Focus on the Family Needs to go Back to the Future

Just prior to the recent presidential election, Focus on the Family Action, the lobbying arm of Focus on the Family, an organization founded by evangelical Christian Dr. James Dobson posted an imaginative letter entitled, “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.”  In this hyperbolic letter, the fictional writer lays out a “possible” scenario of what the United States would look like if Senator Barak Obama was elected President of the United States and both houses of Congress were to be run by the Democrats.  Here are some of the proposed scenarios according to Christianity Today:

-The Supreme Court would lean liberal
-Churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages would lose their tax-exempt status
-“under God” in the Pledge would be declared unconstitutional
-Doctors and nurses who won’t perform abortions will no longer be able to deliver babies
-Pornography would be openly displayed on newsstands
-Inner-city crime increases when gun ownership is restricted
-Homeschooling would become restricted, so thousands of homeschooling parents emigrate to other countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
– “Since 2009, terrorist bombs have exploded in two large and two small U.S. cities, killing
hundreds, and the entire country is fearful, for no place seems safe.”
-Euthanasia is becoming more and more common.
-New carbon emission standards drive many coal-powered electric plants out of business. “The country has less total electric power available than in 2008, and periodic blackouts to conserve energy occur on a regular schedule throughout the nation.”

“After many of these decisions, especially those that restricted religious speech in public places, President Obama publicly expressed strong personal disapproval of the decision and said that the Supreme Court had gone far beyond what he ever expected,” the letter reads.

It suggests that younger evangelicals were the tipping point for Obama’s pretend victory.

“Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far-Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong,” the letter says.

The author also proposes that every conservative talk show would have to be followed by an instant rebuttal to the program by a liberal “watchdog” group and eventually shut down by 2010. Another hypothetical scenario is that because no Christian is willing to write books critical of homosexuality, many Christian publishers go out of business.

The author suggests that Bush administration officials who had involvement with the Iraq war would be put in jail.

The author writes, “Many brave Christian men and women tried to resist these laws, and some Christian legal agencies tried to defend them, but they couldn’t resist the power of a 6-3 liberal majority on the Supreme Court. It seems many of the bravest ones went to jail or were driven to bankruptcy. And many of their reputations have been destroyed by a relentless press and the endless repetition of false accusations.”

Upon reading this apocalyptic, I thought it might be good to consider another scenario, based in the same factitious quality and tone.  Using another time machine, I chose to take us back to the year 2000,  specifically on November 6th, the day before the election that saw Texas governor George Bush running against Vice-President Al Gore.  Keeping with the spirit of the recent Focus on the Family letter, just imagine if someone, possibly one of those Democratic operatives, were to have written another pretend letter called, “Letter from 2008 in Bush’s America.”  How would those supporting George Bush have reacted?

Perhaps, the 2000 letter would suggest some crazy scenarios like the following.  Just imagine.

If Republian George W. Bush is elected, America will begin a dramatic decline toward chaos not seen since the Great Depression and an obvious manifestation of God withdrawing His hand of protection and favor from this country.  During the next eight years, if George Bush is elected and reelected, the following conditions will occur:

Within a year of his election, the United States will experience the greatest attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor.  This terrorist attack will be against the symbols of US economic and military might, in New York and in Washington, DC.    In response to these attacks, President Bush will launch a massive propaganda campaign that will propel the nation into two wars resulting in the deaths of over 4,500 troops and over 30,000 wounded service personnel.  Aside from these physical casualties to our men and women in uniform, the US taxpayer will foot the bill to the tune of about $600 Billion directly and by extension, about $3 Trillion. This war will become the longest in US history and least supported since the Vietnam War.

In an attempt to keep their eye on terrorists, the Bush administration will move to allow domestic espionage, opening all kinds of opportunities for spying on citizens, some for their religious affiliations.  This action will allow the National Security Agency and others to conduct secret and illegal wiretapping and spying operation against the people of the United States all in the name of national security.

On the economic front, the Bush administration will pass a tax cut that will favor the wealthiest taxpayers and at the same time increase spending at an alarming rate.  The surplus he inherited from President Bill Clinton will turn into the biggest deficit in national history and as a result, the national debt will rise dramatically.  During George W. Bush’s presidency, the national debt will grow by more than $4 trillion. It will be the biggest increase under any president in U.S history.  On the day President Bush takes office, the national debt will stand at $5.727 trillion. By his last year in office, the national debt will stand at more than $9.849 trillion. That’s a 71.9 percent increase on Mr. Bush’s watch.

Toward the end of his second term, with two wars still being fought, the US housing and mortgage industry will suffer a huge deflation leading to millions of foreclosures, bankruptcies, and the collapse of many large institutional banks and brokerages.  This will require the US Congress to bailout the lending industry, adding about another trillion dollars of debt to the US Taxpayer. Other world economies will suffer equally. Also, during that time, even though George Bush is an oilman, his expertise will not prevent the cost of gasoline and other oil products from more than doubling in his final year.  George Bush’s friends in the petroleum industry will see record-setting profits, while hundreds of business fail due to the high price of energy.  His slogan, “Compassionate Conservatism” will sound quite hollow.

In the midst of Bush’s terms, natural disasters will occur, but due to the weakness of his government, many will suffer for lack of critical government services.  George Bush will be seen as a reactive president, not prepared for the future.

By the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, he will have garnered the highest disapproval rating in modern history.  Due to that in part, a Democratic candidate will win the 2008 election and will be joined by a large majority of Democrats in the Congress and Senate.  States that are normally seen as safe Republican bets will reject the Republican Party, some for the first time in decades.

