What a time we live in. What opportunity to speak into the lives of people and to talk about the two forbidden subjects, religion and politics. Ever since I came to Christ, at age 46, I have strived to learn and grow and to become closer to my Lord and Savior. I also have had a lifelong love for this country. At one point, I’m sure my patriotic devotion seemed jingoistic. But now, I’ve come to learn, that our patriotism and love of country must be through the lens of our faith, not our faith through the lens of our patriotism.
Os Guinness and Eric Metaxas both talk about the Golden Triangle of Freedom, which simply says that to have liberty, you must have virtue. To have virtue, you must have faith. To have faith, you must have liberty and so it goes. If you want to learn more about this Golden Triangle, look at Eric Metaxas’ book, “If You Can Keep It.” I believe that both Guinness and Metaxas are on to something. There is a feeling of truth to this simplistic model.
With that as the backdrop, and scripture, I will quote in the text, I feel I must respond to Mark Galli’s attack on President Trump and his call for impeachment.
President Trump is by no means the most virtuous of President’s we have had in this country. Mark Galli does correctly point out that his twitter feed alone is repugnant, self-serving and misleading. I agree with him on this point. I also agree that President Trump must be held accountable for his actions. As is stated by Os Guinness and Eric Metaxas, when the country loses it’s moral center (which comes from our country’s foundation in the Christian religion), liberty will be the next domino to fall. I cannot defend President Trump and his twitter feed. It is obvious that he is suffering from an inferiority complex, as well as a deep-seated pride. Both of these are major problems for a Christian, much less the President of the United States.
At the same time, we have to look at scripture and see which of the heroes of the bible were above reproach. In the breadth of the three thousand years of human development documented in the bible, there is but one man who was perfect, without sin. That was Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Yes, the obvious conclusion is that President Trump is not Jesus Christ. I get that. But was Jesus the only one in the bible who did God’s work? Not by any means. David was and adulterer, Moses was a murderer, a prostitute helped doom Jericho. We, as a society, not just fellow Christians, have fallen into a trap where we expect our leaders and (dare I say) idols to be perfect. Surgery and diet can make the outside look perfect, but inside we are all fallen, we are all marred by the sin that is part of this world. We as a society cannot expect perfection, and seeking that perfection in people, not in Christ, itself is idolatry.
Jesus himself said in Matthew 22:21, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” It is my belief that Jesus is saying that we must be careful in mixing God’s world, with Caesar’s world. President Trump is in the middle of the modern equivalent of the Roman Forum and is our current elected Caesar. I thank God that he is not elevated to god-like status and his word is not law.
Furthermore, in Daniel 2:21, the bible says, “He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” God raises up leaders. If we are to believe that we must believe that God raised up President Trump. At the same time, God will depose him, when and how he sees fit. The point and the goal as a Christian is to make sure we don’t make a holy idol out of President Trump, nor should we make a holy idol out of the effort to resist or impeach him.
This is where Mark Galli made his mistake. He turned the effort to depose the President into a holy idol. Look at the second half of the Daniel scripture again, it says “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” That is what we should be seeking. We need the wisdom to lead our lives the best way as a Christian. We need knowledge to make godly decisions not only in the public square, but in the voting booth, and in the church pew.
In this age of instant denunciation, we have to be careful to not step in to that other cultural trap to start an online argument, not for the dialog and debate, seeking to get at the roots of the problem, but instead to revel in the rancor and vitriol that follows. We have an image for those who seek to do that, thanks to William Shakespeare and the play MacBeth. The witches in the play sang, “Double, Double toil and trouble.” We cannot stir the pot, and giggle with glee as we see more people jump in to fan the flames. That is why I have taken a week since Mark Galli’s article has come out. Yes, I have seen the articles for and against. But time to listen to the Holy Spirit, and time to let the flames die to embers.
If we wish for this country to stand, we must hold up the foundations of liberty, virtue and faith, and to ensure that we give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and ensure we give to God what is God’s. We also need to follow the urging of Paul and to, “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.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-4 We must pray for President Trump, and Mark Galli, and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and Adam Schiff. We need them to make virtuous decisions as our elected representatives and church leaders. We must not make an idol of President Trump nor his demise. We must continue to stay on the path with wisdom and discernment.
