The Politics of Fear & Overcoming the World

When people are afraid they try to make sense of what they are experiencing. In those moments, the narratives we have ingrained in us come right to the front. The Boston bombers are a great example of this. Some immediately jumped on this news that these guys must be white right-wing wacko’s. Why? Not because that is what anyone knew that to be fact but because that fits some people’s agenda. It fits their narrative so they just made it up. When fear is present agendas become most obvious because fear is a great interrogator…it gets us talking and spilling our guts over our thoughts, values and preconceived ideas and puts them out there for all to see and hear.

Fear’s use in politics
This happens in politics all the time. You can’t have a good political speech without one of two things behind you. You either need a dozen American flags or else you need all sorts of people used as window dressing behind you. You don’t get placed behind the President or prominent politician on accident. The people who are placed there are very carefully selected. They are carefully selected because they are used to communicate something. If they are pressing for gun control, they put victims on the stage. If they want to talk education, they put some kids on the stage or the latest spelling bee champion. If it is about social security they put some elderly Americans up there. Here is the message – if we don’t do something BIG right now these people you see up here are going to get hurt (whether it is true or not, who knows). If you don’t support this then you don’t support those on the stage. You must be heartless.

Now here is what is important…It doesn’t matter if the bill they are pushing would actually would work or if they have their numbers right on the actual cost. All that matters is that they look like they care. That’s it. And fear is used all the time to promote change because you can get people to accept things they might otherwise never even consider when they are afraid. It is easier to hand over freedom to someone who you think will protect you when you are afraid. You can convince people of things that don’t even make any sense when they are afraid. You hear that in this quote from Rahm Emanuel (who would become President Obama’s Chief of Staff) in talking about the financial crisis in 2008 (more info on this quote),

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

That is the politics of fear described very eloquently. That is using fear as leverage for the change that might not have a chance otherwise. Republicans and Democrats both do it. This is not about roasting one side and ignoring the other. Both sides should be ashamed of that but it is easy to understand why they do it…it is highly effective.

The good news
Now, here is the good news. God doesn’t want His people to be people who lived terrified lives. Compare this quote from 1 John 4:18 against the Emanuel quote above,

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

God’s love overcomes all fear because through Christ God took on fear and overcame. Fear was challenged in the Garden when Jesus prayed and fear was ultimately defeated when the tomb was found empty. When Jesus stands there and makes his appeal to us he doesn’t need flags behind him. He doesn’t need a crowd of people to make his point. Jesus can stand in front of the empty tomb and command, “Fear not” because the worst thing the world can do to you is send you to be with Jesus. Don’t let people sway you or push around your resolve with fear because God’s team wins. So be strong and courageous and do not be afraid.

Government Spending and Fairytale Land

In case you are wondering, this is not the next post on legalism…just a mini-rant 🙂

Only in the U.S. government can deficit reduction means you are just borrowing less. The President claims his new budget will cut the deficit by a trillion dollars. What that means is that we will go from $16 trillion to $20 trillion instead of $22 trillion in debt so we are “cutting our debt”. No we aren’t…we are taking on MORE debt. Cutting the increase is a cut? Welcome to fairytale land.

Only in the U.S. government can we fail to even vote on budgets for over four years (when it is mandated by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974). In a time when we are running massive, trillion dollar+ deficits we don’t even have a budget. Instead, we just pass appropriation bills (which is basically just a % spending increase across the board).

Only in the U.S. government can an increase be called a cut. It goes like this. If the Department of Agriculture asks for a 7% increase in spending for next year and instead they get a 2% increase, they cry bloody murder because they got their “spending cut”. Huh? A 2% increase is an increase, not a cut.

Welcome to politics, where the rules that apply to the other 300 million don’t apply. I really think people are sick of both parties. They both do everything they said they would never do. Republicans have agreed to tax increases when they said they wouldn’t. Thanks. Democrats are proposing cuts to Social Security, which they said they wouldn’t do. Thanks. With as little brand loyalty as young people have today and as much disinterest they have in the whole system it makes me think our government will look completely different in 20 years.

