Please Give Up Your First Amendment Rights

November 7, 2012

I have a question for you, now that Election Day is over:6a00d834515f9b69e2016302ae4f64970d-800wi

How much damage did the election cause to the church?

Or rather, how much damage did we do, with the election’s help?

I am writing this on Tuesday afternoon. I have no idea what mood I will be in by the time you read these words. While you are reading these words, literally half of this country is very upset. I do not need to be a fortune teller to know that.

Half of us are convinced that the man who will be President for the next four years will cause irreparable harm to this country. Chances are, he will, as most Presidents do. Hopefully, he will cause less harm than the good he accomplishes.

But I fear that the damage done to our churches will not be erased anytime soon, though the election is over.

Fourth Grade Politics

I have an interesting challenge as a school teacher: keeping politics out of the classroom.

It isn’t that I can’t resist indoctrinating my captive, elementary school audience. I can’t get the kids to shut up about the election! Of course, I know that they are just parroting the inflamed opinions that their parents said behind closed doors. Those opinions are not meant to be shouted in the middle of a classroom.

But children do not know that it is rude to talk about politics in polite company…

…Actually, it seems many adults have forgotten that too.

The Rules of Etiquette Do Not Apply

A consequence of our digital space is that people have forgotten the long standing rules of etiquette that allow us to maintain a civilized society.

So people fill up their Facebook timelines with asinine political opinions, parroted from cable news. Bloggers assault blog-nation with well-worn clichés.

You can do this if you want to.  You’re an American. But remember that some people will un-friend, un-follow or un-subscribe you.

But what is inexcusable is the habit that so many people seem to have of assuming that everyone in the room is of the same political stripe. I do not care if you are in your church, your small group, or just a group of casual friends.  It is rude, crude, and completely classless to speak with the condescending assumption that everyone in the group simply must be voting the same way.

I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself in that situation, even with good friends. I consider myself polite enough to not speak up when this happens. But my opinion of someone immediately plummets whenever they do this.

I have seen way too many blog posts that seem to have this same attitude: that anyone with a brain must be voting a certain way.  If you’re my friend, or you go to my church, or you read my blog, surely you must be intelligent enough to know how to vote.

As Christians, we have allowed the election to divide us with permanent wedges. We have broken Christian unity and allowed irreparable damage to break the church by treating each other with contempt. We have placed the kingdom of America before the Kingdom of God.

Give Up Your Freedom of Speech

One of my closest friends is also my most challenging.

When it comes to theology, we are both Christians.  But talking theology is a struggle between us.

And politics?  Don’t even go there.  I really cannot imagine how he reached most of his political conclusions.

Christian fellowship is something I value very highly with friends. And with friends like this it is a discipline. I discipline myself to not speak with condescending assumptions. I don’t ask how could you possibly think that?  When he says something that is foolishness to me, I bite my tongue or carefully measure my words, out of love.

Unity in the Spirit of Christ is infinitely more valuable than unity in politics.

There are a lot of Christians who are mad as hell today.  They hate the way you voted yesterday.

Because of that, it is now time for each of us to engage in the discipline of being quiet, of suppressing our urge to speak our little minds. We must put others before ourselves, even if that means shutting up. It’s time for the yard signs to be taken down and the airwaves to be cleared. In the name of Christian unity, give up your freedom of speech for a while, especially the political kind.

Christian unity is a discipline, and it is extraordinarily difficult…

…But it is so much more valuable than how we voted yesterday.

Speak your mind! Have we allowed politics to divide where we should be united? How do we go forward from such a heated election? How do we restore unity with people whose voting choices we hate?

28 responses to Please Give Up Your First Amendment Rights

  1. Thank you for this post, Matt. This election season has been so long and venomous. Sadly, this is mostly among Christians. It breaks my heart.

  2. I am currently hosting family members who hold opposite views in politics. Last night, we played card games and Bananagrams together. The TV was off and only once or twice did I check results on my phone. We acted as if the election wasn’t happening. It was a wonderful evening. This morning, God was gracious enough to have me read Psalm 61, which has become my prayer for the morning and should be every Christian’s post-election prayer, regardless of whether their choice for elected officials won or not. God be praised!

  3. Totally agree. I’ve stopped reading Facebook (except for my kids’ posts) and have been avoiding certain blogs for the exact reasons you give. Even the people I agree with have embarrassed me with their screaming rants.Hopefully, now that the election is over, we can settle down and try to love one another.

  4. “Unity in the Spirit of Christ is infinitely more valuable than unity in politics.” We definitely forgot that somewhere along the way. Praying that God will use posts like this one and others I’ve read this morning to convict us and bring us back to where (and who) we should be.

  5. We actually had a small group meeting last night and most people were voicing their opinions about the election. I disagreed with almost all of them. But I know these people, love them, and was not really offended by their comments.

