Tuesday

Blue State or Red State Jesus?

Today is election day in the United States. Beyond rhetoric, it is a day that is usually peaceful, especially in comparison to election day in other countries. However, here in the United States, our nation is suffering a great division. I think the election will be close because about half the country believes the Democrat way is best and the other half believes that the Republican way is best. Which way the election will go seems to depend on those who haven't signed on to either side, and how fed up that group may be with the agenda of either party.

To my dismay, this division is also evident in the church at large. You will see it on a small scale in local churches, but on the large scale, entire denominations can either be known by their so-called  'liberal' or 'conservative' preferences. In a lot of these churches there is no middle ground. People who may lean to the right or to the left but who are largely in the middle are uncomfortable in churches that sway heavily to the right or left. When a church does try to lean to the right or to the left, whatever the majority of the congregation members believe can deeply affect relationships with those who do not agree.These are political views, but it also encompasses theological views. Does this not remind you of the "powers and principalities" that Paul talks about it Ephesians, poisoning the body of Christ?

This political split among those who profess to believe in Jesus Christ was demonstrated to me recently by a quiz published by CNN. Responding to the quiz tells the quizee whether or not he or she believes in a Blue or Red State Jesus.

Personally, I was insulted by the quiz. It's rather polarizing. For instance, most questions could be answered as Both, but there is no selection for that answer. Here are two samples:

Do you believe Jesus is going to return one day, descending from the clouds with an army of angels to fight the final battle between good and evil? Or are you focused on creating Jesus' kingdom "on earth as it is heaven" and not too worried about who's left behind or whether Jesus is coming back -- or perhaps never even left?

Choice: "Left Behind" Jesus   or  Never Left Jesus

and,

Do you think the most important biblical passage that distills Jesus' message is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son," and that salvation is determined by your acceptance of Jesus as savior? Or do you think it's Matthew 25: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me," and that salvation is determined by how you treat the poor and vulnerable?

Choice:  John 3:16  or Matthew 25

What kinds of questions are those? My answer to those is both. Yet, there are people who are so polarized in their beliefs to think that it's either/or and not some of both.

For instance, someone of the Wesleyan persuasion, such as myself, would heartily believe in the all-important message of John 3:16 and that Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life. However, we also believe that once a person accepts that truth, his or her life will be a testimony to what Christ has done so works of social justice and compassion would be a result of the faith and the love that God has placed in our hearts. To think that salvation is one or the other and not both is foreign to a Wesleyan and a lot of good Christian people of other persuasions.

This question also perturbed me:

Do you believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead after his crucifixion? Or do you believe that Jesus' resurrection was symbolic and not dependent on his body rising from the grave?

Choice: The Risen Jesus or, The Symbolic Jesus

The concept of the resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith. We see this stated clearly in the Apostles' Creed, which serves as a statement of faith for most, if not all, Christians. If Christ's body is still in the grave then our faith is in vain. Either Jesus is who he said he is or he isn't.  On this matter, there are no two ways about it.

What this quiz demonstrates is that the divide that has occurred among Christian people will deeply affect who they will choose for president. It doesn't seek to bring people together at all.

Today, some churches are offering communion to Christians in an effort to show us that we are all one in Christ no matter how we vote. That, my friends, is a great idea. Christians need to remember that we serve a higher purpose than that of our political affiliation. We are here to serve the risen Christ.

Instead of praying "My will be done," we should be praying that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven, as Jesus taught us to pray. With this in mind, we vote our consciences and accept the fact that other Christians will do the same. We may not agree with each other, but in Christ we are one. We can agree to disagree and then love each other from the heart while, perhaps, having a little friendly debate to sharpen each other up a bit. To me, that would be a thriving Christian community.

What do you think?