Protests. Rallies. Looting. Speeches. We’ve seen them all recently. Each of these moments has been galvanizing and polarizing. As you read the names George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, chances are, you just felt something. (And if you didn’t, that proves my points as well.) Many are yelling black lives matter; others retort that blues lives (or all lives) matter. Racial and social tensions abound.
While all this was happening, the Supreme Court grabbed its own headline. They legally expanded the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity;” a rather liberal ruling by a majority conservative court. In hindsight, the Republican battle cry, “But Gorsuch…” now sounds like a lie.
To add even more fuel to the fire, we are barreling towards November which is being called “the most important election of our lifetime.” (Wait?! Didn’t they say that 4 years ago? 8? 20?) Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.
Some of what we see is heartbreaking. Some of it is infuriating. But much of it can be outright confusing. How should we think about all this? Do we have to care about everything in the news? If so, how much? Inquiring minds want to know.
We turn from the media to our friends looking for answers. But that only makes things worse. Facebook contains more heat than light. Twitter also has heat and light, but in the same way that a back-alley dumpster fire does. Instead of conversation, we find quarreling. Instead of winsome nuance, we find clichés. Battle lines are drawn. Even Christians say things online they would never say in person. Or would they? We are accused of virtue signaling if we post or compliance if we don’t.
If I may speak personally, I have too much conviction for many of my liberal friends and too much compassion for many of my conservative friends. You can’t preach Amos, Zechariah, and Obadiah without both seeping in. I want to obey the Great Commission and the Great Commandments. Like Wilberforce, I want to pray for revival and work for reform. I also have a suspicion of those who oversimplify. Right or wrong, I believe that many issues are complex, motivations are more complex, and human beings are most complex. I feel like a moral outlaw and political refugee.
Understandably, some frustrated believers have decided to go the way of the monks and renounce it all. They sanctimoniously throw down what sounds like the religious ace of spades, withdrawing from worldly matters to focus on “kingdom” issues. It sounds so spiritual. And yet, it may be the most unspiritual option of all.
What is a Christian to do? How should we think about these issues? If only a group of Bible-believing Christians, that we could trust, would write a brief, simple guide to help us sort through what Scripture says about political and social action.
Oh wait. They already did. It is called Article XV of The Baptist Faith and Message. It is entitled, “The Christian and Social Order.”
Article VX is a 198-word statement that summarizes, emphasizes, and prioritizes our commonly held convictions as Southern Baptists about social, political, moral, and ethical issues. As a church member, you’ve signed on to this article, even if you’ve…uh…never actually read it. And to be honest, that is my goal here. I want you to read it and think about it, maybe for the first time.
I am not trying to speak to any specific issue. That may come. But it seems to me that tunnel vision has overtaken many. Our own church is not immune to it. I think it would do us all some good to identify what our common ground is on these issues so we can be better stewards of our witness and our democracy.
Let me be clear, Article XV does not say everything we need to know about these topics. Far from it. It is not nation-specific (it says nothing of America). It is not action-specific (it says nothing of boycotting, protesting, or voting). It is not party-specific (it says nothing of being Republican, Democrat, or Independent). Nor is it exhaustive (it says nothing of human trafficking or immigration). There are many things we can (and maybe should) add to this article.
But I do believe it is a substantive summary of how God would have us engage, evangelize, and influence the world. Withdrawal is not an option. Nastiness is not either. This article separates what is more important from what is less important while shining a spotlight on what is most important.
As simple as it sounds, I’m just asking you to read it. Maybe read it twice. Read it carefully. Don’t just look to the stuff you already agree with. Look at the other lines too. Article XV should make us all realize that we have areas to work on, be it our tone, our attitude, our priorities, or our loyalties. May God help us live it out.
Article XV: The Christian & Social Order
All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.
In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.
Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.