Election Choice For The Christian


2016-debate1

I find a lot of irony in the upcoming US Presidential election, particularly because the two candidates take such extreme positions.

On one hand Sec. Clinton, who was a left-leaning liberal during her husband’s presidency, has moved further left in her determination to defeat socialist Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

On the other hand Mr. Trump advocates for a fascist type government in which he calls the shots—about trade and treaty-breaking and immigration policy and . . . well, just about any subject he addresses—ignoring what the Constitution says about the powers of the President.

The irony in all this is that Germany in the aftermath of World War I also faced the same kind of polarizing forces, which played a part in Adolf Hitler becoming the powerful dictator who initiated such inhumane policies and led Germany into the second world war. For the purpose of the discussion about what Christians should do in the upcoming election here in the US, I think it’s important to note that the church was especially divided and unsure what to do about Hitler.Not just in Germany:

In August [American evangelical leader Frank] Buchman made his tragic remark: “I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism” . . . it did not reflect his wider thinking on the subject. Still, it illustrates how easily even the most serious Christians were initially taken in by Hitler’s conservative pseudo-Christian propaganda. (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, p. 290)

Hindsight is always so clear. We know now that Hitler needed to be stopped, that his abject racism was deadly.

But what would have happened if Communism had won the day? What if the German industrial-military complex had joined forces with a Joseph Stalin-ruled Russia? In other words, were there any good choices?

Some people found their choice in leaving Germany. Others ignored the politics, and the rumors of war crimes and death camps in the hopes that they would be left alone to go about their business as unhindered as possible. Still others chose one side or the other to support.

When Hitler was firmly in charge, a small group of Christians protested the obvious and egregious policies being carried out by the Nazis. For instance Jewish Christians who had already been ordained were banned from serving as ministers and later from attending church with “Aryans.” Bonhoeffer and others of like mind took a stand against this policy. But others in the church did not. In fact, many felt Bonhoeffer was off base. They had embraced the Nazis, as demonstrated by their church gathering which came to be known as the Brown Synod because it was more like a Nazi rally than a church meeting.

The time for schism had arrived. A church synod had officially voted to exclude a group of persons from Christian ministry simply because of their ethnic background. The German Christians had clearly broken away from the true and historical faith. (Bonhoeffer, p. 187)

It’s easy to look back and say, Why did those people who professed faith miss their departure from God’s word? How could they not see that they were supporting a government policy over the clear instruction of God?

I have to wonder, though, if many didn’t see their choices as limited. They were backing what they believed to be the lesser of two evils—the Nazis instead of the Communists.

Bonhoeffer didn’t take that route. He had the opportunity to leave Germany and in fact did so for a short time before he felt convicted he needed to stand with his fellow true Christians, come what may. He openly protested as long as that action was allowed. He found ways to skirt the laws meant to reduce his influence, and finally, he joined with others seeking an opportunity to overthrow the wicked empire Hitler had erected.

All this history influences my thinking about the upcoming Presidential election. What are the choices Christians have? We can leave. We can ignore the election, keep our heads down, and hope whoever wins won’t do anything that will dramatically affect our daily life. We can support one or the other of the candidates because we think it is the lesser of the two evils and believe the greater evil is unbearable. Or we can protest.

Today the idea of protest prompts thoughts of marching in groups, waving placards and disrupting traffic. Bonhoeffer didn’t protest in that way. He didn’t take a knee during the national anthem or any of the kinds of protest gestures people are making to call attention to injustice today.

Bonhoeffer instead built a sound Scriptural argument that he circulated far and wide. He countered propaganda with the truth. He taught—first in the seminar, and when no longer allowed to do so, in a one on one discipleship setting that he created.

Today we American Christians do have other choices. There are third party candidates that we can vote for instead of Mr. Trump or Sec. Clinton. To do so would be a protest. It would be a way of making our voices heard: neither of the major party candidates is worthy to be our next President.

Then, when one wins, we can counter the propaganda that will inevitably swirl around the winner by holding them to a high standard. It’s not OK to lie to the American people, to treat people unjustly, to play to either greed or entitlement. We need to lead the way in opposing policies that oppose Scripture—not because we want to make things “the way they used to be” or to create a comfortable life for ourselves, but because as God’s people, we need to stand for right, no matter which party is in power.

Voting As A Christian


The_Good_Samaritan008I recently read a thought-provoking opinion piece in the Christian Research Journal (Vol. 39, No. 4) by Andrew Bullard entitled “Social Movements and God’s Kingdom: Which Cause Matters Most?” I couldn’t help but apply what Bullard said to the upcoming US Presidential elections, especially after watching the Monday debate.

Actually a lot has gone into my thinking: what I read in Eric Metasax’s biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a biography written by Elisabeth Elliot on Amy Carmichael, any number of Facebook posts and comments, things I’ve read in Scripture, and conversations I’ve had with friends.