Although these predictions are only possible scenarios and may seem far-fetched to the rational mind, there is always the possibility, given the character of George Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney that such things could, in fact, occur on George Bush’s watch.  Therefore, be prayerful about your vote.

The sad thing is that there are those who would readily consider and actually believe the 2012 Focus letter, but if they were back in 2000 reading the letter above, would call it a hateful, liberal diatribe, or more directly, an absolute, groundless lie.  To them I would say, “Don’t drink the Koolaid.”

I know I shouldn’t have to say anything, but there are those folks who won’t see the obvious.  So let me clean it up.  In the 2012 letter, Focus on the Family Active is predicting some very dire circumstance to an Obama presidency.  All this without the benefit of God’s stamp of approval.  No one is saying, “Thus saith the Lord.”  Therefore, the predictions should be seen as merely the creation of a fearful mind, not one that relies on the scripture that declares that, “All things work together for good, to them who love God and are called to His purpose.”  Christian should fear not, but be courageous.  The 2012 letter on the other hand is a profession of fear, discord, and faithlessness.  Not one of a sound mind, unity, and faith in the living God.

It has become very clear to me that the actions of Focus on the Family Action is evidence of a para-church organization that is set adrift from the Living Word of God.  Winning the culture wars seem to be tactically, an anything-goes methodology instead of being tethered to the moral code of Christ’s example.  I think the 2012 letter is reprehensible and Focus on the Family should repent for its dissemination.

As for my personal prediction for 2012, I see more Christians relying less on the leadership of the likes of James Dobson, and more on the power of real prayer and love for enemies, real and perceived.

Related Articles”

James Dobson, you owe America an apology – Jim Wallis

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A Biblical View of Political Responsibility

georgewashingtonprayingIn my last post, Revisting the Formula for Healing the Nation, I provided the road map outlined in scripture that gives Christians directions to bringing the nation to God.  In the following video, featuring Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendant of the Assemblies, Dr. Wood gives five points of biblical direction for Christians relative to their engagement in politics and public life.  I think it is right on and critical to moving the Church away from relying on the carnal weapons of the world system and toward an authentic Christian lifestyle that gives light to the world’s darkeness.

Revisting the Formula for Healing the Nation

While growing up in suburban Baltimore, my mom, in her attempts to instill a sense of God’s ways in me, would often note that God does things in His own time and in His own ways.  The underlying message was that we can trust God to act on our behalf, but don ‘t expect Him to do it in the way we want Him to do it.  That’s a hard lesson to learn because we, in our human, linear reasoning, feel that we know the best way for doing things.  The problem, among others we have, is that we don’t have God’s perspective, and frankly we’re not that patient. Some time later, after reading scripture and listening to hundreds of anecdotes and testimonies by other believers, it became clear that the God who would use a prostitute in Jericho, Balaam’s ass, a terrorist named Paul, and a slew of other less-than-stellar personalities to affect His will, has a way of doing things that we humans, believers included, would never subscribe to.  Fortunately, God is not bound by our reasoning and strict “moral” guidelines.  As the scripture says,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways,” declares the LORD.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

In that scripture there lies a maxim that most people just don’t get.  Tragically, most Christians haven’t integrated into their lives either, and for that reason, the nation is seriously, at risk. When, according to the biblical account detailing the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, God provided a clear, unambiguous, instruction to follow if the land, crops, and people came under a curse from straying from His ways.  It seems pretty clear that God tied the righteous standing of His people to the earthly conditions of the nation.  He further provided an opportunity for redemption, if only His people would return to Him.  The scripture that exhibits this prescription is found in II Chronicles 7:13-15.  Most Christians are familiar with it, but most of those who use it to advance a political agenda rarely get the simplicity and potency of the message.

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”

Unfortunately, although many politically active and interested Christians quote this scripture to promote the way the nation can return to God, there are so many that quickly start pointing to those outside the faith as the focus of this scripture.  In other words, they have shifted the blame and responsibility for national moral decline on unbelievers, while the scripture plainly points to the spiritual condition of the Church.  Instead of directing attention toward the condition of the Church, issues like abortion, gay marriage, and socialism become the primary issues on the scale.  Some will argue the point, but all one has to do is look at the letters to the Churches of Asia Minor found in the Book of Revelation.  God wasn’t warning some nation about their moral condition, but instead, focused squarely on those who called themselves by His name.  But even before the birth of the Church, Jesus spoke to his disciples about how important the integrity and holiness of his followers were to the overall condition and survivability of the nation.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:13-16

So here’s the deal.  There are plenty of texts in scripture that describes the condition of the world. Generally, the world is full of sin, death, injustice, hate, and rottenness.  People are self-centered, liars, and desperately wicked.  Of course there’s more, but I think you’ve got the picture.  Now Jesus spoke these words to a bunch of uneducated, nontheologians who had been under his tutelage and would eventually turn the world upside-down.  In this passage, Jesus made it clear that his follow’s spiritual condition was critical to the preservation of the world and to reflecting His glory in the world.  Consider this commentary:

There are two broad approaches to seeking to shape values in society. At times the Christian community may feel it needs to confront a particular value, decision or priority adopted by the community.  But the Christian community is also able to influence values day in, day out through bringing a distinctively Christian approach to the people we come across as we go about our daily lives. This is what we mean by being “salt and light” in the world (Mt 5:13,14), where by living distinctively Christian lifestyles we seek to influence those around us, and through this the values, decisions and priorities adopted by our communities.


