In John 18:38 Pontius Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” It seems humanity has struggled throughout the ages to discern truth. Yet in the movie A Few Good Men, Colonel Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson, uttered those famous lines, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!!” While ruminating on the nature of truth I began to wonder if we Christians are a people who want the truth, not matter how grotesque it might seem because it flies in the face of the ideologies we create to live by. If so, then why are Christians so politically divided in America?
In John 8:31-32 Jesus tells the Jews, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus then engages some of the Jews in a lengthy argument about the veracity of his claim that he is the Son of God and the Jews claim that they were sons of Abraham (which in their minds was their ticket to heaven). You see the Jews had cobbled together a religious system, made up in part of customs and traditions, that they believed with all their heart was the path to heaven. And here this upstart Jesus comes along and tells them that their “truth” was actually a lie from their real father the devil. This was simply too much for many of them to bear. Jesus offered them a paradigm shift that would put them on the path of truth and eternal life free from bondage, but they rejected it.
To this day, people tragically look the truth in the eye and deny it. For example, Carol (not her real name) has been a political progressive all her adult life. She believed with all her heart that the Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care) was a wonderful program that would make healthcare affordable for everyone in America. The Affordable Care Act was a perfect fit within her worldview ideology. But recently her son and daughter-in-law found themselves unemployed and without healthcare insurance. When her son and daughter-in-law attempted to enroll in the Obama Care program, they were told their premiums would be $800 a month. Obamacare considers $800 a month for an unemployed married couple with no income to be “affordable.” When Carol’s son and daughter-in-law shared this with her, she found it difficult to accept the truth and became angry. Oh the irony of the unaffordable Affordable Care Act.
Now before you blast me for using a program cherished by lefties as an example, allow me to offend my brethren right-wingers. My gut tells me that before all is said and done, conservatives may have to eat crow on the issue of climate change. My point is still valid: many on the right will deny the truth of climate change even if the proof becomes indisputable.
As Christians, we must be the ONE group that enthusiastically pursues and venerates truth wherever it is found. But in order to find truth we can’t indulge the tragic luxury of worshipping and living by flawed human ideologies we create to give us purpose, or to feel morally superior, or to feed bitterness and resentments, or to justify our lifestyle, or to grow our little kingdoms, or even to help others. Truth alone is purpose. And Christ embodies truth. Without Christ living in a person’s life, it is impossible to know truth consistently. Even with Christ living in our life, our sinful human nature has a powerful urge to cling tenaciously to those old ideologies we created to make us comfortable. Yes we can know truth, IF we are willing to find it with God’s guidance and embrace it even though it initially rubs us the wrong way.
America is my home and I love her despite her shortcomings. I am wed to the land and, more significantly, to the audacious dream of America and what it has meant for humanity. It does not take a prophet to divine that the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States legalizing gay marriage has placed the audacious dream of America in a precarious position. While millions of my fellow citizens celebrate the Court’s decision, some of us perceive that the Court’s decision will have the opposite effect of creating a fair and stronger society for all. Before I continue I need to stress that the following argument comes from my identity as Christian American, not just as a Christian.
In a free nation it is inevitable that equal protection under the law of one group will eventually conflict with the equal protection under the law of another group. In the recent epic struggle that landed before the Supreme Court, the gay community won but everyone else lost. How so, you ask? Well, the Sunday after the Court’s decision, my pastor verbalized what I’ve pondered for some time. He said the gay community today has the right to live how they want in America because of the Judeo Christian values that our founders codified into laws that protect the freedoms we all enjoy. If you doubt this, look around the world today at nations that do not have, or never had, a strong Judeo Christian influence and you soon realize that gay people are treated quite poorly in many of those places. The map linked below (Courtesy of Quartz and Pew Research Center) shows countries where gay marriage is legal. Note that most of the countries highlighted have, or at one time had, a strong influence from the Protestant or Catholic Church or both.
Has the historical and modern church at times stood in the way of gay rights? Yes, but the church has also advocated strongly for human rights. The efforts of Christ’s church have paved the way for much of the freedoms enjoyed by a large swath of humanity today. I know many on the left, secularists, will scoff at this. Sometimes the truth is too painful to bear.
