Taming Hypocrisy to Win America

While reading through Zechariah today it occurred to me that God often magnifies a people’s sin in the process of setting them up for judgement.  For example, the foolishness of the idolatry of Israel was put on display by the events with Elijah on Mount Carmel. The selection of Saul entirely apart from any understanding of his character moved the people toward the misery of living under a King other than God their King.

Perhaps a more modern day example is taking place in our time. The two presidential candidates both had deep moral flaws. They could easily represent the abuse of power and the obsession with sexuality, two evils which currently define our nation.  We have willingly given ourselves to these evils, and both are highlighted in the public accusations against the two candidates.

I also notice, more while reading Matthew than Zechariah, that hypocrisy is a sin of special concern in Jesus teaching. He chastises the religious leaders for despising the common people. The leaders accuse them of falling short on the minor points of the moral law, while they themselves ignore or work around the weightier points. He helped the rich to see that their belief in their own goodness was false, and that their devotion to wealth was greater than their devotion to God.

A modern day example of this hypocrisy is visible in that those who favor a candidate so easily accuse the failures of the opposing candidate. It didn’t matter which candidate won, there was going to be immediate calls for impeachment. Meanwhile both sides fail to see that the candidate on their side has genuine problems, as well. Even worse, the nation continues to deepen this divide by demonizing the supporters of their opponents.

No matter who had won the election, the path to saving America must include the unifying of the population.  It is a myth of our times, that people with opposing viewpoints cannot work together. We can stand together to rebuild our strength, without agreeing on anything more than America needs to be better. If we unify then we can take an honest look at the evils enslaving us. Seeing those evils will require us to abandon the hypocrisy and to see the weaknesses of both sides. But if we do this, if we humble ourselves before God, we will begin to tame these issues by the resources provided to us as one nation, once again choosing to be, under God.

In Favor of Unity

I remember how I felt shortly after the election when Barak Obama was first elected President. It was not a pleasant feeling. It was downright confusing how so many people could see this man’s agenda as good or even appropriate. It was disheartening when his opponents were sometimes demonized as racist. It was ridiculous when some of his allies treated this new president as a political messiah. These feelings were made worse by the immediate and foolish actions which served to press his agenda, but divide the nation. I am still angered today by such, now famous, words as “elections have consequences” and “we will have to pass it to find out what is in it.” These manifestos of control divided the country in even deeper ways.

All across the urban areas of this country, people on the other side of the political spectrum are now feeling the sting that my conservative friends and I have felt for the past eight years.

So what should we conservatives do next?

We could retaliate now that we have control. We could pass every piece of legislation we want in a frenzy, we could speak out our own manifestos of control, and we could label our opponents as obstructionist, libtards, and whatever other term we find useful.  But this would make us just as divisive as the worst of our opponents have been.

Or we could look for ways to genuinely cooperate and move together.  No doubt legislation will be passed, but do so under normal rules of order, including healthy debate. No doubt proclamations are going to be undone, but don’t replace them with our own proclamations. Instead allow these ideas to weather the tests of congressional scrutiny and be passed as laws.  Instead of furthering the divide, let’s demonstrate that operating within the constraints of constitutional guidance works well without the need for creative interpretations of the document.

This work of reunifying our divisions is our most important challenge.

Many have pointed out that national debt is a huge problem. Obviously there is some unknown limit where the debt is beyond our ability to overcome.  Beyond that point our nation would lose its economic footing, be forced to default on loans, and our failure would affect not just our country but the whole world.

Similarly there is a limit to how divided we can be as a nation before the problem becomes unrecoverable. If we cause that to happen, or allow it to happen while blaming our opponents, the results will be even more disastrous.

Theology of Politics

It might be a good time to remind America that God is in control. It is at times like these that we need to have a sound theology of politics.

I know the idea of a doctrinal statement about politics, governments, elections and so on, will rub some people the wrong way. That is largely based upon a false doctrine in this country called separation of church and state.  But let me save that conversation for another day.

Today let me present a few things a Christian should believe about politics. First, we should believe that being a good citizen is a part of our Christian responsibilities.  There are a lot of verses that tell us as much, some very directly. For starters consider Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and Titus 3:1-11.