But honestly, I felt Bullard gave some clarity to my thinking, except I don’t really know how to apply what he said, though I agree whole-heartedly.

His basic premise is that Christians belong to God’s kingdom and as such we should be about Kingdom business. Here’s the core of his position:

Consider this question: is it right for a Christian to be completely devoted to a cause at the risk of alienating those who need to hear the message of Christ? This question is applicable to any social movement and ideology. How you answer this tells others where your true values lie. (This quote and those that follow come from the article mentioned above, unless otherwise indicated).

In other words, as followers of Jesus, our chief assignment is to tell people about the Messiah. But if we are sold out to a social movement, of any kind, such that we offend those on the opposite side of the question, how can we expect to represent Jesus to them?

So, if Jesus is your King, then you’re expected to take on the character and conduct of a citizen in His kingdom. It means you now serve Him. It means you allow this King to dominate every aspect of your life. You have voluntarily given up your personal freedoms for a better life under King Jesus.

I understand the principle, and I even agree with it, as I mentioned above. I think the Bible teaches this truth unequivocally. The problem I have is translating the principle to everyday life.

Take this example, for instance. Scripture teaches us to care for the needy: specifically the orphan and widow and stranger. We’re to love our neighbor as our self, as the Samaritan did when he helped the traveler who had been mugged. Today, however, there are people who masquerade as homeless people, who beg for handouts when they don’t really need money, who lie about their circumstances. There are also people who beg so they can feed their chemical addiction. What is the “Christian” thing to do, then, when someone confronts you in a grocery store parking lot and asks for a handout?

I think if I asked twenty people that question, I might get twenty different answers, and I don’t know which one would be the “right” one. There might not be a right one, but I do think there’s a wrong one: if we say or do something offensive that would close the door to the opportunity to represent Christ to that person, I think that would be a wrong choice.

All this ties in with the upcoming national election because I think the principle—Christians behaving like members of Christ’s kingdom—should guide us. I know a lot of believers want to follow this tenet, though they may not have articulated it as clearly as Bullard.

The problem, as I see it, is knowing how to apply this truth.

Bullard closed his article with this:

None of this is to say it is inherently wrong to advocate for a social movement or political ideology. However, we must keep eternity and the Kingdom of God in mind when choosing which social movement and ideologies to align ourselves with and how devoted to them we become. It is possible to advance God’s kingdom and support a social movement or be active in a political campaign. Yet, we must be wary our devotion to movements and candidates does not replace our mission—advancing the Kingdom of God.

What does a Christian do when neither of the two major party candidates would qualify as leaders who would enhance our mission?

Sec. Clinton talks a great deal about social justice, and Mr. Trump has indicated he would bring conservative judges to the Supreme Court. As near as I can tell, these are the two most positive things about both candidates.

Both candidates apparently have no compunction against stretching the truth:

In the first debate between presidential contenders Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump repeatedly relied on troublesome and false facts that have been debunked throughout the campaign. Clinton stretched the truth on occasion, such as when she tried to wiggle out of her 2012 praise of the Trans Pacific Partnership as a “gold standard.” (“Fact-checking the first Clinton-Trump presidential debate,” By Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Washington Post

Mr. Trump has said egregious things about women, about illegal immigrants, about politicians who ran against him. Sec. Clinton has barely avoided indictment for her handling of her email correspondence when she was Secretary of State. Both hold policies that seem contrary to Scripture.

In other words, neither seems to be a candidate that would make America a place where Christians can pursue our true kingdom work without bumping into government policy that conflicts in some way.

Are we to weigh one idea over against another: it’s more important to advocate for the unborn than to treat the immigrant fairly?

Honestly, I have more questions than anything, especially in light of the Bonhoeffer biography which brought out the struggle and conflict segments of the German church went through as Adolf Hitler put into place his anti-Jewish policies. They waited too long to act; by the time they woke up to the danger, the Final Solution which cost six million Jews their lives, was in place.

Is our situation in America anywhere close to that of Germany in the mid 20th century.

It might be.

God and the Presidential Elections, 2016 Version


Young_Girls_Softball_GameWhat does God think about elections, especially elections of governmental leaders?

The last time I checked in Scripture, God Himself is the one who puts leaders in place. In the Old Testament, He used a prophet to anoint a new king from time to time, but most often let the hereditary process (or the coup d’état) work. My guess is, He does the same in a democracy—that is, He works in and through the process. The difference, of course, is that we citizens now have responsibility in that process.

But does that mean God has chosen the person He wants in leadership, and now it’s up to us who “have the mind of Christ” to discern who that person is, and vote accordingly? Not possible. Late in Old Testament Jewish history, some of the best kings were followed by God’s judgment. Not against that king but against the prior waywardness of the people. How can we know what God intends in our nation at this time in history?

