We’re good people™

There is a distressing phenomenon I’ve seen both in myself and other white evangelicals; I call it the “We’re Good People” syndrome.

The phrase “We’re Good People” is rarely spoken out loud, but here’s how this works:

Let’s say our tribal leaders – Congress, the President, pundits, opinion-makers – pass a terrible bill, sign a cruel EO, setup an awful policy, put forth a horrible opinion, or have a particularly bad moral failing. Conversely someone outside of our tribe points out an injustice or atrocity committed by our tribe, either currently or in the past.

The discussion that ensues has as its unspoken backplane the assertion that “We’re Good People”™

For example, supporting the administration’s policy of separating toddlers from their parents at the border doesn’t make us uncompassionate [Because We’re Good People].

Actively supporting, voting for, and even admiring rogues and scoundrels is fine [because We’re Good People].

Being insensitive to systemic racism is fine. We “know” why NFL players are kneeling during the anthem, and it’s not for the reason they claim: protesting police brutality against people of color. No, we know they really just hate the flag and our brave servicemen and women. We know this [Because We’re Good People].

Being white in a majority white country hasn’t given us any advantages, we say to ourselves. We’ve had to work for everything we’ve gotten and everyone has the same opportunities in America, right? This is true [Because We’re Good People].

See how it works?

It’s strange. As believers our theology warns us that outside of Christ we are not good people, and that even as believers we have to guard our hearts against the deception that lays there still and guard our minds and souls against the flesh which wars against our spirits. Of all people we should not fall for the We’re Good People lie.

I still don’t have this figured out, but I see it all the time. I’m learning to recognize propaganda when I hear it, and We’re Good People is a pernicious form of self-propaganda, a lazy form of (usually unspoken) argument, and an enemy of clarity.

Two steps back

I lost it yesterday.

Two things set me off. One was Donald Trump’s moral equivalence and open admiration for Kim Jong Un. The other was the SBC allowing Mike Pence to turn the convention into a Trump rally.

Unfortunately, I allowed these two newsbits to turn me into a person I don’t want to be. I said some things I shouldn’t have to people who deserve better.

I’ve done my best to make amends.

I’ll be glad when the painful work of sanctification is complete.

Four dimensional tribal chess

We live in a surreal time.

We just got through a G7 summit where our President treated our long-time allies like garbage; impugned their motives, hurled public charges of dishonesty, whiplashed through acceptance of the joint statement and follow up rejection of same.

We just got through a summit with North Korea where our President treated the murderous dictator of NK with profound respect and expressions of mutual trust.

Reactions to this have been brightly demarcated along tribal lines, in precise mirror-image to how the reactions would line up for the previous administration.

The four dimensional chess is getting exhausting.

I can’t wrap my mind around this

A quick rant. Well, maybe not a rant. More like a line of thought that is spoken very loudly and quickly and often in my mind.

I understand people having voted for Donald Trump. What I don’t understand is when they are Christians and they admire the man. And what I don’t understand at all is when they’ve bought into the narrative that Trump is the one who is honest (“tells it like it is”) and it’s everyone else who is lying.

It is a mystery to me. Maybe I’ll never understand.

If any one  can explain this to me, I’m all ears.

“You’ve lost the plot”

This John Pavlovitz article from last January is still very relevant.

White Evangelicals, This is Why People Are Through With You

An excerpt from the article:

 








 

 










 





It’s a painful read. Truth hurts.

The election of 2016

Starting out this morning’s journey I have some time to mull. Today I’m mulling over politics and the church.

I’ve been around for a while. I became a Christian in 1983 just about the time the Moral Majority and Religious Right was picking up steam. I had been for the most part politically neutral before this. I remember not liking Carter. By 1984 I was old enough to vote in the presidential election; I loved Reagan and  I enthusiastically voted for his reelection. Throughout the rest of the 80s, 90s, 2000s and 2010s I voted straight ticket Republican,  although I would always vote for each race separately rather than just selecting straight ticket, because I didn’t like thinking of myself as a straight ticket voter.

As just-marrieds my wife and I were thrilled when Bush senior won. We were horrified and disheartened when Bill Clinton won and couldn’t wait to vote against him in 1996, when we voted with as much enthusiasm as we could muster (not much) for Bob Dole, only to see Clinton triumph again. We held our breath for a month in 2000 waiting to see if Bush would win the recounts and were thrilled when he did. We were more thrilled when he won reelection in 2004 and we enthusiastically supported his foreign policy in the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. Though I somehow knew Barak Obama would win in 2008 we were still so disheartened when he won and won again. In general, we always agreed with the guy leading our Republican tribe and always disagreed with the guy leading the Democrat tribe. Always. As American Christians this was the most natural thing to do, we thought. I simply could not get into the head of anyone, certainly not someone of faith, who supported Democrats.

