Mark and Rex have a candid conversation about the shocking mixture of Christian nationalism, white supremacy, and political extremism seen during the January 6th riot at the US Capitol. The event caused them to reflect on how Jesus approached topics of faith and politics.
Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host Mark Moore, and your co host Rex Gurney. And Rex on the show today, we’re just gonna have a candid conversation about faith and politics. It’s It’s such a supercharged topic right now. But I think in a very bipartisan way we can really examine, what does it mean to be a Christian? And and intermix faith in politics?
All right, Rex, I know we we kind of talked about this show, and we both talked about maybe approaching him with fear and trepidation. I think we’ve we’ve done that with other shows. But we, but we both felt that it was really important for us to, for one, just kind of reflect on what’s been happening in the United States, right? politically, and, and that includes the conversation of faith. And we were, I think, really blessed to have jemar tisby back on the show. And we recorded that show a day after January 6, we recorded that show on January 7, so we got to kind of hear him reflect on that. And, and that really, was thought provoking for me. And I think it just opened up for us a way to have a conversation about faith and politics right now in America, especially in light of January 6,
well, as we mentioned before, when we were, you know, kind of scoping out the tone we were going to take on this podcast, and yeah, thinking about places to go and places not to go and, you know, but you know it, this is just one of those moments that that you have to confront it or talk about it or think about it, because the The situation has almost forced a reflection and a conversation. Yeah. You know, and is has not just, you know, professors at a Christian institution that, you know, are professional and academic lives kind of cohere around some of these questions. But yeah, just as Christians, this is, this is an important thing to talk about, and a necessary thing to talk about, in light of recent events have kind of, you know, brought it to a head, but this is a rise. This is something that didn’t start yesterday. Yeah, that’s true. So it’s a worthy topic of conversation.
Yeah, it really is. And, and our hope today is that we can do this in a bipartisan manner, that this is not going to be picking one party or one group and, and, and looking at them or shaming them or anything like that. It’s really just having this conversation because because politics are a really important part of our lives and important part of our nation. And as we engage in politics, we can’t help but bring our faith into politics.
Right. Right. And it’s interesting, because I’ll ask this question. Because in a class I teach and Christian perspective, we do, you know, do a week about faith and politics, because it’s such a constituent part of our of our of our lives. And it’s interesting, I’ve seen this now for a number of election cycles. That, you know, there’s always a section of our students that are engaged, and you know, that they’re here for that, I think, yeah, yeah. selves in one way or another is kind of culture warriors. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. And you know, this would be one of the places to go if one wanted to become a better one. Yeah, but I’ve also noticed more and more students just being totally apathetic. You mentioned the word politics, and they just don’t even want to engage it at all. And write interesting that. And this is coming from folks that are maybe on, you know, marginal, the margins of the Christian community, but it’s also people that are dedicated Jesus followers, they just don’t want to have anything to do with it because they feel it’s so divisive. Yeah. But you know, you can’t I mean, you it’s unavoidable, you can’t you can’t avoid it. Yeah. If you know, if we want to teach you a holistic Christian perspective, that means trying to think Christian Lee about every part of life, you can’t avoid thinking Christian Lee about politics and public policy and things like that. He just, he just can’t and right. And we bring our faith to it. And different Christians will bring different you know, emphases to it. Yes.
And, and for us, I think it really does. I like how you pointed out that it’s not. This didn’t just happen, you know, in the last couple of days, you know, this conversation or the tension between faith and politics, right. And so it’s important to note that so we do want to give a little history But I think it’s also important for us to note that the events of January 6 was so shocking and startling. And in the mixture that it brought of, of the Bible and crosses, and Confederate flags and white supremacy
banners that said, Jesus save and all mixed in with with, right with the other stuff.
