Frankly Alarming

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

Recently I came across a t-shirt emblazoned with the words, “1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.”

Written in 1949 by George Orwell, 1984 is a novel about:

Winston Smith…a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens; everywhere he looks he sees the face of the Party’s seemingly omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother. The Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language. Currently, the Party is forcing the implementation of an invented language called Newspeak, which attempts to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. Such thoughtcrime is, in fact, the worst of all crimes.

SparkNotes Plot Summary

Republicans accuse Democrats of Newspeak. Democrats accuse Republicans of Newspeak. From cries of “fake news” to the redefinition of words as part of growing moral relativism, the blame rests equally on the shoulders of members of both major parties. Subtly, sneakily, by raising the temperature of the pot ever-so-slowly so that we aren’t alarmed when the water begins to boil, we have been ushered into an new age of propaganda.

Don’t believe me? Go and check out President Trump’s “real news.” State sponsored/controlled media. That’s a thing we have now. #Icanteven.

 

Irritated as I am over this, I’m not surprised. Both parties have been effective in undermining the work and position of the media. Both parties have gone into overdrive in painting the other as the most evil entity to have ever existed. Both parties have ingeniously and deviously played on the fear, ignorance and arrogance of the American people. I hope that my fellow countrypeople wake up. I hope they reject this insanity.

But this article isn’t even about that.

What gets under my skin even more, what pushes my temper to the hot zone, is the proliferation of evangelical propaganda. Consider:

Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers who preached the morning of his inauguration, has released a statement saying the president has the moral authority to “take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said. “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Jeffress said in a phone interview that he was prompted to make the statement after Trump said that if North Korea’s threats to the United States continue, Pyongyang will be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

The biblical passage Romans 13 gives the government authority to deal with evildoers, Jeffress said. “That gives the government … the authority to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment to quell the actions of evildoers like Kim Jong Un,” he said.

He said that many pacifist Christians will cite Romans 12, which says, “Do not repay evil for evil,” but Jeffress says that the passage is referring to Christians, not to the government.

“A Christian writer asked me, ‘Don’t you want the president to embody the Sermon on the Mount?’ ” he said, referring to Jesus’s sermon. “I said absolutely not.”

Washington Post; August 9, 2017

This is easily summarized: God is okay with evil actions if they stop other evil actions, especially if the United States (and, more specifically, the President/party we like) takes the action.

Last I checked, assassination is murder. Where does God say He’s cool with that?

Now, consider this:

“I can’t help but admire Jared and Ivanka. The two of them have put their lives entirely on hold in order to pursue the good of their nation, and I have found them to be particularly interested in our concerns as evangelical Christians. It’s just like God to use a young Jewish couple to help Christians in the United States defend their rights, and secure their religious freedom for now, and for subsequent generations.”

“I have found every interaction with Jared Kushner to be exemplary. He is clearly an extraordinary individual, with obvious integrity, and he has been a great gift to the evangelical community. We have always found him to be ‘an ever-present help in time of need.’ There are few things I’m sure of in the world we are living in today, but one of thing I am sure of is that Jared Kushner is a good man, and I’m honored to know him.”

Pastors David Jerimiah and Samuel Rodriguez

An allusion to Mary and Joseph. Really?

Quoting Psalm 46:1 – the opening line of a song of praise to God – in lauding a mere mortal. Where’s the bolt of lightning?

Once again I think about all the professors I had, the ones who would have not hesitated to fail me or anyone else who dared to present such shoddy, sloppy interpretation. These church leaders, who have influence over so many, are engaging in Newspeak. They attempt to eliminate opposition by removing any understanding of doctrine and Scripture that would testify against the activities of the current administration. Are they calculated or malicious in doing so? I can’t guess at the motives. God alone knows. All I can do is point to the rotten fruit and tell you not to eat it.

Whatever your politics, this abuse of Scripture is wrong. Blatantly so. Crossed over into disturbing. This is not what we’re to be about, folks. We don’t use the Bible to prop up politicians and we don’t twist it to fit our agendas. We don’t snip it and pick it and fold it and ignore the stuff that doesn’t fit within our existing worldviews. We either take the whole Bible as it is and allow the words of truth to shape us via the loving, convicting, guiding activity of the Holy Spirit, or we inevitably destroy it and thus destroy our ability to witness, to speak truth.

Consider a churchman who understands this:

[Moore] actually been warning about someone like him for years. Writing prophetically in his 2014 book, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, Moore warned that Christians “ought to be the last people to fall for hucksters and demagogues.” He argued against the coziness that old-guard evangelical Christians had nurtured within the Republican Party in the last few decades and chastised believers who celebrated politicians in exchange for access and power.

