Friday, August 20, 2010

Critiquing the American Church Part 1. The Kingdom of God VS. the Kingdom of Man.

This post is dedicated to my brother, Dan Hay. Dan was the main facilitator for the Focus of a Warrior group that I participated in. This group of guys met for over year studying scripture, praying, seeking God and holding & lifting each other along the way. As a result, we know each other in ways that others do not and will not. Dan's heart burns for Jesus. As such, I trust him more than I would a person who might agree with me %100 of the time, but does not have that zealous love for Christ. Our relationship with Jesus is deeper and more important than temporal things, and that is the point of this post.

For some time now, I have been thinking about taking a shot at critiquing some of the main areas of shortcomings that I see in the American church. (So yes, my biases WILL definitely be on display.) Dan & I got into a discussion about Reagan, Republicans and modern American politics the other day. So I thought that this gave me the opportunity to go with one of my biggest frustrations, "Mixing Jesus with secular politics." So here goes.

I'll state at the outset that this was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Mostly, this is in reference to trying to keep this post readable and not just another long screed. I will also state up front, that my ultimate contention is that God's kingdom trumps America, American politics...and that of any other country's too, but that while we might say that we agree with that, the way we live shows that we really don't believe it.

My Journey: (You know I'm all about context, Dan.)
Just so you know where I have come from, I'll say that for the vast majority of my life I have voted Republican. I have only missed one election in my entire life, and that was a minor one dealing only with local, city issues. That having been said, I have become extremely disillusioned with politics thanks largely to this past Bush administration, and because of the extremely nasty tone I now see on display.

FACT: Republicans claim to be "Conservative," i.e. Limited government and lower taxes. Yet, from 2001-2007, while they had a complete lock on power, they caused the size of government to grow larger than any since the Johnson & Nixon administrations...and all the while, cutting taxes. (You can guess the obvious result of something like that.) You don't have to like that fact, but it simply is beyond dispute. <---- Take a look if you don't believe me.

(Never mind the extremely questionable...and outrageously expensive, war in Iraq. I'll just stick to the domestic stuff.)

I knew that Obama was going to win the Presidential election, and I was OK with that. I still voted for John McCain. But I was absolutely shocked at the screaming and howling that came out in the public square with in a month of the election. The very people that sunk us into a massively bloated federal government and debt, now began to scream about this new administration and all of it's so-called "Socialist/Marxist" goals. I kept thinking to myself, "Where were you guys for the last 8 years? Oh yeah, you guys were the ones sticking it to us. And now you want to blame someone else. Shoot, if you want socialism, then we should have given Bush a third term." I simply do not and will not trust anyone, any group, any whatever, that won't take responsibility for their own actions. And what we are currently seeing on display is nothing more than politicians playing the game in hopes of winning back their power by exploiting gullible sheep...I mean, Voters. (Oops.)

(At any rate, that's my perspective in a nut shell. Obviously there is a lot more that could be said. But I figure I should keep this readable, and not as long as a Tolstoy novel.)

Nasty Habits: (The new language of the airwaves)
Q: What kind of language does the Bible insist that Christians are supposed to use...especially towards out fellow Believers?

I read in the Star/Tribune newspaper yesterday that 1 out of 5 Republicans think President Obama is a Muslim.
It's not for me to judge another person's heart, but since I have read his testimony, I would hazard a guess that Obama loves Jesus. <--- Feel free to read it yourself.

Calling a fellow Believer a Socialist/Marxist/Nazi who is also the Anti-Christ, and hates America, white people...and puppies, is not something that I think should becoming out of the mouth of someone who says that they love Jesus.

Much of what passes for political discussions these days is nothing more than venomous nonsense in search of ratings. MSNBC on the left, and Fox on the right spew poison. And sad to say, there are so many people who buy this garbage hook, line and sinker. I can also promise you that you will never get any proper or accurate information by listening to folks such as these. (There is a gal at my job who believes Obama is spying on here because she went to a pro-life rally. Glen Beck told her so.) Honestly, I cannot listen to that stuff. It literally causes me physical pain.

