Christian #1: “Send her back!”
Christian #2: “You’re all bigots!”
I got a prickly surprise the other day. It leaked out here on Facebook that an admired friend of mine is a diehard and enthusiastic member of The Other Party. And I didn’t know. I really didn’t know.
Let me say, first of all, that she’s a sweet and precious Christian. Our email exchanges are cheering, heartfelt, and bathed in the gospel. Her passion for Jesus is palpable. She lends her talents to the cause of growing the Body of Christ.
And hey, she’s in The Other Party. In the 2016 election, it’s painfully obvious her vote cancelled out my own.
Thinking about this brought to my mind a classic line from C. S. Lewis’ wonderful book, Mere Christianity: THERE WILL BE SURPRISES.
In terms of my Facebook friend, she might not yet suspect that I’m the Enemy. But if she has, I can picture her muttering imprecations to herself, fingers trembling over her keyboard: “David? You? Say it isn’t so!” And I have a decent confidence she’d return what I hope are the above spiritual compliments. I know for a fact she appreciates the Christian stories I pen and the good they hopefully accomplish.
Okay, is this an amusing or terrifying sci-fi scenario? A large congregation senses some sort of divine “pulse” right during the morning prayer. When they get up from their knees, every believer is wearing either a blue or a red rally hat. We’re all outed! People are craning their necks and gaping. “You! No way! I believed in you! You spoke at prayer meeting!” I still recall how my daughter was comically aghast to learn one of her favorite aunts was really and truly one of “them.” She shook her head, confused. “Didn’t Uncle Danny INTERVIEW her?” How could such a fatal character flaw go undetected for so long? “There will be surprises.”
Here’s my takeaway for this week of unexpected realignments. There are wonderful, solid disciples of Jesus Christ in the Democratic and Republican parties. Millions of them. As you kneel for prayer this weekend, there might well be people on both sides of you, also on their bended knees, who passionately donated to and campaigned on behalf of and voted for That Other Person.
I’ll go one step further. Most everyone in that faraway D.C. club of 535 people – senators and representatives – are amazing, passionate, well-informed, articulate citizens. They all won tough political races against savvy, well-organized foes, something you and I have not accomplished. In the Venn diagram that is our current Congress, yes, they do split off into discrete D / R subsets . . . but they’re all still American patriots. Not one person walking those frescoed halls hates their country or wishes for its demise. And it’s grossly unfair when we imply that they do.
So the question comes. How do men and women grow up in the church, attain to voting age, read the literature and watch the presidential debates, and then split into two such vehemently warring and polarized camps? I can’t fully answer that question for others, but I can look back at my own 46 years of studying issues and formulating a core philosophy. My variables aren’t yours; nudges came at me that bypassed your neighborhood. I came of age during Watergate; your formative moments might be poles apart from that wrenching time. And as I think about my recently unmasked friend, me on one coast and she on the other, I have to bow respectfully in accepting that a different set of factors gave her a passion for a distinct set of national and cultural priorities.
I don’t fully understand it, but our shared friendship forces me to acknowledge that her Christian ardor isn’t diminished or compromised by the fact of how she marks her ballot.
Just to fill out my musings, here’s the Lewis paragraph:
“Some of us who seem quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good upbringing that we are really wore than those whom we regard as fiends. Can we be quite certain how we should have behaved if we had been saddled with the psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and then with the power, say, of Himmler? THAT IS WHY CHRISTIANS ARE TOLD NOT TO JUDGE. We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it. Most of the man’s psychological make-up is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off of others. We shall then, for the first time, see every one of us as he really was. THERE WILL BE SURPRISES.”
None of us can comprehend the gut-wrenching 2:00 a.m. experience which might have tugged any one of us into, say, either the pro-life or pro-choice army. Or why one devout believer supports same-sex marriage while the Christian one pew over feels they cannot. I daresay if we could open up and share these testimonies and then hug each other while blurting out, “Okay, now at least I understand,” the surprises would begin to fade into the shared sunset of our national identity.
In the meantime, “Love one another. For love is of God.”