Discussing politics and religion is often seen as taboo. People either avoid it at all costs or they engage in a dinner conversation and later regret it when family members refuse to talk to each other after a heated argument. For writer/producer/director, Dan Merchant, he addresses the polarizing social issues that have long kept Christians and society at odds. In his film, Lord, Save Us From Your Followers, he tackles five simple questions about Christianity. Risen interviewed him five years ago and talked about why he uses conversation instead of debate and how he deals with controversy.
”For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10
Merchant explains the reason that he uses conversation over debate in his movie.
“I address that question with a Phillip Yancy quote in the beginning of the film that says, ‘Nobody ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.’ It became very clear that the ‘us vs. them’ is fueled by a great misunderstanding of who the other is. We don’t really know each other. We speak different languages; we come to the table with different assumptions. Really, the goal of the movie is to suggest a third paradigm which is ‘we.’ As a Christian if you read the Bible, inconveniently it is exposed that God created everybody. It’s absolutely biblical. So if I believe the stuff I say I believe, I probably ought to take that seriously. I’ve become pretty comfortable about being right about everything and when you’re right about everything you take this cold comfort in dismissing those who are ‘wrong.’ That’s not how Jesus did it. So if I’m going to follow Jesus, then I have to do a better job…The Bible says, ‘love one another’ and it’s like, ‘uh oh, that one’s hard. He just set the bar high.’ The movie stirs things up with Christians and atheists alike and really brings us together because it puts forward Christ’s idea that love is a different kind of being ‘right.’ Truth doesn’t exist without grace. Truth without grace is a bulldozer coming through your wall. But with grace it’s a very different thing. That’s the paradigm. Things change when you lead with love, grace, kindness and compassion. Those are languages that everyone understands…”
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5
Merchant shares how he deals with controversy in response to his film.
“The controversy is the scandal that is Jesus. If you really have a problem with that, then you need to take it up with Jesus. I’m not inventing anything; I’m plagiarizing Jesus. It’s not my fault if you’re offended by loving someone you don’t like; deal with it or don’t be a Christian, call yourself something else. I didn’t make the rules. The movie is a good conversation starter. Most people come away feeling convicted. It’s like a wake-up call for Christians. The fact that people could have heard of Jesus and not hear of ‘love one another’ is baffling to me, but it’s true.”
Have a conversation. Rather than get into a debate or argument, have a conversation. This can often be difficult when it comes to politics and religions. Be willing to listen. Ask the person questions to understand what they believe and why they believe it. If you need help coming up with questions, there are lots of resources for having a spiritual conversation. Instead of defending what you believe, stop and pray. Ask God to soften the heart of the person you are having a conversation with and to give you the words to share.
Love one another. This can be difficult if someone has hurt you, offended you or you don’t know the person. Ask God to show you how to love that difficult person in your life. Pray for the Holy Spirit to show you how Christ sees that person. Reflect on how much God loves us in spite of our sin and how you can be a messenger or love to those who are hard to love. Ask God to search your heart, if you need to ask forgiveness of the person or you need to forgive someone. Take time this week to read through the New Testament and look for examples of how Christ loved others. Write down ways that you want to grow in the love of Christ.
Be scandalous. Jesus wasn’t an average, “go with the flow,” type of leader. He went against the beliefs and systems of that day. He offended people with what he said and the actions he demonstrated. Seek God’s direction for how you can be an advocate for change. It might mean starting a ministry or praying for change in our political system. Be willing to be obedient to the things He is calling you to do regardless of what others may think.
To read our entire interview with Dan Merchant, click here.