Dr. Moore has written about how oftentimes, Christians are quick to describe someone as “prophetic” for having political views that agree with their own. This is annoying, but I have seen even more obnoxious clichés recently. Oftentimes, in the context of societal or political events, some Christians will throw out some variation of “Jesus is still in control” or its cousin “What if you spent the time that you were writing/talking about political phenomenon X praying about it?”.
It is at this point that I should probably acknowledge that these two statements (Jesus is in control/Pray) are not wrong (surprise). It is true Jesus is in control and that prayer is important. The problem with these statements is how they are deployed in context. Without being judgmental, I would say the people who say “Jesus is in control” in the context of political events are not the people I know who have the most faith. Likewise, the people who would similarly say “stop speaking out, start praying” are not the greatest prayer warriors I know.
Thus, the ways these statements are used are wrong for several reasons. One is that they are generally targeted towards fellow Christians. Last I checked, I don’t think there is a lot of debate among Christians over whether God is in control or about the importance of prayer. To make such statements implicitly portrays Christians who care about social and political as less trusting in Christ and less prayerful as Christians with opposite or no political views. There are many Godlier men and women than I am who hold different political views. To insinuate political views are tied to spiritual maturity is nonsense.
That is because these two statements are generally used in 1 of 2 contexts, in my experience. The first is that someone is trying to justify not engaging with a political or social view opposite of their own. They want the ability to hold on to their currently held position and to ignore any other arguments or stances. The easiest way to do this is to delegitimize the importance of political/social positions. At that point, if political/social positions don’t matter because Jesus being in control and prayer are the only things that do, then it is acceptable to lazily dismiss any views we see that don’t fit into our own.
The second context is somewhat similar to the first. The difference is that instead of silencing certain political views, the goal is to ignore all political and social views and justify willful, extreme ignorance on these topics. Instead of specific views being blocked out by the individual playing one of these statements, it is the whole idea of being politically involved or taking strong stances on social issues.
Both of these contexts produce several problems. The first is that oftentimes, a Christian involvement in politics and society is out of love. Half of Jesus’ commandments was to love our neighbor as ourself. Politics is in large part the art of how our communities should operate and what they should look like. Obviously many people are in politics for less pure reasons, but a Christian engagement in politics should show the love of Christ to those around us. To excuse political involvement and opposing views off-hand is to excuse possibilities to be a light to the world around us. That’s not to say all Christians should be political experts or outspoken on social views, but that those who are called to do so should not be simply dismissed with clichés that make us look holier than thou.
The second problem I would like to mention here is that some people simply don’t have the ability to live in a completely apolitical context, even if they would otherwise like to. All around the world, there are individuals in conflict or who are oppressed for their beliefs who the consequences of political actions matter a great deal for. Even in our country, people of color are affected by how we envision our communities and the power structures we put in place in them. Furthermore, Women are oftentimes discarded when we allow power structures and leaders to emerge who regard them as less than full human beings, both internationally and here at home. For these individuals, simply dismissing political and social issues is not a privilege they have. As Christians, we don’t have to agree on how best to respond to these problems. I have strong feelings on these issues, but I don’t think those that disagree with me are spiritually defected. We should, however, acknowledge that the stakes of these issues are high for many (including many brothers and sisters in Christ), and that political and social apathy is not a mark of spiritual maturity.
So yes, Jesus is in control. Yes, we should pray for our leaders and for the issues that arise in our world. But we can live out these truths while being outspoken and active in the political and social contexts we live in. Sometimes, loving our neighbor demands it, and thus, Christ demands it.