Friday, January 18, 2013

To the Evangelical "Boomer" Generation

President Barack Obama is a through and through liberal in his ideology. You cannot claim he is a Marxist and a Muslim in the same sentence. Those are quite different. He is in line with the other "heritage" in America--the Deist one. The "heritage" many of the founders held to. It has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity but some god in the sky who doesn't help in any matter. They may call him "Almighty God" in every political document you read, but it is compromised language. The Christian meaning is absent. You will never hear of Christ in any of our American documents. Although many of the founding fathers were moral, upright, "god" fearing people, they did not believe in a personal God and they did not value and glorify Christ in their daily lives.

So if government officials want to call him Allah, so be it (Nat Day of Prayer response). Whatever name they call him only speaks of their unbelief in Christ and their adherance to some type of universalist state religion. If they refer to him as "Almighty God" it is only to use an ambiguous term and get the other monotheistic religions to "feel good" and keep their mouths shut.

Yes, there were Christians in early America. Yes, there were founders who were believers in Christ but there were many who wrote things like what follows. The heritage in America does not belong to the Christian right or some mythical "Christian Nation" alone but in fact, the nation then was as diverse as it is now (though there were two dominant religious positions--Christianity and Deism).

Here are some quotes from Thomas Paine, the author of "Common Sense"--the document that helped spark the Revolution. These quotes are taken sporadically from the first section of "Age of Reason" which you can read fully here:

"I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life...


But, lest it should be supposed that I believe in many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish ['Turkish' hear means 'Muslim'], appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise...[everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however wrong it may be]

...Every national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet, as if the way to God was not open to every man alike. [He is building a case for one god--the 'almighty'] Each of those churches [religions] show certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say, that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say, that their word of God came by divine inspiration: and the Turks say, that their word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from Heaven. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty [again, who is this?], more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid, or produces only atheists and fanatics. As an engine of power it serves the purpose of despotism; and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests; but so far as respects the good of man in general, it leads to nothing here or hereafter.

The only religion that has not been invented, and that has in it every evidence of divine originality, is pure and simple Deism [DEISM]. It must have been the first, and will probably be the last, that man believes."

There were so many men of the intellectual elite of that day who thought along these lines including Jefferson and Franklin. Franklin used to listen to the famous evangelist George Whitefield and exclaimed one day after hearing him that Whitefield had preached so well that he, Franklin, had almost believed. Obama is not the first American polititian to say NO to Jesus. It appears that unbelief is our heritage too. What blows my mind is that the Christian Right cannot acknowledge this. They consistently argue that many of the founders were more godly and that even their deism is misunderstood (specifically Jefferson and Franklin -- I heard this just yesterday on Christian radio)

The Puritans made a big mistake when they founded Massachusetts (not "in founding" but when). They had the audacity to believe that they could come to the New World and establish the Godly Society--the Christian Nation. They weren't the first--it was a long line of fools--Constantine, the Papacy, and most of the Reformers--Fools who tried to merge the state and the church like bride and groom. Fools who thought that Christians could and should establish a society that adheres to Christian practices or at least would pay Christianity the most respect. That dream never realized and it never has and it never will.

What was their sin--desiring a moral society? Desiring for more Christians in society? Not exactly, but those are always the excuses used by people who think it is okay to mingle politics and Christianity. "Salt & Light." Their sin was, in trying to establish the Godly Society, they lost sight of the Kingdom of God as a future reality.  They lost sight of the means to this end--the Great Commission to every Tribe, Tongue, and Nation. They forgot their citizenship was in heaven and they tried to establish an earthly citizenship. They forgot that Christ, shunning all political advancement, promoted His Kingdom to His utter demise for the whole world--not some special nation alone. He did not shed His blood so that people could all flock to a land of hope and prosperity in the New World. Their sin was that they forgot that their hope is to be in a future establishment of Christ's kingdom. They split their hope.

