I write this one with a heavy heart. Let me start by saying that I love this country. There is a large part of me that is so proud to have played a part in defending the freedoms of those I will never meet and those who either can’t or chose not to do the same, and prouder still to simply call myself an American. Much like my various stances as a Christian though, my stances as an American are not always consistent with how the world views America. I do not currently and will never support the ideals that have been propped up by the likes of people such as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. I feel no ill-will towards immigrants. I hold no grudges against those who have reaped their successes (whether or not those successes were accomplished “fairly”). I defend every life equally because, well, every life matters. I believe every American has the right to pursue responsible happiness. It is these ideals that led me to join the military and it is these ideals that I continue to verbally defend against the onslaught from ignorant support to the contrary.
There is another part of me that is ashamed of my fellow Americans though. If I ever run for office I’m sure that statement will come back to haunt me, but it’s true. What happened to the greatness that built what we are now enjoying? What happened to the moral fortitude that indiscriminately wiped great evils off the earth? What happened to the work ethic that built the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, and planted a flag on the moon? As I watch the news, political debates, and the general election unfold, I am left asking “are the ideals that I support and defend gone forever?”
It has taken every ounce of tongue-biting in me not to hastily respond to the abounding ignorance being hurled in the polarizing rhetoric I see today. And I’m not talking about just insults being hurled on Facebook like monkeys throwing their feces, ignorant to the impact. I’m talking about the very people who are supposed to be leading us. I’m talking about the blind and uneducated support people give to the unqualified and divisive. Here’s why it hurts so much. I spent 4 years in the Marines away from home, training, sweating, and bleeding. I spent 7 months in Iraq where I saw the very real cost of the freedoms we’re signing away. I lucked out and do not have any lasting negative affects from my time overseas, but I know others who were not so lucky. I know others who pay the high price of my freedoms everyday, and yet others who gave the highest sacrifice.
I recently came upon a revelation that continues to challenge my anger towards the nation’s trajectory. On a near daily basis I am disappointed in what America (and Americans, for that matter) has become and I need this reminder daily. A while back a dude named Paul wrote a letter to a Church in the city of Philippi. In it there’s a section entitled “Pressing toward the Goal”. Paul talks about keeping the right things in perspective, especially when faced with people who lie, cheat, and falsely represent your ideals. Philippians 3:17-20 says this:
Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
Paul says, with tears in his eyes, that there are many whose conduct is abhorrent to the very ideals he stands for. It hurts his heart hearing how certain leaders are behaving and manipulating the ideals he holds dear to their own agenda. But then he follows up with the truth that “we are citizens of heaven…”. There it is; the mic drop. Paul is trying to tell this group of people that they are facing many distractions from some very loud mouthpieces, and they need to be reminded of their goal and focus. Sound familiar? As a side note, any one who says this stuff isn’t applicable today quite clearly hasn’t read it, but I digress.
Being a citizen of heaven carries with it a few vitally important truths. Firstly, I am made to outlast this world. The actions and decisions in the United States should not upset me any more than the actions and decisions made in some foreign land, say, Tibet. Should I work to impact the culture around me? Well, of course. Should I get wrapped up in political arguments hurling insults like the aforementioned monkeys? Not ever.
This concept means my mission here on earth has not changed since it was first given. In the book of John, Jesus was giving one of his last pep talks to his crew when he mentioned how the whole game was about to change. Where there used to be hundreds of laws to follow, now there is one. In John 13:34-35, he says:
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
Like I said, this is a continued struggle of mine. Everyday there is a new story about how candidate X insulted candidate Y, who then rudely demands an apology. Or how candidate A made a bold offering to give away my hard earned money to something I don’t agree with. Here’s a few truths that have helped keep me on point:
- Keep my mind fixed on what’s important because you’ll never hit what you’re not aiming at. Colossians 3:1-2 says: “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”
- Pick my battles. Not every wildly erratic comment needs (or even deserves) a response. Discern what ideas or policy changes would truly have an eternal impact and choose those battles to fight. If you stand for everything, you’ll win at nothing.
- Choose Love. Before his brutal death, Jesus told us to love one another. He didn’t say this because Jake from State Farm told us to be a good neighbor. He told us this because it is through our Love that the world will know Him. In an already crowded field of feces flinging Facebook comments, responding in Love is the only chance that I have to truly impact the world around me.
Stay focused. Pick your battles. Choose Love.