Tag Archives: Christian politics

The Enemy Wins When We Hate

Jesus said, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25).

As I have watched the events unfold both before and after the election, I am aware that my real enemy is not the person who disagrees with me politically. It is not the person who has a different worldview or follows another religion from mine. My real enemy is Satan, the forces of darkness, lying spirits and sin. In the Beatitudes, Jesus called on His followers to love those who hate you. As a Christian, I am called to love everyone, including those who anger or annoy me. It is hard, and I struggle with it just like the next person.

The real enemy is anger, hate, sin, pride, lies and those things that would divide the body of Christ. Some “Christians” have said some horrible things over the past six months. And any way that I have fueled those flames, please know that I apologize. I am asking for forgiveness for the body of Christ for those who claim to be Christians and have spewed hatred, malice and anger.

Can we disagree? Sure, we can. Can we vote for different people? You bet. Can we believe in different futures for America and the world? Yes, we can. But at the end of the day, we need to treat each other with mutual respect. This means allowing those who are upset about the outcome of the election to vent or mourn. And it means those who are happy with the result can celebrate. This situation calls on everyone to be aware of the feelings of others. The guy who I openly liked (Gary Johnson) didn’t win either.

Elections have real outcomes, and those who win get to decide what the agenda will be. So this is not an editorial calling for the Republicans to fold up and sheepishly put away their agenda. But it is a call for civility to listen and understand the other side. All the major players in the presidential stage have acted with extreme grace and maturity since the election. This includes President Obama, Secretary Hillary Clinton and President –elect Donald Trump. I hope and pray this continues even though I know the various sides will work to defend the principles they hold dear.

As President Obama said this is an intramural scrimmage not a war between two different countries. I have friends and family on all sides of this election. And I want them to know that I love them. I want them to know that I am here to listen. Do I believe that God is still in control? You bet. Do I understand how that thought might not be very comforting to those who are overcome with grief in the moment? Yes, just like it may not have seemed a comfort to the Israelites in the Bible who were oppressed and lived in exile.

Even though I was not a fan of Barack Obama, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and pray for him. I was a bit afraid when he was first elected because of strong disagreements with his policies. As a person, I liked Obama and was proud that the country had overcome racial barriers. As a politician, I feared his solutions would only make our problems in the country worse. And I understand that at this point in time, there are millions who feel the same way about Trump.

I have no idea what the man I have called “Hair piece” will do as president. But I am going to give Trump the same benefit of the doubt as Obama. And I hope that Trump can be a better man in the White House than he has shown on the campaign trail. I do believe that people can change. Otherwise, the cross would be useless. I do believe that Jesus can redeem anyone.

If Trump turns out to be a nightmare and tramples on the rights of U.S. citizens or acts in inhumane ways, I will be right there with the oppressed standing for them. And I will publicly stand up for them in any way that I can. I will fervently defend the Constitution if Trump tries to become some sort of fascist leader.

Do we need to move on from hysteria? Yes, at some point. And I will be patient enough to realize that some people need a chance to decompress. Do many people have legitimate grievances with Trump and his rhetoric? Yes, I think so. I have personally criticized many things that Trump has said and done in the past. But even for Trump’s harshest critics, the best thing they can do is be vigilant, pray and act to mobilize socially to defend their rights in peaceful, non-disruptive ways.

Upon reflection, the real enemy is within when I and others let anger, fear, frustration, disillusionment or resentment lead me/them to act in ways that do not reflect Christ, who is the essence of love. The real enemy is not the other person but the powers of sin and darkness in the world. The real enemy wins when we hate.

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Choosing Among Evils

With that headline, you already know what I am going to write about – the 2016 presidential election. For the record, there is no candidate that I can enthusiastically support. I have severe problems with all of the four candidates who are on enough ballots to theoretically be able to win – Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

In the primaries, the candidate I liked the most was Rand Paul followed by Marco Rubio and then Ted Cruz. If I had to describe my party affiliation it would a Tea Party Libertarian. I know such a thing doesn’t exist. I like the Tea Party because it wants less taxation, smaller government, more local control and less interference from federal regulators. I like the Libertarians because they are the only major party left that agrees with small government and individual freedom. I don’t like the Libertarian party’s stance on abortion, but I do know that there are many Libertarians who are pro-life.

