By Eric Blauer
“It’s a trap!” -Admiral Ackbar, Return of the Jedi
Jesus coined that iconic meme when the pharisees tried to trap him in a ‘faith and politics’ question.
“Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply amazed them, and they went away.”
Unfortunately a lot of dialogue that is centered around faith and politics is more concerned about catching or condemning than constructive contemplation. Our cultural conversations are more like well planned snares meant to catch opponents and publicly skin them than opportunities to listen, reason, debate and learn from different people and perspectives.
I’ve grown up in conservative evangelical circles and have been caught up in various strong issue undertows that have always been present in these communities. I’ve watched people’s faith drown, or witnessed others get dragged way out to sea by matters of personal conscience that have been reframed as cultural icebergs that threatened to sink the moral majority.
I’m also old enough to have witnessed ‘sneaker waves’ sweep in and do a lot of personal and cultural damage in a short amount of time.
There is important and critical work to be done by people of faith in the matters related to shaping our personal lives, families, places of worship and communities. I don’t think it’s a matter of ‘if’ we should do it, I think it’s an issue of ‘how’ we engage it.
Triumphalism and syncretism are preferred methods today. Political profiteers, doomsday prophets, hit hungry bloggers and the long privileged pious force the public to fight in the arenas. The onlookers want battles and once again the ancient symbol of blood lust is present in our cultural colosseums: thumbs up or thumbs down. With a few clicks of a mouse we praise or pronounce death on those we like or loathe.
We really don’t need more gladiators, what we desperately need is more gracious debaters who can see people as well as positions. We must get free from the idea that freedom is only gained by killing our opponents.
Our goal is to expand our communities not shrink them down to a living room table of people who only think, talk, worship, eat and vote like us. If you look around and only see homogeneous homies than you’re caught in a trap and it’s time to break free.
Join SpokaneFAVS for its next Coffee Talk on “Religion and Politics” at 10 a.m. Nov. 1 at Indaba Coffee/The Book Parlor, 1425 W. Broadway Ave. Blauer is a panelist.
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