Whether you agree with me or not, I ask that you pray for our leaders, and for the truth to come out, regardless of which side it benefits. Also, I welcome your comments and debate.
On the day Breakpoint publishes an article by the same name, I feel the need to address another aspect of our current cultural Christian life.
We need to talk about Chick-fil-A.
The Breakpoint article talks about the identity politics that takes place within the LGBT movement and how, through the eyes of a gay author, have purposes that do not compliment each other. For one example, a gay man has little knowledge or interest in lesbian needs or desires.
We as Christians are doing the same thing to Chick-fil-A. We identify this organization as a leader in the marketplace for showing the faith of the founders and living it out with being closed on Sundays. Due to a sound business plan, and excellent product, this company has become one of the top fast food restaurants in the country. This is to be celebrated.
However, when Chick-fil-A changes their charity program, instead of listening to the people making the decisions, we as Christians flock to the mainstream media smear campaign. Before the press release was circulated there were stories about how Chick-fil-A “surrendered” to the LGBT movement. Christians from all walks and traditions jumped on story and retold it as if it were the Gospel.
As Christians we can no longer attack ourselves.
Fact: Chick-fil-A is the one and only organization that as a right to determine how they manage their charitable giving.
Fact: They had long term contracts with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and the Salvation Army. Those contracts expired, and the company adjusted their giving plan to suit the needs of the company and their community.
Fact: As Christians we are instructed (by Jesus himself) to follow a three step plan in the case of conflict or grievance…
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” – Matthew 18:15-17
So, for those writers, bloggers, pundits who have criticized Chick-fil-A in public, have you taken your grievance to the company? Have you taken your grievance to the company with witnesses? Because according to Jesus, those two steps should be done before the conflict becomes public.
Have you done so?
For those of you who have repeated and shared those public criticisms, have you verified the grievance was addressed directly with Chick-fil-A first? Or did you hit retweet or share because the title sounded juicy and gossipy?
Yes. I’m guilty of the same hypocrisy. Because I’m not going to each writer and sharer individually. But I feel that the community is off track. I feel that the Church as a whole has made a mistake.
Here is one final point, do we want to become like those who seek to divide us? Do we want to become like those that attack us with little fact or truth, but just seek an explosive headline to bring about malformed decisions? We as the Church can do better. We as the Church MUST do better.
I stand ready to discuss in public or in private.
It has been nine years. Nine years since I looked at an approaching Detroit City Bus and wondered how much it would hurt to just step in front of it. It was not the first time I considered ending my life, but it was the last.
For much of my life I struggled with depression and anxiety. I was on antidepressants and antianxiety medicate for several years. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it did not. I remember the first day I took an antidepressant and I was dancing around the room. A dull grey world suddenly burst forth in full color and it was electrifying. However, the cause of the depression continues to weigh upon a person and without counselling, help and love, it will return.
Stress is a byproduct of depression and anxiety and it exacerbates the underlying condition. Stress at the office, stress of family, the stress of being depressed and wanting to put on a good face, just digs a deeper hole. At some point, you realize how dark a place you are in.
Jeremiah Johnston wrote a good article on How We Can All Help Prevent Suicides, but I can attest as one who considered the unthinkable over the course of decades, that there are some points it left out. We need to understand that to consider ending one’s life, that person has to buy into one of these lies:
1-The world would be a better place without me. When a person is beaten down and bullied and told they are worth nothing, this lie starts to take hold. I believe this is one of the more common lies that leads to suicide today. Look at social media. There are no prisoners taken in the social media interactions. It is a metaphoric kill or be killed. Look at our politics, if you step out of line, you are a liar, a bigot, a racist, fascist, Nazi, or worse. A caring, loving person does not want to be these things. If you hear the assertions enough times, you might start to believe them.
2-I’ll show them how it feels. This is very similar to the first lie. This takes on the persona of being able to “get back” at our tormenters. However, the tormenters who do not care about you now, won’t feel any remorse if you take your own life. My brother-in-law probably used this reasoning to take his life. He was in a painful second marriage, he asked her to not leave him, she said no, and he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, in front of her. He left two kids behind who to this day still don’t understand.
