacy. Secede and arm yourselves. This is a real war.
Now…Bob was part of a local church, but as you can imagine, he wasn’t very happy with his church either because…..that’s right, they didn’t see the situation to be quite as dire as Bob did. I had the feeling that more than a few people in Bob’s church might not be looking to share a cup of coffee with him after the service. Intense fellow, that Bob.
I was only around Bob for a few days, but in those few days I saw a kind of Christian for whom the term “culture warrior” and not the term “disciple” was much more applicable. Emphasis on the “Warrior.” This was Jesus vs Allah; Jesus vs Dawkins; Jesus vs Hollywood…and it’s time for the followers of Jesus to see the most recent Rambo movie or WWE event for some inspiration.
Of course, politics was Bob’s game. Christians had to rise up and vote in order to take back the culture. We are losing because we won’t fight in the arena of political power.
I imagine Bob’s not very happy on this election day. I’m guessing he’s voting for Chuck Baldwin and is upset that more Christians aren’t doing the same. I’m sure he has a small library of information on Obama that none of us have heard, even on Fox. I’m sure he’s alarmed and is frustrated that many of us aren’t taking the threat seriously.
Bob wants good things for his country, family and fellow believers. He sincerely believes those good things are closely related to freedom, conservatism, traditionalism and Christianity. He senses the death of a kind of Christian dominated culture, and he wants to fight with all he’s worth — even with weapons if necessary — to keep his rights and his Christian heritage.
Over at his blog today, Frank Turk basically said this: Pray. Vote. Then Pray again. Then go live like a disciple of Jesus.
Bob, are you listening?
Michael — and the many readers of this blog — are you listening?
Go live like a disciple.
It’s hard to say this, but Bob isn’t seeing the big picture. Our American culture war is not worth the demise of authentic discipleship. Trading following Christ in love, even in post-Christian times, for fighting and defensiveness, is a bad trade. Bob is frightened. Our faith says “Fear not.” Bob says prepare to fight. Our faith says prepare to love.
I am particularly impressed that these days should call us together in real community, not separate us according to Christian media audience niche. There are some helpful voices out there in the culture war, but I’d like to suggest that it’s time to listen to your pastor — assuming he’s showing you how to follow Jesus — more than James Dobson or some angrier, more paranoid manipulator of fear.
I really is time to go Biblically deep into Jesus shaped spirituality, and not into the spirituality of fear and misbegotten patriotic fervor.
Unfortunately, Bob is not a rarity. He’s not a majority report among evangelicals by any means, but he represents a significant number of Christians who are pursuing a very different kind of Kingdom than what we see in the book of Acts, the epistles and Revelation.
Jesus told his disciples that to follow him a lot has to die. We find a new life in Jesus, but it comes at the expense of the old life. I can’t help but believe that Bob, for all his zeal, his holding on to some of the old creation. There are some good things in this American Christian heritage of ours, and no one wants to see it taken away.
But it may happen, and if it does, Frank is right: Pray, then go live like a disciple.
Don’t feed the voices of anger, fear and the justification of violence. These were the same choices that the Zealot movement presented to Jesus; the same Zealots to whom Jesus said “Love your enemy. Don’t resist the evil-doer. Pray for those who persecute you.”
I’m sure it sounded ridiculous at the time, but in the end it was another invitation to discipleship, to Jesus shaped spirituality, to taking up the cross and finding a new life beyond it.
Those choices come to us every day. They sometimes come to us when we are tightly holding on to things we believe enough to be angry.
Put them all down. Pray. Go be a disciple of Jesus.
A good word for a chastened evangelicalism.