This Upcoming Political Season: Can We All Avoid the “Them” and “Us”?

”Finally when will it be enough
To find there’s no ‘them’
There is only us
There’s only us”

-Thrice, “Only Us”

As you know, I haven’t blogged on my personal account in a while. Running a martial arts school and keeping up with three daughters keeps me busy!

But this time, I had to. The thought bubbled up inside me.

 

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

-Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

 

I’ll sum up the thought before I get started, for those with a short attention span or little time.

  1. This post is me imploring all Americans to make sure their political system is subservient to their values, as opposed to making their values subservient to a party’s platform. (Surely you aren’t going to match a party on EVERY topic, are you?)
  2. This post is me imploring all Christians of all political positions that while EVERY political party creates good guys and bad guys, anybody who seeks to be a disciple of Christ and a student of the Bible must divide the world into only two groups: The redeemed and the sought-after. The desired. The chased.

 

No matter your “side”, you are taught to be “for” a group and “against” a group. Our history taught us, both on December 7th, 1941 as well as September 11th, 2001, that nothing unites our country faster than an enemy.

We’ve seen this in middle school and high school as well, haven’t we? Gossip feels so tempting and alluring because pointing out someone’s flaws and mistakes is a highly effective way to get an “in” with the crowd. Having an enemy unites us. Creating an “us” and a “them” is a quick recipe for community.

Sociologists believe that this “tribalism” used to be part of helping us survive. A feeling of aversion and distrust of the tribe that looks, speaks, and acts different was part of survival.

The quick-and-easy route to unity is to create a shared enemy.

 

And the leaders of BOTH sides of our current political spectrum know this. (You didn’t REALLY think it was just one side, did you?)

I mean, the further polarized you get, the worse it gets, sure.

On the right side, you have nationalism. Our team is America, and the bad guys are those terrorists and illegals, attempting to either attack us or syphon our resources. On the far right, you have a belief that our country is better than other lesser countries, and that our culture is better than those other, backward cultures.

On the left side, you have class struggle. It is not necessarily our country who is our team, but rather, the poor and disenfranchised are being oppressed and wronged by big businesses and the politicians in their pocket. On the far left, you have those who would like to see wealth redistribution enforced by the government.

 

Now, if you lean slightly (or more) to the left, you might have read that and thought that the nationalists and the Neo-Nazi’s outnumber the “actual socialists”. If you lean to the right, you might believe that those “socialists/communists” outnumber those Nazi’s, and that the media is blowing it out of proportion.

I’m not here to debate either one of those. All I’m saying is this: EVERY political entity out there tells you that there is an enemy out there, and that they are on your side to stand against that enemy. It’s an effective way to “sell” you on their vision, and why their platform should earn your time, your voice, and maybe even your money.

 

Good thing I, Carson Clews, am not like that at all. Except I am. I find it inside my own heart. I can see it. When someone is just like me, I feel at ease. Don’t you? When someone has a different culture, a different background, a different way of speaking, a feeling rises in me that says I need to keep my guard up.

(I don’t think this makes me bad. I think that good people are not the ones who don’t have bad feelings, but those who have bad feelings but keep those feelings subservient to their values.)

 

“Us” and “Them” in the world

In every setting, micro or macro, I see someone creating an “us” and a “them”. Elitism is one of the outworkings of the sinful nature, or the Id (from Freudian psychology).

Within the world at large, we see it in racism (I remember a speaker at Corban saying “If you believe that racism actually doesn’t happen nowadays, then I want the white people in the room to imagine what your parents would say if you brought home a black person you were dating.” Multi-racial relationships still raise eyebrows, don’t they? To pretend that racial prejudice doesn’t exist anymore is naïve.)

Within businesses, we see it in “perks” and “Gold Memberships”. Something, ANYTHING that can make us one level higher than those others. To acquire a higher level of “prestige”.

 

“Us” and “Them” in the Church

Within the Church, we see it in certain doctrinal dogmas. All who are in Christ are one with Him, but although we don’t admit it, listening to just Christian music makes you a SUPER Christian (many people are greatly benefitted by regulating what goes into their ears. Gary Vaynerchuk talks about that in business. Pumping your head with positivity). Maintaining virginity before marriage makes you a SUPER Christian (by the way, great idea. Having sex with the one you’ve committed your life to is definitely way less risky than committing to the one you’re having sex with. Apparently our brain is better at choosing a mate than our genitals. Who knew?). While we seek wise decisions, this desire for elitism in our hearts is always looking for ways to create an us and a them.

