Interesting to see…even if it’s only a small part of New York State.
You may have seen the article in the Washington Post titled: Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity. You may have read it as well. I think this sums up the current events quite well. Don’t get me wrong I do support Donald Trump. Not because I agree with him. Not because he is Christian or maybe “Christian”. Not because he will promote family values. Not because I believe in his policies nor that I agree with his bigotry. I support him because I respect the office. I can certainly say he has done some good things for this country. He has exposed bigotry. He has exposed hatred. And he has exposed what is wrong with American Christianity.
Had I not had the grounding of a good group of Christian men and several Pastors who brought me to knowing what it truly means to be a Christian, I’d have left organized religion. But they taught me that Christianity is about loving your neighbor – even if you don’t agree with them. To share your faith and beliefs in a way that gets people to question why you are different. As I write this I can hear my friend Keiran mentioning an encounter she had with one of her friends who the Evangelical right would proudly announce they are damned to hell. It is a phrase I have heard myself. “Why are you nice to me when you hate me so much.” And her response was, “I don’t hate you.” and I was reminded of a similar comment from one of my favorite pastors (Dr. Bruzek) who is so quirky you forget he is wicked smart. When I struggled with a friendship, one I would not have had prior to my fire, he told me one thing…our job as Christians is to love. The little baby Jesus will sort it out in the end. (What, I shouldn’t share my faith and what I believe??? I know you are thinking that…) And when the time comes, which it will, you will be asked to share your beliefs. And the relationship that you have will allow you to share and still remain friends…because the little baby Jesus is there to sort it all out.
Which brings me back to this article. Never in my life have I ever been ashamed to be a Christian…even if it meant that I was poked fun of. That is until the past year or so. I do not believe that the United States is or ever was a Christian country – nor do I believe it should be. It is not what we were founded on.
Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21 ESV)
The problem with putting God’s blessing on a nation is that you distort what the Gospel is. Jesus was mocked for saying he was a king, the King of the Jews. Why? Because he was not a temporal king. He was not a monarch, prime minister, dictator, or president. He was, in the eyes of many, a lowly carpenter and potentially nutty individual. That is what the the kingdom of the left was expecting – a leader for them. Yet Jesus was speaking of the kingdom of the right…
Righteousness Coram Mundo
Is the righteous in the eyes of the world. This is where it is ‘OK’ to have an abortion. ‘OK’ to take a life of a terminally ill person. Ok to pirate software, to look at pornography, to sleep around. To be a god of your own. This is where the most important thing is to be a law abiding citizen and to be seen as a “good person”. You do it because it makes you look good, you feel good, you happy. Where you are an individual.
Not only Christians, but also Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Atheists are capable of being faithful spouses, loving parents, and hard-working employees. Christians and non-Christians perform many of the same external civil works (Wikipedia)
This is what America is founded on. And, in a way, this is why I am proud to be an American. It is a place you celebrate diversity, individualism, and can be free to practice what you believe. It is where I am free to be a Christian. It is also an environment where people like Trump can thrive. It is a place where you can live the American dream. But it is run by sinful people who have a distorted view of what it means to be right. The focus here is always looking in.
Righteousness Coram Deo
Is the righteous in the eyes of God. It is where you no longer see the ten commandments as ten commandments, but a guide on how to live a happy, fulfilled life. You don’t look at serving others because it makes you feel good but because it allows you to share God’s love.
On the one hand, the active righteousness of a Christian and of an unbeliever is the same, for both do the same external works in the same vocations. For example, a person cannot tell the difference between a faithful Christian employee and a faithful non-believing employee by sight. In a certain respect, a Christian’s active righteousness is different only because the sin that taints it has been forgiven. In other words, the righteousness coram deo sanctifies the righteousness coram mundo. (Wikipedia’s interpretation of Dr. Joel Biermann’s comments)
It is where I can love and care deeply for a friend, spouse, or family member above myself. Not where I love because I love me first. Unlike the kingdom of the left, the focus is outward.
Which is where I take away from this article something summed up at the end…
Trump is different.
