Janie B. Cheaney – Living our placard principles

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, December 2nd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. World commentator Janie B. Cheaney now on rules for living.

JANIE B. CHEANEY: You’ve seen the sign in your neighbor’s yard: “In this house, we believe: Black lives matter/ Women’s rights are human rights/ No human is illegal/ Science is real/ Love is love/ Kindness is everything”

Smug, I think, when driving by. Why, I think, would anyone post such an anodyne creed except as a slap to conservatives? Isn’t each point a signpost for leftwing values like militant antiracism, feminism, open borders, scientism, LGBT rights, and virtue signaling?

But wait, I remind myself: there’s such a thing as Christian/conservative sloganeering. Slogans do not an argument make, much less a friend.

“We believe” is a proclamation peculiar to human beings. It’s a moral standard for a moral species, and this particular standard sums up contemporary western values rather well. Each bullet point seems irrefutable and bedrock.

But 2000 years ago other values seemed irrefutable and bedrock. Imagine a Roman patrician’s placard from A.D. 100: “In this villa, we believe: Might makes Right/ the Patriarch rules/ Class is destiny/ Death is real/ Civil Order is Everything.”

Those were the principles of a harsh, utilitarian world that had no room or notion of human rights—until Christ came with the revolutionary news that All Lives Mattered to God. “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation,” wrote the Lord’s brother James.

We Americans agree, in principle if not always in practice: race, riches, and sex do not determine a person’s worth. But we forget how world-shaking it was in 100 A.D., and how long it took for us to get here, and how we would never have arrived were it not for the gospel that now appears so outdated to cutting-edge morality.  Think how threatening our idolizing of individual rights would have seemed to a Roman of A.D. 100.

But my neighbor doesn’t care about that. In this crazy election year, she wants me to know that she believes in all the right things and subtly reproaches everyone who doesn’t. Once I check my own heart for “right-thingism,” is there anything I could say to her?

Possibly this: “Hi! I noticed your sign. I had a few questions: could we talk?

Credos are an excellent place to begin a conversation. Many of us adopt beliefs without knowing why—sometimes, simply to fit in with the cultural milieu.

Christians have never fit in. In every time or place, there’s always some pillar of the zeitgeist profoundly at odds with Biblical faith: statism, traditionalism, racism, consumerism.

But there’s always an opening, a patch of common ground. Suppose we start by living, instead of merely posting, our placard principles. In this house, we believe: Kindness always/ Love is selfless/ Science serves; it doesn’t rule/ Humans are priceless/ Male and female are real/ All lives matter to God.

If we demonstrate all these, the world will be more open to our bedrock principle: Christ is everything.

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.

(Photo/Andrew Holbrooke, Corbis via Getty) 

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