How Politics Became the New Religion and What You Can Do About It

They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, “these are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” ~ Exodus 32:8 NIV

 We live in strange times.

 In the spring of 2017 a group of Republican lawmakers were attacked by a gun-wielding wacko. One of them was nearly killed. In Portland Oregon (my former stomping grounds) ANTIFA protesters are presently blocking traffic, harassing old ladies, demolishing property and menacing anyone who disagrees with their politics and/or dubious methods of expediting change. Men, women and sometimes even their children have been forced to leave restaurants simply because those gathered at that restaurant do not approve of the political beliefs of those men and women.

 Just when it feels safe to simply blame kooks on the left for all this lunacy, a kook on the right has been caught mailing explosives to Democratic politicians and a news outlet. Sadly, there are an abundance of nut-jobs on both sides of the aisle.

I am convinced that smart people everywhere ought to lay awake at night wondering why there are so many individuals who become so utterly unhinged at the mere thought that an acquaintance, relative, neighbor or stranger on-line might disagree with their political opinions.

 Seriously.

 This problem is not exclusive to a small group of whack-jobs who react violently to those who disagree with them.  According to the Pew Research Center forty-four percent of progressives and thirty-one percent of conservatives have confessed to blocking or unfriending someone on social media simply because they disagreed with their political views. That means that nearly eighty-percent of our population is so pig-headed (and immature) where their politics are concerned that they will not allow themselves to be exposed to an opinion they disagree with. Before we do the trendy thing and blame the President for this mess we need to keep in mind that those statistics were collected a full two years before the 2016 election (October 2014).

 Truth-be-told this whole loathsome mess is actually a spiritual problem rather than a political problem. Humans are spiritual beings (Genesis 1:27, Romans 1:19-20).  Every person has a God-sized hole inside their soul that they attempt to fill with something. For eons humanity has filled that void with religious activity of one sort or another.  Recently our culture has wandered away from the religious and embraced the secular. As we have drifted away from belief in God a substantial number of those God-sized holes have been filled-up with political dogma. As a result, folks on both ends of the political spectrum are zealously embracing their political beliefs as absolute and unerring Truth. Those who have embraced politics as the answer to everything believe that the only way we as a culture will be “saved” is through conformity to their particular brand of political dogma.

 We should all be alarmed by this turn of events because in the past, when nations have embraced politics in place of a God, the end result has always been the same. A strong political leader eventually stepped into the void and demanded that he be obeyed as if he were a God. This has always resulted in citizens being forced to obey the tyrannical leader or face the consequences (enslavement, imprisonment or death).

 As Christians we have a sacrosanct duty not only to God but to our culture as well (1stTimothy 2:1-3). Christians are called to be a stabilizing and preserving influence in whatever culture they live in (Matthew 5:13).

 There are four ways we can do this:

 Pray for revival-

 For the most part, individuals in our civilization are dreadfully unhappy. Those who embrace their political opinions as absolute truth tend to be more miserable than most. This is because politics can never really fill the space in our hearts that was intended to be occupied by a relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray for the salvation of those who are inflexible and militaristic in their political opinions.  When we see revival, we will also see the social change politics have been unable to bring about.   

 Be kind-

 We do have not have to kowtow to every outrageous thing crazy people say. In fact, I personally believe that we should be ready to explain why we believe what we believe (about everything) at all times to all people (even crazy people). That being said, we do need to speak that truth kindly and with grace even to crazy people (Colossians 4:6, Ephesians 4:15, 1st Peter 3:15).

 Keep your own priorities straight-

 Politics are critically important. Every Christian who is fortunate enough to live in a democracy should be politically mindful and active. At the very least Christians should make every effort to vote and to vote biblically. That being said, politics are not, nor should they ever be the end-all-be-all of life (especially for Christians). Even the best, most biblically astute political candidate in the world or the most well-crafted law will never save anyone from anything, only Jesus can do that.

 Know who you are-

 If you are a believer in Jesus Christ you are a child of God. A believer’s identity is to be found in Christ and Christ alone. Christians should never find their identity in a particular political party or partisan belief system. Anytime we do we are clearly stepping over the line into the sin of idolatry.

Five Things You Must do Before You Confront a Spiritual Leader About Anything


Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you~ Hebrews 13:7 NIV

 Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time has doubtless been there:

A trusted spiritual leader (a pastor or Bible study leader) says something (or a lot of somethings) we find troubling from a doctrinal perspective-

We are uneasy with the spiritual direction our pastor is taking the church-

We have (or know someone who has) a spiritual, physical or emotional need that is not being met in the church-

Our church has become dangerously inwardly focused-

Our feelings are hurt by the pastor or another leader-

We suspect our pastor (or someone in the church) is not living a moral life-

 These situations are not unique to contemporary church life. The church has been dealing with sticky issues since the dawn of the church (Acts 6:1-7, 1stCorinthians 5:1-11, Galatians 2:11-14 Acts 15:36-39). How church people choose to handle these types of situations matter and typically they are handled very poorly. Generally speaking, leadership problems are either ignored until they become intolerable and detrimental to the health of the church (Ephesians 4:26); or an individual (or group of individuals) will confront the leader with a long list of the leader’s faults, problems and inadequacies. Face-to-face confrontations are typically handled with all of the elegance and grace of a herd of goats running wild at a tea party (Proverbs 13:3, Proverbs 29:20).

