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Christians, Please Be Meek During This Year’s Elections

Christians, Please Be Meek During This Year's Elections

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

Evangelicalism is a house divided politically in 2020.  The last few weeks have seen major evangelical volleys back and forth over the political divide.

The brouhaha started with Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief Mark Galli’s editorial “Trump Should be Removed from Office” and continued to gain steam with the follow-up piece from CT’s President/CEO Timothy Dalrymple’s “The Flag in the Whirlwind.” The most recent high-level evangelical rebuttal was penned by evangelical theologian and ethicist Wayne Grudem “Trump Should Not be Removed from Office.” All call themselves evangelicals.  All are highly respected. CT has been the flagship evangelical periodical since 1956, being founded by Billy Graham, and Grudem is responsible for Systematic Theology, one of the most popular single-volume systematic theology textbooks assigned in seminaries and bible colleges over the last 25 years. There is probably not an evangelical pastor in America who has not read Christianity Today or heard of Wayne Grudem.

I have no reason to exacerbate the divisiveness.  My voice is not a national voice. My concern is pastoral and local: to shepherd the people under my care and make sure our corporate witness to Jesus Christ in our community is stronger in 2020 despite the divisiveness of our political landscape. To that end, let me make a modest proposal and advocate for a seemingly forgotten Christian attribute.

I believe the Christ-centered trait evangelicals most need in the political arena (and on social media) in 2020 is meekness. Let me explain.

A Helpful 17th Century Definition of Meek

In the 17th century, Matthew Henry wrote a little book called A Discourse on Meekness and Quietness of Spirit. The puritan writer argued that the old term meekness (mansuetus in Latin) was often associated with the process of taming wild beasts of burden and curbing the aggressiveness of a wild, bucking stallion. By curbing a naturally aggressive nature, meekness could actually characterize a formerly aggressive horse.

The opposite of meekness is unbridled aggressiveness rooted in an easily bruised ego that lashes out with the tongue. The opposite of meekness is wading into controversy at every opportunity while provoking the other in endless confrontation.  Matthew Henry argued that meekness wisely cools the heat of passion and curbs the often-untamable tongue. Meekness is strength harnessed.

In short, a meek person gives a wise, poised, and measured reaction – something often foreign to the hyper-aggressive type of engagements that have become (virtually) normalized on social media.

I believe evangelical Christians would be wise to recover the lost trait of meekness during the upcoming political elections. Yes, there is a place for healthy discourse in the public square. Yes, there is a place for healthy dialogue across the political spectrum. Yet the modest question I raise to my fellow evangelicals is this: is social media the place where those ideals organically happen in a manner that adorns the gospel of Jesus Christ above all things in a winsome way to a watching world?

Meekness Considers Who You Are

In a previous blog post, I alluded to George C. Edwards III, the presidential historian at Texas A&M, who conducted the seminal study on the history of “The Bully Pulpit” in American politics.  The results were counter-intuitive.  During the 20th and 21st centuries, presidents have given fireside chats, appeared on radio and TV, and crisscrossed the nation to stump at rallies for their point of view.  Edwards’ study argues persuasively that all those activities of “The Bully Pulpit” never moved the needle of public opinion in the President’s favor or translated into significant legislative victories for presidential policies in Congress.

“It is true for all presidents. They virtually never move public opinion in their direction,” Edwards tells National Journal…”It happened for Ronald Reagan. It happened for FDR. It happens all the time. You should anticipate failure if you’re trying to change people’s minds. The data is overwhelming.” [1]

In other words, all the ranting and raving, all the advocating and cajoling by the President of the United States of America – the most influential and powerful person on the planet for much of the 20th and 21st centuries – did not sway public opinion.