He may desire to lead us into revival or He may release us to the lusts of our sinful hearts. And even after we know who wins the election, we still won’t know His intentions. Perhaps one man as President will make decisions that drive Christians to our knees and revival will come because government is obviously not going to give us the moral society we know pleases God. That would be the ultimate good though initially we might think we’re headed for judgment. The point is, we just don’t know.

It reminds me of my coaching days, when my team of kids from a Christian school played another team from a different Christian school. How do you pray for God to help you win instead of the other guys? How do you know your team needs to win more than the others? Or that winning will be more spiritually beneficial than losing?

So does it matter whether we vote or if we pray for a desired outcome in the upcoming presidential election? It does matter. As I mentioned earlier, God seems to work through the process in place. In addition, Scripture indicates over and over that God moved because of the prayers of His people. Who’s to say He won’t bring a certain result in the election if, and only if, we ask Him?

And if He does not bring the result we ask for, should we say He has let us down? Should we shake our fists in His face and say He’s made a mistake? How silly that would be. He is God. He knows if what we ask of Him is truly for our good or not. As a loving parent, He knows if we need hardship to drive us back to Him or revival that will cause us to repent or a climate of peace and tranquility that will allow us to do the work of evangelism or something altogether unimagined for His greater glory.

What I do know is that one thing and one thing only will be a disaster in this election. That is, if Christians react with vitriol toward those with whom we disagree. The good Samaritan did not check the politics of the mugging victim before he gave his help. Jesus did not hang Herod in effigy because he had John the Baptist killed. Paul did not write snarky letters to the churches blasting Felix or Festus or Caesar when he was imprisoned.

We believers in Jesus Christ need to love God and love our neighbors, even if our neighbors are throwing rocks through our windows and calling us names because of our faith in Christ. We believers in Jesus Christ need to love our fellow Christians in a way that will show the world what it truly means to be a part of the Church, even if our fellow Christians voted for the other guy.

Does love mean to stay quiet about deeply held beliefs or decide to stay above the fray and simply not vote? Seriously, did you forget for a moment whose blog you were reading? Me stay quiet? Me advocate not expressing an opinion? That would certainly be a first, now wouldn’t it!

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in November 2008.

Published in: on August 3, 2016 at 6:06 pm  Comments Off on God and the Presidential Elections, 2016 Version  
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God And The Presidential Primaries


1880 - Illustration shows Senator Roscoe Conkling, leader of the Stalwarts group of the Republican Party, playing a puzzle game. All blocks in the puzzle are the heads of the potential Republican presidential candidates, among them Grant, Sherman, Tilden, and Blaine.

1880 – Illustration shows Senator Roscoe Conkling, leader of the Stalwarts group of the Republican Party, playing a puzzle game. All blocks in the puzzle are the heads of the potential Republican presidential candidates, among them Grant, Sherman, Tilden, and Blaine.


This year is not the first year that choosing a candidate for President is a bit messy. Perhaps the best question a Christian can ask is this: What does God think about elections, especially elections of governmental leaders?

The last time I checked in Scripture, God Himself is the one who puts leaders in place. In the Old Testament, He used a prophet to anoint a new king from time to time, but most often let the hereditary process (or the coup d’état) work. My guess is, He does the same in a democracy—that is, He works in and through the process. The difference, of course, is that we citizens now have responsibility in that process.

But does that mean God has chosen the person He wants in leadership, and now it’s up to us who “have the mind of Christ” to discern who that person is, and vote accordingly? Not possible. For one thing, Christians aren’t a majority and can’t insure that the candidate we favor will in fact be elected. But also, God hasn’t chosen to give us that kind of knowledge. Finally, by looking at circumstances, we really can’t tell what is God’s will and what isn’t.

Late in Old Testament Jewish history, some of the best kings were followed by God’s judgment. Not against that king but against the prior waywardness of the people. How can we know what God intends in our nation at this time in history?

He may desire to lead us into revival, or He may release us to the lusts of our sinful hearts. And even after we know who wins the election, we still won’t know His intentions. Perhaps one man as President will make decisions that drive Christians to our knees and revival will come because government is obviously not going to give us the moral society we know pleases God. That would be the ultimate good, though initially we might think we’re headed for judgment. The point is, we just don’t know.

It reminds me of my coaching days, when my team of kids from a Christian school played another team from a different Christian school. How do you pray for God to help you win instead of the other guys? How do you know your team needs to win more than the others? Or that winning will be more spiritually beneficial than losing?

So does it matter whether we vote or if we pray for a desired outcome in the presidential primary and eventual election? It does matter. As I mentioned earlier, God seems to work through the process in place. In addition, Scripture indicates over and over that God moved because of the prayers of His people. Who’s to say He won’t bring a certain result in the election if, and only if, we ask Him?