But beyond citizenship we need to know that there is a cause and effect relationship between how well we perform the duties of citizenship and the state of our nation. If we lift God up, honor and revere Him, use our resources to spread His kingdom, and build into our country positive moral values, then we can expect God to bless us.  But when we are not behaving as Christians ought, then we can only expect to see judgment. Consider Joshua 23:1-13, Psalm 33:12, and 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Finally we also need to recognize a Biblical pattern. This pattern may not be as clearly stated as some of the other things we have discussed, but I am certain that it is true. God chooses and directs leaders as one of the major ways that he guides history forward. Part of that is rewarding those who have earned blessing with good leaders, and another part is condemning those who have earned judgment with bad leaders. This pattern is demonstrated in the exodus event by the idea that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It was not simply a matter of Pharaoh’s free will at work, but also how God was using Pharaoh’s decisions to create the history He wanted to bring about.

Another example is Proverbs 21:1 (NASB).

The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; 
He turns it wherever He wishes. 

This verse tells us that God is guiding the decisions of the king. It does not imply that the king is aware of this process, or that the king is immune from responsibility for the decisions.  The verse doesn’t really say anything about how it is worked out at all, and reading it only for this purpose is missing the point.  The key point of the verse is that God is moving history forward by working with leaders.

That said then we have to believe God knows what His plans are for us by the outcomes of our elections.  Whether this past election will mark the beginning of judgment, the end of judgement, or some other great purpose of God, only time will tell. Whatever God is up to, our first priority must be to trust Him no matter what it is that He has planned.

Church Politics

For Politics Monday today I will talk about the politics within the church.  This is a topic I am intending to touch on more often.

Some people undoubtedly will be offended just by the phrasing.  Please bear with me, my definition of politics is the normal flow of relationships whenever people interact with each other, whether these relationships are local, global or somewhere in between.

By this definition, the only church that does not have politics is the church where the people fail to interact with each other at all. This would mean they fail to form friendships, fail to produce teamwork and never experience fellowship.  All of these things are produced by the synergistic power of relationships.

Most often, whether a church is a good church or a bad church, whether it is a church that does lots of good in the community or a church that barely manages to pull off worship, is ultimately determined by the strength of the relationships within the church.  A church that ‘works’ is a church that has good, strong relationships. When something breaks the fellowship of a church, the church will lose its strength.

Unfortunately, everywhere there are relationships, there are also relationships that go wrong. In the church, relationships gone wrong have different degrees of disruption to the overall congregation. For example, a couple living together will have a minimal impact in the strength of the group when they are non-serving attenders. On the other end of the scale a pastor who lies, cheats and steals will totally dismantle his church’s effectiveness.

The takeaway for this discussion is every church member, especially serving church members, should take care to protect the fellowship of the church. The primary tool for accomplishing this is to live right, because living wrong on any level disrupts that fellowship.  A secondary method is to extend grace to your fellow church members when they fall short, so that problems are not escalated after they develop.

Syrian Refugees

One of the political footballs right now is the question of what to do with Syrian Refugees. Some people say we should absolutely not allow them into the United States. Others say that attitude is Islamophobic and Americans should always embrace immigration. The one side points out that some of the terrorists in Paris had come in as Syrian refugees, and possibly the same thing would happen here. The other side believes our vetting process will catch any possible trouble makers.

Both sides of this discussion have invoked a rhetoric of extremes. For example, many have questioned why we would spend resources on these individuals while we have so many problems of our own that are inadequately addressed. One such example has been the cry to not house a single Syrian refugee until every homeless veteran has been sheltered. Although this is an apples to oranges comparison it is a set of priorities I would agree with. Still the reality of government is they do not have the luxury of working on one thing at a time, finishing up higher priorities before working on lower priorities would never work. Government inherently attacks some problems that will never be completely solved.

Those in favor of bringing in refugees also have their rhetoric of extremes. The worst of these, at least in my mind, was hearing Hillary Clinton say “Islam has nothing to do with terrorism.” I couldn’t believe she said those words. History argues strongly against her on that point, as does the Koran.

But that is what happens in politics today. No one listens to reasonable discussion, yet they care deeply about the topics so they resort to shouts, extreme statements, and Facebook memes. This lack of real investigative reporting, genuine information, and open discussion is what is really destroying America.

