One Party, One Candidate, One Hope

So this is a post I have been putting off writing because, to be honest, I don’t want to write it. It would be easier to ignore what I’m seeing, ignore what’s been bothering me and just say: well, it’s someone else’s problem, someone else can speak out about it. And that would be easy, since I am in China and didn’t register to vote as an absentee ballot. But for better or worse, I’m going to say it.

My issue is with so many people in the US who are extremely vocal politically because of their faith.

Now, lets be clear at the very beginning. I am not saying that voting is right or wrong. I’m not arguing for or against democracy.

I am saying that Christians cannot and should not vote based on their religious beliefs.

Now, chances are, most people have checked out and stopped reading after that previous sentence. Because in the US most American Christians have interwoven their faith and their national identity into one solid, inseparable core belief. So a critic on one is viewed as an attack on everything held sacred.

The problem is, this is essentially an AMERICAN PHENOMENON! I have lived in quite a few countries and in NONE of them does there exist this idea that a person’s religious beliefs should determine the political condition of the nation; that’s including the UK which has a Church of England that was created by Henry the VIII and which Queen Elizabeth is still head of. Even in that case, the majority of British people I know would not vote for a political candidate based one whether or not he or she is a Christian, or which church the candidate goes to, or if their rights as a christian will change if this candidate or the other wins an election. My point is, in most countries, the population votes based on economic and political reasons. Whereas in America there always seems to be a surge of religious rhetoric that becomes intermingled into political language.

Honestly, not only do I see this as wrong, but I see it as damaging to the role of the Church in society.

A great article posted on got answers.org says:

The church’s unique, God-given purpose does not lie in political activism. Nowhere in Scripture do we have the directive to spend our energy, our time, or our money in governmental affairs. Our mission lies not in changing the nation through political reform, but in changing hearts through the Word of God. When believers think the growth and influence of Christ can somehow be allied with government policy, they corrupt the mission of the church. Our Christian mandate is to spread the gospel of Christ and to preach against the sins of our time. Only as the hearts of individuals in a culture are changed by Christ will the culture begin to reflect that change.

First, from a Biblical standpoint, lets start by saying that the Bible speaks absolutely nothing about the democratic process or a bipartisan voting system. And while it can be made to say many, many things that we want it to say, we find over and over in scripture that God has the final say in who becomes the leader of a nation. The prophet Daniel says that God “changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings”. And Jesus himself told Pilate that he would not have the authority to rule had God not given it to him. And in Romans we are told that we should be “subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God“.

It’s a hard thing for many Christians to accept that God has chosen and placed each President in the White House. Especially if it isn’t the person they voted for. Have Christians really come to a place where they believe that THEY have the power of God? The power to set up kings and take down kings? Just because the United States has democratic political structure can we say that God is no longer in charge of who is elected? Have Christians decided that they have usurped that power from God?

Second, from a social standpoint, the US is a unique country because of the beliefs of the men who founded and have governed the country over the years. Now, I can’t (and won’t) speak to their personal beliefs as to whether or not they were all followers of Christ but the language used in political documents over the history of the US have intentionally created a national identity wrapped in a Christian belief system… or perhaps, a christian belief system wrapped in a national identity.

But my point is that Christ teaches that Christians have ONE identity. ONE Savior. ONE hope. ONE kingdom! ONE King!

My heart has been breaking as I’ve been seeing that the most vicious attacks and horrible things being said about both candidates and the supporters of one candidate or the other have been coming from people who call themselves Christian.

There are so many people who are skeptical of the Church and who have trouble coming to understand a Christ who is represented by Christians so filled with hate, prejudice, pride and mean spirits.

Are Christians helping the World to see Christ by posting political slams against the candidate they hate?

Christians argue that their “rights” are at stake. That if one candidate or the other becomes president that Christian liberties will be taken away and the moral fibre of the country will be eroded away to nothing. Christian’s are “fighting back”. Fighting for their rights. Fighting for their freedoms…

But dear christians, many horrible, tragic things are happening to Christians around the world, including the country I’m living in. Christians are being beaten, tortured and killed  yet still through it all they pray, not for the persecution to stop, but that others would come to see Christ through their suffering. In an article about the persecution of the Church here in China, Emily Fuentes said:

“Christianity is growing fastest where the persecution is the most severe. The persecutors are intrigued by why people would continue to support this belief. There is kind of the appeal of something that is taboo.”

And of course, there’s fear. We fear change, fear getting taxed too much, fear inflation, fear war, terrorism, poverty… the list goes on and on…

But of all people, Christians should be the ones who have the least to fear. Scripture tells us over and over not to be afraid and not to fear. We are told that our lives are in Christ and in Him do all things live and move and have their being. Now, I understand, fear is natural. An uncertain future is a scary thing. I have no idea where I’ll be living or even what country I’ll be in a year from now. I don’t even know if I’ll be alive. When it comes to the future we have NO guarantees! None! Voting for one candidate over another will not guarantee you anything! Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. So why should we put our faith in a human candidate to give us a future we may never see? And can can anyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ, in good conscious destroy relationships, use angry words to humiliate and tear others down out of fear?

