Language matters. Language communicates ideas and ideas matter. Language can convey love or hate, hope or fear. Language matters. Anytime I talk “politics” I always want to preface where I’m coming from. Let me try to share without using labels. I think government should let me do whatever I want as long as I don’t hurt someone else. I think the government should spend money on whatever it thinks will do the most good with whatever money is available; and that’s it. No more spending what you don’t have. Raise taxes if you think you should raise taxes, and spend that money on whatever you want. If I disagree, I’ll vote against you. And lastly, if the constitution doesn’t give specific power to the US Government then the states and local municipalities should get to determine what’s done.
There is a decently heated debate going on in the Christian world right now. It centers around refugees and immigration; social safety-nets, welfare, and healthcare; and LGBT rights in general. Those that know me know that I’m not a bomb thrower. I have lots of opinions I don’t share (because I have an opinion on absolutely everything), but what I ultimately try to do is grab a thousand foot view of the issues and see if they make more sense up there.
What I think is happening in most political issues is the difference in language. The language is different between the Democrats and Republicans but actions aren’t as different as you’d think. I’m reminded of a story Jesus tells in Matthew 21:28-31, “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, ‘The first.’” I’ve always liked that story and I think it is a sharp condemnation on politics. Every side of the political spectrum makes all sorts of promises on what they will do and they never really do it. They like wedge issues that separate them from the other side and rile up their base at election time. Ultimately, the “third” son who said he would do it and actually did it, would be the ideal. But God loves the changed heart. The person who at first is recalcitrant (word of the day toilet paper) but then turns toward obedience is certainly in a better spot than the person who just gives lip-service or straight-up lies. I tend to think that the super-liberal just care about saying positive things that don’t hurt anyone and never follow-up to see what’s actually being done to help people. I also tend to think that the super-conservative only talk about what affects them and don’t mind offending others even though they like helping people, they never talk about it. So let’s look at these 3 hot-button issues. Let’s see what’s being said versus what’s being done and maybe how Christians can better use their language to line-up with what they believe.
Refugees and Immigration
The language between liberals and conservatives are different right now. This isn’t historically true, but right now it’s being made a wedge issue. This is certainly where there is a wide variety beliefs between liberals, conservatives, democrats, and republicans. Liberals tend to view anyone who is oppressed as the fault of an oppressor and thus America should welcome them in. Democratic politicians thus want those votes from people coming from countries with centralized governments knowing they tend to vote Democrat. Democratic unions on the other hand tend to be against inexpensive labor coming into the country. Big business Republicans definitely like that cheap labor though; while the Republican Politicians like getting votes from the populous that see mass immigration as having a variety of dangers to America. Conservatives just don’t want the extra tax burden but would be fine with it otherwise. So where should Christians line-up? Should we want people around the world to come to us so we can share the Gospel? Sure. Should we want to protect our country from a massive influx of ideas contrary to God’s Word? Sure.
I’m going to take the most controversial stance I think I could take. I honestly think this is an issue Christians should somewhat avoid talking about. It’s honestly only a political discussion point and not based in any kind of reality. Both Democrat and Republican stances are totally unsustainable. I want to ask my more liberal friends, how many people from other countries should our country take in per year? 25,000? 100,000? 1 Million (pinky to the lip)? 100 Million? 1 Billion? Everyone? I’m not smart enough to know what our unsustainable number is, but there would have to be a number in which would cause our country to collapse, right? I never hear real numbers being talked about. It’s always discussed as an all or nothing proposition and no one is really advocating for either. America is objectively the most benevolent society in the history of the world (in regards to citizens giving money to other people around the world.) We can’t do that if our economy collapses. Yet on the other hand, the more conservative stance is also unsustainable. If you want true, orderly, slow immigration it will take a massive bureaucracy to pull that off. The manpower, technology, and barriers to make this happen would be unbelievably expensive. Conservatives hate federal government spending, and it would take a truckload to make this happen. Thus my statement is for Christians to leave this conversation to the politicians to run round like a chicken with their heads cut off. Vote for those who you think will lean the direction you think we should go as a country, but just don’t talk about it. It only creates friction with people you should be ministering to. Our standpoint as a Christian should be to minister to anyone who happens to be our neighbor. You honestly have little control over what Washington DC is going to do. Don’t get too upset. If a Muslim refugee family moves into your neighborhood, minister to them. If an undocumented Mexican family moves into your neighborhood, minister to them. If a white supremacist family moves into your neighborhood, minister to them. All those people need the Gospel. All of them need to be loved. All of them need to be changed by the saving power of Jesus Christ. Don’t let your language or your social media posts be a hindrance to that.