His campaign and presidency has shed light on a troubling wing of American evangelicalism willing to embrace nationalism, populism, fear of outsiders and anger. The leaders of this wing trade their evangelical witness for a mess of political pottage and a Supreme Court nomination.
I am not an Evangelical Christian. And honestly, I am not sure that I ever want to be. Christianity is not about hate. It is not about God. It is not about the Gospel. It is about me, myself, and I. It allows me to hate my gay neighbor, hate the Muslim down the street, and to separate from the very people who need God’s love…sinners who don’t know God.
The author sums it up correctly…”Some in my own circles have expressed a desire to leave their evangelical churches in search of a more authentic form of Christianity.” Trump and the Evangelical right have put credence to what my non-Christian friends say. Christians are about hate. Christians are mean. Christians are a scourge to not be allowed to let lead this country. But the problem is, this is not Christianity. Until we step back and embrace what true Christianity is…and it is very simple…to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself (ok, maybe not quite that easy) and to be the crazy odd balls who love their “enemy”, who are there for their “enemy”, to love their “enemy”. Until we are known for showing the unconditional love of Christ will people want to follow him. In the mean time, we are just pushing people away from Christ. For those in the church into doing it on their own, without the support, teaching and support of a community. For those outside the church, away from the true love of Jesus Christ.
I have always admired Pastor Wolfmueller. He shares a story of his coming to the Lutheran Church. I firmly believe that American Evangelicalism has been a scourge to real Christianity and has promulgated the belief that Christians are about hate. Anyone who knows me should know that I am not a huge fan of organized religion and I don’t always agree with the way Christian beliefs are shared with others.
Disclaimer: This video is from a Steadfast Lutherans conference. This is a part of Brothers of St. John the Steadfast. I do not agree with or endorse the views, actions, and teachings of Brothers of St. John the Steadfast.
I ran into an article on line the other day, Do You Really Have Religious Freedom If You Can’t Act on or Even Express Your Beliefs? and thought about a conversation I had with a liberal who was an athiest. I had commented about how much of a bigot Bernie Sanders was. Don’t remember the Bernie?
Bernie is pretty ignorant to think that the Muslims don’t believe the same thing. Bernie is also pretty ignorant of what it means to be Christian. But was he out of line? Now, this brought about a great conversation and allowed me to explore the double standard that often is faced.
First and foremost, what Bernie did was wrong. Whether it was his intent or not, Bernie was attacking this man for his faith – not for his ability to do the job. I felt these questions are difficult to answer. I also feel that maybe Mr. Voight could have given a better answer. Now, what Russell Voight believes has absolutely no bearing on his ability to do the job – to an extent – and is clearly a violation of the Constitution:
…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. – Article VI
The question, which Bernie did not ask was how his faith would work out in the office he was to hold. I am Christian, I believe that Christianity is the only way to salvation– specifically the belief that Christ died and rose again.
Here is where the two kingdoms theology comes in and was something that my friend couldn’t comprehend. Apparently Christians are so wrapped up in faith that they simply cannot do anything but enforce their beliefs on those who do not believe (and I blame American Evangelicalism for their proclaiming that God has ordained America to be a Christian country). The question is, will Mr. Voight only provide services and only work for the benefit of Christians or will he set his beliefs aside for the benefit of all Americans. I’m not really sure how much a budget office guy can do to force his beliefs on others in their role…but I could be wrong. It really sounds like a boring job. What is ironic, however, is that Islam historically is for the eradication of those who don’t believe in others. Yet, Christians have historically lived in co-existence with others and been the Samaritans to others.
I am not sure how religious Bernie Sanders is. I think he is just a cultural jew. Maybe he has some faith, but tolerance is not about attacking someone for their beliefs but seeking first to understand. Maybe if Bernie came right out and asked Mr. Voight how his beliefs would influence his job I’d have been happy.
Tolerance begins with understanding each other. Tolerance is a two way street. It is amazing the reaction I get when I get to talk with people who I don’t agree with and they find out that I don’t agree with yet am still their friend. I may not agree with you, I may not like what you do, but I will still love you. And I think of David Puddy….