In fact, on that topic, the church made a huge mistake for years that was directly contradictory to Scripture. Out of our fears of the life-altering consequences of teenage premarital sex, we wrongfully taught (I am part of the church, I was there, I remember hearing this and passing it on, so yes, I mean we) young women that however many men they had kissed, or slept with, or gotten physical with, that this lessened their “value” to their future husband (To stay consistent, we tried to teach the same thing to young men, so that we wouldn’t be all hypocritical and imbalanced).

But this concept is in no way consistent with Scripture. In fact, Scripture gives us a picture of prostitutes who are redeemed and honored and clothed. To teach or even imply that virginity makes one more “valuable” than a non-virgin is incompatible with the Gospel of Christ.

 

Whether in politics, in church, or in small social settings, Christ seeks to create “One” where we seek to create an “Us” and “Them”.

 

So if you lean to the right, I encourage you to stay away from the narrative that the invaders are coming for our resources (And if you are staying away from it, great!). How can America HELP the world? How can the world help us? How can we work together?

If you lean to the left, I encourage you to stay away from the narrative that every financially successful person is greedy and big business is out to screw over the little man. There are greedy people in big business. Yes. There are also generous people in big business. There are big companies that ask “How can we do right by our employees?” Seek out those stories. They are there.

 

And Christians, I used to think that Christians shouldn’t get involved with politics, because Christ doesn’t fit well into EITHER party. While I still believe that Christ doesn’t fit into either party, I do believe that there are good Christians who are called to push for political change. But I implore you to do these two things:

 

The second most important one is that you don’t try to make your position the “Christian” position. Left-leaning Christians would like to see the government doing more for the poor, and they call the right-leaning Christians out for voting “against” the poor. Right-leaning Christians can care about the poor, but they believe that the private sector does a better job than the government. However, right-leaning Christians, you can’t ignore that there are some damn good programs out there. It’s naïve to ignore programs like WIC or food stamps. Programs that keep Dave Ramsey’s “four walls” up (Food, shelter, clothing, and transportation) are a benefit to society, not a “handout”. If one person takes advantage of the system, but 2 or 3 use it because they need it, then I certainly don’t want to see the system go away.

 

The first most important one is that your political stance remains subservient to the One you’ve built your life upon. Don’t fit Jesus into your politics. Rather, make Jesus LORD of your politics.

And unless I’m missing something here, this will inevitably result in this: The world will be divided into those Christ HAS, and those Christ yearns for. Our enemies are not flesh and blood. If they are flesh and blood, then they aren’t our enemies.

 

Thank you for reading this. When the Democrats tell us that big business is our enemy, or when the Republicans tell us that illegal immigrants are the enemy, I hope God’s word and the Holy Spirit give us clarity of mind and clarity of vision.

 

”Finally when will it be enough
To find there’s no ‘them’
There is only us
There’s only us”

-Thrice, “Only Us”

 

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

-Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

Christianity kinda sucks as a sociological tool. (Happy Easter, by the way!)

Once upon a time, I went to church. Good sermon. I came home, hopped on Facebook, and put up some thoughts about the death of Christ paying for our sins.

One of the comments was a link to a youtube video about the fallacies of Christian justice. It was a parody upon the metaphorical parable of the judge of the courtroom who declares the defendant guilty. The defendant, a rapist with a swastika tattooed to his head, is declared guilty by the judge. But after this, the judge has the courtroom officers bring out the judge’s son, beat him and kill him.

“My son has paid the price for you. If you believe and you accept his sacrifice, you can walk. Totally free.”

“Well, sure.”

“WHAT?!?!?!” The audience says, enraged. “You’re letting him go free?”

“Your sins are forgiven,” the judge says. “You may go free.”

“Well, cool.” The rapist with the swastika says. And walks right out, to the dismay of the victim. To the dismay of the audience. At this point, the screen fades to black and the words appear…

“Hey, Christians, maybe accountability is a good thing.”

