When the story broke on social media that Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief, Mark Galli, issued an editorial calling for President Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, I must confess that my first response was affirming. I have had serious issues with the blatant lack of integrity in Trump’s actions and speech ever since his campaign started. I could ramble off the known list of racist, abusive, misogynistic, and un-statesman like conduct and speech. So, I will admit from the outset of this, my own microscopic editorial, that I will not be saddened if Trump does not get reelected.
However, after reflecting on the CT editorial and seeing the sweeping mix of responses from both sides of the argument, I feel like Mark Galli wasted white space and his invaluable platform. This is not a new problem with institutional Christianity, it’s the same old methodology, that typically leads to the same old results.
The church in America loves top-down, hierarchical oversight of faith. We fight at the top. Her leaders just can’t get past their own positions and desire to steer the electorate, sorry, congregants with lofty statements and platform positioning. The most obvious place that this is constantly done is at the pulpit of many buildings where the church meets. We now add to the bully pulpit, Twitter feeds, up-to-the-second editorials and blog posts. Sorry to add to the already crowded space.
It occurs to me that Jesus spent a whole lot of time battling incorrect thinking not by taking the loftiest platforms and issuing sweeping speeches, but by talking with the average person around dinner tables, on hillsides, walking dusty roads, and just living life. In three years, less than the span of one presidency, Jesus infected a few people with some Kingdom values that would reshape how the world thinks. These values that were taught in a very short time to just a few, ironically are the very values we are now measuring Mr. Trump against.
What might it have looked like for Mr. Galli to spend that valuable white space writing to a different audience? What if his correct assessment of leadership had been translated into action steps, not for a leadership debate, but for a Jesus-like movement? What if one opened the pages of CT and saw the editor-in-chief call for a hard reset, not of the nationalistic leadership structures of America, but for simple Christian values. I’m not talking about “values” in the way it has been robbed by evangelical lobbyists, but “values” in the way Jesus talked about them:
- Love God
- Love Your Neighbor
- Love Your Enemy
- Feed and Care for the Poor
- Visit those in Prison
- Treat Others as You Would Want to be Treated
- Love and Care for Children
- Care for the Sick
- Be Kind to the Homeless and Broken
- Forgive Those Who Hurt You
This list could go on, but you get the point. My argument here is that our Christian faith has gotten caught in the lofty halls of church leadership and national politics. This is the very problem Christianity has had in its worst eras. Crusades were started, people hurt, Muslims killed, people excommunicated, over debates of ideals and religious posturing.
In reality, what we’re talking about here are two different kingdoms that never mix very well. The kingdom of the world is unarguably broken and limping. We can all see and feel the issues of this world that we live in. However, the kingdom of God is NOT the kingdom of this world. We can bring glimpses, displays, and tastes of His kingdom to the worldly one, but they will never shuffle like cards and stack into a neat deck. They are oil and water in most cases, but in those times where someone loves their neighbor, feeds someone who is poor, forgives an enemy, or is kind to someone who thinks differently than them, those kingdoms get really close.
In rereading some writings of a friend, I was reminded about thin places where the Celts thought heaven and earth got close to each other, almost touching in the hills of Scotland. Here’s the really cool thing, these places can be created purposely by those that follow Jesus. In fact, I would submit that those that claim to follow Jesus should be intentionally trying to create these places every day. Whenever a circumstance presents itself, the question could follow, “How do I bring heaven close to earth (create a thin space) in this moment.”
Sometimes that will look like speaking truth to power so that justice is realized. But all too often, our lofty voices and editorials get lost in a cacophony of debates and opinions. I would suggest that nationalizing our faith and thoughts will only hurt our witness and lessen our result.
So let us go back to my question. What might have happened if Mr. Galli spent his time and space writing to his brothers and sisters, encouraging them to fight dis-integrity by loving their neighbor each day? What if CT started a movement of Jesus values and actions that looked deeper than political platforms and dug back down to the bedrock that was the source of those platforms in the first place, Jesus’ teachings. What if Mr. Galli had asked, “How can I bring heaven and earth a little closer?”
I’m ready for grassroots movements. I’m exhausted of labels like “Evangelical” that seek to pigeon-hole political belief systems and somehow mix my politics with faith. I’m scared of a future where Christianity in America is fought over like many other countries around the world fight over Islam and Hinduism. I’m NOT Christian because I’m American, and I’m also not American because I’m Christian. At present I belong to two kingdoms, first to God’s and then to the country that I’m grateful He placed me in, America.
I think the best way I can express my frustrations with injustices and hate that flow from the upper reaches of government and Christendom, where my little voice barely counts, is to just love my neighbor, feed the poor, and try my best to bring heaven close to earth. Perhaps if some leaders will call others to these loving acts of protest, we might actually change culture, instead of just debate it.
I’m sure I’ll fail at this daily exercise of protest, but I invite you to join me.
Who can you love today in a simple way?
How can you create thin spaces?
Joined together as one, our actions could be the loudest voice in the debate.