Civil war? I doubt it

Everyone’s talking about it. It’s in vogue. It’s the “it” thing. You would think we are talking about a new gadget or the newest Tesla. But, no, we’re not. 

We’re talking about this. 

Civil war. 

Yes, it’s a possibility—but so are Martians landing on Earth. Civil war is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. 

This morning my wife listened to a podcast where the CEO of Whole Foods said that what he most feared in the near term was a civil war. Then, she asked me if I felt the same. 

And, the truth is, I am scared. The idea of a war on domestic soil where citizens, neighbors, friends, family take up arms against each other should send the fear-shivers down anybody’s spine. 

But, when I stop to think about, I’m less afraid. 

Here’s why. 

Those who really believe that civil war is probable are underestimating how difficult it is to mobilize a group of people willing to fight for a cause. Normal citizens don’t usually want to go to war, get bullets shot at them, feel like they don’t have a place to rest. Then add the additional complexity of fighting within and against their own country and countryman makes it all the more improbable. 

The Civil War, back in the 1800s, made sense. The Southerners had their livelihood, wealth, and way of life threatened (I’m not defending slavery at all; abolishing it was right; I’m just outlining the core reasons the South rebelled). And they all lived in a similar location or same region, where they had an overlapping culture. In other words, they had an existential cause and other characteristics that made mobilizing to fight the federal government easier. 

But it wasn’t easy. 

Mobilizing a war machine is never easy. And, I mean, anger and QAnon and white supremacy and Evangelicals do not hold those characteristics that the South had when Lincoln was the president. As radical as some of them may seem, I don’t think that they will be radical and organized and overlapping enough to actually band together to create a hierarchy or even some sort of loose coalition to begin a war. And I doubt that most of them would lay down their lives for Trump or some other cause.

Some livelihoods are at stake. Unions and blue-collared workers do feel threatened. And many of them will vote for Trump. And they may think that their salvation will come from Trump, but I am still skeptical that they will be able to form a war-making effort. 

People will fight, but I doubt they will make war. 

See, I believe there will likely be violence. The frequency of it will probably grow and escalate. There will be more protesting with higher amounts of violent clashes. That could and probably will happen no matter what happens after November. But, that doesn’t mean we will have warfare. 

You see, civil unrest isn’t the same as a civil war. 

Look, I get it. We’re all afflicted with worst-case-scenario thinking these days. How can we not? With a historic election, our countries weakened standing in the world, the rising of new world powers who want to take our country’s lunch money, a recession and deep economic uncertainty, and, not to mention, a pandemic, its easy to think negatively, pessimistically. The times seem apocalyptic.

But it’s not the apocalypse. Or, at least, I don’t think so. 

And I won’t say that a civil war is impossible. It’s not. It could happen. But we can’t live in the mindset of worst-case scenarios. Living in fear is no life. And it’s certainly not reality. 

One more reason I think this way is the stock market. It’s a pretty good gauge for where people’s minds are at and how they see the future. Investors are betting their money not just on today but also on tomorrow. And, as the market continues to climb, it appears they believe the world is going to be ok. Of course it’s not a crystal ball. But it is an indicator. The future is always murky, but it’s good to read the signs. And the market is signaling everything is going to keep chugging along. 

No, everything won’t be ok. There is much work to do to heal all of the fractures our country is experiencing. There will be unrest after the election. But it needn’t stay that way.

But being afraid of a civil war won’t help. We need to change our mindset from one of fear to hope. Better yet, we can find ways where we can take responsibility. 

And if we want to worry about anything, I think we should be worrying about this. 

How we can better care for our neighbors.


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Dear Mr. Biden, last night was a disappointment

The debate last night was very disappointing. I was rooting for you, Mr. Biden, but you failed to shine. Instead you got mired in the muck. You were easily rattled and resorted to name-calling, making you look weak and childish, not the man we need you to be.

Yes, you were dealing with a bully of the nth degree, one of the bulliest of bullies. It’s true. Trump’s a silverback, throwing his weight around, thundering about.

No, I don’t think he should be president, but he was true to himself. He’s a schoolyard brute. He lies. He distorts. He gnaws at you. He grinds. But that’s Trump. He was distinctly himself. He knows not how to be anyone else.

But that’s not what is most troubling to me, nor should it be for you.

The problem, I believe, is that I didn’t know who you are, Mr. Biden. Your identity and what identified you weren’t exactly clear in the debate. What I did see, I didn’t like. I saw someone who could be shaken, unsure, uncertain, unable to stand up for himself, or to a bully.

The best thing that you did was address the American people, and it seemed to convey a real concern for us. That was good. Yet, it didn’t seem to be enough.

You didn’t have a strong grasp of your message nor your platform. I really didn’t know what you were for. You need to figure out how to make Biden more Biden. Right now, you look like a man who wasn’t ready to cross sabers with the neighborhood tough-guy.

You need to be more distinct. If you’re going to be the kinder and softer president, do that. Or, maybe it’s the classier or geekier or whatever version. No matter what it is, be that. Be true. Because no matter what the opponent does, he seems to convey that type of authenticity.

You don’t.