Jesus challenges us to be salt and light – to influence the world, and to be seen to be doing so.  You might like to spend some time reflecting on this passage :
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.  “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Mt 5:13-16

1. You are the salt of the earth. ·By beginning with You, Jesus emphasises to the disciples that they have both the calling and the responsibility to be influencers in the world.   Salt is a number of effects :
twiddle.gif (853 bytes)as a seasoning agent, it improves the taste of the food that it comes into contact with, and so as we come into contact with society our Christian values should improve the nature of that society.
twiddle.gif (853 bytes)salt makes people thirsty – and as Christians we seek to create a thirst in people’s lives that can only be satisfied by Jesus, who said : “if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me  me and drink” (Jn 7:37)
twiddle.gif (853 bytes)Salt is used to thaw ice on roads : so it can have the effect of warming hearts that have hardened against the gospel – over time the saltiness of Christians can bring people to know Jesus Christ.
twiddle.gif (853 bytes)as a preservative, salt gives food an improved length of life. Ultimately, with enough salt, those who do know Jesus, and acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour will have eternal life.

2. Salt which loses its saltiness is useless. · Jesus’ teaching is challenging.  There is little room for those who are Christians, but who have lost their saltiness, or their “edge”.  Without the testimony of lives lived out with integrity and consistency with the principles that Christians claim to follow, the testimony of our lips is useless.  But be clear : this does not require us to be perfect : knowing our sinfulness, and knowing our need to confess it and be cleansed of it is a vital part of the Christian gospel. Then, as v16 says, “let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

3. You are like light for the world. · Light shines on dark things and exposes what is there. This is a call to the church to challenge evil within our society, however uncomfortable this may be. Having humility and servanthood within our character does not make us toothless and wishy-washy. The light that we bring, is not our own light – it is not who we are in ourselves, but rather the light of God shining through our lives as the Holy Spirit works through them. This doesn’t mean that we have to refer to God in every other sentence, but when the opportunity arises, we can share with another person the light that God has given us.

4. Don’t hide your light. · We hide our light when we stay silent in the face of discussion which is contrary to that which we believe. We hide our light when we fail to accept and conform with behaviours that are not in line with Jesus’ teaching. We hide our light when we don’t care for the needs of others, and walk by on the other side : since we have missed an opportunity to let the light of Jesus’ compassion shine out in acts of kindness.  If we let the light of the Holy Spirit at work in us shine through, then we bring glory to God, and there can be no greater joy than being able to give glory to the Father as we go through our daily lives.

Sermon on the Mount

Now, as I pointed out in the first paragraph, God’s ways of doing things usually doesn’t jive with man’s way, that includes those in the Church.  It’s ironic that so many of those who claim a relationship with Christ, easily reject the “foolishness” of God and continue to think in a fashion no differently than the world who doesn’t even know Him.  Romans 12:1-2 informs us that things are to be different when we are “in Christ.”

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Here we see the caveat that warns Christians not to conform to the pattern of this world, but be changed in our way of thinking.  This text brings us full-circle to the place where in our hunger and desire to be like Christ, we start by having the “mind of Christ.”  To do so, involves renouncing the thinking of the world.  According to Phillipians 2:1-11, we see the contrast to worldly thinking.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:   Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What we see here is plain language that yokes the act of glorifying God with humbling oneself and having a servant’s heart.  This is consistent with the call to “humble oneself” before God. Without humility, God cannot exalt His Church in the eyes of the world.  When the Church is seen as arrogant, (as it often appears in the political marketplace)  not only does the world reject that contemptuousness and arrogance, but God does not support it as well.  The mechanics of worldy politics promote contention, factionalism, and a partisan spirit.  This is the polar-opposite of holiness, the opposite of God’s nature.  Christians need to remember the warning the apostle Paul gave regarding such attitudes.  In Galations 5:19-21 it says:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

What most people see in this scripture is the sins of sexual immorality, idolatry, witchcraft, and drunkenness.  They seem like they’re in bold print.  Sadly, what is hardly noticed, and often ignored during the political seasons are those other sins, like – hatred, discord, factions, dissensions, and the like.  The scripture is pretty clear, “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Did you hear that?  They who hate their political opponents, create dissensions and factions along political lines are not living a life reflecting the nature of Christ.  I can’t believe how often I’ve seen believers, including pastors, come out of church and within a short time, are saying some of the most outrageous and slanderous things about those on the opposite side of their political views.  Name calling, something we tell our children not to do, is often a sport among Christians.  I wonder if they would do the same if Jesus, who gave his life for those they were slandering, would be sitting in the room with them?  Most Christians would probably hold their tongues.  I sometimes wonder how many children growing up in Christian homes hear their parents slandering political and cultural rivals,have their faith undermined by parents who promote the Christian tenet of loving one’s enemy, yet see something totally different in practice.  It’s no wonder so many children of professed believers leave the faith.  It’s no mystery.  They don’t see anything that reflects the nature of Christ, only talk.  While ministering and teaching children in a Christian high school, this dichotomy was often raised as a problem that truly undermined the integrity of  “Christian education.”

Fortunately, God always gives us a way to return to Him.  He wants us to come back to Him.  Like the father waiting for his prodigal son, God is waiting for us to return, with the heart of a servant. Try reading II Chronicles 7:14 again.  The words, “IF” and “THEN” are matters of cause and effect.  God promises that if we do one thing, He will do another relative to it.  If we don’t, He won’t.  It doesn’t matter who is president, congressman, or judge.  God’s rule trumps man’s devices.  As the scripture says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.”  This is a blueprint that has to start in the House of God.  No nation will ever be righteous if the Church is corrupted by being conformed to the world.