Following the council of a wise friend, I’m praying that God pour out His mercy and give us the President we need, not the one we deserve. Because honestly, our hedonistic, greedy, selfish culture deserves a power-hungry, autocratic entertainer or a shady, untrustworthy liberal.

If He does not bring the result we ask for, should we say He has let us down? Should we shake our fists in His face and say He’s made a mistake? How silly that would be. He is God. He knows if what we ask of Him is truly for our good or not. As a loving parent, He knows if we need hardship to drive us back to Him or revival that will cause us to repent or a climate of peace and tranquility that will allow us to do the work of evangelism or something altogether unimagined that will serve His greater glory.

What I do know is that one thing and one thing only will be a disaster in this election—that is, if Christians react with vitriol toward those with whom we disagree. The good Samaritan did not check the politics of the mugging victim before he gave his help. Jesus did not hang Herod in effigy because he had John the Baptist killed. Paul did not write snarky letters to the churches, blasting Felix or Festus or Caesar, when he was imprisoned.

We believers in Jesus Christ need to love God and love our neighbors, even if our neighbors are throwing rocks through our windows and calling us names because of our faith in Christ. We believers in Jesus Christ need to love our fellow Christians in a way that will show the world what it truly means to be a part of the Church, even if our fellow Christians voted for the other guy.

Does love mean to stay quiet about deeply held beliefs or decide to stay above the fray and simply not vote?

Seriously, did you forget for a moment whose blog you were reading? Me, stay quiet? Me, advocate not expressing an opinion? That would certainly be a first, now wouldn’t it!

This article with some revision is a reprint of one by the same name that appeared here in November 2008.

God’s Kingdom?


voting boothsI believe Christians should be responsible and vote. I believe, if possible, Christians should vote for Christians who are qualified for the office they want to hold. But if all went well, and a Christian managed to become President, if many Christians took office in Congress, the US would not become God’s kingdom, or God’s democracy.

Jesus made it very clear to Pilate just before He was sent to the cross: His kingdom is not of this world. It simply isn’t—not then and not now.

So why make a big thing about the presidential primaries and voting and politics and government? Shouldn’t we just hunker down and wait for the coming kingdom, and not trouble ourselves about the earthly one we live in?

No! God gave us a job to do, and honestly, it’s easier to make disciples of those at home and those abroad if we’re operating in a democratic society with strong Christian values. So it’s right to do our part to create such a place.

It’s right as long as we remember what we’re working for.

First, what we are not working for: we are not working to make this country heaven on earth. It can’t happen and it won’t happen; if we’re working for that, we’re working in vain. We’re also not working so that we can have a nicer home than everybody else (and keep all Those Other People out!!) That kind of selfishness is not something consistent with God’s call on the Christian.

We aren’t working for a place that will put few temptations in front of us and give us many rewards, as nice as both those would be. Temptation is something Jesus faced, so there is no avoiding it here on earth. And rewards or blessings come to those who suffer as much as to those who live in prosperity.

So what should we be working for?

    * freedom of religion so that we can continue to worship God openly and preach the word of God without restriction.
    * life. God created. Our times are in His hands. He condemns murder and makes no exceptions: don’t murder, unless the person you kill is really, really young. Our leaders have a lot of influence in creating a culture of life or not.
    * to preserve the Constitution that declares our rights to be endowed upon us by our Creator. We have slid ever closer to dictatorship. We can vote for those who will uphold the rule of law or who will ignore it in favor of their own way of achieving their own ends.

It reminds me eerily of the choice Adam faced back in the Garden: to do things God’s way, or to do what he wanted to do? Law or desire? God’s way or Man’s way?

That list includes good things, but they will not create God’s kingdom here on earth. His kingdom will only come when Jesus Christ returns and takes the throne.

Until then, Christians are to be on the alert, to be prepared, to work and serve with that day in mind. We are to invest our time and our talent and our money in the things of God. We are to love Him in a sold-out way. We are to love other Christians and our neighbors and our enemies.

The best way to show love is not by giving people stuff to use here and now. That’s a common fallacy lots of people proclaim. We have this idea that we must feed the hungry and clothe the poor, and then when they ask why we’re doing it, we can tell them about the love of God.

Well, the problem is, that’s not what the Bible says. Yes, we are to give to the needy, but what’s with the “waiting until they ask” business? The Bible says, Make disciples. It doesn’t say, Make disciples when they ask why you’re being so nice or sacrificial or helpful or whatever it might be. There should be an unashamed proclamation of the gospel.

Look at Peter and John in Acts 3, when the lame beggar approached them for a handout:

But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (v 6)

What Peter offered was more than a handout, more than giving him money to feed and clothe himself. No, I’m not saying we should start healing people. I’m saying we should boldly give what we have, which is the gospel.

As a result of this miracle, Peter and John were arrested, not once but twice. They were threatened both times, and then eventually they were flogged. Their answer? Shouldn’t we be doing what God tells us rather than what people tell us?

And what was it God had told them? To preach the truth:

But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 3:19-20)

What was it that they had heard and seen?

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.

“And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Acts 3:13-21)

The kingdom is not now, but we Christians have kingdom work to do. Part of our responsibility is to keep the gospel light burning—hopefully in a free society that allows us to reach out to people in other places. But if God, who is in charge of rulers and authorities, sees fit to change the freedoms we now enjoy, we’ll be tasked to work in a rocky field with greater obstacles. But work we must.

In what kind of an environment may be determined by our next election.

Published in: on February 29, 2016 at 5:51 pm  Comments (3)  
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Should Christians Vote For Christians For President?


Marco_Rubio_August_22,_2015Not every person who professes to be a Christian is a Christian. That’s just a fact. Some have been raised in a culture of Christianity—their parents took them to Sunday school and church when they were little. Everyone they know goes to church at least a few times each year, and they have basic values that align with Christianity—they’re in the family values camp, in other words. They also read the Bible stories and probably have at least one Bible in their home.

But those behaviors do not define what it means to be a Christian.

Christians first and foremost are people who identify as sinners. Yep, sinners. Not people who do good or who are good. We actually know that we are not now, nor can we ever be, good enough to satisfy God’s standard. Because we admit who we are, we also have embraced the gift God has offered us—forgiveness for our sinful condition and the particular sins we commit. We recognize that God made forgiveness available to us because He accepted payment for our sins from His Son, Jesus.

Forgiveness affords us a lot of benefits. The greatest is a close relationship with God. We are adopted into His family, and His Spirit now lives within us, empowering us to “walk in a manner worthy” of our new family tie.

So as we grow and mature, we will take on more and more of the family traits—a sold-out love for God, love for each other, love for our neighbors, love for our enemies.

Some of the Presidential candidates say they are Christians; others say they are and act like they are by displaying the family traits.

In considering the question, should Christians vote for Christians for President, I think it’s clear that no one should vote for someone just because he claims to be a Christian. It’s too easy to say the words, even the right words, and none of us can see what another person’s actual relationship with God is like.

However, we can see the family resemblance.

Of course, being a Christian isn’t the only concern when it comes to deciding who to vote for. The President has to be a leader, and not all Christians are leaders. He or she needs to be a good judge of character because the President has to put together a Cabinet and make any number of appointments. He needs to know how government works and needs to understand foreign policy.

If all these things are in place, should it matter if the candidate is a Christian?

I think so.

No candidate is going to be perfect. None will have exactly the same ideas on every issue that I have. None will always make the right decisions or listen to the advice I wish he’d listen to. What counts in the end is that he is a person of integrity and that he lives out his faith. Yep, lives it out. I actually got that idea from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who answered a question from an atheist during one of his town halls in Iowa before that caucus.

Below is the video of that exchange. It’s influenced my thinking on this question.

Published in: on February 26, 2016 at 6:10 pm  Comments (4)  
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Believing The First Narrative


red flag warningI think most people are trusting. Maybe too trusting. Chances are, unless we have some prior knowledge that would lead us to doubt or discount what someone says, we are apt to believe the first person who tells us about an event or gives us their opinion.

I saw a TV show the other night. A medical professional saw suspicious signs of abuse on a young patient from a juvenile facility. Red flags went up. She questioned the boy and heard his tale of being mistreated—purposefully denied hydration, disciplined by being burned with cigarettes, and more. She informed the authorities who called in the person in charge.

His story was quite different. This was a troubled teen who was lying, hurting himself. But without further evidence, no action could be taken on either side. Yet, the medical professional continued to believe the patient . . . until physical evidence proved he was in fact lying.

Most people, I think, have some level of trust. Someone comes to the door selling candy for a school fund raiser. Chances are, most of us don’t think this is actually a serial killer or some form of con artist.

Conversely, when the news program we watch regularly reports that there are email scams going around and we shouldn’t send money to people contacting us for financial help, we are most likely going to be suspicious of email asking us for money. On one side are the friendly faces of the news reporters we see day in and day out, and on the other, an anonymous person who says he needs help.

I have no problem deleting those emails. Those are the scams the news warned me against. Probably. I’ll never know for sure. I’ve believed the first narrative I heard and acted accordingly.

Others, however, believed the narrative that someone was in great need of help, and in fact, they would be repaid for their kindness. That was the first narrative they heard. They wanted to help and they wanted to make a little money in the process. So they emptied their bank account, and lost everything.

Another group of people have lost to scam artists that present a more respectable front. Take those who lost so much in the Bernie Madoff investment scandal back in 2008. Or how about the Fanny Mae fiasco: “In December 2011, the SEC brought a civil suit charging three former top executives with securities fraud for misleading investors about the extent of the mortgage giant’s holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans during the financial crisis.” (Forbes)

Understandably, investors believed the people they were hiring to handle their gambl speculatio capital venture. But a set of ciminals took advantage of that trust and bilked the investors of millions.

Believing narratives is critical in other areas, too. Take politics, for instance. In 2010 independently wealthy Meg Whitman ran for the governorship of California. Her campaign looked promising, until the first attack ads accused her of trying to buy the election. In contrast, independently wealthy Donald Trump has proudly exclaimed that he is funding his own campaign without the help of financial backing so that he doesn’t owe anyone any favors.

In one case, the opponents wrote the narrative, and in the other, the candidate got ahead of the issue by telling a different story. In each case, the public seems to have believed the first story released.

This tactic is a favorite of Donald Trump’s. For instance, he said in a televised debate that Jeb Bush was weak, and every time the former Florida governor spoke, Mr. Trump made faces or mocked him or repeated the accusation. He gave no facts, produced no evidence, but the charge was picked up by news analysts and stayed with Mr. Bush for weeks afterward, if not until the end of his campaign.

The fact is, however, that people have agendas. The kid trying to sell candy has an upfront agenda which he announces in his first sentence or two. Other people, however, have layered agendas. The investment scammers, for instance, did want people to give them their money to invest, but they also wanted to cheat those people out of that money. They needed to come across as believable and trustworthy when in fact they were the opposite.

So what?

The Bible has clear counsel for the believer. We are to be on the alert. We have wolves in sheep’s clothing who would fool even the elect if they could. We have an enemy prowling around like a roaring line. We have spiritual forces that come against us, that require spiritual armor. Woven throughout other counsel for handling such conflict is the command to be alert.

This idea, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, means we are to be “quick to notice any unusual and potentially dangerous or difficult circumstances; vigilant.” It also has a second connotation: we are to be “able to think clearly; intellectually active.” Being alert, then, requires critical thinking.

A companion word might be discernment. If we are to be alert we must discern what is a true threat and what is simply true. We are to “keep our thinking caps on,” as one of my old teachers would say. Our job is to pay attention and to evaluate so we can spot error.

In truth, if we are to be alert we must be willing to question those first narratives, even when they come from friendly news anchors we watch day in and day out. We can like them. We can laugh at their jokes and ooohh and aahh at the same baby Panda video that they do. But we still need to be alert when they present a narrative for us to believe.

Often times we hear a narrative from an unofficial source first. A neighbor shot a video and gives it to the news. The snippet played on TV suggests an unprovoked attack by one person. Later when the investigation is complete, however, a different story emerges. But some people refuse to believe the official version of what happened. Why? Because they trusted the first narrative. They believed what their friends the news reporters showed them that first night.

Some of those folks might even become conspiracy theorists, thinking that the second narrative has been invented to cover up the “obvious” facts. No amount of proof can move people who have been convinced by the first narrative.

I think Christians should be alert and therefore should learn to question. Not that we should become skeptics, but we should develop a realistic view of the world. The fact is, those who do not believe in Jesus as God’s Son sent to save sinners, will see the world in a vastly different way than do Christians.

In addition, people running for office want our vote and sometimes our donations. People on TV want us to keep watching their program or their network. They may also want us to see the world as they see it. They may assume we have the same values as they do.

If we realize these things, we can simply agree or disagree. We can turn the channel or read a book. We can smile and say no, my values are different. Or we can say, That makes sense; I’d like to learn more.

What we must avoid is mindlessly repeating as truth what we heard from someone else without any investigation on our part. That’s the opposite of being alert. That’s closer to giving ourselves over to brainwashing.

The Christian And Politics, Version 2016


A democracy can be a perplexing animal, at least for a Christian. On one hand, we, The People, are in charge, so when something goes wrong, the buck ought to stop with us, at least to some degree.

Practically speaking, of course, The People aren’t in charge; the politicians are. But that being the case, isn’t our government just like a kingdom or a Pharaoh-dom or a Caesar-dom, subject to the same principles Scripture lays out for believers in an autocratic system? Principles like these: Be subject to your rulers. Pay your taxes. Honor those due honor. Don’t resist authority or you’re in opposition to God’s ordinance. Fear authority only if you’re doing wrong.

The overriding truth is this: “There is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1b).

So God establishes our President, by means of we, The People. We are responsible and therefore should do our best to bring the best into the office — into all the governmental offices, in fact, since we have a three-branch form of government. What good is it to have a strong, godly President if we don’t have a legislative branch that will work with him? And what use is it to have a Congress that passes good laws if we have a court system that overturns them?

But ultimately, God is working through this system of ours and will sovereignly oversee the process so that the “right” leader is in place. This is a hard truth. Hitler was “right”? Chairman Mao? Stalin? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is “right”?

