Don’t Lose the Sacred

donald-trump-hillary-clintonI have to be honest:  I was a day-one Facebooker.  I’ve been a part of it for so long.

I’m feeling very remorseful at that, teetering on the brink of deleting it.  All the political rhetoric is nauseating.  I’m seeing people calling others bad parents, cursing one another, and crossposting half-researched, untrue garbage, all based on who one will vote for…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Since I work for a church, I try to be unbiased…but really, no person or group can ever be that.  However, as I don’t often share my opinions (in this arena) unless asked, I try to be politically unbiased, but I am not, I cannot be to be politically indifferent.  I will not be indifferent where the Gospel is concerned and where the Gospel is at stake, and the fundamental message of the Gospel is this:  Jesus is Lord.

Jesus is already reigning over the universe, and yes, that includes the USA.  Jesus founded a Kingdom that is “not of this world” (John 18:36), but breaks through with heavenly collisions through miracles, the Church, and love.  I believe that one day His will be the last Kingdom standing.  I believe the nations will bow to Him.  I believe He will rule His Kingdom with justice, mercy, and love.  I believe Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega…and that He has the final say in all things.

That Kingdom, that will crash into earth at the renewal of all thing (Rev. 21), has a different set of rules; a different set of politics, a different ideal of leadership, and so it DOES, and MUST directly impact how Christians interact with the world, including politics and government, and with those involved in them.

Paul exhorts us:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:1-4, ESV) 

From the examples of Jesus, Paul, Daniel, Jeremiah, and Peter, we see that we even pray for the well-being of those who are in direct opposition to our welfare.  But on the other hand, we must realize, as Andy Couch states,

“… that all earthly governments partake, to a greater or lesser extent, in what the Bible calls idolatry: substituting the creation for the Creator and the earthly ruler for the true God.”

No human is free from that same temptation.

But some rulers and administrations are especially bombastic in their God-substitutions.

“After Augustus Caesar, the emperors of Rome became more and more elaborate in their claims of divinity with each generation—and more and more ineffective in their governance. Communism aimed not just to replace faith in anything that transcended the state, but to crush it. Such systems do not just dishonor God, they dishonor his image in persons, and in doing so they set themselves up for dramatic destruction. We can never collude when such idolatry becomes manifest, especially when it demands our public allegiance. Christians in every place and time must pray for the courage to stay standing when the alleged “voice of a god, not a man” commands us to kneel.” (Andy Couch)

And so this year, 2016, Christian voters (all voters) in the United States face an incredibly difficult choice.

I should note quickly, that this is not an endorsement for anyone. In fact, Hillary stands for everything a President should NOT be, and she will neither take up much of my words, time, or any of my vote.

The democratic nominee has taken extreme technological and monetary roads to gain, keep, and assure power founded in a rigorous control of one’s image and meticulous disregard for norms that restrain people with less money and influence.

Such an amassing of power, which is meant to shield the powers that be from the vulnerability of accountability of the rest of us, actually creates far greater vulnerabilities, putting both the leader and the country in a greater danger.

Ultimately, what she stands for is in such stark contrast to a biblical worldview, that many Christians automatically turn away from her.  Her party receives its harshest criticisms from the Christians of America – and that’s all well and good…but I’m worried.

I’m worried because I see all kinds of people of faith throwing away that same logic and prudent judgment with the Republican candidate.

Just over a week ago a revelation of something in the man’s past (the first of many, I’m sure) has caused several prominent Christian endorsers to “pull away” from Trump and recant their endorsement.   I think that’s admirable…but I also think it’s a bit late.  What Trump is, he has always been.  The tapes that were released, though shocking and indefensible, reprehensible even, should shock none of us.

There isn’t another political figure (in my memory) that has exemplified the “earthly nature” that Paul admonishes the Church at Colossae to leave behind:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. (Col. 3:5, ESV)

Andy Couch states:

“Idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality are intertwined in individual lives and whole societies. Sexuality is designed to be properly ordered within marriage, a relationship marked by covenant faithfulness and profound self-giving and sacrifice. To indulge in sexual immorality is to make oneself and one’s desires an idol. That Trump has been, his whole adult life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one, should have been clear to everyone.”

He has no humility, shows dependence on anyone, especially God, and even stated that he didn’t understand why he would need to ask God for forgiveness. He’s not interested in learning, he could care less about modesty, and he throws moderation out the window.  He doesn’t think he needs to be taught, and is essentially the very embodiment of what the Holy Scriptures call a fool.

Some folks will compare Trump to King David.  “He wasn’t perfect either.”  I cede that point…however, David started out with a godly faith, he was shepherded by God from the sheep pasture to the palace, was teachable, and was repentant.  After his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah, David paid dearly.  There is NO parallel in Trump’s long career of exploitation to even compare to.  David lost a lot, and upon being confronted with his sin by Nathan, was deeply repentant, and penned Psalm 51.  We know that this cost David dearly, and that the pain an anguish he endured because of it, expressed his humility.  Trump has no humility.

Many of the folks I’ve talked to who are voting for Trump have done so very reluctantly, but with a strategy:  Supreme Court appointments.  I fully understand the gravity of what is at stake here, including a Christian’s (as well as other faiths) right to view sexuality and marriage a particular way without governmental influence is at stake.  Unborn children’s right to exist is at stake.  I get it!  But at what point does strategy become another form of idolatry?  Is it not when we attempt to force a system to manipulate and control completely the things we agree with and only in a way in which we agree with them?

“Strategy becomes idolatry, for ancient Israel and for us today, when we make alliances with those who seem to offer strength—the chariots of Egypt, the vassal kings of Rome—at the expense of our dependence on God who judges all nations, and in defiance of God’s manifest concern for the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed. Strategy becomes idolatry when we betray our deepest values in pursuit of earthly influence. And because such strategy requires capitulating to idols and princes and denying the true God, it ultimately always fails.”

Enthusiasm for a man like Trump gives our neighbors a reason to doubt that we believe “Jesus is Lord.” It crushes our witness. They see that some of us are so self-concerned, and so self-protective, that we will forge alliances with someone who violates everything we hold sacred—in hope, a certainly a false hope, given Trump’s deception and record of betrayal, that his rule will save us, and not God’s.

The United States political system has never been free of idolatry, and politics always craves concessions. Our country is flawed, but it is also tempered. And God is not only just, but also merciful, as he judges the nations.

“In these closing weeks before the election, all American Christians should repent, fast, and pray—no matter how we vote. And we should hold on to hope—not in a candidate, but in our Lord Jesus. We do not serve idols.

While awaiting execution, Dietrich Bonhoeffer recorded a number of his thoughts in a work we now know as Letters and Papers from Prison. One of these essays, entitled On Stupidity, records some of the problems which Bonhoeffer likely saw at work in Hitler’s rise to power:

Perhaps we’d do well to heed the words, no matter how offensive, of Bonhoeffer:

“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. … The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”

We serve a God who is already pouring out mercy, love, grace, truth, and justice on the earth.  He is not confounded or blocked by who wins or doesn’t win – in fact, He’s not the least bit surprised.

May we keep His name hallowed, and may His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, for there is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved:  Jesus Christ.

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