better only to draw lines on purpose

I find all this political stuff fascinating. And rest assured, I enjoyed the political season two years ago, too. This isn’t a statement of political preferences; I’m just a sociologist at heart.

In any case, this week’s activities brought an issue to the surface I think we’d be wise to consider: the issue of publicly drawing ideological lines. This week, there were plenty of political lines to see: including right there on Facebook, people’s walls covered with celebration or dismay, depending on their persuasion. Lines. Lines. Lines. Reaching far beyond their best buds, family, students who have gotten to know them, or some accountability group.

We also draw religious lines – and not just on the “it-makes-us-orthodox” or “coming-to-Christ” issues, but on Calvinism or Eschatology or the Role of Women or Alcohol or Denominations or whatever.

Sometimes, we simply draw Lines by talking like everybody in our audience is likely to agree with us. When we talk like our students couldn’t possibly be Democrats, joke about Baptists, rebuke the President (no matter which one), or flippantly dismiss the idea of the Rapture, we’ve just drawn Lines. We’ve drawn Lines, because not everybody agrees with us and others don’t quite feel as strongly as we do.

Of course, Facebook lets us draw lasting lines with its little “Political Views” spot and “Religious Views” entries.

But this isn’t an argument that Lines are bad. Of course, as Christians, we’re called to offend. Perhaps often. And even on secondary issues on occasion. Some of us, I assume, are called to wage political battle or share our deep-seated views on some biblical topic for the cause of Christ. Debate is a healthy thing. So is exhortation. So is prophecy. So is confrontation. So is standing on conviction, when it’s a battle we’re called to wage.

But when we draw Lines – especially as college ministers – we’d better make sure we’re only drawing the Lines we really intend to draw. That’s my concern. ‘Cause it’s a shame if we’re drawing some Lines without much thought, staking claims that may offend or alienate simply because “it was interesting to talk about” or even because “it’s an issue I really care about.” Especially as missionaries to the campus tribes, we’ve got to be very wise, very careful, and very self-sacrificial if we’re going to “be all things to all people” for the sake of Christ. Our students won’t all agree with us, and neither will our fellow college ministers. (On the latter, believe me: I’ve seen and heard Lines drawn every which way, and it’s kind of a bummer.)

We can overdo it on this mentality and audit ourselves to death, sure, or refuse to be authentic because somebody, somewhere might be annoyed. But we can underdo it, too. If we only draw Lines on purpose, we’re a lot more likely to be doing it wisely.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, I haven’t filled out that Political Views spot on my Facebook at all. Why draw that Line?

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2 Comments

  1. Great post!

    Part of the challenge is that sometimes it is students who draw those lines. I have found myself, for example, refusing to draw a political line while more vocal students speak like all Christians are Republicans. Obviously part of the solution is to take those students aside, invest time in discipleship in hopes they gain a broader view. At the same time, the prevalence of the internet allows students to find (on youtube and such) Christians who are very certain and passionate about such Lines which reaffirms them (and makes them question their campus minister’s commitment?).

    Haha, maybe sometimes not drawing a line is, in some people’s eyes, to be on the wrong side of the line they have drawn.

  2. Without a doubt – and definitely a good point.

    I do think, however, that there may be more opportunity to disciple them on this than we think. I remember hearing about Chuck Swindoll’s friend (when Chuck was young) pointing out that all his Bible notes concerned beating people in arguments. And apparently that got through to him.

    Some students may be more open when we disciple them on the overarching concern – the character / effectiveness / wisdom angles – rather than trying to convince them their particular view is lacking. Even if it clearly is.

    But I think Sophomoric Certainty and Public Line-Drawing are two different character issues. (This post deals mostly with the latter.) We’d have to go after these issues – again, in a discipling way – separately. But they’re in the same ballpark, and in a message series, small group series, or one-on-one sessions – on Wisdom, for example, or Winsomeness – your words could go a really long way. College students really do suffer from “zeal without wisdom,” so as God gives them wisdom, the wisdom will likely take care of issues like these.

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