Yeah, well, the camp passwords are part and parcel
with it. And as a Christian, I mean, this, I hope is not a political statement. But it just, you know, it’s kind of shocking, actually. Right. See that? Yeah. In the same mix? Yeah. And so, um, you know, you mentioned the name, Constantine, you just kind of throw it out to anybody that Yeah, he’s in the in that, you know, thinking about this, and either is the best thing that happened to the church, or the worst thing that happened in the church, you know, right. Right. Ever since that time, to one degree or another Christians have been involved with the state. Yeah, to various degrees. Yeah, sure. And have been, you know, interested party on how the state is conceived and about what their influence will be in the state. And in the in the culture that we live in right now, that inevitably involves you with politics? Yeah. You know, I mean, one of the reasons for the support of a particular candidate in the last couple of election cycles, is because many, many Christians thought that that candidate would restore somehow the Christian voice to the center of the public square. Right. Right. And, and other people view that as extremely problematic. Yeah, it’s not just secularists that would view that too. There are other Christians that actually think that Constantine’s The worst thing that ever happened to the church, right, you know, right. And, and I’m seeing increasingly among some of our Christian students here, it’s just I don’t want to think about it at all. Yeah. Right. You know, that’s probably not an option. right for us, and so true, how to think about it, Christian Lee with grace, and, and being informed, you know, and then making informed Christian decisions. And, you know, one thing I emphasize all the time is that, you know, those informed Christian decisions could end up on different parts of the political spectrum. Right. You know, there are people that that, you know, vote for certain candidates in certain political parties, because they view that, you know, that that constellation of issues that they view are morally weighted as Christians are better addressed through one party. And there’s others that have another group of very Christian issues that they feel are better addressed by another party. Yeah, you know, and so I’m not here to judge the sincerity or even the validity of those Christian issues. I know, there’s a lot of us that wish there was a viable, like, you know, right. option. other option than, than that, yeah, that we have as far as that goes. Right. Right. Because often
I hear I hear, like, both right points. And I’m like, both of these points are important. Right, right. Yeah. Issues of life, issues of sanctity of life, and issues of racial justice and, and economic poverty. And, like, both of those issues, I think, are really important. Right. And it seems like they’ve been separated by parties. And so you have to choose one or the other.
Right? And and have we somehow been complicit in making this whole thing? Sort of a zero sum? game? Yeah, there’s Yeah, there’s winners. There’s losers. I know that, um, you mentioned in our chat right before the podcast about power. Right. And right, and how, you know, that gets into the mix, too. And that’s a very, very you know, it’s a very potent word.
Yeah. Right. When when you bring up Constantine that’s, that’s what I kind of think of. Right, that was the church moved from being persecuted for being marginalized to now being center of Yeah, at the center of the action and at the center of power. And so I guess, no matter how you you know, land on the the Constantine issue, one of the things that it did fundamentally change for the church is that from Constantine on, the church had some access to power politically, in policy in major formations within European history, and Western history. And so it it to me it brings up that really important picture and one of the things of why I would do what happened with Constantine that it It wasn’t, I think it can, you can take maybe a neutral approach to it. But you can at least say, that doesn’t seem to help, right, because just getting political power didn’t necessarily move the church into a place where now it definitely spread, it was a part of the spread of Christianity and Western culture and that, but I think looking at it in how it’s in the kingdom of heaven actually impacts people outside of politics. And for me, that issue of power is where we can run into problems, right, that that need for power, and particularly, maybe the need to hold power at all costs. So then we make concessions.
And it’s interesting because, you know, you want the power and, and I guess, just parenthetical sort of thing. I’ve been thinking a lot, I really have been thinking a lot in my devotional time, and I’ve actually written down little things on cards to to help me to, like, you know, pray for the situation, pray for people pray for myself, how do you write why through this minefield right now, you know, with integrity and with with, you know, Christian integrity. And I’ve been thinking a lot about Original Sin. I really have it’s, yeah, we somehow we think that of all the people that can have power, once we get it, that we will use it somehow, you know, for the common good, right? Or whatever. Right? And then we’re always like, shocked, when that doesn’t happen. Yeah, yeah. When we should have known that that was not going to happen anyway. Because we’re all human beings and and right. You know, hopefully on the road to some sort of final sanctification, but not quite there yet. And yeah, yeah. And power is just a is a is a powerful drug power is a powerful drug.
That’s the truth. It just is. And when I look at Jesus and how he approached, you know, because Jesus when he was here on Earth kind of first century was really interesting time. Historically, Robert, so you’re under the Roman Empire, right? But you’re also within the Jews who kind of want they are longing for political power, and man, political freedom and religious freedom. And Jesus comes in, in different ways, actually, among the Jews walking for That’s true. Yes, yeah. It wasn’t just a unified the level of all over the place, what the kingdom of Israel would look like. And and I think Jesus came in and why he was so shocking, both to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles that he reached is that he was while he was 100%, interested in influencing and bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth, right and announcing the kingdom of heaven is here. And as President available. He was not concerned with political power.