3-The pain will end. If you are in so much pain that you only want it to end, suicide won’t end it. It just transfers that pain to the people who have to clean up after you. I believe that Robin Williams believed this lie. Instead of facing the pain, and trying to look it in the eye and call it’s bluff, he gave in.
4-Maybe “they” will notice this time. Yes, somebody will notice. Somebody will shake their head, and then life must move on. If you are taking your life to get noticed, what is the message you are trying to convey? Do you want somebody to be so overwhelmed that they take their life?
5-Sacrificing myself will make their life easier. People at the end of their resources use this lie. The insurance will pay for my kids. My wife will be able to pay off our bills. I can speak with total confidence that they would rather have you, than have a lump sum.
These lies tie back to one thing. That you are worth less than the person who stands next to you. I don’t believe that. I believe there is charm, purpose, light, happiness and joy in every person on this earth. There is worth and quality to be found in everyone. There is a reason you are here in this place and time. I’m certain it’s not to leave a hole in the hearts of others. No, you are here to be an overcomer, to have a victory over the lies. You have reason for being. You are loved.
Nine years ago I considered stepping in front of a bus. I didn’t tell my wife or family for many months after that. My wife was distraught, and she helped me know that I was loved. My family, well they accused me of trying to manipulate them. They might be right. The one thing that pulled me off the ledge was finding faith in Christ. Yes, I know the latest high profile suicide was a pastor. But for him to give into suicide, he had to believe a lie. He had to give in to the scheme of the devil. He compromised. He lost.
If you are considering hurting yourself, you can call a suicide hotline, you can reach out to your pastor, you can find a counsellor, you can visit your doctor and get some happy pills. Reach out to somebody, anybody. The national suicide prevention hotline is 800-273-8255. Call them.
If you can’t bring yourself to call them, reach out to me. I’ll talk with you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, my cell phone is 602-616-4001, text me and say I want to hurt myself. I’ll find a way to get back to you, and we can talk. If you want to take a stand against suicide, add your phone number as a comment. Together we can take a stand and change things for the better.
Trees define my view
The evergreen cedar stands tall and strong
The maple stand proud with boughs long
The land supports their lofty play
The roots run deep in dark red clay
The trees define my view
My God defines my faith
My Lord and savior eight years together
Dedicated to You now, and yes, forever
Help me see your plan, my path
Richer life, better plans thou hath
My God defines my faith
Your truth defines reality
The way the Truth and the Life
Not now, nor ever, relief from strife
But together through abundance and lack
You stand ready to have my back
Your Truth defines all truth
You are the great I AM
I did not intend to write about her passing. I was struck by the senselessness of a 37 year old mother and wife to be taken from this world because of an infection. I shook my head, said a prayer of compassion for her family, and protection for mine, and moved on.
At least I thought I would move on until a friend messaged me and asked about the John Stonestreet article on the passing of Rachel Held Evans(RHE) in Christianity Today(CT). I had not seen it so I had to research. I found that the editor of CT, Mark Galli, removed the article because after approving it, he felt it was too critical of her and removed it. He penned a short explanation that can be found HERE.
So I went searching for this article and found google links to it on a number of sites. It just isn’t to be found. My friend said it was a good article, so I had to dig deeper. I started reading about RHE and the way she connected with women and millennials. I respect that, sometimes, the things I try to say don’t resonate with them, but instead ring hollow. I want to write and speak better, so let’s read some of this and see how it works.
When I got to her blog (Found HERE), the first thing I read was her husband’s posts about her health and the induced coma, seizures, and the final days of her life. Then I read her next passage and how it ends with an admonition about how we are made from dust and will return to dust. Death is something that will come to all of us. Maybe she was just a little too prophetic there.
Then I start getting into the other posts, and what I find is something that I have to heartily disagree with. First let me explain where I come from. I grew up in a conservative home, have not voted for any Democratic Presidential candidate, and have marched for and given money to republicans. But when I did that I was still in my atheistic era. I held no devotion to Christ. As Christ found me and brought me to him, I slowly felt my political passion wavering and my attitudes changing. So I don’t consider myself first and foremost a republican, although I’m registered as one. I consider myself first a Child of the King and will honor Him before I honor any man, or issue, or political party. I voted for Trump, and for the most part support his policies, but dislike the man himself.
