My desire is not to make Former Captive a heavily political blog. However, a few thoughts were pressing on me today. As one raised in conservative evangelical culture (who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012), and is presently more of a semi-political, centrist libertarian, I feel I have a place to speak to this.
The hypocrisy of “leftist media” is often discussed in evangelical Christian culture. The video below, however, contains some great examples of the conservative media’s hypocrisy, in contrasting their coverage of Michelle Obama and Melania Trump as First Ladies:
The contrasting nature of the comments in this video is an apt example of a polarizing illness facing America today.
This type of behavior (in this case, hypocritical, unkind, and ultimately irresponsible speech) is just the sort of thing which compels many to seek authoritarian rule. When we show that we cannot handle our freedom of speech with responsibility, dignity, and grace, we motivate others to pursue heavier governmental policing of our speech.
When it comes to politicians, media personalities, and any public figure, we grossly underestimate the power of our words. We often see these figures as invincible, larger than life, inhuman, or superhuman. We do not credit them with feelings, insecurities, self-doubts, inner fears and shame. But each individual wrestles with these, regardless of their apparent social, economic, or political standing.
Most of these public figures – if not all – are fighting for the causes they are because they believe – however wisely or misguidedly – these causes to be the best for humanity. They believe that they are fighting for the greater good, and they work tirelessly toward this objective. When they come home at night, or return to their apartments far away from family, they are met with the same loneliness and struggles met by any individual in the quiet of the evening, compounded by the terror of death threats, the judgments – positive or negative – of an entire nation, and often, the ache of separation from their families as they serve in the nation’s Capitol, or, in the case of other public figures, tour, speak, perform, and inspire across the nation or world, at the expense of their own intimate social connection, privacy, and rest.
Comments like those in the video above are often excused by conservative Christians, who may say that the “leftist media started it” – and that this justifies conservatives responding in kind.
Maybe “they” started it, and maybe they didn’t. But even if they did, that’s not the point.
Often, it seems our political fear is a stronger moral compass to us than the teachings of Jesus. We are so worried about losing political power, capitalism, or economic strength that we will say and do things we honestly could never see Jesus doing, in a desperate attempt to preserve that power. Rather than becoming bigger individuals, we settle for trying to make others appear smaller.
Jesus said “Do not return evil for evil.” I hope that those in the “religious right” claiming to follow Him will heed His words. How can we expect others to behave with maturity when we don’t?
In the end, what matters is not which political party or candidate wins an election, but Who or what had our hearts and primary allegiance in the journey: A political platform? A presidential candidate? Jesus?
We can never truly legislate morality. And we can rarely, if ever, “win a battle for God” by demonizing the motives or disparaging the appearance of someone with whom we disagree. But we can honor God in our treatment of legislators – fellow human beings walking this earth and seeking to serve and steward it.
In the end, politics is a murky ground, and not God’s primary operating field. Many conservatives argue that we have to pass legislation against abortions to prevent them, while advocating against any gun legislation because “Those who want to shoot someone still will.” The same could be said of abortions; those seeking abortions will still find a way to obtain or perform them, regardless of their legality. Ultimately, our calling is not to win political battles “for God,” but to watch and participate in God’s pursuit of people’s hearts. His kingdom is made up of souls, not earthly governments and systems. And any true and lasting change in a nation starts within the individual.
Ultimately, I empathize with those who do not feel entirely represented by any party, because I don’t. I would never want an abortion for myself or anyone else unless it were necessary to save the life of the mother. However, I no longer judge women who felt that they had no choice but to get an abortion. It’s often incredibly challenging being a woman. Women are vulnerable, and often misused by men (in more ways than one), then left with the price to pay. While I believe every little life is beautiful and worthy of life, I also acknowledge the reality that some mothers hardly have enough nutrition in their bodies to even carry the baby full-term without them both dying.
I believe that capitalism works if the entire nation – or the majority of it – is generous and unselfish (which is not the case, and is another example of how we use our freedoms irresponsibly, inciting in others the desire to regulate the allotment of our earnings). I can understand why those who have seen the worst of suffering, poverty, and illness in America (yes, despite it being a great country with “lots of opportunity”) would desire more redistribution of wealth. As a hardworking, motivated individual who has suffered against my will from intense chronic illness (even to the debilitating point of collapsing on the floor after expending my energy quota), I know firsthand the frustration of being denied disability, desperately needing the money while my parents were struggling to start a home-based business, and being faced with steep hospital bills I couldn’t pay, and hoping, praying, and waiting for Medicaid retro coverage to be approved. I’ve experienced in a very personal way the benefits of the safety nets I grew up despising, and for which I once judged people.
I guess what I’m saying is that life is messy, situations aren’t as clear-cut as we’d like them to be, and everyone has a story which informs they ways they think, operate, and choose to vote. In the end, we’re all just broken people trying to do the right thing, and looking for God. When we see other people in this light, it can disarm the needless defenses we’ve built against them.