Public and Political Violence and Aggression Have Taken Us Too Far – A Prayerful Vision for (the beginning of) a Better Way Forward!

Every time we endure another public outbreak of violence and aggression, communities erupt (rightly so) in expressions of pain, anger, and angst. Some acts of violence are more painful than others. For example, when an assassin assaults a local school, we are all particularly grieved.

Questions plague us all:

“Why would someone do something like this?”

“What type of world do we live in these days?”

“Is anyone safe? Anywhere?”

“Are my children safe in school?”

“Should I bring my children home and teach them here?”

“Will I be safe if I attend that event?”

So many questions. They never go away. They resurface each time we endure an act of public violence.

In the wake of last Saturday’s assassination attempt of former President Trump, I felt my heart grieving once again. Old questions emerged. New ones as well. As last weekend progressed, I sensed a nation, even a world, erupting in shock, anger, confusion, concern, angst, and – sadly and somewhat telling – a miserable few who expressed delight at the attempt and sorrow for the miss.

Pundits on the left and right are quick to blame and accuse the other side for the attempt. Rather than blame, I would simply like to observe two current cultural phenomena that are symptoms of a deeper problem:

  1. The phenomenon of the #NeverTrumper. Those who suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome and frame him as an evil monster and attack every move he makes and (at times) misrepresent his remarks; and
  2. The phenomenon of the #EverTrumper. Those who suffer from Trump As Savior Syndrome and frame him as American’s hope – our Savior and last true voice of light.

Both of these groups have spent years demonizing their opponent and mischaracterizing their intent. Neither fosters unity. Sadly, the radical #NeverTrumpers and zealous #EverTrumpers seem to be in control of the forces that shape us. Theirs are the voices that get our attention.

Even so, neither movement is the cause of last Saturday’s devastating attack (claiming one innocent life and injuring others). We have a deeper problem. A more sinister evil lurks just beneath the surface of human (both individual and societal) behavior.

Kingdom Over Country

These two opposing groups are in fact symptoms of a divide that modern ideologies, institutions, and structures have created for years.

Ideologies, institutions and structures that model and teach the following:

  • If I don’t like them, cancel them.
  • When they disagree with me, demonize them.
  • If they adhere to policies I reject, then I will brand them a radical or liberal.
  • Any divergence of opinion that is significant gives me the right to call them my enemy and then tell my followers the same.
  • If I can’t overcome their message, then I will end their right to share it and restrict their freedom to express it.

The existence of a demonizing-attack-first-make-an-enemy-of-our-opposition culture represents a Kingdom opportunity for today’s thoughtful Christ-followers.

This opportunity can be won if we adopt a deeply biblical Kingdom-Over-Country mindset. A mindset (along with a catalogue of associated habits and behaviors) that is fully committed to embodying Christ’s light and love.

If we are to be formed (over time) into A Kingdom-Over-Country Christian, then we will need to adopt the practices and priorities of Jesus.

A great place to start is with the first clause in the Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father in the heavens, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” Matthew 9:13

In other word, our primary concern, when dealing with significant cultural issues, IS this:

  • Our life (habits, practices, thoughts, behaviors, interactions with others) should honor, revere, and reveal the Father’s good and loving name (His reputation and character) in this world.

This is not easy to do when we (even, often especially, Christians) are:

  • Partisan First,
  • Country Second,
  • Christian third.

A Way One Might Move Forward – Personal Practices and Behaviors

Based on the Kingdom-First priority established above, I am committing to the following practices and behaviors (though they may change over time):

  1. I am reflecting on and considering what being politically active means. I do believe that we should be engaged in the political systems of our country at national and local levels. However, I am going to work hard to combat partisanship with a Kingdom-Over-Country mindset. I want to remind myself that neither party gets everything right and both of the candidates are deeply flawed.
  2. I want to engage in dialogue and conversation with those of differing political views. I am going to try to listen. and seek to learn. I know many republicans, democrats and independents – all within my congregation as well as community at large. Each person represents a relationship I enjoy and a human created in God’s image. I need to remember that there is always so much more at stake than an election. Honestly, as important as elections are (and they are important), there is always more at stake (cf. Matthew 9:13).
  3. I am committed to carefully exploring third-party options. I continue to believe that a part of (if not the) problem is the Political Duopoly (two-party system) that exists in today’s political climate.
  4. I want to commit to civility and care when I engage in any type of public discourse and strive for unity when possible (and not demonize them when it’s not). When I feel like I cannot achieve unity, I should still extend dignity to the other.
  5. I intend to worship deeply on Sunday morning and keep tribal politics out of the congregational gathering. The worship setting is designed to “rewrite” the cultural narratives not reinforce them.
  6. I will remain committed to leadership of Character and Competency. If I must choose between the two, then I choose Character! Honestly, I believe both candidates lack the character required for this office. An office which should be the most noble and prestigious civil-service post in the country.

More to come.

Grace and Peace,