Here’s the rub: By winning before SCOTUS, the gay community has managed to render the First Amendment (which covers all Americans, not just the small gay community) almost impotent. In other words, the gay community used the equal protection under the law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to sacrifice the First Amendment right to religious freedom enjoyed by millions of Americans. It was a selfish and vain attempt by the gay community to achieve happiness and peace via societal acceptance.
As a Christian with a fairly good understanding of human nature, I know this will not give the gay community the peace they crave. Sure, initially there will be celebrations and great happiness in the gay community, but God loves all people and his Spirit draws them to himself. That “drawing to himself” is the uncomfortable feeling that something is not right that each person experiences in life. It turns many people correctly toward God. The only solution to that deep uncomfortable feeling is the acceptance of Christ into a person’s life. But that is a theological subject for another time.
So what happens now in America? It’s hard to say. We have entered uncharted territory, considering that approximately 118 million Americans (this number was compiled from Pew Research data) who are fairly active in their faith have just had their religious freedom compromised. Actually, 320 million Americans (our current total population) just had their religious freedom compromised. For now I do not expect much to change in the lives of most Americans. Nary a week has passed and the issue of gay marriage and religious freedom seems to fade from our collective consciousness as life goes on. But even now I suspect radicals in the gay community are preparing to challenge protestant, evangelical and Catholic churches and faith-based organizations to embrace gay marriage or lose their tax exempt status as well as government funding for many of the social programs offered by the church. I expect that the gay community will attempt to have the government take away tax benefits enjoyed by members of the clergy who refuse to perform gay marriages or let gay couples use church facilities as wedding venues. Christian colleges and K through 12 schools may face attacks if their doctrine, hiring and enrollment practices are not acceptable to the gay community. Christian for-profit businesses will continue to have a target painted on their backs, as recent history has already shown. Gay leaders will continue to insist that people of faith not be allowed to “hide” behind religious freedom (darn that pesky First Amendment) and “discriminate” against gay people.
If the gay community and secular society drive the church into the shadows, one unexpected consequence is that the church will likely grow even more than it did when it enjoyed unlimited religious freedom (Ironic). Another unintended outcome would be that more Americans will realize (when it’s too late) that the church and faith-based organizations carry a tremendous load of social services provided to the needy and marginalized in America and around the world. Will our financially-strapped government step in to fill the gap? Will the gay community? I doubt it.
It is also ironic that by turning to the heavy hand of the federal government (as well as manipulating the opinion of an often obtuse public) for redress of perceived grievances, the gay community has handed the federal government far too much power for any institution to safely wield and still guarantee the sacred rights that apply to all people. Personally I do not believe the church should turn the other cheek at this point in our nation’s history. But while we fight back, we likely need to examine ourselves and stop living hypocritical lives. Hopefully our coming dilemma will prod us to take a hard look at ourselves. The church engages in far too much sin, infighting and turf wars. Too many people in the church want to soak up God’s love without grappling with sin in their lives. Too many do not practice the art of loving each other. Too many pastors and priests have set a horrible example in the conduct of their personal and professional lives. Too many pastors and priests are willing to refuse to marry gay couples while overlooking the plethora of sins in the lives of heterosexuals; sins like cohabitation, substance abuse, gluttony, greed, gossip, anger, racism, absence of love for others, pride, serial marriages, unethical business dealings, just to name a few.
If something doesn’t change, the coming persecution will likely separate genuine Christians from the superficial. I don’t know, maybe God’s spirit will help us now that our comfortable church life could be a thing of the past. In the meantime, what can you do? Pray for our nation as much, or more, than we pray for our individual needs, and pay attention to potential leaders who want our votes. It is time to elect leaders who will appoint judges who know better than to sacrifice one part of the Constitution for another due to the pressures of political correctness.
“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” George Washington
“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion.” George Washington
“When people are universally ignorant, and debauched in their manners, they will sink under their own weight without the aid of foreign invaders.” Samuel Adams (Not the beer company)
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams
“Thus, while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust.” Alexis de Tocqueville.
