Category: Christ & Culture (page 1 of 34)

Counting on Your Vote

“If you always vote for the lesser of two evils, you will always have evil and you will always have less.” ~Ralph Nader

I know you want your vote to be counted and I know you want your vote to count. But are you counting too much on your vote?

Many Christians and many churches have bought into the idea that the salvation of the United States somehow depends on electing the right politicians. I am saddened by that. These Christians campaign and picket, scream and yell, insult and fight right alongside everybody else for their preferred party or platform, all of which is decidedly unChristian behavior.

Each of us has made our own decisions about voting: whether or not to vote; if we do vote, for which candidate to cast a ballot; and to what extent we place our hopes and dreams in this country’s politics and candidates. Like all citizens of this country,  we are enduring the unprecedented uncertainty today with a mixture of concerns and expectations, a variety of motivations and desires. But the guiding principle for us Christians is that we know our God is chasing different goals and using different methods than those represented on the ballots. The way of our God is always different from the ways of the world. That’s what gives us our Christian perspective.

It’s not a cynical outlook. It’s not the view of the 20th century activist Emma Goldman who said, “If voting could change anything they would make it illegal.” It’s about weighing how much, if any, of himself a Christian wants to pour into the election process of a worldly kingdom. Have you thought seriously about that?

Are you paying attention to how much energy and emotion you’re putting into the outcome of this thing? Are you aware of how the ups and downs of this past month have impacted your behavior? Are your loves and allegiances being kept in the proper order?

Hunter S. Thompson is given credit for saying, “There’s a terrible danger in voting for the lesser of two evils because the parties can set it up that way.” The repeating cycles in this country make it difficult to argue against his point. Haven’t we been here before? Aren’t we here every time?

More to the point of today’s post, the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “Of two evils, choose neither. Christians must turn from the endless cycle of voting for the lesser of two evils and expecting an unrighteous act to produce a righteous result. Choosing the lesser of two evils is still evil, and never should we do evil that good may come.”

C.S. Lewis once observed, “He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation or a party or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God himself.”

I believe it’s OK for followers of Jesus to vote; just don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an act of righteousness that is going to change the world for the Kingdom of God. Don’t place your hope for God’s will to be done in this country in a politician or any group of politicians. Don’t count too much on your vote.

Peace,

Allan

The Revolutions of Men

“A revolution is supposed to be a change that turns everything completely around. But the ideology of political revolution will never change anything except appearances. There will be violence, and power will pass from one party to another, but when the smoke clears and the bodies of all the dead men are underground, the situation will be essentially the same as it was before; there will be a minority of strong men in power exploiting all the others for their own ends. There will be the same greed and cruelty and lust and ambition and avarice and hypocrisy as before.

For the revolutions of men change nothing. The only influence that can really upset the injustice and iniquity of men is the power that breathes in Christian tradition.”

~ Thomas Merton

Born Again as Political Identity

The current issue of Christianity Today contains an alarming nugget from the American Journal of Political Science that sheds some light on the disturbing ways our national politics get mixed in with our identities as followers of Jesus. According to the latest research, a small but significant number of Americans don’t vote based on their religion, race, or ethnicity. Instead, they switch those personal identities to better align with their political preferences.

Instead of identifying first as a Christian and voting for candidates and party platforms through that lens, more and more people identify as Republicans or Democrats first and shape their religious beliefs through those lenses. What one believes about the Bible and about Jesus as Lord is determined by that person’s political affiliations, not the other way around.

The research indicates that, over a four year period, the probability that a conservative Republican will start to identify as “born again” is one out of 25. And the probability that a Christian liberal Democrat will stop identifying as “born again” is the same, one in 25.

In other words, how a person’s political party leads on issues of immigration, race, violence, war, abortion, and sexual ethics is more and more forming how Christians interpret their Bibles, how Christians view their own Christianity. Instead of the Bible and the Church shaping our views on politics, our politics are shaping our views on the Bible and the Church.

Just as troubling is that this doesn’t simply impact the spiritual formation of American Christians and their fidelity to Jesus. This also impacts how non-Christians view the Church. The bottom line here is that the term “born again” is increasingly coming to mean “Republican.” God’s Church in this country is accelerating in lining up with a particular political party, its leaders, its methods, and its styles.

One of the best ways to shut down any conversation about our Lord with a person under the age of 40 is to tell them that being a Christian has anything to do with national politics. That following Jesus and belonging to his Kingdom means involving yourself in the ways and means and ends of this nation’s politics. If you do that, it’s over. And we’re doing it more and more and more.

What’s going to dissolve the troubling marriage between national politics and God’s Church in this country? What’s going to reverse the order so that we are convicted first of God’s ways and means and goals and then decide what we do and how we behave relative to national politics?

When we realize that being born again means being born into a whole new political body. We are citizens of an eternal Kingdom. We belong to a particular people. We serve a King who sits on a throne. We have rules and laws and codes by which we live and a political ethic that determines how we interact with others. That is our identity. First and always. Everything else runs through that.

