Wednesday, March 23, 2016

America is Better than This!

Passionate Election Politics are a part of America's rich political history. We can disagree like nobody else. Something has changed, however. The seeds were sewn by Newt Gingrich and his spirited "Republican Revolution" of 1994. This ushered in a new way of doing politics in Washington DC that become increasingly oppositional, partisan, and ideologically entrenched.

Following the election of President Obama, the smoldering embers of hatred and anger exploded into a firestorm of fury. With the Tea Party burgeoning onto the scene and pandering to people’s intense hatred toward Mr. Obama, the vile rancor of politics changed. This, coupled with a rise in emotionally charged rhetoric spewing from partisan-based news media and the incredibly rapid rise of Social Media, sparked a political world where whole populations of Americans began dividing into angry camps of ideological absolutism. Rather than agreeing to disagree on matters of political divide while continuing to work together for the good of the Nation as a whole, entrenched political attitudes shifted. People now fight to control the nation according to exclusive standards and narcissistic perspectives that vehemently deny the legitimacy of dissenters. In this political arena, those who disagree do not deserve to be called American. “If you are different from me and mine, you are wrong and can't be an American. Get out of my country!”

Not to presume that only Republicans are guilty of contributing to this age of vile partisanship, Nancy Pelosi emulated many of the destructive techniques used by Gingrich during her brief term as Speaker. Sadly, a piece of legislation that was—and still is—desperately needed became the proving grounds for the presumptive power of the Democratic Party after 2008. Obama Care was pushed through in ways that legitimately created needed change, but also created unintended problems. Perhaps most devastatingly, forcing Affordable Health Care through Congress poured gasoline over the already raging fires of hatred and anger within the Republican Party.

Stalemates in Congress, driven by absolutist politics, have destroyed the integrity of Capitol Hill. Viciously partisan accusations, investigations, and allegations have wasted countless billions of taxpayer money on nothing more than pushing narrow and narcissistic agendas onto the American people.  Politically biased news and social media diatribes have divided people across lines of narrow-minded ideological distinction that do nothing to serve the common good and further fuel anger, hatred, and the divisive rhetoric that serves only to degrade the integrity of the human spirit.

Something has to give! This must stop! Worse yet, the minute anyone says, “It is the other one’s fault, I’ll stop when they come to their senses and see it my way,” we all lose.

I have long said that it is not the occupant of the Oval Office or the leaders in Congress that will destroy this nation, but rather it is the American people that will bring us down. We also have the ability to build this nation up again. The difference lies in how we treat one another, how we respect diversity, how we agree to disagree, and how we respect the Elected Office even when we disagree with the person elected to hold that office. Sadly, our current political atmosphere proves that we are failing badly!

In January 2017 a new President will take the oath of office. Once we are done arguing over who that person should be (or should not be) we are faced with a serious question. Are we, as a nation, going to allow this disastrously dangerous downhill slide into the politics of absolutism and hatred continue, or will we grow up and come together? One will prescribe the end of our nation as we implode into the abyss of bitterness and disgrace. The other will demonstrate what has truly made us great in the past—the willingness to passionately disagree and passionately work together for everyone’s America.

The choice begins with you. What will you say, post, and communicate? If it is hatred, insults, bitterness, and vile partisanship then you are part of the problem. Every American is responsible for making this change. I am starting with myself. (And yes, I have unintentionally contributed to the demise myself, a fact for which I humbly repent.) Will you join me? Will you help put an end to hatred, division, and rampant dehumanization of others? The future of our nation depends on it. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

For God to Heal our Land!

            In many Christian circles both prayer and proclamation lift the verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14 with great passion.  “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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
            It is with good reason! Our land is hurting and in deep need of God’s divine healing. Appropriately, this admonition from God addresses the critical fact that the sin and wickedness in our life as a nation has direct—and disastrous—effects on our health as a nation and as a global community. If we are going to call on God to heal our land, to heal our nation, and to heal our human community, it is vital that we are also forthright in changing our wicked ways. Below is a list of ten vital sins of wickedness that are destroying our land. If Christians are going to take 2 Chronicles 7:14 seriously—and we most certainly should take it seriously—these ten wicked acts must be eliminated across the land.

The wickedness and sin of Sodom—Failure to welcome the stranger and those in need. (Ezekiel 16:49)

The wickedness and sin of ReligionWorshipping the religion rather than serving God (Micah 6:6-8)

The wickedness and sin of Exclusion—Failure to care for those in need (Matthew 25:31-46)

The wickedness and sin of Economic Injustice and Inequality—exploitation of the poor and those in need (Amos 2:6-8)

The wickedness and sin of Violence—Using violence to achieve dominance and destroy (Matthew 26:52)

The wickedness and sin of Consumerism—Defining our value and through the things we can own and the wealth we can control (Matthew 6:19-21)

The wickedness and sin of Posturing—Bolstering toughness, authority, and arrogance (James 4:11-16)

The wickedness and sin of Judging—Looking down on others as less than you (Matthew 7:1-5)

The wickedness and sin of Control—The desire to “lord it over” others and maintain total control (Matthew 20:20-28)

The wickedness and sin of Hating the Enemy—Bowing to a culture of hate and contempt for human beings we believe are at eminently with us (Matthew 5:43-47)

These are national sins as well as personal and individual sins. They are expressed as wickedness in our homes and offices, school yards and town squares. They permeate the culture to infect many aspects of business, government, and even the church. They are fueled by social media, fear-based politics, and biased media attention. Like a cancerous infection, this wickedness is spreading through the culture and the church. It is time that the people of faith intentionally humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways.

Our faith in Jesus Christ calls for no less, and empowers us for so much more. We need only follow—truly and honestly follow—Jesus Christ.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

It's time for Christians to Be Christians!

21  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22  On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' 23  Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'” Matthew 7:21-23 (NRSV)    

            These words of Jesus Christ strike at the heart of a critical problem in much of what passes for Christianity. Although nothing new, it is a problem that has been exacerbated lately in the news, social media, across many state capitols, and the halls of Congress ever since the horrific terrorist attacks in France last week. As Christians, we would do well to ask the question, “Will Jesus know us in judgment or send us away as evildoers?”

            It is disgraceful what has been done under the guise of Christianity in our modern culture.

·       Whole populations of human beings are written off as less than deserving of human dignity because of the actions of a small minority within their population.
·       Faith in guns and fidelity toward our rights to own and use deadly force garners more passion than fidelity to values molded by Jesus Christ.
·       Religious devotion to partisan politics frequently marries fidelity to Christ with loyalty to partisan ideals.
·       Freedom of Religion and evangelical priority are increasingly enforced by Christians as the right and obligation to impose our religion on people we do not like.
·       Believers define their relationship with Christ in terms of issues and stances, rather than service, gratitude, compassion, grace, and love.
·       We have become so obsessed with saving souls for Jesus that we fail to care for lives in Jesus’ name.

This is not Christianity. This is not the faith Jesus demonstrated to us. This is not way God calls us to faithfully follow as disciples of Jesus Christ. Rather, what we have made Christianity is nothing more than a shallow, superficial, and narcissistic religious doctrine of destruction that is rooted in fear, lived in anger, and focused on control. It is one thing to vigilantly call out the sinful distortions of the Islamic faith by those who would use terrorism as a means to promote their own perverted understanding of Islam, but as Christians we must also take a prayerful look in the mirror and do the same! For the sake of our salvation, there are some things that must change!
1.     Reclaim the biblical teachings regarding fear.

The explicit message of scripture is that we are not to live in fear. “Perfect love casts out all fear,” the Apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:18. In other words, if we live out of Christ and Christ’s love, there is no need to be afraid. The only times fear is used in a positive light is in reference to fearing God. Yet, even then, the word ‘fear’ is not mean that we should be afraid of God, but filled with immeasurable awe, respect, and admiration for God. It is time that Christians genuinely start living in faith, not fear. Fear is destructive and leads to the idolatry of power, violence, money, and even the glorification of war.

2.     Live the life to which we have been called.

In the Fourth Chapter of Ephesians, we are called to lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. It is a calling to humility, gentleness, and bearing one another in love. Amid that sacred calling is the explicit demand for Christians to be united in love and grace. This fulfills the New Commandment Christ gave in the Upper Room that we are to love as Christ loves. We may disagree on aspects of doctrine, tradition, worship style, and political issues, but that does not give us the freedom to abandon our Christian Calling of humility, gentleness and love simply to prove who is right and who is wrong.

3.     Care for those in need.

To live and love as Christ lived and loved is to risk vulnerability. Refugees, the poor, orphans, and those in need of God, God’s love, and God’s provisions must be the focus of our mission and ministry. The Apostle James makes this explicit in the second chapter of James where he tells Christians to remember, “Faith without works is dead.” It is not enough to believe in Jesus Christ or express our praise in joyous worship on Sunday morning or in fervent prayer. We must go into the world and do the Lord’s work. Jesus underscores this reality in vivid terms when preaching in Matthew 25:31-46. It was those who failed to minister to those in need who met harsh judgment by Christ.

            It is really simple. Christians are not behaving in a very Christian way. It is nothing new. Our religious history is filled with perversions of God’s love that would make an ISIS terrorist seem mild. Thankfully, God’s grace is greater than our religious stupidity and sinful narcissism. Yet, as Paul so eloquently points out in Romans 6, if we are sincere in our baptisms into Jesus Christ, we must also put to death those things which detract from an authentically Christian life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul continues with vivid examples in Romans 8 that must serve as vital examples of how we are to live! This teaching is further emphasized in Galatians 5:16-26, Ephesians 4:17-5:2, and the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation 2 and 3.

            Christians! It is time we stop making a hypocritical mockery out of the faith we love so much and start living the life Christ died to make possible. Otherwise, we may find it is you and I that Christ sends away because he did not know us