Politics

27Sep

Proverbs and Politics

Lately, it seems like we’ve bought into a lie that our words don’t matter, or at least that’s the only way I can explain how some of my friends, as well as myself, are acting on social media. We’ve all but lost the ability to engage in civil discourse as we furiously type things on social media we would never have the courage to say/scream at someone’s face.

Below are 23 verses from Proverbs – a book all about wisdom in practical life. They’re broken up into 5 general categories – don’t miss the last one. It’s the most prevalent and possibly the most dangerous. 

See: How to Read Proverbs

I’m committing to read through all 23 verses before I post something on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Would you join me? Our words matter. Jesus says that what we saw reveals what’s in our heart. Remember, our first allegiance as Christians is to King Jesus. See: God Doesn’t Need America

 

On Putting Trust in Politics, a Party, and/or a Politician

“Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” – Prv. 1:19

“but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Prv. 1:33

“Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” – Prv. 29:26

 

On Engaging Political Opponents

“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” – Prv. 9:7-8

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” – Prv. 10:12

“Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” – Prv. 14:7

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” – Prv. 15:18

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.: – Prv. 18:2

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” – Prv. 24:17

 

On Thinking/Knowing You’re Right and Humility

“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” – Prv. 3:7

“Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” – Prv. 3:34

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” – Prv. 14:12

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Prv. 21:2

 

On the Power of Words

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” – Prv. 10:19

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Prv. 13:3

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Prv. 15:1

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” – Prv. 17:28

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Prv. 18:21

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Prv. 27:6

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?

There is more hope for a fool than for him.” – Prv. 29:20

 

On Lying 

This is by far the most pernicious. Think about it – every time you share an article that you’re not sure is really true but you like because it furthers your own opinion while pushing down your opponent, you’re lying. The Bible often calls that “bearing false witness” and it’s the 9th commandment.

See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” – Prv. 6:16-19

“Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right” – Prv. 8:6

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” – Prv. 19:9

 

What verse(s) would you add to this list?

9Dec

An Open Letter to American Muslims from a Christian Pastor

To All Muslim Americans,

I’ve had it.

There are a lot of political issues and current events about which I have formulated certain opinions. Collectively they don’t neatly place me in any specific category of political thought. Labels like “conservative” or “liberal” don’t fit the sum of my thoughts.

Moreover, I am a grateful pastor in a church where a wide range of political opinions are expressed. Even if those opinions were homogenous I would not share my political opinion because I greatly appreciate the separation between church and state. Thank you, Baptist up-bringing.

But I simply cannot remain silent on this issue.

I am a white American male. Statistics prove over and over again that based simply on surface level impressions, I get the benefit of the doubt more than any other gender/race combination. Based solely on my gender and skin color I am usually the most easily trusted and the least suspected person in any given situation.

I am also a Christian pastor. As a grateful follower of Jesus Christ, I could not disagree more with Islam.

I do not appreciate, and I don’t think you should either, the efforts of some Christians to synthesize our two distinct faiths, making them appear more similar than they actually are.

I believe a saving relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to know lasting, true life with God, the God who lovingly created us all in His image. I hope you do not hear my expression of faith as anything akin to arrogance. Instead, I simply believe what Jesus said when he was the way we come to know the Father (John 14:6) and that he and the Father are one (John 10:30), along with the Holy Spirit distinct but equal members of the Triune God.

However, even though we will disagree on many theological issues, I must tell you…

Donald Trump does not speak for us and he definitely does not speak for me.

One of the greatest strengths of Protestant Christianity in America is its diversity. It is simply impossible to think about that diversity, even with its unity in Jesus Christ, being personified and represented by one person, especially that person.

I cannot begin to understand how we are even having this conversation. The First Amendment clearly gives you the right to believe in whatever religion you choose, “and the free exercise thereof…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

It is the definition of hypocrisy when so many people want to ignore the First Amendment when it does not further their own position yet embrace the Second Amendment when it does.

Donald Trump’s comments the last two days have been absurd. He wants all lawful Muslim immigration to stop, calling for a “total and complete shutdown.” He wants all Muslims to be forced to wear some sort of ID badge. Absurd.

America is as much yours as it mine.

 


 

We realize that what it means to be a Christian has absolutely nothing to do with what it means to be an American.

