I have been appalled by the social media behavior from Christians toward this present presidential administration and the last. I have read the posts from people purporting to be believers who have said the most vile and offensive things about both President Obama and President Trump. It is distressing, and I have been around quite a while now. These last few years have been the worst I have seen.
Now, I realize that politics is a contact sport. As one who was involved in county politics a few decades, I can attest that, even within one’s own party, there is sniping, backbiting, double-crossing, outright lying, and betrayal and intrigue. I can only imagine what it must be like at higher levels and when the parties go to war with each other. Politics has always been a nasty business and any reading of American history will confirm.
What is amazing to me is the level of vitriol coming from Christians, both on the so-called left and right. It is as though all civility and rational behavior has been discarded and abandoned.
During one of those nasty political fights in the county, a lady, who was also politically active, said to me, “I can’t believe that you, as a man of the cloth, would be part of something like this.” She was right. I withdrew from partisan political activity.
I was not a fan of President Barack Obama. Neither am I a fan of President Donald Trump. In all the time that these two men have been in office, to the best of my recollection, I have not personally insulted either one of them in these columns nor on social media.
The reason is twofold: First of all, I believe that the office of the President of the United States should be treated with respect, whoever occupies the Oval Office.
Perhaps it’s my military experience but I learned long ago that one can dislike the man (or woman) while still treating the office with respect.
The second reason is, as a Christian, I, and my fellow believers, are held to a rather high standard when it comes to dealing with those in authority.
The scriptures teach that all authority is from God. He is, after all the “King of all kings.” So, any earthly authority is delegated authority. The authority does not belong to any person, but it is, theologically speaking, God’s authority held in trust by an individual. It may be abused, misused, or neglected but there will be an accounting. The Parable of the Talents speaks to those who have been both faithful and unfaithful regarding that with which they have been entrusted.
Christians are, according to New Testament teaching, to respect the king (or anyone else in authority), pray for them, and trust God to work through them. They are even to pay their taxes … to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” but also to “render unto God that which is God’s.” And Jesus was not just speaking about the tithe, although that is included.
Now, I don’t expect that non-Christians will agree with that point of view and I am not troubled by that. What does trouble me is when Christians, who are under a higher calling, are to reflect the image of Christ, are to walk in peace and forgiveness, and recognize that they are citizens of a “better kingdom.” You wouldn’t know it by looking through social media.
I have seen Christian believers, during the current and prior administration, say the most inflammatory, insulting, demeaning, debasing, and vile things that should never even enter their sanctified minds … much less appear in print for all the world to see. It is sad and embarrassing to the rest of the Church.
But, far more than that, such behavior is divisive, diabolical, unbecoming, un-Christian, and ungodly. If I didn’t know better, I would assume that some of these folks are no different than their unbelieving friends. And that is a problem.
The people around us may not be able to tell the difference at all. Our example, our witness, our “light,” if you please, is hidden under the bushel basket of our rants. It is a profound lack of faith and trust in God to respond as though all this caught God off-guard and that he is powerless to use flawed people to accomplish His work through the delegated authority.
And, yes, some clergy have fallen into this mess as well and they should certainly know better. When Barack Obama was President, our church prayed most every Sunday for “those in authority,” including him. Now we do the same, which includes President Trump. If Hillary Clinton had been elected, we would have done the same for her.
It is one thing to have private discussions with a trusted friend with whom we can vent our frustrations. It is another to go public and patently disobey God’s Word with our words, attitudes, and actions.
Give it a rest, for God’s sake. And for the sake of the Church. And for your own sake. You will not change one single thing by moaning, complaining, and spewing anger.
You will change things by praying for those in authority. And you just might find your own heart changed as well.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org)., 4881 Hwy. 34 East, Sharpsburg, GA. Sunday services are at 10 a.m. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]