Then I read THIS post. I don’t need to go any further. I have seen other reputed Christian personalities that wish to take on Trump, conservatism, and some of the scriptural truths we hold to be self evident. RHE goes on to claim the bible is the text of the resistance, and describes how white America has failed in it’s charge, and how the people who have been downtrodden over history need justice. My definition of Justice is “You get what you deserve.” Nothing more, nothing less. We cannot pay reparations for slavery or for the trail of tears, but we can make sure nothing like that happens again. It is incumbent up on us to not forget, nor to gloss over the ugly periods in our history to make sure we don’t let evil loose in the public square again. But the methods, the guilt and the desire for social justice and fairness is not biblical.
If it is not biblical, it is not true. It is our feelings getting in the way of what is really true and scriptural. Now don’t jump up and call me a bigot right here, let me illustrate.
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
- John 5:1-9
If we read closely we can see that the fountain at Bethesda is most likely crowded at all times with injured and infirm waiting for the waters to get stirred up. The first one in the water after the stirring gets healed. So there is most likely a race to get into the water first. Jesus came to this pool and approaches this one infirm man. He heals him and disappears into the crowd. If Jesus was into fairness and social justice why didn’t he heal them all?
Social Justice and fairness are just words for entitlement. It is not kneeling to the ultimate power in the universe, humbling yourself and following what He says. It is standing up, shaking our fist, and saying “That’s not fair!” Then expecting a do-over. God doesn’t grant do-overs. He will redeem you, he will restore you, but for the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom(s) of man.
RHE held a solid faith, and wrote about it prolifically. She was not afraid to debate and to talk to others about it, I respect that. But we cannot take her death as an affirmation of the twisted Christianity she followed. We all as Christians can do better to uplift others, to help the poor and the sick. We can call out injustices and work to correct them. We can stand up against racism and hatred. We can do a better job of reaching out to our LGBT friends and relatives. We can do better. But it is wrong to declare and own sins that really aren’t ours. To bow in repentance for something that God doesn’t hold us accountable to, is to worship an idol, and I’m convinced that social justice, climate change, marriage equality, abortion, transgenderism and many other things are idols that our culture bows down to.
I will not bow. But I will hold my hand out, not to strike, but to help, to know, to acknowledge, and to live together in Christian brotherhood.
RHE should be grieved, but her passing and her memory should start conversations about what is true, what is good, and is real, and what is biblical. I may come off strong here, because my convictions are deep. But that will never stop me from having a civil discussion with anyone about these issues. We may not agree, but we can discuss as friends.
I’m not better than RHE, I’m a saved sinner, just like her. I worship and honor God, just like she did. Her agenda was different than mine, that is all. I don’t condemn her, because it is not my place to do so. I have to realize that when I think of her, I think of a person with sin no greater than my own.
My wife turned me on to a blog post about “10 Signs the Christian Authors You’re Following are (Subtly) Teaching Unbiblical Ideas.” It was really good, and I thought to follow that up with my own list. This time I will use the “Stop, Start, Continue,” method that we use at work. Basically, it’s a list of things to stop doing, start doing and to continue. Here we go…
13. Stop using faith to push your particular brand of politics
Politics is downstream from culture and is downstream from the faith we practice in our homes. If we as Christians who write start use our platform to push politics, we are following an idol instead of doing God’s work. Don’t get me wrong, God does work in politics, but if we spend our time idolizing or bashing a President rather than working to make things better for people or building the Kingdom of God here on earth one brick at a time, we are edifying ourselves and political aspirations, not being Christ-like.
12. Stop using your platform to shine the light on the sin of others
It never works to focus on the sin of someone else. It doesn’t work as a new Christian, it doesn’t work as a life-long Christian. It certainly doesn’t work for a Christian writer. When we focus on the sins of others, we are putting ourselves above them, and didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 20:16, ” So the last will be first, and the first last.” Concentrating on the sin of others is a sin of pride, something any writer has to struggle with and to work to avoid. One phrase I use to keep myself centered is to remember, for any sin, for any person, there goes a person with sin no greater than my own.
11. Stop worrying about your image or your brand
We write and teach at the pleasure of our boss. No that’s not our spouse or our accountant. That is Jesus Christ himself. We will be called to account for the words we spin, not for our benefit, but for his. Let us stop feathering our nest with self-serving efforts, but use every effort, yes, even every breath to share and show our love for Christ.
10. Stop using the bully pulpit as a hammer
I’ve been guilty of this, and have been called on it. It’s something that I’ve got to watch out for constantly. Just because you have a platform and readers, doesn’t mean we get to climb up on a perch and tell people how they should live. In doing so, we only alienate our readers and make it more difficult to get across the messages that are really important. Instead of hammering away, take a step off that platform and write a metaphorical hug around your reader.
9. Stop compromising the Gospel for expediency
This one bugs me. The Christian community has let this go too far. If the Bible is the inerrant word of God, then why do we write pieces that glorify some parts of the Gospel, but compromise on the others. The Word is THE WORD. Yes, it was written by men, more than 40 of them. Yes, it was written in different times (about three thousand years). It has 66 books, but it tells one story. We have to be able to furnish the full story, and especially talk about and write about the uncomfortable pieces. Jesus is disruptive and sometimes we need to push that same disruption to our readers, our churches and even our families.
8. Show your human side and discuss your own struggles
Nothing makes for better reading than a story of triumph. God works through men to give them triumph over the enemy time and time again. We have all had crises and victories in life, let’s write about them and allow the reader to see the side of us that was once, hurt, weak and vulnerable. Let them see the victory that was won through Christ. Let them see Grace work in our own lives. These are the stories that will win people to the kingdom, not the hammer that was mentioned in number 10 above.
7. Understand that not everyone is on the same spiritual path
My wife reminded me of this, and it’s something that I’m still struggling with. Not everyone approaches the throne through the same life lessons and path. Some people need the intellectual arguments, some need the emotional, some need the spiritual. All of us are born with holes in our hearts that just happen to be Jesus-sized. We need him, and the approach you took may not work for everyone (anyone) else. Let’s understand that and be open to other approaches, and other needs.
6. Show love and grace in word and deed
As a writer I know what it’s like to write about something from the sideline. However, if you get in the middle of the issue, you can write with more passion and heart. Feed a homeless person, hug somebody who is hurting, tap knuckles with a child. These are things that edify and encourage those people, but nourish our own soul.
5. Seek justice for all
Jesus will be coming back to judge us. Every one of us. He won’t pull the writers aside and ask their opinion on what he should do. We get in line like everyone else. If we have a platform and talent we should be using that for the good of Christ and the good of the kingdom. But what is it we need to do for justice. Simple, call out injustice. Politics comes in last place when somebody has been the victim of injustice, and as a Christian, we need to bring this to light, and to work to fix the problem. We are not here to make it worse.
4. Encourage a deeper faith, rooted in scripture, and surrounded by community
Our faith should always be growing, and deepening. We should be using our platform to help others grown and learn as well. If we write, we are also teachers, and as Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:2, “ Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” One more point, as a children’s ministry volunteer, one of the things that works every time is to tell somebody, “I believe in you.” The light comes back to their eyes and they are ready to lean in and learn.
3. Continue to show the many ways God works in this world
Again, stories are powerful, and if we can tell a story showing God working, it helps build the faith of those who may compromise or fall away. How many people do you have to affect for your writing to be worthwhile? The real answer to this is it only takes one. If we can keep one person on God’s path, or to help somebody choose Christ over sin, then we are doing our job.
2. Continue to use the ministry God has given you to encourage, edify and enlighten
Who have you encouraged today? That quote is at my desk in my line of sight. It helps me to realize that I’m not a travelling professor, but an itinerant encourager. There is nobody too humble for me to encourage. There is nobody to meek to edify. There is no truth too obvious, nor too obscure to be used to enlighten. Let me retell a story, told to me by a speaker long ago. In Maryland, it’s common to go to the beach to hunt crabs. To do this, you really only need a bucket to carry the crabs back to the boiling pot. But the curious part of hunting crabs is you need a cover for your bucket, only when you have one crab. When you catch a second and put that crab in the bucket, you can ignore the lid. As one crab tries to climb out, the other will pull him back in, even though both are destined for the cookpot. The moral to the story is to not be the second crab.