Why does it bother Christians that we are not to establish a "Christian Nation"? The same professing people say they believe the whole Bible but their major political resolve is nowhere to be found in Scripture! Jesus established something that He meant to be truly international and His mission to the Church had nothing to do with establishing some type of political nation--a bastion from persecution and the annoying immoralities of the world--homosexuality, adultery, prostitution, pornography,--you name it. Instead, we received the Great Commission--to go and make disciples of all nations! The apostles laid the firm foundation of this when they did not try to take Rome by political force or Israel by military might but rather, preached and left the results up to God--something that is not enough for American Christians. [Get ready--tirade of questions]

Is that because we do not believe? Have we lost sight of the power of the gospel to transform people? Or is it that it won't transform enough people fast enough because we so detest others for their immorality? Do Christians just want others to get better because they find unbeliever's practices repulsive? As if we are not guilty of the same things as Romans 2 teaches us (Romans 2:1-3). Are we really so scared of losing our rights and suffering again at the hand of governments? Is this about rights or comfort? Is this about truth or spiritual laziness and apathy for the lost? Do we want people to reform to the point that we can tolerate them or do we want salvation for them? Has our unbelief in the gospel or our own self-righteousness led us to take political action? Is Christ's love for the world motivating our politics?

I remember the story of Eusebius, church historian and bishop recounting Constantine in his history. He boasted so strongly of Constantine to the point where he nearly, if indeed did say, that he--Constantine--was Christ on Earth. Are we looking for a political messiah? In a person? In a movement? In a party?

In Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" he declared his hope that the American Revolution might cause a revolution among religion as well--that it might bring about a deeper revelation to that of Deism from the lesser organized monotheistic religions. I pray that his hope in a revolution is realized. Not in a dead monotheism like Deism as a universal American religion but rather a revolution which finally rips this "state" mentality from the Church of Christ. A revolution that brings a true separation of church and state that will undo the damage that Constantine set in motion that the Church has never recovered from--that of ceding political control. The Godly Society was a hiccup--a sidestep in the Church's maturation process. It was a dream she had while she slept. It was a vision from God she misinterpreted as "now" rather than "then". This "over-realized eschatology" thought everything was ours in Christ--now.

Remember that line in Revelation--"The Kingdoms of this world have NOW become the Kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ." That is a future event which is not brought about by the Church trying to politically take over each nation to make it His (as if they could somehow deliver it to Him on the last day). Rather, He will conquer the nations by the Word of His mouth. Then, He will give it to the meek as He promised.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Evangelical Political Involvement?

This is a question that must be readdressed. Christians have been actively involved in the Western political process since the 300's. However, there is a move for (legitimately--not simply brought on by a reaction to the failures of G. W. Bush), minimizing political involvement including no more blanket endorsments of the Republican party. This shift was seen dramatically in this last election (of course) but what has virtually gone unnoticed is how many Evangelical Christians were moving against this with many even voting Democratic before that (the irony of the caricature painted in the news).

This push for the reduction or increase in Evangelical political involvement must be motivated by only one question:

In what way will political involvement (candidate endorsment, lobbying, voting, etc) on any given issue affect the deliverance of the Gospel?

For instance, if the United States goes to war with Iraq, how will this affect the reception of the Gospel within Iraq? If Christians come together to support Proposition 8, how will that affect the reception of the Gospel within the homosexual community? Of course we cannot please all but we have to please some do we not? We must become all things to all people not only as individuals but also as the Church. This is difficult to say the least but the corporate church must weigh corporate policies by this rule. Maybe boycotting Disney sounds good and right but how will it be viewed? Maybe the US invading Iraq is good but will the Iraqies see the "crusaders" coming again?

It is difficult for us to reconcile a justice by force with a mercy that's in meekness.

The mercy of the Gospel is primary. It must trump our push for justice in the Church. It did in the early Church. The early Church was concerned with social injustices (they took it upon themselves to make up for them) but to say they were "political" in that they sought political power is a laugh. If they are our example in everything else, why don't we complete the picture? If they didn't fight the Romans out of Israel or form a mob and take Jerusalem or join the rebels at Masada, why do we over invest in the political process? We must fully accept our call to share the Gospel. Anything in addition is neglect and discredits the message. We cannot hold a gun and a Bible. We cannot perform two missions. We are either peace makers or peace keepers. We cannot be both.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I promised a post...

Tonight, I preached my first 'formal' sermon over Philippians 2:1-8. Such a wonderful passage to familiarize myself with over these last couple of months.. I received a DVD immediately upon completion in which the professor gave immediate feedback as I preached. It was pretty hilarious. Here are some fun things I learned about me in watching and hearing myself.