So where do we begin?  How do we change our thinking and take on the nature of a servant?  Well once again, the Word of God is not silent.  In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 we read these words which reflect the formula for praoctively changing ourselves and the world.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior,  who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.  For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.  He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

Consider what Matthew Henry said regarding this passage:

2:1-7 The disciples of Christ must be praying people; all, without distinction of nation, sect, rank, or party. Our duty as Christians, is summed up in two words; godliness, that is, the right worshipping of God; and honesty, that is, good conduct toward all men. These must go together: we are not truly honest, if we are not godly, and do not render to God his due; and we are not truly godly, if not honest. What is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, we should abound in. There is one Mediator, and that Mediator gave himself a ransom for all. And this appointment has been made for the benefit of the Jews and the Gentiles of every nation; that all who are willing may come in this way, to the mercy-seat of a pardoning God, to seek reconciliation with him. Sin had made a quarrel between us and God; Jesus Christ is the Mediator who makes peace. He is a ransom that was to be known in due time. In the Old Testament times, his sufferings, and the glory that should follow, were spoken of as things to be revealed in the last times. Those who are saved must come to the knowledge of the truth, for that is God’s appointed way to save sinners: if we do not know the truth, we cannot be ruled by it.

What is important to see in all of this is that God’s heart is toward reconciliation and the ministry he has given to his children is the same.  Being involved in political conflict puts one in peril of falling into the trap of being ungracious and imitating the “Accuser” instead of the “Advocate.”  If one follows the charge of I Timothy 2:1-6, they will find themselves conforming to the mark of a true Christian, loving one’s enemies.

On election day in America, many Christians see those who they voted against win the election.  For many, it is a moment of despair and anxiety.  Some ironically see it as a judgment on the nation.  Perhaps that’s true, but if it is, and the Bible gives us any direction, it is time for Christians to understand that in God’s economy, “judgment begins in the House of God.”  The fact is, the condition of the nation is a reflection of the condition of the church.  If we want to see a change in the world, we need to see a change in us.

Back in 1996, I decided to proactively act upon 1 Timothy 2:1-6.  I began to pray earnestly for Bill Clinton and other politicians I voted against.  In a short time, God began to flood my heart with love for these people, their families, and their staffs.  Even though it opened wonderful opportunities to minister directly to a few of these folks, what was amazing is what happened to me.  For one thing, I began to understand in a deeper way, how much God loves me.  I started to understand grace in a totally dynamic way.  As I continued to engage those who I could call, “enemies” with hospitality and grace, I began to see other areas where I could demonstrate God’s grace toward those Christ died for.  I started to see people in the light of the knowledge that Jesus had placed great value on them and had paid for them with His life.  How could I treat or consider anyone with less consideration that God has given them.

On November 5th, the people of the United States will have chosen a number of people to represent them in local posts, state offices, national positions, and the highest place of government, the presidency.  For many believers there will be joy and hope.  For others, there will be despair, concern, and even fear.  Nevertheless, no matter how we “feel” about whoever won or lost, we as ambassadors of Christ are to follow after the tenets of 1 Timothy 2:1-6.  God’s promise is “that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity for this is good and pleases God our Savior,  who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”  It may not make sense to obey this biblical mandate, but that should be a clue.  It’s God’s way, not man’s.

Related Articles:

Salt and Light – P.G.Mathew

Works of the Flesh

Christians and Politics – Greg Boyd

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Very First Thoughts on Obama’s Acceptance Speech.

I have been a collector and student of speeches most of my life. I’ve even written and given a few. On top of that, being the son of a minister and having been a minister myself, speechcraft has been something of a vocational necessity. So tonight, the last night of the Democratic National Convention, I was looking forward to hearing Barak Obama deliver his acceptance speech for the office of president of the United States. After hearing him in Hartford, Connecticut’s Xcel Center the night before Super Tuesday primaries, I was very impressed with his ability to communicate his ideas and motivate and inspire his listeners. He definitely knows the mechanics of giving a good, connective speech. However, as Barak Obama began to deliver his acceptance speech in Denver’s Mile High Stadium, I was most struck merely with the moment. He didn’t have to say a word for me to be inspired and intellectually and emotionally moved. You see, what I was most awed by was just merely the fact that an African-American was actually nominated to be the president.

As Obama approached the podium, a few distant childhood thoughts crossed my mind. For some part of my young life, I grew up in a small North Carolina town, some 40 miles north of Charlotte. Newton, North Carolina was a town where back in the 1960’s you could easily discern the black section of town, strangely called Snow Hill, from the white sections of town. Segregation in Newton in the 60’s was alive and well and all the trappings of separatism were very easy to find. I remember quite distinctly seeing the segregated bathrooms and water fountains at the local A&P supermarket and even separate check out lines in a department store in town. And then there was the usual insulting epithets heard that often included the N-word and the demeaning nickname, “boy.” I even saw a cross burned by the Klan.

What I remember the most however, was the first day of my fourth-grade school year. It just so happened that it was the first time an African-American child was integrated into the all-white elementary school I attended. He happened to ride the same school bus I rode on and when we arrived at school that first day, there were a small number of white adults waiting at the school bus stop shouting racial insults and indignities and my black friend. Hearing their derogatory insults and seeing their angry face caused my friend to start crying in fear. Trying to get away from the hateful people, I ran a little interference and helped him get into the school. Soon thereafter the police arrived, but by that time, the small crowd of bigots had made their exit off the school grounds. I figured they would be back in coming days, but fortunately, they never showed up again. Nevertheless, my friend was definitely freaked out over the affair. As it were, he never finished out the school year. His parents decided it best to move away and get him to safer environs, perhaps somewhere up north.