That was one of the temptations and he was right. Yeah. And it’s interesting that that’s like, like, you know, one of the very first things that happens, yeah, in the gospels in his ministry, it’s like, right away that option is out there. Yeah. You know, right. Yeah. Right. And he needed to make a decision about that. You know, I mean, have that works when one is a Caledonian Christian. I don’t know. But right, but he made the right one. Yeah, he did. He did the right one, but it was it was a it was right away. It was one of the first things that came up. Yeah, first temptation that comes up first. And it’s a it’s a you know, we’re always looking for, I guess, an easier route to get what we want done and Yeah, sometimes, Yeah, looks like an easier route. What I concerns with with the, you know, politicization of, of, you know, particularly my people. Yeah, yeah. Right now, it just is, yeah. Is that, you know, what, what? And it’s not just future generations, it’s like, you know, the half generation under me is already thinking about all of this. And right now, I’ve mentioned before, historically, that’s, that’s one of the good things about, you know, being his professor, but it’s also one of the bad things too, because you can see what happens and it’s happened over and over again. Right and issue. You know, look at what’s happening now with a little bit of trepidation simply because I’m an interested party. I mean, I I want to see the kingdom of God advance I want to say that and and I, you know, sometimes wonder about certain ways of going about that and how they can actually be countered. productive,
right? What it seems like if you if you make political power, the focus, then it does seem like it, it allows you to then start making concessions on issues of character, issues of morality, start making concessions on how to get that power. And it also you make concessions about maybe who else is joining you in that fight for power. And that’s where I think, for me, the January six, should be a really wake up call, like to see all of those images and I read several articles, many they’re coming from a completely secular perspective. And they just noticed that they said, Wow, look at this in American history, we have the coming together of the cross, and people praying with me, again, we’re not not saying that all of these people are the same people. Right, but just saying images outside of the Capitol, you’re bringing together those with clearly issues of sedition and insurrection, and Confederate flags and all of the meanings that that brings. And, and white supremacy symbols and, and deeper conspiracy theories that, that and so I think it definitely causes us to pause and say, Whoa, wait, what? What are we fighting for? What are we fighting against? And for me, as in that question, if Jesus was here, where would he be? Right? If Jesus here, where would he be? And that’s always a point of conviction, I think for anyone, right? You can say that to anyone? And you’re like, Yeah, no, he’s probably not going to be with me. But But I think when you look at Jesus in the Gospel, like he is, he is always concerned with the marginalized, right? And the ones who, and less concerned with the political power
is interesting when we look at the, you know, amalgamation of folks that, you know, genuinely, I mean, no matter where you are in the political spectrum, it takes a lot to ally yourself with doing that that’s not, you know, that is sort of a, I don’t know, a collection of grievances. And and yeah, you know, and these are, these are, these are folks that that feel that that they once were at the center of things, and they either are marginalized or are about to be marginalized. And we both know that that has been a conversation for decades now. Right. Right, evangelical Christians. Yeah. You know, we are we’d be marginalized. We’ve been persecuted. And, you know, some of that’s true. I mean, it’s, you know, oftentimes, it’s our voices are not welcome at the table of academia and public policy and things. Sometimes, because they feel those voices are divisive, and honestly, the images of a couple of January the sixth, right, don’t help that any. But But you know, so so there’s, there’s a, there’s an underlying reason for this feeling of grievance, but the feeling of grievance can sort of end up taking on a life of its own. And once you feel that, then it opens up all kinds of options that you would not follow or would not entertain, if you didn’t have that feeling of grievance, because it’s who’s going to be able to address this grievance? Who’s going to be able to, you know, put something which has been D centered in its rightful place at the center of our society. Yeah, you know, and who’s going to best do that? Right. And, you know, and so there are some interesting bedfellows when that happens, you know, right. And it’s also really, really interesting. And we talked about this just a little bit, just kind of trying to put it a little bit more into broader philosophical and sociological perspective. What I think is interesting, and this is just an observation. I don’t even know I mean, they’re probably smarter people than I am more adept people than I already writing books about this. So I’m pretty sure of intervarsity Press will come out with something like this. I’m
not saying for sure that there are smarter people than you. I’m saying for sure people are working on I’m not
the only person. I’m not the only person who’s thinking about and all I do is think and I don’t right, so, but but it has, it has seemed really interesting that one of the things that we are really concerned about, and I understand the concern, and it is a real thing. And that’s that’s the erosion of a commonly accepted notion of truth. And what is True and how when access is truth in our society, right, right. What’s interesting is that’s happened on a theological and philosophical and then kind of, I don’t know, broadly, cultural thing. Right, right. But now it’s gone deeper into, you know, politics and worldview. And, and and, you know, history and reality and all sorts of things. Yeah. And so it’s, it’s really kind of been on steroids in the last few years. And, you know, I guess someone dispassionately looking at this, if that’s possible, right now could say, you know, I guess you could see some of this stuff coming. Right, what what’s interesting to me is the very thing that we have, rightly, been so concerned about, you know, infecting or impacting the, the wider culture, you know, this this, you know, relativization of truth,
right? Yeah, erosion of truth or foundation for truth. Right.