I was blessed to get an early education that emphasized the beliefs, stated above, of many of America’s founding fathers. (Yes, I know Tocqueville was not a founding father.) As a result, I see misplaced faith today on the part of many conservative political zealots (think talk radio where they are legion) and liberal political zealots (think Bill Maher, most news media, and Hollywood). Many conservative zealots publicly place an inordinate faith in liberty, small government, and capitalism (noble dictums indeed). Yes, I know that liberty, a properly proportioned government, and capitalism provide, to date, the best possibilities to achieve improved lifestyles for the most people. But their long-term outcome, without the participation of a predominantly moral and religious citizenry, will be no better than the abhorrent systems of monarchy, socialism, and communism. Tis arrogant to believe that liberty and capitalism are immune from the sinful nature of humanity. Too many conservative zealots talk a big game about freedom and capitalism, but the necessity of religion and a moral people . . . not so much. The success of a nation depends more on its citizens embracing, at the very least, the reality of a constant moral standard that comes from a higher source than humanity.
On the other side of the political spectrum, we find the same fatal flaw where dwell liberal zealots such as Bill Maher and his acolytes (oh the irony of that term used in conjunction with Maher). Maher decries religion and God, and therefore does not understand the indispensable connection between religion and a government of free people. Many liberals like Maher believe that substitutes—such as the evolution of human morality and the law—for religion and God work better in the governance of the people. In other words, marginalize or eliminate religion, pass enough laws, and release government as a force for good to fight injustice, and the human condition will improve. Bull excrement! (Which is what the likes of George Washington and Samuel Adams would say.)
Our founding fathers were genius. Certainly they had human flaws, but so did Steve Jobs. Don’t get me wrong, our founding fathers did not advocate for a theocracy. They understood that religion can’t be shoved down the throats of the people by their government. They understood that citizens must be free to exercise their conscience in the engagement of religion, or not. If citizens refuse, the country is more apt to crumble. And based on history, national crumbling can be abrupt or, more likely, a gradual decay.
So, is the church dropping the ball in American religious society, or is the average citizen dropping the ball by abandoning religion in pursuit of something shiny in pop-culture? Granted, the institution of the church, along with many other institutions, has earned the disillusion and mistrust of many. But fighting the battle for America in the political arena alone will not succeed. My fellow citizens will need to swallow their pride and return to religion, aka God and the church. We are fortunate in that the church in America has many styles and venues to choose from. There is something for just about everyone.
Our brilliant founding fathers understood these things. I wonder how brilliant we are. Are you listening, millennials? Now would be a good time to scale back your daily devotions with Twitter, start reading the Bible now and then, and explore religion and the church. Politics and economies will be a little easier to fix if you do because you’ll be more likely to have God’s support.
The acting is very good though there are few redeeming qualities about Frank and Claire. The series prompted some uncomfortable questions for this viewer, such as: What is the allure of watching the schemes of someone in high office who makes immoral decisions solely for the sake of selfish ambition? Perhaps the allure is the open display of crossing boundaries of decency that society has traditionally held in high regard. Maybe it is simply that we are fascinated by people who appear good yet are utterly pernicious. I started out liking Underwood because I thought he was a flawed person who would eventually do something noble. But like a classic tragedy, his character digs himself into an ever deeper hole while leaving a growing pile of human wreckage behind. I don’t know if I can bear to watch any more episodes. Hopefully our real-life elected officials do not rise to the level of evil personified by Underwood, but some probably come close.
Perhaps the series provides viewers with an addictive feeling of moral superiority (if so, Underwood is terrible benchmark) or confirmation that what we have occasionally suspected about some of our leaders might contain grains of tantalizing truth. The latter is a disturbing thought. Whatever the allure, House of Cards will not improve the public’s perception of our real political leaders.
All stories have just a few possible outcomes, such as: Evil prevails, good prevails, evil partially prevails, good things happen despite the evil, or a greater evil overcomes the evil. I wonder which outcome the writers for House of Cards will choose.
If you are thinking about watching House of Cards, be aware that it contains rough language and strong sexual content. Maybe I will skip to the last episode to find out if good prevails. Or maybe it is better not to know.
Christians get accused of trying to use the political process and laws to stop people from having fun and experiencing fulfilling lives. (Ironically, the political process is the definition of un-fun.) Many folks believe entertainment, fulfillment, jesting, and gaiety (just so there’s no jesting about gaiety) would mostly be eliminated from society if Christians had their way. The question Christians should ask is: Should we shove our values down the throats of adults who have little comprehension of all the spiritual and physical ramifications for immorality? Heck, I’m not certain most Christians understand all the ramifications. When it comes to sin, adults have freewill. We’ve had freewill since the Garden. (Of course some of the “fun” sins I’ve indulged as an adult fall into the category of childish . . . . which though ironic, won’t get me off the hook in God’s eyes.)