And this brings us to 2016.

2016 was a kidney stone of a year by all measures for our family. We had a lot of deep issues to take care of and pray over. But in the middle of all that there was a presidential campaign and two inexplicable things happened: the first was that a guy named Donald Trump, who had often been a novelty candidate in previous elections, started taking the lead on the Republican side. The second, and far more inexplicable one for me, was that American Christians, at least the white ones, began to enthusiastically endorse the man.

“This can’t be” I naively thought. I heard all the rationalizations: the President isn’t the pastor in chief, God can use anyone. He’s like King Cyrus. he’s really a good man, just look at how great his kids are, etc. None of these came close, in my mind, to justifying a vote for the man, certainly not a vote by a Christian.

The other side of the argument was given with just as much fervency. “You have no choice,” they would say, “the alternative is Her!” After the election I was talking to a Christian friend (who I respect greatly) and he told me with certainty that if Hillary had won all our religious freedom would have been jeopardized.

I could go on for pages. Bottom line, I realized that for some reason I wasn’t able to hear the same music many of my Christian friends were hearing.

I understand the pragmatic vote for a lesser of two evils. I really do. But I’ve never understood the Christian admiration for Donald Trump. And, to be blunt, here’s why I don’t understand it: he is a liar. There’s not even an argument to be mounted against this charge. He has lied on the deepest matters repeatedly to people he should have loved: his first two wives and, by all reports, his current wife. He has betrayed them. He larded his campaign with lies and started out his Presidency lying about the most mundane things.

He is also cruel, and not in some veiled, “refined” Machiavellian way. He treats people who aren’t behonkus-kissingly loyal to him like manure and, like all bullies, he’s not content to just pound them and steal their lunch money, he has to take their dignity too with stupid fifth grade nicknames and cruel jabs on social media.

Not least, and certainly not last but I’m almost to work and need to wrap this up, he is an abuser. This goes hand in hand with his cruelty. He has abused people sexually and economically and he is proud of it.

I never thought I’d say this, but, doggone it, I miss Barak Obama.

The election of 2016 was the final cure for my red team tribalism. I’m de-tribed now, neither red nor blue. Heartbreakingly, the election also served to unmask the white evangelical church for its nationalistic idolatry, its fear of the Other, and its desire for power.

What the election of 2016 didn’t do, thankfully, was destroy my faith in the church. There is a core, a minority perhaps, in the American evangelical movement that saw what I also saw and renounced it. May that tribe increase.

May the Kingdom of God increase.

I voted in 2016 for a third party candidate who had no chance of winning. And the scores of people online who told me I had to pick R or D because we’re locked into a binary choice can go pound sand.

My bus is pulling up to my building now. Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.

 

Heartbreaking implications

A friend of mine posted on facebook: “Our President is new…the Great Commission is not. As our President begins his new work, it’s time for Christians to get back to their work.”

Here was my original response. The only part I left in the comment is the part in bold below but I’m posting my full thought below.

I fear for many of our American Christian brothers and sisters, the “work” they think they’re supposed to be doing is furthering political agendas, garnished with Jesus-talk to give the facade of spirituality. I came of age in the 80s and the early days of the religious right and was an enthusiastic partaker for many years. In this election the mask was finally taken off. Principles that they swore were unshakable (and that they used to bludgeon past Presidents) suddenly were discarded. So I really appreciate the sentiment, Mark. But I don’t believe it anymore. Lord, we need a generation of Kingdom-minded, not Nationalistic, Christians who will have their focus on God’s kingdom and not on political idolatry.

The Republican party is not now and never has been the answer. I repent for ever thinking it was.

Implied in your post is a heartbreaking truth – so many devoted so much time in service of a political idol while the great commission calling on their life languished,and the witness of the American church suffered greatly. Unpopular opinion, I know.

Teams

I’m thankful for the 2016 Presidential election. It exposed a lot of illusions I had been believing about the political party I once aligned with, and has helped me at least begin becoming more Kingdom of God focused versus focused on the kingdoms our politicians promise.

It has been an incredibly clarifying year. I find myself outside of Team Red/Team Blue for the first time in my adult life.

I’m incredibly concerned about what happens next. But I’m also incredibly glad I have pushed away (or at least am pushing away) from putting my trust in “chariots and horses”. What was I thinking?