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We Are Better Than This

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The French wire service, AFP, released a story Thursday under the headline:

Vulgarity is hallmark of US presidential race

I thought about it for a minute, decided they were right, and felt my heart sink to the bottom of my gut.  That may be the single most visible evidence of the decreasing influence of Christianity in the public sphere.  Think about the definition of “vulgar:”

lacking in distinction, aesthetic value, or charm; banal; ordinary

There should be nothing ordinary about the United States of America and there certainly is nothing ordinary about Christians.  The Apostle Paul urged the Christians in Rome, “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

That is anything but ordinary.

That vulgarity is what “plays” in this cycle is a sign that this really is an election about anger.  We have all these negative emotions and we are not quite sure how best to handle them so they come out of us in ways that end up sounding angry.  Let’s face it, when we are angry, we are usually vulgar.  And since politicians are trying to appeal to us in our current state they are going to sound like us, hence vulgarity becomes a “hallmark” of this cycle.

Anger is a tough topic for Christians.  The Old Testament is full of times when God gets angry.  The New Testament is full of admonitions to set aside anger.  What’s a person to do, is anger good or bad?  The OT prophet Nahum, not one often quoted, notes that “The Lord is slow to anger,” and the Apostle James instructs us to do likewise.  It seems clear to me that there is a place in the Christian’s life for anger, but it must be appropriate and controlled.  All those New Testament verses about putting away anger are in a context where the anger is preventing progress towards resolving a conflict.

Best as I have been able to piece all this together it is appropriate for a Christan to experience anger in response to sin and injustice, and we certainly are seeing a lot of that in our nation right now, but allowing that anger to pull us into vulgarity is not appropriate.  The Christian approach to anger inducing situations is not the self-satisfaction of letting go our anger, it is rather the sacrificial control of that outburst in order to fix the situation.

The biggest problem we have right now is that the occupant of the White House is not a negotiator. Absent negotiation there is no way to fix the situation – which only increases the frustration – which increases the pressure to release our anger.  But that’s the wonderful thing about elections – they give us the opportunity to remove the non-negotiator, which in turn allows us to once again work on the problem.

But if the candidates are sounding as angry as we feel, are they proposing solutions?  Often not.  I know when I am royally angry, I’m not thinking much at all, let alone on how to fix the problem.  That’s why we have to control our anger because in the end we need to find solutions. God is practical that way.

Christians should be leading the way in this.  After all, we know that there is accountability even for governments.  America is designed to make that accountability directly to the people, but as we have witnessed for the last 7 years or so if the powers-that-be don’t want to honor that pact, there is a lot they can get away with. But even then they are still accountable – to the Lord Almighty.  We can control our anger because we know that in the end, God will bring justice and remove sin.

Oh how appealing the vulgarity is, but it only makes the problem worse.  God calls us to hold our tongue and use our anger to energize ourselves towards a solution.

This is it, voting begins.  As Christians our call is not to vote with our anger, but with God’s wisdom.  If we fall to our anger, I fear for our future.

Hughniverse

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