1) I have a ginormous "super-hero" brow. No one told me this and I'm really disappointed! I was a little startled by it. Eric (my brother) and I once made fun of a preacher in San Antonio for his giant brow. Oh Lord me too?? Why me??

2) Gosh I'm low energy. Seriously, light a fire under your arse Chris! Speed up a little bit. It won't hurt and maybe the pauses won't be so long.

3) Man, I'm still fat. If only I could drop a couple-a-20pnds, that would be awesome!

4) Ironically, I repeat myself so much but in my first sermon, I failed to do the most basic element of teaching--repeat myself! Well, for once--I didn't repeat myself. I don't know if this is personal growth or just bad luck.

5) I really am as funny as I think I am... : )

6) I stand in the "contrapposto" pose when I feel comfortable. Look it up Michaelangelo. I taught Evonne a new word!

7) My hands really are as big as I think they are--but why didn't my legs grow to match mom and dad?

8) I enjoy talking on stage. I like to teach and communicate and poke fun while I do it. I love making people laugh. Wait, I knew this one so it doesn't count.

8) I am now okay with listening to and watching myself on video. This is new. Usta kinda freak out at the thought of hearing myself speak but I've lost a lot of that 'critical' element. Praise Jesus. Maybe the stick has been officially removed from my butt.

Love you guys..

Monday, January 12, 2009

Joel's Transmission

I love blogs! Blogs are one of the most amazing relatively new parts of the culture that is defined by the world wide web. People everywhere jump online and post their ideas on politics, religion, history, science, culture--anything! From new moms documenting their families with pictures and videos to political radicals proclaiming the party line--the millions can fire off their brains into the vastness of inter-space. And like any good American tradition, it's absolutely free!

So I am jumping into this phenomenon that I have been observing much more than participating in so that I may document, share, and flesh out the ideas that dominate and define my life and my living--to put into writing the life, the friends, the philosophies, the themes, the dreams, the communities, that are cradling me.

When I decided to create an 'official' blog, life wasn't going exactly great. Jen and I had bought a car in hopes that we could have a low payment and little maintenance costs while living within our means and paying off some debts. About a year later, the transmission decided to go out. We knew that the cost would be upwards of three thousand--money far outside our monthly pay and savings. Several mechanics and friends told us to contact the maker and file a claim for aid(since the transmission should not have failed). As it turned out, if our transmission had been replaced when we bought the car, it would have been under warranty but after a couple of weeks of deliberating with the maker and claims department, Jen and I didn't receive an extra penny or an apology. I was enraged. I asked myself why I would ever buy a car from this company again (they make some of the best and most reliable cars). I knew I could make this company pay if I was persistent in vindicating my unanswered pleas.

Emotional and stressed to the point of having high blood pressure and feeling like I was going to vomit, I embarked on a trip to see a friend in Oklahoma. Wondering where the money was going to come from and how to treat this company weighed my mind. Needless to say, I was paying no attention to my speed and hit 81 in a 60. When the cop pulled me over, I was on the verge of tears. The few times I have found myself in that position, I usually smile and say, "I know" but this time was different. I begged the officer for mercy and told him why I was speeding--that I was upset about my wife's car and the transmission I had to replace. He laughed. Then he proceeded in the most condescending despising tone and 'tude I had not known in years. I was humiliated.

As I pulled off, my heart pounding out of my chest, I knew there was only one thing I was able to do. The echo in my head spoke soft, "forgive and you will be forgiven." I made the hard choice to loosen my grip on the sword held within my heart. I prayed and thanked Christ for the reminder--the reminder that this is what I do--I let it go because I was let go. This was a reminder of a much deeper pain I had felt before and a greater debt I once had to forgive. I asked the Lord to please help me to always remember that when one asks for mercy, that I would gladly give it. Man can be unjust and unmerciful but let not that man be me!

I met up with my friend and vented my issues to him and told him about my resolve. Before I left, he gave me the money to pay for the ticket (among other generous acts that he did). He knew too that this is our way--the way of the cross--pain & forgiveness for enduring joys in a God who does not abandon us.

So this is my transmission. This is why I am blogging. That I might work out the joys of this life that is the Christ life--living life while following after Christ. One day, I just might catch up to him.

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. Joel 2:25