There are a number of much smaller third parties that do have some quality candidates. But these are on so few state ballots and would require such a massive write-in effort to achieve any substantial vote totals that I believe voting for them is pretty much a wasted vote. At least a vote for the Libertarian or Green party will register some protest on the national political radar.

When it comes to voting for a president, you have to analyze the platform, character, experience and leadership qualities of the candidates. Some people don’t care as much about the person as the party affiliation or platform. Others focus more on the personality of the individual. Some will talk about the Supreme Court and who the various candidates would appoint. I believe that you can love Jesus and vote for practically any candidate running. I do not stand in judgment of any person who votes his or her conscious before God.

It is important to keep this election in perspective. Anyone who is a Christian must remember that his or her ultimate trust is in God not earthly leaders. In Scripture you can see that God even works through pagan, evil kings to work His purposes. Sure, we need to make our votes count and use wisdom when we enter the voting booth. But ultimately, I lose in this election if I allow the current media circus to destroy my public witness and ability to be an ambassador for the Kingdom of God. No matter how mad I get. I have to remember that my trust is in God alone. Whoever becomes our next president, I will pray for him or her to lead with sound judgment.

The issues that matter most to me are controlling the national debt, turning more control over to state and local authorities, preserving individual liberties, protecting the unborn, creating sane immigration policies, the safety and welfare of the American democracy and increasing economic opportunities for all. My problem is that I feel no candidate reflects my views in all of these areas. I tend to side with Donald Trump on tax law changes, environmental reforms, gun rights and pro-life policies. I sort of side with Hillary Clinton on immigration policy. I don’t really find agreement with Jill Stein on much except for reining in the NSA and the surveillance state.

Generally, I believe that liberal policies are not best for the economy nor for fixing social problems. In many cases though, I do care deeply about the concerns that liberals raise – racial inequalities, high college debt, prison and sentencing reform, fixing the illegal immigration problem in a humane way and improving health care for all, etc. For far too long the media has painted conservatives as people who don’t care about those issues, and that is not true.

When I took a test to analyze my stances on major issues, I found that I agreed most with Gary Johnson, and that was only 80% of the time. I definitely do not like Johnson’s stance on a number of core issues. These most notably are his opinions on abortion, religious freedom and environmental policy. But when it comes to the other major issues, I tend to side with him. And I do believe both Johnson and Bill Weld have experience in doing what matters most – improving and cutting the size of government.

Yes, I know about the recent foreign policy gaffes made by Johnson. But I think that is why Bill Weld is there to help make up the difference. It seems clear that Johnson would defer a lot to Weld’s political experience and background.

Many people will say, “You are voting for Hillary. You are throwing away your vote.” But those are bad arguments for pulling the lever for a man you wouldn’t let watch your pet cat much less run the country. I hope that enough people are like me that they will vote for Gary Johnson too as a protest against the current two-party system that does not reflect how many of us believe today. Some will say, “That is only going to play into the Democrat’s hands.” And I believe they are right for a time. I believe the GOP will crack first. But eventually (probably in only a few elections), three parties will lead to four or more. And then we will start to see our views more widely represented. Collaboration will become even more important.

When we demonize the other people in the process, we are making it more difficult to fix the problems that we claim to care about. Honestly, we will need to work with everyone to create meaningful change in this country. I happen to have some strong political and even philosophical differences with many liberals, but I still respect them as people who mean well. Unfortunately, I feel that many times those on the left can’t say the same thing about those on the right. And my biggest problem with Donald Trump is that he is the embodiment of every false lie that the media says about conservatives. I don’t think Trump is truly conservative. And he certainly is not a Constitutionalist. I haven’t seen him say much about the Constitution in his rallies or TV interviews.

Just when you think the revelations about Donald Trump couldn’t get any worse, out pops tapes that may have just shipwrecked Trump’s candidacy. Long before the latest revelations I had severe reservations about Trump and was leaning strongly against not voting for him. Now, I know that I have no choice. And I really feel that voting for a respectful atheist who will defend the Constitution and work to bring common-sense solutions is better than a die-hard liberal or a fake conservative, business mogul who is the biggest narcissist to ever seek the presidency.