 

Here’s a question: Does the video improperly show Christian doctrine? Is it wrong?

 

Well…the video is right, in this regard: Christianity does a horrible job as a sociological tool. A better sociological tool would reward good behavior and threaten undesirable consequences for bad behavior.

 

A good sociological tool would create an “us” and “them” based on the criteria that really benefits society.

A good sociological tool would not eliminate forgiveness and grace. It would have redemption and grace. I mean, we like redemption, so we would want it in there. But only for people who are “actually sorry enough”. People who repeat mistakes too often…well, obviously they aren’t repentant or sorry enough. So no grace for them.

A good sociological tool would use the concept of hell to threaten people for things the society deems inappropriate or damaging. If fear can keep people away from the electric fence, surely fear can be used to prevent undesirable behaviors! Do we need people to stop robbing others? Threaten hell on them! Does society think we need to have traditional family structures? Threaten hell!

Christianity is a horrible sociological tool.

 

But maybe Christianity wasn’t meant to be a sociological tool.

So let’s go back to the question…is the video right?

Well, if you ask me how nice a shirt looks, and I measure the shirt’s temperature, then let me tell you: The temperature of the shirt won’t be wrong.

If you ask me how a band sounds, and I tell you what color hair they have, I won’t be wrong.

If you ask me if the car gets a good mileage, and I tell you how long the sound system lasts, I won’t be wrong.

I’m just not answering your question. I’m giving the wrong measurement.

 

The overarching story of Christianity is not meant to move us to obedient action (even though Christians are urged to obey and take action, sure) but rather, to move us to worship. Christianity is not meant to produce behavior. It is meant to produce worship.

 

It has always weirded me out that a doctrine that makes no calls to violence (although the church called for violence in Christian history, most notably the crusades, that call was not in obedience to Scripture. Jesus taught us that those who live by the sword will die by the sword) can accrue so many enemies.

I mean, to my eyes, Christianity asks for less than other worldviews. My money is not required to enter into Christ. My obedience is not required to enter. My discipline is not required to enter. There is no minimum behavior requirement.

Christian doctrine teaches that all I need to do is place my faith in Jesus, His words and His works. Oh, and that the work has already been done. It is finished.

 

So does that mean that Christianity asks nothing of me?

Well, Christianity teaches this: Since the work was done for you…

  1. No more work is REQUIRED of you. The work is done.
  2. Worship the One who did the work, for He is worthy.
  3. By the way, be like Him.

 

Is being like Jesus required of me? Well…I have to ask what “required” means. Does it mean “I have to, or else I’ll…”

…I’ll what? What are the consequences for failing to be like Jesus?

 

1 John 2:1-2 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

 

…the consequences of failing to be like Jesus are that I will be advocated for.

 

In Christianity, the work has been done for me. The Easter story is not a call to do the work, but to rejoice, celebrate, and worship.

Because as far as my salvation is concerned, there is no more work to be done. As for as worship is concerned, there is no end in sight.

If I am successful in loving those whom society deems unlovable, it is not in order to avoid hell. It is an attempt to worship Him by trying to be like Him.

If I give money to support those in need, it is not to stay ahead of the “not good enough” line. It is a minimal attempt to imitate the one who gave His all.

If I am able to speak up for the victim, it is an imitation of the one who spoke up for the adulteress and stood between her and her accusers’ readied stones.

 

Christians do not obey to avoid punishment. Christians obey to worship and be like the Risen Christ.

 

 

One might criticize how Christianity makes people feel bad by claiming that without faith in Jesus, they are going to hell, and that people aren’t really hell-worthy bad. I’m not even addressing that in this blog post.
All I can tell you is that personally, I have a good keen grasp on my hell-worthy-ness and I can give you exact play-by-play details on who I’ve wronged and how. So rather than enter into that debate, I’ll just tell you this: there is not an ounce of me that can trick myself into thinking I’m good enough without the cross of Christ.

That video that we started this blog post about painted quite the picture. Because of the cross, Christianity does not hold people accountable to their wrongdoings. But in order to hope that others are held accountable to their evils, in order to be consistent and have integrity, I have to be willing to be held accountable to my evils. And that scares me.

The cross of Christ takes that fear away.

Maybe you wish I were held accountable to my evils, and that I would be a better person if I got what I deserved. And that your evils aren’t as bad. I dunno.

