DMINLGP

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

Who has the Conch?

Written by: on September 7, 2020

 

 

There was a time in my life when all that had to be said to win my support on a controversial subject was, ‘the Bible says it’s true’. Another way to gain my vote would have been to affirm God’s agreement or disagreement with regards to an issue that was up for debate. I was manipulated and my response, in those days, suited the political agenda of the ‘right’. I didn’t care about the reason for a viewpoint other than the one that I was being told to believe was the right one according to scripture. The battle was against those who were labelled as oppressors to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, ones who advocated for those whose lifestyles or choices were considered opposite to the idyllic life set out for us to know, cling to and strive for in accordance with God’s Word. I was ambitious, a full-tilt Ambassador.

 

 

Beverly Garside, in her article ‘Holy Narcissism, White Evangelicals and Trump’ describes with sour taste her feelings toward the exclusionary and superior attitude of white evangelicals. Based on the political approach and messaging that she filters through, as an agnostic woman, it seems to her that there’s an expectation streaming from evangelicalism that believes ‘we are supposed to be a “Christian nation” under the strict rule of straight white Christian men’ and, not necessarily multi-ethnic and diverse [1]. There’s political power play, coercion and manipulation for votes in order to keep this as status quo. Anxiety seems to fuel the movement. As a young Ambassador, I remember fear as the driving emotion that divided me from what I did not understand. This fear manifested ugly.

 

Samuel Perry and Andrew Whitehead, in their book ‘Taking America Back for God’ describe four different kinds of people and paradigms, four ways of considering the foundational and current influence of American Christianity on society and in politics: rejectors, resistors, accommodators and ambassadors. Perry and Whitehead are social scientists, interested in the impact of Christian Nationalism, ‘an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture’ [2], as ‘a framework that orients Americans’ perspectives on national identity, belonging, and social hierarchies’ [3]. This is perceived as an essential study, one ‘that matters’, with pointed findings pertaining to many aspects of American living and social structure, that portray the patterns and trends of the four different groups in their relationship to the principles of Christian Nationalism [4].

 

Christian Nationalism is a position that can be differentiated from Christian religiosity. Eric Kaufmann, in his Washington Examiner article, ‘For God and Country’, while reviewing Whitehead and Perry’s ‘Taking America Back for God’, considers the ‘unalloyed reactionary impulse’ of Christian Nationalists with whom ‘religion serves as a symbolic boundary marker’. Contrasting this somewhat illusory/fallacious system, in the manner Christian religiosity Kaufmann observes an ‘outward-oriented approach’ and a concern for ‘social justice’. A negative partisanship ensues between the competing sides, a relationship that pursues and highlights discontinuities rather than the possibility of common ground. It seems that the greater the space between, with regards to current matters of social importance in American society, the stronger the integrity of their respective political parties. And, some people, both those of faith and those not, are left on the outskirts of this unfolding drama wondering who is right, where they fit and what does God (if there is a God) think about the confusion-making mess of American politics.

 

The world is watching the “United States of” America; the world always does. The truth is, America is so loud about everything, it’s difficult not to pay attention. America calls for attention, constantly pushes for the power of the time and impresses control over the space. The result of this attitude is becoming ‘turn-off’. The hyper-antagonism across the sides of systems of belief seems complicated; simply, what the world witnesses are angry, loyal people who love their teams and who would do or say anything to ‘win’. I don’t know where truth or belief plays into it? Super-anxiety and mindless-idolatry may have something to do with the underlying causes of the tension. Unfortunately, throughout the world America is losing respect and credibility. (These things so sadden me to type out plainly because there are many Americans who I care for deeply, individuals who I hurt for in this time of seeming unravelling in their country).

 

 

Soong-Chan Rah in his book ‘Prophetic Lament’ writes that in the book of Lamentations the people of God had ‘made significant assumptions about their privileged positions’ such as an ‘assumed level of protection’ that derived from a sense of exceptionalism. He connects this attitude with that of American evangelicals and at the risk of coming across as both anti-Christian and anti-American, states that ‘American exceptionalism finds no support in the scriptures’ [6]. The topic of humility could be a good way to enter into any political conversation. From this posture of vulnerability and openness then, to consider what the expression of the love of God is. An attitude to ‘win’ or to ‘be right’ will have no place in this conversation, save for those who’ve been overlooked and oppressed, those who’ve been used as subjects and platforms over the ages of haughty political competition. Then, from the breaking of American exceptionalism and Christian Nationalism, perhaps simply a break from the noise.

