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"Debunking the Dangerous Doctrine of the Political Middle" Transcript
Season 2, Episode 8
[An acoustic guitar softly plays six notes, the first three ascending and the last three descending — F#, B, F#, E, D#, B — with a keyboard pad playing the note B in the background. Both fade out as Jonathan Walton says “This is a KTF Press podcast.”]
Sy Hoekstra: The idea of holding onto cultural influence and to being Christians who really want to influence the culture for Jesus, always to me contained an inherent contradiction, which is that the message of Jesus is specifically about giving up influence and power and your personal amassing of wealth and platforming and whatever. And there are so many people that want to gain relevance to spread that message of giving up a platform. It is a contradiction in terms.
[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “I need to know there is justice/That it will roll in abundance/ And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]
Jonathan Walton: Welcome to Shake the Dust: Leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God. I'm Jonathan Walton, here with Sy Hoekstra. Suzie’s off this week because she's on an amazing vacation while we're recording.
Sy Hoekstra: Today we're going to be talking about why we at KTF Press want people to stay so engaged in political discipleship and the kinds of things that we talk about here, despite the fact that they are sometimes incredibly exhausting [laughter] and difficult to deal with. This is a bit of a foundational conversation for us about why we do what we do, and sparked by the article that Jonathan just wrote about Andy Stanley's new book. Andy Stanley is a pretty popular white evangelical mega church pastor. I was going to say mega pastor, which sounds like a superhero [laughter]. But we don't want to pick on Andy Stanley necessarily in particular, but it's a well-known book that he just wrote that has pretty much the opposite perspective of us on how Christians should be engaged in politics [laughs].
So we're going to talk about it. Before we do that though, as always a reminder, please do go to ktfpress.com and look into becoming a subscriber there on our website. You can sign up as a monthly or an annual subscriber. That gets you our weekly newsletter, which we'll probably talk about a little bit today, because that is where Jonathan and Suzie and I give you weekly recommendations on things to read, to watch, to listen to, that will help you to try and grow in your discipleship and your political education as we try and leave colonized faith for the kingdom of God, as we always say on this show. That also gets you the bonus episodes of this show, of which there are several hours at this point. It also supports everything that we do at KTF Press.
Our subscribers are why we exist. We would not exist without them, and we really appreciate everybody who has decided to support us in that way. Also, there are only probably a few episodes left in this season of our show. So please send in any questions that you have about anything that you have heard on this show. You could ask us about stuff from last season, you could just ask us about anything that is in the realm of the topics that we cover. You can send in your questions in email or voicemail form to email@example.com, and we would just love to hear from you. The questions we got for the last time we did this were fantastic.
They sparked some really great conversation and we would love to hear those again. I hear podcast hosts say this sometimes, and rare has been the time that I personally have actually written in, but a lot of times I end up regretting it, because there are questions I have that I would love to hear other people discuss. So any question you have that's on the tip of your tongue right now, go write it down and send it to us, firstname.lastname@example.org. Okay, Jonathan's article that he wrote that we were talking about will be linked to in the show notes here. It is also the last recording in this podcast feed. If you just go to the previous podcast episode, it is Jonathan reading the essay. So you can just go and listen to that.
Now that we've gotten through all that, let's start our discussion today. I just wanted to start off with you explaining to us what exactly it is that Andy Stanley and sort of white, moderate evangelical Christians advocate as how to posture yourself politically, and this would be coming from his new book which is called Not in It to Win It. What's he arguing for?
Jonathan Walton: I think what he's arguing for is caught in the title. Not in It to Win It, then continues Why Choosing Sides Sidelines the Church. What he and a lot of white evangelical, conservative people, along with generally conflict avoidant people, assume that the middle is the best and the superior option for engaging in conflict. So being too passionate, being too engaged, too conservative, too liberal, too anything is just somehow very unchristian, very …
Sy Hoekstra: Divisive is the word.
Jonathan Walton: Divisive, right. Unnecessarily so. So when that happens, we must be missing the real point of what Jesus is trying to communicate to us. I think our episode about tone policing actually gets into that a little bit, where —
Sy Hoekstra: That’s a bonus episode for subscribers.
Jonathan Walton: That is a bonus episode, sorry.
Sy Hoekstra: No, it's fine to tell them about it. Listen, go become a subscriber and listen to what Jonathan is talking about.
Jonathan Walton: Yeah, go listen, then come back. But that episode really gets into this, because the reality is no one who is suffering or broken or on the opposite side of power desires us to be neutral or moderate when it's happening. And when it's down — like if it's happening to us, we don't want folks to be neutral. I think when we are neutral or claim the superior middle ground, there is no middle ground when it comes to injustice. Jesus does not take the middle. But if you are trying to maintain cultural influence, which is his biggest claim in this book, is that we should try to remain relevant to all people.
And then he text jacks Paul in a lot of other places to say that “becoming all people that you might win some,” that does not mean embracing the political middle so that you can have the largest platform and reach the most people. That's not what that means.
Sy Hoekstra: He specifically, this is all under the banner of winning people for Jesus, right?
Jonathan Walton: Yes.
Sy Hoekstra: You want to maintain your cultural relevance by not being too divisive so that you can evangelize, and maintain your unity in the church so that we can focus on what really matters, which is getting people to heaven.
Jonathan Walton: Right. I think what we're advocating or what we are trying to unpack is, actually, in a very succinct portion of the 10th chapter, the last chapter. This is what he says. “We have continued to allow …” We, the “we” being specifically white evangelical Christians in the United States.
Sy Hoekstra: He doesn't say that, does he?
Jonathan Walton: He doesn't say that, I'm sorry. I say that as I read this book [laughter], because I am not included in the “we” that he is writing to. That's very clear. He says, “We have continued to allow ourselves to be divided by secondary concerns, while what our biggest concern should be, continues to go unaddressed, namely, division. Division is the threat, division is the enemy. Because of its size, a united church in the United States with all its beautiful cultural diversity would have the influence necessary to move the nation back toward the middle, the place where problems actually get solved. The middle, where defenses come down, experiences are shared, and people are inclined to listen to one another.
Pause to consider the non-great commission critical issues we've allowed to divide us. Everything from climate change, to critical race theory, to COVID masks and vaccines. Two doses, three doses, no doses, who knows-es. Why, why, why would we, the light of the world, the salt of the earth, the hands and feet of Jesus allow ourselves to be baited into debates and divided over questions about which we all have opinions informed by partial and skewed information? See, this is the most palatable, polite case for Christian nationalism I have ever read.
Sy Hoekstra: Okay. Let's talk about that because some people would think that this is sort of opposed to Christian nationalism. A lot of people would hear that and think this is something that is fundamentally different from what the evangelicals who are super pro-Trump want. Andy Stanley himself, not super pro-Trump. So why do you think that this is the most palatable case for Christian nationalism?
Jonathan Walton: I think we need to remember a man named Jerry Falwell. What I want to press into when I get into the essay, is that White American Folk Religion, this conglomerate of Christian nationalism, white supremacy and unchecked exploitative capitalism, is like, there are two ways that we can enforce what we're doing. We can do it explicitly with the power that we have, or we can do it implicitly with the power that we have. And what Jerry Falwell called for with the moral majority is explicitly pushing for it. So the moral majority, organizations, conferences, there are entire network stemming down from 1980 of political organizations, religious organizations, churches, and now super PACs that drive this explicit agenda to push our nation towards quote-unquote “living out the city on the hill,” manifest destiny, doctrine of discovery.
But then there's this flip side where, this genteel, polite invitation to say, well, you know, we are the greatest country in the world. Look at all the stuff that we have. God has obviously blessed us. Let's be generous to those that God puts in our path. And the reality is the people that are in our paths are going to be segregated. The people that are going to be in our path are going to be those people who are like us because of the society that we live in. The people that are going to be sitting beside us are going to be people who are just like us because our churches are segregated. We are downstream of a plantation-based colonial society, so the people that we encounter are going to be just like us. So if we're driving that narrative over and over again, what we're actually arguing for implicitly, is the status quo, if you follow Andy Stanley's logic.
Sy Hoekstra: And if the status quo is racism…
Jonathan Walton: Right [laughs]
Sy Hoekstra: … then when you're implicitly arguing for the status quo, you are implicitly arguing to maintain a racial structure. I think, this is the point, like you just said in the passage you just read, division is the chief problem in the church. If you look at a problem like, let's just stay on race. Racism is the thing that divides people. Literally divides people into categories and sorts them by their value accordingly. In other words, if you are saying, stop dividing us by talking about race, you're missing what the problem is, and you are actually causing or exacerbating existing divisions by arguing against divisiveness. Here's what I take from that. Satan is real.
Sy Hoekstra: The layers there. If you think that the country is divided by race in any significant way and you want to talk about it and do something about it, Andy Stanley is going to tell you to be quiet, because it's too divisive. You talking about division is too divisive. It's just, it’s kind of wild. So effectively, what you're saying is, the title of the book is Not in It to Win It. He's like, we're not going to get into the fight to win the country for God, because that's not our role. But the reality is that Stanley and the people that he pastors and white evangelicals in America are winning, regardless of whether they're “in it” or not. Like if you want to let the Robert Jeffresses of the world, or the Franklin Grahams of the world do your dirty work for you, that's fine, but you're still winning.
You have the luxury to be able to sit back and say, “I'm just going to talk to people about how they get to heaven.” This goes back to our very first episode that we … actually no, sorry. Our very first interview that we did with Rich Villodas and like what is the nature of the gospel? Because Andy Stanley's gospel is just about teaching people about forgiveness and getting them to heaven. And the gospel that we believe you actually find in scripture is about the announcement that the kingdom of God has come near, which includes the fact that the ambassadors of that kingdom are going to be people who fight for justice. Even when, as you say in our piece, in the piece you wrote, Andy Stanley and his ilk are there telling you not to do so because it's too divisive.
Jonathan Walton: Right. I think this is a great point to lean into, where they're arguing against division and for unity, but it's actually unity masquerading as uniformity. Usually, that gets thrown around in a tweet or like a sermon line and everybody claps. Like, oh, unity, not uniformity. But the reality is when we say unity, we are not talking about a uniform understanding of how politics should be done. We're not talking about a uniform way of serving and loving people in the world. We are actually supposed to work those things out as followers of Jesus. We're actually supposed to pray through those things, wrestle with those things. It's not going to be the same for every single person. There isn’t a formula for how you feed the homeless or how you fight sex trafficking and labor slavery, or how you fight educational inequality, there's contextualized stuff that happens. So wrestling with those things is part of loving Jesus and loving our neighbors. We actually are united in Christ. We're not united around a set of values handed down to us by the dominant culture. That then all of a sudden, we create this ministry industrial complex, where we just mass produce Christians. That's not how this works.
Sy Hoekstra: So you're drawing a distinction between what Jesus prays for, which is love for one another. Like prays for the church to be unified in love, and just having a lack of conflict. Like loving and lack of conflict are two different things.
Jonathan Walton: Right. I wonder what would've happened if Jesus had been conflict avoidant, when he was literally carrying the cross and knew that Peter was lying about knowing him. Jesus does not back away from conflict with Peter. He says, “You were going to deny me three times.” Jesus does not back away from conflict when he walks through Samaria. Jesus does not back away from conflict when he gets between the crowd and the woman caught in adultery. Jesus does not, he's not backing away from conflict, but he's actually uniting people around Jesus, around God. Around what God's new covenant is actually trying to do.
And the new covenant that Jesus calls us to, versus how Stanley is trying to cast a new covenant are two different things. God is not trying to unite us in a way that models a whitewashed, very neat, nice, branded, wonderful campaign for people to sign up and follow. We are organized around a suffering savior who laid down his life, rose from the grave and is now seated at the right hand of the father, left and sent his spirit to dwell within us. That's a messy process.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. And what do we celebrate every year at Christmas? Incarnation, right?
Jonathan Walton: Right.
Sy Hoekstra: It is the … look around at the world religions. One thing you can say for sure about Christianity, is that staying above the fray, not a characteristic of Jesus [laughs]. That is not something, regardless of what you think of Christianity, staying above the fray is not what Jesus is known for. The thing is coming to earth as a baby, getting involved in the mess, giving up your privilege, giving up your position of power, giving up your influence to enter into the things that are very difficult in order to love people and save people specifically. Which brings me to another point, which I think is that … you didn't get into this in your piece because it was on a slightly different subject, but the idea of holding onto cultural influence and to being Christians who really want to influence the culture for Jesus, always to me contained an inherent contradiction. Which is that the message of Jesus is specifically about giving up influence and power and your personal amassing of wealth and platforming and whatever. And there are so many people that want to gain relevance, as Stanley puts it, or gain influence or a platform or whatever, to spread that message of giving up a platform, like it is a contradiction in terms to a certain degree. I realize we could nuance what I just said all day long, but that is always going to be a complication. That's going to be a difficulty when you're trying to argue evangelism based on platforming, if that makes sense.