To say otherwise is to insult the 2 billion Christians who do NOT live in America, claiming that they have are practicing an inferior form of Christianity because it is not wedded with some syncretistic form of nationalism. God Doesn’t Need America

We realize that religious liberty only exists as actual liberty for all religions, not just the most popular religion.

We don’t think American mosques should be shut down, as Trump does. This would obviously be a gross violation of the Constitution but we also don’t want American mosques to be shut down because we don’t want American churches to be shut down one day, or any type of peaceable religious assembly.

One of the pastors at our church wrote recently, “As Christians restrict the religious practice of Muslims, secularists will begin to restrict the religious practice of Christians. And we will not have a logical argument to stop it. We must choose a better way.”

As Christianity, and religion in general, continues to move to the margins of American society, we will all soon be in the minority. As secularism continues to gain more and more ground, how dare Christians approve the words of someone like Trump when they could just as easily be used against their own faith one day.

We realize that radical Islamic terrorism has little to do with mainstream Islam.

We would ask that you consider how little Donald Trump’s words match up with any tenant of mainstream Christianity.

We realize that ISIS is a perversion of true Islam even in their pursuit of true Islam.

We realize that Islamic terrorists also target Muslims who they deem unfit for true Islam, which is nothing more than their ruthless form of brutal radicalism.

We realize that we have a shared responsibility to call out radicalism from within our own ranks.

It has been so powerful to see so many Muslims denouncing Islamic terrorism as radical violence they want no part of. Thank you. As Christians and your fellow Americans we also commit to do the same.

Donald Trump is not our voice just like ISIS is not yours.

I was glad to see Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan condemn Trump’s comments with four simple words, “This is not conservatism.”

Ryan also said that freedom of religion is “a founding principle of this country…What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and, more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”


I am grateful to share this great country with you. I am grateful for the ways in which you enrich our cities, neighborhoods and schools. As a Christian, I am choosing a better way than what Donald Trump proposes.

Question: What do you think the Christian response should be to Muslims in America?

3Dec

The Anti-Vax Mom was Right and Donald Trump was Wrong

Over the past few days I have said the following words/phrases in perfectly normal conversation:

  • ding-a-ling (a crazy person)
  • cattywampus (crooked, out of place)
  • yonder (over there a ways)
  • feeder road (a road to merge on the highway)

Some of these might make sense to and some might not. I use some of these terms more frequently than others but a few phrases that don’t come out of my mouth as much they should are:

  • I’m sorry.
  • I was wrong.
  • I made a mistake.

Those are usually tough things to say to someone because they always mean two things:

1. You’re about to be humbled.

(Notice: a lot of people speak about the value of pursuing humility but not as much about humility pursuing you). Luke 14:11 says, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Sometimes humility finds you, whether you like it or not.

2. You messed up.

Nobody likes making a mistake, but you can tell a lot about a person by how they respond after making one.

What an Anti-Vax Mom Got Right

Earlier this year, the Washington Post ran a story about Canadian mom Tara Hills. Hills and her husband have seven children and were passionate anti-vaccine advocates until all seven of their children contracted pertussis, or whooping cough.

As Hills started to research further she learned how the study she was basing her skepticism on was in fact a debunked 1998 study that falsely linked the measles vaccine to autism. Both Canada and the U.S. have suffered large outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in recent years.

Her children were ordered to home confinement until their antibiotics were completed.

But that’s not why this mom’s story made the news. Plenty of other families feel the same way. It was her loud admission that she got it wrong that drew attention from people on both sides of this issue.

“I set out to prove that we were right,” Hills said, “and in the process found out how wrong we were.”

After years of getting it wrong, quite publicly in fact (Hills was a blogger in the anti-vax community) she boldly admitted what more of us need to: I got it wrong.

What Donald Trump Got Wrong

What the anti-vax mom got right, Donald Trump got wrong.

On November 22, 2015, presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Among topics of discussion was Trump’s November 21, 2015 assertion that he witnessed footage on television of large crowd of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the September 11th attacks.

Trump claimed “I watched thousands and thousands of people cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

Stephanopoulos told Trump that Jersey City police at the time were aware of the rumor and investigated it proving it false. The rumors of said celebrations were traced back to an Internet claim that was also proved false.

Trump doubled down on his original claim and insisted further the he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating.

A simple Internet fact check proves his claim was incorrect and thus, a lie.