All I know is, I’m glad you’re not in charge.

 

The One who is in power, who has power over death itself, has unlocked the door for me. All God really wants is to actually be treated like God. But when I fail, my Advocate is there.

 

And He is risen.

He is risen indeed.

I will never know a God that didn’t gift us His Son

There are several things in my life that I am blessed by, but because they are so consistent, it takes effort and intention to be thankful for them. Because they are so consistent, you don’t notice them…until they’re gone. Yet, I am blessed enough that they have not been gone.

A few examples:

Parental empowerment/approval – The fact that I knew my parents approved of me, loved me, and were proud of me, was a fact that empowered me to keep boundaries against negative adults in my teenage and young adult years. I know people whose feeling of approval was threatened by the changing of the wind. But mine wasn’t. I had a “confidence anchor” that I know many were not blessed with…and I would be a different person without that.

Companionship – The reason the dating phase is so exciting, yet stressful, is because of the uncertainty. When you learn that someone you are interested in wants to be your companion as well, it is exciting because it takes away the lingering uncertainty and loneliness. Because of this, a loyal, unwavering, loving spouse is not “exciting” by those terms…and it’s easy to forget that “romantic void” feeling that was the only reality you ever knew when you were single.

Financial security – As a wedding present, Sarah and I were gifted Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University by my old instructor. As a result of this, I learned to stop being a rampant credit card spender (like, rampant, I’m telling you) and start to budget, plan, and actually have a modicum of self-control. Because of this gift, Sarah and I learned to do the Baby Steps and build an emergency fund early on. Ramsey said, concerning the importance of the emergency fund and having some financial security, “Men, your wife has a security gland in her brain. It is connected directly to her face.” It has been a long time, thanks to Dave Ramsey, since we’ve only been one low paycheck away from disaster. But I know that this is not true for a great many families. It is a blessing, one that I would not have come by without Dave Ramsey’s FPU and a wife that keeps me accountable.

There are other blessings that come and go. There are people, and gifts, and situations that we feel blessed by. But since they come and go, it is easier to picture life without them. But the consistent blessings are the ones that are easy to take for granted.

And that’s what’s on my mind this Christmas.

Christmas, the celebration of the Father sending His Son to us to be born as a baby, is a celebration of a one-time event that changed everything. But what is so interesting to me is that once a year, we celebrate this one-time event that affects 365.25 days of my year. Fact is, everything that is true during Christmas is also true for the rest of the year. It is consistent.

And there are some direct effects on me. My framework for life. My psyche. My security. My purpose. There are consistent truths that are not realized by everybody.

Unchanging truth: Christmas shows me my value to God. God sent His Son for me. My value does not go up and down like a stock. Not everybody feels their value. I am able to because of Christmas.

Unchanging truth: The Gospel presents “Grace” rather than “Striving”. A criticism of Christianity is that it is a very poor sociological tool. A good sociological tool rewards good works and punishes bad works. But Christianity was never intended to be a sociological tool…any good works a Christian does is meant to glorify God, not avoid punishment or earn salvation. Other worldviews have people always questioning their standing (am I good or bad?), striving for a level of ethics or morality. Christianity answers that by “providing me Someone Else’s goodness”.

Unchanging truth: When everything else fades, I still have purpose. My purpose is not rooted in my career, my family, my physical or mental skills. In any situation I find myself in, I can glorify the Risen Son of God.

It is my observation that self-destructive behaviors come in bunches when someone loses their sense of purpose. This is part of what makes a “mid-life crisis” so difficult…when one’s purpose/identity is found in the career they do or the kids they are raising, then that purpose goes away when the career starts to focus on the young up-and-comers or the kids start to become adults and move out.

Since my purpose is not found in “phases of life”, my purpose is an unchanging truth.

These things are constant realities for me…but I know that they are not constant realities for others who haven’t grabbed onto them. So it’s hard for me to imagine not having that…but I try to.

I am thankful.

The birth of Christ changed everything…but it changed the whole year, every year, every day.

I hope that you never know purposelessness. I hope that you never know worthlessness. And I hope that you never wonder whether you cut it or not.

What I know is that never knowing those things is possible in Jesus.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless.

 

-Carson