So Christian, if you have economic reasons for voting for a candidate, then vote based on your economic sensibilities, if you disagree with a candidate’s statement about his treatment of women or his attitude against racial minorities then vote for the other one. If you disagree with the policies and reforms of one candidate, then vote for the other.

But please, don’t bring the name of Christ into this political battle. Don’t step into that booth claiming that you are voting for the candidate that Jesus would vote for. Don’t attack a supporter of a different candidate using your beliefs as a weapon. Don’t claim that your faith in Christ compels you to put your faith in a political candidate.

In his book, Jesus For President (which I highly recommend), Shane Claiborne said:

When the church takes affairs of the state more seriously than they do Jesus, Pax Romana becomes its gospel and the president becomes the Son of God.

 

 

 

 

“Coming Out” or, in other words… “Stepping into Authentic Life”

Apparently today is National Coming Out Day. So I thought I would take a few minutes to share some of my best and most painful coming out experiences.

For me personally, coming out or, being open and honest with people about my sexual orientation has always been a humbling, spiritual experience. It forces me to place my trust and identity in the hands of someone else. There’s a chance they may reject me and abandon me. Or, just maybe they value our relationship and the see past that thing that they don’t understand and respond with love and acceptance. For me, each time that the latter happens its a reflection of the love and acceptance I have in Christ. It’s like when you’re a kid and you spend what seems like forever working on a picture and you want to get it just right. But then you finish and it’s not what you wanted at all. You’ve ruined it. It looks stupid and you want to just throw it away. But then mom comes and looks at it and she looks past the mistakes and the ugly lines and she praises it, affirms it and, to your surprise, she hangs it on the fridge. Why? You think. It’s not perfect. It’s not what I wanted it to be. But mothers know that at our most fragile moments, those are the times we need love and acceptance the most. We see God doing the same over and over in scripture. As Christ met people he always seemed (not by any accident) to meet people at their very point of despair, or desperation. It was then He could show his love to them and build them up.  Continue reading ““Coming Out” or, in other words… “Stepping into Authentic Life””

We’ll believe anything… Especially well-worded memes.

So today I was scrolling through Facebook (an increasingly dangerous activity these days). And I came across a meme (picture) posted by a friend of my parents who is a baptist missionary serving in a former-soviet country in Europe. I had many serious problems with the message of this post and REALLY wanted to write a comment. But Luis, being the kind-natured and gracious person that he is, advised against that. So I decided to rant here instead. Much better! 🙂 Continue reading “We’ll believe anything… Especially well-worded memes.”

Obsessive Love

In reading through Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love”, a thought suddenly hit me.

Earlier in the book Chan equates a life with Christ as a constant swimming up steam or running up a downward escalator. It seemed as though he was comparing a life in Christ with a works based salvation. Further on in the book he says:

“Do you give to those who could never repay you? To those who would do you harm if they could? To those who have already done you harm? This is Christ’s love. He gave us something for which we can NEVER repay him, and then He asks us to keep giving to others like He gives.” – Francis Chan (Crazy Love)

I remember many years ago I heard of Christians referred to not as receptacles of Christ’s love, but conduits. We were never meant to receive Christ’s love and store it up for ourselves. But instead to pour it out as it has been poured out on us!

What if we began to see the Christian life not as constant service to God, but as constant service to others?

What if instead of fastidiously keeping good Church attendance we concerned ourselves with regular attendance at the hospitals, homeless shelters and orphanages? What if, instead of being sure to drop our money in the offering basket, we made sure to help a family in need, or donate to a food bank, or someone who really needs help?

So many of us are so focused on what we need to do to “make God happy” or to “please him”. Yet while driving our cars to fellowship together in Church every Sunday we drive right by the people who really need Him (and His love) the most.

People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure. Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back. – Francis Chan

 

Addiction

A friend of mine recently posted a quote by Fredrik Nietzsche on Facebook.

“One loves one’s desires, not the desired.”

My response was to comment on the correlation between desire in this sense and addiction. Since most would agree when someone desires alcohol, chocolate, cigarettes or drugs it’s not the actual, physical thing that’s drawing them to it, it’s their desire that compels them towards consuming it. Inanimate objects do not have the power to force or coerce us to do anything. Instead, it’s our own state of mind that convinces us that we want or need that particular thing.

Now, I have noticed this same correlation between addiction and religion for many years. But at the risk of being labeled a heretic (more so than I probably already am) I’ve kept my mouth shut. But my friend’s post got me to thinking about that connection again and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. In Church and in the Bible we are told to love God, cherish him and desire him above all else. I would agree.

In my own life I’ve found that when I’m “close with God” that he is all I can think or talk about. But in order to maintain this “closeness” I must listen to Christian music, read christian books, read the Bible, pray, go to church and bible studies and countless other things to “keep me focused on God”. And the longer I go not reading the Bible, listening to other music and not constantly filling my mind with religious things then the less I think about it until God is no longer that important. So my relationship with God becomes a cycle of addiction. I want to think more about God so I start focusing more on Christian things that keep me thinking about God, I keep thinking more about God so I continue to focus on those things. When something breaks the cycle and I “drift away”, “backslide” or get distracted, the cycle begins to crumble.