At best, Trump suffered from an exaggerated memory that stems from deciding to react to a tragedy with confidence instead of fear. It’s a noble trait but one that often produces false memories.

But almost fifteen years later, Trump has all the information he needs to respond honestly yet he refuses. He won’t do what the anti-vax mom did, admit he’s wrong and apologize.

It’s easy to point out others successes and failures in this arena but what about your life? What about mine?

I’m still learning to say those phrases. They sting. Often, humility is still pursuing me instead of the other way around but I’m trying to learn from mistakes and get better each day.

I never thought I’d say this but…

I want to be more like the Canadian anti-vax mother.

24Jun

Which Flag Will You Fly?

An astonishing amount of ink has been spilled about the Confederate flag in the last several days, and rightfully so.

This is not meant to be just another addition to that noise.

I’d like to talk specifically to Christians, those who claim to have been set free from the bondage of sin by the undeserved grace of Jesus “who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14).

Before we get to how all this specifically affects Christians, I’d like to address a few lines of thought regarding the Confederate flag I have seen tossed around by Christians in conversations, text messages, and social media.

All of the following statements were said/typed by white people.

1.) “It’s not hate; it’s heritage.”

heritage

If you sincerely want to claim the Confederacy as your heritage, by all means do so. However, have the intellectual honesty to do so with full commitment. Your heritage died when the Confederacy did, at the conclusion of the Civil War, which the Confederacy lost. Everything after the Civil War is a different history, one in which you simply cannot share if you insist on claiming a dead heritage as your own. (See: What This Cruel War Was Over)

If this is sincerely your claim, feel free to abstain from celebrating the Fourth of July, an American (not Confederate) holiday.

See: What a White Man Knows about Racism

kkk

2.) The Confederate flag’s original intent was never meant to be racist.

We can argue about the original intent of this flag, but that’s not my interest. I am deeply concerned with the flawed logic in this statement.

Regardless of its original meaning, it’s current and functional meaning is hate.

Take the well-known “God Hates Fags” agenda of Westboro Baptist Church, for example.

fred

Using this same “original meaning” thought process allows you to only be upset at their misuse of the word “faggot” which originally meant a bundle of sticks.

definition

Regardless of original or intended meaning, a “faggot” is not recognized as a bundle of sticks and the Confederate flag is not recognized by many people as anything but a symbol of racism and hate. (See: Why We Can’t Say Racism is a Thing of the Past)

The functional meaning of these words, no matter how grossly inappropriate, takes precedent over their antiquated, original/intended meanings.

 

3.) It’s my right to free speech.

It’s my right! You’re correct. While I applaud states, organizations, and schools that have removed the flag from an organizational level, I would never applaud the dissolution of one’s personal right to free speech, regardless of how evil and hateful I feel the expression of that personal right may be.

However, the whole “free speech allows me to spew hate speech” line of thought sure sounds like an avoidance of the problem. Passing the buck.

When we (Christians) insist on our personal rights regardless of what that means for others, we become Cain killing our brother in the garden of Eden then asking God, “What?!? Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is YES. We are our brother’s keeper.

Christians, we have a higher allegiance than to our country.

Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and we serve a King who reminds us that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) and we are to live as aliens and foreigners in this world (1 Peter 2:11).

I’m asking you to consider forsaking your America-given right to use this flag and embrace your higher, God-given responsibility to love and care for your neighbor.

Do you love your neighbor? Do you KNOW your neighbor?

Christians, I’m asking you to consider the possibility that you only really get to fly ONE flag with your life.

I’m asking you to consider the possibility that if you choose to fly this flag on your truck or shirt or Facebook profile, you might be simultaneously refusing to fly the flag of Jesus.

But don’t take it from me. Over the last few days I’ve had conversations with over 40 of my black friends. I asked them all the same question, “How does it feel to see the Confederate flag? What is that like for you?” All of them live, or have lived, in the South and most of them are Christians. While their answers were all extremely similar, the most heart-breaking answers are listed below:

How Black (Southern, Christian) People Feel When You Fly/Post/Wear the Confederate Flag

Seeing the confederate flag honestly stirs up fear in me, that wherever I am or whoever has the flag up is a threat, that I am unsafe there or with that person. I understand that people say it’s the flag of the south, etc, but I don’t think people take into account what the flag really means and represents. Like they don’t want to accept or acknowledge the FULL truth of honoring such a flag. At face value, I consider whoever waves that flag to believe the values of the confederate flag 100%.”

