Jesus’ Brother On Conservatism and Liberalism

James 1:26-27
One day, while eating dinner at someone’s house, I noticed something very interesting about one of my more progressive friends. He was extremely conscious of social injustice; he won’t shop at Wal-Mart, eat at certain restaurants, or buy particular products because of how workers, the earth, and even children are treated. But, on a (seemingly) unrelated note, as the conversation moved to entertainment, he shared how much he loved a new show, a show with lots of nudity and graphic sex scenes. This felt so odd and off to me, from a Christian perspective. As I drove home, swinging by Wal-Mart to pick up a pair of cheap running shoes, James 1:26-27 dawned on me. James, the (half) brother of Jesus, says this: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” -James 1:26-27

Forgive the oversimplification, but I recognized that my friend was more concerned about “orphans and widows in their distress,” and I was more concerned about being “polluted by the world.” In our actions, my friend and I didn’t share BOTH of James’ concerns. But James says pure and faultless religious is to care about others AND to care about personal piety/purity.
 
It seems to me that most of my progressive friends care about the socially disenfranchised, whereas my conservative friends care about personal morality and responsibility. Again, I’m generalizing, but the reverse is often true: My progressive friends are less concerned about right living (morality), and my conservative friends are less concerned about right giving (charity). And BOTH my conservative and progressive friends perfectly resemble verse 26, “Those who. . .do not keep a tight rein on their tongues [and their tweets] deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
 
Twitter is so discouraging to me, especially after school shootings or things like the Kavanagh hearings. I’m not super bothered when political pundits spout off; they get paid for clicks, ratings, and rants. It’s when my Christian friends post stupid things, demonizing their conservative or liberal opponents, discipled by social media (more liberal) or Fox News (more conservative) or Youtube (who knows?) rather than Jesus. When we do this, Jesus’ brother says our religion is worthless.
 
But pure-in-heart-Jesus-people care about public justice (“widows and orphans”) AND private holiness (“keep oneself from the world’s pollution”). The way we treat others as a society is vital. The way we privately think, feel, and act is vital. The kind of media we consume, the kinds of organizations we support; it’s all connected.
 
My plea for Christians today, during this election cycle, is to 1) keep a tight rein on our tongues (and tweets), being slow to speak, slow to become angry, and quick to listen and 2) Recognize our tendencies to lean more towards either moral or social concerns and 3) Think critically about how we can be more holistic in how we follow Jesus in our areas of deficiency.
 
By all means, turn your ballot in today (if you live in Oregon, and go to the polls if not). But my vision for Christians is that we wouldn’t take our cues from conservative or liberal commentators, that we wouldn’t blindly take in OR blindly swing from our parents’ politics, but fully seek God’s vision for our lives and communities. We serve James’ brother, the King of the Jews.
 
Tyler Goens