Some of the fun yet immoral things people enjoy clearly cause physical or psychological harm. The harmful effects of other fun activities prohibited in the Bible are not so clear and we take it on faith that God does not want people to indulge them because they harm us in some way. Granted, we have an obligation to prevent behavior that harms people and society, especially behavior that harms the most innocent and vulnerable among us. On some issues we need to take a hard stand. But again, we can only take it so far before freewill trumps our efforts to protect adults from harm.
Last year I got hooked on Duck Dynasty. It’s a TV show about a multi-generation family (the Robertson’s) who found financial success making duck calls for hunters. At first, the Robertson brothers, uncle, and father come across as a bit edgy with their long hair, beards, and Southern drawl. But as you watch more episodes, you become aware that these guys are just having a good time, despite conflicts and setbacks in life. The program shows how faith is a key component of their life.
Some Christians say that God doesn’t promise us happiness or fun times. I suppose there is fair amount of truth in that theological argument. On the other hand, I don’t recall God promising us nothing but suffering in this life. Sure, we will have problems, but we can often choose whether to have some fun along the way. The alternative is to become a dour bitter Christian who has no joy in life and takes delight in thwarting the joy and fun of others. Genuine Christians with a truly transformed heart don’t like to see people have fun in sinful ways because of the damage it causes. They love people so much that they hate to see them harmed.
Before you theologians point out that I don’t know the difference between joy and fun, let me just say that the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the demonstration of the ability to have fun can be a great testimony of the presence of deep joy in a Christian’s life. So don’t feel guilty about having fun. It is possible to have a great deal of fun without slipping into debauchery.
During an election year it is easy to weary of political analysts on television, political commercials, and lawn sings promoting candidates and causes. Personally, I’d rather have a plastic pink flamingo in my front yard than one of those candidate lawn signs.
Of course there are serious issues for God’s people to consider in preparation of voting in the upcoming election. Naturally, the economy is on the minds of most voters. Should we have an economy of confiscatory redistribution of wealth or one where ostensibly all boats rise on a rising sea of prosperity? Powerful political and economic forces vie for our votes in the hope of getting the type of economy that benefits their interests. What’s a Christian to do?
One problem is that we the people have a tendency to cast our votes based on a tremendous variety of self-interests or superficial evaluations of the candidates. Ideally, conscientious voters weigh the issues and policy positions of the various candidates and cast their votes using the wits they have, keeping in mind the best interests of the entire nation. As admirable as this approach might seem, it isn’t the end all for Christian voters. Why? For the answer let’s look at Hosea 8: 4. In this Scripture the prophet Hosea is listing things that the nation of Israel was doing that displeased God. Here is one item on that list:
“They set up kings without my consent;
they choose princes without my approval. . . .”
Fast forward to today. Do we even bother to ask the Lord who we should vote for, or do we simply choose based on our own understanding, experiences, and worldview? When I pray about voting I don’t expect God to speak through the rolling thunder the name of Romney or Obama. Nevertheless, God clearly takes an interest in the selection of leaders. He rightly expects to be included in the process.
Let’s also look at 1 Timothy 2: 1-3:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, . . .”
Did you catch that? It says to pray for “all those in authority.” That’s a tough imperative to follow. It rubs me the wrong way to pray for leaders I did not vote for, leaders who I find distasteful or who’s policies I loathe. But the Bible demands that I pray for them. It’s hard to do. But here’s the thing: God can use leaders who don’t come from my preferred political party, even leaders from a political philosophy at odds with Christian principles. Perhaps the church in America doesn’t pray sufficiently across the aisle for ALL leaders. This might explain the current loathsome state of affairs in American politics. So before you walk into the voting booth in a few days, take a moment to pray for God’s guidance and his blessing on our leaders.
I’ve known Christians who have no interests in politics whatsoever. While this approach is understandable, the verses above demonstrate that God expects us to take an active interest in the selection of the leaders who govern the nation where we live.