“Some sectors of religious activism are willing to receive, as Christians, heretics and demagogues, so long as they are with us politically,” Moore wrote. “When that happens, we are demonstrating what we believe to be truly important, and we are embracing then a different gospel from the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

He also rejected the notion that the United States was a nation in covenant with God.
“Our end goal is not a Christian America,” he wrote. “That illusion is over, and happily so.”

– The Survival of a Southern Baptist who Dared to Oppose Trump

I realize that my position on these matters and increasing willingness to share that position with others is abhorrent to some. Know this: It’s not a Trump thing. If Clinton had won, I would be just as appalled at the evangelical community, for no doubt, instead of slavish devotion, many would have opposed anything her administration attempted out of sheer spite.

Slavish devotion or sheer spite.

Surely these are not our only options.

Surely we are called to something better, something higher.

Signature

Photo credit: Christin Hume

Not the Fundamentals: It Does Matter

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Gentle Reader,

As I was thinking about how to launch this series, it occurred to me that I should be very clear to state that doctrine (what you believe) does matter. The “the Gospel…and” ideals of legalistic fundamentalism are upsetting, but I actually see red when I come across those who play fast and loose with the tenets of the faith, “the Gospel…minus.” I simply don’t understand how a person can claim to be a Christian, but deny the literal Resurrection (kind of a major feature in the faith). Or deny that Jesus explicitly identified Himself as God (see pretty much the entire book of John, large chunks in the other Gospels, the Epistles, Revelation…you know, the entire New Testament). Or deny the reliability of the Bible (“I’m a Christian but I don’t believe the Bible” is entirely contradictory).

In case that opening paragraph doesn’t spell it out for you, let me be explicit: I hold to conservative, evangelical doctrine. If you think that means I vote Republican, am complementarian to the nth degree, hate music, movies, and culture of any sort, shun any translation that isn’t King James, avoid make-up or fashion and am, in general, a Debbie Downer total party-killer, then this series is just for you! Being doctrinally conservative doesn’t mean any of that. It does, broadly, center on:

* Biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible (e.g. all essential spiritual truth is to be found in its pages)
* Crucicentrism, a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross
* Conversionism, the belief that human beings need to be converted
* Activism, the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort – What, Exactly, is Evangelical Christianity?

A Christian should have a high view of Scripture without getting wrapped up in things like numbers of soldiers in lists or whether or not the 6 days of creation were literal, 24-hour days (more on that later). Nature directs us to the existence of God (Romans 1) and the Holy Spirit most definitely and actively speaks to people (John 16:5-15), but it is the Bible, with its narratives, poetry, wisdom, allegories, letters and apocalyptic portions that reveals what may be intimately known of God. Its depths can never be plumbed.

A Christian owes her life to the work of Christ in the Atonement.

A Christian knows what his life was before conversion, before bowing in repentance and submission to the Lord. He wants other people to know his experience.

A Christian sees the brokenness of this world and reacts to it with the compassion of God. She reaches out to work for justice.

Breaking down those categories further would take years and more posts than you could possibly want to read on the subject. Yet it is important to distill some points and define just what it is that a Christians have historically believed:

– GOD –

There is only one God

God is Trinity; Father, Son, Holy Spirit (a mystery)

God is omniscient (all-knowing)

God is omnipotent (all-powerful)

God is omnipresent (everywhere)

God is righteous (holy)

God is spirit (no body)

God is the creator of everything that exists

God is infinite and eternal

God is immutable (unchanging)

– HUMANITY –

Man was created by God in the image of God

– SIN –

Sin is to break the rules as defined by God, whether recklessly or unknowingly

All people have sinned

Death came into the world through Adam’s sin

Sin separates us from God

– EVIL –

Satan is real, but he is not the equal of God

Satan and his cohorts, all fallen angels, work to bring chaos and destruction to the world

– ATONEMENT –

Jesus is fully God and fully man (hypostatic union)

Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary

Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life

Jesus died for the sins of each and every person in the world

Jesus’ death was a substitutionary sacrifice (in our place/for us)

Jesus resurrected from the dead in physical form

Salvation is a free gift of God (we cannot earn it)

The Holy Spirit lives in those who accept Christ as Lord and Savior

– ETERNITY –

Those who reject Jesus Christ will go to Hell

Those who accept Jesus Christ will live forever with Him

– BIBLE –

The Bible is the inspired Word of God

– LAST THINGS –

Jesus will return to the earth

There will be a final judgment

God will create a new heaven and a new earth

The lovely thing about these points is that they provide the believer with structure and room to question. Jesus will return, but what will that look like? How did God inspire the authors of the Bible? Two people can both be sincere, orthodox Christians and have disagreements within these boundaries. What cannot be disagreed on are the boundaries themselves. Boundaries are fences; they create division.

One cannot be both within and without the fence.

My journey to faith. (15)

 For all the posts in the Not the Fundamentals series, go here.