You’re confusing. The Biden that showed up last night looked like one who wanted to be nice and polite but then got snippy and angry and frustrated.

Trump is Trump. Everyone knows that. That’s one of the most powerful things about him. His base knows him. Even his enemies know him. He’s predictably unpredictable. He plays to the mob. He doesn’t waver from his ways. That’s why they love him and appreciate him. He’s seen as an outsider. That’s what he wants. He says what he thinks. He does anything to win. Even deceive. That’s the truth we all know.

But what do you, Mr. Biden, stand for? Who are you? What are you made of? I want to vote for you.

I won’t vote for Trump. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

And last night, I don’t think Trump won. But I don’t think you did either.

And just because I’m against him doesn’t make me for you. Don’t get me wrong. I want to be for you. I’m just not there yet. I’m looking for more from you. I think we all are.

Give us a reason to believe in you. Give us a reason to follow you.

Don’t just tell us what you think we want to hear. Don’t do what you think will affect the polls. Do what you think is right, what will help the people, what will unify this divided nation. That’s what we need. We need real leadership.

We need you to lead.

Jesus is not Republican

He isn’t.

Do you know how I know?

When he lived on this planet, he did not get involved with Roman politics or Israeli politics or run for Galilean office. In his ministry, he did not focus on politics or spend much of his infinite and divine energies fighting the Roman Empire or speaking to the powers of his day, even though he lived during a time when the Roman Empire ruled the Israelites with an iron fist.

Jesus wasn’t about political power

The Roman Empire didn’t exactly uphold human rights. They oppressed many of the lands they occupied, like Israel. Justice wasn’t abounding for those who weren’t citizens. Yet Jesus did not primarily come to address that, not even their oppressive taxing measures. We see that in this famous passage.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, The religious leaders tried to embroil Jesus in a charged issue of taxation, asking, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” And remember, Caesar had put severe taxation requirements on its satellite nations like Israel that put the IRS to shame, which even indebted many people. So when someone asked a question about taxes to Jesus, every ear turned to listen. How could they not? And his response surprised and baffled everyone with its brilliance.

He said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God the things that are God’s.” His answer didn’t thwart the land’s law and affirmed the people’s need to stay devoted to God. It was apolitical. It was balanced.

And instead of pursuing political power, he spent his time with twelve obscure men, healing and teaching the poor, rejected, sick, and marginalized. He wasn’t about mobilizing a rebellion or implementing policies or getting votes—no. He was about his Father’s business.

Now you might be wondering, What’s your point? Good question.

Christians want political power

In the 2016 presidential election, 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump. That says something about the state of Christians and Christianity and the church. I’m a Christian. So I’m not criticizing this faith. But there has been a large shift in how many are expressing beliefs. Christians are more political and more adamant and less open. That’s what I’ve seen in the media and data and even in my relationships with other Christians.

And that makes me wonder, Why are Christians so political, when Jesus was nothing of the sort?

If Christians were honest with themselves, they wouldn’t have a very good biblical reason—especially those who follow Trump. I understand the arguments for him. I am pro-life and see the allure of his political actions. And yes, he has put conservatives on the highest judicial bench in the land. But should we really support him simply for those reasons?

I don’t think so.

Why Christians shouldn’t support Trump

Here’s the reason: Christians are losing credibility and witness with people who don’t believe as we do. Isn’t that what Jesus commissioned us to do? To go and make disciples? But instead, we are alienating others. And why wouldn’t that happen? We are supporting a person who sows division, untruth, racism, discord, and lives in a manner that doesn’t align with Scripture. How could we not be discredited?

I’m not alone in this thinking. The former editor and chief of Christianity Today wrote an article stating that Christians needed to stop following Trump for at least the reason that we can’t truthfully say that we follow the God of love by our political affiliations. Too many have traded the Great Commission for a different agenda.

According to this article, Christians feel powerless and disrespected and unacknowledged, especially those in middle America. And many voted for Trump because he made promises to empower Christians with political power.

But there is one major problem with that.

Why Jesus really lived

Jesus had (and has) ultimate, infinite, all-consuming power, but he didn’t use it to gain significance or lord it over others. No. He used it to lift others up by lowering himself down.

The religious leaders turned him over to the Roman authorities. And Jesus submitted. The magistrates ordered him flogged, beaten, kicked, stripped, crucified, crushed, and killed. He was humiliated. He allowed a lessor power to overpower his unlimited power. He elected to be abandoned by his Father, as they had planned from the beginning of time. Even though he could lift himself off of the cross and wipe away all those who harmed him like gnats and save himself, he didn’t. He absorbed everything, even the judgment of his Father, for our sins.

Why?

Because he loves us, he wanted to save us from our sins, our unrighteousness, our rebellion, our failure to see his Great Commission. He didn’t seek power; he emptied himself of it to fulfill his Father’s plan and love humanity.

And because of that work, you have the living God within you. Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God, would dwell within you. If that is so, how can you be powerless? And why would you need Trump to give you power? Your power is not one that is rooted on earth but is from Heaven.

The question is, What will you do with that power?

Photo credit: John Tyson

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