Saturday, November 8, 2008

America is the Best: But just what does that mean?

I'd like to continue with the thoughts I've raised in my last two posts. My concern here is not so much with the political state of affairs with our country as it is with the spiritual state of my friends and fellow Christians dealing with the political state of affairs with our country.

Like you, I too am concerned about many of the things I see as problems with America. When I encourage Christians to demonstrate a Christlike spirit toward President elect Barack, I was not suggesting we turn a blind eye and just give up trying to make a difference. I for one, am not very excited about how the election turned out. I will also be the first to tell you, that had McCain won, I would not have been very excited how the election turned out. Neither reflected my views on the things that really matter. I remember listening to KFLR in Phoenix telling me to vote my Christians principles, and I kept asking the radio, "And just what would that look like?" Did McCain relflect my Christian principles? Did Obama? The truth is neither did. They were not running for Pastor of the United States, (though some of us acted as if they were) they were running for President. And since Barack won, he is my President. But that doesn't mean as a citizen of the United States, I cannot speak out my opinion, or take action for the things I believe is right. The issue is not what I can do or say, but how I do or say those things as a Christian. I will not abandon my most important status as a Child of God in order to exercise my 'rights' as a citizen. And no matter how things turn out over the next 4 or 40 years, I need to keep one thing in perspective. I am not (and neither are you) an American Christian. I am a Christian who just happens to be an American citizen. Do you understand the difference? We are in this world, but are not to be of this world. Most of us recognize the unBiblical nature of the "Gospel of Prosperity", but too many of us -especially Conservatives & Republicans are blind to the "Gospel of Patriotism". We have married what it means to be a Christian with being a Patriot. They are not the same thing. And I am not depressed over what is happening in America. Because depression would be the result of a failed expectation. And I have no expectations that America is my hope, security, or future.

Which brings me to a related question. I have heard a great deal of praise for America as being the best country in the world lately. Having lived in 2 other countries and visited several more, I believe that America is the best country in the world. But I have to ask, "What is the criteria for defining 'best'?" If by best we mean; the best for economic opportunity, or the best for freedom of speech, or the best for just all around freedom to do what we want to do, then yes, America is the best. But is that the best for living out our faith in Christ? I really have to question the notion that the best that is America; is really the best for Christians. We are one of the most morally depraved, amoral, self-serving, dollar conscious cultures in the world. That our culture has thrown God out of schools and government and desires to throw God out of the public square is no suprise, and no big deal either. But that Christians have traded the rich inheritance of the Kingdom of Grace, for a cheap porridge of patriotic wringing of hands over the state of America; that is a huge deal and is by far the saddest state of affairs for us.

In a time of fear that we may start loosing some of our 'rights', let us remember that as Christians we have one of the most powerful rights of all; Christians have the right to give up their rights for the sake of Christ. After all He did that for us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama: My President (elect)

Let’s get it out at the start: Barack Obama will be (Lord willing) my president on January 20, 2009. But I guess that begs the question: Is it the Lord’s will that Obama was elected president?
Increasingly, over the last 6 months or more, I have heard many prayers concerning our nation, and specifically about the election. We prayed that God’s Will would be done in this election. And I have to wonder, was it?

Now don’t jump ahead of me here. Let’s think this through. There are at least two options. One: Barack’s election was the fulfillment of God’s will. If that is the case, we could speculate several reasons why God might want Barack to be our President at this time in history. He may want to do great things through Barak’s leadership… or He might want use Barack in the same way He used Pharoah as the opportunity to bring judgment against the nation. It makes me wonder….

The second option; Barack’s election was not according to God’s will. We will struggle with this one a bit, because we typically think that God is in control of everything. And I sort of think that’s true. God is in control, always. But that doesn’t mean that God controls everything. You understand the difference don’t you? You and I know this truth, simply because we know that when we choose to disobey God, He is not controlling us at that moment. Maybe God’s will was that McCain should be president, but We the People (OK, them the people, if it makes you feel better) choose to go their own way and elect Barack.

The truth is, I don’t really know the answer here. Was it or not, God’s will for Barack to be elected? Maybe time will tell.

But… maybe there is a third option: God might not have really cared who got elected. Does that trouble you? Could it be possible that in the divine scheme of things it really didn’t make any difference? Would it have really mattered who Captained the Titanic after it struck the ice-burg? Again, I don’t know. On this issue, (to quote from the movie, Rudy), “I know two incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I’m not Him.”

But there is a third thing that I do know without a doubt, and that is what God’s will is for me. I am to honor God in all things. And that will manifest itself in being a law abiding (think: “Render to Caesar”) citizen in so far as I am not compelled to disobey God, for Lord trumps President! It will also show up in “giving honor to whom honor is due” – and that means to President Barack Obama – even if he wasn’t my choice. I was very ashamed during the term of President Clinton to read a bumper-sticker on the back of a car in front of me that read: “Pray for Clinton – Psalm 109:8-9”. (Psalm 109:8-9 says, “Let his days be few; Let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”) The shameful and ungodly ways people who claimed to be Christians treated and spoke about Clinton can never be accepted, and should not be repeated during the next 4 years.

Barack Obama is my President, and Jesus Christ is my Lord. I am certain it is God’s will that I give each of them the honor that is due them, with Grace, Compassion and the Integrity that is of Christ.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Voted...

Two Editorial Notes:

First I want to apologize for being absent from writing. Having just moved to Colorado a month ago and beginning a new ministry at the University Church of Christ has kept me busy. But I promise to be more attentive to this blog. To those who have stopped by on a regular basis, yet finding nothing new, I’m sorry, and thank you for your patience.

Second; this particular post is somewhat political, yet the primary focus is not about politics, but rather how we should be living our life in Christ in this world. I am not trying to offend anyone – I have many friends who are Democrats supporting Obama, and many who are Republicans supporting McCain. At the same time I am not trying to NOT offend anyone. There are many things in my mind that are very offensive about this election cycle.

On the eve of this presidential election, I feel compelled to put down some of my thoughts about this election – more to the point, some thoughts on what I have heard from many of my Christian friends and others who are followers of Christ regarding this election. There have been many issues raised in this election, the economy, the war, taxes, stem-cell research, health care, energy, and the list goes on. I am quick to admit that I have very little clue as to what the right course of action the government should take on these issues. And whatever you believe about these issues, the truth is that for most of them it is a matter of judgment, not right vs. wrong in a ‘transcendent’ sense.

Yet there have been other issues beyond these. One of the big issues that has come to light in this election has been the role, or better stated, the nature of the press. What energy has been spent discussing and arguing over the bias in the press. Whether it’s the NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, we have a real trust issue on our hands. (In fairness to Conservative Talk Radio, they at least admit up front they are fully behind a Conservative/Republican point of view, as opposed to the traditional press who still want us to believe they are just reporting the news. And I’m not suggesting that Talk Radio is any more accurate, but at least you know what you’re getting.) But what does that mean for the public when ‘news’ becomes propaganda? What does it do to us? One thing it has done is to exacerbate the divide between us by fueling animosity to the point we can’t talk about the issues, because we don’t trust or like ‘your’ source; “You’re just a ditto head” or “You’re just a drone of the drive-by media.”

Related to that, this campaign has been the nastiest since… well, since the last one. But I do believe it is getting worse. And it is frustrating, as one new friend opined that he wished “that republicans would talk about issues and not just attack Obama.” My reply was that “in a Presidential election, often the candidate IS the issue.” I meant that for both Obama and McCain. What kind of men they are is the issue. Their track record, their history is the basis for trusting their promises for the future and their ability to deliver. But we often don’t want to know the men beyond the rhetoric. And because we are getting propaganda instead of clear facts about the men and the issues, it naturally denigrates to the nasty attacks, none of which need to be rehearsed here.

And that brings me to the more depressing issues of this election; we the people. This election in a unique way, I believe is going to say more about us as Americans, than it will about either Barak Obama or John McCain. We the People are the issue as well. We are already ‘post-modern’ and ‘post-Christian’ as a nation. But I believe we are quickly becoming ‘post-American.’ I don’t mean that in the sense that some have interpreted Sara Palin’s remarks about ‘real America.’ I mean it in the sense that we are rapidly moving to the point that there is no more ‘We the People’, but rather just a fragmented tribalism barely able to stand one another, and therefore cannot stand together for anything. And it matters not who wins tomorrow, I believe America has already lost too much of what once was good.

And now the main point for those of us who desire to be followers of Christ: AND SO WHAT? The issue for Christians is never the ‘issues’, it isn’t the media, it’s not the candidates, nor is it the people. The issue is not even America. The real issue for Christians is following the risen Christ. Too many of us who call ourselves Christians have fallen deeply into “Ahithophel Thinking” when it comes to politics. You may be right about Abortion or Same-Sex Marriage on one side. You may be right about the War and health care for everyone on another side. But like Ahithophel we have been wrong on the side that matters: if we believe that our security and future lie in what the Government does or doesn’t do. We are to be faithful to God, while living as aliens in a fallen world. And So What, if America falls into socialism, it’s no less fallen than when we were at the height of Capitalism (you do know neither is a sanctified economic system?). America is a fallen country my friends and it was so even before the ink was dry on the Constitution.

You and I as Christians (whether Democrats or Republicans) need to remember on Wednesday morning: our side didn’t win anything of real value, so we shouldn’t gloat or fret, but wake up with the same confidence we had this morning – Christ still wears the victor's crown, still sits at the right hand of the throne of heaven. He is the only one who can bring change into this world. He is the only one who has truly suffered for us. He is the only one that can give us real security.

We are Christians, and that’s the only issue that counts.