Politics has saturated much of today’s mainstream social media and news outlets.
It’s almost impossible to have no opinion on current issues, policies or lawmakers, but how does a Christian decide on these things?
Five OBU faculty gathered in Upper GC last Tuesday for a “Let’s Talk” discussion about this very question: not what stance to take on political topics, but how Christians should go about deciding these things.
Maliek Blade, assistant dean of students: diversity/multicultural, Scot Loyd, assistant professor of communication arts, Alan Bandy, Rowena R. Strickland Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek, Nicole Johnson, assistant professor of nursing, and Christopher McMillion, assistant professor of political science, answered questions prompted by SGA president Clayton Myers about Christians and politics. After the panelists gave their thoughts, a discussion time afforded students the opportunity to express their opinions in small groups.
The first question, “Should Christians be involved in politics?” spurred conversation on voting.
Loyd said we should exercise our freedom to vote. We shouldn’t take our freedom for granted, he said.
Arielle Chastain, a junior elementary education major, who attended the “Let’s Talk” event, said she agreed with Loyd. She said Chris-tians should look at voting as an obligation.
“White men were the only ones who could vote for a long time,” she said. “People worked their behinds off to make it so women, black people and minorities have the right to vote. We shouldn’t take advantage of that.”
Blade said he had a different opinion. It’s up to a person whether or not they want to be involved in politics that way, he said.
“I would say there is not any Biblical mandate that you should vote in the presidential election,” he said. “There might be some social pressure, but no Biblical command.”
Blade said many people look at elections as picking the lesser of two evils. No sin is lesser or greater than another, and the Bible says pick no evil.
McMillion added to Blade’s comment, saying if someone doesn’t vote because they don’t want to pick the lesser of two evils, they should get involved elsewhere politically.
“There’s a responsibility to ask yourself, ‘how else can I get involved?’ and in doing so, hopefully, create a situation where Christians have better options.”
The panel also brought up political parties.
Bandy said “love your neighbor” and “seek first the Kingdom of God” supersedes political parties.
“For us to align with a party is inherently flawed. It hinders our evangelism if we’re too closely aligned,” he said. “The Gospel transcends any human government.”
Later, Johnson touched on healthcare. She said she’s fortunate enough to afford healthcare, but she understands not everyone has that ability.
“As Christians, we should be concerned about that,” she said.“It was with Christ that we actually saw people receive care regardless of race, background or class.”
She said that’s the example Christians should set. Healthcare shouldn’t be solely a governmental issue, she said.
“With healthcare, it’s not always about business,” she said about when money comes into play. “Unfortunately, money sometimes dictates your access, and we have to figure out how to fix that.”
Another social issue talked about was immigration.
“One of the things I find most disturbing is the dehumanization of people,” Bandy said.
He said he understands it’s a complex issue, but regardless of the stance on a solution, a mere “keep them out” is unbiblical.
“I don’t care what country you come from, what language you speak, you’re a human being. Human beings are a priority.”
On the outside, OBU’s community seems to some like a group of Christians who all think the same.
For others who have spent time on campus, like junior elementary education major Arielle Chastain, that that is not the case.
When Chastain got to OBU, she was surprised not every Christian on campus had the same opinions.
She said it’s okay for Christians to disagree on various issues, but it’s important they talk about their views with each other.
“It’s important for Christians to discuss this so they can realize we have different ideas on certain issues but we still have the same central view on Christ,” she said. “If we can all agree Christ is our Savior and He died for our sins, that’s the most important thing. Then all those other issues can be disagreeable, but it’s not going to determine our faith.”
This kind of reasoning is what started the “Let’s Talk” series, a discussion-based event covering different topics affecting our society and how Christians should approach these topics.
“Lot’s of times people speak and merely wait to speak again,” professor Paul Donnelly, one of the original founders of “Let’s Talk,” said to the Bison November 2017 before the first event. “They don’t really listen to what people have to say. One of the reasons our country is so divided is because we aren’t listening to one another or accepting people’s opinions as valid.”
Then-SGA president Hunter Doucette, another co-founder, had the same sentiment after the March 2018 “Let’s Talk” event.
“I find one of the hardest things to do, is to make others care about something that doesn’t directly touch them,” he said “Let’s Talk opens the eyes of students in many regards, to issues that they may never have been familiar with.”
