Category: Politics

Banned

No matter how kindly we frame it, the message of Jesus draws opposition.   Several years ago, Vanderbilt University derecognized various Christian groups because they required that to hold a leadership position in their group, you needed to believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead after his crucifixion.

The Vanderbilt administration said that to forbid someone from being a group leader for not believing in the resurrection was intolerant! The Christian leaders showed a winsome attitude as they explained what they believed and why they believed it. But basically the administrators said, “We don’t care about your kind attitude; your beliefs are discriminatory and your groups are hereby banned from campus.”

I at least give the administrators credit for having an accurate grasp of the real core issue. You might think that they would evict Christian groups due to disputes about cultural issues such as abortion or gay rights.  But the administrators chose the key Christian distinctive that has not and will not ever change: we owe our lives to, and base our lives on, faith in a resurrected man.

The Vanderbilt fight, then, has a helpful lesson:  We don’t want to erect false obstacles by saying that being a Christian is defined by a list of positions that you must take in the culture wars. (Indeed, when fights about abortion and gay rights die down, they will only be replaced by a new set of culture war issues.)

I’m not saying that political issues are irrelevant or unimportant. But they are all less important than this claim:  Jesus is alive. And he wasn’t blowing smoke when he said he will return to rule as King. Neither Republican nor Democrat, and not a capitalist and not a socialist, he won’t allow any fights over culture war issues. We will laugh at the idea that we once thought that the right political solutions would bring heaven on earth.

Does all that sound too good to be true? It’s not. Check out this promise about Jesus’ return: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)  

Fight For Our Rights ?

In the book of Hebrews Christians are being persecuted. Punishment for following Jesus raised a question for them: Should they lash out at the officials who were hassling them?

Fast forward 2000 years. The legislature passes a law that seems to whittle away our first amendment rights. We are enraged and furious. How dare they do this!  We’ll see them in court!

But what if political rights are a privilege and blessing from God, which we then receive with humble thanks? When we consider the whole gospel message, we are reminded that God in Christ gives me privileges that are much more than I deserve.

I am not saying we should passively accept it when our political rights are infringed, and do nothing. Rather, we can petition for redress while yet having a humble attitude rather than an aggrieved one of offended pride and entitlement.

The first amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; “

What if that were repealed?

Would we be boiling with rage …? and even taking up arms?……or would we see a stunning alternative:  that we have better and lasting possessions that are even better than the government allowing us free exercise of religion.   Here’s what Paul said:  

 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.  You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Hebrews 10:33-34)

To joyfully accept having my property taken from me with no payment??? I must admit, that would be ridiculously hard for me! My natural reaction would be to feel super ticked. That shows me something, though.  I think am holding to and insisting on my rights tighter than I should, instead of being thankful for them.

Does the Bible directly give us any political rights? I couldn’t find any, but here is the one guaranteed right that I can find in the Bible.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)

So we enjoy our first amendment rights but we hold them loosely. And we hold on very tightly to the privilege of being a child of God!

Who Built That Business?

“You didn’t build that business” Barack Obama.

Do you remember when President Obama caused controversy with today’s opening quote? Free enterprise individualists were very offended by it, but he was not totally denigrating their entrepreneurial efforts.  Rather, he was saying that we are greatly helped by factors we indeed did not create on our own, like the excellent infrastructure in our country and the supply of competent educated skillful people available for hire.

Today’s scripture shows a deeper meaning than the Obama quote. For here we are warned that when we take credit for what we have made, we are taking credit for what belongs to God.  

We will never again say ‘Our gods’
    to what our own hands have made,
    for in you the fatherless find compassion
(Hosea 14:3b)

I love how today’s verse tells us not only what not to do, but it shows something wonderful we receive as a replacement. As we renounce our idolatrous self-credit and give God the glory instead, we find and enjoy the fullness of his compassion.  

Some of us have an overpowering obsession with being a success. Our dads may have driven us hard towards achievement, and we thought that accomplishments would prove our worth.  But   valuing our achievements so highly makes them like a god — they become a modern-day idol.

Yes, our default mode is to want the credit, saying that our success is due to our own fine outstanding efforts and talents. Yet when we do turn and learn to give God the credit, we really do find that agreeing with “You didn’t build that business” gives us a taste of the lovingkindness of God.

Who is God’s Candidate?

Knowing that most evangelicals are right-wing Republicans, I was curious about how the evangelical Christian left viewed current political issues. Did they have a convincing, biblical, well thought-out analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of both the Democratic and Republican parties?

So, I looked at what Jim Wallis and Sojourners magazine had to say. Their counsel:  Without question, Christians should adopt the Democrats’ platform, because the Bible teaches that an increase in the power of government will bring more of God’s righteousness and justice to our land. Ironically, though, I found them to be the exact mirror image of the right wing, who say that the Bible teaches that a smaller government and more individual initiative will bring more of God’s righteousness and justice to our land. So instead of being hardline Republicans the Christian left has become hardline Democrats!

Each side is skeptical about how anyone who calls themself a Christian could be a supporter of the other party. Even more, few Republicans or Democrats are willing to admit that the opposite party is more correct on any issue.

In my home state I was tempted to vote for someone from the other party for Senator. I had the impression that this guy stood for a higher value than mere party loyalty. I was extremely disappointed when, in a town hall meeting, they asked him to name one area in which he disagreed with his national party. “There are none” he said. This gentleman did not get my vote.

Both sides fall into a trap when they appeal to the Bible. They have decided which party they are loyal to first, and then they go back into the Bible to prove that the Bible shows their party is on God’s side.  It’s hard to take off the blinders and go to the Bible first.

Now I’ll give you a variation on the challenge that was given in the Senatorial town hall: considering who you usually vote for, see if you can find one issue where the other party is more biblical. As someone who votes Republican or Libertarian, I have tried to read what the biblical prophets say with an open mind. As I see their concern for the downtrodden and the ripped-off, then I must admit that the Democrats are stronger on some of the social justice issues. Even if I don’t vote for them this year, at least I’ll stop viewing them as enemies of America!