Jonathan Walton: Right. I think that if we are going to build institutions, then that requires a neatness that is not seen in the gospel. It's not seen in scripture. We are actively in the United States trying to build institutions that outlast us. We're constantly concerned about our images. We're constantly concerned about managing and controlling narratives and all of those things. And Jesus was just not at all concerned about what people had to say about him. He literally told demons to be quiet when they knew who he was, because it wasn't time for folks to know. Then he repeatedly, unless the people, the people at the bottom rungs of society, the people that he was actually coming for, asked him who he was, and he would tell them.
But the reality is there's something fundamentally different about what Jesus is doing around influence, around power, around privilege. Privilege being things that you've received that you ain’t do nothing to get. That you are now called to use on behalf of the poor and the marginalized and those on the outside. He leverages all of that for the least of these, not so that he can have more cultural relevance and increase his platform, but because he loves them and loves us.
Sy Hoekstra: Let me talk about a pastor who I think did something along these lines pretty well. Or at least this was a moment for me where I realized that a pastor was doing something along these lines pretty well. In 2015, when Black Lives Matter had really blown up on the scene and there were protests all over New York City, especially related to the Eric Garner case, but to all of the cases that were going on at that time, the church that I was in at the time, which was a predominantly white church, tried to respond and tried to say some cautious things about how Black lives matter, and immediately lost people. Like people just walked out the door and said we were getting too political, all that kind of stuff.
At some point we had a meeting with the pastor of a, not entirely, but majority black church in the city, who said what they did in response to those cases, which was just mourn. They just had prayer that was like mourning prayer. They were praying with people, they were trying to shepherd people through that time. I actually asked the pastor, so what do you do with the people who are against mourning because they think it's too political or because they don't really think that racism is happening to the degree that people think it is, and it's not worth mourning over and all that stuff? What happened to those people when you did all that? And he just goes, “Oh, they don't come to my church.”
So he was just testifying to the truth. He was just doing what Jesus tells us to do. He was mourning with those who mourn. He was speaking the truth about injustice that happens, and the chips fell where they may. Which is what Jesus did over and over again. He let people go. He let people walk away. When he said things that upset people and made them walk away, he wasn't chasing after them. He wasn't trying to make them more palatable. Again, you could nuance that and there's no reason to completely, unnecessarily offend someone, but he was letting people leave. Another way of saying that, is he was being divisive. Really divisive [laughter], to the point where the majority of his followers completely walked away from his ministry. How we get from that to we need to be really soft in what we say to maintain our relevance to make sure people get to heaven, is fairly stunning.
Jonathan Walton: I think the passage that I read, the image that he sets up right before that, is of his kid going to the emergency room. He's like, when there's an emergency, things that are important rise to the surface. Right now, the American church is in a crisis, and so what should rise to the surface is spreading the gospel. That needs to be the priority. I literally had a conversation with someone where they said, “Jonathan, I'm not able to come to your church anymore because you focus too much on the marginalized, and we just really need to focus on what matters.” What they've embraced is this reality that actually Brandi Miller talks about in her podcast on urgency, like the urgency of evangelicals, and how that urgency gets framed in a way to basically where we live in a constant state of trauma. Where we're always thinking, someone is going to hell. Someone is going to miss the boat. Someone is going to be cast in a lake of fire. There's always this … and that is just not peace.
Sy Hoekstra: And it's our job to save all those people immediately.
Jonathan Walton: Yes, it's our job to save them. It's not just that we bear witness to God. It's that is the signpost that we're supposed to carry at all times, no matter what, in this urgent, tract-throwing way. And that burden is not easy, and that burden is not light. It doesn't actually allow us to live the joyful, delight-filled, even lament and mournful ways that he calls us to. What's actually happening is all of the cards about our faith and about Jesus and about what is not that are basically coming out and being in full view. Like nobody's bluffing about what we believe. Nobody is … it's becoming very, very clear about the fruit of the theology and the orthodoxy and the sermons and the message that we've been preaching over the last 35 years.
