When President Obama got elected, I was severely disappointed, and I “just knew” that it was a huge mistake and that the problem was that the American people had rejected God. I myself had worked with my church to promote Ron Paul’s campaign, something which now embarrasses me but is part of my journey. During the period of the Obama administration, I have gone from the extreme right, from believing conspiracy theories, from extreme conservatism and fundamentalism, to a position I believe is more balanced. Now I claim to be just Christian, definitely not a fundamentalist, and to being a moderate that leans left. Looking back, I’m glad Obama was elected, although sometimes I wonder if I might not have preferred Hillary Clinton for president. I personally believe Bill Clinton was a pretty good president. Anyway, the main thing that changed my mind on my political views is the teachings of Jesus.
The very first issue that I faced in my journey was the issue of war and peace. I had always struggled with the concept of war, and had always been unsettled about the idea, but I wasn’t sure why. So I purposed to study the issue out, and I have to say that it changed me. Basically, as I looked at the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament and the historic teachings of the church, I became a pacifist, and for me this was life changing in a number of ways. Not only did I become a pacifist, but it was not long after that that I started to support the idea of gun laws, and I have several ideas on what kinds of gun control I would like to see. I believed that human life was valuable, certainly more valuable than stuff. I say this because the main reason I hear people in this country claim that they need a gun is for if someone breaks into their house and tries to steal their stuff. I would rather let the person take my stuff than take his life; life is precious and certainly more valuable than stuff.
As I delved further into pacifism and my support for gun control, and the sanctity of human life not only for the unborn but for the born as well, it changed the way I viewed people, and slowly began to change the way I treated people. As I turned away from violent thinking and violent imagery, I began to think differently about people, and recognize how valuable they are to God. And in my journey to non-violence, I quit spanking my kids. Now when I get into an argument with someone, instead of just lashing out and fighting with them, I usually stop and think about how precious they are to God, and it helps me to be more calm and rational with my responses. (I did write some articles on pacifism which I am going to put up on this blog as an archive).
I believe that Jesus really meant it when he said to do good to those who treat us wrongly, and that by me choosing to love others, people will know that I am a Christian. As my ideas about pacifism and gun control and non-violence evolved, so did my ideas about social justice. Now that I viewed all people as precious and worthy to God, I believed that Jesus would have me help the poor, and do right by others. As I walked in the new things that God had shown me, it changed me, and my Christian faith began to have so much more meaning than before. In fact, here’s a quote that sums up better than I could what I am saying here:
“Jesus came to offer more than just salvation from hell. I realized this when I encountered Jesus the radical rabbi and re-examined my life in light of his teachings. When I imagined what it would be like to give generously without wondering what was in it for me, to give up my grudges and learn to diffuse hatred with love, to stop judging other people once and for all, to care for the poor and seek out the downtrodden, to finally believe that stuff can’t make me happy, to give up my urge to gossip and manipulate, to worry less about what other people think, to refuse to retaliate no matter the cost, to be capable of forgiving to the point of death, to live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loved, one word came to mind: liberation. Following Jesus would mean liberation from my bitterness, my worry, my self-righteousness, my prejudices, my selfishness, my materialism, and my misplaced loyalties. Following Jesus would mean salvation from my sin.” Rachel Held Evans, “Evolving in Monkey Town” pg 174-175.
Another quote that really made me think just recently as I take these ideas and values further and I live them out is this:
“I’m not always sure how to react to war today. I can vow to work at Dunkin’ Donuts before taking a job as a defense contractor. I can threaten to weep should my children decide to become soldiers. I can choose not to tell the lie that it’s sweet and fitting to die for one’s country and say instead that it’s tragic. But all of these are just taking stands, and Jesus requires something more. Jesus didn’t say ‘people who speak out against war will inherit the earth’; He said people who embody, in their character and soul, this strange and alien value of meekness will inherit the earth. He didn’t say ‘blessed are those who refuse to fight’ but blessed are those who make peace. He didn’t say ‘blessed are those who don’t kill’ but blessed are those who show mercy. He didn’t call us simply to oppose positions that are wrong but to embody values that are heavenly.” Alisa Smith, “Raised Right” pg 107-108.
In other words, I see now that God is taking me even further, not just wanting me to be against something, but to be for something, and to live out the ideas that I claim to believe in.
*Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an attack on people who believe in war, or the military, or those who are conservative, fundamentalist, and right-wing. I’m simply trying to tell the story of my own journey and why I believe what I believe today.
Evans, R 2010, Evolving in Monkey Town, Zondervan, Grand Rapids
Harris, A 2011, Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics, Water Brook Press, Colorado Springs.