I’ve recently had a few conversations in which people expressed hesitance about bringing up politically-charged topics during Bible studies, for fear of causing discouragement or division (“scaring them away,” in other words).
This is clearly also the case for a good number of evangelicals when it comes to participating in online discussions about hot-button issues: they’d much prefer to just stay quiet and watch from the sidelines.
In a perfect world, these courses of action would be completely reasonable, as the radical teachings of Jesus should absolutely remain firewalled off from politics.
This ain’t a perfect world.
I’ve talked about my disappointment with checked-out, stuck-in-a-bubble Christians before, but these recent conversations have caused me to think more deeply about the effects of applying this unerringly-positive “pay no attention to the man behind the country!” attitude to evangelism and Bible study.
Some open questions:
- How do you think that silence on an issue causes someone affected by that issue to feel (or think about the church)? You may be afraid to discuss it, or you may just be oblivious. Either way, it sends them a message.
- You may well attract MAGAteers through your silence, but you’re also repelling people that disagree, and further fortifying the barrier between evangelicals and those that might be seeking guidance (“building a wall,” if you will 💀).
- If you’re willing to discuss something 1:1, but not online, what message does that send? Expressing empathy on a small-scale, but then continuing to exclusively post a Stepford Wives-style parade of sickly-sweet spiritual memes also sends a message.
We don’t need any more feel-good, non-threatening Christian “films” and social media accounts designed to pat followers on the back and massage away any pangs of guilt. Bible stories themselves are hardcore (look at Abraham and Isaac!), so why have we settled for Hallmark spirituality that airbrushes away those at the margins?
We need to openly talk about how conservative politics and religion have gotten incredibly tangled up over the past several decades. We need to revisit stances (with soft hearts) on issues that were assumed to be settled. We need to realize that the darkest times can reveal the brightest truths. We need more Roald Dahl and less Walt Disney.
This article about some reasons why people walk away from church is just as applicable as to why people abandon or avoid Bible studies.
It’s always great to err on the side of being encouraging and positive, up to a point. Real, ongoing transformation, however, comes from honest, open conversations about hard topics, with the goal of constantly revisiting your conclusions.
May we stay flexible, open-minded and troubled but optimistic.