So how should we vote? Many Christian leaders encourage believers to vote for candidates with policies that most closely align with Biblical principles. This is good advice though it incorrectly assumes that most believers have studied the entire Bible with their hearts in a teachable disposition. Granted, the Bible is the best guide to a proper worldview, though it is most effective when we read it many times over the course of a lifetime. We must remember that it is also crucial to extend the reverent courtesy of asking for God’s direction with our vote. Sincerity is essential in our supplication to God for guidance. Don’t let television and radio ads sway you. Read about politics in newspapers and magazines on the right and the left. Don’t just read novels and popular fiction; read an occasional book in the genre of politics and current events from the perspective of the right and the left. Be informed but don’t worry too much about politics; ultimately it is God’s vote that prevails. He lifts up one leader and brings another down and he’s been doing it a long time. See you at the polls.
For those of you who don’t follow politics, I’d like to offer a crash course you might find helpful as we enter the political season. For those of you who don’t care about politics, you will because politics will impact your life, and not always in a positive way. In the interest of full-disclosure, I used to be a Republican zealot. I am currently registered as “decline to state,” which is sort of like living without a Facebook page; it’s a non-identity identity.
Basically there are two dominant political ideologies in America: conservatism and liberalism. Conservatism says the most people benefit in society when free-markets are allowed to flourish with limited government interference. Conservatives often believe our government is the source of a society’s woes through excessive regulation and taxation.
The weakness of conservatism is the tendency of human beings to slip from ambitious, hardworking, innovative and visionary to avarice. Eventually avarice gets out of control as people become more willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, even if it means gaming the system, breaking the law or exploiting others.
Now let’s look at liberalism (or “progressives” if you prefer the current politically correct euphemism). Liberalism believes a civilized and more equitable society is achieved through centralized government. It believes the government is the necessary, if not primary, redistributor of wealth, usually through taxation and government services. It believes the government is the go-to entity to ensure fairness. Liberals often believe the society’s woes are the fault of greedy corporations and the wealthy who take advantage of the little guy.
The weakness of liberalism is the tendency of people to become sloth and rely more on the government, thus overburdening taxpayers. With good intentions, it tends to give dangerous amounts of power to the government.
I now understand that too many leaders (generally speaking) at the top these two political ideologies are in bed together (figuratively, I hope), and both sides are plundering the government and exploiting their access to financial markets. For instance, Newt Gingrich, a staunch conservative and decrier of big government, was recently discovered to have received generous fees from Freddie Mac (a quasi-governmental mortgage lender) for consulting services. Nancy Pelosi, a liberal decrier of greedy corporations, recently came under fire for allegedly taking advantage of an insider trading exemption available to members of Congress so that she could use information gleaned on the job to increase her investment earnings. In other words, both of these “ideologue’s” have been accused of using elements of the system they loath for personal gain. These two incidents of double standards were not the sole reason for my epiphany that our political and economic woes can’t be solved by a political ideology alone. I came to that conclusion gradually and as a result of reading books and articles about contemporary politics in America. Every American, despite his or her political ideology, needs to understand things like patronage, no-bid contracts, cronyism, pay for play, malfeasance, special favors and the like. And every American needs to be willing to confront these evil things even when it is someone in your preferred political party engaging in these unsavory practices. We can no longer allow myside bias to blind us.
I still believe some form of capitalism holds the greatest potential to benefit the most people in our society. But our problems, currently, cannot be solved by the policies of a political ideology alone. Here is why:
Proverbs 28:2 (NLT) says, “When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.”
Before you nod in agreement I’d like you to consider the possibility that this passage might not be focusing just on the moral rot we usually think of, such as: hyper and debase expressions of sexuality, divorce, illegal drugs, f-bombs in discourse, vulgar movies and substance abuse. These are bad and hurt our humanity, yes. But when I read through the book of Proverbs, I see quite a few passages like this:
Proverbs 20:23 (NLT) says, “The Lord detests double standards; he is not pleased by dishonest scales.”
Dishonest scales are a symbol of the way we do business with others. It might also include simple friendships where one person constantly gets more than he or she gives. The moral rot will continue to worsen in America until people have the epiphany that our fiscal health is not related to political policies as much as it is related to our morality.
For more information on the subject of “myside bias” read “I Was Wrong, and So Are You” at: