Posted by: smstrouse | November 19, 2015

The Politics of Terror in the Realm of God

“Conservative Christian Leader Blasts Anti-Refugee Rhetoric, Calls For Compassion”1blog-compassion-286x300

Holy cow! I find myself in an odd place: agreement with the Southern Baptist Convention. Granted, we would still disagree on finer points of evangelism, but we’re on the same page when it comes to compassion and religious liberty. In the article, the president of SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission spoke out against the dangerous anti-refugee rhetoric of certain high-profile politicians after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

It’s definitely been a tough week for immigration rights, interfaith understanding, and peacemaking. We’ve been hearing the pounding drums of Islamaphobia and the cries for retribution against those responsible for the attacks.

We of short memory forget that our response after 9/11 to the outpouring of the world’s compassion was the creation of “terror alerts,” a new “Homeland Security” beuaracracy, erosion of civil rights and the invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the Trade Center attacks.  9/11/2001 began an era of fear under the politics of terror.

I’m not naïve. I understand the dangers of today’s world. There are some really bad people out there – some of them of our own creation – and sometimes they’re us. But as a follower of Jesus, I cannot abandon the ethical, moral, spiritual, and yes, political implications of those teachings when the going gets tough. Jesus lived in a time of political occupation and oppression, so he wasn’t naïve either.

In another interesting article, “Presidents Can’t Follow Jesus,” Kurt Willems said, “It’s impossible to be the president of the United States and to follow Jesus.”2

beatitudes-1I’d like to add that it’s really impossible to be anybody and to follow Jesus. By that I mean totally, completely, at all times aligned with the ethics of the Beatitudes and other teachings. Jesus has given us a clear vision of the way of life in the realm of God – here and now. Did he think we could always attain that level of   ? I don’t think so. But was he giving us the model, the bar, the paradigm by which to judge our actions? Most certainly.

I met with a high school student last evening who needed to interview a Christian for her world religions class. She asked me a question about how I live out my faith in my daily life. That might seem like a no-brainer for a pastor; after all I get paid for being a professional Christian. But after giving that smart-alecky answer, I gave my real response. I am called – as every Christian is – to follow the teachings of Jesus in everything I do: what I eat, where I shop, who I love, how to respond to those I find hard to even like – and how I vote.

So, while it may be that the president can’t completely make the mark ( and neither can we), it doesn’t mean he/she/us shouldn’t try. (To be fair to Willems, this wasn’t the actual point of his article, but the title was intriguing.)

The question then becomes: how can we follow Jesus in a world in which the politics of terror hold sway? In all the many articles and blogs, Jim Wallis from Sojourners has one of the best (how interesting that I’m finding all this inspiration from evangelicals!). He says, “Fear is our vulnerability. Instead, we must learn the spiritual discipline and habit of the scriptural command, BE NOT AFRAID.”3

Amen, I say! We have got to resist all fear-mongering tactics. And not only resist – we have to speak out whenever fear threatens to drive our opinions and policies. This applies to politicians, memes on Facebook, rants by relatives at Thanksgiving dinner, wherever. Of course, we do it in love. We do not succumb to the same kind of behavior.

I keep thinking of the song by John Michael Talbot, Be Not Afraid. The refrain is:
Be not afraid. I go before you always.
Come follow me, 
and I will give you rest.

This video is the best I could find.4  I wish someone would make one with more photos of people who have shown courage in the face of great odds. We’re going to need holy courage for the days ahead.








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