A good friend, John James Kirkwood, has a You Tube channel called, “The Sparrow’s Call.” You should check it out. He says neat stuff that makes me think, and thinking deeply about things is probably my favorite thing to do. Anyway, he said some stuff today that made me think. Here are some of our thoughts in a mashup. If you want to know who thought what, you’ll just have to go check him out.
Politics and Faith
The over-politicization of everything has definitely touched evangelical Christianity in a less than savory way. The late Reverend Billy Graham decried this unholy marriage in 1981 when he said, “The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” The deep connection that American Evangelicals have with the Republican Party and ultra conservative political punditry is hard to miss. Single-issue voting is a hallmark of the religious right in terms of abortion, court appointees, guns, etc. There is nothing monolithic about this trend aside from the powerful in-group psychology that connects political identities with religious ones. It is an unholy marriage that aims to build a Christian nation instead of the Kingdom of God. While the moral issues that connect with politics are important, the strong association of religion with politics sullies biblical faith.
Christians are not called to build a nation in the world,
but rather, to build a Kingdom not of it.says Clark Vangilder, today
Christians are not called to build a nation in the world, but rather, to build a Kingdom not of it.Tweet
Why is politics so important to evangelicals?
My hunch is that the politicization of faith ultimately rests in mistaking the biblical backdrop of the Framers as biblical certification of all things conservative. Yes, it is true that the Framers borrowed from the best option available for universal moral values and duties, but that doesn’t mean the 2nd Amendment is commandment number eleven. This is, in my opinion, the critical error of Christian Nationalism. We were not called to build a nation in the world, but rather to build a Kingdom not of it. The proper domain of the Christian is in matters of the heart. Try loving your neighbor as Jesus commanded first, and once we get that right, let’s talk politics.
Don’t Tread On Me?
The Gadsden flag was designed in 1775 by a politician from South Carolina named Christopher Gadsden. The Continental Marines used it, as did many militias. Gadsden was also a Colonel in the Continental Navy. Since that time though, it has been used as a symbol for libertarians, the Tea Party, and gun rights activists. This makes tons of sense when you are fighting for your life, but loses currency in the modern era where those liberties are secure. The “give me liberty or give me death” chant is generally out of place in the 21st century, and persistently out of place in Christian thinking.
[Galatians 5:1 NET] For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.
What if the freedom with which Christ sets us free has nothing to do with civil liberty, but rather compassionate literacy? That it has nothing to do with civil liberty is undeniably true given the purpose of Scripture in general, and Paul’s epistle in particular. Why suggest compassionate literacy? Jesus Christ was big on compassion. His heart was regularly moved by compassion, whereas the face of evangelical Christianity is not known for that at all. As a group, we are compassionately illiterate.
[Lev 19:33-34 NET] 33 When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you must not oppress him. 34 The foreigner who resides with you must be to you like a native citizen among you; so you must love him as yourself, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
How can the Mosaic command to treat the foreigner in the land as natural-born be supported with guns and walls? Are we to love our neighbor only when they are part of our tribe within our walls? What if we brought down the walls and set the table for all who would cross the invisible border? Does anyone on the other side of the wall hear the words, “Come to me, all who are weary and under a heavy burden?” Would Jesus set a table for the foreigner, or would He set a trap?
Does anyone on the other side of the wall hear the words, “Come to me, all who are weary and under a heavy burden?” Would Jesus set a table for the foreigner, or would He set a trap?Tweet
When it’s time to judge the sinner, do we pick up rocks or scribble in the sand? When did Scripture command that we police any morals other than our own, our children, and our church? Yes, the world is littered with moral problems and all the dilemma that one can handle therein. So what? Consider how Jesus dealt with the woman at the well. Do you recall his approach to the woman caught in sin? In both cases, as God in the flesh, He had the right and the authority to judge her more harshly than her accusers. But He, did not. He showed mercy, compassion, grace. He was gentle. He was Truth in Love.
Here’s the bottom line of moral policing. Not your job. Get over it. You were called to make disciples, feed the hungry, care for orphans and widows, and visit the prisoner. Try that first before getting political.
Culture Wars are Contrary to the Calling of Christ
One reveal is worth mentioning here. My friend John over at the Sparrow’s Call, is keenly focused on the parable of the Prodigal Son. John is wise to be absorbed by that story. It is also my favorite parable. It is so good, that if I were forced to keep only one thing from the Bible, it would probably be this parable. In my opinion, the story has three main characters: two villains that are brothers, and one hero father.
Most everyone has heard the story. The selfish son demands his inheritance early and goes off to a foreign land to live it up in debauchery. It wrecks him, and he returns home hoping his father will at least make him a servant in the household. Yet before he can face the music, his father comes running to him and elevates him right back to where he started, with full status as his son. The elder brother does not approve.
The elder brother of the prodigal son thought he was doing the father’s will by discounting his brother, but his heart was more than opposite the father. He failed to see him as a brother. He was jealous of his brother for being loved by his father in spite of his faults. Here’s a radical thought: the older brother was no better than the thief on the cross that mocked Jesus, whereas the younger brother plays the role of the repentant thief.
If you despise the queer, or the liberal, or the conservative, or the religious, or the _________ , then you do not have the Father’s Heart. Period. You do not love your neighbor because you fortress within a tribe of this world that can only flourish by way of exclusion. Did you forget what the Kingdom is for? Do you know how it works? Did you forget how Jesus engaged with the culture? Hint … He wasn’t at war with it. All the tribes of this world work against the Kingdom of God. All of them. No tribe advances the cause of Christ. None. No political party. No sect of Christianity. Nada.
Christians waste an inordinate amount of time and money working to fix the world by means of political action. Christian Nationalism is a cancer to faith. “For God and country” sounds good, but it is not. As a Christian, I can honestly say that Jesus is my Savior. Before January 6, 2021, I could have honestly said that Trump is my President. It never would have occurred to me to say them together, much less as a battle cry. It is a vomit in your own mouth moment. As a military veteran, I can proudly say that I stand for the flag, and as a Christian I can proudly say that I kneel for the cross. Again, putting them together is not on my mind because they do not belong together.
America is not a Christian nation, and I don’t want it to be unless Christ is its King. I have zero trust in the ability of human beings to manage a Christian Nation. It would be a disaster. You can fill in the blank with any other religion or ideology that can be thought of. None of them can be trusted with that much power. None of them.
Humans are supposed to image bearers for God, which means that they are God’s representatives on Earth. According to Scripture, we’re supposed to be managing a proper fellowship with God, while also taking care of the planet. This original project isn’t going so well, and the offensive images below the latest header are one of many reasons why. Scour the images of the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2021 and you’ll see flags and tee shirts with those same images. Storming the Capitol for Jesus is contrary to His Plan.
Do you claim to be a representative of Jesus? If so, I’d ask you to consider what that word means. Simply being on TeamJesus™ doesn’t mean that you necessarily represent Him, or at least represent Him well. The word represent has a prefix “re,” that modifies the base word “present.” RE-present. RE-flect. In other words, properly image the Son of the Living God.
There are really only two ways to image God well, and both are given in Scripture. Jesus gave one answer and the prophet Micah gave the other.
[Matthew 22:37-40 NET] 37 Jesus said to him, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
[Micah 6:8 CSB] 8 Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Perhaps if a political party adopted these platforms, we could have a politicized faith that works.