Sorry, just had to vent 🙂 I am so glad that my Lord’s kingdom is not of the world and that whatever is redeemable in Washington will get redeemed too.

Scot McKnight’s Take on the Louie Giglio Inauguration Prayer Situation

First, if you don’t read Scot McKnight’s blog (much less his books) you really should give it a try. Second, his take on Louie Giglio’s backing out of the Inauguration Day prayer is extremely insightful. For those who aren’t up to speed on this. Giglio was asked to pray at the inauguration. Once he was selected a LGBT group dug around a bit and came up with a sermon from the 1990s where he made a few comments against the homosexual lifestyle and its impact on our society.

Here is an excerpt from Scot McKnight on stickiness of the Gospel, politics & political parties,

This is what happens when you enter the political forum. When you enter politics you risk sullying the gospel. In DC everything is political. Who speaks, who stands where, who gets to be in the parameters of the photos, who speaks when and when one speaks where… To agree to the political space is to agree with the politics. It was noble of you to back off; it was good to say “This isn’t worth it to the gospel.” But who could have been surprised that the caucus for same-sex marriage would find Louie objectionable? Rick Warren experienced this four years back. The debate has increased, not decreased.

There were two approaches left once the opposition’s rhetoric got going: back down, which Giglio did, or endure it, which Warren did.

Neither approach is worth it. If you don’t agree up and down the platform of the Democrats, don’t pray on their platform. Evangelicals will give anything to get some power back, or to be seen with power, to be the leader of the nation. That’s not our job, friends.

Thoughts?

Randy Alcorn’s take [HT Tyler Ellis]

Joe Biden Says President Obama May Use Executive Order to Clamp Down on Guns

Here is what the vice president said,

“The president is going to act…There are executives orders, there’s executive action that can be taken….As the president said, if you’re actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking. But I’m convinced we can affect the well-being of millions of Americans and take thousands of people out of harm’s way if we act responsibly.” (source)

There are two numbers you need to know that show very clearly how all this talk is just political agendas trying to be enforced and not about real life, real solutions, or protecting innocent people from harm:

In 2008 there were 10,866 murders committed with a firearm. That is certainly a lot of people and is tragic. But also consider the number of times law abiding citizens use a firearm for protection annually runs between 1-1.5 million.

You may wonder why I have posted several things related to firearms lately. I do this because I am a peacekeeper. I do this because I reserve the right to protect my family. I do this because the innocent & law abiders need to be protected and the law breakers punished, not the other way around. My concern is that we have that last statement backwards. We are protecting the law breakers and punishing the innocent when we legislate away people’s ability to defend themselves from violent criminals. I hope the president is prayerful on this one and considerate of all the lives that could be lost annually but are not due to the firearms that are legally owned and legally used in self defense.

Thoughts on Obama’s Re-election from a Guy Who Voted for Romney

Here is what I hope Obama is able to do in the next four years:

  • Protect the rights of the unborn
  • Decrease the deficit
  • Balance the budget – I can dream, can’t I? Before you can balance the budget, you have to have a budget. We haven’t had a budget in what, 3 years?
  • Have strong foreign policy that is in tune with what is happening in the Middle East including Syria, Egypt, Iran and Israel
  • Cross the aisle and stop using words like revenge to talk about Republicans. He needs to stop building walls and start tearing them down. If we are really all in this together, act like it.
  • Reduce unemployment – we are still hovering around 8%. That means there are a lot of hurting people out there and more who have just given up looking for work.
  • Utilize our own natural resources and decrease dependence on foreign energy
  • Undo Obamacare (again…dreaming here). Healthcare is not going to be free…these costs to small businesses are going to get taken right back out of people’s paychecks. People will feel this pinch and employers are going to lay people off.
  • Get some traction on our immigration issues (campaign promises back to 2008 that have still gone unaddressed)
  • Do a complete audit of the federal government and cut the waste.
  • Protect social security and medicare. The benefits that have been promised must be delivered. If we can’t deliver, stop collecting those taxes off the payroll. At least be honest about how that money is actually spent and borrowed to be used on other things and never paid back.
  • Stop being more interested in being a Democrat/Republican and start being an American. That means put politics aside and speak the truth, even when it hurts your party.