After Doucette graduated May 2018, junior Clayton Myers was elected SGA president. Under Myer’s leadership, SGA has continued the “Let’s Talk” series. Myers said he wants to continue the series to encourage the open dialogue on campus between students with differing opinions.
“We want it to be good conversation starters that people can have thought-provoking ideas when they leave,” he said.
Chastain, who is also a member of SGA, said “Let’s Talk” can be a great way to give students an outlet to share their opinions.
“Everyone, regardless of what your view is, should come,” she said.“Your voice should be heard as well.”
In deciding a topic for this semester’s “Let’s Talk,” Myers said he looked to what’s going on in today’s top headlines: politics.
“There are a lot of things happening in the news a lot of people are divided on,” he said. A discussion about Christians’ take on politics, Myers said, is important. “It’s our way of how we can help take care of people,” he said. “Being active in politics is one way we (Christians) can take care of people.”
Chastain said she has found importance in discussing different opinions between Christians.
“Not all Christians are going to be on the same side,” she said.“Some Christians aren’t even going to choose a side.”
Hear from the students
True Christians have the same faith in Jesus Christ, which Chastain said is the “top tier of our beliefs.” “Then, all those other issues can be disagreeable, but it’s not going to determine our faith.”
I wouldn’t be here if my family didn’t immigrate from Honduras. However, my family all went through the grueling process of becoming an American citizen. I’m not an advocate for open borders, but I am an advocate for making it easier for people to come in legally.
Humans do matter, regardless of where they come from. If you’re an illegal immigrant, am I going to treat you any less than you are? Absolutely, not. We should be advocates for Christ.
It’s not my duty to tell them to go back to where they came from because that’s not Christlike.
At that point, it’s my duty to advocate for Christ and share the gospel with them.
I don’t think Chris-tians should be pro-wall because it hinders the ability to share Christ. We can’t have open borders either, so we have to have a happy medium.
The association with specific political parties comes with an assumed agreement with every ideal supported by the said political party. This applies also to denominational separation in the Christian faith.
When I claim a specific group as part of what I believe or stand for, I am co-signing ideas that I may not even be aware that I am agreeing with.
I think it is important, as a Christian, to be wary when deciding what to put our names on. I can not co-sign to all of the ideals of the republican or democratic party, so why give anyone even the slightest idea that I am willing to? Instead, I can co-sign to Christ and place all of my belief in His word, claiming that when people ask me my ideals.
Vote on your convictions. There’s never going to be a perfect person who’s wholesome and shows every Christian value. Blade raised the question, “If you vote for a pro-choice candidate, is that a sin?” I can’t say yes or no to that, but if you’re convictions are to vote for that person, not because of that one thing, but because of the other things, versus someone who’s pro-life but you disagree with other things they do, it’s just a matter of convictions of a person.
A lot of times when you think about voting, you think about the higher level instead of the state and local level and how you can make a difference here.
To me, that’s way more important be-cause that’s how we get our candidates. Voting is a key part of society, and as Christians, we need to be a part of society. If you have not participated in any election before, do it now.
Even the small elec-tons we have here at SGA, participate in those because it gives you practice and experience necessary to make decisions when it comes to the presidency. You have to take steps to learn about how to do it, because politics is a part of life.
“From a scriptural perspective, the pro-social justice side is right about some things, while the Chris-tian moral side is right about others.
If we were to detach any political ties between the terms “Christian moral” or “social justice,” literal Christian morality is the reason why certain social justice causes are necessary.
For example, being generally pro-immigration (not meaning pro-open borders) and minority racial rights/inclusion is the embodiment of Christian morality. The Bible tells us to welcome the sojourner and to treat the foreigner as you would a native of your land.
The Bible also tells us that there is “neither Jew nor Gentile” and that all were one in Christ.
The Bible is quite clear on these two issues and if current social justice movements entail those two, we should readily embrace it as Christians.
However, at the same time, we need to be wary of certain aspects of social justice movements, especially with abortion.
There should be systems in place to help mothers who aren’t able to handle rearing a child on their own get the means to raise a child properly and healthily, which would discourage many abortions in the first place.
