This week clarified something in me that I have been wrestling with for quite some time. I finally realized why I so rarely post about politics and the drama and offenses of the day.
It seems that with the total infiltration of social media into every aspect of our lives, there is no way to escape people's passionate opinions. This is especially true in the arena of politics. What used to be a side conversation, a 20-minute spot on the evening news, has now become core to so many people's self-understanding, identities, and even their faith.
As a Christian, and even more so as a pastor, I realize that I have a natural platform. I have a place on social media and in my church to speak out and speak up for the poor and the marginalized. Because of this reality, I often wrestle with when and how to leverage my platform in a way that honors God and expands His kingdom.
I watch so many Christians leverage their real-life platforms, and their social media platforms to take bold stands. Many of these bold stands dive headfirst into the realm of politics, and many of my friends will see themselves as taking on the prophetic mantle, speaking truth to power!
I have to say, that as I watch my Christian friends take bold stands and divide people for the sake of the gospel, I have found myself questioning my own beliefs and my own call as a pastor to leveraging my platform for Jesus. Why can they so easily speak out for the causes they believe in? Why do they seem to not care about who they offend or what bridges they burn? How are their convictions so clear?
This week there were two events that have run across my newsfeed that helped clarify for me why I am having such a hard time with all of this. I realized that in my desire to stand up against the abuses of power and leverage my prophetic voice is being stifled by an embarrassing shadow side.
The News of the Week:
It began with Greta Thunberg, a young 16-year-old girl who is a climate activist. She sailed a boat to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change and has been on the speaking tour advocating for governments to take climate change seriously. For a multitude of reasons, she has been brutally made fun of by those on the other side of the aisle. And, this is a perfect place for me to step in and put those people in my news feed in check for the mean-spiritedness and inappropriateness it is to make fun of a teenager who is trying to do something noble.
Then, with no time to spare, the news broke about Trump and his conversation with the prime minister from Ukraine. From all the news (available today) it seems that this was an inappropriate conversation and that Trump was leveraging his power and taxpayer money for his own political gain. Talk about an easy win for someone to leverage their prophetic voice and speak out about an obvious abuse of power.
So the question is, why have I not spoken out about this or the many other cases of abuse happening in our cultural and political world? The answer is because I can't see past my own tribe.
It turns out that I am more committed to my tribe, then I am to being a prophetic voice, speaking truth to power, and to live into my core values and principles that i hope are unchanging. You see, when I change the tribe but keep the offense, I am way less passionate about the issue, or worse, join in the abuse from the other side.
Here is how I can prove my hypocrisy:
Nicholas Sandmann was also a 16 year old, and in fact he was not an activist at all, he just happened to be wearing a MAGA hat and got confronted by a Native American activist. And in his awkwardness smirked in such a way that set the news cycle on fire. There were calls from mainstream news sources and some blue checkmark people to destroy him and his character. In fact, a CNN contributor fantasized about punching him in the face. But because he was wearing a MAGA hat, it was easy to discredit him because he isn't in my tribe. However, if the core value is standing up for kids, defending a minor against the angry mob of tribal adults, I should have been first in line to leverage my capital for his sake.
And with the Ukraine call, the epicenter of the call seems to be that Joe Biden, when he was Vice President was leveraging the assets and power of the United States in order to fight corruption. But he also did it in a way that protects his son. In fact, Obama did similar things with Iran and with Russia, Hillary did this with Ukraine, and really every administration, Republican and Democrat have inappropriately leveraged their power and influence for personal and political gain. As a side note, it is incredible that people that have served in public office for their entire careers walk away with millions and millions in net worth. But when it is my person doing the wheeling and dealing, I trust them or choose not to investigate. And again, proving that my tribal loyalty is stronger than my core values.
I have some maturing to do:
I live in a blue county that is nestled in a blue state. Every person in power and influence in my context are as deep blue as one could be. I love being upset about the state of our national dialogue, about the boorishness of Trump, and his many cases of abuse. And from my safe bunker in the deep blue waters, it gains me a ton of personal capital to call him out and point out all his offenses.
But what worries me is that this prophetic voice is not truly about a prophetic voice but about defending my side. Am I willing to call out the abuses of power and bullying that are happening among those who have the true power and influence in my context? Will I be just as critical to a future democratic administration? Will I push back on the governor of California and the way he wheels and deals for his own gain while leaving the poor unprotected? The answer is no. I am afraid of the backlash, the loss of respect, the tribal mob coming after me.
And it is because of this lack of character, courage, and wisdom, that I am asking for God to deepen and shape my true values. And that God would also loosen my tribal loyalty for the sake of His Kingdom! Lord have mercy!