And I am done…no more on this from me here on the blog.

The Financial Dilemma America Faces That No One is Willing to Solve – Let’s Do Some Math

Here are some numbers to consider that are mind boggling. It is important that you are aware of these numbers:

  • Our government borrows roughly 40 cents of every dollar it spends (Politifact)
  • In 2012 the government will take in about $2.17 trillion in tax revenue and spend $3.82 trillion – the difference is roughly 43%. That 43%  is the deficit for that year. So put in smaller terms, of every dollar we spend, we have to borrow between 39-43 cents to spend it.
  • Last November I posted this article (Eye Popping numbers Regarding our National Debt) that lays out how much we owe (now $16 trillion, how fast it has grown (nearly doubled in 3 years) and how much interest we pay on that debt annually – nearly half a trillion dollars in interest ANNUALLY! Agh!

Any of you who have ever made a budget know there are two ways to cut your debt. You have to either make more money (raise taxes) or cut your spending. Let’s say we cut 50% of our spending (from 3.82 trillion that would get us down to $1.91 trillion in government spending)…if we maintained our current tax revenues ($2.17) that is a surplus of $200 billion. Remember, the interest in our debt alone is just under $500 billion per year because even though we would be starting to pay it back we are still trying to pay off $16 trillion at $200 billion/year while the interest is $500 billion. That is like the interest on your credit card being $500/year and you are only going to pay $200 per year on it. Is your debt going to go down? Nope. That means we either have to make further cuts (basically impossible beyond the 50% haircut outlined above) or else use the other tool at the disposal, raise taxes to cover the $300 billion in interest we would be short each year. So let’s say you raise taxes by $1 trillion annually. Crazy…but let’s throw it out there. After the $300 billion in interest annually is covered, we would have $700 billion left over to pay on the debt. Let’s do the math $16 trillion/$700 billion = 23 years to pay off our debt.

That result is only based on these assumptions mentioned above:

  • 50% spending cut of all federal spending (have you ever seen the government cut any spending? Never going to happen)
  • Increase taxes $1 trillion (close loopholes, raise rates, etc)
  • 23 years to pay it back = the year 2035

We have to dig out of this hole and if we don’t start digging we aren’t going to make it. Additionally, someone has to make these tough decisions and no one wants to do it because both sides of the aisle or more interested in re-election and maintaining their power and influence than they are actually solving problems. This is very disturbing and it is time we get people in office across the board who will get something done.

The solution is also poisonous
Finally, here is the scary kicker. For the government to meet the above assumptions about cuts and tax raises would almost certainly tip us back into recession. The government makes up a decent percentage of our economy because as the government spends business here and abroad are the recipients of that money for their services. I haven’t been able to track down that number (this site says 28% but I don’t think it is that high). Our economy is growing at 2-3% per year right now but without the government spending that number would go negative (equals recession). So if you don’t cut anything and keep going like we are, our debt goes crazy and even the interest will be crushing (not to mention paying back a dime) and if we try to solve it our economy will go in the tank as it is relying on all that government spending and stimulus to stay on a level footing and not dip back into recession or depression. So who wants to pull the trigger?

Have a read of this article from the Washington Post today that says when governments start raising taxes and cutting spending, the damage done is even worse than they thought – IMF: Austerity is much worse for the economy than we thought

Here is an excerpt that has to do with what has been stated above, “Recent efforts among wealthy countries to shrink their deficits — through tax hikes and spending cuts — have been causing far more economic damage than experts had assumed.”

Last – remember, there are more ways to raise revenues than increase tax rates (which Jerry mentioned in the comments that even that can be counterproductive). If you can give businesses room to grow they will produce more tax revenue but we have been regulating them more than ever and being unpredictable with what the governments next  big move will be (think health care, stimulus, fiscal cliff…etc).

