"It was my Southern grandmother who once charged me to "never speak of religion or politics in polite company." She may have been right, though I have done little else ever since. Still, her counsel was not lost on me, for I realized even those many years ago that she was urging me toward a gentler manner with others, one of graciousness and consideration rather than the sharp and divisive way."—Stephen Mansfield, The Faith of Barack Obama, (p.145)
But By The Grace of God—There Go I
The Faith of Barack Obama tapped into many feelings of mine and others—both positive and negative. I found my emotional responses to content in this book swinging from strong agreement to equally intense disagreement. This book was a real seesaw of a read. Many times, I stopped to reread word for word for context, because my first visceral reaction re-contextualized what Mansfield wrote to reinforce misinformation or my partialities.
I find it interesting that Mansfield will not be voting for Obama, yet he wrote an evenhanded book about a man many people view as controversial. I asked myself, Could I write about someone without trying to influence the reader’s opinion one way or another about that person?
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of political pundits and writers on the secular left and the religious right slamming the other. I'm repulsed by those who prejudge or condemn those who don't agree with then. How do we, as writers, communicate with wisdom and grace, respectfully considering someone else’s opinion with whom we strongly disagree? Am I a mature and secure enough writer to let others draw their own conclusions?
God's Inspired Writing
God respects every person’s decision to accept or reject Jesus or biblical guidelines for living, yet God’s heart stays ever fixed upon each individual on planet earth. Nothing I do, say or believe nullifies God’s love for me. His love never wavers not if, but when my faith, my opinions and my actions are hurtful or reveal immaturity. Why is it so hard for people to love and respect others the way God loves and respects us?
God continually redirects me back to living authentically before and for him. The most difficult task in my life also challenged Mark Twain who once said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” How can my life exemplify God's precepts that I already know? I can write about the “shoulds,” and “don’ts,” but is my life a spontaneous living example of my faith? How do I usually respond when my beliefs about God and others are challenged? Do I challenge others to rethink their biases?
Facebook asked me to describe my religious and political affiliations. I am a "conservative independent liberal." Conservative describes my theology and moral choices. Independent describes my political self, voting based upon the person's character and issues important to me. I’m liberal when it comes to listening to and examining all sides to stimulate my personal understanding and growth. I do not limit my reading or relationships to people who agree with my faith, my culture, my ethnicity, or my viewpoints. In fact, I read and listen to those who think differently. I enjoy testing my faith and beliefs.
I don’t want my current understanding of biblical values or politics or theology to blind me to discovering deeper biblical context, to curtail spiritual intellectual pursuit, or to limit personal inquiry into truth. An unexamined life or beliefs cannot reveal my true self—a sinner saved by grace. God helps me to examine my heart, my motives, my unbelief, my prejudices.
How Does Your Heritage Expand or Limit Your Writing?
I am deeply grateful for my biological and spiritual heritage. Eight generations ago, my family and Abraham Lincoln shared the same grandfather. Nancy Hanks Lincoln was Abraham’s mother. When I was two years old, Christ radically changed my parents' lives. Nancy Hanks Springfield, my mother was a Methodist and Billy J. Springfield, my Daddy, was a pagan. As first generation Christians, their zeal for Jesus' message transformed prejudice into compassion, hatred into love, and their life purpose into Christ's passion.
Their examples taught me to love God's Word, to think for myself, to embrace my personal faith, to respect the life of every child that God weaves together in the womb—whether they are believers, nonbelievers or make believers—and to resist the ugly underbelly of sin, immorality, greed, hypocrisy, and religious and political intolerance.
If we are to write honestly about our lives, our flaws, our wrong choices, our maturity, and our faith that directs or draws others to Christ's love, God calls for us to judge ourselves—first.
What beliefs, mentors or cultural influences inspire your writing?