If you want to see a site that does a great job of this, look at Breakpoint
1. Continue to discuss truth seasoned with love
Look at the media these days, there is no love, and precious little truth. It is incredibly important for us, as writers, to provide a platform of truth, seasoned with love, in order to reach those sickened, hurt or destroyed by this world.
We are in a fallen world. Those of us who have Christ can see the hope before us that is beyond this world. With our words, painted with love, and trimmed compassion, let us show others that same hope, that same love that once captured us and brought us into Christ’s loving arms.
The night is coming.
It may be a dark and dreary night, or it may be moonlit with stars galore, but night is coming.
The evening of our society and culture is at hand. We can see ourselves in the evil that walks the earth and commits the atrocities that we abhor and yet blame on those not politically aligned with us.
It is not the summer of our discontent, but the autumn of our souls. New York has ads that call people who wear a Trump-style Make America Great Again hat, the trash. They show them with redneck tattoos and carrying a bible. They say they don't want them in NYC. The bombs that were sent in the mail this past week turned into a political hot potato with people blaming Trump, and/or the media for the bombs. Yet it was the evil of one man who (allegedly) sent the crude devices to several political figures.
Hatred comes in many colors. Those who blame the white males, those who blame the democrats, those who blame Trump, or gun owners, or Christians... They blame anybody but themselves. But if we sit back and take a look, isn't what they are peddling just a different kind of hatred?
The night is coming when our hatred will come back to haunt us.
Whenever we buy into the divisions that are set before us, we are continuing that brand of hatred. We haven't declared it hate speech... yet. But it will happen. The divisions and the anger fuel more divisions and anger that become so accepted and normal, that we start to get bored with shootings, bombings, identity politics and other strife. Yet we are blind to it. We cannot see our own hatred for what it is. Instead we sell a new kind of truth and call it our own. We bring the failed policies of the past and turn them into progressivism, conservatism, and other ism's.
The night is coming, but we won't even recognize it. We will either see it as the vindication of our views, or the suppression of them. We will cheer the long knives as they flash and the one brand of truth finally wins. Is that what we want? Is that what you are cheering for on social media?
The sad fact is most of us are the problem. We don't condemn hatred for what it is, instead we continue it, argue it, rationalize it, and deify it.
There is night coming and we won't see the morning unless we change. Unless we see our sins for what they are and seek to make peace with God.
It is my belief that we need another Great Awakening in our country. We need men like the Wesley's, or George Whitefield, or William Wilberforce. But in the social climate of today they would be drowned out by the bombast and backlash that we have turned our society into. Behold! The pagan games of Rome are now played out on Facebook! Buy your ticket! Grab your cloak! Bring your lantern and your pitchfork. It will be a great party, but it will be the end of us.
I was recently challenged by a person going through the 2018 - 2019 Colson Fellows Program to put together the list of books that I read in addition to the heavy load the fellowship put on me when I went through it last year. So I put that list together and published it here.
What I found out is that the hunger for knowledge and thoughtful exploration of the Christian faith is amazing. I was amazed at the number and the quality of the books that I supplemented. I am also amazed at the number of books I bought and set on a shelf. It's time to get reading again.
It is amazing how many people seem to communicate only with pictures that include a short pithy statement. The explosion of the internet, Facebook, iPad and smartphones has made us more dependent on these things, and less dependent on dictionaries, encyclopedias, essays and other sources of researched information and deep thinking. Some of the best literature from the prior century is left behind because people don’t take the time to pick up a good book.
What does that say about our society? We don’t have the time to read a book, but we have the time to get to level 427 of Candy Crush or Farmville? How did we get to where our priorities are so messed up? Those of us with an eye toward history would point to the 1960’s and the free love sexual revolution that took place. Yes, that era did change things and did set in motion the love of self, and the repudiation of our nation’s Christian heritage. But the change started much earlier than that, the flappers and the speakeasies of the 1920’s were a response to the teetotalling overreach of some well-meaning Christians, but the license that took place was due to something called the “Enlightenment.” This was where science started to take over the dominance of ecclesiastical thought.