Even though I was brought up in a self-described God-fearing community where most people described themselves as Bible Belt Christians, what I witnessed on a day-to-day basis was a deceived world view that provided a stark contrast to the biblical command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Racism is such a deceitful ideology, yet most of the Christians I knew at the time, bought into it lock, stock, and barrel. On Sundays there was the usual talk of “loving in Christian love,” but the practical outworking of that belief had no legs to get it out of the church house.

As time passed and I grew to adulthood, I gained greater interest in the racial history and ideology that created the world I grew up in. Wanting to understand how those segregate water fountains came about and what the cause for civil rights was all about drove me to ask tough questions of my Christian friends. Some of their answers were just beyond reconciliation to their Christian confession.

Even though I grew to better understand the racial history of the country and believed that things would get better for my African-American friends, it was hard to fathom the thought that a black man (or woman) would ever be nominated or possibly elected to the highest office in the land in my lifetime. Well things, thank God, are different now and I am just thrilled to see Barak Obama standing up as the nominee of one of America’s great political parties. This day is a great day for Barak Obama, his party, the nation, and me too, – a lily-white guy who lived on the periphery of Snow Hill.

Related Articles:

Obama’s Acceptance Speech – WBUR

Is it Last Call for the Christian Politicos?

Today I read some great news from a Christian Post article that noted that, “For the first time in more than a decade, a majority of Americans believe churches and houses of worship should keep out of political matters.” The full article can be found below.

The reason I’m happy about the article is that it confirms what I have been predicting for a couple of decades now, that many Christians will become frustrated with the political system as a means to sustaining a moral culture and a positive respect towards Christians in general.  Furthermore, I have continued to say that the surest way to see the influence of the Church erode in culture is to engage the evil in our culture through carnal and corrupt human systems.  

Many Christians are of the opinion that if the political culture is run by Christians, it can only mean positive things will come of it.  Bull!  If that were true then there would be no such thing as church-splits and other ecclesiastic conflicts.  Through my life I have witnessed discord, dissension, hostility, confrontation, and many other unsanctified behaviors by those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.  This includes not only those defined as lay-people, but clergy as well.  They hardly give a credible witness to what they demand of their political leaders.

The Bible says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds.”  Someone needs to tell the leaders of the Christian political movement in America they are trying to fight a culture war wearing Saul’s armor and are leading willing followers to the place where blind leaders always lead the blind.  A ditch.   

I pray that more Christians in America will get frustrated with the political game and realize that Jesus gave his followers real power to change the world, not the impotent and flimsy influence some politically-engaged Christian leaders are selling.  There’s been a lot of hype and vision-casting by too many who have left the apostles doctrine and have chosen to  believe in might and power while rejecting the Spirit.  If America’s moral ship has any chance of being righted, it will not come by crowds of believers amassed on the Mall in Washington, D.C., or through perpetual seminars and conferences, but in the private closets of fervent and effectual prayer.  

Now, for the article:

Most Americans Unhappy with Church, Politics Combo

 

For the first time in more than a decade, a majority of Americans believe churches and houses of worship should keep out of political matters. The change in heart is the result of a shift in view of some social conservatives who are said to be disillusioned with the major political parties.

Fri, Aug. 22, 2008 Posted: 11:10 AM EDT


For the first time in more than a decade, a majority of Americans believe churches and houses of worship should keep out of political matters.

The change in heart is the result of a shift in view of some social conservatives who are said to be disillusioned with the major political parties, according to a survey released Thursday by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Currently, half of conservatives believe churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics, up from just 30 percent four years ago.

In particular, the survey found the shift is strongest among Americans who are less educated, who consider gay “marriage” a very important issue, and who think the two major parties are unfriendly towards religion.

“To my mind, that spells frustration,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, according to The Associated Press. “But by the same token, we know these very same people are not interested in less religiosity in the political discourse. They almost universally want a religious person as president.

“It’s not that they want to take religion out of politics, it’s that their frustrations with the way things seem to be going are leading them to say, ‘Well, maybe churches should back off on this.'”

With this new shift, conservatives now hold similar views with moderates and liberals on the issue of church and politics.

Overall, a slight majority (52 percent) of the public now says churches should “keep out” of politics and not express their views on social and political matters, compared to 44 percent who held this view in 2004.

Also, the sharp divide between Republicans and Democrats on the issue has disappeared.

Now, 51 percent of Republicans say churches should keep out of politics, and 52 percent of Democrats hold this same view. Back in 2004, there was a big gap in view between the two parties on the issue, with only 37 percent of Republicans wanting churches to not participate in politics, compared to 51 percent of Democrats.

Meanwhile, the American public’s opinion has remained relatively unchanged on the belief that churches and other houses of worship should not endorse candidates and that it is important for presidents to have strong religious beliefs.

The survey was conducted through phone interviews on July 31-August 10 from a national sample of 2,905 adults. This is the first time a majority of Americans want churches to stay away from politics since the Pew Forum started asking the question 12 years ago.

Michelle A. Vu
Christian Post Reporter

Obama and McCain – Looking for the Christian’s Password

Observing Barak Obama and John McCain’s attempts to lure the American religious communities reminds me of a scene in the 1995 film Babe written by Dick King-Smith where Babe, the pig, seeks to find just the right words to be able to herd the sheep during the annual sheepdog competition. The problem for Babe was that he wasn’t a sheepdog at all, but a pig! Nevertheless, because of the confidence his owner, Farmer Hoggett had shown in him and the capability and competence he had previously demonstrated with the sheep back home, Farmer Hoggett believed that he had a chance to do well in the trials. The challenge for Babe was trying to work a herd of sheep that didn’t know him nor he them. He had to find the secret to connecting with the herd, and quick.

The reason Babe was in the trials in the first place was due to a series of strange circumstances and set of anomalies in his upbringing. Unlike other pigs, Babe had been adopted by a sheepdog. That unique factor created an opportunity for Babe to develop his skills to herding sheep. The name of his adoptive mother sheepdog was Fly, and soon thereafter, Fly begins to train the pig in the ways of a sheepdog. She explains to Babe that sheep are stupid animals and that dogs are smart animals. It’s the dog’s job to dominate the sheep in order to have them perform the farmer’s bidding. One day, however, a sheep named Ma takes sick and is kept in the barn for treatment. Babe meets her and becomes her friend and knows that she is not stupid and knows that he can treat her respectfully.

As time goes by, Farmer Hoggett begins to notice the strange behavior of this pig raised by a sheepdog. One day, Mr. Hoggett takes the pig out to the field in order to see if the pig can be a sheep-pig. Babe, though he is slow, follows orders perfectly. Also, since Babe is so polite and has made a friendship with Ma, the sheep are perfectly willing to obey his requests. They much prefer his manners to Fly’s barking and commands. The farmer continues using Babe to do much of the farm work. One day, though, two dogs attack the sheep. Babe hears their cries and races to the field to save them. Once Farmer Hoggett arrives at the field, he finds Babe with a bloody snout standing over a dead sheep that the dogs had killed. Farmer Hoggett thinks that Babe has attacked the sheep and decides to kill him. Babe is saved, however, when Mrs. Hoggett receives a call warning of two dangerous dogs in the area. Farmer Hoggett realizes then that Babe actually saved his sheep.

Farmer Hoggett then proceeds with his plan to enter Babe in the sheepdog trials. He trains his beloved pig how to guide the sheep quickly and accurately through a course. Fly watched Babe’s progress delightedly, but she worries that the sheep at the trials will not be able to communicate with Babe. Fly has learned some new respect for the sheep since she has witnessed Babe’s interactions with them. She asks them about this potential problem, and the sheep tell her a password that will help Babe to communicate with the sheep at the trials. The magic words that commanded the sheep’s obedience was,

“May be ewe, may be ram, may be mutton, may be lamb, but on the hoof or on the hook, I bain’t so stupid as I look”

Those words tell a lot. The sheep were looking for respect and mutual respect would be the reward. This is secret that gave Babe and Farmer Hoggett an unprecedented victory at the trials, stunning the mocking crowd.

Like Babe, Obama and McCain have been looking for the password that will appeal to the sensibilities and beliefs of the faith community in America. The problem for them however, is that many, if not most on the right side of the theological ledger aren’t buying it. Or, at least they are very skeptical. And rightly they should be. After the revelations of the George Bush administration’s use of faith-based initiatives as a bait-and-switch tactic in appealing to the Religious Right, many in that sector have jaundiced eyes toward any politician using faith as an appeal point.

In my view, God’s Kingdom, at least the one Jesus spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount, is not based on a faith in man nor the ways of the world. Politics, although interesting and often alluring, is not the way to see true peace in the world. Any Christian who gets in the saddle of politics will find his or herself in a corral of enmity, division and contention. These are the works of the flesh, in other words, the world. If the truth of the Gospel is taking a second seat to political expediency, that faith is in vain, built upon the sand. If Jesus had thought politics would bring about peace, justice, and joy, he would have enjoined the political process. The reality is that these things are rooted in the condition of the heart, something politics is totally incapable of providing. Nevertheless, if you are a believer and hold to the idea that either Barak Obama or John McCain can lead the nation toward these legitimately sought after ideals, you should remember that these men and their political policies will only lead you to more empty promises. They certainly have a form of godliness, but deny the power of it. – 2 Timothy 3:5

But here’s the real caveat for anyone seeking political solutions to spiritual problems offered by politicians. It is found in the two verses following 2 Timothy 3:5. ” They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” In a nutshell, desperate people who don’t put their faith in God but in man will be deceived, never coming to the truth that sets free.

Related Reading:

Evangelical Expose: Bush’s Faith-based Fraud

The Obama Snooker

Reed Urges McCain to Appeal to Evangelical Flock

Christian Politics in the 21st Century

Taking America Back for God

During a recent “Speaking of Faith” radio program, Chuck Colson, Greg Boyd, and Shane Claiborne discuss whether there is a “Christian” way to vote. Here’s the segment. To see the complete episode of “Speaking on Faith”, click on the link below the video.

Speaking of Faith

Off With Their Heads! Deja Vu en L’Etats Unis?

As I have perused the newspapers and listened to the talking heads on the radio and the television, it is becoming clear that with increased fuel costs, the mortgage meltdown, government bailouts of major corporations, and the ongoing Persian Gulf conflicts, Americans don’t have much confidence in any government – local, state, or federal. With a widening gap between the rich and the poor, those considered under the poverty line are increasing in large numbers. As former president, Jimmy Carter noted in his infamous “Malaise Speech” given 29 years ago tomorrow,

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

With a continued slide into a pervasive distrust and cynicism toward our political and social institutions, anyone with a powerful vision and message of hope will find willing followers and disciples. I think that is why Barak Obama’s message of change and hope is playing quite well. Nevertheless, history is not silent under such circumstances and related political and social environments. There is an environment that nurtures less than civil behavior, and I’m not so sure we can totally assume the government can continue its policy of Bread and Circus forever. “Bread and Circus” is the policy of governments, institutions and businesses, and individual politicians to provide just enough food and fun to placate the masses. Personal freedom is typically the greatest cost to the individual. If the tipping point is reached where the government can’t manage fear, and I don’t know where exactly that is, civility will take a backseat not only to provocative speech, but barbaric behavior as well. Thousands of years of history serves notice.