 Both scenarios inevitably end in disaster. The first typically results in a large group of unhappy individuals quietly leaving their church and taking their unresolved issues with them.  Sadly, these individuals rarely go back and work things through with the leader so the leader remains forever bewildered by the desertion and never learns anything that leads to better leadership. Those who leave take their anger and resentment with them to the next church, where they perpetuate the cycle of unresolved problems and church hurt (James 1:20). When leaders are confronted poorly it typically results in a hurt leader who feels bullied by people he or she has invested their love and energy in. It is not at all unusual for these leaders to leave the ministry in anger and disillusionment. 

 Either way, Satan wins and the church loses.

 We can and should do better. The health of the body is at stake and it is up to us to make it better. Following are five recommendations for having a tough conversation with a spiritual leader.

 Keep your expectations in line with reality-

 Even the very best pastors and leaders are fallible, broken and inclined towards stupidity and pride (Romans 3:23). Because leaders are in the process of working out their salvation (as we all are) they need our prayers more than they need our condemnation. This does not mean a spiritual leader is ever above correction or redirection. There are times when leaders need to be corrected and should be corrected. That said, if we want to facilitate healthy change (and avoid the sin of pride) we must recognize the reality that no human (leader or follower) will ever be perfect or do things perfectly. Our expectation for spiritual leaders should not be perfection but rather a teachable spirit and a desire to become better and more Christlike (Proverbs 9:9, Proverbs 10:8).    

 Ask questions and seek to understand (Proverbs 12:18)-

 Many confrontations with leaders come about because of decisions that people did not like or understand. It’s critical we recognize that sometimes leaders make decisions based on information the rest of the congregation doesn’t have. That is why it is imperative we ask questions with an attitude of humility before we assume we understand why things are being done the way they are being done.

 Figure out if there is something deeper driving you before you confront-

 Sometimes a pastor or spiritual leader will rub us the wrong way for reasons that really and truly have nothing to do with them or their leadership. Sometimes we will reject a new leader because we really loved the style and personality of the old leader and what we really want is to get our old leader back. Other times a leader will irritate us because they remind us of a family member we have unresolved issues with. It’s unfair to project our junk onto others, therefore, it’s imperative that we examine ourselves before we begin a conversation.

 Pray before you do anything-

 Spend time praying for your leader but also pray for yourself. Pray that God will reveal any destructive attitudes you have that are motivating the confrontation. Pray for wisdom and most importantly pray that everyone’s heart (including yours) will be open to healing and ready to receive truth.

 Say what needs to be said without assigning motives-

 None of us can possibly know why anyone does what they do. Therefore, it is critical that we be very careful about accusing people of doing things out of motives that we do not know for an absolute fact they have (Proverbs 3:7).  

 Don’t write a letter-

 Seriously. A text can be a great way to arrange a meeting and it might be helpful for you to write down your thoughts and concerns before you go into a meeting.  There is nothing wrong with taking notes into a meeting. That said, letters are a one-way conversation that offer zero opportunity for true understanding of both sides of a given issue.  If you aren’t ready for a face-to-face conversation you are not ready for a conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Saying Nazi and Fascist Already

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint~ Proverbs 17:27a NIV

 I am a staunch defender of free speech.

 Free speech is ultimately the underpinning of every other human freedom. No one really has the freedom to do much of anything if they cannot first discuss what they want to do freely and without fear of retaliation.

 That said,

 I have developed some very real preferences as to when, how and where others exercise their right to say what they want to say, especially if they are determined to say something moronic, crude or ignorant.

 I have grown particularly weary of creative uses of the F-bomb. I am not a fan of the current trend of augmenting the F-word with suffixes such as -tard, nugget, weasel, blossom, weed or -ity. Neither do I advocate the adding of prefixes to said word, especially other swear words.

 Seriously.

 Truth-be-told I would prefer that we keep the use of any and all F-bombs to a minimum in public spaces. It’s not that I wish to stifle creativity or prevent folks from conceiving new ways of using old words. It’s just that I support the old-school notion that free speech doesn’t give anyone the right to be a foul-mouthed turd in front of someone else’s preschooler.

 There are other words I object to simply because I am sick to death of hearing them used incorrectly. I am not talking about the standard grammar-cop kind of stuff some folks get bent out of shape over. How one chooses to use words like their, there and they’re is entirely their business. That being said, I do reserve the right to silently mock anyone who uses those words incorrectly.

 My issue is with words that are used by people who have no idea what those words actually mean.

 Take for example the word “fascist”.

 Historically speaking a fascist is simply a socialist who also squashes free speech, regulates the public and private behavior of citizens, and eliminates any religious expression that does not directly support the interests of the state. Fascists will punish anyone who is unwilling to conform to standards set by the state.

