Joel Belz: A different tone

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 23rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. The political and social temperature out there can be very hot. WORLD founder Joel Belz says that gives Christians the opportunity to help bring the temperature down.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: Some observers say our nation has not been this divided since the Civil War. Never so polarized. Never with so many of its citizens set so bitterly against each other.

Since I wasn’t around back then, it’s a little hard for me to compare. But over the last three or four years, I’ve seen enough emotional yelling, table pounding, and enraged blame-shifting to know something atypical is at work. 

We see it not only in electoral politics. We see it in the news media, entertainment, music, even sports.

But what concerns me most when I see these to-the-death squabbles invade the walls of the local church. Drop in during what we used to call a “fellowship hour,” and you’ll find anything but fellowship. 

Sometimes it’s been just good, vigorous discussion. But it’s getting more and more animated. And that’s what scares me. When discussion turns into insults and abuse, Satan wins.

In my own experience I’ve observed four congregational types. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether your own church fits any of these profiles.

Congregation A steers clear of anything resembling political involvement. Whether from its pulpit, Christian education program, or informal discussion, it diligently follows half of the anciently safe proverb: “We just don’t talk about religion and politics here.” 

Congregation B is bolder. Under the heading of “Biblical World­view,” its leaders don’t hesitate to bring up subjects like abortion or care for the environment. They may differ with each other on the applicability and meaning of certain Bible verses, but they believe such teachings are there. 

Congregation C is more specific. It may or may not help its people develop a thoughtful Biblical worldview. No matter. The leaders of Congregation C decide which political positions and measures ought to be enacted. Then they rally the forces: “Vote for Proposition X,” they say.

Congregation D takes the next logical step by endorsing specific candidates for various offices. A Sunday morning pastoral prayer in such a church won’t just include a minimal request that God would oversee the work of civic leaders, as the apostle Paul instructed. It will go regularly beyond that to ask God to bless the good guys (by name)—and punish the bad guys (by name)—at next Tuesday’s election.

So here’s the challenge. How do we fill our roles as believers without allowing conversations degenerate into what looks like a meeting at a local political precinct? How do we resist our culture’s propensity to fill every conver­sation with ugliness and insults?

In short, it’s the same way we live the rest of our Christian lives. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and more. We’d do well to remember that the next time we gather for a fellowship hour. 

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.

(Illustration/Krieg Barrie)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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