It will probably surprise most people who know me that I am in favor of bringing in carefully vetted families of Syrian refugees with young children. Yes, I really would limit it to husbands and wives with young children. Unfortunately, I do not believe either that our government will adequately background check these immigrants or that they will limit it to families as I have described. For these two reasons I would stand opposed, but if we would follow these two limitations then I can see several benefits of taking part.

In no particular order here are my reasons. The Syrian refugee crisis is the largest since World War 2, according to the news. Assuming this is not some of the persuasive misinformation put out by the media, it only makes sense that the world leader, the United States, would lead in alleviating the crisis. Also remember that leaving families in the situation tends to raise up new radicals. Islam is inherently violent towards non-Moslems, and in a place of warfare and oppression young men tend to grow up angry. Finally I note that in the United States these individuals will have the most likelihood of understanding the greater rule of law. I am assuming we will not be so foolish as to grant them pockets of sharia law. When exposed to a better way, most people will recognize it and accept it. In fact, I believe more Moslems than ever before are converting to genuine Christianity. This by itself is a powerful reason to allow the ones who are not already hard core opposed to come here, where they will be in contact with Christians and a society shaped by a culture very different than their homeland.

Political Caricatures

Politicians have a difficult road to travel. The average voter wants assurances from the candidate that they will behave in office in certain ways. For example, a prolife voter wants him to vote in opposition to abortion. A Second Amendment voter will want him to vote against gun control.

This causes the candidate to affirm his position for them, generally in strong terms. The stronger the better, and without reference to any specifics that might muddy the water. Pretty soon the candidate begins to look like a caricature.

Just like a cartoonist might draw Richard Nixon as having a big nose, or Barack Obama as having large ears, a politician’s platform begins to look like a caricature. Bernie Sanders appears to be a caricature of a socialist giving away your property to the less fortunate and Donald Trump embodies a caricature of conservative politics sitting atop his border fence with a shotgun on his hip, keeping out illegals but bringing back jobs.

These strong characterizations might be useful on Election Day, but it will always create disappointment after the election. Politicians must become real people sooner or later. Real people must negotiate, compromise, and choose when and where to draw the line on compromise. Without these skills we will continue to have deadlock in government.

I suggest voters take the first steps to break these stalemates by refusing to be aligned with the unwavering inhumanity of the political caricatures.

Absolute Truth and the Constitution

Our world is changing, and I believe it is changing faster than ever. Social ideas are shifting quicker than at any time in history. The rate of change is not just because technology is moving forward and accelerating our progress. In this case, it also connects to world view changes. Let me explain.

If you looked at society a hundred years ago, the predominant world views included the concept of absolute truth. Perhaps as a part of a Biblical ideology, or by those who rejected Christianity the absolute truth was couched in what they called higher law. In both cases, it was a perspective that right was right all the time and was unchanging. In the time frame since, absolute truth has been replaced by relativism.

Back when absolute truth was accepted by the majority, people were morally anchored to their idea of truth. In theology, this meant they looked to the Bible for answers and accepted it as authoritative. In politics, absolute truth affected how they utilized the constitution. Ideas were brought before the Supreme Court to be argued based upon their constitutionality. At the time, the decisions of the court were evaluated based upon the assumed intent of the original authors of the document.

When people began to reject the idea of absolute truth, they also began looking at the Bible and the constitution differently. Instead of asking what the document says, they now looked for what the documents allow. It is no longer a question of what the authors intended, but instead whether the document could be interpreted to allow the desired outcomes.

This change in how decisions are made by the Supreme Court, fundamentally changes the court’s role, and makes it by far the most powerful branch of government. Formerly the court was severely limited in what it could do, because its decisions had to be visibly based on the founding document. Now the court is able to make decisions based on interpretations of the constitution rather than its original intent. This ultimately gives them power to do anything they want, including actions previously limited to other branches of government. And don’t forget the justices are appointed to a life long term.

With the increased power the court now has, stacking the court with judges of a certain perspective is far more important than who is elected to the legislative branch or who sits in the executive office. It doesn’t take a whole lot of thought to know that this tyrannical power given to the court was not originally intended by the Constitution, nor is it what the average American wants in terms of how our nation is governed, but it is the logical outcome of rejecting absolute truth.