OpEd: With Faith in God, With Love for Our Fellow Man, and With Equanimity

OpEd: With Faith in God, With Love for Our Fellow Man, and With Equanimity
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I want to tell you a story. No fluff, no frills, an honest, from-the-heart story. It’s one I awoke this morning intending to tell in a certain way but have come to see differently. I hope I can do it justice.

I have written before (see, e.g., here and here) about a local (St. Louis) radio host, Annie Frey. I listen to her most weekdays, from 12:00-3:00 pm on 97.1 FM Talk/KFTK — the same station on which fellow RedStater Chris Arps is a host. Annie is as genuine a person as the day is long. She’s a Christian, she’s a conservative, and she is unapologetic for this. As she should be. She wrestles with difficult, thorny topics in these difficult, thorny times and yet, always manages to bring it back around to what is at her core — and that is her faith.

That isn’t to say that Annie is perfect — she’d be the first to tell you she’s a sinner, flawed, fully in need of God’s grace. It’s even in her Twitter bio.

She gets frustrated at times — as we all do. She’s not afraid to voice that frustration. But even when faced with those who not only disagree with her views, but who disparage her for them, Annie has that rare gift of being able to respond with grace — and love.

Annie has a decent-sized Twitter following — north of 13,000, at this point. And she frequently utilizes the platform — interacting with those who share her views and those who don’t alike. I’m certain it provides a decent amount of show prep for her. And when you’re putting out 15 hours of content a week, show prep is no small thing — even in this 24-7-world-on-fire news cycle.

On Friday evening, Annie posted the following tweet:

That was it. “Name a Joe Biden policy.” Not, “Name a Joe Biden policy — you can’t.” or “I dare you.” Not even, “Name one Joe Biden policy.” It was an invitation for people — of any political stripe — to respond.

And respond they did. I won’t be able to do the ensuing discussion justice on this page. But here is just a tiny handful of the responses she got:

She even snagged a snarl regarding her hair color (which, for what it’s worth, is natural).

In fact, she even garnered a comment from Alyssa Milano:

True to her word, Annie followed up with a corresponding tweet last evening regarding Donald Trump:

The tenor of the responses received to that tweet has been observably different. Now, one might point to the fact that, as Annie is a conservative and a Trump supporter, known to and followed by many of like mind, that would stand to reason. What it doesn’t really explain is the ferocity of the response to the initial tweet. It really seemed to ruffle a lot of feathers.

As I watched the drama unfold yesterday afternoon/evening on Twitter, and watched Annie respond to many of the slings and arrows tweeted her way with grace, a word popped into my mind: “Equanimity.” I felt certain it applied, but looked it up just to be sure:

Mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

‘she accepted both the good and the bad with equanimity’

I shared with Annie this morning and told her I intended to write it up here — which I did. But there was a piece to the story I was missing at the time and it became clear to me as I watched my church’s Sunday morning service.

I’ve shared the importance of my faith as well as my love for this church here before. Today was no exception. The theme, as we sit two days out from an election that sits front-and-center on the minds of many (most?), was this: As important as this election — and the blessings of liberty through which we are able to cast our votes — is and are, there is something march larger and infinitely more important in play here.

I want to be very clear about something: There was no call in this message to vote a certain way. In fact, the pastor explicitly declined to do so. I am thankful for his approach. Because were he to do so (setting aside any potential legal/tax implications of doing so), the message would be lost. Those who agree with his recommendation would take that as a sign that they are in the right and need look no further, see no bigger picture. Those who disagree with his recommendation would tune him out and possibly find a wedge driven between them and the church, if not their faith in general.

The message was, in fact, not a political one. It was a spiritual one. What tied it into the story I’ve shared regarding Annie Frey’s weekend Twitter experience, for me, was when the pastor, at about the 48-minute mark, turned to our opinions — how strongly we hold them about everything and how certain we each are that ours are right. He described a sentiment I’ve seen expressed frequently — and prevalent in the responses to Annie’s initial tweet regarding Joe Biden — the notion that “I can’t imagine any Christian could vote for that guy!” I’ve seen it expressed regarding those who support Trump and I’ve seen it expressed regarding those who support Biden. I’ve even seen it expressed regarding those who support neither. Which take is right? They can’t all be, can they?

The pastor turned to the famous story of Jesus’ confrontation of the elite and the moneychangers in the Temple followed by a challenge posed to Jesus by the leaders on another, long ago Tuesday. As Jesus was teaching, he was asked about — politics. In particular, he was questioned regarding the propriety of paying the imperial tax to Caesar. (Mark 12:13-17.) “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Give Caesar what is his but don’t give him what he doesn’t deserve. Yes, there is an overlap between the world of politics and government and the spiritual world. But the world of government and politics is not the whole world, the entire picture; it is incomplete.

Seeing the whole picture means remembering — knowing — that the Kingdom of God is at work and that though these are exceedingly stressful times, God’s Kingdom endures forever. We are made in the image of God and thus, we are made to love. We are to love the world as we have been loved. In the end, it all comes down to this: LOVE.

We know this. We preach it. And yet, so very often, we omit it from our words and deeds. We allow ourselves to be guided by other, baser — and frankly easier — principles and sentiments. We kneejerk, we clapback, we point and laugh. We see others expressing ugliness and tut-tut it, while glossing over our own ugliness — or that of others with whom we happen to agree. I know I’m guilty of this — daily.

When I first thought about writing this, it was, if I’m being completely honest, not just to praise a friend and fellow conservative for exhibiting grace under fire in the social media maelstrom. It was also to highlight the ruffled feathers and how “those other guys” are misbehaving. Well, let’s be honest, many folks are. Many folks aren’t being their best selves these days. I include myself in that group. I fall short repeatedly. And this morning served as a reminder to me that I need to pray for my own deliverance as much as for others’. We all are in need of it.

The world is hurting. Anger and fear are driving much of our discourse. People are worried — frightened even — and they are receiving and internalizing messages from all manner of sources. Some of those are well-intended, but many are not — many are designed, by their very nature, to create anxiety and to promote strife because that, sadly, is what sells.

We can choose to disengage — sometimes, I can’t muster the motivation to do anything else and I know I’m not alone in that. Or…we can choose to engage but do so as we are called to do: With faith in God, with love for our fellow man, and with equanimity.

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