Social Safety-nets, Welfare, and Healthcare
I am more bothered by the language in this area than any other. I think Christians are massively shirking their responsibilities. But I’m not going to just complain, I’m going to share some solutions. I do not like when Christians (and especially non-Christians) use Bible verses about taking care of the poor and sick as justification for government programs. Those are verses written to the church, not governments. The church is responsible for taking care of the poor, sick, widows, and the like. I’m not a 100% sure what happened. Ether A) the church shirked its responsibility and the government had to step in, B) the government just stepped in so the church backed off, or C) people just stopped going to church and needed someone else to jump in to help. However we got to this place, we’re here. I don’t know where we’re going next. The bottom line is just Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will cost more than the entire federal budget by 2050 if something isn’t done. Politicians don’t like acting like the adults in the room who have to make tough decisions. They like getting re-elected. Healthcare is crazy right now. The Affordable Care Act is a disaster. The new planned American Healthcare Act is terrible too. Will the future be more like Healthcare Savings Accounts or more like Universal Healthcare? Both have some huge-flaws for huge segments of the population. I have my own ideas on what I think would fix these issues, and politicians do too, they’re just not catchy campaign slogans. But the truth is, Christians need to stop putting their faith and trust in government and they need to stop blaming it for all the evils in the world. They are not the solution to taking care of the elderly, widows, and infirmed. The church is. They are also not the cause of all these issues. The Fall was. We need to take care of one another. We all need to share our different issues that we’re having, and then all rally around those needs. Let the US Government do its best to figure out the needs of the American people. Let the church do its best to help their own people and be a beacon of light to this lost and dying world. They should be showing what real love looks like. Liberals want to complain that the government isn’t doing enough and there are still too many in need; and Conservatives want to complain that the government is doing too much and the reason why there are still too many in need. Christians in both groups need to use language that lets those in the church know that they will help them; and like Jesus’ parable… actually help them.
As a Christian I am trapped in a no-win situation with my culture. As a policy, I want people to do whatever they want as long as they’re not hurting someone else. But when I say that, I only mean it in a physical sense. Almost everyone in America is hurting themselves spiritually every day. My personal belief is that spiritual issues shouldn’t be legislated, including my ability to share about those spiritual issues with others. This certainly comes to the forefront when dealing with the LGBTQ community. There are so many in there who are hurting emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. Christians are tending to take one of two stances these days within the church. Bash them either outwardly or subtly, or welcome them unequivocally. Both these stances are wrong. We need to deal with sin as sin, and we need to help people as people. Instead of dealing with all the different issues within the LGBTQ debate, I’ll deal with just the most recent one for example sake – the Bathroom Controversy. Now, I’m going to reveal my Libertarian bent. I want as few laws as possible. Making a law concerning bathrooms is just a lawyers dream-world. If you state that you can use the bathroom of your choosing, you are going to create a ridiculous legal loophole for real sickos to stroll through. On the other hand, if you create a law to the contrary where you have to use the bathroom of your biology, how do you enforce it? Surprise, surprise transgendered people look like the opposite sex once they transition. Do you want finger prick blood tests at bathroom doors? Do you want TSA scanners? The answer is there shouldn’t be a law. Laws complicate it. (The one law I can kind of get behind is to just require stores to have a few dozen individual bathrooms. I love when I have my own private potty.) The point here is for Christians to use language that lets those in the LGBTQ community know that they are welcome to come to the foot of the cross as all are who are weak and heavy laden; and that also we will help them overcome their sin and their struggles. I know most in that community don’t want help overcoming their sin, because they don’t see their actions as sin. All I’m saying is I’m willing help if they want it. I honestly don’t know what I would do or how I would do it, but I know I’d be willing to pray, counsel, teach the scriptures, keep them accountable, and anything else I’m capable of doing. I believe Jesus Christ changes hearts and souls. So I don’t want to say or do anything that hinders someone coming to Christ or say something that confuses the message of the Bible. Those words need to be chosen carefully, because that’s not the easiest road to travel.
So in conclusion, the little nursery rhyme of, sticks and stones might break my bones but words will never hurt me, is just not true. Words hurt people all the time, just not usually physically. Our language needs to be reflective of our desire to not only not hurt people but to actually help people. As a person who skews conservative, I personally think that government policies do more harm than good. One of my favorite stories is when the British Government was colonizing India they became very concerned about Cobras (the snake, not the enemy of GIJoe.) So their idea was to pay $5 for every dead cobra. Well, people are smart. They started raising cobras and then killing them for $5 a piece. Cobra breeders made quite a bit of money doing that. When the British government figured that out they rescinded the order. Well all these cobra breeders had all these leftover cobras so they just released them into the wild. Biologists estimate that there were more wild cobras after the $5 bounties than before. This is called the Cobra Principle and any time a government starts shilling out money, it will create more of what it’s trying to prevent. Percentage wise there aren’t less poor people before welfare started than after. We’ve spent a lot of money for not much to happen. But I also don’t pretend that you could end something like that and not have massive casualties. My answer is to let Americans fight over the best course of action, and let’s have Christians show an alternative way. Let’s have Christians recapture the language of love and hope. Let’s have Christians using language to explain the truths of God and not get caught in the daily politics that are meant to just keep us running in circles. Language matters. Use it for good.
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