I know that this will come off as harsh, but I don't think you can faithfully follow Jesus and fill your minds with such filth. To me, it is little more than intellectual pornography. The things that guys like Ed Shultz on the left, and Limbaugh & Beck on the right say, has no place at all in the body of Christ.

I should also ask that when was the last time that Sarah Palin got on her knees and prayed for someone like Nancy Pelosi? Isn't that what Jesus insisted we do?

The Founding Fathers.
Dan has an assertion that America was founded upon Christian values, and that many of the founders were godly men. As I researched I discovered how difficult it is to come up with any solid answers. There are so many websites & blogs out there that are simply terrible. (Hopefully, mine will not be included in that number.) I found sites that insist that the founders were all born-again, Jesus lovin' people who could easily give their testimonies at a Billy Graham crusade. I also found sites that insisted the founders were all atheists, or at best "Theists." Needless to say, both views are nonsense. (Simplistic answers have no place in the body of Christ, either.)

A handful of the founders could have signed the Statements of Faith from Bethel University or Trinity, but most could not. It's complicated. The best site that I found is Beliefnet. <--- That's a link to an excellent article. You can also read the transcripts from an interview with Steven Waldman, the fellow behind Beliefnet, on Speaking of Faith. <--- Do your own homework.

Suffice it to say, the best description that I think you could give to the U.S. when if comes to "Religion," is that it was NOT founded as a Christian country, but was instead founded upon "Religious Liberty." And those are two very different things.

The Dangers of "Christian" Countries.
Let's say, for argument's sake, that a country could actually BE a "Christian." (Biblically, there is no such thing.) But what if a country could be one?

What would you say to a Christian that enshrined slavery into it's statement of faith...and even after having a war over that, still refused to treat those former slaves as equals for the next 100 years? What would you say to a Christian who beat up and stole half of it's territory from it's neighbor? What would you say to a Christian who, up to this very day, refused to provide 1 out of 10 of it's children with health care? (You can see where I am going with this.) Such a Christian would have to do some serious repenting.

Now, I am NOT trying to say that America is a "bad, bad, naughty country." But what I am trying to point out is the dangers of sticking a Christian label to a "Kingdom of Man." Countries are made up of people. People are flawed and sinful. So, is it any wonder that ALL countries should make some serious mistakes?

When & if we wrap the flag around Jesus and tie him our country...or ANY country, for that matter, we tie Jesus to all of the mistakes that these countries make. This can be extremely dangerous for that country and down right disastrous for the cause of Jesus. If you think I am joking, just do some minor research on how the Islamic world views America and Christianity.

"Turn around, for the Kingdom of Heaven is Near!"
It's hard to argue that Jesus believed in any form of man-made government. He certainly didn't believe in democracy. Jesus believed in an absolute, divine-right monarchy...his kingdom...which is both here now, but not in full.

The kingdom that Jesus preached and invites us to participate in is quite different from the "Kingdoms of Man." It is neither Capitalist, Socialist, or Marxist. It has neither Democrats or Republicans in it. It also has no poverty, pollution, need or want. There is no exploitation or war.

What really bothers me, at a deep, deep level is that far too many people who call themselves Christians worry so much about secular politics, and virtually ignore the reality of the God's Kingdom. We spend so much time getting all ramped up about the U.S. government and politics, that it demonstrates to me a considerable lack of faith in Jesus. (I often wonder what would happen to a guy like Rev. James Kennedy if America simply disappeared off the planet. Would he still know how to follow Jesus?)

I have noticed that the closer I follow Jesus, the more I cling to him, the less I worry about what goes on in Washington D.C. Since America and every other country will no longer exist when Jesus establishes his reign in full, why shouldn't I live that way right now?

In the mean time, I think it is fully possible to be a Republican and love Jesus (Chuck Colson), a Democrat and love Jesus (Jim Wallis), or even a Socialist and love Jesus (Shane Claiborne). Because in the end, none of that matters...only the Jesus part...and if that isn't fully in the front of your mind, then you have a problem.



P.S. I know this was a long one. I apologize for that. But I think it needed to be said.

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