Defeater Beliefs in Politics – How To Change the Perceptions of a Nation

Defeater beliefs are beliefs someone holds that make other beliefs impossible. Tim Keller defines defeater beliefs like this, “A defeater belief is Belief-A, that if true, means Belief-B can’t be true.” (Tim Keller, Deconstructing Defeater Beliefs). Politicians use this to their advantage all of the time. In the political realm it goes like this, “If Candidate A holds to Belief X, Y or Z then you cannot Vote for them.” Here are some examples.

  1. Racist – If a candidate is a racist there is no way someone will want to vote for them. It doesn’t matter what else that person believes or if they overlap your views by 99.9%. If they are a racist you cannot bring yourself to vote for them.
  2. Sexist – You cannot vote for a sexist. If you believe someone doesn’t value women or women’s rights then you can’t bring yourself to vote for them.
  3. Murderer – You cannot vote for a murderer (some exceptions to this, right?). Show the candidate is a murderer and no matter what else they stand for you can’t vote for them.
  4. Failure – You cannot vote for a failure. We reward success and don’t want a failure in office.
  5. Wrong direction – You cannot vote for someone who wants to take the country backwards. You want a guy who can take you in the right direction.

There are more (homophobia comes to mind) but you see this at work in today’s political arena. You see it on both sides of the aisle. Joe Biden tells Blacks that Mitt Romney wants to put you back in chains (Defeater belief #1 above). Democratic commercials tell you Romney wants to end all abortion (see this ad) and set women back (even though Romney has gone on record stating otherwise the ads still run) – See #2. Romney has been painted as a murderer due to some crazy ridiculous loopy reasoning you can read more about here. Why run that ad? Because you can’t vote for a heartless murderer – #3. You see the last two in the conventions? How many times did you hear the word “success” (#4 above) in the Republican convention? How many times did you hear the words “Forward” and “Backward” at the DNC? (#5)

Politicians on both sides know how to throw fuel on this and it doesn’t even matter if it is the truth. It is a game of shaping the perceptions of the nation. Many of these things are proven untrue but who cares. Romney doesn’t really want to shackle Blacks does he? Well no, but let’s toss it out there because it paints him with the brush/narrative of the kind of intolerance we can’t have around here. A guy isn’t racist or a murderer or sexist but let’s tell people he is. Another guy isn’t a failure but we will talk like he is or he really doesn’t want to go backwards but that is our story. Or our guy isn’t really a success but we will talk like he is. I am not picking sides when I say any of that…I am just talking about the way this thing works. It works on your mind and on your heart and has a direct impact on how you vote. Most people vote based more on their perception of a candidate (often as painted through a million less than truthful ads – on both sides) than on the issues and those perceptions are colored by these defeater beliefs.

There are exceptions, of course but if you can’t get more people to think the “other guy” is one of those five things than he can get them to think about you then you have it in the bag.

The Real Face of Abortion…What Would It Take to Change Your Mind?

I have wrestled with whether or not to post this. Just a warning…this is not for the faint of heart. All I ask is that the comments not get into political wrangling but stick with what is really going on here.

Last week I saw something I hadn’t ever seen before. I saw a picture of an aborted baby. It was graphic. It was gruesome. It was bloody. It was sickening. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Is this really what is going on? I went to google images and typed in “aborted baby” and hundreds of equally disgusting pictures filled my screen. There were pictures of dead babies next to tubs of bloody water. Tiny dead babies that could fit in your hand. Big babies that looked like they were asleep in a pool of blood…almost like they would have been just fine if someone hadn’t killed them. It was too much to handle. I hesitate to write this here. It is nasty but it is real and it happens every single day.

How can we create a society that can advocate and support for more of what I saw in those pictures? The answer is easy. You create a new reality for people that they can more palatably buy into. Here is how you do that…

Change the language
Language is powerful. Language shapes the way we view things. The media and politicians know this very well. That is why the debate is about “Woman’s rights” and not about “The Right to kill unwanted babies”. The first makes a better bumper sticker than the second. The first sounds better on the evening news than the second. As I looked at those pictures there was one word that I kept hearing over and over. It wasn’t “Choice” or “Rights”. It was the word “NO!” How can you see that and say “YES!” with big smiles on our faces like we are the champion of someone’s rights and we are demonstrating how progressive we are by killing the innocent and helpless? We have sterilized our language and we have pushed the graphic truth of what is happening behind closed doors (the next point on the list). It is tempting to say I saw pictures of “abortions” because that sterilizes things or maybe we call it a picture of an “aborted fetus” because fetuses don’t really sound human. If I say “fetus” it all sounds like it is no big deal, no harm done, right? But if I say I saw a dead baby it might almost make you feel sick or at least deeply saddened. People don’t support things that make them sad so put a happy face on it by turning the issue from killing babies to rights and choices of real women who have real struggles themselves.