The only way I could change my vote is if Trump drops out and the Republicans nominate Pence in his place. Otherwise, I will be voting for Gary Johnson in November. And I urge others to do the same. You can find out more about Gary Johnson and Bill Weld at https://www.johnsonweld.com/.

Mixing God and Politics

Everyone knows that there are two things you aren’t supposed to talk about in polite conversation. Those are religion and politics. Spiritual Shots, a Christian forum for non-religious thinkers, recently tackled both taboo topics in one night. Corey Widmer spoke about the intersection of Christianity and politics. Corey called for “cruciform engagement” where Christians use power to serve not to dominate others.

The Kingdom of God is supposed to be a different kind of kingdom. Power equips service not selfishness in God’s way of doing things. Corey said that we have to be careful that we don’t use religion to advance our agendas. He disagreed with those who said that religion and politics should never mix although he was quick to point out that it has frequently been abused through the years.

Corey said, “Political power is an inadequate vehicle to accomplish God’s will because it doesn’t address the human heart.”

The key is to ask the right questions and to make sure that our objectives line up with God’s call to love, serve others and hold to the truth. We have to ask, “What has our primary allegiance?”

http://www.spiritualshots.com/

Can Barack Obama Really Be a Christian?

After the Saddleback forum between the two presidential candidates, I had a conversation with someone very close to me who questioned my post about the event. This person said they thought it was good except they don’t believe that Barack Obama is really a Christian. In my post, I took both candidates at their word when they claimed to have a deep personal faith in Jesus Christ.

The unidentified critic couldn’t see how Obama could be a Christian if he was such a staunch supporter of abortions, including procedures that many Democrats find hard to support. While I understand where this person is coming from, I don’t believe it is my place to sit on the judgment seat about the soul of another person. That seat belongs to God alone, and He will judge us all for our words, actions and thoughts.

I believe someone can have political or cultural views that doesn’t seem to line up with Scripture and still be a Christian. I believe someone can be living in sin and still be a Christian. This gets to the whole issue – What really determines the salvation of an individual person? Is is our stated beliefs, our actions, our relationship with God,  divine grace or some hard-to-calculate combination of all four? That question is difficult to answer with certainty because each person is so different. To quote Obama, “It is beyond my pay grade.”

When it comes to salvation, I consider the question that the Apostle Paul asked, “Who am I to judge some else’s servant?” As long as someone claims to follow Christ and acknowledges Him as Lord, I believe that person may very well be a Christian even if they support things that God hates. The Bible is full of people who loved God and yet did incredibly horrible sins. That is where grace and mercy come into play.

At the same time, a person can claim to be a Christian all they want and not really be one. Only God and that person really know the truth. I don’t believe that Jesus can be your savior unless He is also your Lord. The problem is that the lordship threshold is hard to define since we all sin in some way.

Personally, I believe abortion is wrong and should be outlawed in most cases. I have no intention of voting for Obama. I find some of the comments of his pastor impossible to reconcile with Jesus’ teaching. But that doesn’t mean that I think the guy is going to hell. Obama will have to account to God for his support of abortion rights and his role in extermination the unborn children of this country.

At the end of the day, only God knows for sure if either of the candidates are really part of His kingdom family. I hope they both are the real deal.

Politics, Obama and Jesus

James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and a major evangelical leader, has criticized Sen. Barack Obama of distorting the Bible and taking a “fruitcake interpretation” of the U.S. Constitution. Dobson made these comments on his radio show. He focused on a speech that Obama gave in June to a liberal Christian organization.

Obama said it would be impractical to govern based solely on the Bible. He suggested that many of the people who tout the Bible have not read it or only pick and choose certain parts that support their ideology. I agree with Obama that Biblical illiteracy is a problem in this country, including many evangelicals. I also believe that leaders use the Bible to push their own agendas. This includes McCain, Obama, both political parties, Christian leaders, atheists, gurus, parents, TV personalities, authors, civic leaders, pastors, stand-up comedians, etc. 

“Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?” Obama asked in the speech. “Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount?”

Dobson criticized Obama for referencing antiquated dietary codes and passages from the Old Testament that are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament. 

“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,” Dobson said. While I do not personally agree with everything that Dobson says, he makes a good point about Obama taking things out of context. I believe that Obama in this speech does exactly what he accuses fundamentalists of doing. The Bible needs to be studied in context and totality. You have to understand that the Bible is the story of God and mankind as their relationship with each other is in flux. You have to ask what moment in redemptive history is being described in that passage in order to understand its present day implications.

Obama responded, “I do make the argument that it’s important for folks like myself, who think faith is important, that we try to translate some of our concerns into universal language so we can have open and vigorous debate rather than having religion divide us.”

I am all for universal language as long as the core truths are not lost in translation. Division seems to be something that has accompanied the true preaching of the Christian Gospel throughout time. Wherever the apostle Paul went, there was either a revolution or a riot. Jesus said that we should be willing to forsake all, including family for the Gospel. Jesus spoke about dividing families. He used harsh language and was more than willing to offend the religious leaders and politicians of the day. Avoiding divisive speech was not something that Jesus seemed too concerned with in His ministry. When it comes to division and culture, God was the one who confused the languages according to Genesis. He seems perfectly willing to let people become divided if pride leads them to elevate their will above His divine plan.

While I applaud Obama’s efforts to be a bridge builder, I don’t think you can effectively create a dialogue on religion and politics if you deny the importance of the Bible in shaping our culture, laws and history. Our laws and political system must have some basis. If the Bible is not a shaping force for those discussions, what should be the basis? Looking honestly at history, what were those shaping forces? Merely public opinion and consensus standards? Are there things that are universally wrong? Who defines those?

Many of the worst actions done by humans were somewhat popular at the time they occurred. At the very least, those atrocities were accepted by the masses to some degree. What does that say about merely basing laws on the reason of the age?

Laws change throughout time and are a mirror of societal values. Some of the greatest social changes came about because people took a stand based on their private faith. This includes Dr. Martin Luther King and William Wilberforce. 

In the United States, our laws are built on legal precedent as well as the pioneering effort by lawmakers and judges to advance necessary reforms. These changes adapt existing laws to an evolving political and social landscape. Would many of these changes have taken place if people refused to lead beyond the comfort levels of public opinion? Does the thought of God-given rights make necessary political change possible? These are important questions that need to be asked before we simply explain away the importance of the Bible with poor exegesis.   

Obama clarified to reporters, “I do suggest that the separation of church and state is important. But there’s no, no theological work being done in that speech in terms of the Bible.” You can’t pull out parts of Scripture to make your point and then claim you are not making a theological argument when someone calls you on its implications. I agree that a separation of church and state remains important to the preservation of each entity. At the same time, I think completely divorcing them goes too far and can easily become a serious suppression of religious freedom. 

Dobson criticized Obama for suggesting that religion in politics should be relegated to only things that can be embraced by the overwhelming majority of citizens. Obama’s view seems to elevate public opinion and reflect a belief in the overall decency of humanity. Scripture is quite clear that the human heart is wicked and capable of incredible evil. I think Obama’s argument puts too much faith in man and not enough in God. 

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values,” Obama said. “It requires their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason.”  Obama makes a good point here. Religious beliefs should be able to be defended by reason and logic. I am all for that process. We need to have more intellectual, thorough discussions and fewer sound bite reactions. I applaud Obama’s efforts to avoid rhetoric while I denounce his mischaracterization of fundamentalists at the same time. I believe he has effectively done both in his public comments.

Dobson said the suggestion is an attempt to lead by the “lowest common denominator of morality.” He asked, “Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?”

When it comes to abortion, I believe it comes down to your view on the sanctity of life and the beginning of life. If you believe that abortion is murder, I don’t understand how you could ever condone it except for the cases where you are talking about exchanging a life for a life. This has nothing to do with public or private morality if you hold my view on the issue. Others may have a different view. But that doesn’t negate the value of what I have to say. 

Dobson summed up the implications of Obama’s position. He said, “What Obama is trying to say here is, unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.”

While I have no doubt of Obama’s sincerity and his personal claims to be a Christian, I do have concerns that his statements reflect a worldview that would make it difficult for Christians to have a fair say in the legislative process. And I believe he would appoint judges that would further limit the influence of the Bible at a time when we could use a little more Sermon on the Mount thinking.