Definition of Insanity
I’ve been thinking - about Christians and creativity, Jesus and politics, grace and compassion, and anger and action.
It’s a twisty thought-web to navigate.
You’ve likely heard it said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” While this isn’t actually the definition of insanity, and we don’t actually know who first said it, I still like the sentiment and believe it applies here.
I voted in my first election in 2008, the year Barack Obama was first elected. I remember, at 21, feeling very overwhelmed by the candidate selection process. I researched to the best of my abilities and made the most informed choice I could make at the time.
I remember, in Christian circles, listening to people talk about the right way to vote, the biblical way to vote, and choosing the thing that Jesus would choose.
I grew up in Tennessee, and, still quite connected to my hometown, I remember learning that Jesus’ way of voting would be to vote right. Vote Republican.
After high school, I spent seven years in Columbia, Missouri - a left-leaning town in the heart of the Midwest where a variety of Christian views were just within earshot of any topic I wanted to know about.
After that, I moved to Chicago where I have lived for the last six years. While some Chicago Christians I know lean to the conservative side of hot-button issues, most Christians I’m surrounded by would say that politically, Jesus bled blue.
I’ve laid out my geographical history because I first want to show that you can be a Christ follower and fit in nicely on either side of the political party line. Secondly, I’m laying it out because I’m frustrated.
It’s been 10 years since I voted in my first election, and in these last 10 years I’ve continued to hear the same conversations over and over again. I’ve heard the same debates and the same arguments, the same ideas and solutions, and not much has changed.
The only real difference I’ve noticed is that everything has gotten louder, more divisive, meaner, and much, much more of the same.
That’s the trouble with politics, isn’t it?
Politics forces us to look at things as either/or, as black or white, right or wrong, red or blue. But the real trouble comes when I look at Jesus’ life because I don’t see a call to choosing either/or. Instead, I see a call to love and a call to creativity.
In Mark 12, some Pharisees approached Jesus with the intention of trapping him into saying something that would get him arrested. “Teacher,” they said, “We know how honest you are. You are impartial and you don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us - is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
I can hear the conniving pride in their voices, can’t you?
“Here are your options, Jesus. A or B? Pick A, and you’re a heretic who doesn’t believe in giving all you have to God. Pick B, and you’re a traitor who doesn’t believe in paying taxes. Either way, we’ll arrest you.”
But Jesus replied with something that, according to scripture, completely amazed them. He chose a different option:
Well then, Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
In John chapter 8, a similar encounter occurred. While Jesus was teaching a crowd, some religious leaders arrived with a woman caught in the act of adultery.
They put her in front of the crowd (and said to Jesus), “Teacher...this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
Again, they were trying to trap him. “Here are your options, Jesus. A or B. Follow the law of Moses and stone her, or dismiss her, thus condoning her activity and betraying religious law. Either way, you lose!”
But Jesus chose neither A nor B. Instead, he wrote something on the ground and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”
One by one her accusers slipped away, leaving the woman alone in the grace-filled presence of Jesus.
I have this hair-brained belief that Christians should be the most creative, innovative people in the world across every aspect of life, including social reform and policy change. I hold this belief because I see so much of this creativity in the way Jesus lived.
Back in Mark 12, when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Loving God requires us to engage all aspects of our being - heart, soul, mind and strength. In order to engage all aspects of our being, we must be willing to create, innovate, be open to failure and potentially be wrong. Likewise, in our efforts to love God through innovating social change, we cannot forget the equally great commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves.
I long to see the day when both sides of every issue can talk openly and honestly without spiraling into divisive arguments and name calling, when our views aren’t so stuck in the mud that we can learn something from someone else’s point of view.
Take the abortion debate, for example. I imagine a day when we realize both sides are actually rooted in love. One side is just focused on the bottled-up potential in an unborn life and the other is focused on the health and personhood of a could-be mama. Neither side wants anyone to die physically or spiritually.
Perhaps the way forward isn’t speculating about which side of the poll Jesus would vote, but instead, imitating his thoughtful, creative responses and heeding his call to walk humbly in love. Maybe then we’ll make some progress, and maybe then we’ll feel a little less insane.