5 Things Christians Should Do to Engage in Our Polarized Political Environment

There is no question that we face a very polarized political environment in our nation. As Christians, we are involved in this world, and we experience the common anxiety of our society. Our anxiety keeps us from engaging in a thoughtful and sympathetic way. At the same time, we know we have a calling to seek the kingdom of God first. The challenge is daunting.

The Bible provides a foundation for us to not only get by in this environment. It provides us a framework that will enable us to thrive and flourish. “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green . . .” (Psalm 92:14). To continue to bear fruit, we will have to be rooted in that which will enable us to flourish. We can flourish and bear fruit, but it won’t be easy. Many things will come at us that would uproot us and keep us from engaging well in these challenging times.

So, how should we root ourselves in our faith that enables us to be fruitful in these difficult times?

1. Root our emotions in the transcendent reality of Christ & His promises rather than on the changeable circumstances of life. The Apostle Paul says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). It’s easy to root our emotions on what happens day by day, and I am not suggesting that we feel nothing about these things. Rather, I am suggesting that at our deepest level, our emotions must be driven by the hope we have in Christ. This gives us a rock and firm foundation in the midst of a troubled and anxious world. We may mourn but not as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). Continue reading “5 Things Christians Should Do to Engage in Our Polarized Political Environment”

Stereotypes and the White Working Class

At our denominations General Assembly, I had the privilege of attending a talk by Alicia Jackson, professor of history at Covenant College entitled, “In His Image? How Racial and Ethnic Stereotypes Shape Our View of God’s Creation.” I highly recommend it [Note: it’s not currently available online, but she also presented similar material here].

Jackson highlighted several stereotypes that have governed how white Americans view African Americans. Entering this lecture, I thought of myself as having made good progress on the issue of race. I admit to my shame that this lecture helped me see how often I viewed African-American men through the stereotype of the violent black man. I realized this was unjust, and I’m thankful for this lecture because it has helped me begin to view African-American men more justly. I am thankful especially for the African-American men and women in my denomination who have helped me think through these matters in ways I would not have done without them.

These stereotypes have real world effects. Joan Williams describes a famous study of racial discrimination:

My favorite study of racism in the white-collar context is the “Greg”/”Jamal” study. The study sent out identical resumes, some with white-sounding names, some with African-American-sounding names. The study found that Jamal had to have 8 additional years of experience to get the same number of job callbacks as Greg; the higher the quality of the resume, the stronger the racial bias became. (Joan C. Williams, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America [Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2017], 61).

What is interesting is that Williams describes a similar study with with applicants who indicated a working class background versus a background from what she calls the “professional managerial elites.” For example, “the lower-class applicant was listed as enjoying pick-up soccer and country music and volunteered as a mentor for fellow first-generation college students” (46). What were the results? “The employers overwhelmingly favored the higher-class man: over 16% of his resumes resulted in a callback. Only 1% of [the working class] resumes did so . . .” (ibid.). Continue reading “Stereotypes and the White Working Class”

Black Lives Matter

It hardly needs to be said that race is a big issue in America. It has been for a long time. At America’s constitutional convention in 1787, the representatives argued over the status of slaves. Our nation fought a Civil War over the issue of slavery. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a movement that sought grater racial justice and ended the Jim Crow era. The issues were so volatile that he was assassinated. The race issue is woven into the fabric of our society. Events like the killing of George Floyd bring it rushing back to the fore.

I’m no expert on the race issue. However, I try to process what’s going on. Like many, I’ve struggled to put together what seems clear and easy to some. This discussion, like most political issues, is complicated by the fact that advocates of a need for change have views with which I disagree and advocates of the status quo say some things with which I agree. Extremists easily dominate the discussion. Polarities are easier for the mind to process than nuance. Continue reading “Black Lives Matter”

Happy Juneteenth Day

Today is Juneteenth Day. This day marks the end of slavery in the seceded states on June 19, 1865. Here’s what happened on that day:

Juneteenth (a portmanteau of June and nineteenth) (also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation Day) is an unofficial American holiday and an official Texas state holiday, celebrated annually on the 19th of June in the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger’s reading of federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming all slaves in Texas were now free. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them almost two and a half years earlier, and the American Civil War had largely ended with the defeat of the Confederate States in April, Texas was the most remote of the slave states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent (Source).

Continue reading “Happy Juneteenth Day”

Should We Trust the Experts?

In our polarized society, it’s easy to line up experts on either side of an issue. Who are we to believe? Should we even listen to the experts?

I think there’s no question that we should listen to experts. What that means is that we should listen to people who know a lot about a subject. For example, if I am going to build something, I am going to ask my friend Mark Smothers who has worked in home construction for decades. If I’m going to apply for the PPP loan, I’m going to ask my friend Bob Chesser, an accountant, who has spent countless hours studying this issue for his clients. This seems clear and obvious.

So, why is it that people balk at listening to experts when expert economists or scientists speak on a subject? One reason is that these people are presented as infallible sources whom we should believe if we are in favor of “science.” Reinhold Niebuhr noted that the rise of science in Western culture “gave modern culture a special animus against ‘dogma.’ But unfortunately it was not prepared to deal with the hidden dogmas in prescriptions of science itself” (The Self and the Dramas of History, 114). Continue reading “Should We Trust the Experts?”