I have lots reasons to blog – I love to write, I’ve had some experiences that can help others, I’ve wanted to start a blog for years and, with a newly-empty nest, now I have the time. But none of these are the reason I finally started one. It took something a little sharper to prod me over the edge and finally go for it.
On the morning of January 20, I hadn’t even thought about it being inauguration day in the U.S. (one of the many perks of not having television.) When I opened Facebook, the first post that popped up was an article entitled “How to Live Under an Unqualified President” by John Piper. I read the lengthy but well-written article and thought it was interesting, so I shared it.
As I scrolled down I realized most of my friends had not only been watching the inauguration, but many of them were feeling pretty patriotic right about then. Glowing reports of our new president’s merits filled my feed. “Uh-oh,” I said to Rob, “I forgot to take the temperature of the water before I dove into Facebook this morning.”
The first comment notification came so quickly it was obvious the person was just reacting to the title. “Read it.” I insisted, “I’ll discuss it with you after you have read the whole thing.” Before you could say ‘false dichotomy’ another offended partisan chimed in: “I guess you think CLINTON is morally qualified?!” Right about then I realized I’d better put on my big-girl waders.
As enough time lapsed for people to actually read the article, a few thoughtful comments began to pop up. Some left-leaning friends seemed to appreciate a conservative who was willing to acknowledge that the Republicans, and certainly their chosen candidate, no longer had a corner on the morality market in Washington. A few Christians agreed with Piper’s premise, of upholding a scriptural standard even as we respect and pray for those in office. The more passionate or easily-offended folks lobbed some stinging volleys back and forth, but most commenters were at least sophisticated enough not to simply spew hate. I had to block one person who began ranting in all-caps about people raping goats (I’m serious) but, thankfully, she was the exception rather than the rule.
The comments that really stayed with me, though, were from those who felt I shouldn’t have posted anything that questioned Trump’s moral and scriptural qualifications. It brought to mind the advice my OA sponsor gave me in my twenties. She said it’s always a red flag when people use the word ‘should’ when they tell you what they want you to do. “The best response to those folks is to tell them, ‘Don’t should on me.’ By the time they figure out you didn’t actually say a naughty word, you’ve at least got them off-balance,” she laughed.
Twenty-five years later, I realize there are some definite ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ in life, and they were all established by God. We should feed the poor, love our neighbor, and share the Gospel. We shouldn’t kill people or steal their stuff or lie about them. But if someone tells me I shouldn’t question, shouldn’t speak out, or shouldn’t apply scriptural principles, I follow the spirit of my sponsor’s advice and put some boundaries in that relationship to nudge it in a healthier direction.
When the comment thread had just about run its course, a couple of Christian friends suggested I take down the post altogether, I suppose because of the conflict it had engendered. Believe me, I seriously considered doing exactly that several times during the more heated exchanges, when people I love were offended by other people I love. I’ve taken down other posts in the past for much more innocuous reasons. I felt in this case, however, the decision to delete it would have been what Rob calls ‘fear-based thinking,’ which is not a good reason for doing anything except maybe running from bears.
Too many Christians think being at peace with others means avoiding conflict at all costs. That’s a cheap counterfeit of peace. To have true peace, you need to actually resolve conflict, not delete it and pretend it was never there. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit inspires a love for others that’s brave enough to push through the fear and seek the peace of God’s truth. Then we can quit arguing over who’s right and figure out what’s right.
In the end, I decided leave the post up, not just because I agreed with the article, but because I had learned from examining its pros and cons with others, considering their viewpoints and reconsidering my own. Maybe reading it would encourage other Christians to think critically instead of following any political party or candidate with blind faith. I decided everyone could gain something from the discussion, even if it’s just to see which attitudes they want to emulate or avoid in the future.
A couple of days later at church, the article and ensuing debate were still on people’s minds. One friend joked good-naturedly with me about it on the way into Sunday School. When we finished our coffee and donuts, the teacher opened the lesson with the discussion topic ‘Things that distract believers from what they should be doing.’ We bounced this subject around for a few minutes before he summed up his thoughts with an analogy. He recounted a story he’d read which likened Christians who engage with the secular world to a glove being put into the mud. “You always hear of a muddy glove,” he warned, “But there’s no such thing as glovey mud.” The moral of the metaphor was that sometimes the world affects Christians adversely instead of our effecting a positive change in the world.
Metaphors are some of my favorite things, so I chewed on this one for the rest of the class period. The caution it offers is valid for young, new, or immature believers. As we grow, however, Christ calls us to actively engage the world with the truth of the Gospel. I need to check this idea against scriptural precepts. Did any of Christ’s parables use related metaphors? That’s when I realized the problem – and the potential – of the glove metaphor.
When we use a work glove for its intended purpose, it gets dirty, but it helps make the dirt productive, too. In a sense, it equips us to redeem the mud by cultivating it into life-sustaining soil. From this perspective, the term ‘glovey mud’ would be an apt, if unconventional, description of a garden!
This application works on a spiritual level, too. The glove’s purpose is to protect our hands from the ill-effects of dirt as we engage with it. That’s analogous to the Holy Spirit’s role, guarding our hearts and minds from corruption. (He even gives us the right words to say when people sling figurative mud at us.)
Most importantly, the redemptive interpretation of the glove metaphor passes the scriptural litmus test. Consider the similar parables Christ used, describing our role in the world as being like salt in food and light in darkness. If we take the teachings of Jesus to heart, we can’t use the threat of dirty gloves to remain aloof from a mud-caked world.
I felt a little bit inspired and a little bit convicted, although in the opposite way than the teacher had perhaps intended. The garden of modern Christian writing needs more strong, gloved hands. Believers in this era of human history are blessed in several unique ways. We have God’s Spirit, indwelling and empowering each of us. We have God’s Word in our own language, in instantly-searchable formats, right at our fingertips. But we are a bunch of lazy thinkers and writers.
Believers of past centuries dug deep, in scripture, philosophy, science, and all the other classical disciplines. Before publishing their ideas, they cultivated tight logic and compelling rhetoric through rigorous study. Today’s Christians seldom move past forwarding things other people shared, that somebody else down the line wrote. We comment on things we haven’t fully read and disguise our ignorance behind clever-sounding memes.
And so I blog. Because I want to think better and write better. I do it because God uses every medium – prose, paint, poetry, clay, music, and even the Internet – to bring Himself glory. And because, thanks to my teacher’s metaphor, I realized Facebook alone no longer makes the mud around me glovey enough.
photo credit: Backyard Diva