Put it out of sight
We condone this sort of thing because we put it out of sight. You will never see the images on the news or in a political ad because it is too disturbing to even look at. Yet we condone it?  If someone walked up to you on the street and said they just saw a dead baby or a pile of dead babies in a dumpster down the street you would be scared. You would call the police. When bodies of dead babies are in public it is gruesome. It would bring you to your knees in tears. So we push it behind closed doors where no one has to see because if you did, you wouldn’t ever want another baby to go through that ever again and the agenda would be DOA. How can something be too disturbing for the general public to see and yet accepted and legitimized and repeated tens of millions of times?

What we celebrate and punish
But it gets worse. There is a gross distortion of reality in this discussion that goes beyond language and space. You can see it by the discrepancy of what we celebrate and what we punish. Kill a baby outside the womb…even just one…and you can get the death penalty or life in prison. You destroyed a life and you deserve to be punished severely. We can’t let people go around destroying life now can we? Heaven forbid if it was a mother who killed her own baby. Society would treat her as if she was less than human and her civil rights are removed as she goes to jail as a monster who killed her own baby. Her face would be all over TV. But have a “standard medical procedure” by a skilled doctor who kills them in the womb and then delivers the dead baby and it is just a doctor helping a woman exercise her rights. She isn’t a monster. It is just being pro-choice. Same baby, same thing done…one is murder and one is just “an abortion” performed on a “fetus”. Carry on…nothing to see here. But there is something to see here. It is gross. It is brutal. It is happening every day all around us behind closed doors. In fact, it has happened over 50 million times since Roe vs. Wade. Sorry to say this but can you imagine how large a pile of dead babies that would be?

What does and doesn’t disturb our society
That sounds terrible but it is reality. We have gotten to the point we are at because people don’t want to talk straight about what is going on here. I can understand why. These things are not easy to talk about. It is all very disturbing…but to some it isn’t disturbing in the least and that is what bothers me the most. What distrubs some more than the killing of babies is that some wouldn’t support a woman’s right to choose. They support killing babies but don’t support abortion and you are a monster who lives in a cave.

You have probably seen countless discussions about abortion on television and the internet. What would you think if in the middle of one of those live broadcasts someone said, “I have brought a few pictures of aborted babies with me. We are going to put those up on the screen for everyone at home to see.” Someone there would stop them. They wouldn’t let that be shown. That is too nasty, too grusome. Too terrifying to show people that. But it is reality. Which is worse…killing 50 million babies or showing a few of their pictures on TV. Why is it that showing pictures of it is too terrible to do but actually killing the babies is no big deal? One would be allowed and praised but the other wouldn’t be proper for television.

Two classes of babies
The gross distortion of reality goes beyond what we celebrate and what we punish. It is also evident by the way we treat these two classes of babies based on where they die. If they die postpartum they have a funeral. If they were murdered, the baby murderer is a monster and their face is splashed all over TV. Meanwhile, aborted babies are treated like garbage. Their bodies are often incinerated as medical waste. Brutal. Nasty. Happens all the time.

What would it take to change your desire from a woman’s right to chose to saving real babies?
So here is the deal…logic and political posturing won’t change people’s minds on this. What is going to change your mind is experience. Since I can’t walk you into the room where an abortion is performed and see the dead baby be delivered and incinerated you aren’t going to get the full  experience. But there is one way to see the real face of abortion. Go to google images and search for “aborted babies.” As you look at those pictures see what words come to mind? Do you hear the words “Choice” and “Rights” or “No, no, no!” What are you going to do about that?