Peace,

Allan

A Faith Issue

Some have attempted to make the wearing of masks a matter of faith. My brother-in-law has recently made me aware of the following passage from Matthew 25 in the KJV (Kingsley Janky Version).

Matthew 25

The Masked and the Unmasked

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a Walmart greeter separates the masked from the unmasked. 33 He will put the masked on his right and the unmasked on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was shopping and you followed the arrows in the store aisles, I was standing in line and you maintained six feet of space, I was a stranger and you took a wide berth as we passed by each other in a common area, 36 I needed hand sanitizer and you gave me a squirt, I was out of toilet paper and you shared a roll when there was not a square to spare, I was in public and you gave me an elbow bump rather than a handshake or a hug.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we do these things you have described?”

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those not wearing masks, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For you ignored all of the instructions from the CDC.

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the mask wearers to eternal life.”

2020 Vision

2020. What a great year, huh? The year of great vision, remember? 2020 Vision! All the churches were preaching about vision in January. We were certainly doing it here at Central. Everybody was.

And it’s almost like God has said, “Uh, uh. Let me cast your vision this year. Let me use a global pandemic to teach you to depend only on me. And let me use a national race crisis to train you to pay attention to your neighbor.”

Peace,

Allan

Hope of the World

We noticed yesterday that uniting as one is the prayer of our Lord. Today, I want us to recognize that all Christians living and worshiping and serving together as one united people is also the hope of the world. It’s the only thing that will work.

“I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All the ones I have are yours, and all the ones you have are mine. And glory has come to me through them… Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name — the name you gave me — so that they may be one as we are one… My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world… I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe… May they be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.” ~John 17:9-23

That the world may believe. That the world will know. That the world will turn to Christ. That the world will change. May they be one so the world will see it and believe. May they brought to complete unity so the world will see and experience how to love, not hate; how to forgive, not condemn; how to meet the needs of others, not stake out their own claims and rights; how to live in the peace of Christ, not in the violence of this world; how to live in harmony with those who are different, not in conflict and strife.

Jesus does not say, May they worship correctly so the world will believe. It’s not, May they structure their church leadership in such a way that the world will know. It’s not, May they memorize the right verses, pray the right prayers, vote the right party, read the right books, or advocate for the right laws. God’s people uniting as one is the only hope of the world.

I’ve heard people say, “Stop preaching unity and start preaching doctrine.” I’ve got news for you: Christian unity is doctrine! Uniting as one is the prayer of our Lord and it’s the only hope for this world.

What’s going to change the racial division and strife? What’s going to slow down all the violence and death? What’s going to stop all the selfishness and sin that has plunged the world into so much peril and despair?

I’m convinced that God’s Church uniting as one is the only hope. Not better laws or deeper science or faster technology or all of us simply trying harder. It’s been proven for centuries now that none of that works! Any positive lasting change in our world must begin with and go through our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church. The Body of Christ. That’s the only way.

This is not just Jesus’ prayer and his plan, this is our mission. As disciples of Jesus, this is our calling.

“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” ~John 17:18

Jesus was sent into this world by the Father to show everybody who God is and what God is all about. He said it himself, If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. So Jesus comes here and he loves unconditionally. He is liberal with his forgiveness. He gives everybody the benefit of the doubt. He worked so hard to tear down the walls that divide people. He refused to label people. He stood with the powerless against the powerful. And he ate meals with everybody.

People from different countries, people with different social standings, people with darker or lighter skin, people who differed from Jesus’ group politically — he went into their homes and he met them in public and he ate and drank with all of them.

And God’s people committing to thinking and acting and living that way in the world is the only hope for fixing what’s destroying our society today. It’s the only hope.

But we can’t just talk about it. We have to live it. It’s got to be real or nobody will buy it. And it’s got to be us, the Church, or nothing will really change. Who else will do it? It has to be us!

We’re the ones who believe that every man, woman, and child on this planet is created by God in his holy image. We’re the ones who know so well our God’s heart for the oppressed. We’re the ones who obey our God’s command to love our neighbors. We’re the ones who trust that God is working right now to bring all people of every tribe, language, color, and tongue together around the table at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

This is the solution given to us by our God. This is the vivid picture that makes it real. This is the bold call for what’s needed. This is the vision that can invigorate our imaginations and our witness in a world that’s groaning for what God’s Church has to give.

The time is right now. The opportunity is right here. And it’s not going to be easy. The racial division among Christians and the racial injustice in this country is territory our Enemy has held for a long, long time. And he’s not going to give it up to a bunch of Christians like us without a fight.

But our faith is in God through our risen and reigning Lord Jesus. And our trust is in his promise that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit flows through us to equip and encourage, to embolden and to heal, when we’re together. When we’re united as one. THEN the world will believe. May that day begin this day.

Peace,

Allan

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