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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

In which I get apolitically political

Written by: on February 22, 2018

According to the book The Rebel Sell, Heath and Potter believe that counterculture movements (be it the Hippies of the 60’s or the Punk Rockers of the 90’s) are founded on a false premise which renders them “a set of dramatic gestures that are devoid of any progressive political or economic consequences and that detract from the urgent task of building a most just society.”[1] The authors seem to think that the rebels are more interested in preserving their status as rebels than affecting change within the culture, refusing to acknowledge the difference between “compromising” and ‘selling out.’”[2]

One target of their critique is Michael Moore, who ends up taking a position against gun control, not because he is against gun control but because he deems it too superficial. “He passes up a perfectly workable solution … on the grounds that it is not radical or ‘deep’ enough … he rejects anything less.”[3] I can’t help but think of the book Heroic Leadership, in which former Jesuit Christ Lowney reminds us that real change happens by “knowing what’s negotiable and what isn’t.”[4]

Heath and Potter dig deeper to reveal that in many ways, the counterculture ends up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The inability to discern the difference between essentials and non-essentials often leaves society in a worse place than it was before. To offer an example, the authors point to the feminist movement. In seeking the sexual liberation of women, they “assumed that the very existence of rules was a symptom of the oppression of women.”[5] By getting rid of all the rules, women actually became more vulnerable to rape and ultimately to poverty. The authors conclude, “The result was not liberation, it was hell.”[6]

In a review of Rebel Sell, Ian Reilly offers this critique: “In their attempt to create a uniform structural model, the authors have stripped the counterculture of its most distinguishing feature: diversity. Ironically, the success of their argument ultimately rests on the notion that the counterculture can be seen as, and reduced to, a monolithic entity.”[7]

I disagree. I don’t think that Heath and Potter reduce counterculture to a “monolithic entity,” I think they rightly identify the underlying crack in the overall counterculture foundation—their collective inability to see the big picture and accept being a part of something bigger than themselves. In each of the stories told, those seeking “freedom” or “creativity” or “individuality” made their goal their god, and ended up serving it more than being liberated by it.

When we see a need for systemic change, we can easily become myopic. We create false dichotomies. We demonize the “other.” And how easy it is to let our pride keep us from compromise. When I think of the current battle around gun laws in the United States, I see both sides guilty of this. Every American…EVERY. AMERICAN…should be absolutely outraged that school shootings repeatedly happen in that country, and in that country alone. Every American should be willing to discuss all options to solve this epidemic. Every American should be able to compromise some aspect of their ideals in order to make progress towards safe schools.

Instead, the gap just keeps getting wider and wider between the two sides. Both seem to have bought the countercultural lie that compromising is “selling out.” Each side’s commitment to their cause continues to trump their commitment to the greater good.

What if they decided to learn how to compromise.

Could the Left consider some options that don’t include making stricter gun laws?

Could the Right consider some options that do?

When does solving this finally become more important that holding to our own ideals?

What boggles my mind the most is the number of my Christian brothers and sisters who seem to be unswervingly attached to the Second Amendment, as if compromising on this bit of legislation would be the equivalent of blasphemy.

They are the ones posting this sort of thing on Facebook:

But don’t they see the plank in their own eye? The plank which that claims to be pro-life but is more concerned about their right to bear arms than the children who are being killed in schools?

Before I came on the mission field, I might have been among them. I remember hearing a joke made by US Army General Schwarzkopf about France’s refusal to join in the Iraq war. He said, “Going to war without the French is like going hunting without an accordion.” I thought it was funny.

Yesterday I sat on my sofa with a dear Christian friend who was telling me much of her life story, which included a bit about her husband being a “conscientious objector” when it was time for him to do his compulsory military service. She totally supported his position, both of them basing their decision on their Christian faith.

There is no Second Amendment in France. There is no Second Amendment in the Bible. The right to bear arms is not a fundamental part of the human experience, it is not a right “endowed on us by our creator.”

I’m not saying that Christians need to be against the Second Amendment. I am saying that they are certainly NOT doctrinally required to be FOR it.

Christians, Christ has called us to a countercultural experience, one where Jesus is king. Because of Him, we should be leading the way towards peace and reconciliation. Reaching across party lines to find a way forward on this critical issue. There are no easy answers, and the solution will have to be multifaceted. Disparaging the other while clinging to your own way of seeing things is not the way of Christ.

He has shown us a more excellent way.

[1] Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, The Rebel Sell: How the Counterculture Became Consumer Culture (Chichester: Capstone, 2006). 69.

[2] Heath and Potter. 69.

