Monthly Archives: February 2016

Bernie Sanders: A problematic acronym, to say the least

bernie-sanders

Don’t hold it against me, but several days ago I watched CNN’s Anderson Cooper interview presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a town-hall forum. Someone in the audience asked Sanders how he would respond to critics who say he has no religious faith or spirituality. Sanders insisted that he does indeed have a religious/spiritual faith. He went on to elaborate that his spiritual faith is found in his strong desire to correct injustice in the world. Sanders said he has always been like that, even when he was a kid in school he stuck up for kids who got bullied by bigger kids. Sanders said he simply hates injustice in society and he’s dedicated his life to fighting it. I immediately felt sad for Sanders and his tragic confusion regarding good works. Why? The Bible verses below guide us on this topic:

James 2:17-18 (ERV)
“If it is just faith and nothing more—if it doesn’t do anything—it is dead. But someone might argue, ‘Some people have faith, and others have good works.’ My answer would be that you can’t show me your faith if you don’t do anything. But I will show you my faith by the good I do.”

At first glance the verse above seems to support Sander’s worldview, but it doesn’t. This principle is a sword that cuts both ways. Faith without good works is dead and meaningless. But good works without faith is also dead and meaningless. The two are essential to have any heavenly value. Don’t believe it? Read the following two verses:

Isaiah 64:6
“All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”

Hebrews 11:6
“And without faith it is impossible to please God.”

Don’t get me wrong, some of the values Sander’s embraces are in alignment with those taught by Christ. But without embracing Christ first and foremost, those values fall squarely into the realm of the secular world, and that makes them subject to change and interpretation according to the whims of whoever happens to be in power. Some of the most horrible things imaginable throughout human history have been committed by men who perverted God’s values because those men did not really know God.

Sander’s strives to convince us to embrace elements of socialism, though he offers no assurance as to how socialism will not be corrupted by sinful people (as history has shown us) with the predictable result that a small segment of political and financially connected elites will siphon off the wealth of our country while the rest of us get the leftovers, if any. Sadly, many of my conservative brothers and sisters are in denial that capitalism is headed in the same direction as socialism because of fallen humanity’s ability to corrupt every socioeconomic system that a country embraces. The solution is not the adoption of another system of order such as socialism. The ONLY solution is for Americans to re-embrace Christ.

God gave Bernie Sanders the gift of hunger for justice. It would be a tragedy if Sanders never learned to worship the Giver of that gift. Without a relationship with the Giver, the gift can only frustrate. Flawed human beings can never enjoy complete satisfaction deep in our souls via our gifts unless we embrace the Giver. If you try to do it without the Giver, that’s vanity.

“He who seeks from God
anything less than God
esteems the gifts of God
more than the Giver.
Has God, then, no reward?
None save Himself.”

St. Augustine

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The Zen of Lent: He is more than a God who smites

AngryGod

Are you feeling joyful as we enter the season of Lent leading up to Easter? If so, try reading Leviticus 20, 24, and 26 where God tells his people the penalty for sexual deviance, blasphemy, disrespect, and disobedience is death. From such a reading of the Scriptures one’s ebullience can quickly turn to depression. One could also develop a distorted perception of the nature of God. You see, the Bible contains an abundance of verses that describe God as a hard person to get along with. Have you ever encountered a harsh person? Maybe it was a parent, teacher, or boss. You know the type: a real . . . jerk (yes I was tempted to use a special word from my vast secular vocabulary, but the penalty could be death). For some people the only God they ever knew growing up was the strict hard-handed God. Unfortunately many strains of the Christian church promoted this one-sided image of God, and still do today. This incomplete picture of God is the reason why many people, when they were younger, walked away from God and the church. The only God they knew was the all-powerful God who would smack them if they screwed up.

Certainly it is possible to make God angry, though I do not recommend you try. And certainly he has been known to allow his people to experience unpleasant consequences to help them learn and grow out of toxic and/or sinful ways of living. And just because we now live under the umbrella of New Testament grace through Jesus, I seriously doubt that God is entirely out of the smiting business. (Clearly a just God smote the haughty Carolina Panthers in last week’s Super Bowl.) Yet we who are fortunate to have been churched where we learned about the complete God know that he is much more than a smiter. But what about the people who walked away before they had an introduction to the God of love and grace? I believe there are millions of people in the world who have an incomplete comprehension of God. Perhaps the crushing cares of this life have made them ripe for an introduction to the complete God, the God who longs to shower love and grace on everyone who seeks his heart in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Maybe you or I could be the person who makes that introduction to one of those who ran away from the scary God before they really got to know him. Of course that would require that we not be scary ourselves.

Reflective reading: Psalms 103:8-12
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.