Some uphold white supremacy and prioritize it as okay. Some don’t. Some are pushing for explicitly moderate things or explicitly middle things or explicitly Christian nationalist things, but the cards are being played. But what's dangerous about this book, is that the call is for your cards to come off the table. To placate the person in front of you to keep them in your church. Or keep them in your fold, or keep them in your pocket or keep them in a relationship, so that one day you might be able to pray Romans Road with them, or walk them down Romans Road.
Sy Hoekstra: I know, Jonathan, this is all very good points you're making. What's Romans Road? I don't know what that is [laughs].
Jonathan Walton: Oh man, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. When I was a student, someone said to me, “You got to walk them down Romans Road.” Romans Road is like Romans 1:16. I'm not ashamed of the gospel, and so I'm going to share it with you. And then Romans 3, it's like, we've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Sy Hoekstra: It's like a method of walking people through Romans and sharing the gospel with them?
Jonathan Walton: Yeah, you walk people through it and you get to Romans 8 and Romans 9, you’re loved by God.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, of course. Yes. Okay.
Jonathan Walton: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So they stop before they get to Romans 12. We don’t need to get systemic …
Sy Hoekstra: This is a white people thing, right?
Jonathan Walton: Oh, for sure.
Sy Hoekstra: I was going to say, if anything that ends at Romans 8, if Romans 8 is the culmination, it's a white people thing.
Sy Hoekstra: Romans 8 is amazing and I love it and it is apparently more important scripture than lots of other parts of scripture to a whole lot of conservative white people [laughs].
Jonathan Walton: This is true. Yo man. It’s good in context!
Sy Hoekstra: It's amazing in context.
Jonathan Walton: Devoid of context, it's radically limiting,
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.
Jonathan Walton: But yeah. All that to say, I think if your gospel ends at Romans Road and not at the open tomb of Jesus and his ascension into heaven and all that stuff, then we have a problem.
Sy Hoekstra: Right. This urgency thing, for people who are unfamiliar, or even if you are familiar and you just want something to point at that you might be familiar with, D. L. Moody who's a famous theological, conservative American evangelist, if you’ve ever heard of Moody Bible Institute, that's him.
Jonathan Walton: I didn't even make that connection.
Sy Hoekstra: Nice. He had this kind of famous image that basically the world that we're living in right now is a burning house, and as Christians, all we're trying to do is pull as many people out of it as possible. That's the goal of Christians, pull people out of the burning house. That's the urgency. That's the emergency that you're talking about, that Stanley is talking about. We need to stop talking about all these other issues because there's an emergency happening. You said that that's not an easy burden, that's not a light burden. What it is, is trauma. It is never ending trauma. You're comparing your life, your whole existence on earth to… what is really a horrifying scenario? Like a burning house with people who are inside of it that you need to rescue?
That's terrifying. If you go through that, you're going to have a whole lot of stuff to deal with. And if your whole life is that, then you're going to have a whole stuff, a whole lot of psychological stuff to deal with that you're never going to have time or space to deal with because you're trying to focus on what matters, which is just saving people. Like we've talked about before, we're not saying that the gospel doesn't save people, it's the opposite. Of course the gospel saves people. Jesus came to save the world. But Jesus came to save the world, Jonathan and I didn't come to save the world. Jonathan and I came to testify, and all we are supposed to do is testify. There's nothing that says anything hangs on how effectively we testify. In fact, the opposite is true.
There is something that says if we don't testify, the rocks will cry out. God's going to get his work done with or without us. So honestly, when I read that passage for the first time Jonathan, or when you read it to me for the first time, I come away from that feeling bad for Andy Stanley. Like genuinely just kind of sad about the mental state in which he at least professes to exist. And I don't want to be condescending to him either. I'm not saying I feel bad for this little man or whatever. Which is, I want to emphasize again, that we are not … I said at the beginning, that we're not trying to knock Andy Stanley specifically, and now we've just talked for a very long time about why we think he's super wrong on a whole lot of things [laughs].
