Lisi Barron, a junior Elementary Education major at Lee University has spent a majority of her college career processing the paradox created between faith and nationalism.
“A lot of it boils down to this idea of feeling like, what is appropriate as far as being American, and what is appropriate as far as being a Christian,” said Barron, “A lot of Christians struggle with this so sometimes they sacrifice being true to faith in order to be true to politics.”
Lisi’s journey into this idea really began in Lee’s Christian Ethics class.
“I think Christian Ethics has really changed my life,” Lisi said.
Through a lot of readings Lisi completed as part of her Christian Ethics class, she began to re-evaluate her position on a lot of different issues. Some of these topics included immigration, abortion, and the environment.
However, as her opinions began to change, she found herself hesitant to speak out.
“Sometimes I feel trapped by wanting to speak out about things, but being labeled,” said Barron, “I think some people think, okay, to be Christian I have to have this view, this view, and this view about these issues. And maybe they aren’t given the opportunity to really examine what the Scripture has to say, or maybe they don’t care to.”
Lisi feels particularly passionate about environmental protection issues.
“My eyes have really been opened in Theology and Ethics by discussing the ethics of creation care and the ethics of stewardship,” said Barron.
While Lisi now sees the ethical and spiritual importance of caring for the Earth, she recalls a time in her life when she didn’t feel that way.
“I was so convinced that I couldn’t advocate for environmental protection because that’s a left-wing thing. And I can’t be a left-winger because I’m a Christian,” said Lisi.
Coming to college and studying the Bible more helped shape Lisi’s views into what they are today.
“The more that I look at the world around us, and what’s happening, there’s a problem. We have mistreated our planet,” said Lisi, “And I think western Christians sometimes just pretend that there’s nothing wrong.”
Despite Lisi’s earlier notions that creation care, and issues like it, were tied to politics, she now sees that these issues transcend “right wing or left wing”. She feels that Christians need to find their standards for justice outside of politics and in the Bible and the life of Christ.
“A lot of people think that as soon as you enter a political sphere, you lay your faith down at the door and that is not true at all,” Lisi speaks to the tension felt by many Christians, “Your faith informs everything you do.”
Where Lisi thinks we get it wrong is getting so stuck in legalism that they forget to put their faith first.
When asked about the balance that Christians should strike between being a citizen of their country and their faith, Lisi had a very informed response.
“Christian citizens engage in their civic duties in a way that accords with the commands of God,” said Barron, “We’re called to pray for our leaders, and to expect goodness and accountability from the people that lead us. We are also called to be an example to the country in which we live. It’s our job to extend love to the nation, and to people that are not as we are.”
To Lisi, even though this is a broad issue, she feels like this idea is at the root of many social justice issues that we are faced with today.
“The way that we perceive our ability to be citizens and what our job is, as far as following what our government or our party says,” said Lisi, “And then finding it within ourselves to say, I have to be loyal to God, first.”
Some sources Lisi has used to inform her thoughts on the balance between being a Christian and being a citizen:
William T Cavanaugh, ‘Liturgies of Church and State’
Greg Boyd, ‘Myth of a Christian Nation’
Yuval Levin, ‘Blinded By Nostalgia’
Foy Valentine, ‘An Historical View of Christians and Citizenship’
Duane K. Friesen, ‘Singing God’s Song as Citizens and Aliens: A Christian Theology of Culture’