And you know, that that’s, that’s a rightful concern. But suddenly, almost, without knowing it, we have sort of bought into it. Completely, I like completely. And so either either, you know, either we’re helpless victims of a societal force that we have no, you know, no way to address or we, for whatever reason, and this is where, you know, other things can kind of come into this, like power and access and, and, you know, there’s other things too, that are actually impinge on this, but it’s interesting that we find ourselves at the center of this whole conversation. And interestingly, it seems like in some cases, the whole conversation is flipped. And so it’s almost a case of the old adage, we have met the enemy, and it is us, we’ve seen the enemy, and it is us, it’s almost like we see our reflection in the mirror. Something we have claimed that we were, you know, fighting against for so long. It’s a it’s a, it’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed. And right, I think we should you know, it, there’s some Christian reflection on that.
Yeah, it really does. And it’s, and it’s been fascinating for me that that issue of truth has been brought up, you know, where, yeah, the critique, you know, 20 years ago, was that culture was just, there is no truth and everyone’s truth. But, but in the last, you know, several years, this focus on Well, what is actually true, how do we know it’s true? And, and sources of information, all of that is,
and so if there are competing versions of truth, you know, and you’re kind of, you’ve kind of got into the narrative that there are right, yeah. Even if, you know, on sort of an ultimate level, you think that’s problematic? Still on a practical Kind of day to day level? you operate that way? Then? I don’t know if there’s competing versions of truth. And those competing versions are talking about something that is of vital importance, then, then what do you have left, but appeals to power? Right, because, right, something has to know. Something has to adjudicate those conflicting versions of truth. Wow. Oh, it’s who can that’s so true. Who can do that? Or who will? Who will help you who will offer you that? Yeah, for you that Yeah.
I think that’s, that’s really insightful, right? When you have these different versions of truth or different sources of truth, then it does become whoever is the most powerful and can just say this is the truth. Right. It’s kind of that that move towards Neel ism. Really, right. Or this idea of, of mic making. Right.
It’s interesting, because I I’ve heard, you know, it’s, uh, some people have have, you know, talked about the events of the past few months as, for example, an attack on our democracy. I’ve heard that a lot. Right. Right, you know, an attack on on on just the assumed common vocabulary that we’ve had for 250 years. Right, right. We’ve suddenly broken down, right. Yeah. And, you know, but I have heard some of my Christian brothers and sisters basically say, well, democracy is overrated. And that’s really interesting, because it is because these are folks that almost worshiped our democracy, right as almost a total mistake. And I understand that i think that you know, this, the American experiment, at its best is one of the greatest things that’s ever happened, you know, right on this planet, I believe now, but it’s interesting to hear the conversation that, you know, since you know, we have these competing versions of truth. And they can only be adjudicated through power or political power. Because that’s the only way to address this, then democracy actually becomes a stumbling block to that. Right. And so I have heard folks say, you know, it’s time for a dictator. You know, and of course, you know, that they have someone in mind. And it was time for you person just to be in our society, and it’s too late for our democracy. And yeah, you know, I just I rarely heard Christians here. Yeah. Talk in those words, at least in my lifetime. Right. But we have seen historical examples before. Right, once again. Yeah. You know, and, you know, plug for a history professor. I mean, what are you, folks? Absolutely don’t know, you know, they talk about the Constitution, but they’ve never read it. Right. I hear all the time about all this stuff is in the Constitution. And it’s someone who like, you know, teaches that and who, yeah, yeah. Has the students read the whole thing and everything? It’s, it’s interesting, you know, yeah. It really is, you know, maybe there’s an alternate reality where those things are, you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s an interesting place.
Yeah, that is that I think it kind of for me, it begs and this is kind of maybe the point of the question of the episode of us kind of reflecting on what is happening. And also trying to, to answer that question. So how, like, what is the proper balance of faith and politics? What, how should a Christian approach politics in your mind?
Well, you know, I mean, I would go with, you know, I am the way the truth and the life and now Jesus came to initiate inaugurate establish the kingdom of God. Yeah, I would be about Kingdom things. And then we argue over what that is.
