When Politics End a Friendship and How Faith Fits In


Different political opinions can end a friendship—but should they?

How politics, faith, and friendship can fit together.

My post on politics, which was published on the front page of WordPress:
https://jsparkblog.com/2017/03/06/when-do-politics-decide-friendship/

This is part of a series called “Where Faith Meets Life,” covering topics like politics, abuse, marriage, and mental illness.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/jsparkblog

Be blessed and love y’all, friends!
— J.S.

Editors’ Picks: Frontpage of WordPress



Hello friends! I’m on the frontpage of WordPress by Editors’ Picks for a post called:
When Do Politics Decide Friendship?

Join the conversation. Be blessed and love y’all! 
J.S.


When Do Politics Decide Friendship?


lovelyishe asked a question:

 What is your opinion on the stance that you should end a friendship because of differing political opinions? Is there a time when you believe it is best to drift apart from them or no?

Hey dear friend, this is certainly a difficult, relevant question today, as it seems political differences more than ever are not merely a disagreement of opinions, but becoming an aggressively different opinion of human value, with all kinds of dangerous implications.

I’m fortunate and blessed to have friends with a wide range of political beliefs who are open to discourse or even changing their minds. Not every person on the opposite side of politics acts like the caricatures you’ve seen online. There are many, many thoughtful people across the spectrum that do not fall easily into our biased categories.

My concern is not that everyone has to agree a particular way. My major concern is that our beliefs have sound reasons behind them. When I hear the stories of enlisted soldiers, military veterans, the mentally ill, the desperately poor, victims of racism, both pro-life and pro-choice advocates, immigrants (like my parents), and abuse survivors, I can begin to see why their experiences have shaped their positions on specific issues. The more stories I hear, the more I can understand. I can become a student instead of a critic. I can more easily reach across the aisle, not necessarily to change minds, but to build bridges where our stories are respected in the overlap.

Of course, this bridge-building cannot happen with everyone. Sometimes a person’s politics are so explosive and divisive that it seems they only want to watch the world burn (or as it’s said, it’s a zero-sum game). There really are people who cannot be engaged with, no matter how gracious we approach. But unlike the terrible circus we see online, on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr, most people are way more three-dimensional than that. It’s only ever a last, last, last resort that I would ever break off a friendship because of politics.

Continue reading “When Do Politics Decide Friendship?”

The Worst of Me, the Best of Me.

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I believe people are worse than we think.

I believe people are better than we think.

As a Christian, I’m both a pessimist and an optimist at the same time.

I’m painfully aware that we are capable of the worst sorts of evil, and worse, that we too easily turn a blind eye to the real grief of others. Many of us are so sheltered that we deny how deep such depravity runs in our veins. We laugh it off, we whistle past the graveyard, we gloss over the wounded. I’m pessimistic because I see how awful we can be.

I’m also painfully aware that we can be manipulated into thinking people are one-dimensional cartoon caricatures, so much that we become cynical and jaded over the possibility of change. Our very real fears are often exaggerated by a binary social narrative that has us ravenous for blood. We forget that each of us do have hopes and dreams and passions that overlap and interweave. I’m optimistic because I see how harmonious we can be.

I’m hopeful that the best of us, within us and among us, can build bridges through open scars and new stories through broken hearts. That we can give a voice to our uncertainty. That we are on hand one not extremely dismissive, and on the other hand not completely nihilistic. That we validate each other’s concerns and lean into our very real wounds, while not buying into the back-and-forth backlash of answering hurt with hurt.

I am holding space for our fears.
I am holding space for our hopes.
I’m a cynic and a critic.
I’m a believer and I’m with you.
Will you be with me, too?
J.S.


Photo by Image Catalog, CC BY PDM

TV Shows That Christians Should Watch: 24


24 (2001-2014)
Fox Television

Summary:
Over an exact period of twenty-four hours — each episode in real time — federal agent Jack Bauer gets shot, stabbed, electrocuted, tasered, burned, choked out, attacked by dogs, infected by a killer virus, killed twice, and endures various other health hazards all in the name of America. That’s usually before breakfast. He is part of CTU, the fictional Counter Terrorist Unit located in Los Angeles, and we’re privy to the worst days of Bauer’s life. The show uses splitscreen, a running clock, ridiculous plot twists, and a you-are-there handheld madness with zero slow motion for a show that my friend described as “a speeding train with no brakes.” But perhaps the best part of the show is Bauer himself, played in a determined, dogged performance by an incredible Kiefer Sutherland.

