Walking in Christ
What does it mean to be a Christian? Sometimes I think this is becoming a significant question within the United Methodist Church.
If you go to most general and church sponsored events in this day and age (within UMC) inclusivity is being pushed to its farthest boundaries, political correctness is demanded. Compulsive seminars are being scheduled to instruct ministers and churches in Anti-Bias/Anti-Racism training, and social action is mandated but do these issues define the Christian faith? Now don’t get me wrong, there is value in learning about other people’s stories, and there is a place of personal growth and identifying one’s own bias and presumptions about life. It is good to have a better understanding of how to connect with people who are different than ourselves. However, is the Christian faith summed up by a particular social agenda, or set of political arguments with the name of Jesus merely bannered across them? Does Politically Correct Culture define Christianity?
Gregg Henriques PHD from Psychology Today in an article titled “Political Correctness Unpacked,”
defines Political correctness with 4 ideas: (abbreviated) “1. In a nutshell, (political correctness) is the insight that the norms, roles, expectations, power structures, etc. were built by heterosexual, white men, which in turn has had enormous negative consequences for diverse peoples. 2. Individuals who have privilege must acknowledge that privilege and must work to redress power imbalances. 3. Disadvantaged individuals are encouraged to point out the ways they have been silenced, diminished or marginalized. 4. Any disparate outcomes between groups is a function of what bell hooks calls “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” and, to be a good, justice loving individual, one must do what one can to undo these disparities. Indeed, PC culture is such that there is much signaling and posturing that highlights that one is enlightened in regards to these issues and thus is a morally “right” citizen.”
He speaks of the problem of how Political Correctness can become a system of “oppressive righteousness.” “Oppressive righteousness is when you can’t share your perspective if it challenges the central tenets because you will open yourself up to charges of being an overt sexist or racist, so you end up walking on eggshells.”
Also, I came across an interesting opinion piece written by Eric W. Dolan titled “Political correctness can lead to cognitive exhaustion According to New Research.” He states, “According to new findings published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, people are motivated to be politically correct out of a sense of kindness and consideration for their coworkers, but being politically correct can also lead to mental fatigue.” This in turn causes people to be slower in processing information in their workplace, making people feel drained, and often it puts them in a more irritable mood when they return home. This article was titled “Walking on Eggshells: An Investigation of Workplace Political Correctness” The article argues that there is certainly value in having a consideration for everyone, but nonetheless there is a price that is paid in productivity and mental energies in demanding such an environment. Mr. Dolan questions in his article if there is not such a thing as taking a matter to far.
So, is this what Christianity is meant to be? Does political correctness enhance, define, and actualize the Christian faith or is it merely a left political replacement for the gospel of the scriptures. What do the Scriptures tell us?
A story is told about a young boy who after listening to the minister’s sermon said to his mother, “Mommy, the preacher’s sermon this morning confused me. Can I ask you something?”
“Sure thing,” replied the mother
“Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?”
“Yes, that is true,” the mother replied.
“And he also said that God lives in us. Is that true, Mommy?”
Again the mother replied, “Yes”.
“Well,” the boy continued. “If God is bigger than us, and if God lives inside us, shouldn’t He show through?”
Indeed, if Christ is within you then he will show through in many places within your life. I think what we need most in life is not a better social value system to which we must adhere, uphold, and even worship, but what we need is simply the greater spiritual life of Christ within us. The bible says (Matthew 6:33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
I do not think Paul knew a great deal about Political Correctness, or the psychology of such matters, but it was Paul who said (Galatians 3:28) “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” If Paul never took an anti-racism/antibias training course, how did he come to understand this? He learned this because he came to know the love of Christ within his life, and he saw how that love brought everyone on to common ground. It is that love that changes the human heart and reshapes the mind. It is that Spirit of Christ that transforms life and make us one –not a political ideology that is forced upon a person.
Colossians begins with the image of being “rooted in Christ.” In other words, we are to be like a tree that puts down deep roots in order to find nutrition and find stability. Jeremiah 17:7-8 comes to mind where the prophet says, “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.” When we go deep in Christ, we will find all the resources we need to find joy in life and oneness of Spirit.
Colossians continues with the image of being built up in Christ. There is the downward understand of being in Christ and the upward understanding of growing up in Christ. It is within this grounding and this growth that we are able to achieve new heights personally and collectively.
Colossians continues by reminding us of the importance of what we were initially taught. This is the effectiveness of God’s word within our lives. Perhaps the reason that so many people get confused about the Christian life is that they have stopped listening to and studying God’s Word. If you do not know what the Bible says about God or if you simply do not believe it or understand it, then you can be easily misled. We need to be in worship and Bible study, discussing and praying over the scriptures. What do you learn daily from the scriptures? If we are rooted in Christ and seeking to grow in Christ, then study will be second nature.
Think about a person in your life that you care deeply about. Haven’t you made it a point to learn all about them? Don’t you want to spend time with them, listening to what they have to say? It is natural to want to be with the one you love and know all about them. So, it is with Christ, and know this that when you invite Christ into your life you will change. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that, “if anyone is in Christ, there is new creation….” As Christians we are transformed and, in a process of growing each day.
Now the Colossians were being persuaded that if they followed a strict set of rules and regulations, they could be assured of being accepted by God. They were being confronted with new understandings of old ideas. The Colossians were being told that their future salvation depended on living a certain way and believing certain things. These teachers went so far as to say that the only way one could be saved was by a strict adherence to these ideas and following their words. The Colossians were being sold a standard for religious righteousness. Should I be so bold as to suggest that it was the political correctness of their time.
To this Colossians says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe (basic ideas that govern the world), and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.”
Rules have no ability to change the human heart, but a life that looks to Christ will soon turn around and reflect his glory. God will show through us if we let him. I think that we should beware: If our church has been pushing for a certain direction over the past 50 years, and has shown little success and been losing members, how will this change simply by becoming more forceful in reinforcing political ideologies that that have failed during all that time. There is a better way.
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, used to tell about the transforming power of love.
It seems that there was this woman who was married to a tyrant of a husband. She could never please him no matter how hard she tried. He constantly criticized her for everything.
Early in their marriage, he handed her a list of 25 rules for her to follow. She hated it and she hated him. You can imagine how frustrating it was to her to have to constantly check her list to see if she was pleasing him, and to stay out of trouble. Yet each time she failed, he would mercilessly berate her –making her feel miserable and small.
Then one day, much to her great joy, the abusive husband died. Soon, she fell in love with and married a wonderful, loving man. They loved each other very deeply. She practically broke her neck to please him. She wanted to do everything for him. She even brought him breakfast in bed.
One day as she was busy cleaning up, she ran across that old list and the feelings of anger and inferiority returned. As she looked at the list, something happened within her and she began to laugh! She realized that she was now doing all of these for her new husband and many more. And she did these tasks now with great joy because she loved this man.
Love makes all the difference in the way we live and serve. This is what Colossians is telling us. We are free. We are free to live and love Christ with all our hearts. We have been released from sin, and in this love we can live life new. This is glory. Let this shine through and room will be found for all. As we are in Christ and Christ is in all who believe, there is unity. Amen.