But the point that we're making, is that loving someone and saying that they're really wrong about something very important are not mutually exclusive. I don't hate Andy Stanley, I feel a little bit bad for him. I wouldn't be condescending to him if I met him and say, “I feel bad for you.” You know what I mean? These are the kinds of conversations that we need to be able to have. We need to be able to say this book is dangerous for America and American Christians, particularly at this point in our history when there are so many things that we do need to address clearly, as a matter of our gospel witness that are what Stanley would categorize as divisive distractions.
Jonathan Walton: I actually feel similar to Sy, which is why I do what I do. I don't do what I do because I'm angry all the time. I do what I do because Jesus has called me to love my neighbor and pray for my enemies and love those who persecute me and things like that. And he will actually do that if you ask him to transform your heart, which he has done for me. So the lady who said to me “your church focuses too much on the marginalized, so I can't go here,” or the person who is in my … anyway, I have a lot of conversations where people just feel like they can say whatever they want [laughter]. But the reality is like, if my response to the racism that people share with me, or I engage with, or hurts me, and I am indifferent, I'm missing out on the kingdom of God.
I'm missing out on genuine love for neighbor and genuine relationship and receiving genuine love from other people for me. When I withhold the conflict and carry them myself, or if I try to remain apolitical or avoid having conversation with racist family members, or I don't challenge racist jokes, or I think politics doesn't affect me, what's actually happening is I'm acquiescing to the cultures and patterns of the world. And that is — we lose out. We lose out on just beautiful depth of relationship on this side of heaven that Jesus modeled with his disciples. Doing conflict with them happened on a regular basis. They wrote down some of the things that Peter said, imagine what they didn't write down with the stuff that he said. As they wrestled with Jesus saying, “Get behind me, Satan.” I imagine him and Peter debrief that later [laughs]. I just wish we could do the same thing.
Sy Hoekstra: There's also even potential conflict in just other people who Peter knew writing down the stories about when he got rebuked real hard by Jesus [laughs]. But that was just a story that people passed around. And I completely agree that that is something that has been modeled for us. And I don't know, throwing that model away is just a little bit tragic because we've talked about this before, but there are so many good things that come from conflict. There are so many things about you learning about what is important to people. Or when you work through conflict, figuring out how to be emotionally healthy, figuring out how to exist as a real community that is able to weather storms as opposed to one that just sweeps things under the rug.
And we get actual clear guidance on scripture about when we are supposed to create conflict [laughs]. There are issues that are important to Jesus that we're supposed to speak out about, and we can find what those are in scripture and they are not solely the fact that Jesus saved you from your sin and you can therefore go to heaven.
Jonathan Walton: I think if you made it all the way to this part of the podcast, it must be abundantly clear that being politically moderate does not make us more Christian.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. You hear a lot of people in the evangelical world talk about finding a political, like a different political way of being that will show people that you are not coming from an earthly perspective, that you're coming from a godly perspective. And that the marker of that, the way that people will know you have different priorities than the culture that you're in, is that you are too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals, because you're not following one of the two ways laid out before you. But all that really means is that you're a moderate [laughs]. If you're right of the left and left of the right, you're just in the middle. That's all that means.
That doesn't really indicate anything about your spirituality, it just makes you a moderate. And there are plenty of people who read the Bible and land on very different points in the political spectrum, all trying to be quite faithful with what they've read. I don't think that just because you consistently vote for one party or the other, you are less spiritual or less heavenly or less discipled than if you vote for people who are in the middle.
Jonathan Walton: And If I can lean into one other thing that my pastor said to me after this conversation, is he said, Jonathan, you know I would love for everyone to feel welcome at our church, but I don't want everyone to necessarily feel safe at our church. White supremacy is not safe at our church. Racism is not safe at our church. Christian nationalism is not safe at our church. And I thought about that, because I've been told that I'm a safe person. “I feel safe to say these things to you.” And I thought to myself, that's a label that was given to me that wasn't something that I actually desired. I actually desire to be someone that you could ask anything or share anything with, but there's this trait about Jesus, that I'm still unpacking, where he knew everything about someone and said the truth in radical love and all these things, but he didn't agree with everybody, he didn't think everybody was fine.