It’s true, it’s really there’s no, there’s no answer that everyone’s gonna be like, yes, that’s where we are not pushing back on your ex, but, but I think it is important what you bring up like, the focus being on on Jesus, like, I really do think that’s so important of, because like we’ve said, In this episode, faith and politics are part of our lives. And we can’t separate the two we can we can approach one without we know, well,
I mean, there are some Christians that are, you know, suggesting that there are options that we have, and is basically, to sort of, you know, run up the white flag, but not run up the white flag from a position of, you know, slinking off with our tail between our legs, and just joining the general, you know, yeah, mission or whatever. But right, but running up the white flag in that particular battle, we’re fighting right now. And just going off and carving off our own kingdom. You know, and, you know, in a number of very, you know, best selling books about that buy right now, authors and these options, and often actually was in the title of one of them, you know, options, and I can, you know, I guess that would be attractive to some folks, you know, right. If we have thought of our faith in terms of a culture war in the first place, right, then what happens when, you know, you’ve, you’ve lost it, right? You know, do you fight a rearguard action, and the only way you can do that is through raw power? Or you go off and you be, you know, construct, arrange it just separate. And, you know, there have been options, obviously, throughout history of doing just that. Right. It’s interesting with evangelicals, because it seems to go against evil what we’re supposed to be about. Right, you know, in doing that, you know,
right. Yeah. And it seems to me, it still comes back to that the issue or the concept of power. And I like what you’re saying, if if you approach this conversation, thinking of it as a war, then you do have to come to grips either with one doing whatever you have to do to win the war, or if you lost water, your options and, and it seems to me, Jesus didn’t approach that. He didn’t approach culture in that way. He didn’t approach it as a war. He wasn’t at war with the Romans. He wasn’t at war with Pilate. He wasn’t at war with the Emperor.
He wasn’t really even at work. The Pharisees no matter what, right Yes. You know,
Yeah. And so for me, I think that’s that’s been the thing that is, it’s been a helpful guide for me in terms of of my faith in politics is, am I am I guided more by power in the the need for power or the security of power? Am I guided more by that than I am by Kingdom principles that we see these, these principles of the kingdom of heaven that, that Jesus came to initiate and to highlight? And I think those are those could be helpful guides and questions.
And a corollary to that, I guess, with with the you know, what got us in this jam in the first place is if, if, if language and talking points arguments, conversations have have been exhausted. And the only way one can stay in the conversation is by somehow, you know, yelling louder, or, or somehow somehow silencing, you know, the voices of your conversation partner. Right. But that’s sort of a dead in that right, that that in itself is is not just a zero sum game, then then maybe are there other ways that we can address the Are there other conversations we can have? You know, there are other ways to address this, if the ways we have right now seem to not be healthy? You know, are there other ways to talk about this? That are? Because the questions are so important? Right? Right. You know, and I’m always for the, I don’t know what they are, but I’m always, you know, you don’t have to surrender. And you don’t have to change the subject, you just need to somehow find another introit into the conversation.
Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s a really good approach that, that are looking at ways of, of being in the conversation and understanding ones that have come to a dead end. Or worse, and, and saying, There’s got to be a different way to approach this, because, cuz I think it’s important for Christians to have a voice in politics, certainly, and to speak, and to speak for truth, right, I think it comes me it kind of comes back at these issues of power and issues of truth. Right. And, and, and, and speaking the truth. And, and also understanding, the, you know, we had david van drunen, who’s a professor down in Southern California, on the podcast several months ago, talking about his book on politics and Christendom. And I thought it was so good, what he said about understanding the commonality of politics, right, that politics is, is called to speak to people from different backgrounds and, and different faiths. Right. And that’s, that’s part of the American experience, right, is that it is speaking to, to all Americans. And so I think finding a place where we can have a voice in that, and a voice that allows for other voices as well, you know, and we can kind of talk and we can stand up for the truth and we can, we can be less concerned with political power, and, you know, and more concerned with, with living by the kingdom, and and, and living by these Kingdom Principles, and, and the power that actually is, is in that right?
It’s a powerful thing in itself. Probably the most powerful thing,
actually. Definitely. Well, thank you, Rex for entering this conversation with me. I hope as listeners, I hope that you know, there have been things that you have stretched you, maybe you want to push back on. We’d love to be in dialogue together. So we hope you never feel like this is just us telling you what, what the way you should think about something but rather it’s opening a conversation to say, Well, have you thought of this? Have you thought of this? How can we how can we continue this conversation of faith and politics moving us to a place where where we can actually have a voice in politics that’s not a voice reliant on strength, or power, or coercion or anything like that, but as a voice that’s actually reliant on the power of the kingdom of heaven, right? And that power of sacrifice and that power of humility, and all of the qualities that Jesus brought to this conversation. You must be a preacher mark, I, you know, and I’m ending this podcast with a crescendo there, right? We’ve got you know, sometimes you’ve got to have a little theatrical. When you give it a shot, you’ve convinced me I’m ready to stay. I got one person events. Move on to the next but now thanks. Thanks, listeners. For Hang on with us and there’ll be more conversations to come for sure. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.
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