“I have lost all respect for him”
“I am never going to invite him to a potluck”
And many other sentiments were used to express the frustration people felt when Ben Carson, an early favorite of the Republican Party, unreservedly and unapologetically endorsed Donald Trump.
Let me say this at the very beginning – I would not endorse a demagogue who has repeatedly discriminated and demonized groups of people for the sake of a misguided ideal for this country. At the same time, I also would not side with another whose political naïveté is unmistakably clear.
I could not agree with both of ’em.
The endorsement from Carson is troubling for many reasons. My social-media feeds have run amok listing all of them, and I resonate with most of them.
But the endorsement is not what is concerning me the most.
What’s concerning me the most is the response to Carson from a specific demographic: My Seventh-Day Adventist church family.
Yes, we have every reason to feel like he’s let us down. The endorsement seems almost anomalous considering his diatribes against Trump’s ideals. Some, if not most of us, have looked up to him as a man worthy of adoration and emulation – a real life illustration of a rags-to-riches story. So the collective angst we feel is valid.
However, I wonder if that’s enough reason to write him off as someone who has “sold his soul”
I wonder if that’s enough reason to openly vilify the man in social media through memes and the like which border on cyber-bullying.
If we are so quick to write off Carson because he’s endorsing someone who seems diametrically opposed to his personal beliefs, then we should also consider writing off Daniel who worked for Nebuchadnezzar.
Sure, Daniel was coerced into his position and never explicitly endorsed the king, but he worked close enough with the political affairs of the king to merit a special sense of favor from him which eventually led to his conversion.
If it took an endorsement of a potential threat for us to ostracize Carson, would we include him back if we found out that President Trump (Heaven forbid) is now attending a local SDA church because of Carson’s influence?
If God can use individuals who were written off as “pagan”, or “unclean” (Rahab the prostitute, The Syro-Phoenician woman, Wise men from the East, Cornelius etc) to make an impact for His kingdom, why is it so hard to imagine that God can’t use the likes of Carson to do the same?
Do we really believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to transcend political and theological barriers?
“Oh but Kevin, Carson is not in it for theological reasons, but for political ones.”
Yes. So was Daniel. But that didn’t turn out to be so bad after all.
What if “Carson’s with HIM???” is turned to “Carson’s with him!”
Also, Ostracizing one of our own for a theological difference is one thing (that’s another topic for another day). Ostracizing one of our own for an ideological difference is another. While ideology and theology may well overlap, and one may shed light on the other, I’m curious as to what would happen if we can learn to distinguish between ones ideological (or theological) views and ones person.
Am I able to distinguish between Carson’s ideological or political leanings from the rest of who he is? Does a single act from an individual many looked up to discredit the many commendable things he has done, and may well continue to do, for broader society? And can I not still accept, and even enjoy, fellowship with a brother or sister in my own church who does not necessarily see things in the same way?
I am convinced, more than ever, that it is this mode of thinking that has exacerbated an ethic of acceptance determined by expected beliefs and behaviors in many religious institutions. That is, if you believe what and how I believe, you are now expected to behave in certain ways, and then you get to belong.
But we forget that Jesus turned this upside down! He asked a motley crew of disagreeing individuals to follow him (belong), makes them “fishers of men” (behave), and all of whom, like Peter, will eventually confess through their martyrdom that Jesus is the Christ (believe).
At the end of the day, while Dr. Carson and I may not see eye-to-eye in issues of politics, I will do well not to overlook three fundamental theological similarities between us:
A) both of us are made in the image of God,
B) both of us continue to fall short of the glory of God, and
C) both of us have access to the redeeming, transcending, wall-breaking, grace of God through Jesus Christ.
So this is what I’ll tell Dr. Carson at my place over potluck if he cares enough to come.
“I don’t agree with what you did. Not one bit. And I wasn’t planning on voting for you either. But if you need a place to worship, my church is open. And if you’d fancy some rice and curry, our home is open. Our theological similarities trumps our ideological differences…”
…and no pun intended.”