Category: Politics

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!

Piles of Penalty Revenue

 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
(Psalm 146:7,9)

Are conservative evangelicals good at personal piety but unconcerned about systemic wrongs? Based on today’s verses from Psalms, I contend that a policy that is deliberately designed to funnel money from the worse off to the better off is unbiblical and should concern us.

Recently Wells Fargo admitted that between 2002 and 2016, it “falsified bank records, harmed the credit ratings of customers, unlawfully misused their personal information and wrongfully collected millions of dollars in fees and interest.” 1

Wells Fargo sales representatives, egged on and threatened by their bosses, told customers taking out car loans with them that they were required to buy car loan insurance. This was a lie: there was no such requirement. When that happens, does God hold “the corporation” responsible or the individuals who, out of greed, set the bogus policy? And who should be punished? The bosses who set the policy? The sales reps?

The penalty so far: A fine of $3 billion. And that’s not the last case against Wells Fargo.

God opposes rip-offs of all kinds but the biblical prophets and Psalms have a special ire towards those who rip off the poor.

Consider astronomical late fees on credit cards — charges that far exceed what the delays cost the credit card company. Remember when every credit card, not just the exclusive ones, had an annual membership fee? The annual fees on regular cards have disappeared while the past due payment penalties skyrocketed. So now ironically, those living paycheck to paycheck who can least afford it are huge drivers of credit card company profits and those who can most afford it get a free ride.

(And don’t get me started on overdraft fees on checking accounts………..)

Many argue these issues can be solved with an increase in regulations. But isn’t the real problem here a culture of greed? Can we legislate greed away? Can a company squeezing out every last penny from its poorer customers be forced by law and regulation to behave with sense of “social responsibility”? I doubt it.

But let me recommend a program like Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, extremely helpful for those who are trapped in debt. They also have a great online community on Facebook, encouraging each other to follow the steps. Much harder for banks and credit cards to accumulate mass penalty revenue from struggling people if enough folks followed those steps!

  1. https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/21/business/wells-fargo-settlement-doj-sec/index.html

 

“A pox on both your houses”

A friend asked why I don’t write any posts about politics. My goal is to present the way of Jesus and not to write propaganda for a party or candidate. But with that in mind there are some things I can say. For starters, there’s a growing trend in this country to have the attitude “My party is the embodiment of total good and yours is totally evil.”

Since I viewed both presidential candidates in 2016 as deeply flawed, my attitude was: “A pox on both your houses”.  That’s a paraphrase of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. Is using Mercutio’s quote too harsh? I know there were millions of people who voted for a third party in 2016 instead of either Trump or Clinton. (Full disclosure: I was one of them).

Here’s a polarization check: Regardless of which party you are in, do you have a charitable heart when your party doesn’t get its own way? Or are you furious that those ______ of ______ in the other party have gotten their own way?

And when a politician from your party is defeated, can he or she cheerfully move back to having a real job? Every four years you hear “This is the most momentous election in history —- our democracy will probably end if the other party wins.”  Look at the way the opponent is portrayed in attack ads. I get the impression that the devil is a sweetheart compared to the target of the attack ad!

Much has changed over the last 60 years. Think of the generous way Richard Nixon reacted in 1960—yes, Richard Nixon. He accepted his disputed loss in the 1960 election with good grace. He knew that he would be the new president but for the election fraud in Illinois and Texas. But Nixon knew that somehow, the US would continue and survive even under a Kennedy presidency.

Nowadays someone in Nixon’s shoes would scream “The whole thing was rigged — I have been cheated out of the presidency—the country is doomed.”

Back in Nixon’s time there was a generalized cultural belief that God was the absolute. God was in charge. We were one nation under God whether the “R” or the “D” won. Those were the days of BOMFOG, the acronym for the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God. This wasn’t tied to any one denomination —- BOMFOG was simply a generic belief that a higher power was in charge and not us. Indeed, President Eisenhower said, “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.”

Now, though, what a momentous change: The civility of BOMFOG patriotism has ended. Loyalty to any religious denomination has eroded. Often, fealty to one’s party has replaced loyalty to God.   Instead of joining a church or synagogue or civic organization, we get a sense of belonging by joining like-minded ranters and screamers on the internet.

Does this sound too pessimistic? Can it change? Going forward I will take a stab at some answers.

You’ve got to hit the red button

red button

Our worship service at The Chapel 1ended.

You can exit the sanctuary down the crowded main aisle. Or go out the side exit – that’s a nice shortcut.

On a recent Sunday, quite a few people, eying the shortcut, headed over to the side door.  But the door was locked.

A crowd began to build up and mill around. Some people got discouraged, gave up, and headed over towards the main exit. But — then — someone reached up to the left of the locked door and punched a red button. The door swung open! Those folks who waited now began to stream out.

When we are faced with temptation, we have a choice, just like the people by the door. Do we trust that there’s a way out — or do we give up?

It’s likely that this verse is familiar to you:

 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13).

But less familiar is the following verse:

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14).

Note, an idol does not have to be an actual figure that we bow down to. Rather, it is anything we are tempted to make more important than Jesus. If we give in to temptation, we are worshiping an idol instead of Jesus. But we have a choice: we can flee from our tempting idol to something else.

I hereby confess one of my own idols: vastly overestimating what good politics can accomplish.

To worship my idol, I was spending way too much time watching MSNBC and Fox News. The former was enraged that our president was ruining our country. The latter was enraged that our wonderful president was being destroyed by his enemies. Both sides were making an idol out of how the correct politics would cure so much of what is wrong with our country.  I was getting sucked up into their anger; all their futile arguing was giving me agita; I gave in to the temptation to enter their vitriol instead of doing something worthwhile.

So, during Lent, I started a fast from those two networks. Lent ended several months ago but…my fast has not ended yet.  Sometimes I do miss the fights, and I am tempted to hear how the two sides are reacting to the latest Presidential tweet; but don’t think I am missing something of lasting value by not tuning in.

Now, if politics is the idol I am fleeing from, I need to flee to something else.

So, I have fled from politics to…. more of Jesus. This sounds spiritual, but it’s not only spiritual: On a visit for a routine checkup the nurse took my blood pressure—and, not knowing about my FOX/MSNBC fast, she said, “Your blood pressure is way down; have you started taking a drug for it?” Nope — it wasn’t a drug; it was what I stopped taking — exposure to angry arguments!

I encourage you to reflect on what your own idol might be. Yours might be politics, too; but it could be sex, money; or something else. When our idol tempts us — we know that God not only gives us a way out but also provides something to flee to.

When we hit our own red button, we’re turning from our idol to the satisfaction that only Jesus can provide.

  1. https://www.thechapel.org/