Ever since Trump won the election two days ago, I’ve seen speakers and writers that I love express either jubilation or outright despair on Twitter and on Facebook.
I understand that emotions are high. But I want to encourage all of you who feel called to speak or write to remember your main purpose, and to never, ever let politics jeopardize it.
Let me explain by telling a little bit of my story.
When I started my blog at To Love, Honor and Vacuum in 2008, I didn’t really know what my niche was.
I had written some parenting books and I was speaking a lot at women’s conferences, and my main goal now was to build my platform. And I figured that a blog was the way to do that!
So I started to write about whatever was on my mind.
A few people read it, and I started growing, slowly but surely. But my traffic was never amazing.
At the same time, I wrote a column that appeared in a bunch of local newspapers every Friday. It was more political/social commentary, and was quite different from anything else I did. It wasn’t Christian; it was secular. And it was often quite biting.
I decided to run that column on my blog every Friday, because, hey-I put a lot of work into writing that column. And why not use it for a free blog post? I needed some content, after all, and this was already available.
Over the years most of the heated discussion on my blog tended to focus on my columns, since they were often deliberately provocative. At the same time, I finally realized what my niche was: marriage. I had been called by God to help people tackle difficult marriage problems, even with sex, especially since the Christian church often gave really pat answers when it came to marriage. I wanted to be authentic and offer some real solutions to complex problems.
But I kept running my columns, because life was busy, and I needed something to fill Fridays with.
Then I noticed something interesting happening. I was starting to get people who had been commenting positively about marriage honestly angry about some things I had written. I would get people unsubscribing when I talked about something to do with our culture from a more conservative viewpoint.
And I realized something:
My main goal is to lead people into a healthy, godly marriage. It is not to make them believe in my conservative viewpoint.
And so I stopped publishing the columns (and eventually stopped writing them altogether), and I stopped talking about politics, just about.
It just so happens that on a personal level, conservative social commentary gets me way more keyed up than writing about marriage. More of my emotional energy frequently goes in that direction. But you know what?
That is not what I am called to do.
It’s not that having those opinions is wrong. It is that God has called me to speak on marriage, and there are people who need healthy marriages who do not necessarily share my conservative viewpoint. Why would I risk turning them away from the blog over something which is not the #1 thing that God has called me to do?
It’s like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Paul was focusing on his one thing. And for him, the gospel was his one thing.
If you know what your one thing is, and your one thing is not politics, then please watch how you speak about politics on social media and on blogs.
Why risk turning people away who desperately need to hear your message over an issue that, while important to you, is not the one thing that God has called you to do?
Let me talk about this from two different perspectives:
To the Christian women and men who have been so valiantly fighting against tyrannical patriarchy in our churches and bringing the issues of abuse in the church to light, and who are devastated by a Trump win:
I so appreciate your work. It is so very, very needed, and by the very nature of your work you are pitting yourself against entrenched interests. You are already going to be hated by many.
In order to make a real difference with your one thing, you need to build bridges and make friends. And some of those bridges will have to be with people who are very complementarian and patriarchal in their theology, but who may be open to talking about how patriarchal authority structures have hurt women.
You need these people, because these are the people who need to be swayed if churches are going to start reflecting God’s heart for women and children.
And so, when I see tweets in the last few days saying how dismayed you are that evangelicals are misogynist and voted for Trump, my heart sinks. Because what you are doing is labelling the very people who you need to build bridges to as misogynist and as your enemies.
Many people who voted for Trump share your vision for churches; they just couldn’t get past Hillary’s corruption or Hillary’s own treatment of women. This was a very complex election, with multiple issues, and I can understand how God-fearing Christians can vote either for Trump or Hillary, or decide that neither deserved their vote and voted third party.
So many of you were raising such great awareness of the failure of the church to treat abused women and children well, but the way that you are tweeting today is undermining that, because you are calling the people you need as allies misogynist.
I understand that you are dismayed. I understand that you believe that Hillary should have been elected, and that you want a female president.
But if the #1 thing that God called you to do was to raise awareness of women’s position in the church, then please, don’t wreck all you have done by focusing on a secondary issue.
At the personal level, this may be more important to you. Yes, politics matters, and you may be very passionate about it. But people will be attracted to your message and will buy your books and invite you to speak based on what they know about you from your blogs and social media. Don’t let a minor issue (as important as it may be personally) derail the major one that God has called you to speak about.
To the Christian women and men who are desperately trying to help the rest of society see the light of Christ and want to follow Jesus, and who are ecstatic about a Trump win:
I understand that you are happy and that you feel that your prayers helped Trump to win, which shows that this is God’s will.
I get that. But if your #1 goal is to help other people see Jesus, then understand that half of the country is devastated right now. Half of the country does not see Trump as a good thing. Many women and minorities especially are scared. And if you portray a Trump win-with all of his bombastic talk-as being absolutely God’s will, then you undermine your main message.
Do you want people to vote Republican, or do you want people to turn to Christ? Because they are not the same thing.
Focus on the Family had an issue a few years ago where James Dobson wanted to take the radio show in a much more political direction, and the board decided that that wasn’t where they wanted to go. Yes, they agreed with Dobson’s politics, but they realized that they had been called to help equip families. And since half of families in the United States are Democrat, to make having a good family contingent upon voting Republican would wreck the impact they could have. So they amicably parted ways and Dobson set up a new radio network and Focus on the Family changed direction.
It was not that Focus on the Family didn’t still consider abortion or gay marriage to be big issues; it’s just that it wasn’t their #1.
Your #1 may be a political issue.
That’s fine! But if it’s not, then be very, very careful of how you portray yourself online, because you don’t want to risk the impact that you could have on people’s lives for the sake of what really is an issue secondary to your primary calling.
Yes, politics is important. But what God called you to is more important.
So remember your #1. When we are trying to be influencers, it’s a big fight. It’s a spiritual battle. Let’s not give the enemy ground by forgetting to focus on our #1.
When you speak on social media, recognize the other viewpoint. When you write in your blog, give validity to those who feel a different way from you. We need to become all things to all people so that we can fight for our #1. And let’s never forget that.