By Patrick Miller
I have a new ritual. It happens once or twice every week. I open an email from someone I don’t know which reads something like this,
“I’m frustrated with The Crossing because people with my politics aren’t welcomed. We’re preached against. We’re talked down to. You’ve become too one-sided.”
I want you to guess whether the authors of these emails think The Crossing is too liberal or too conservative.
No matter which answer you picked, you’re right.
About half accuse The Crossing of being too conservative. The other half accuse The Crossing of being too liberal. So (with tongue firmly in cheek) I thought it would be helpful to create a cheat sheet for any would-be email authors trying to make a case on either side.
How to Prove The Crossing has Become a More Liberal Church
If someone wants to accuse The Crossing of becoming “neo-Marxist-critical-theorist-anti-American-feminist-anti-racists,” here is where to start!
The Crossing has…
- Preached numerous sermons on the topics of race and has defended the concept of systemic racism.
- Publicly mourned the lives of black people killed in police violence and spoke out after George Floyd’s death.
- Outlined a New Testament theology of policing.
- Challenged Christian nationalism, and nationalism in general, using the Bible’s warnings about compromising with Babylon.
- Taught that no nation (including the United States) is God’s special nation because people of faith are from every nation.
- Spoken out multiple times against conspiracy theories like QAnon, in light of the Bible’s teaching on truth-telling and dangerous worldviews.
- Challenged the capitol riots, including the racist symbolism present, and condemned the violence committed by the rioters.
- Challenged Evangelicalism’s understanding of masculinity and how Donald Trump fits into it, contrasting it with Jesus’s example.
- Critiqued dishonesty in politics, including Donald Trump’s claims about losing the election.
How to Prove The Crossing has Become a More Conservative Church
If someone wants to accuse The Crossing of becoming “white-supremacist-anti-migrant-capitalistic-woman-haters,” here is where to start!
The Crossing has…
- Challenged aspects of critical theory, including queer theory, fat studies, and critical race theory, as well as the academic activist behind them.
- Highlighted the differences between progressive definitions of justice and oppression with the Bible’s.
- Written and spoken against cancel culture in light of Jesus’s teachings on grace and forgiveness.
- Warned against the pharisaical spirit of wokeness, self-righteous callouts, yard signs, and virtue signaling.
- Defended the Bible’s teaching that we are born male and female.
- Challenged destructive and violent protests on the left with Jesus’s teachings about nonviolence and enemy love.
- Critiqued efforts to frame Trump supporters as monsters in light of Jesus’s teachings on loving your neighbor.
- Dismantled popular progressive life philosophies, like those proposed by Glennon Doyle, advocating Jesus’s philosophy instead.
- Affirmed a pro-life position on abortion in light of the Bible’s teachings on human dignity.
When we put both lists together, it appears that The Crossing has become more liberal and more conservative. If you’re reading this and find one list controversial, but the other list inoffensive, that may say more about you than the church.
Have you become more liberal? Have you become more conservative? Why not both?
Has The Crossing Become Too Political (in General)?
Let me end on a more serious note. There are many sincere people in our church who love The Crossing but feel as though it’s become too political in recent years. I wrestle with the same fear every time I get one of these emails.
But let me level with you. If we want to be faithful, I’m not sure we have a choice.
One reason people have always loved The Crossing is that this church does not pare the gospel down to a message of personal salvation.
This is why we titled our first blog “Every Square Inch” over 15 years ago. We took the quote from the words of a Dutch prime minister, who said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
The Crossing’s basic message hasn’t changed:
Jesus is king over everything and his ultimate goal is to renew everything.
There is no such thing as “sacred” or “secular.” Jesus wants it all. He demands private and public matters. The Crossing has always been church that seeks to apply the gospel to every dimension of life.
So what has changed? The culture around us did.
The Crossing has always talked about everything, but in the last 4 years everything has become political.
