Stay Away From Politics, Christian!

So I was recently involved in a friendly disagreement on Facebook.

WHAT?!? People have disagreements on social media?

Yes, my friend, I’m afraid it’s true. But I digress.

I say friendly argument because a friend and I were disagreeing in a friendly way (there was no name calling or rude behavior – just differing opinions).

Here was his opening:

Christians in Politics

His basic premise was that Christians should not attempt to change the political climate to reflect Christian values and virtues and be content to remain at the mercy of the government. That’s what I have issue with. I’ve had atheists, humanists, and others throw in my face their old line about how we cannot legislate morality.

That’s bunk.

We DO legislate morality. The only question is: WHOSE morality are we going to legislate? While we don’t force our religion on people, being citizens in a democratic republic ALLOWS us to vote our hearts and minds. If other people out-vote us, so be it, but we have a seat at the table that ancient Christians did not have. Yes, the Bible DOES talk about Christians being subject to the state. Paul writes in Romans 13:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. Mayor Quimby For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

In his first letter, Peter writes:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

In the biblical call to submit, however, the writers are talking to people who are subjects under tyranny. There is no seat at the table for expressing opposing ideas. There is no Christian option to voice dissent and to vote conscience. Quite simply, the Bible calls Christians to be subject to governing authorities and institutions.

The institutions have changed.

In a democratic republic like America, the individual citizen has a right (some might even argue an obligation) to participate in the process – at the very least through the power of the vote. The Bible never says not to vote. The Bible says that Christians need to be submissive to the authorities. If Christians can influence the institutions of authority in a legal way, we SHOULD do so.

As I said, someone’s morality is going to win the day. All legislation is based on a worldview and morality. If Christians are passive in government, then the morality of the day will be set by atheists, humanists, and every religious non-Christian who isn’t afraid to vote.

We can still be submissive to the authorities AND loyal first to Jesus while all the while being engaged in a democratic republic. Jesus First To tell Christians not to promote their distinctive values reduces public Christianity to mere humanism. Our style of government allows for us to engage and to bring our beliefs with us.

It is possible to be respectful towards other people while still seeking to influence government with Christian ideals and values.

*If any of this post has resonated with you, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email the link to your friends and family. Thanks! 🙂

Christians Were Violent, Too!

Imagine a husband and wife having a fight. The wife, with a legitimate complaint, says, “I can’t believe you did ___________!” The husband has two choices. He can a) address the issue face up to the complaint or b) distract from the current issue by saying, “Yeah, but you did the same kind of thing to me last year!”

The second response is called deflecting. It’s avoiding dealing with the current issue by pointing fingers at the past. This is what is happening in the religiopolitical conversation taking place between Islam and Christianity. While people are bringing up valid concerns about the behavior of global Islam, it is merely deflecting to say, “Yes, but Christians behaved atrociously a thousand years ago in the Crusades.”

Islam vs Christianity

There is an appropriate time and place to address historical Christian behavior (and, for the most part, contemporary Christian leaders have apologized for historical Christian violence). Still, one should not bring up those issues to deflect or diminish the original complaint.

In our world today there is a valid concern about Islamic violence globally against Christians AND non-Christians. (non-violent Muslim-Americans do not negate the violent acts carried out daily by Muslims in other nations).

From a biblical point of view, we are called to pray for those who persecute us. We are called to do good for those who would do us harm. There is an incredible notion that we love even the people who loathe us. In the conversation about Islam we too often lose sight of this ethic. I believe it is possible to love and pray for those who would do us harm while still speaking the truth.

And the truth is, it is not the Church that has people fearing for life and limb. For the last thousand years that role has been taken up by global Islam.

We can drop the angry rhetoric. I don’t think it’s loving or Christ-like. We don’t have to hurl insults at Muslims. Angry rhetoric We ought be keeping ourselves in check and asking, “How can I speak truth about the world while still maintaining a loving outlook towards everyone?”

That’s the Christian way.

*If any of this post has resonated with you, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email the link to your friends and family. Thanks! 🙂

Shut up! Stop talking about me!!!

shut-up-fool

Sometimes a story really gets under my skin. In the last couple days I’ve come across three separate news stories about powerful men seeking to silence critics.