I wish there wasn’t even a need for a post like this but after seeing what I saw I feel the burden of helping others put a real face on this…or, sadly, 50 million faces. I know there are strong opinions on things like this. Even if you disagree with me I hope you really read through this post and considered what is really going on here and not just form your opinions based on whitewashed versions that are meant to distort our sense of what this is really all about.

Conversation on President Obama, Gay Marriage and Christianity (Part 3)

This is the third and final part. I would love to hear your thoughts after reading all three.

Matt: Christianity struggles with extremes. There have been voices that have said Christians should have everything to do with politics and other voices who say Christians should have nothing to do with politics. Is there a healthy balance where we can land? I think that balance starts with saying that we can’t rely on political processes to be the leverage we use to impact the world with our faith. We cannot depend on politicians to be our voice or our power and strength. I fear we have often put politicians into some roles and given them some expectations that should have been reserved for God and the Holy Spirit.

Politics is not the priority in the life of a Christian. When we have faith in God it will certainly be expressed in how we view the political process, how we vote, what issues are important to us and which issues won’t make any difference to us. We have to get below the surface to the spiritual reality of our lives and how our actions and attitudes toward politics, legislation, etc either uphold a Christian worldview or they do not and adjust accordingly. I love how Jesus takes specific actions in the sermon on the mount and digs below it all to the spiritual reality of what God is really after. God wants our hearts. Have we given our hearts to another and does our reaction to all these things show us where our heart really is? Too often I am afraid we have co-opted and syncretized our faith with the world in a way that makes Christians unrecognizable from the world. We can’t let that happen.

On a side note, I don’t see why granting “partners” visitation rights has to be tied to marriage. Is there a good explanation out there of why the two must be tied together?

Philip: I pretty well agree with all you said there.

As for your question, that’s where my knowledge gets hazy.  But it’s always struck me that the only difference between a civil union and marriage is semantics.  And there is a growing sentiment in the LGBT community to call their relationships by the name that opposite-sex couples call their relationships:  marriage.

Imagine for a moment a bizzaro world (this is a stretch, but play along) where our country banned marriage for cannibals.  No one who openly eats human flesh is allowed to gain a marriage license.  ALSO- guess what:  Christians who partake in the Lord’s Supper are classified as cannibals.  So we can no longer get married.  But, hey, here you go:  you’re allowed to have a Civil Union.  BTW, that’s the case in only 18 states — in 30 of them you can’t even have a civil union.  So you’ve got that going for you.  But no matter what you can’t call it marriage.

To us, that would seem like a very strange way to prevent a group of people from enjoying all the civil benefits of marriage that a large swath of the rest of society enjoys when they pledge themselves to someone.  Much less being able to express socially that you are married to someone.  And having your government — which is supposed to represent you (“a government of the people, by the people, and for the people”) — acknowledge that as well.

So I think that’s the essence of the yearning that the LGBT community has.

Matt: I have a feeling the transubstantiation crowd would flex a little in order to retain their rights to marry 🙂 I also think that many would view themselves as married in God’s sight (after going through the traditional Christian process) apart from what the government had to say about it all. There is the whole point though, right? Do we care what the government does and doesn’t say about all of this?

Philip: The LGBT community cares, yes.  Especially when it comes to civil issues related to marriage.

I don’t like being put in a position of defending their views.  I don’t want to fall into the trap that political moderates (like myself… since I am one) often stumble into.  Someone takes a side, so they (I) sense imbalance.  So as to restore their (my) sense of balance the moderate takes the other side.

Over and above the political intricacies of rights in gay marriage — or legal considerations of state amendments vs. a federal law — I’m way more interested in how the Church responds to the shifting dynamics at play.  Because I’m convinced that the bi-polar status quo of either wholesale resentment of & political activism against anything homosexual (on one side) or wholesale embrace of homosexuality & consideration as a legitimate, God-accepted choice for consenting adults (on the other side) is wrong.  So what is the way forward for the Church?

Matt: You saw right through my trap 😉 How does the church respond? We could write a whole book on that one and not cover it. In my opinion here is the key…the problem we have had in the past is that somehow Christians have thought that certain issues were serious enough that they could leave every single one of the fruits of the Spirit at the door when discussing them with others. If we embrace those fruits as we enter into these conversations we can have a healthier dialog with those we disagree with.