For years I’ve felt very guilty for thinking about my relationship with God like an addict to cocaine. But maybe that’s exactly what belief is- addiction.

But is this such a bad thing? We as humans need addiction to stay alive. One could go so far as to say that humans have an addiction to oxygen or food. But these are things we need to survive so we never think of our addiction to good things in a negative way. Call me bitter and cynical but even our desire to love and be loved could be called an addiction. We crave it, we want it and we fall into fits of depression when we don’t get it. I think in one sense that’s what Nietzsche was talking about. But getting back to the point, even if a belief in God is an addiction, is that really a bad thing? I’ve found the times in my life when I was most focused and centered of God I was more calm, at peace and in a better state of mind. Never has my addiction to God left me empty, disillusioned and broken like so many other addictions in my life. I’ve gone on drinking binges in which I lost count of the bottles. I’ve gone through weeks of sex and hookups that were nothing more than notches on a belt. And none of these things ever left me at peace, centered or satisfied. Quite the opposite.

I think we as humans judge the severity of the addiction by the mess it leaves the addict in. A sex addict may end up with a warped view of the opposite (or same) sex and at worse could end up with numerous STD’s or even HIV. A drug addict may lose their own life to an addiction. Most negative addictions come with severe consequences. But few would argue that an addiction to love has life threatening consequences. Sure, there are casualties and people have died, been killed or committed suicide from a negative experience with love. But we have yet to see love being banned for being harmful or destructive. I think the same is true of a belief in God. Never have I experienced a harmful or destructive repercussion from my belief in God. On the contrary, through it I’ve avoided some very bad paths and mistakes in my life.

But just to clarify for some who may already be thinking about all the harmful, evil, wicked things that have been done in the name of God and religion- I believe there is a difference between a genuine, deep faith in and love for God and a fanatical devotion to a religion, organization or certain way of thinking. We are too often quick to judge God based upon the people who say they follow him. For example, if an American goes to Brazil, gets drunk and gets into a car accident and kills a bus of children, we would say it’s absurd if the parents of those children wanted President Obama to answer for the deaths of their children. Yes, the drunk was an American citizen and yes maybe he voted for Obama. But Obama didn’t tell him to get drunk and kill those kids. Just the same I don’t believe God tells people to do half the shit they actually do. But in order to justify their actions and to make themselves feel better they use some imagined idea of who they think God is as an excuses to do some of the most horrendous things.

So is it wrong to say that I have an addiction to God? It may sound strange and I may still be called a heretic. But when I come to understand that this is one addiction that won’t leave me broken and empty then I find comfort in that. In Scripture Jesus compares himself to a lot of things; one of those is a well that never runs dry. A drug addict can run out of drugs or the money to pay for them. A sex addict can lose all excitement and interest in “normal” sex and frustrate himself looking for something to arouse him. The reason bad addictions are dangerous is because we don’t abuse them, they abuse us and drain us until we have nothing left. But what if we were addicted to something that never ran out, that always kept us satisfied and always gave more than we took? That’s an addiction I can live with.

“Damsel, Arise” An article by Jeff Chu

I just read this article about Megan Phelps-Roper, written by Jeff Chu. Megan was a member of the Westboro Baptist Church until late last year when she finally left.

What struck me most about the article was what she and her sister who left with her are going through right now. About leaving the Church and rethinking everything she has been taught, Megan said, “Think of how hard it would be to have a fortress of faith built around you, and to have to dismantle it yourself, brick by brick, examining each one and deciding whether there’s something worth keeping or whether it’s not as solid as you thought it was.” While not to the same extent, I can relate to what she’s going through.

In 2006 at the end of my fall semester at Clearwater Christian College I was expelled for drinking which was against the colleges policy on alcohol and their own interpretation of scripture in relation to christian life. When I was expelled I didn’t just stop matriculating at a University. I lost my job and in a very real sense I was shunned. The college even when so far as to forbid their students to come to my apartment under penalty of demerits or expulsion. I lost my friends and my social network. For the past year or more I had been asking questions about christianity and trying to decide what I really believed. In the summer of 2006 I finally decided to abandon God and not believe in anything anymore. In a way, I was an atheist attending a Christian college.

To this day I tell people that my expulsion was the best thing that ever happened to me. For the first time I had to decide things for myself. I had to make up my own mind and learn what I was really, truly going to believe; not because someone told me what to believe but deep down, in my core, what was I holding on to.

I could continue and make this a much longer post. But that’s a post for another time. For now, my thoughts are with Megan and here sister as they go through this time of soul searching and rediscovery. It’s not discovery, it’s always been there, it’s just taking the time to stop, be still and find it.

It’s a great article I would definitely recommend giving it a read!

Damsel, Arise: A Westboro Scion Leaves Her Church