The first story that caught my eye was about Dave Ramsey.

The second story was about Mars Hill and Pastor Mark Driscoll.

The third story was about Peoria mayor Jim Ardis.

Powerful people have a way of silencing critics. It is tragic when people use power, influence, and wealth to mute those who raise valid concerns and criticisms. This is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic…

Or wrong.

I can’t speak to Jim Ardis, I know very little about him, but I do know a bit about Mark Driscoll and Dave Ramsey. Both are Christian men, leaders of their community. Yet the way they are handling things goes against a biblical view of leadership.

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

The idea that a leader would try forcibly to silence critics and maintain an iron grip on all under him doesn’t seem to fit the general direction Jesus is trying to take his disciples.

I understand that there are always two sides to every story. I understand that a news article may not give the whole picture. I hope and pray that these situations are not as bad as they appear to be. My concern is that they are just as bad, if not worse.

Everyone who does anything is going to receive criticism. Shoot, I get criticized for things I haven’t even done! (ask me about the latest rumor sometime and we’ll laugh together – or cry?)… And, while we cannot control what others say, we can control how we respond.

These men have responded poorly.

As Christians we can do better. We NEED to do better.

The Rebellious American Spirit

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In case there was any doubt in your mind, yes – Americans have a rebellious spirit. You can see this most evidently in political diatribes on social media. We love to stick it to each other. We rail against the horrible policies of our opponents and those of differing agendas and parties.

In extreme cases, I’ve seen people call for Soldiers to openly rise up and seize the White House and remove the President from power. In less extreme cases, I’ve seen people call all sorts of horrible names and level all sorts of wicked accusations against politicians with whom the accusers disagree. It seems that there is no such thing as civil discourse any more.

What really saddens me is how quickly Christians jump on board with this kind of behavior. It’s as though we are giving in to our basest nature and forgetting the Godly nature that is supposed to now guide us. We justify our behavior and our language in all sorts of ways – trying to find an excuse for why we’re calling Senator So-and-So a poo-poo head or linking the President to Hitler. It goes on and on.

The simple fact is this – I don’t see any cause in the Bible for treating people like this. The Apostle Paul seems pretty straightforward:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.

Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

Of course, Paul’s “governing authorities” were not the duly elected officials of our era. We’re talking about the Emperor and his governors. You know…the ones who put Christians to death. And still Paul calls us to surrender our rebellious spirit to God and to subject ourselves to the authorities. If God is really in control of this world, then even the authorities we despise are part of his plan.

Politically minded Christians are the worst, because we tend to justify our behavior with the God-card – trying to mix our politics and faith. Missiologist Ed Stetzer recently wrote: When you mix politics and religion you get politics.

Even when we disagree with the policies and decisions of the elected officials, let us make sure that we are not embracing a sinful rebellious spirit but can submit; Republican, Democrat, Independent, whomever.

No matter what happens in the country, this world is not our home. Our ultimate allegiance is not to the flag but to our God. Eventually you will get jerked around by government and organizations – it’s the nature of the beast (yes, pun intended). But take it with a measure of grace and know that God’s got bigger plans than American health care, or gay marriage, ____________ (insert the issue of your choosing).

No matter what happens God is still God.

Related Posts:
Patriotism Vs. Faith
Why The American War For Independence Was Unbiblical
Why You Need to Leave the President Alone

Is Barack Obama the Antichrist?

...and even now is already in the world.
…and even now is already in the world.

Is Barack Obama the Antichrist?

No.

He is not.

This is one of those conversations I wish we didn’t even need to be having. Yet here we are. I can’t believe the amount of hatred I’ve seen directed against President Obama. And yes, I’ve seen many accuse him of being the Antichrist.

But he’s not. In fact, the Bible barely makes mention of any single person being a mega-villain, end of the world, apocalyptic Antichrist. There is one paragraph in 2 Thessalonians that refers to the “man of lawlessness” but it is vague in typical apocalyptic style and is not even close to a description of President Obama.