Related links:
Did Obama Change the Nation’s Mind on Gay Marriage
How Obama Moves the Needle on Gay Marriage

Conversation on President Obama, Gay Marriage and Christianity (Part 2)

Matt: Great thoughts. I had thought about Rex’s posts as well when you mentioned the culture war. Part of our problem is that so many of us have nothing better to do for the kingdom than rail against stuff like this. If we were as actively engaged in kingdom work as Paul was we might not even have time to be talking about these things because there would be more pressing personal and spiritual issues we were dealing with locally.

There are several issues here that have to be pulled apart:

First is Obama, as a Christian, openly embracing homosexuality and gay marriage. It seems technology has trumped Matthew 18 when it comes to a dispute among brothers. When Jesus talked about resolving issues among brothers he really did mean go to that brother. He did not say smash people you don’t know from afar. He didn’t say blog about it and air your dirty laundry first and maybe then say something to them later if you have a chance. He said go to them and trying to make things right. President Obama is a Christian. I am allowing him to define himself rather than get into all of the ins and outs of that here. If we take that seriously it would mean someone really should personally and privately go to him and talk to him about on homosexuality and gay marriage. Based on his recent comments he personally believes the lifestyle is morally acceptable and should be on level with marriage among heterosexuals. That is problematic as far as how that meshes with his faith. It does not seem that he is taking the stance that he doesn’t believe homosexuality is right but he is just trying to stay out of the way of legislating what people do in their own lives. He said this is his own personal view.

Second, how do we as Christians feel the political process and legislation play a role in the lives of controlling behavior of Christians and non-Christians in this country? That, to me, is the trickier question and I am still trying to figure that one out. I would be curious to hear more of your thoughts in regard to the first point and the second.

Third, is there a place for a prophetic voice out there in all of this? It seems the voice of the prophet would be shut out today in the name of not offending people. Imagine someone today taking Isaiah’s approach of preaching naked to show how shameful it all is. Someone would call Christians nuts if someone did that. It happened in the Bible…although it was done in Israel/Judah (insiders who should have known better) and not in the streets of Babylon (outsiders to faith). I am not sure how to balance all of that out but I think it is a valid question that I really hear people avoiding more than anything else. Thoughts?

Fourth, it is interesting to read the trial and crucifixion of Jesus and Paul’s trials and see what approach these guys took in dealing with the authorities of their day. Paul deals with Festus and Agrippa differently based on their own background as insider and outsider to Judaism/Christianity. I need to read through some of that again but it might help us to see how they dealt with these things and what their priorities were so we can further define our own rather than letting contemporary culture and politics do it for us by default.

Philip: It’s a good point about the President being a Christian.  But the President is not the first person to call himself a Christian & welcome homosexual marriage.  I’d contend that there are people of greater influence in circles of faith who are promoting the moral acceptability of this lifestyle.

Your second question is one I’m very anxious about for the Church.  And more specifically:  is the Church allowing political calculators & political actors to announce what our moral priorities are or are not?  And I think the answer is a resounding yes.  Look through history of our country we find that the church has a terrible record of being swept up into the spirit of it’s age.  During the Civil War pulpits across the land moralized based on where they were located:  north or south. (HT: Harry Stouthttp://www.amazon.com/Upon-Altar-Nation-Moral-History/dp/B005MWL7HG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337265012&sr=8-1)  Our pulpits moralized over the evils of alcohol leading up to Prohibition & had no idea about the devastating unintended consequences that would result.  Pulpits in the south were terribly slow to confront racism & even used passages like Ezra 9 to defend segregation.

WHO exactly were we allowing to lead us around???  Honestly!  Who are we allowing to lead us around today?  For Kingdom people who are on the left AND on the right?  If we receive our moral marching orders from either David Plouffe or Karl Rove, then we really are the useful idiots that the Evangelical Manifesto said we were 4 years ago.

