A Passion for Purple

A few years ago I heard a well-known pastor from New York City say, “There are only two kinds of people in the world: Those who watch FOX News and those who don’t.” At the time, it seemed like a careless thing to say, definitely not a way to warm up to your audience. I wasn’t impressed and dismissed his statement for what I thought it was: nonsense. However, as it turns out, he was on to something.

Little did I know that the experienced pastor from New York wasn’t attempting to break the ice with his listeners. And he wasn’t just another solid Bible teacher with poor comedic timing. He was speaking out of his pastoral experience. He was pointing us to something true, a cultural reality. Who would have thought that an entire nation—a “Christian” nation—could be subjugated, depending on political affiliation, to a particular cable news channel? Looking back, the minister from Manhattan thought so.

Recently, I had an unimaginative conversation with a few well-meaning church members who were attempting to undermine my political ambiguity. They were clearly intending to convert me to their side. I felt the pressure, loathed it in fact. But I endured the evangelists’ zeal, secretly wishing that they would apply this same passion to their other evangelistic endeavors. Sadly, in my experience, the red and blue kingdoms of America produce far more loyal subjects than the kingdom of God. That’s one of the reasons why I’m purple.

Being purple is not a political statement. It’s a pastoral one. It has more to do with the Sermon on the Mount than the State of the Union. Though it certainly influences my political perspective and shapes my vision for our world, being purple is not a way to strike a balance between liberal blue and conservative red, whether in politics or theology. It’s not an avoidance tactic either, a strategy for sidestepping political activism or theological debate.

I suppose that being purple is a contemporary adaptation of Paul’s passion to “become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some,” which doesn’t mean that I’m an ecclesiastical doormat looking for opportunities to shed my orthodoxy and tweak the ancient creeds and practices that have sustained Christian communities for centuries. It just means that I’m with Jesus, hopefully not in a self-serving, rebellious way, but in a way that is different enough to notice.