For the most part, the supervillain antichrist is the stuff of Christian fiction (that means it’s made up out of a writer’s imagination as opposed to non-fiction which is literature that is true, like history, biography, science, etc.). It’s not even good Christian fiction at that. It gives us this image of Nicolae, a super-evil dude who is the epitome of all things evil who ushers in the end of the world and the eventual reign of Christ.

Fiction.

Not real.

The Bible does talk about antichrist, but probably not in the way you think:

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:18, 22)

John did not consider there to be a single cataclysmic figure, but established that many who oppose Christ are already in the world. Rather than a personal villain, John sees the antichrist as anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (Anointed One or Messiah). If that’s our criteria for antichrist then John was right – many antichrists have come. And I’m sure many more will come.

John continues:

Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (1 John 4:3)

We don’t have to wait for the antichrist to come. It’s not some far-off distant event. John said nearly 2000 years ago that the spirit was already in the world. Stop waiting for that apocalyptic, Hollywood villain.

Now as to Mr. Obama specifically – he has publically declared that he is a Christian, a believer in Jesus. If he is not denying that Jesus is Christ then Mr. Obama cannot be the antichrist. It seems like pretty clear logic to me.

So what is our beef with Mr. Obama? It seems that we’ve taken our political animosity and clothed it in religious terms and ideas. We’re not happy with how he runs the government. We’re not content with his direction and vision for the future. So we take our political unrest and couch it in apocalyptic language. This is detrimental on several levels:

  1. It does not allow for genuine political discourse. Any time someone uses the God-card it immediately shuts down conversation. I knew a guy one time who told me that God told him that he was supposed to leave our college and move to the northwest. What can you say to that? “No, God didn’t tell you that.” The God-card is a conversation ender. It’s used by angry, political Christians. Instead, let’s actually talk about ideas and policies. Let’s use our words to express why we are upset about the vision and direction of the government. Then let’s use our citizenship to affect change through our voting.
  2. It perpetuates bad theology. The Bible never talks about a single antichrist villain. The idea that there is one big baddie who is the binary opposite to Jesus is bad theology. There is no power that is equal to God. The idea of polar opposites is dualism. It’s not Christian faith. Instead of looking for one person to usher in the end of the world, let’s focus on living kingdom lives here and now. Jesus preached, “Change your way of thinking, for the kingdom of heaven is here and now.”
  3. It damages Christian credibility in this world. How can people take us seriously if we’re running off at the mouth putting spiritual villain labels on any politician we don’t like?

We have to take Mr. Obama at his word when he says that he is a Christian. Who are we to disagree? We don’t know his heart or his relationship with God. Stop using faith as a catapult for your political ammo.

Is Barack Obama the antichrist.

No. He is not.

Why Democrats Are Wrong (okay…Republicans, too)

United We Stand...
United We Stand…

We live in a highly polarized society. Sometimes it feels that moderates are seen as wishy-washy and that, if you were truly a believer in your cause, you ought to gravitate towards one extreme or the other. I have joked that being a true moderate is tough because the Right accuses you of selling out while the Left accuses you of not selling enough! But I believe that the best view is a moderate view – that extremism can lead us into dangerous waters. Please allow me to expound.

The Left/Liberal/Progressive/whatdowecallitthesedays? side is often seen as the side that cares about issues pertaining to social justice, people care, and advocacy.

The Right/Conservative/Fundamentalists/whatdowecallitthesedays? side is often seen as the side that cares about issues pertaining to piety, personal righteousness, and morality. The talking heads from both ends of the spectrum use these stereotypes to beat up their opponents. Left commentators talk about how uncaring Right politicians and leaders are. Right commentators talk about how the Left wants to destroy family values and morality and turn this nation into one giant Socialist commune.

I believe that there are positive elements to both sides (now would be an appropriate time to gasp and start writing your apologetic diatribe for the comments section). Not only are there positive elements to both sides, but I believe that God calls us to a more moderate position – the only real way forward.