 

A sunrise moment, one of an awakening or what has been referred to as ‘wokeness’ can occur in the blink of an eye; a paradigm shift. Every person matters. In a moment of discrimination as a result of racism, the person affected matters most. In a moment of segregation as a result a lifestyle orientation, the person affected matters most. Life matters and, it matters more than what we might think of it, right or wrong. The control of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, the battle of ‘first’ and ‘last’ is fought on the battleground of narcissism.

 

Is it a call into competition when the Savior of the world says, ‘the last shall be first and the first shall be last’? By no means, this is a call to surrender and love your neighbour before yourself.

 

 

Bibliography

 

[1] Garside, Beverly. “Holy Narcissism, White Evangelicals and Trump”. Medium Magazine. July 27, 2019. https://medium.com/@beverlygarside44/holy-narcissism-white-evangelicals-and-trump-31b09d01264a.

[2] Whitehead, Andrew L.,Perry, Samuel L.. Taking America Back for God (pp. ix-x). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

[3] Whitehead, Andrew L.,Perry, Samuel L.. Taking America Back for God (p. x). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

[4] Whitehead, Andrew L.,Perry, Samuel L.. Taking America Back for God (p. 152). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

[5] Kaufmann, Eric. “For God and Country”. The Washington Examiner. February 27, 2020. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/eric-kaufmann-on-taking-america-back-for-god-by-andrew-whitehead-and-samuel-perry

[6] Soong-Chan Rah (p.94)

https://religioninpublic.blog/2020/02/05/christian-nationalism-talks-religion-but-walks-fascism/

About the Author

mm

Chris Pollock

Dad of Molly Polly Pastor at the Mustard Seed Street Church Trail Runner

6 responses to “Who has the Conch?”

  1. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Lament is such a powerful posture and exercise. I have, however, seen some conflate lament with grief. They are distinct. Lament transcends grief, alon. Lament contains hope. It’s “grieving like those who have hope.” How has your understanding of lament grown and morphed?

  2. mm Greg Reich says:

    Chris,
    You bring up a good point that the world is watching! Having traveled into different parts of the world I often wonder why so many people are enamored with the United States and think we should be above the common ailments that other countries struggle with. I also wonder if other countries expectations and opinions are also part of the problem. They seemed to be more concerned with our problems then those in their own country. As an insider and a student of history it is clear to see that the US has always had issues and glaring flaws. As you stated we are loud about everything, yet the world continues to look to the US to come up with solutions, military assistance, economical stability and world leadership. This to me seems odd.

    • mm Chris Pollock says:

      Thanks for responding, Greg. I really appreciate your viewpoint and care.

      It’s so hard to know what is going on in these times. It is difficult to know where lies the truth. Truth and, what it is; truth and, who is telling it. There is a struggle in the way of truth in this time. To hold things lightly, perhaps, and to listen closely. Therein, we may find the way toward it. The noise is coming from every direction and, the loudest voice with force, makes itself known.

      I was unsure how to word some of the things that were on my heart to share. Thank you for your grace. Loss of power and control or, assumed power and control, may enliven resentment as opposed to gratitude over time.

      Thank you for the grace in your response. Really trying to listen closely. If I’m way off please, I’m totally open for some help in realignment.

  3. mm Greg Reich says:

    Chris,
    No offense taken on my part. I wasn’t intending to be harsh or brash. The noise at times can be deafening when it comes to world politics. These are trying times and I am sorry to say the US has shown its seedy under belly yet again on the world arena. I often remind myself that despite what the rest of the world appears to think that the hope of the world doesn’t reside on US politics but in Christ Jesus. I believe the focus needs to be on the health of the body of Christ world wide not on politics. God bless my friend.

  4. mm Jer Swigart says:

    Bro. Beautiful piece.

    Early on, you speak of fear. Toward the end, you highlight the dawning or the awakening.

    I’m wondering how you would suggest that folks who are driven by fear can be awakened into the liberation that’s there’s if they want it.

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    I’m grateful for your perspective! We US Americans often believe ourselves to be the center of the universe. We either forget (or don’t care) that the world is watching, but worse, we fail to recognize lessons others can teach us. My daily prayer is for genuine repentance and for Christ-followers to show our loyalty and allegiance to Jesus in the ways we love and serve God and others. I fear we are a long way from that reality.

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