I looked up.
They were gone.
Where were they?
The manager of our fitness center explained that some people were offended and disturbed by the news networks on the overhead televisions and demanded their removal.
“We’re committed to total wellness,” the young man pleasantly explained.
Apparently the news can be bad for our health.
He invited me to put my objections in an email, which he promised to forward to the executives.
I appealed to reason, tolerance and fairness. I suggested MSNBC should go before CNN and Fox News. I invoked Thomas Jefferson’s commitment to an informed citizenry.
Were he a gym member, I said, Tom would side with me.
I doubt it made any difference.
There is an ancient Chinese curse that says, “may you live in interesting times.”
We’re living in them.
That’s why some people are so upset at the news, they’re demanding not to have to watch it.
It seems everywhere we look, “things fall apart … the center cannot hold.” There is a growing “passionate intensity” (W. B. Yeats).
How can the sincere disciple of Jesus navigate through the rushing turbulent rapids of our present political discourse and be true both to conviction and to Christ? Without getting capsized and drowned in vitriol and superficial, hyperbolic “talking head” nonsense.
There seems no reasonable escape – nor any escape to reason. We must sail into this.
President Trump’s first year in office has been the wild ride most of us expected. His second promises more uncertainty, midnight tweets, charges, counter-charges and general provocation, denial, frustration, disruption, and confusion.
On both sides.
There appears no civility or normality in the political forecast. We ride upon a national storm of anger and division. We scan the horizon and see only the gathering clouds.
There is likely to be more coarsening and more fraying in our political culture this year.
What’s a Christian to do? Compartmentalize? Never permit the peace of worship on Sunday to interfere with the culture war on Monday? Or do we seek the more difficult and thoughtful path of a holistic, integrated faith that speaks to all of life.
Jesus denounced “an eye for an eye.” He said that loving our neighbors and hating our enemies wasn’t good enough. Instead he told us to love our enemies.
Jesus commanded us to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us and to pray for those who persecute us. He reminded us that the sun rises on both the good and the evil. The rain, he said, “falls on both the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5: 38-45).
Is this viable? In the world in which we live?
Is it realistic?
Most Christians voted for Donald Trump because they figured he’d fight for them.
Trump has boldly battled the Democrats and the media. He may not share their evangelical faith, but he has championed the Christian causes.
He put a brilliant conservative on the Supreme Court. Like the ancient unbelieving Cyrus, Trump has been a friend to Israel, recognizing its sacred city, Jerusalem, as the nation’s rightful capital.
Given the high stakes, maybe we should make a moral exception in politics.
But is there any place where Jesus doesn’t go? Is there any area of our lives where we’re allowed to check our faith at the door? Is there any arena of human endeavor where Jesus Christ hasn’t already declared, “this is mine”?
As the Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper said, every square inch is His.
Christians must seek God’s face and pray. We must ask for divine wisdom to figure this out – to think it through. We must find an answer that honors our faith in Christ before our loyalty to a president or a party.
Must we win – at any cost?
Have Christians ever truly prevailed over the world in the struggles of politics and culture? Must we now – even at the price of our Christian witness? Have we ever actually been a Moral Majority?
Haven’t the followers of Jesus been more often on the scaffold than the throne?
Yes, in the end we do win. Because Christ wins and we’re with him. But do we prevail in this fallen world? Is political power our weapon and election victory our goal?
Is politics our idol? Do we worship at the altar of power?
Are we called to be successful? Or faithful?
“Is this vile world a friend of grace?” asked hymn writer Isaac Watts.
Chuck Colson, who once flew too close to the alluring flame of power, later wisely observed:
“The kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One.”
Anger, revenge and hate toward others are not signs of courage or conviction. They are sins.
The Church of Jesus Christ prevailed over Caesar in the violent First Century not by electing believers to the Roman Senate.
Wrote historian Will Durant in his seminal work, The History of Civilization:
“There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with a fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known.”
The weapons of our warfare are not the world’s. But they are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds (II Corinthians 10:3-4).
The stakes for our faith are high.
Let us choose wisely.
“For not with swords’ loud clashing, or roll of stirring drums; with deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.”