In the New Testament, the letter of James tells us:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

BAM. There it is. There are two sides to this coin. James is both Liberal AND Conservative at the same time! Can it be?!? He tells us that pure religion is two-sided. Part one is the social justice element that the Left loves so much – take care of widows and orphans in their distress. With the Ancient Near East (ANE) workforce being what it was, if you were a widow or an orphan you were just plumb outta luck. You had a good chance of going without food, shelter, or any other basic necessity. It was the job of the religious faithful to care for these who could not care for themselves. If you extend that principle into our modern society we would probably do well to add other groups in there. While widows can join the workforce, are we seeking to take care of people who are disadvantaged and disenfranchised? Are we actively looking to care for those who are in a bad way? Who have no leg up in society? If not then all of our religion can be flushed down the pooper.

But on the other side of the coin James shows us his Conservative streak. Pure and faultless religion includes keeping oneself from being polluted by the world. There is an element of personal righteousness, morality, and character involved. Without it, our religion is junk and is worthless. All you Conservatives – give a cheer! Character counts. It doesn’t matter how many poor people you help, how many social programs you implement, or how much to create a Socialist environment that takes care of everyone and every little thing. Without righteousness and holiness is worthless.

So where does that leave us? I believe that it means that faithful Christians ought to examine their politics in light of the Bible. It means that those of us who lean Left need to remember that holiness matters. Those of us who lean Right need to remember that practically caring for people matters. It’s not one or the other. It’s BOTH AND.

If we actually lived this way we’d put a lot of the talking heads out of work. Their books, radio shows, and news programs thrive on dividing people to the extreme. But it’s not biblical, for we are called to both. So…you up for it? Will you put faith before politics and try to live BOTH AND? Let’s put some talking heads out of work. 😉

How about you? What experiences have you had with the Left, the Right, or trying to walk the Moderate middle?

Why You Need to Leave the President Alone

seal

I saw an interesting “news” article today. President Obama likes broccoli. I knew there was something up with that guy. I mean, who admits that his favorite food is broccoli?!? Icecream, sure. Lasagna, I can go with that. Nachos Supreme, definitely. But broccoli? C’mon!

Actually, like many of you, I don’t consider this to be newsworthy.   Not.at.all.   But there it was on my homepage – daring me to click the link and find out why there is any hoopla about the president and his veggies. It seems that there’s a little waffling when it comes to his food choices (I’m killing myself here – I hope you appreciate puns as much as I do). The president has mentioned how great pizza night is in the West Wing. Now he’s trying to push broccoli just because he’s at a healthy eating event? How DARE he (how many exclamation points and question marks do I need to adequately express outrage in print?)?!?!?

Hang with me here…I’m stretching…but nope, still not news worthy. And yet…sigh…it’s on the news, all over Twitter, and who knows where else. Which brings me to today’s point: it’s time to leave the President alone.

Obviously I’m gearing this towards anti-Obama-ites (is that a thing?). But bear with me. I’m writing as a registered Republican who really wanted Mike Huckabee to be POTUS. I’m not what you would call an Obama supporter. I disagree with some of his major points of view.

But here’s the thing – Im sick and tired of the vitriol being spewed from those who oppose him. Republicans, Tea Party Hooligans, Independents, Right Wing Democrats, whoever…. The man gets a lot of hate pushed his way from radio, television, Twitter, Facebook, and every corner where you might find an angry conservative.

Stop it.

Stop sharing the memes denigrating him, his ethnicity, his policies, and everything else. It’s not Christian. There, I said it. It isn’t godly to keep the insults and put-downs going around.

The Bible tells us that we are to be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor or to governors. No, I’m not calling the President an emperor, so stop with the accusations of empire and dictatorship. The principle from the Bible is that Christians are good people who submit to authorities over us and treat people with honor and respect. That even applies to national leaders that we may dislike or disagree with.

I’m not asking to agree with his policies. I don’t. Our national government has given us a proper outlet for voicing opposition through the ballot box, petitions, and other lawful means to let our dissent be heard. Personal attacks are not part of God’s agenda for healthy Christian behavior.

So please, no more anti-Obama memes. No more name-calling. No more hateful ranting. If you consider yourself to be a person of faith it is time to knock it off. And don’t worry – the next time there is a conservative person in office I’ll be telling the Left Wing folks the same thing.

What do you think? Have you seen anti-government sentiment go too far? Where do you think Christians should draw the line?