Every day, if we’re listening, culture gives us conversational talking points for Christian apologetics.
Politicians specifically provide opportunities for us to engaging our neighbors in distinctively Christian conversations. Like him or not (and I’m not advocating one way or the other), former Ohio Governor and GOP Presidential hopeful John Kasich offers Christians fodder for conversational apologetics in nearly every interview and speech he gives. So does New Jersey Senator and Democrat Presidential hopeful Cory Booker. Where Kasich is speaking from a basically mainline Christian perspective, Booker is demonstrably progressive in his theology, rhetoric and politics.
Let’s take them in turn.
On October 24, 2018 on CNN, John Kasich made reference to the need for a “Damascus road experience.” Christians heard it. However, those in the culture who are unfamiliar with the Bible, may not have because they have no mental hook upon which to hang that idea. They don’t know the underlying story of Saul’s conversion. In order for our secular neighbors to understand what John Kasich was talking about, we have to tell the story of how Saul became Paul nearly 2000 years ago on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus.
As the Christian Church began to flourish following the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, persecution quickly rose. A Pharisee named Saul from a city called Tarsus enthusiastically persecuted the Church. He held the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death. He was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there.
On the way he had what in Christianese we refer to as “the Damascus Road experience.” This is the underlying reference for the comment made by John Kasich on CNN.
Politicians on the political right are not the only ones giving us material for conversational apologetics. Senator Cory Booker recently gave an interview to the Religion News Service in which he talks at length about the importance of his faith. Booker is very adept at using the language of faith in his political speech. In fact, he often sounds like a preacher when he’s speaking.
Broken by sin and plagued by doubt, many people live disintegrated lives utterly disconnected from God. We are here to help them reconnect the eternal to the everyday. When politicians make expressly Biblical or theological references, we are given the opportunity to translate those ideas for people who have not read and have not heard.
Start listening and looking for words, phrases and references to Biblical characters, and then use the opportunity to help your secular neighbors build their theological lexicon. Here are few that frequently appear in news stories, political rhetoric and weather reports:
• Good Samaritan
• Brothers keeper
• Angels and demons
• Adam and Eve
• Noah and rain falling in biblical proportions
• Promised land
• End times
When these terms, images and ideas are culturally appropriated for alternative agendas, our responsibility is to know what they actually mean and the Biblical redemptive narrative of which they are a part, and then to bring clarity to the confusion. Today, let’s be sure our neighbors heard what was said and understand what it means to have a Damascus road experience.