In a forward to a recent book, Tim Keller wrote that when he entered ministry 45 years ago the main debates in the church were doctrinal. Now they are political. Unfortunately, he writes, the old models for political engagement no longer work because everything is political,
“In this new situation, many of the older Christian models of ‘cultural engagement’ or ‘political theology’ seem obsolete.”
Keller says that in this new situation, Christians have no choice but to work for the common good. Of course, who gets to define “common” and “good” is the political question of our time.
Christians can’t escape politics in a world where everything is political.
“Are you sure everything is political now?”
Let me share one example of how our culture is making everything political.
Seven years ago, we invited a gay author and speaker, Wes Hill, to preach on a Sunday morning about sexuality. Many people did not like his sermon, but no one said it was too political. That’s not because there was nothing political happening—we were only 7 months away from the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.
The simple truth is that seven years ago, LGB issues (even that has changed) were considered, by most Americas, as matters of lifestyle and moral taste.
The question of gay marriage loomed as a political question for some (namely conservatives committed to a traditional definition of marriage, progressives who wanted to redefine marriage, and the gay community who wanted to get married).
But most people didn’t think of a church preaching a sermon on the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality as fundamentally political.
If we repeated the exact same sermon today, people would send emails and write social media posts about how The Crossing is too political. Do you see? The Crossing hasn’t changed. The culture has.
Our calling as Christians remains the same: apply the Bible’s wisdom and truth to our culture, whether culture deems a topic “political” or not. And these days everything is political, from masks to vocabulary to shampoo.
Are We Discipled by the Lamb, the Donkey, or the Elephant?
Here’s the real crux of the issue: Americans today are being discipled by the donkey and the elephant more than by the lamb of God.
Wondering where you stand? Just ask yourself some questions:
- Do you spend more time reading and consuming cultural and political content than the Bible?
- Are your ethics more likely to line up with your favorite news source or the Bible?
- Can you name ways the Bible agrees with ethical principles held by both sides?
- Can you name ways both sides fail to live up to biblical ethics?
- Do you trust biblically literate teachers to shape and challenge your political perspectives?
- Are you deconstructing the Bible’s truths with your political ideology? Or is the Bible actively deconstructing your political ideologies?
- Do you find yourself fighting against your political enemies (as defined by your party) for what’s right (as defined by your party)?
- Do you find Jesus’s teachings on enemy love, radical forgiveness, and assuming the best outdated or problematic?
At the risk of offending you, may I gently propose that you actively undergo the process of becoming a political free agent? Free from the left and the right. Free in Christ. Allegiant to the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.
It’s something I fight to do almost every day. I pray,
“Jesus, you didn’t come to make us Republicans or Democrats. So protect me from bowing down to the donkey or the elephant. You are the lamb. I give you my allegiance.
Help me to identify with you, and your community more than the tribes of the left or the right. Set me free from their worldviews, echo chambers, and deceptions. Help me set my mind on your truth and act in accordance with your sacrificial way.”
The Cost of Following Jesus Instead of the Elephant or Donkey
We should remember that Jesus and most of his disciples were executed for their politics. Rome executed Jesus as an insurrectionist. And Rome executed most of the early disciples because they refused to give Caesar their allegiance.
In those days, there were basically two options: sympathize with Rome or rebel. But the disciples took heat from both sides because they were unsympathetic non-rebels. They refused to compromise their values with Rome. They refused to take up the swords and torches of rebellion.
It cost them their reputations and their lives.
American Christians have become too used to fitting in.
We’ve always found a place in public life. But these days, there are only two options if you want power, respectability and prestige. We can’t pick either one.
Instead, we pick Jesus come what may.
We love our enemies even as they lob grenades. We sacrifice for our community even when it hates us. But we don’t compromise with the idols of the left and the right.
We are Jesus people.
As Jesus people, it’s our job to work to make our communities a better place. When we do, we love our neighbors as God commands. Here are five ideas for what this can look like practically.