Also starring Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard, Dennis Haysbert, Xander Berkley, Elisha Cuthbert.

Questionable Content:
Very dark themes, cursing, occasional sexual content, a paranoid atmosphere, and at times extremely violent, e.g. open wounds, gunshots, broken necks, stabbing, eye gouging, and Jack Bauer not eating for 24 hours straight.

Why You Should See It:
Debuting the same time that the World Trade Center was attacked, 24 was an American catharsis for a wounded, vulnerable nation. It fueled our sudden demand for justice by any-means-necessary. Jack Bauer was the means. He was an unstoppable force, a projection of our twitchy national outrage who did whatever it takes, and became our vicarious Monday night superhero. Everything we’ve always wanted to do to the bad guys, without daring to speak them out loud, he does. At first glance (and second and third and fourth), 24 plays out like every patriotic, flag-waving, terrorist-hunting fantasy.

But the show doesn’t downplay the harrowing effects of Jack Bauer’s methods. He slowly devolves into a dehumanized, haunted soul with nine seasons of regret (plus a TV movie). A life of torture brings about a tortured life. Bauer’s only tether to “normal” is his put-upon daughter, who both loves him and is repelled by what he does. Fans complained that Bauer became more unlikable as the show progressed, but of course this would only make sense: Bauer and guys like him were never destined for happily-ever-afters. He secured such endings for everyone else at the expense of himself, and even worse, for those who got too close to him. This dreary subtext was too often obscured by Bauer’s more sensational tactics.

Continue reading “TV Shows That Christians Should Watch: 24”

Seven Questions to Ask Before Voting


Some questions to ask ourselves before voting:


How will my vote affect the story and direction of our country?

Is this candidate I’m voting for going to help defuse our current racial tensions?

Is this candidate going to hold themselves accountable as an example?

Is this candidate capable of proper foreign policy as well as bridging the divisions between American individuals?

Is this candidate a step forward in the tapestry of progress and history?

Is this candidate the kind of person who can address grief, loss, and prayers with sincerity and movement?

Who are we more or less comfortable with in directing our social and cultural narrative?

J.S.


Photo by Saint Julian, CC BY-ND 2.0

Who to Vote for If I Don’t Like Either Candidate?

Anonymous asked a question:

I have no idea what to do about the upcoming presidential election. I want to vote because I can, but I don’t see either of the options as fitting for the role. Any advice?

Hey dear friend, at the risk of alienating others: I also don’t want to vote for either candidate. I think that’s a perfectly legitimate option, all the way up to the voting booth.

Here’s the thing. An American President only has so much actual deciding power, as there are checks and balances to limit what one official can do (though of course, their policies are certainly a factor in how you vote). But my main concern is that the elected officials in any government are part of a greater social influence that describes and decides who we are as a country and a people.

I think the question that I ask is: How will my vote affect the story and direction of our country?

Continue reading “Who to Vote for If I Don’t Like Either Candidate?”

Who I’m Voting For.


I was asked about my politics. About who I’m voting for.

I don’t know who I’m voting for, but I know who I’m hoping for.

I’m hoping for a candidate who won’t use easy buzzwords and one-liners to pander to a party, who calls out who we should be, and calls us to who we could be.

I’m hoping for a candidate who actually cares, from-the-pit-of-their-stomach until their voice shakes, for black lives and cops’ lives, for teachers’ lives and adopted lives, for lives outside the four lines of a party line; for the least of these, for the working class and freshmen class and aristocrats, for shamed and blamed victims in universities; for the mentally ill, the fatherless, the lone veteran, and refugees; for majorities and minorities, those in Wall Street and on the streets, for those in need and those who lead, for the Constitution and spiritual liberties: not to accuse one to lift up the other, but to raise up without dichotomies, without looking for exceptions and squeezing into our isolated categories.