So, my take is a biblical take. Where the Bible aligns with current social justice movements are places where Christians ought to align themselves with the social justice stance. Where the Bible aligns with current “Christian morality” movements are places where Christians ought to align themselves.
I don’t staunchly align myself to either side of this polarization because while both sides are right on certain things, they also both embrace rabidly unbiblical principles at the same time as well.”
Last week OBU students had the opportunity to participate in the seminal event of the democratic process – voting. While this election included no voter riots or protests outside Raley Chapel, countless national elections in years past have resulted in lessthan-cordial discussions nation-wide.
In today’s society, where voters have instant and unhindered access to the national stage via social media, how can we talk about politics without resorting to name-calling and yelling?
Dr. Sherri Raney, professor of history and political science, said that we must resist having the mindset that individuals who vote opposite of us are evil.
“I think that we have a contempt problem in this country,” Raney said. “And I’m not the first person to notice that. We don’t respect other people fundamentally. We hold other people in contempt, beneath us, for a lot of different reasons. When we start off with that attitude of having this contempt, disdain, for people who disagree with us, then there’s really not much point in having a conversation.”
Dr. Galen Jones, chair of Christian leadership, said that the best way Christians can avoid yelling matches is to do what the Bible says and not jump to the conclusions Raney said we’re prone to embrace.
“Seek to understand rather than to be understood,” Jones said.
Jones said that, by taking time to learn about someone else’s background, experiences and why they think the way they do, it will become easier to understand why they vote the way they do.
“If I only think about what I think is right in a politician, or what we’re voting for or the larger issues, then we’ll never really have a way to engage one another,” Jones said.
One stumbling block in political conversations, which leads to heated encounters, is the tendency of voters to fixate on one particular issue. Different issues will be of different levels of importance to individuals depending on their age, gender, race, locale, etc.
“For instance, a lot of white evangelicals focus on abortion,” Jones said. “Evangelicals who are African American don’t necessarily believe in abortion, but what we think about is the life that we have now. My life right now matters. I should value the life of that unborn child, but in the case of the police, we don’t see them the same because they’re not my friend.”
“And so, we need to be able to hear that from one another to understand that the legitimacy of my experience is just that – it’s legitimate and yours is as well.”
Another issue with fixating on particular policies is the reality that, perhaps despite a politician’s best intentions, some policies are administered unequally or in a manner not intended by the policy-maker. One example, Jones said, is welfare.
“Over 55 percent of all the caseload of welfare is white rural people. So, the picture of the welfare mother is not a black single woman. It really is a married, rural white woman,” Jones said.
“But in urban areas there is a policy or a practice of a ‘no man in the house’ rule. If your family is on welfare, then there’s not supposed to be a man there because, in essence, the government is supplying those things.”
Since focusing on one policy can present problems, Raney said that we should instead take the whole of a political candidate’s platform into consideration as well as considering the candidate’s credentials.
“The most important thing [a politician should have] is experience in politics,” Raney said.
While this will differ for student government because SGA is often the first stepping-stone into politics, aspiring career politicians will understand the process of government better if they participate locally and at the state level first Raney said.
Jones said that one thing Christians specifically should look for in a candidate is “fidelity to the gospel.” However, with fewer Christians surviving on the national stage, Christians must remember that their ultimate authority is Christ and that voting isn’t a Christian right or necessity.
“We have become confused that America is a Christian nation,” Jones said. “It never was, never has been and never will be. It’s not called as that; it wasn’t created as that.”
An issue or candidate can blind individuals to the humanity of others. On example of this misconception is the idea that the founding fathers were all Christian. However, neither Benjamin Franklin nor George Washington were Christian men. Franklin, though he grew up in a Calvinist-Christian home, became a deist; Washington, though he attended church services with his wife, would always get up and leave when communion was taken.
“We have what I and others call ‘euphoric recall,’” Jones said. “We do, as Christians, with our government, what we are never supposed to do with our Bible, which is called eisegesis; we read back into it from our own lens and perspective.”
“If we look at it for what it actually was – if we exegete history and the founders – you’ll find out they weren’t talking about the same Christian identity that we understand as Evangelicals.”
With the understanding that America isn’t bound by necessity to Christian morals, Jones said that Christians in America are supposed to fill a prophetic role in their location just as the prophets fulfilled their role in the place God called them to.