[3] Wright, Pike. “Fightin’ words.” This Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2005, p. 8. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A126851352/AONE?u=newb64238&sid=AONE&xid=79b16bcc. Accessed 22 Feb. 2018.

[4] Chris Lowney, Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World, Reprint edition (Chicago, Ill: Loyola Press, 2005). 29.

[5] Heath and Potter. 70.

[6] Heath and Potter. 70.

[7] Ian Reilly, “The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t Be Jammed,” The Journal of Popular Culture 40, no. 1 (February 1, 2007): 187–88, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5931.2007.00369.x.

About the Author

mm

Jennifer Williamson

Jenn Williamson is a wife and mother of two adult sons. Before moving to France in 2010, she was the women's pastor at Life Center Foursquare Church in Spokane, WA. As a missionary with Greater Europe Mission, she is involved in church planting and mentoring emerging leaders. Jenn benefitted from French mentors during her transition to the field, and recognizes that cross-cultural ministry success depends on being well integrated into the host culture. Academic research into missionary sustainability and cultural adaptation confirmed her own experience and gave her the vision to create Elan, an organization aimed at helping missionaries transition to the field in France through the participation of French partners.

7 responses to “In which I get apolitically political”

  1. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Great post Jen. Do you think its ok for us to disparage the other if we make the target “the world” or “principalities of darkness” etc. I’ve done a few sermons series as a youth pastor called “counter-culture” when I challenged my students to be against the other. Of course, this was spiritual “other” and not political other.

    We certainly are becoming more polarized between the two sides. As someone who generally identifies with conservative thought, I feel like I’m open to considering left ideas but legitimately I dont see how the left ideas are solutions. Maybe I am too predisposed. How can I be sure I am objectively and rationally cosidering the suggestions.

    • mm Jennifer Williamson says:

      To answer you first question, I think we called to be different, and I love the image Jesus give of being salt. Salt will have an effect. On food, in can bring out flavor. But on a wound it can kill bacteria. The salt, because of its distinct properties, will be offensive to bacteria. I suppose we could even say that the salt attacks the bacteria, but not using weapons, just by simply being wha salt was made to be. As Christians, the BIble tell us that our way of living and being–wimply who we are–will be offensive to some (a stench!). But this happens when God’s spirit transforms us, makes us righteous, and by grace, we no longer desire the the things of this world.

      As for considering the suggestions of the other, I think this is a great challenge for all of us. One thing that helps me is avoiding false dichotomies. Perhaps neither side has the best answer, can we start looking for a third way? Thay third way might mean letting go of some of my own ideas, but it does not necessarily require me to fully embrace all of the other’s ideas.

  2. Very thought provoking post Jenn! I agree that something needs to be done about the epidemic in America that is killing more children than any other country in the world. These stats are staggering: “Every Day on Average (ages 0-19)
    Every day, 46 children and teens are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.

    Every day, 7 children and teens die from gun violence:

    4 are murdered
    3 die from suicide
    Every day, 40 children and teens are shot and survive:

    31 injured in an attack
    1 survives a suicide attempt
    8 shot unintentionally
    https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/1iQNGpuYUQnlB2kn6zEfgoes3O4=/1600×0/filters:no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/8319829/gun_homicides_developed_countries.0.jpg
    I also agree that people seem to be holding onto their right to bear arms and placing it above the protection of children.

  3. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Jenn,
    Thank you for a thought-provoking, heartfelt post. How surreal it must be (for you) to be watching these events unfold as a US citizen living overseas. I agree with you – the solution is not in holding a liberal or conservative “stance” on the second amendment – but to find a solution to protect our children and society. We have to recognize that the US is in crisis related to gun violence, and effectively seek a solution. Thank you for passionate post. How do you navigate the questions about the US policies and tragedies with your friends/acquaintances in France?

  4. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    It’s tricky sometimes.

    What I find eye-opening, and has really helped me adjust my worldview, is realizing that Christians aroung the globe are baffled by the American gun culture. It’s made me realize that the conversvative right second ammendment Christians are really the oddballs when you look across the global spectrum of Christianity and their view on guns.

  5. It seems to me that evangelicals in the US tend to conflate their politics with the faith – to the point that 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/09/exit-polls-show-white-evangelicals-voted-overwhelmingly-for-donald-trump/?utm_term=.7e5a7bd623fe

    In other countries such as Canada, Britain, and I expect, France, evangelicals hold a much wider range of opinions and beliefs about politics. In Canada, I am friends with evangelical conservatives and evangelical socialists. Because the brand “evangelical” is so tainted by the media, most are choosing now to abandon the label.

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