How should we then live?

2 02 2021

It was sitting in the “to read” section of my bookshelves for years, yet for some reason I never got around to picking it up. And while I donated it, unread, to a local used book store when I moved eight years ago, the title is one that remains stuck in my head still today. I might even say that it ‘haunts’ me; and I choose that word because the way I see so many people living today does, in fact, haunt me.

Evil is the only word to accurate;y describe the actions of White Christian Nationalists today: those who have been rightly labeled ‘homegrown terrorists,’ and who have been declared a greater threat to America’s national security than anyone or anything else. We should be haunted by such people! What kind of faith leads to the kind of behavior that was displayed on January 6th, when with “Jesus Saves” signs in hand, a seditious mob, full of professing Christians, rioted in and looted our nation’s Capitol? Surely, it is not too harsh to say ‘only an evil one!’ Racism is their unifying ideology, and their desire for this nation is nothing less than a return to what they consider to be White, Christian, heterosexual norms. And anyone who would dare stray from those norms is considered to be unAmerican.

And what about the misinformation that such people spread: completely incapable of even ‘speaking the truth,’ let alone doing so ‘in love’? While people always have and always will interpret data and science differently, rejecting and denying them for one’s own political power grab and personal gain, is nothing short of sinful. That too should haunt us. Because while exposure to a diversity of opinion is actually one of the things that makes us stronger, both individually and as a nation; facts are still facts! And when people lose their grasp of truth, and when large segments of the population knowingly perpetuate misinformation and disinformation, evil is left to reign.

But above all, nothing should haunt us more than a religion or a patriotism that is rooted and grounded in cruelty and coldness! It’s not just a lack of kindness and compassion that we see in Christian Nationalists today, but we continue to witness attitudes and actions that are blatantly hurtful and hateful, vindictive and violent. Such behavior has become an acceptable norm, rather than a condemnable exception; and it not only flies in the face of Jesus’ life, but it moves us and our society further and further from anything that might come close to resembling the kindom proclaimed by the Christ.

So . . . “how should we then live?”

Is that really a hard question to answer? Do we really need a book to tell us?

I certainly don’t want to be too simplistic, or in any way minimize the wisdom of Francis Schaeffer. But it seems to me that if we just look to Jesus, the answer to this question will be quite clear.

First, we should live in ways that are boldly and intentionally anti-racist: that resist and push back against ways of being that perpetuate systemic and institutionalized forms of harmful discrimination towards people based upon the color of their skin. Second, we should live in ways that are honest and truthful, and that promote authenticity in our relations with one another. And finally, we should live in ways that show kindness and compassion to everyone – even those we may not like or those who we think may think may not deserve it!

It’s really not all that complicated. ‘How should we then live’ is one of the easier questions that life poses. And frankly I think most of us know full well how we are to live. The bigger question is do we have the courage to do so! Do we have the wisdom and strength to be a people striving to live anti-racist lives; always seeking truth, and speaking it to power; and doing it all with the love of Jesus burning in our hearts? Do we have a faith that will allow us to put down our books, and to live the way Jesus did?

I hope so.

Schaeffer remains one of the intellectual giants of American Evangelicalism, and his books have become classic bestsellers. But if we have to make a choice between reading about the Christian life, or living the Christian life, dare I suggest we donate our books and start living. Because living like Jesus is the only thing that has the capacity to transform this world. And that, is how we should live!


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