I’m sure the Christians who received Paul’s letter to the Romans were asking the same question. Excuse me, Paul, have you heard the latest about the Caesar and his household? Do you know what he’s planning for us followers of Jesus? And you are telling us, God has put this guy in place and we are to subject ourselves to him?

Actually, Paul said there was more than simply subjecting ourselves. He said, Bless those who persecute you; never pay back evil for evil; do not take revenge; overcome evil with good; so far as it is possible for you, be at peace with those in authority over you (since they are part of the “all men” Paul names).

Peter expands this same principle and its corollaries in his first letter to believers “who reside as aliens” scattering throughout various regions of the Middle East.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17 – emphases mine)

Nowhere do I see that our treatment of the authorities over us is conditional — we are to honor them, only if we agree or only if they are abiding by God’s law. Rather, Peter’s instructions were to those who had no friends in high places. These Christians were looked at as kooks, at best, and as enemies at worst. Paul was giving direction to believers who faced increasing persecution of a hostile and immoral government.

Bless, don’t curse. Make peace if they’ll let you, give them honor, obey, be subject to them. Why? Because God put them in place. By treating these authorities properly, you’re obeying God and cutting the legs out from under the criticisms leveled at you.

What timely words for the Christian today. How should we do politics? “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Rom. 13:7) I take that verse to include fulfilling our responsibility to vote, but that might just be me. One thing I do know, speaking about our President with disrespect is sinful, and by doing so, Christians are giving those opposed to Christ ammunition for their attacks against us.

In short, then, we should do politics the same way we should do all of life: by obeying the dictates of Scripture.

We also would be wise to do so with a healthy dose of thanksgiving for the privilege of living in a country where we can voice our opinion and not fear being thrown in jail because of it. We can moan and groan about the direction our country is going, but we ought to be thankful it hasn’t gone there yet; we ought to pray God brings revival instead.

Actually this post is identical to the one I wrote in 2012, but since I still believe it is true, I just changed the title to make it current. 😉

Published in: on January 21, 2016 at 6:00 pm  Comments (10)  
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Reprise: Was Christ A Right-wing Conservative?


Medieval_Week_2010_the-kingWhen I address a subject I suspect might be controversial, I find I want to qualify my position before I state it. So here’s the qualification: I believe the Bible addresses a number of sin issues that concern right-wing conservatives. Things like abortion and the definition of marriage.

What I don’t find in the Bible, though, is Christian political activism. Of course, that could be because of the different forms of government in Bible times. Perhaps, then, we should advocate for a monarchy. 😉

The truth is, no matter what form of government we design, man’s sin nature dooms it. Monarchies can be benevolent as long as the king is good, but watch out when an evil king takes power. See, for example, Judah’s evil king Manasseh who indulged in child sacrifice as part of his idol worship.

If we believe the Bible, a democracy ought to be a guarantee of a sinful government. Scripture says the road is narrow leading to life. By implication, we can conclude there are more people who are opposed to God than who follow Him. So in a democracy, believers will be out-voted.

But the founders of the present US government came up with what looked like a sure thing—a representative government littered with checks and balances. Surely not all branches of government could be simultaneously corrupted by the influences of the world, could they? In truth, they may have developed the best government on the planet — for about a day. Or maybe a little longer. But even then it wasn’t perfect.

You see, they couldn’t predict how powerful lobbyists would become, how democratic our representative process would become, how legislative our courts would become, how apathetic our voters would be come, how bureaucratic each part of government would become.

And yet, given the problems of all governments, there are still some Christians who think the answer is to create better government.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we need Christians in politics. More importantly, I think we need Christians in government. But I also think we need Christians in entertainment, in plumbing, in banks, in schools.

Yet I see professing Christians expending themselves on political causes, as if changing a law or a Congressman will somehow bring heaven on earth.

It won’t.

What’s more, in the political activism, many see vitriol — a win-at-all-costs attitude, a bullying, and yes, an intolerance.

I’ll tell you what I don’t see, or at least can’t imagine. I can’t imagine Jesus yelling invective at those on the opposite side of the street. Certainly He did not flinch when it came to spiritual matters. He showed zeal for His Father’s house when He fashioned a whip and went in after the cheats manning the money-changing tables. He showed intolerance toward those who pretended holiness.

But political change? It wasn’t what He was about.

He came to change people—to redeem us and make us new. And when He left earth, He gave us a charge to make disciples, not to make a godly government.

Of course I want a godly government. I pray for a godly government. I vote for those I believe will best lead us into a society that makes it possible for us to make disciples. I just don’t see Jesus leading us into political reform.

This post first appeared here in April 2011.

President Obama, Impeachment, And Hitler


Shoes of victims of Auschwitz

Shoes of victims of Auschwitz

I couldn’t help myself. I was in the middle of a blog tour and needed to vent, so I turned to Facebook.