If we’re seeking a prophetic voice for this country on homosexuality then I think we’ve mistaken our priorities & venerated “Christian society” ahead of Kingdom-building.  Prophets are always aimed at God’s people who have gone wayward.  Are we going to persist in holding on to this notion that the U.S. is new Israel?

Again- we don’t see Paul, a Roman citizen, aiming a prophetic voice at the Empire to turn from their godless values.  And just think historically for a moment:  how short-sighted would that have been?  For Paul to aim his energy and his talents at trying to turn around Rome?  Thank God that Paul was led by the Spirit to have larger priorities.

I think the prophets that the Church needs are prophets that the Church already has.  Like Shane Claiborne who invites the Church to come out from partisanship in “Jesus for President.”  And like Derek Webb who proclaims that he’s never seen a Savior on Capitol Hill.  I wish the Church had ears to hear those prophets.

But I think we still stubbornly hold on to this idea that we can create Christian Utopia here today.  If we just pass the right laws & have just the right leadership we can usher in an age of vibrant faith.  Or at the very least “keep God on our good side.”  And I think political calculators & political actors exploit that misplaced hope and/or potential fear of America getting on God’s bad side.

I think the Church desperately needs to take back her moral voice from the political influences that have tarnished it historically.  As you can probably tell I feel pretty strongly about this.

Matt: Much of the angst you are expressing was summed up extremely well in a book that has just come out called “A Faith of Our Own” by Jonathan Merritt. I reviewed it and did a Q & A with Jonathan about his book.

https://mattdabbs.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/faith-of-our-own-author-jonathan-merritt/

https://mattdabbs.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/a-faith-of-our-own-following-jesus-beyond-the-culture-wars-by-jonathan-merritt/

You basically summed up his book in a few paragraphs. I will quote one paragraph from my review just to give you an idea,

“Jonathan believes Christianity has bought into the game of politics hook, line and sinker rather than mapping out a more biblical approach to how Christians engage their lives in what really matters. Merritt argues that for far too long Christians have allowed the political parties to use us as a voting block to move their agendas through while we mistook our partnership with politicians as a means to advance and engage in God’s mission. His contention in this book is that our identity as Christians must shape our politics and not the other way around. He also believes that our identity as Christians overcomes the dividing lines between parties as the commonality we find in Christ can bring those who disagree on the issues together worshipping the same God.”

As far as the prophetic voice goes, prophets didn’t focus on just one thing or the other all the time. They gave air time to many issues that were causing God’s people to be far from him (idolatry, mistreatment of the poor, etc). You know the list. The loudest Christian voices out there today have three major problems in dealing with issues like this:

1 – They don’t do it in love.

2 – They target the wrong audience (in scripture the target of rebuke was God’s people nine times out of ten, not the world…there are notable exceptions)

3 – They harp on the same one or two issues (homosexuality and abortion) and give no air time to anything else.

We all need to be reminded that speaking on God’s behalf is a dangerous thing. So many people take it so lightly. In Deuteronomy 18:20 here is what God told Moses about those who say they speak in God’s name things God has not commanded,

” But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” ”

That is pretty serious business!

Philip: Wise words.  And on that note I think you’ve nearly brought this conversation in for a landing.  Any prophetic voice needs to be motivated by love.  Not bigotry, or discomfort, or fear — but love.  And that’s what our reputation needs to be.  According to Jesus we are supposed to be known by our love (Jn. 13:35).  And when you look at our rep in the world today it seems like it’s anything but.  We’ve got some work to do.

I don’t know whether or not our country should allow same-sex marriage.  There are so many issues (from hospital visitation rights to taxes; to national standards of morality) that I have a difficult time saying exactly what the right thing to do is.  If each one of us were Emperor who knows what would be the right thing to do.  Maybe there’s some among us who would want to, like the President, apply the Golden Rule.  I know there’s plenty among us who want to stand on the side of the Biblical definition of marriage.

But the hard truth to face (for some among us) is that none of us is Emperor of America.  So how do we Christians proceed?  I think we’d do well to be agents of love in the world.  Who knows– we might even win over a few members of the LGBT community.  Wouldn’t that be a thrill?  I pray for that.