I’m hoping for a candidate who doesn’t crudely appeal to the entitled or the corporations, who doesn’t ride on young votes or legacy votes or angry votes or religious votes, who doesn’t tickle the little racist in all of us, who can pull together a unified diversity and a diversified unity, without demonizing or cartoon-villainizing a caricature of the “other side,” who reaches across the divide but without compromise.

I’m hoping for a candidate who listens more than talks, who hands the microphone across the stand, who questions more than lectures, who doesn’t condescend but descends where I am.

I’m hoping for a candidate who isn’t poaching for my vote by the end results of a focus group, who might disagree with me but still tells me the total truth.

I’m hoping for a candidate who won’t play zero sum, who won’t falsely promise a full pocket by reaching into my other one.

What I’m hoping for is impossible and illogical, and I remain cynical. I might as well be talking about Jesus, and look what they did to him: his cross became his pedestal.

I’m probably asking for too much — but maybe we haven’t been asking for enough: because enough would be someone who had the guts to say, “It’s not them or you, it’s them with us.”

Because who I’m voting for won’t matter

unless we figure out what matters.

I got a hope bigger than politics and polls,

and that’s the hope that we know there’s better and more.

Call me an idealist, or naive, or romantic, or say I’m avoiding the question: but if we can’t relinquish our verbal weapons, we’ll have nothing left past the aftermath of an election.

And really, all these changes that I want to see,

it doesn’t start with a vote, but a wild hope in we.

These changes, really,

they have to start with me.

All this starts

with you and me.

J.S.

The Forced Falsed Dichotomy of For and Against: How a Binary System Fails to Resolve Our Deepest Issues

When you’re asked these three questions, you’re instantly running into a bitter bloody crossfire.
Are you for or against gay marriage?
Are you pro-life or pro-choice?
Are you a Democrat or Republican?

But I want to counter-ask:
Why do we only have to think within these two opposing grids? Who made up the rules of this conflict? What if there was a different way to do this than the paradigms we have blindly bought into?

What our world does is what it has always done: takes a human issue, forces two sides against each other, comes up with all kinds of pseudo-articulate arguments, and ratchets up the volume.

Is this really the only dang way to communicate?

For many of us, this is all we ever know. The incessant angry yelling ignores the people trapped inside these debates, and we are brainwashed into excluding the “other” based on our own limited understanding of reality.

Real-live multi-layered human beings get lost in the urge to push ideologies — and I keep wondering if there’s a better way to navigate our disagreements.

Our current public discourse always looks barbaric and overly simplistic: because winning your idea at the White House cannot legislate someone’s soul. That’s state-sponsored tyranny.

Even if your side wins, what then? How do we reconcile with the “other”? What do you really win?

How do we offer something more than “Stop it” ..? How do we get off the anti-ground of what we’re against and move towards what we’re for?

Continue reading “The Forced Falsed Dichotomy of For and Against: How a Binary System Fails to Resolve Our Deepest Issues”

Question: Does God Make Us Sin?

Anonymous asked:
If God predestines everything, does He predestine sin? Can one of His elect fall into binding sin and still be elect? Would God cause one of His children to be bound by sin for His greater glory?

I already know that by answering doctrinal questions about predestination and election, I’m bound to make at least a few people angry, confused, despondent, or all the above. So as I like to do with these sorts of things, let’s ask a series of questions.

Does God predestine everything? Yes.

Do we still have free will? Yes.

Does God “cause” us to sin? Never.

Does He “author” our sin? Yes.

Is there a difference? Yes.

Do we still choose to sin? Yes.

Can an elect become a non-elect? No, or the elect was never elect.

Can a non-elect become an elect? No, or the non-elect was never non-elect.

Does God destine people to Hell? Not sure. I’ll humble myself and say God does whatever He wants, and it would be righteous.

Can we with our limited finite three lb. brains determine who is elect or not? No.

So I can’t sneak out of evangelizing if I think this dude is non-elect? No.

Can God cause someone to be bound by sin for His glory? Again, God can do whatever He wants, righteously.

Does the person still choose to be bound? Yes.

Now let’s allow the Bible to speak for itself (which it will do anyway).


Continue reading “Question: Does God Make Us Sin?”