You see, a couple with “Impeach Obama” posters and pictures of the President with a Hitler-style mustache, planted themselves outside the US Post Office which I frequent. As I came out, they drew me into a conversation. I only intended to say they ought not use such slimy tactics to voice their disagreement. I figured they’d hear me because I began by saying I was not a supporter of President Obama.

While they didn’t defend the Hitler allusion, they did boisterously and rudely defend the impeach idea. Such nonsense. I had to rant.

But lo and behold, some of the comments I received on Facebook supported the idea that Mr. Obama should be impeached and some even that it was right to compare him to Hitler.

Support for this kind of character assassination and slander is horrifying to me.

President Obama has done nothing that would equate with what Hitler did. Some might suggest that the millions of babies aborted is absolutely a parallel with Hitler’s genocide. I wouldn’t argue that point, but the fact is, the decision was not President Obama’s.

Abortion has been the law of the land for more than forty years, so one President is not solely responsible for those deaths in the same way that Hitler was responsible for the six million Jews gassed in the extermination camps and the millions of Catholics, disabled, Gypsies, Slavs, Ukrainians, many of Germany’s own citizens, and civilians and soldiers all across Europe. In the abortion issue, if anyone’s to blame, we the people are for not voting a Constitutional amendment to prevent it.

Americans are rightly horrified at the beheadings committed by the ISIS soldiers. Multiply that by millions and you have an idea what Hitler was like.

It’s despicable to compare President Obama to that kind of violent, megalomaniac. What’s more, it’s slanderous, and therefore sinful. Yes, it is sin to say that President Obama has guilt for something he did not do.

Of course, someone might be speaking from ignorance. Perhaps they don’t know what Hitler put the Jewish people through—how he treated them like cattle and forced them to live in inhuman conditions until he came up with his Final Solution.

After the invasion of the Soviet Union, in June 1941 the Nazi government began to conceive of a plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler was the chief architect of the plan, which came to be called the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. (“Final Solution,” Wikipedia)

Suitcases of Auschwitz detainees (Auschwitz museum)

Suitcases of Auschwitz detainees (Auschwitz museum)

By the end of the war, Hitler and his henchmen had managed to kill an estimated two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe.

No, President Obama is not Hitler. To put the two names together is to slander President Obama and to denigrate the millions who lost their lives because of the Nazi power grab and subsequent effort at ethnic cleansing.

What’s more, people who make such connections between a despicable, violent, evil man and a President who holds to liberal beliefs, weaken any attempt to show voters why liberal politicians aren’t good for our country. The more unreasonable the opposition, the more likely reasonable people will assume all opposition has such illogical and irrational underpinnings.

Same for the impeachment issue. President Obama should not be impeached because he bombed Syria without receiving Congress’s declaration of war (the contention of the man in front of the Post Office). President Truman, President Kennedy, President Johnson, President Reagan, President Clinton are all former presidents who authorized military force in a foreign land without a Congressional declaration of war. President Obama is following precedent.

Further, on Facebook someone brought up the IRS scandal and the Benghazi attack and cover up. “If President Obama knew . . .” the comment read. Well, that’s it, isn’t it. Usually a person is not tried unless there’s some evidence that he took part in the crime. Until there’s an investigation that uncovers real criminal activity, such as the Watergate investigation turned up, or the evidence that President Clinton lied to the grand jury, then there is no grounds for impeachment. Hearsay, supposition, rumor—none of that provides legal cause for bringing President Obama to trial before the Senate.

But it gets worse. God tells us to honor our leaders. Honor! Not because the man is right or because we agree or we think he’s doing a good job. We are to honor him because of the position he holds as our leader.

It’s a fundamental attitude toward authority that we are losing in the US. The Bible tells children to honor their parents, but today kids disobey and backtalk, and society censors parents for spanking. Workers (servants) are told to do what our bosses say (masters is the actual term) not only when they are good and gentle but even when they are unreasonable.

And the admonition to honor the king came from Peter, for one, during the first century when Rome was hauling Christians into the coliseum and feeding them to lions.

Yes, this is counter-intuitive. And I certainly don’t expect non-Christians to get it. But the truth is, God is in control. God. And He has bigger things in mind than putting band-aids on a well-meaning but fading democracy in the US. Sure, it would be great if the US would be the shining city on a hill, but guess what? That’s actually the role God gave to the Church.

So ought we who profess faith in Jesus Christ as our resurrected Lord who we look to return in power and glory—ought we not be about His business? And how can we claim to be doing so if we spurn such a simple command as honor your king.

I mean, really. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean endorse him or approve of his wrong policies or agree with him when he says something harmful. It does mean we speak about him in a respectful manner and we pray for him—not just that he’ll fail, either—and we praise him when he does right.

If Christians are to be light to the dark world, we need to start with some of our most public expressions—showing that we would rather obey God than the impulses of our hearts.

Published in: on October 2, 2014 at 6:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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