Remembering John Lewis, and the Political Theology that Changed a Nation

My father is an incredibly gifted teacher. Until he retired to become a cattle farmer (true story—that’s what he does now), he was a math professor. He spent most of his career at Georgetown College, a small Baptist college near Lexington, Kentucky. At one point, he was so popular that when students were asked to vote on a faculty member to give the commencement address, he received an absolute majority of votes cast (not a plurality) in spite of competing against dozens of colleagues.

In church, his Sunday School classes were always packed. I’ll never forget his biggest class. After multiple ordeals within the strange hothouse of faculty infighting, he developed a curriculum for a class called, “The Christian and on-the-job politics.” It was a great idea (I’ve got a strong pro-Dad bias here, so hang with me), and it created an actual buzz in the congregation. I skipped my youth group to attend the first class. There weren’t enough seats. Folks lined the walls.

He started the class with something he called the “LBALAG principle.” When confronted with the “Lesser Bad,” he asked, “Shouldn’t the Christian be at Least as Good?” He walked through verse after verse of Christ and the Apostles advocating love in the face of hate, blessings in the face of persecution, kindness in the face of intolerance, put it in the historical context of violent, state-sanctioned murder of Christian believers, and said, “Given our far lesser challenge in our own workplaces, can’t we be as least as loving and at least as kind as these first Christians?”

He took a lesson about “dealing with” or “coping with” bad bosses or malicious co-workers and transformed it into a lesson about loving bosses and caring for co-workers. He made the point that you can never, ever divorce goals from methods, ends from means. It made a powerful impact on my high-school mind. It convicted me. How fragile was my love for others when I struggled with basic kindness even while living a life of ridiculous privilege?

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