“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13
I have been sitting on this post for a while. I tend to be very hesitant to talk about politics in any arena other than my immediate family and close circle of friends. The problem is, morality and spirituality are a lot more subjective than they used to be! Catholics are split on everything from gay marriage to the priority of social justice issues. Many now prioritize the right to life behind the right to racial equality and the right to marriage. To stand up in a room full of Catholics and identify myself as a social and fiscal conservative is no small thing. As strongly as I stand upon my beliefs, there are 100 parishioners that stand opposed to me in the name of Jesus, and in the name of Mercy. We sit in the same pews and listen to the same scriptures and homilies. And yet, we are diametrically opposed on so many fronts. What frightens me the most about this is that the Church will split even more if I speak up: that I will cause others to feel uncomfortable, or that the resulting conflicts may fracture our body even further.
However, I sincerely believe that we Christians need to discuss issues in the public spectrum calmly, kindly, and with as much wisdom as we can pray God can give us. For me, being conservative and being a Christian are so closely linked because one begets the other! What I try desperately to practice as a Christian every day determines how I cast my vote, spend my money, and direct my energy. I take to heart and practice (to the best to my ability, and I could always do much better!) loving my neighbor as myself. I believe in mercy, in second chances, in shouldering the burdens of the oppressed, the widowed, and the orphans. But I also concur with Beth Moore that “mercy morphs into depression when we take God’s responsibility instead of our possibility” (Moore, Beth. James: Mercy Triumphs(Nashville, Tennessee: Life Way Press, 2012), 127.
I think we conservatives have been operating from the assumption that there were more people out there than we knew of, sharing the same values and living the same lives. But, I am starting to come to terms with the fact that that may not be the case any more. And, to me, that is sad. And, it’s lonely . . . even at Church, because I never know what I can say and what I can’t say without “offending” someone. But I think that’s part of the problem, and I am holding myself accountable right here and now. Maybe we conservatives need to make a better case for our side, and stop being so politically correct.
Maybe we need to start talking about all of those babies (up to 24 weeks in Washington state, even though you are required to make arrangements for burial or cremation after 20 weeks if they are stillborn!) who never get a chance to vote. Maybe it’s time we need to talk about who is paying to keep the lights on and the pews warm in our churches (tithers, maybe?). Maybe it’s time we talk about the charities we run and support, the private Christian and Catholic schools we teach in and believe in and volunteer in. Maybe it’s time to talk about what we’re teaching our children at our dinner tables: that they are responsible for not only themselves, but also those around them, that it is THEIR responsibility to look for the give, to find the slack, and give from their OWN plates. Maybe we need to make sure our children know that no government can provide what a Church can, no matter how enticing the handouts may be. Maybe we need to set our sights on raising people who will affect change in the world, instead of waiting in line to be spoon-fed. Either way, we must raise tough human beings with God in their hearts. I think, then, we may be able to survive and thrive in minority status. The Bible contains multiple examples (with instructions!) of people who did just that.
I had not read Jeremiah 29 in a while (if you get a chance, read the verses 1-14). Of course, verses 11-13 are some of my most favorite. But, I had forgotten that they are a part of a larger letter Jeremiah sent to the Israelite captives in Babylon. In this letter, the Lord urges the captives to settle into their new homes, marry, increase in numbers. I found it interesting in verse 7: “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” God is instructing his people to flourish in captivity! This is definitely a different approach than trying to find a new country to emigrate to (where would we go, anyways?!).
How these Jews must have felt when they heard this message! No sackcloth and ashes, no protesting? God wants us to flourish in captivity? I couldn’t help but reflect upon the movie “Defiance,” about three brothers who flee after the Germans killed their parents and two brothers in the Nowogrodek ghetto in December 1941. They didn’t just survive to protect their immediate family members. They made it a rule to help all Jews–women, children, and the elderly–who could be helped. They increased in numbers from an original group of 30 to saving nearly 1200. They not only survived, but planted crops, organized a laundromat, synagogue, court/jail, and school. The descendants of those helped now number in the tens of thousands. For more information on their remarkable story, you can visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum online at:
When we feel as though we live in a foreign land, one in which the values we have been taught to hold dear are slipping through our fingers, we will panic. I have wondered what my children’s adulthood will look like. Will they have the same options, will they have the same freedoms I have enjoyed? Will they see a future that is full of possibilities? I don’t know. But I do know that I can raise them to flourish, whether they are in captivity or hiding in the wilderness. I can raise them to believe that their hope is not in the things of this world, but in the God that carries us into captivity and then delivers us from it.
Being a Christian in the United States 2013 is hardly what our Jewish friends have endured. We are not captives in a foreign land, neither are we hiding in the wilderness to save our very lives. But, as we Christian conservatives hold our values even more tightly in the days and years ahead, let us not forget that we are responsible to maintain an identity in our communities. If we are living our values, and honestly vocalizing them in a kind and courageous manner, we can effect change for ourselves and those to come. We can call on Him and come and pray to Him, and He will hear us. He will appear when we seek Him with all of our hearts.
Full of hope,