What are the two topics you are never supposed to talk about at family get-togethers? Politics and religion, of course! If you said toupées and sock lengths, you would be also be correct.
Politics and religion. Nothing gets people more fired up than politics and religion. You might have even sat up a little straighter after reading those words. It is because these topics are such hot-button issues that I want to take the time to talk about them in my devotional for this week.
Over my time here at First Pres, I have seen a lot of changes. The church is changing. Our country is changing. More importantly, the politics of our country are changing. Now, more than ever, it is vitally important to remind ourselves how to talk to one another, especially in regards to topics that are so intertwined with passion. I am reminded of how I used to misquote Yoda, from Star Wars. He says, “Always in motion is the future” to Luke Skywalker. For the longest time I thought he said, “Always emotion is the future”. Lucky for me, both sound like something he would say, and something we should consider.
Reactions. Of course, our reactions will dictate the future. This has always been true. However, we are living in an age where our immediate reactions are now a new commodity. Our immediate reactions are being monetized. They are driving industries. This is new for us. As consumers, companies used to look at our trends to drive sales, but now companies are using people to do the trending for them. Metaphorically, we have another set of tangled Christmas lights to untangle on a daily level. So, how do we do that?
It starts with a subject, an idea. The subject/idea is like the trunk of a tree. Its strength lies in its roots. Take the subject/idea of “feeding the hungry”. This is an idea I think most people would find value in, especially in a church setting. Imagine you are in a meeting, serving on a committee, and someone asks, how do we make that happen? How do we feed the hungry? The next step is the interpretation. The interpretation is akin to the branches on a tree, and here is where we can fall victim to our own hubris. I imagine almost everyone reading this has served on a committee or has been in a meeting at some point in their life. How many times have the interpretations in the room become the focus over the subject/idea? How many times do our reactions towards an interpretation separate us from working together? Is this not one of the greatest impediments to the church and all it could accomplish?
Now, for the magic trick. Apply all of this to politics. The subject/idea and the interpretation. Again, the subject/idea is like the trunk of a tree. Its strength lies in its roots. The interpretation is akin to the branches on a tree. There is room for multiple interpretations so long as they all serve the subject/idea. When we inflate the interpretation to such a degree that our view of the interpretation is more important than the subject/idea itself, it is no longer about the subject/idea, it is about our own gratification. We are a Christian community, and Jesus teaches us to be selfless.
We are a Christian community. We will always be talking about religion. Concerning politics, I think the time is upon us to shift the current nightmare political landscape into a much less reactive one. To do that, I think we are going to have to remove the taboo nature surrounding politics in our everyday, normal settings. Hopefully, an intent focus on the subject/idea and the interpretation will give us the chance to do so without being so reactive and divisive.
Like Yoda never actually said, “Always emotion is the future”.