The Enlightenment led to the Modernism which led to Post-Modernism, which we are feeling the effects of now. When we can determine our own truth and reality, it is not a stretch that we (as society) are confused as to what bathrooms to use, we are confused as to what gender we are. Today we are spiritual, but not religious, we are alone together. The outcome of this is a spike in suicide, a spike of violence against police officers, a spike in hatred of each other. Probably the most egregious effect of Post-Modernism is the radical tribalism that is taking place. Politics is rapidly turning into an idol with many people. The biggest problem with that is salvation doesn’t come from the ballot box. We can’t elect ourselves into a utopian society. We can’t fix our ills by finding the best people to put in office.
We have to fix ourselves. There, I’ve said it. We have to fix ourselves. To do that we have to use the only worldview that stands up to the hard questions, that is the biblically based worldview. Yes, that means we have to submit ourselves to an omnipotent, omniscient diety, and to give him sovereignty over our lives. We have to live by the precepts that the bible teaches, such as living in peace, reducing hatred, and loving one another. Then there comes the list of things we can’t do, and that’s the list that sets people’s head a-whirl. Abortion is wrong, same-sex marriage is wrong, transgenerism is wrong, but at the same time, judging and castigating one sinner over another is wrong.
Jesus said it best in Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” So with that said, that brings up one question, how are we to talk about the things that are wrong? The simple answer is to do it with love. The best example I can think of is Jack Phillips, the baker in Colorado who has been through much castigation and distress over the last six years. Yet, what he did, was along the guidelines of a Biblical worldview. He drew a line on what was allowed, and what wasn’t. He didn’t seek to injure, demean, or flout the two men who wanted a wedding cake. He offered to sell them anything else in the shop, but would not make a “Masterpiece,” wedding cake. As Christians, we are called to be that loving, that gentle, yet to stand strong.
So that brings me to my final point, God loves Donald Trump. He is made in God’s image, just like you and me. He deserves the dignity that comes with that. We may have differences, and debate would serve that much better than hatred and animosity. Because in the end, we have to realize that we are made in God’s image, and God loves us too.
This subject has taken a beating in the last few years. Since the Obergefell decision that made same-sex marriage the law of the land in 2015, the tide turned against religious freedom and Christianity in general.
First a little background. Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Colorado, was known throughout the community as an artist, a Christian, and in general, a soft-spoken kind-hearted man. He employed several people and the wedding cake business provided more than 40% of his income. When a same-sex couple came in and wanted to order a cake for their wedding, Jack politely refused. He offered them anything in his cooler, but would not design and create their “masterpiece.” They left the store. Thus began 5 years of court appearances, derision, ridicule, death threats, and being in the public eye. Due to the rulings of the Colorado Civil Rights Board, he quit making wedding cakes for everybody. But in doing so, he had to lay off employees. At the start of this year, he was only employing family, and they were struggling. Jack can be seen smiling and laughing, being the calm, humble, shop-owner and baker that he is. But inside, he was hurting.
On December 5, 2017, the case was argued in the Supreme Court, and any bystanders could tell this was no ordinary case. There were two groups outside the court protesting for their side. The attorneys inside the court were pressed for answers by very inquisitive and not very happy justices. The questions and comments led to much speculation, but nobody could guess the results. The court came back today, June 4, 2018 with a 7-2 decision for Jack. It was not a broad decision such as Obergefell, but gives some space for those wanting to express themselves in their faith.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no reason for hatred or injustice. Jack would bake and sell a cake for anybody. But he would not create masterpiece cakes for occasions that went against his beliefs. He not only turned away the same-sex wedding cake, but also a cake that was celebrating a divorce. The case comes down to a principle: People who hold one belief, regardless of what is is, should not be penalized for holding that belief. Justice Kennedy, during the oral arguments said, “[T]olerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it's mutual.” So we have a short period of time, before the liberal ideologues in the mass media get ahold of this, to talk with people, and bring up the past true definition of tolerance, and what it means to a free society.
Today was a great win, but it was only a battle in the wider war for our culture and our children’s minds. Let us continue to pray, to live the life we intend according to our faith. Let us deal with our friends and neighbors in truth and in love. Yes, that even includes those who would spew hatred at us in losing this decision. We need to pray for them even more. Help them to find the true spirit of tolerance.
For more information, see www.adflegal.org.
If you want to engage further with culture, get the tools necessary with a Colson Fellowship.