Today is Bastille Day. Bastille Day has such a strong signification for the French because the holiday symbolizes the birth of the Republic. The French celebrate a new republic controlled by the people, not a monarchy or church. As in the United States, where the signing of the Declaration of Independence signaled the start of the American Revolution, in France the storming of the Bastille began the Great Revolution. In both countries, the national holiday thus symbolizes the beginning of a new form of government.

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

Those are the words that mark the ideals of the French revolution. To better tell the story I’m providing an entry from StudyWorld that I think sums it up nicely. Also, check out the related articles at the end of the piece.

What were the causes and the effects of the French Revolution? The major cause of the French Revolution was the disputes between the different types of social classes in French society. The French Revolution of 1789-1799 was one of the most important events in the history of the world. The Revolution led to many changes in France, which at the time of the Revolution, was the most powerful state in Europe. The Revolution led to the development of new political forces such as democracy and nationalism. It questioned the authority of kings, priests, and nobles. The Revolution also gave new meanings and new ideas to the political ideas of the people.

The French Revolution was spread over the ten year period between 1789 and 1799. The primary cause of the revolution was the disputes over the peoples’ differing ideas of reform. Before the beginning of the Revolution, only moderate reforms were wanted by the people. An example of why they wanted this was because of king Louis XIV‘s actions. At the end of the seventeenth century, King Louis XIV’s wars began decreasing the royal finances dramatically. This worsened during the eighteenth century. The use of the money by Louis XIV angered the people and they wanted a new system of government. The writings of the philosophes such as Voltaire and Diderot, were critical of the government. They said that not one official in power was corrupt, but that the whole system of government needed some change. Eventually, when the royal finances were expended in the 1780’s, there began a time of greater criticism. This sparked the peasants notion of wanting change.

Under the Old Regime in France, the king was the absolute monarch. Louis XIV had centralized power in the royal bureaucracy, the government departments which administered his policies. Together, Louis XIV and the bureaucracy worked to preserve royal authority and to maintain the social structure of the Old Regime.

At this time in French history, the social classes played an important role in the lives of the people. The social structure of France was divided among three groups: the First Estate, the Second Estate, and the Third Estate. Each social group had a varied type of people within their structure, which presented the different views of the people.

The First Estate was the Church. During the ancien regime, the church was equal in terms of its social, economic, and spiritual power. The First Estate owned nearly 10 per cent of all land in France. It paid no taxes but, to support church activities such as school running and caring for the poor, they collected a tithe, or a tax on income. About one-third of the entire clergy in France served as parish priests. Also included in this estate were the nobles. Some of the nobles lived in luxury in major cities in France, such as Versailles or Paris. Parish priests usually lived a hardworking life. This Estate was the minority of the people in France, having approximately 1 to 2 per cent of the population.

The Second Estate in French life was the nobility. They enjoyed extensive rights and privileges. They made up less than 2 percent of the population. They, like the First Estate, paid hardly any taxes. Economically, the nobility was characterized by great land wealth. Nobles were generally the richest members of the society. Typical sources of income were rents and dues for the use of their farms or estates. The First and Second Estates were grouped together because they had similar political beliefs. The

Third Estate consisted of the commoners. It includedthe bourgeoisie, peasants and city workers. The bourgeoisie, or the middle class, were by far, the wealthiest. In the bourgeoisie, there were the merchants and manufacturers, lawyers, doctors and others similar to those types of professions. Peasants made up the largest group within the Third Estate. They were forced to pay hefty taxes, tithes to the church, and rents to their landlords for the land that they lived on. The last group within the Third Estate were the city workers. They were servants, apprentices, and household maids.

The major cause of the Revolution were the differences these three groups had. However, there was another important factor during these times. France suffered from harsh economic problems. Poor farm harvests by farmers hurt the economy, and trade rules from the Middle Ages still survived, making trade difficult. However, the most serious problem was the problem facing the government during this time. The French government borrowed much money to pay for the wars of Louis XIV. Louis still borrowed money to fight wars and to keep French power alive in Europe. These costs greatly increased the national debt, which was, at the time, already too high.

When King Louis XVI came into power, he realized that these problems existed. At first he did not know what to do, until he found a man by the name of Robert Turgot. He eased the financial crisis of France, but he had difficulties when he tried to introduce a major reform, that of taxing the nobles. He had such difficulties because the king could not tax the nobles unless the Parliament approved of the new tax laws. The people in the courts that voted on these laws were the nobles, called nobles of the robe, and therefore rejected Turgot’s reform. After Turgot was rejected, the king fired him from his office. This led Louis XVI to summon the Estates General in 1789.

The Estates General was the place where representatives from each social class could be represented. Here, many issues would be discussed, and at this time in French history, it would be centered around the economic crisis.

When the Estates General met in 1789, the deputies, or representatives, from the Third Estate demanded that the three estates meet together, with each deputy having an equal vote. That way, the First and Second Estates could outvote the Third Estate. When the king heard of this, he demanded that the three estates meet separately. This caused anger within the Third Estate. The deputies from the Third Estate declared themselves the National Assembly. Louis XVI quickly rejected these deputies from the meeting hall. After a while, Louis XVI decided that it would be best if the three estates met together. He ordered the other two estates to join the Third Estate in the National Assembly.

Although now the three estates met together, there were divisions among them. Some wanted to protect their rights, while others wanted to establish a limited, constitutional monarchy. This sparked some change in the French people.