    I realized it’s not people’s political opinions that bother me (I think we need Christians on both sides), it’s how they often share their opinions in very un-Christian ways. This is why last week I posted a blog series on why Christianity is better than politics. People forget that.

  6. Our church shared in Communion last night after the polls closed. The few who came to participate were really moved, and challenged to speak well of the new “emperor”, whoever it turned out to be.

  7. “Because of that, it is now time for each of us to engage in the discipline of being quiet, of suppressing our urge to speak our little minds. We must put others before ourselves, even if that means shutting up. It’s time for the yard signs to be taken down and the airwaves to be cleared. In the name of Christian unity, give up your freedom of speech for a while, especially the political kind.”

    Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”

    I have nothing further to say. :D

  8. Matt, thank you for this post. It echos what we all profess to believe when Paul writes it in 1 Corinthians 6, that we ought rather be wronged or cheated than bring a lawsuit against a fellow Christian, and that though we have freedom to do all, not all is beneficial. I interpret this also to govern my choices about speaking about divisive issues. When I have not heeded Paul’s impassioned plea, I’ve come to regret it terribly. Now, I try to measure my words so that if they come back to haunt me because I’m wrong, it won’t be too humiliating. If they turn out to be right, my prayer is that my words won’t, in their strident tone, cause others to turn from Christ.

  9. I had a friend who’s political views are a lot different from mine, but we still have a close friendship. Since we both work for the “state” we had Election Day off… Instead of being glued to the television watching the war or sitting on Facebook all day being negative… He cooked a Thanksgiving dinner. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents sat down and forgot about the war and laughed, prayed, and filled our bellies…
    I believe we allow our personal views to take over and put a space between us… I know I am guilty of it, but yesterday I felt like a family and last night as the polls were closing I had joy in my heart for my friends..

  10. “Better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove any doubt.”

  11. I think the root problem is that we’ve forgotten as a society how to have a public discourse on any subject. Usually, when discussing an _idea_, one or more parties either checks their brain at the door and just parrots the fear mongering they’ve been told or they take a disagreement over an idea as a personal affront. Me saying that I disagree with you doesn’t imply that I don’t like you or think you’re stupid or Hitler. It means I disagree with you.

    But it is so very, VERY rare that two thoughtful people can come together to discuss _ideas_ in a rational manner, without one resorting to extremes or name calling. So most people just avoid the “tough” issues. We just don’t talk politics (or theology, for that matter) at all, rather than risk getting people upset. Because when people get upset, they leave the church.

    And the problem with that, at least inside the church, is that we’re supposed to be “iron sharpening iron.” That doesn’t happen without sparks. And if we’re not bouncing ideas off of each other, then who is it that we’re going to to hone and refine our ideas? We are a _body_ that is supposed to work together for the betterment of all. We NEED to be talking about these things….in a civil fashion…..and even if we walk away still disagreeing, we will have sharpened each other, and understood each other better.

    Yes, people need to not be idiots who assume that everyone around them with a brain agrees with them……but being “polite” and just not talking about it isn’t the answer. Get the elephant out of the room by _talking_ about it, not “hiding” it behind a curtain.

  12. I didn’t like the outcome because I am a ‘freedom’.

    But this piece made me realize where my hope should really be:

    http://theoldadam.com/2012/11/08/earthly-messiahs-come-and-go/

    Thanks.

  13. Should have been ‘freedom’ guy.

  14. Is unity at the cost of never saying something the other person doesn’t like actually unity?

    • Did Paul actually tell Christians to always, permanently give up all their freedom in order to not stumble another Christian? No, but there are times and places to do so. This is a time and place for Christians to put others first, and a big way to repair unity is silence.

  15. This is an excellent reminder because I do often think that way politically (how can you think that?). The friends whom I know to be opposite of me I’m very careful, but I let myself go to town when in unmixed company.

    However in our church? Not one word is said about it.

  16. Part of the problem is the “political” divisions you see are people advocating candidates and parties that have position counter to the Bible itself. So, being silent when they profess positions that go against the Scripture in their political debate, you’re being silent on them misrepresenting the Scriptures. It’s a fine line but that line is there.

  17. Unity in the Spirit of Christ is infinitely more valuable than unity in politics.

    says it all right there man, well said

  18. I think you’re too polite. I believe our Founding Fathers shouted their political beliefs in the town square, in letters to friends, in church, in their homes to family members not of the same persuasion.

    I think demonizing is impolite. But speaking plainly is fine.

  19. I’m just going to guess that the comments were all over the board. I simply want to say thank you for the reminder to practice civility and good manners.

  20. I couldn’t agree more. I actually dumped Facebook, partly because there was a glitch that wouldn’t let me unsubscribe from the things I didn’t want to see, and I was learning entirely too much about my friends’ political beliefs to be comfortable.