 For the record, politely declining to bake a cake for a gay wedding does not make one a fascist. Although, to be fair it could be argued that a government that would penalize someone for not baking a cake for a gay wedding has clearly stepped over the line into fascism.

 Nazi is another word that makes me crazy.

 Nazi’s are for all intents and purposes just extraordinarily bigoted and brutal fascists. Contrary to popular belief, those who believe in rigorous immigration standards and border enforcement are not Nazi’s. They are just people who believe in borders and the rule of law. It is silly to classify anyone as a Nazi unless they are advocating for or committing actual acts of genocide.

 People who don’t agree with a particular set of political views are not Nazis and fascists. They are just people who have a different set of views.  It is not nice, wise or morally justifiable to demonize someone simply because they see the world differently than you do.

 That’s what Nazi’s and fascists do.

 Another peeve of mine is when folks overuse a perfectly good word. The word “offended” is a perfect example of a good word gone bad due to overuse. Not a day goes by that I don’t overhear someone sniveling about how offended they happen to be.

 The list of things I find offensive these days is nearly endless. On any given day I am offended at least a dozen times. You know what happens when I am offended?

 Nothing.

 I don’t demonstrate, cry, set things on fire or demand a puppy to cuddle (even though I love puppies). I don’t do any of those things because I am an adult and I figured out a long time ago that offended-ness is the price we pay to live in democracy where people have the freedom to make choices about what they do and believe.

 When we overuse, misuse or abuse a word that word loses it’s meaning as well as its shock value. Words like Nazi, fascist, and even offended are powerful words that ought to shock us when we hear them. When we stop being shocked by words like Nazi and fascist we may find ourselves unable to recognize an actual fascist or Nazi when they knock down our door and take our freedom.  

 

 

 

The Power of Fearless Truth-telling

These are the things that you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,’ declares the Lord~ Zechariah 8:16-17

 Recently I took a fresh look at two of my favorite books of the Bible, 1st and 2nd Samuel. The author divulges in vivid (and occasionally scandalous) detail the good, bad and ugly bits of David’s life, proving once and for all that one does not have to be faultless to be a man or woman after God’s own heart.

 Revisiting an old favorite inevitably causes me to see something I never really noticed before. This time it was Joab. He seems, at least in the beginning, to be nothing more than a bit player in the story. He emerges in 2nd Samuel as a military mastermind and the go-to-guy for all things ethically dubious.

 If there was a shady thing that needed to be done, Joab was the man to do it. The person asking did not have to worry at all about Joab questioning the morality of the proposed action, or attempting to set them on a more virtuous path (2nd Samuel 11:14-24. Joab just wasn’t that sort of a guy.

 Joab possessed some noble qualities. He was unquestionably loyal to David, a courageous warrior, and a brilliant military strategist. He was also power-hungry and egocentric. Joab appears to have been driven by the need to control and manipulate the people and circumstances around him. If he had a personal motto it would have been, “The end always justifies the means.” His best choices were morally debatable. His worst choices were brutal and wicked.  Simply stated, Joab was not a Bible character we ought to model our lives after.

 All that being said, Joab possessed one rather commendable quality. It was a character trait that is much needed in our wishy-washy, never say anything the way it really is, never offend anyone (no matter how stupid or harmful their beliefs might be) world.

 Joab was a fearless truth-teller.

 On at least two occasions Joab was willing to say things that urgently needed to be said. The first time Joab spoke hard truth to David was through a wise woman from Tekoa (2nd Samuel 14:1-13). The woman spoke Joab’s words for him. If David had followed Joab’s counsel and found a way to reconcile with his son while still adequately dealing with his sin, years of war and untold human suffering might have been avoided.

 The second time Joab confronted David was after a hard won battle with Absalom’s army. David was so grief-stricken over the death of his rebellious and horrible son that he neglected to show appreciation to the men who fought and won the war that saved Israel.

 Joab informed David harshly that there were things more important than his feelings (2nd Samuel 19:1-8)  He advised David to behave like a leader and to start thinking with his head rather than his heart. Joab told David in no uncertain terms to grow up, move past his grief and do what needed to be done. Joab’s truthful but hard words saved the kingdom and perhaps altered the course of Israel’s history.

 Joab’s tough talk and David’s response reminds me of some truths that I am sometimes inclined to forget. First, God uses less than perfect people to communicate critical truths. I can get caught in the trap of expecting perfection of others before I am willing to listen to what they have to say. When this happens I inevitably wind up overlooking some critical and possibly life changing truths. David’s willingness to hear out a less than perfect messenger reminds me that wise people prayerfully evaluate what others say to them.

 That said, Christians should strive to be the kind of truth-tellers folks respect and respond to. Joab’s story reminds me that I should be striving to be the type of Christian whose actions and attitudes do not get in the way of God’s truth. Joab was a born leader, gifted with incredible insight and the ability to articulate truth in a powerful and life changing way. He was also a moral and spiritual failure.

Joab’s life is a reminder that the spiritual impact we have in this world is directly tied to what kind of life we choose to live.