“When we think about southern heritage, we must remember that the Confederacy was fighting to preserve a way of life, which was their right to have black slaves for farmers which was the primary economic engine of the south. So if the Confederacy had won the civil war, where would black people be today? There is a high likelihood blacks would still be slaves, not considered human, still considered a commodity to be bought and sold, and we would most likely accept this as the norm of society.”

“Anyone who asks does the racial divide still exist in America, needs to only look at their local church. How many blacks are in the area versus who attend your church? Churches are some of the most segregated places in this country.”

“From a southerner perspective it represents arrogance, a refusal to allow anyone to tell us to do anything we don’t want to do. From a racial perspective it cares nothing about what me or my family thinks or how we feel. In certain environments it creates feelings of fear for the safety of my wife and kids.”

“Flying the Confederate flag, or posting it on Facebook, conveys an attitude of longing for a time to return again where black lives weren’t valued. That one flag reminds me of all the times racists raped black women, dehumanized black men (only calling them ‘boy’ or ‘N-word’) and treated black children like pests to be exterminated. It represents with pleasure every evil the South could create against any and all black people.”

“It forces me to pay more attention to my surroundings. I have to stay cautious even if it’s as simple as stopping by a store to fill up the car. The flag itself has history attached to it, that’s what people are most afraid of…you never can tell who is friend or foe.”

“When I see it flying in the back of a truck, I simply do not believe the driver when he says he’s just celebrating ‘heritage.’ He’s taunting me. He’s taunting us. He’s even taunting the police.”

“I would never do anything to harm the American flag. I don’t understand anyone of any race that would do such a thing. But there is nothing good about that Confederate flag. How would white people feel if I drove around with a Black Panther flag in my truck? I would never do that because it is so ignorant. How can people not see the same ignorance in the Confederate flag?”

 

You are your brother’s keeper, and your brother has spoken. Will you listen?

 

Which flag will you fly?

5Oct

God Doesn’t Need America

God doesn’t need America.

Disclaimer: I’m very grateful to be an American. I’m exponentially more grateful to be a Christian.

No version of America (1776 or 2014) should be equated with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. We are not God’s chosen people.

We are not set apart from other nations in the heart of God. God doesn’t love Americans more than Syrians. or Russians. Or Canadians (yes, even Canadians).

Yet this myth persists, and it baffles me. Because we can agree to disagree about the purpose of the founding of our country all day long. (If you ask me, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the connection between “religious freedom” and mass genocide of…the people who already lived here).

What truly troubles me about the syncretism swirling around the intersections of faith and patriotism is this belief that somehow God needs America. I haven’t found someone who would explicitly say that, but it is seems to be a valid, logical conclusions made from a foolish thought process.

In our country, we have created a God in our own image. He loves the same people we love and hates the same people we hate.

We have forgotten that we serve “the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)

God doesn’t need America. God doesn’t have a special relationship with America. Nations have come and gone, and will continue to do so, yet our God remains the same.

I remember reading a Puritan sermon in college, “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop. As early as 163o, Winthrop and others were calling for a new nation that could be a “city on a hill” as if the ancient text they barely referenced (Matthew 5:14-16) was just waiting to be fulfilled by the yet to be formed starts and stripes.

The idea that God would bless America in a unique way as compared to other nations shows, among other things, a complete disregard for the global nature of God’s love and sole focus on our worldview as the center of a very small universe.

Some churches are hosting God and Country services, “dedicated to calling America back to the God of Abraham and Isaac, and of Washington and Lincoln.” Instead of a Sunday morning worship service. Can’t make this stuff up.

godandcountry

 

 

 

 

I’ve seen church members leave a church for good when the American flag was removed from the stage in an effort to give singular focus and devotion to Jesus.

I think these folks are well-intentioned; I really do. But I also think heaven will be a shock for them (if they make it!) because they’ll see such a rich, diverse gathering of people, “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:9-10

America is a fantastic country. If I could pick any country in which to live it would undoubtedly be this one. I don’t share many of my generation’s disdain for our country, and especially not the men and women who protect her. However, I am beyond convinced that God does not need America.

America is not the hope of the nations. America is not the light of the world.

Jesus is.

© Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved