Party Lines

Humans have tendency to draw lines when it comes to other humans. All throughout history we have made tribes, created enemies, and even been led to violence because lines were drawn. We have issues, and it becomes very clear when we have elections. The lines are drawn to point out who is right and who is wrong, but never with any good reasons. If you pay attention, all sides have claims to what makes them the right choice at the expense of making the other person evil, whether they are evil or not. The definition of good and evil becomes about whose side you are on and not about your character. 

We have done this before. We can look at the Civil War in America (or many other wars) as an example of positioning our side as right and their side as wrong. Although elections have not evolved into firing live rounds at the opponent, our words are powerful enough. They destroy relationships.

There is a way away from this. Peace is attainable and we can erase those lines. Disagreement does not have to destroy relationships. One of the darkest times of our days was apartheid in South Africa. There was a very strong separation of the whites and blacks in that country for a long time. That status quo was so strong that acts of violence were committed to defend it. When Nelson Mandela came into power, everyone was worried about retaliation due the history of violence and oppression by whites, but an amazing thing happened. Mandela, with the help of other great leaders like Bishop Desmond Tutu, organized the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Instead of going after the people who had caused problems, he allowed them to participate by giving confessions in exchange for forgiveness. All you had to do was confess your crimes and all was settled. It took so much grace and love for everyone to get through it, but the country was better and stronger for it.

We all need our Truth and Reconciliation moments. How many of us have started little civil wars with friends and family because of differences over politics or something else? Who do you need to sit down with to confess wrong doing and set new expectations for a better future? Do that today. Jesus once said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John‬ ‭13:35‬ ‭NLT‬‬) As a Christian, you can have a God that is greater than any president or congress person. He has ruled his people for over 2000. America is not even 300 years old. You have access to a God who can give you peace with your neighbor and give you a confidence that the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Socialists cannot. 

Take advantage of that gift. It is the only gift that will be eternal.


Letter to Mark Driscoll on His Comments About Obama’s 2nd Inauguration

In response to this tweet, “Praying for our president, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know” @PastorMark (Mark Driscoll’s twitter name)

Dear Mark,

I have come to respect you as a leader in the Church. Though we disagree with some theological issues you raise, I have come to think of you as a great leader with a fervor for doing things for God’s glory and a magnificent church planter. I could only dream of having the latter gifting, but I do share your fervor for God.

All compliments addressed, I ask you to recant your comments about Obama. I would direct your attention to more than one prayer breakfast and multiple claims to Evangelical Christianity. The strange thing about our faith is that it is diverse, even the Evangelical sector. The Evangelicals all believe, at least in theory, that the Scriptures are our authority. Also, they place Christ in the center of the Faith. Obama has done both of those things. You need to at least qualify the comment that he does not believe in the Bible, which will invite a wealth of comments, even academic ones which deserve consideration. It also takes a wealth of insight to claim that he does not know God, something that I would be wary of anyone saying, even you.

I would urge you to take back the tweet that by now everyone has responded to. I also encourage you to look up video, audio, and transcript evidence in which Obama claims a vibrant Christianity. The last thing you need to do is try contacting Obama and state your grievances in true Christian love (This might be difficult, so do not fret over the last one if it does not pan out).

My fear for you is your slow descent into cultural fundamentalism, which is purely late-western modern ideology,  and your sudden show of a power over you, the politics of this world and not the politics of the world to come. Please hope in Christ and reflect Him. Consider divisive language of this nature of the devil. Do not oppose Romans 13 by making politics the main message of the Church. And try to ask why. Why do you think this way? Why do they think that way? Why do I think another way?

Also, to take your own approach, you need to be bold enough to say your against Obama. You’re not fooling anyone and God does not think what you’re doing is cute. Hiding behind a twitter handle does not make your more loving or prophetic. Sorry to be rougher in this paragraph, but it needs to be said.

And remember, it is more courageous for a man to be loving and seek understanding than it is to hate and attack, even if attacking passively. Jesus showed us that by example.

So, again, recant. Repent. Be more like Christ.

Grace and peace to you.
Your brother, R.P.

Voting, Homosexuals, and the Church.

I was listening to NPR recently and heard a pastor in Maryland talking about protecting marriage (aka, keeping gay marriages illegal). His stance on the issue was that our country established the separation of Church and State so that the government was not allowed to invade the Church, which arguably has already happened since we fly the American flag on our pulpits. When studying British history, we can see that this was a reality which led to the separation being necessary. It’s not bad to keep government out of religion so that there is no use of religion to control the people.

The issue at stake here is that there is a longer history of the Church and the State’s relationship in mainland Europe and it is not one that only experienced the Government’s takeover of the Church. The vice-versa that was also realized in the rest of Europe was a heavy reality of the Church controlling the State in mainland Europe for much of the time from the day that Constantine legalized Christianity for the Roman Empire to the time of the Reformation and even to more recent history in the Western world.

The truth of the matter is that separation of Church and State comes from enlightenment models that saw both realities. Our nation’s concepts are based on this model. This is not much different from the Early Church and the New Testament. The believers of this early time were caught between the Jews, who did not take kindly to hearing that a human was divine or that the Messiah had been killed, and the Romans, who did not like new religions because they could be a sign of rebellion against the Empire. In this setting, Christians attempted to gain acceptance by the Empire and convince Jews and pagans to join their religion without using legal power. From that analysis, we can see that the Christian faith can exist in a very pluralistic setting, even to the point of being a minority.

One might assume that this means God must exit politics. This is not true. God is very interactive in humanity. Therefore, he must be interactive with politics. With that said, it also does not mean the Church should take over politics in a legal sense. The example of homosexuality is one that is commonly used in the legal setting. We must remember that the Church exists to baptize and make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). This verse is explicitly missional, but it is not militant. Note the order in which disciples are made. First they are baptized (brought into the faith) and then taught the ways of God. This order has been reversed by those who wish to use law to legislate the moral practices (and I only mean ones that more neutrally affect the world). The consensual practices taken by people must be allowed to be judged by Christ and not human law when they do not necessarily affect the well-being of non-consenting parties. This is paralleled by the fact that the early church existed in a very pagan society that viewed the sexual relationships between men as proper. Though Scriptures are very adamant that Christians do not take part in these acts, it recognizes the order of conversion followed by being taught and then following the commands of God. They did not teach the vice-versa practice being implemented today by the Religious Right.

One might now quote Tony Evans, a preacher who holds my respect, in saying, “Separating God from politics is like separating God from history.” That point is good. There are many things that we should do that influence and inspire politics. One might also make the point that if God must be in politics, then we should vote for the party that most reflects the Scriptural values. To those people, we should say that they are right in saying that, but the reality is that no party has completely fulfilled Scripture. Even Pastor Evans has said that “God does not fully align himself with any of man’s kingdoms.”

The main point here is to be careful in who you preach to vote for, whether Republican or Democrat. Both are accountable to God and His judgment. And we must be careful judging those who vote differently from us. And we must not take the pluralism as a threat, but as an opportunity to convince others that our God is great, mighty, and worth following. It will take some hard work to convince some like Muslims, Homosexuals, Atheists, and others, but it will be worth their true belief and submission to God and much better than forced submission without belief, which is not salvation, but legalism.

Below is a slide show of some people who have made comments on politics and religion that are important. They are very thought provoking. Let the messages sink in and challenge this election day.

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Right vs. Left

I heard one day on the radio a Glen Beck segment on Jim Wallis. In his rant, he was saying that Jim Wallis was representing the liberal agenda creeping its way into the Church and that Conservatives needed to keep these guys out.

So Glen Beck says Jim Wallis is liberal invading the church. This is very confusing since Beck is part of the Mormon church, a sect that broke from Orthodox Christianity to follow their own way less than 200 years ago (please look up liberal in the dictionary). It is amazing how polarizing language can affect the rationale of people, even in the Church. We need to be careful when approaching a gospel that finds its basis in a political party. It does not work in the Church and is not a Biblical pursuit

The main problem is that this rhetoric against conservatives or liberals does not reflect Romans 13. Romans 13 starts us with the submission to those in authority out of good will and good conscience, but it ends with an interesting notion: Pay to everyone their dues so you do not owe them anything (or so that they have no true power over the direction of your life). It follows that up with urging Christians to only owe people love. This is the main point of chapter 13 and a major element in following Christ. The One who showed us the greatest love is Christ. We follow in His way. The caustic language against the brothers and sisters we disagree with is not love, but it is leading to hate. When you associate love and hate with the proper entities, the first is of God and the latter is of the world. So who is your master, Christ or the world (and remember that you can’t serve both)? I would prefer to follow the one who has shown love despite any political stance.

This leads me to a site that I have grown to appreciate this election year. You should visit Don’t Let Them Hijack Jesus. In it people are making videos denouncing politicized Christianity. I have not made a video yet, but I look forward to seeing this style of Christianity take hold in America. I can’t wait for the future of the Church here.

What are you calling liberal or conservative? Are you being honest or belligerent? Is it worth pointing out in argument? Is it loving or hateful? Is it Christ centered or world centered?

On Flag Day

Today is Flag Day. A day started by Woodrow Wilson and instated by Congress soon thereafter. The holiday is honored across the country and even is the birthday of the Army.

Today, we remember this flag as a marker of a strong nation that has come a long way in democratic republic governing.

As a Christian, there is a word to say about this banner of freedom. In the Church’s mind two banners, one of the nation and one of the cross, must interact. This leads to a very crucial question. Where does my true identity lie?

For a Christian, the answer without a doubt is the Cross. Jesus never called us to take up the stars and bars. He called us take up the cross. And then he showed us how: forgiving, loving, and submitting. He did not go out spitting, yelling, and cursing.

Jesus showed us our true identity and showed us how to be just that.

So, American Christians, in light of this past decade’s events and in light of the teachings of Jesus,

Which banner do you most identify with, America or the Cross (which leads to resurrection)?

The Conservative Baptist and Roger Williams (A Church and State Issue)

In American Church history, there is a man named Roger Williams. Many today seem to not know about his existence, but he is very crucial.

Roger Williams started as an Anglican in England, but eventually was disillusioned by that church body and went to live with the Puritans in Massachusetts. After a certain time there, he felt convictions that led his interpretations of Scripture away from the Puritans. He was evicted from the settlement and took his followers elsewhere. There he established the first church which birthed the tradition known as Baptist.

Roger Williams was a major proponent of the separation of church and state. He saw what had happened in Europe ever since Constantine named Christianity an acceptable religion and eventually made it the official religion. Too much invested power from one to the other led to corruption, murder, stealing, and condemnation of innocent brothers in the faith (this could lead to a paragraph about Martin Luther and the Anabaptists, but I digress).

The point of this post is to point to the Southern Baptist Convention and other Baptist denominations and say that something is not matching up. Are Baptists to give in to the state or be something separate. Williams never outright took up blind violence against the state, but he did want to make it clear that the Church just seems to work better when it does not try to seek a pseudo-matrimonial union with the state. I think the SBC needs to consider their founder’s history and words and apply them better.

This is in light of the recent vote for the NC marriage amendment. Many Baptists and other traditions came out to proclaim that the church and state serve the same purpose and should work as one. Is this our purpose? I have posted elsewhere on this vote more directly, but the point is to call out a bigger problem, the Church in America wants to be primarily American and not first and foremost Christian. This will cause problems with us and the state, but mostly with us. (As a side note, this action sounds much like the Catholics and the Anglicans 200+ years ago, something that a SBC person usually will not like.)

PS – My own denomination, which has no lineage crossing lines with Baptists but is a Wesleyan tradition, has made this same mistake.

Coercion or Conviction (On Ammendment For Marriage in NC)

The Current political air is thick with discontent. One of the issues that fills the air is an amendment concerning Gay Marriage. In North Carolina we will be voting in Primaries on May 8 on this issue. Many Christian are coming out and saying that we must vote the values of the Scriptures and the Church (meaning vote yes), while other Christians along with non-Christians are saying vote no.

There are couple points to explore since the point that the vote yes crowd is making is actually more complex. It will end up having much to say towards the assumptions as why we should vote either yes or no.

Voting Yes.

Some points from this crowd are valid, such as we should be concerned about Godly values, we should desire for people to follow the way of God, religious views affects politics, and we should we want people to follow the way of God as described in Scriptures. All of these are noble positions in themselves.

The proposition of this group, however, seems to spring from desires to implement Scriptural lifestyles towards those around us. I’m not sure if that is the correct approach. The point here is that voting “Biblical” values is assumed to be forcing right living. It also might assume some level of avoiding God’s judgment by pushing Christian lifestyle into Constitutional American (I could go into how the Republican party has been courting supporters who are the Religious Right for their benefit and not based on Christian persuasion, but not today).

The question here is if making something legal is the proper way to promote good Christian lifestyle and ethic. I think it is a fair question. Does this amendment actually end sin in the hearts of certain people? And then there is the question of what Christians actually did with legal matters in the Scriptures…

Voting No.

There is a major issue of Church and State here. One that is blatantly ignored. The amendment says that government makes no law favoring any religion at all. The Church has also forgotten that it’s rules and guidelines are not made favoring any nation. We are the arm of God and not any country we find ourselves in. Could there be even better reasons to look for?

When we look at Jesus and Paul, we definitely see interaction with sinners. But, unlike the Old Testament, there is no stoning or harsh consequence carried out by the believers towards outsiders. This seems strange considering that the Old Testament seems to promote these harsh consequences. Paul for starters, mainly speaks to believers concerning the correct way to live, which turns the Christian ethic into an in house issue and not one the was pushed onto the current powers that be (which probably would have killed the Christian movement from the start). Jesus is even more revolutionary since he eats with sinners. Although this was not his acceptance of their lifestyle, He gave them grace and reason to choose God’s way of living.

This approach sound very different than the one taken by the people wanting to vote yes. The reason it sounds different is because the voting yes for an amendment sounds like coercion, making people follow your way and look like you. It may even be trying to save people by making them carry out the right actions, which is works righteousness. That does not sound like the Way that the Scriptures promote.

The other option, which would be to vote no, seems to be more in keeping with the way of Jesus and Paul. THIS IS NOT A MOVE TO ACCEPT HOMOSEXUALITY AS A NORM FOR THE CHURCH. Paul makes that very clear. BUT IT IS A MOVE TO MAKE CONVICTION THE NORM. Conviction is one the bases of why we do evangelism. Why would you force someone to act and still have a heart of sin and not convince them to listen to the Spirit, associate with Christ, and choose God’s way for themselves, rejecting the sin that was once in their hearts?

The latter is better. The latter is Scriptural. And even though voting yes might SEEM to be voting the Bible, there is a pretty good chance that it is not. I would rather vote no and have the Spirit use the Church to convict people and actually witness their salvation expressed in actions than force people to live a certain ethic and be filled with a heart against God and the Church.

I propose to vote no, not in agreement with the lifestyle of homosexuality, but with the full hope that the Church is more than powerful enough to evangelize and have people choose Christ. We do not need a law from a country that will soon enough crumble to help us. We need the Great Commission and the Two Greatest Commandments.

Prayer, Obama, and the Christian.

I found an interesting post on prayer and Obama recently on the Catalyst blog. I really appreciated the post and the balanced Christian view on how to approach a politician you might have an issue with. It is important since it is an election season to remember that you might disagree with any politician eventually, regardless of party affiliation. It is also important to remember that they might be Christian.

We might be tempted to quote passages about the shortening of the Presidents days, but we are not judges over the hearts of men. However, we do have the Spirit inside us of the Prince of peace. We should pray as Jesus did and as Paul urges us, for benefit of others, even if we disagree with them.

When Paul told Christians in Romans 13 to obey the authorities it was in the presence of a pagan government and an Emperor who called himself a god. There was plenty of disagreement, but the Christian hoped for the good of the ruler. Today is much better. Christians have more freedom to worship and have a president that claims the same faith. He claims to be a brother. Now we have the responsibility to pray not only for a ruler, but a potential brother in Christ.

So let us pray. Pray that god blesses and guides this family. Where he is right, pray for affirmation. Where he is wrong, pray for conviction. Let us also pray for our own hearts and the fallenness that exist within our own hearts. We all have bad ideas, beliefs, and desires that are in need of change. Wish grace and peace to those who you might consider the enemy.

I am not saying to agree all the time, but I am saying to watch the language and make sure that it is building up the president to be better. This is going to be much harder for some (like Catholics) because of the recent mandates on birth control. But God has asked us to be a church of prayer and of goodwill. So let us live out that command.

Grace and peace to you all.

Babel and Babble

I and most people I know speak english. It’s our first language and it suits me. I must admit, for me to learn any language, whether the biblical languages or a currently used language is difficult. I used to be one of those who thought that everyone around me in this country should speak english or get out.

I mean, come one! It’s been the natural language for a long time. Since I’m a blogger who is a Christian, I decided to explore a christian ethic on this matter.

A Tall Tower

In Genesis 11:1-9, Noah’s children decide to build a tall tower. At first we’re a little uncertain as to why the tower is being built or what a Jewish person would see as valuable in this story. Let’s look a little closer at the story

The story takes place in the plain of Shinar, which is the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris River. The city that is there is the infamous Babylonia.

Also, the tower is associated with Ziggurats of the ancient world, which were mostly used in the worship of Marduk, the great god of the Babylonians.

Also, bricks are a major component in the building of this tower. Bricks, which reminds one of Israel in slavery in Egypt.

Egypt and Babylon. Two names that any Jewish reader learns to hate from an early age.

One thing that these two nations are against is the worship of the God of Israel. The forshadowing of those two nations should show us that the Ziggurat is in out right defiance of God. Even later, in the Midrash, the Rabbis wrote that this tower had a statue of a man holding a sword to symbolize war against God.

And let’s not forget they speak the same language. They war against God and are united. God decides to confuse them. He does not tolerate the race of man’s rebellion in this way.

So God breaks up the pride in this people’s hearts. God is not worried what language they speak, he just wants them to trust Him. There is a different story in the New Testament.

A Loud Noise

Acts 2 is a story of people being brought from the sad fearful state of losing a friend and leader. Christ has died, risen, and then left. He hasn’t left a very clear message of what to do. The believers meet in a room and when they least expect it

High Winds,

Loud Thunder,

and tongues of fire.

And a Spirit that fills these men and women with the ability to share the good news to others…in a language that is not their own. That is a different reaction from God to the Babel episode. These people have come to love Jesus and His Father. And God unites them through language. God does not shy away from accomodation through language. It actually ends up being His plan of reaching people in a place where there seems to be language difference for the time being.

People for God are united in language (despite differences in langauges).

People against God are divided in language.

New Plans

Which brings me to another part of this passage in Acts, rebellion. Peter delivers a message that does not shy away from fact that his people have reacted against their God. And their history of exile as punishment is still fresh in the ethnic memory. But Peter quotes the passage from Joel 2:28-32. The context of this small passage is that God is bringing them out of punishment in the previous verses. Punishment is something that is part of the Tower of Babel experience. He then goes on to say here that there is something very great and important that is happening. It will affect the hearts of men, women, and children alike, whether of high or low status. And in the event, God removes that shame of exile. The shame of knowing you’ve violated the agreement with a powerful friend. God’s bring His people back and saying, “I’m not angry anymore. I’m giving you hope and power.

The Big Question

So God’s salvation and action does not find its power in a single language. Many people of different origins have been saved and used by God. The people of Babel spoke one language and were proud of their achievements and their power, which is not unlike the country I live in today. My challenge to Christians is that they should rethink their investment into a singular language. It is not the language of God. It is not the language of salvation. It is not the original language of the Bible. (It’s not even the original language of the Native Americans who were here probably thousands of years before the Europeans came).

And language changes. We do not speak the same english that George Washington and James Madison spoke.

And when you get right down to it. We are not truly citizens of this country. We do not get sent out as Americans. We are Christians, the Church, and we are of and from heaven. We march with the orders from God above to advance, not with a sword or the violent ways of our own will, but with loving kindness.

So before you start claiming that non-English speakers are not welcome in your presence.. Think about how the Gospel is to all people, not just English speakers.