The Periodic Musings of Matt Davis

September 29, 2010

On Politics and the Church… pt. 2 (or God Bless America – How???)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kcillini77 @ 2:37 am

Much of what I hear out of evangelicals as it regards politics these days has to do with the notion of America as a Christian nation.  There are all sorts of websites, books, etc. dedicated to proving or denying the Christian heritage of our nation, and frankly, that’s not the debate I want to get into.

What interests me more is the prevalent idea that God has blessed America because of this national relationship.  Much of the propaganda I hear being pushed by evangelicals declares that we as a nation are losing our favor with God, and we need to get back to the ideals of the Founding Fathers.  Get back to God, or else God will not show us the favor he has shown us to this point.

Even if I were to concede that the religious beliefs of the Founders had somehow forged a special relationship between the United States of America and God, I still would find issue with this line of thinking.  Here’s why.  What are the evidences that God has blessed America?  Well, let’s see:  We are the most powerful nation in the world.  We are the wealthiest nation in the world.  As a whole, we individually enjoy prosperity and freedom to degrees that no one else on Earth enjoys.  Sweet!  America is the best country on earth – there’s no denying it.

BUT – what do the red letters of the Gospel say constitute a blessing?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Matthew 5:3-12, NIV)

The Gospel of Jesus turned upside down what was meant to be blessed.  The followers of Jesus shortly after his Resurrection lived in the Roman Empire, a culture that was full of many of the “blessings” of wealth and prosperity that we claim as our own today.  But Jesus didn’t consider the wealthy the blessed.  No, He would say it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  The people that Jesus said were blessed were those who would soon undergo torture and death at the hands of Nero and the Roman Empire.

In theory we (evangelicals) agree.  We applaud the underground Chinese churches and all of our fellow believers around the world who are persecuted.  But meanwhile we devote our efforts here in America to ensuring our rights are preserved.  To keeping our tax exempt status.  To posting Ten Commandments in public spaces (despite the fact that the Law brings condemnation, and our message is Jesus, not the law).

The Gospel of Jesus says that we have fallen far short of God, and that only through Christ’s atonement for our personal sin can we be redeemed.  That Gospel is the GOOD news because it means that our effort to bridge the gap to God is all for naught.  Our behavior modification and attempts to please him have failed and will always fail.  But Jesus is the answer.

So why do we, as Evangelicals, continue to propagate a message that God is angry with our country for our sins and that the only way to make sure we continue to be “blessed” by wealth, prosperity, freedom, and power is to stop sinning and have better morals?  A blessing of that sort is the antithesis of the Gospel.  It’s its own reward.  If we truly believe the Gospel is the hope for the nations that should be our primary focus – not the sustainability of our own freedom and prosperity.  If the fear-mongers are right and we are headed toward socialism, well, what are we worried about?  We may just lose a fortune – and gain a soul.

September 21, 2010

On Politics and the Church… Pt. 1

Filed under: American Church, Politics — Tags: — kcillini77 @ 9:07 pm

As you can see, I have disappeared into the quick posts of Facebook and failed to make a detailed point in about a gestation period.  That kind of fits in with having a new addition to the family, but I digress.  At any rate, there is something that I have been pondering, and I am going to attempt to start discussing it.  I don’t know how often I will get to it or exactly where it will go, but I want to get started and see.  Hopefully some of you will join along with me and we can have some degree of discussion.

I have no thesis at this point – I’m just shooting from the hip.  But the title gives you a little clue of where I’m headed.

I voted for Bush.  Twice.  I was convinced that the hope for America was conservatism – both financially and socially, and imagined everyone else to be, for lack of a better term, liberal heathen idiots.  I used to watch a lot of Fox News.  I had lots of opinions and was happy to share them. If the tea party bandwagon was revving up 4 years ago, I probably would have been on it.

In 2008, I voted for Barack Hussein Obama.  Screeeech.  What?  Did I hit my head in the voting booth?  No, at some point around that election, I moved from a passionate view of politics to a disenchantment with the us vs. them mentality.  I don’t know that I could have put it into words then, but what was most troubling to me was not the fact that America was divided politically.  Division is necessary for our two-party system to thrive.  It may be more heated now than it has been in my life, or maybe it just seems that way because of the media circus.  But that wasn’t really what led me to pull the lever for a liberal.

What troubled me the most on that day in 2008 and still continues to bother me is that as someone who identifies as an evangelical, the voices that seem to be equating or at least marrying the Gospel of Jesus with Republican Party platforms are way too loud and far, far, off base.  I heard so many statements from people that seemed to equate a vote for Obama with a vote for Satan that I just got to the point that I wanted to scream.  Most of these arguments centered on abortion and that it is a moral evil.  You can’t vote for someone who is in favor of support of a moral evil or you have sided with evil.  But the flip side of that is that no party has a corner on morality, and, even if they did, Jesus did not come to restore morality.  He came to restore immoral people to God.  We as evangelicals say our primary focus is to introduce people to Jesus.  That should be our purpose.  But instead we are trying to change the morals of people through politics, which to me is empty, hollow, and worthless.  So, my politics have veered not so much to a liberal slant as to an apathetic slant.  I don’t get too worked up about anything.  But I realize that if I’m going to call out evangelicals for abandoning the Gospel and substituting it for shallow politics, I need to immerse myself in the Gospel all the more.  So, I intend to spend some time thinking about the Gospel and how it does, and should, relate to the politics of the day.  Again, I don’t know how that will play itself out, but feel free to join me in the coming weeks.  Or maybe I’ll get apathetic again before that.  We’ll see.

Oh, to finish the story on what made me pull the lever for Obama.  I was listening to a local political talk show and a woman called in to the station.  She identified herself as a black woman and a McCain voter.  She said most of her friends and family considered her a traitor.  When asked why she was voting for McCain, she said it was because she had become a Christian and the people in her church had made it clear to her that there was a “Christian” way to vote and that was for John McCain.  The audacity of that statement made me determined to cancel out that vote and let everyone else decide the election.  See – apathy.

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