He didn't say these placating things, but people were drawn to him, and I would love, particularly around political stuff, to be someone that does what Jesus did, where he is obviously with Pilate. Pilate is drawn to Jesus. I mean, it's fascinating. Jesus does not want the power that Pilate has. He's not interested, and that is baffling to Pilate, who's probably spent his entire life trying to protect, maintain and attain power. And Jesus is just not concerned with the Roman empire in the ways that Peter would want him to be concerned with the Roman empire, or in the ways Pilate would want him to be concerned with the Roman empire.
The Roman empire is literally under his feet. That's how Jesus knows and sees himself. So that's the end of my diatribe about that. But I think there's something transformative about naming why we are not too liberal for conservatives, and too conservative for liberals, and dismissing centrism as the narrow and straight path to the kingdom of God.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. Amen to all that. I just completely agree. The combination of being someone who is uncompromising, but also loving, that's a hard line to walk, but it is a thing that I see in Jesus and want to emulate always. There are so many things and so many people in so many different ways who will tell you that that is not possible. That there's a choice between being uncompromising and telling truth, and being somebody who people want to hang out with [laughter], regardless of whether or not they agree with you.
Jonathan Walton: Right Right right right. Oh man …
Sy Hoekstra: I'm sure there are people who think the way that Andy Stanley does and we hope that you hear from us, that we just disagree. We don't hate you [laughs].
Jonathan Walton: Right. Again, the problem is white supremacy, the problem is not you. The problem is racism, the problem is not you. The problem is we deeply desire for people to know and follow Jesus of Nazareth, not the Jesus of nationalism, in whatever form that comes. Jesus is about doing something different than the constitution. Than what shows up in the majority of our churches and contexts. Jesus is amazing, if we would just read what he said and try to do it.
Sy Hoekstra: I completely agree with that. That is actually one of the reasons we do the newsletter. We want to be able to have a space where we talk about all of those things in one place where discipleship, political education, learning about the world around us, speaking truth about injustices, that is what we're trying to do. Really, we're trying to lift up other people who did it. As always, trying to center and elevate marginalized voices and their stories and everything. That is why we send those things to people every week, and we hope that some amount of those people read those things that we send [laughs].
Jonathan Walton: Yeah. I think the work that we do is important. That's why I do it. But I also think it's not just important just in our church context, but Andy Stanley's right in that we should be working towards the renewal and redemption of people and our country, and the world. That's true. I'm sorry, and as we move into an election cycle, as we move towards increased tensions, and we move towards these things, if we move away from conflict, we are doing a dangerous disservice to the people who are suffering and the people who are inadvertently or intentionally inflicting suffering on people. We actually have to enter into the darkness and believe that the darkness will not overcome in the same way that the darkness did not overcome Christ.
The same power that raised him from the grave lives in us, so let's go into the darkness with that marvelous light so that Jesus might be seen and known.
Sy Hoekstra: Amen, Jonathan. See, Jonathan's a preacher and sometimes on our podcast, he gets in that mode and it's great.
Sy Hoekstra: Before we go, please remember to check out ktfpress.com, consider becoming a subscriber. Get that newsletter that we were just talking about and get the bonus episodes of this podcast and support everything we do here at KTF Press. Also, please remember any questions you have, comments, anything at all, write to email@example.com. We may answer your question on a future episode in a few episodes, we will be doing a season wrap up where we have a little mail bag session. So please write in, record something on a voicemail and send it to us, we would really appreciate it. Okay, as always, our theme song is Citizens by Jon Guerra. Our podcast art is by Jacqueline Tam, and we will see you all in a couple of weeks.
[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]
Sy Hoekstra: All right, my friend. Get up, get up on your mic.
Jonathan Walton: Mhmm. My foot is elevated. I'm leaned into the pop filter.
Sy Hoekstra: Your foot is elevated for podcasting purposes. Not because you injured your ankle.
Jonathan Walton: [laughs] Both. I'm in extra chill mode right now.
Sy Hoekstra: No, we don't want that. Energy. Get up. We got stuff to talk about.
Jonathan Walton: Oh no, I'm good.
Sy Hoekstra: We want to engage the audience!
Jonathan Walton: As soon as I start talking about this, all the energy is going to be there.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, that's true, actually [laughs].