Immediately after the National Assembly secretly began working on a constitution, the peasants and workers expected relief from taxes and other dues that they paid. Little happened, and they still faced their same problems of unemployment and inflation. Then there were reports that Louis XVI was bringing troops to Paris. This increased the peoples’ fears.

When Louis brought troops to Versailles, many citizens feared that he wanted to get rid of the National Assembly. As a result, they stormed the Bastille. Other disturbances also broke out. People were caught up in what was called the “Great Fear“. Rumors passed from village to village that robbers were destroying homes all over France. When no robbers showed up, the peasants turned to their landlords. They destroyed grain towers, and destroyed tax records, showing that they will never pay any taxes, fines or dues ever again.

These events forced Louis to summon the National Assembly on August 4th. They people discussed possible reforms. On this day, the National Assembly ended serfdom.Towards the end of August, the National Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man. It stated that democratic principles would be the basis for French government. The job of turning these ideas into a constitution still remained.

While the constitution was in the process of being made, an angry crowd in Paris rioted, forcing the National Assembly to recognize their demands. Some of these rioters were women. They were angry about food prices. They also thought that the king and queen were going against the National Assembly. They demanded that Louis return to Paris where they could watch him. To prevent any further uprisings, he agreed.

Throughout France, all ancient customs were thrown away by the revolution. The National Assembly called for freedom of worship and abolished all special activities and privileges of the Catholic Church. To raise money that was needed, the government began selling off church lands, which angered many Catholics.

In 1791, the National Assembly brought forward a new constitution. It made France a limited monarchy and established a system of separation of powers. Under the constitution, the old distinctions between the clergy, nobles, and commoners disappeared.

Few people were satisfied with the constitutional monarchy. Louis XVI was frightened at the actions of the National Assembly. He fled the country with his wife, but he was later arrested and brought back to accept the constitution. After this action by the king, moderate revolutionaries still wanted to preserve the constitutional monarchy, while the radicals distrusted the king and wanted a republic.

These were the causes of the French Revolution. Many peoples’ lives were changed during this time. Peoples’ ideas also changed.

After the war between France and Austria and Prussia, prices increased dramatically, and food shortages occurred. When Louis XVI and his wife fled to the Legislative Assembly, they were imprisoned. They called for a national convention to write a new constitution. The National Convention met in September. The National Convention tried and convicted Louis XVI of treason. He was sentenced to death.

News of his death spread all throughout Europe. Monarchs of European nations feared that the Revolution would spread. By 1793, the French armies occupied the Austrian Netherlands and were about to invade Prussia. But, in 1793, Great Britain, the Dutch Netherlands, and Spain went along with Prussia and Austria in a war against France. With these five powerful nations fighting against France, the French were outnumbered and outmatched. This one war was very hard for France. This war caused many deaths at home due to starvation. At this point in the Revolution, some people thought that the Revolution had gone too far and should be put to an end.

In the effort to restore temporary peace in the society, the National Convention made a constitution that created a Committee of Public Safety. It campaigned against people who were considered enemies of France. Maximilien Robespierre led the Committee of Public Safety. He wanted to create a “Republic of Virtue”. The Committee went all over France to help other groups find traitors to France. During the Reign of Terror, trials for the people were held often. Many people were brought to the guillotine and killed. Most of the victims were commoners. This time of terror had scared the people, and their revolts towards the government ended.

The Committee of Public Safety organized new and powerful armies to protect itself from foreign invasion. The Committee also set limits on prices and salaries.

By early in 1794, the French armies were winning battles again, but supporters were asking if these executions of the people were still needed in society. The National Convention then arrested Maximilien Robespierre, andexecuted him, which ended the Reign of Terror.

Between the years of 1789 and 1794, French life had changed dramatically. There were changes in the lifestyle of the people, as well as in clothes and art. The monarchies were gone, and the king no longer ruled. Le National Convention abolished all feudal customs and ended all slavery. Revolutionary leaders also established the metric system. They wanted to set up free public schools, but that never came about, due to the economic problems.

In 1795, after the total ending of the Reign of Terror, the National Convention established another constitution. It established a new system of government called the Directory. This Directory, however, faced many problems. The legislative deputies begged and “bought” political votes, and prices rose sharply, something which the poor classes of society didn’t like. Along with these problems, it still followed a foreign policy. It built the largest army in Europe during this time. This army were headed by a great military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 1793, Napoleon won many battles against the British, and at this time, he was a general. He next won battles over Italy, and in 1798, he invaded Egypt. He defeated Egypt’s army, but he had to pay for his victory. At sea, the Egyptian Navy, led by Horatio Nelson, destroyed the French fleet at the Nile river. This loss meant that the fleet could not take the soldiers back to France, so, Napoleon left them there and he went back to France. Unbeknownst to the people of France about the tragedy in Egypt, he was still welcomed as a hero. When talking to the people at home, he found that many people were not satisfied with the Directory. With the help of troops, he overthrew the government in 1799. Under this new government, Napoleon was called the First Consul. His military talents helped him to win popular support. With his support, he was named the dictator of France.

This time in French History was important to the people of France because of the different types of government they had. Socialism, liberalism and nationalism all were results of the French Revolution. It gave people the idea that if they tried, they could reorganize a society whenever it was needed. The greatest legacy of the French Revolution, however, was that people could change anything that they wanted with political ideas, words and laws.

Related Articles & Sources:

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity – Exploring the French Revolution

Causes of the French Revolution

The French Revolution – Columbia Encyclopedia

A History of the Guillotine

A True Look Back at the French Revolution by Mel Brooks…