Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sarah Palin, Patriotism, and When Politics Overtake Faith

Last week Sarah Palin made some comments at a dinner. She was greeting with a large amount of applause. As word spread, she had her detractors (when doesn't she?) and those who defended and whitewashed what she said (when doesn't she?). Here is the statement:

“They obviously have information on plots to carry out Jihad. Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

Now, people like to make fun of who Palin is. They call her stupid, among many other things I never ever plan on writing or saying. It is ridiculous. On the other side of the equation are the people who view her as someone who can do no wrong, who is always misunderstood, or who is only ever attacked because people hate her and will never give her a chance.

The life of the rich and famous, yes?

I try and take a middle-of-the-road approach with her. As a person I think she is likable enough, but I also view her as a bit of a sensationalist. I enjoy hearing her, but in the same way I enjoy hearing Rush Limbaugh: great ideas generally but taken with a dash of salt (and sometimes a cupful).

That being said, the statement above really annoys me. The applause given it even more so. I've watched the video. It is not a misquote or taken out of context. It is exactly as it sounds.

"...waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists," is not an OK thing to say, in any context.

Baptism is where people come to Christ. Baptism is where the old me dies and the new me is born by the power of God. Baptism is the point at which my sins are washed away and I take hold of the free gift of God in salvation so that I can live with Him for eternity.

It is not a way to bring suffering to an unwilling participant in order to make them talk.

The reason I bring all this up, is to warn against the danger of mixing up patriotism with Christianity.

Now, it is not a problem to have patriotism. In fact it can be a good thing. It can give you a sense of success and responsibility to a greater whole. It can help us have courage when we are called to fight for the survival of your country. It can even make paying taxes bearable.

Patriotism, in a healthy amount, can be beneficial.

But when it gets out of balance, as it so often does, we end up with things like this:

And this:

These two picture illustrate the exact same thing. One does with a car full of stickers, the other does it in one shot.Both of them divide Christianity based on political preference: one Republican, the other Democrat.

This is not OK.

It is not OK because of the following truth:

It is not OK because Jesus prayed this in John 17:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

As much as someone may love their country, as much as a person may respect the flag, as much as a person is willing to give in order for others to have freedom, the flag is not a religious symbol. Nor is a political party. Nor is political liberalism. Nor is political conservatism.

It's not.

Now let's all take a deep breath and let that sink in (myself included).

When I was in preaching school we got into a discussion about preachers and political stances. I believe the single most important statement that came out of that discussion was this:

Unless you are close enough to someone that you can talk about politics without consequence, never mention politics. It can ruin your chance to reach someone, it can divide, and it can rile people up. We are called to bring people to Christ, and if we allow political views to disrupt that, we are hurting our chances to do the single most important thing we are called to do.

This is why I very nearly never talk about politics in public, which is very hard for me to do sometimes. I don't "Like" Facebook statuses about it, I don't comment on feeds about it. I stay out.

Because it is not worth messing up my relationship with those I am trying to reach.

Don't be fooled, I stay informed and up-to-date on what is going on. I can probably run circles around most people when it comes to political discussion. It is just something I enjoy keeping track of.

But Paul wrote in I Corinthians 8, "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall."

It is when we allow patriotism to get mixed up in our faith that we make statements like the one Sarah Palin made. Statements like that are not OK in any context, and should be repented of. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that Mrs. Palin is evil or that what she did should be blasted into oblivion. But it does show that a change of heart is needed.

Both for her, and everyone who applauded what she said.

The point is this: please, please, please do not allow your patriotism to tint or overwhelm your faith in Christ. Remember the true purpose of our upward calling in Christ Jesus. This world is not our home, and we are to do everything in our power to help others get to their true home as well.

Even if it means putting aside politics.

Even if it means putting aside patriotism.

We must be patriotic to the Lord Jesus Christ above all others. Our love and desire for His Kingdom must overwhelm any earthly loyalties we have. It is to Him that we are pledged to, and it is to Him that we seek courage and strength from. All other things must come after that.

So seek peace with your opponent. Seek harmony with your neighbor. Seek God with all around you.

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