“We are to speak for God whether the politician ‘Christian’ is doing that or not,” Jones said. “I think we have to take the onus away from voting.”
This will open conversation up not only in the public sphere, but also in the context of the Church where differences in opinion can be misconstrued as a lack of proper faith.
Raney said that we must have respect for one another when having political conversations and follow the Golden Rule. Devotion to a single issue or candidate can blind individuals to the humanity of others.
Jones said there’s one more thing Christians specifically must remember: “Your candidate is not the Messiah.”
“Now more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis, we build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were a single tribe.”
No, these aren’t words penned by Dr. Martin Luther King. They were not spoken by former President Obama, and they were not written in Plato’s Republic.
These are the final words spoken by King T’Challa in the latest Marvel installment, “The Black Panther.”
These are powerful words spoken by a fictional character, but they resonate—they are relevant and timeless. And they represent the film’s philosophy well: they are complicated and simple, nuanced and probing.
Since viewing this film, I have told several people how wonderful it is—as an action movie (or any movie for that matter) and as a message for a modern world.
You see, two weeks ago, as I was raving about the quality, someone asked me “why? Why do you like the movie so much? Can you really offer specific cinematic reasons for your admiration?” The answer is yes.
There has been so much written about the depth of this movie, and hopefully we will unpack some of those ideas here.
Let’s start with the concept of the movie in general—how it is constructed.
In general, the movie is solid because it fulfills every plot/character/anecdotal reference.
Take the rhinos, for example. When the camera first offers a pastoral image of grazing rhinos, you may discount that as a mere prop or visual bonus. But that comes back later in a telling battle scene. It is resolved. . . and that doesn’t happen in every movie.
Even the notion that T’Challa’s suit can absorb kinetic energy provides another opportunity to reveal the character of the man wearing it.
At one point, T’Challa throws himself on a grenade; he couldn’t be completely certain the material would absorb all of the explosion, but he risked his own safety anyway. Even brief plot points are brought to some form of closure, and that creates a satisfying viewing experience.
The cinematography and costuming are also brilliant; the bright colors represent a rich history—one that is reflected in the landscape and the clothing.
There was one costuming/make up decision that I thought was particularly poignant. Throughout the film, we see Queen Ramonda in splendid royal headgear.
From the first moment of the film, she is represented as a strong, ageless woman who embodies ideas like family and loyalty.
Angela Bassett was THE perfect choice for this character as she never seems to age—she embodies strength and determination itself.
When we see Ramonda fleeing the city after watching her son dethroned, we see her without her headgear. In those scenes, her gray hair is evident, and it ages her.
Simply by removing one item of costuming, director Ryan Coogler conveys her sudden shift in power and her physical and political vulnerability.
Another reason this film resonates with so many is that it has historical roots.
For example, the language is often overlooked in reviews.
All of these actors are speaking in English for the benefit of an English-speak-ing audience. . . most of the time that is.
Sometimes, however, sub-titles are seen on the screen to translate a language unknown to most audience members: Xhosa. Xhosa is not a creation of Marvel Universe, Disney or the director – it is one of the official languages of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
It is known as the “click click” language, and over eight million people speak it fluently, including the late Nelson Mandela.
Then, of course, the score is powerful. Coogler pushed Ludwig Goransson to use as many African sounds as possible, which led him to a South African library and its “collection of about 500 different instruments that don’t really exist anymore.”
In an article in the “Hollywood Reporter,” Goransson said, “I also felt incredible pressure to pay homage to African culture and its traditional music. It’s not lost on me that I’m a Swedish guy from one of the coldest countries in the world.”
In terms of philosophical symbolism the movie is successful because it offers a sign that we are ready to move into a new era: Obviously, this is a film about reflection and change.
Obviously, it depicts the power of social inclusion and development. How it does that is multi-faceted. There are two moments in the movie which brought me to tears.
The first one happened as T’Chaka, the former king and father to T’Challa, meets his son in a spiritual vision. The prince tells his father he is not ready—to which he responds, “a man who does not prepare his children for his own death is not a good father.”
T’Challa clarifies he is “not ready to be without you.” This is powerful because it does touch on the universal idea of parenthood and living legacies