11 October 2012

Voting Beyond the "Culture Wars"

You've all seen them on TV and received them in the mail: political ads. They're everywhere. We can't escape them. I don't even watch TV, but I still get my daily allotment from the lawn signs I see whenever I jog through my neighborhood.

I recently received an ad in the mail from a local politician geared toward the religious (but probably particularly Christian) community. Beneath all of the flashy graphics and proof-texted statistics the only two issues he covered were abortion and the "sanctity of marriage."

Christians have bought into this idea that abortion and homosexuality are the only things that should demand our attention. We've developed a political litmus test, where politicians either pass or fail solely on these two contentions. These two factors override all others.

This, however, is too simplistic. By advocating for only one or two issues like these we are relinquishing our responsibility as Christians to speak out on a huge range of other important issues.

Now, don't hear me wrong. I'm not saying that abortion and marriage are unimportant. On the contrary, I think that they are very significant in our society today. However, these are two issues largely influenced by our culture. Government policy has little affect on them. Political policy merely serves as Band-Aid, ignoring the roots of the problems. A woman's decision about whether to keep her baby or to abort him or her is largely determined by the stability of her family and the moral values that were instilled within her. The same thing goes with an individual's stance on homosexuality. Laws are not going to change people's hearts. Only Jesus Christ can. Thus, we should be more concerned about teaching the Biblical values of life and love in our families and churches than we should be concerned about making this a political agenda.

Further, Christians should be advocates of all life, not just life for the unborn. Pro-life should mean being pro-life for all people, from conception until death. When we widen the scope, we suddenly become very much concerned about people who are impoverished and trapped in unjust systems. We should desire that fetuses not be aborted, but we should also desire that this world be a world worth living in for the children who are actually born.In the same way, we should not just be against homosexual marriage. We should be against divorce and abuse that happens within heterosexual marriages. We should affirm Biblical examples of sacrificial, mutually submissive covenants. By exemplifying Christ in our marriages and  mentoring young women from troubled homes we can have a greater impact on our culture than any governmental policy can.

The Bible says little about abortion and homosexuality, but it has a lot to say about looking after the poor, the widows (or, in our society, single moms), orphans, and immigrants. As Christians, we need to seek justice for the marginalized and disadvantaged in our society. In Deuteronomy 15, God commands his people to not be "tight-fisted" people, but to give to those in need generously. We need to be concerned about our monetary stewardship as a nation and to strive to be blessings to other nations around the world. We need to be actively involved in taking care of our environment. God has affirmed the goodness of his creation time and time again through the Biblical narrative. Creation does not have a monetary value but a spiritual and moral value. The birds of the air, the flowers of the field, the mountains, the valleys, the entire ecosystem is subjugated to pollution and depletion. These environmental factors largely impact others. Prolonged droughts and invasive species are a result of our sin, and they are often causes of famine (which leads to poverty), economic crisis, and widespread migration. 

There are many other issues. Slavery and human trafficking is becoming a worldwide endemic and we need to be political activists on their behalf. Our immigration policies are broken, and we need to seek to love our foreign friends, although we may differ on the specifics of the particular policies. Nevertheless, we need to seek to love both God with all of our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we strive to fulfill these two greatest commands, we will critically think about the issue of overriding political choices and the web of interconnected, Biblical concerns that should demand our interest.

08 October 2012


Photo from Kendi Everyday
19 years after playing school with my dolls.

10 years after beginning high school.

6 years after beginning college.

2 years after beginning graduate school.

I became what I think I was always meant to be. 

I became a college professor.

 Teaching has been the perfect fit for my personality because it enables me to engage my creative side as I think of new ways to present Biblical content. I consider myself to be both analytical and artistic. One of my teachers in high school even called me the "most balanced right-brained, left-brained person" she had ever met.

For a while, though, I wasn't sure if I would be able to keep pursuing Biblical studies as a discipline, much less a profession. Toward the end of my college studies and especially during grad school I just wanted to abandon Biblical studies altogether and take up another profession.
In grad school, the area of study I once thrived on became a source of dread and disdain. There was no room for creative thinking, no application of Biblical truth to the public realm where people often ache for illumination. It’s really quite ironic, actually. My deepest desire for the ministry God had called me to was to instill a thirst for God’s Word/knowing God through his Word. While studying to accomplish this I desired neither God nor his Word.

But now I'm teaching. I can feel the pent-up frustration and my forced inhibitions subside. Creative ways at presenting Biblical material weren't permitted in the scholastic world, but they certainly are permitted (and received very well, might I add!) in the education realm. In grad school I was forced to conform to a personality that frankly wasn't me. And because of this, I thought that my own unique qualities were incompatible with the area of Biblical studies. Now I know differently, and I can't express just how free and empowered I feel. Finally, I'm free to be who God created me to be.

So don't feel like you were created "wrong" or that your personality traits and gifts cannot be used in a certain discipline or profession. God can use our traits that make us unique. He wants to use these traits. Knowing who you are and understanding who you are not will help you understand the "you" God created you to be. And the true "you," my friends, may just be the breath of fresh air that this world needs.