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Very high stakes

Don’t forget that political opponents are image-bearers of a holy God

Very high stakes

Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Anyone who sails the high seas of political dialogue on the internet encounters a lot of this kind of thing: “Dear White, Christian Trump Supporter—We Need to Talk.” That’s the title of a much-shared article on The Huffington Post, written by a female social-sciences professor at a West Coast university. But the combined condescension and anguish of the piece are echoing from every progressive corner: What’s wrong with you Christian conservatives?

The piece takes an oddly passive-aggressive tone. Its author was raised in a blue-collar, churchgoing Southern family, studied hard, racked up degrees, and landed a university professorship. Along the way she exchanged her conservative roots for a progressive worldview (a not-uncommon path for academics, after all). Now, “I feel you’re holding it against me now that I no longer share your views.” She knows that White, Christian Trump Supporters—let’s just call them WCTSs—regard her as an ivory-tower elite, but like her fellow academics she braved the hail of rigorous standards and peer review. Therefore, “we really do know a lot about what we’re talking about.” She resents being told to get over the election because her team lost: “politics is not a sport.” She’ll get over her disappointment that the Falcons lost the Super Bowl, but the NFL is not “life and death. This election, however, is exactly that.”

What do Christians ‘just not get’—specifically about those who identify as LGBT? They are people trying to make sense of their lives.

The aggressive side betrays itself with certain assumptions: that WCTSs “think people are not Christians if they aren’t Christian in the same way as you”; that they “cling to overturning Roe v. Wade as the only way to end abortions”; that it’s “more important to you to win than to do good.” None of which is new or original, and I feel hackles rising.

But wait. Am I making my own assumptions?

I assume that politics has become her de facto religion. I assume she’s a tenured academic with a cushy job. I assume she’s never tried to run a business or meet a payroll, that she regards herself as enlightened, and that she’s as white as I am (not an assumption, judging by her photograph). At least some of this is likely true. But what else?

Is she happily married or bitterly divorced?

Is she a mother, by turns delighted and frustrated in that role?

Has she ever been confronted with a scary medical diagnosis or a foreclosure?

Has she ever been moved to tears by Bach’s B-Minor Mass or a Paul McCartney song?

Has she ever been troubled with doubt stirred by a Thomas Sowell essay?

Does she understand some things I don’t?

Rosaria Butterfield, the former liberal lesbian professor won to Christ, offers a useful corrective to understanding the person she once was. What do Christians “just not get”—specifically about those who identify as LGBT (though it could apply to anyone on the other side)? The most important thing: They are people trying to make sense of their lives. They love their kids and significant others, experience joy and tragedy, long for significance. “People are people,” and however difficult, spoiled, or ruined they appear, they are “image-bearers of a holy God.” 

C.S. Lewis took this a bit further in his famous essay “The Weight of Glory”: “You have never talked to a mere mortal ... [but rather] immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” The stakes are actually not as high as the professor thinks. They are a good deal higher, and far more life-and-death than another election cycle.

Not to say that these immortal image-bearers who happen to be in opposition shouldn’t be debated, or blocked, or sometimes fought tooth and nail. But it matters how we go about it. When I read a piece like the professor’s, I automatically bristle: Who is she to tell White Christians what they think and how they feel? I start constructing pithy statements and thought-provoking zingers that will have fans cheering from the sidelines. Maybe even put together a catchy meme that goes viral. But wait—before I write anything about her, I should pray for her.

And that’s what I did.


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  •  Bruce's picture
    Posted: Tue, 02/28/2017 02:25 pm

    Thank you, Ms. Cheaney.  I read that article and had many of the same thoughts, but I did not figure out how to settle my heart.  Prayer with our Father is one of the most important answers because He certainly cares about this author and those aligned with her way of thinking.

  • John Kloosterman
    Posted: Tue, 02/28/2017 03:03 pm

    As a White Christian conservative (but not as a Trump supporter) I feel I should say that I also worry at times whether the conservative movement is more interested in winning than in doing good (really, self-inspection is just healthy).  But regardless, it is always worth remembering that opponents, whether other conservatives, flaming liberals, or Russian demagogues, are people made in God's image and worthy of respect.  Thank you for this reminder.

  • midwestmom
    Posted: Tue, 02/28/2017 03:25 pm

     Many other WCTS may feel as I do; that within the past several years our chuches seem to have gone from encouraging tolerance (which we were basically OK with), to full out reverence of progressive politics all while Christians worldwide are literally under life/death attack.  It is mind boggling and we don't/can't go further to hear or listen to arguments for wide open borders/LGBTQ promotion etc. that are contrary to Biblical teaching. Yes, we must pray and most importantly, remain in God's word so that we can recognize Truth.  

  • MTJanet
    Posted: Tue, 02/28/2017 05:47 pm

    I got three quarters of the way through her article before I quit.  I think the reason why I can't relate to her through her own words is she sounds very confused about her subject.  Is she more interested in what she has achieved in this world or does she care more about the current conditions of this world or is she simply confused by people voting for a president as opposed to a spiritual leader?  Mostly, I found her sadly unable to articulate enough coherent ideas to understand her.  I agree that we need to pray for those who don't agree with us, but I don't really feel the need to engage all of their ideas.  

  • Meg I
    Posted: Wed, 03/01/2017 06:48 am

    One of the most tiresome issues from liberals within the church and without is that I often get the feeling they want those of us that believe the Bible is truth and is relevant for all time and in all areas, to just shut up and "do good."  But what is "doing good" and are we even able to do it as "there is no one good, only God?"      When people veer from Biblical truth, they begin to view man as "basically good" and able to behave in a basically good manner.   This is untrue - contrary to Scripture.   We can not "just go around doing good works" as all of our works are as filthy rags.  What we can do is obey God and do what He is calling us to do, but this will always involve speaking the Gospel and this will continue aggrevating those who just want us to shut up and do good works.

  • Laneygirl's picture
    Posted: Wed, 03/01/2017 08:55 am

    Thank you for the good word, sister. I needed it as I watched democrats stay seated (when not acting like 7th graders) during the President's address before Congress 2/28. Seated during a respectful tribute to the latest Navy Seal hero who gave his life while serving the nation. Seated when the President vowed to make America safe from radical, islamic Terrorists.

    It sent me to EPH 2 where I must always keep in mind who I once was. And RO 5, where we remember Christ died for us while WE were still sinners.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Sun, 04/02/2017 06:35 pm

    Yes, let us pray for one another.  After the 'Amen', then how are we to answer the morally outraged who cannot tolerate the intolerant and who rail against the unrighteousness of righteousness?  Is there a calm word for the hysterical and irrational, for whom monologue means dialog and the subjective is called objective?  How do we break through the wall of self-righteousness?  I suppose, as you imply, it is through friendship first.