“I’m above politics!” Haha. No you’re not.

How should Christians approach politics?

 

The first thing to note is what is implied in that statement. It’s not a question of whether or not Christians should approach politics, but how. I think it’s tempting for young adult Christians nowadays to distance themselves from the dirty “mud-slinging” of modern American politics. At least, that’s what I’ve tended to do until just recently in my college career. What changed my understanding was a realization that Christians are not called to minister through select venues of society (charities, non-profs, etc.), but are called to influence and affect ALL areas of culture. There really is no divide between the secular and the spiritual (at least ultimately). Every area of life is under the sovereign rule of Christ (think Colossians 1) and this means that we are called to bring the “ministry of reconciliation” to all areas of life. One of my favorite quotes is by Abraham Kuyper:

 

“In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign,does not declare,’That is mine!'”

 

That includes the political process, and whatever responsibilities that entails. In the context of the American republic, this should include educating ourselves on the issues being debated, doing our best to judge the moral character and abilities of each candidate, researching voting records, and lots and lots of prayer. In the light of Romans  13, these are responsibilities/privileges we shouldn’t take for granted. While there are many faults in the American system of government and its history, it could be much, much worse. As a whole, the Lord ordained a system of government for the United States that has largely been successful in maintaining order, freedom and prosperity on this continent and we should be incredibly thankful. This doesn’t mean that we should be uncritical of many parts of this nation’s legacy, but it is important to value the welfare we’ve received from this system, as well as look for the many ways it can be improved.

 

This being said, here are some guidelines that I think might be wise to consider as we follow the election:

 

1)    Recognize your first allegiance.

 

Are you a blind tower of the “party line?” Do you unquestionably accept all the policies of a political party, simply because you approve of some of them?

 

Many people consider either the Republican or Democratic party to be at least one of their “gods,” if not their main god. We worship what we are most passionate about, and anyone with eyes can clearly see worship of American political parties, but instead of church, we call it either the Republican or Democratic National Convention. For some people, they would stoop to attaching “Christian” to their identity, simply because they are a member of the Republican or Democratic party.

 

It’s idolatry, and it should be avoided at all costs, not just in politics. We need to be careful that we are involved in the political process for the right reasons, and not because politics is the primary source of our identity. God is not on any party’s “side.” God is on God’s side. I think one of my favorite sections in the Bible is where Joshua is approached by the “commander of the army of the Lord” and Joshua asks him if he is for “us” (the Israelites) or for their enemies (the Philistines). The commander just says “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come,” basically telling Joshua that he does whatever God wills him to do, whether that is against the Israelites or the Philistines. Likewise, God is not on any American party’s “side,” he may favor one at a certain time, and then another later. For his own reasons, “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).

 

We are to make sure our first allegiance is to our God and king, not to an elephant or a donkey.

 

2) Take a chill pill

 

Politics are not the end-all be-all of existence! I’ve known people on both sides of the debate that become so angry and spiteful when they talk about politics with others, especially over issues that aren’t that important. There are some issues, of course, that we should be passionate about, but some issues, (for example, taxes, or immigration reform) don’t require the emotional investment some put in.

 

A lot of this simply goes back to idolatry. If politics is not your god, you won’t feel constantly defensive when someone disagrees with you on certain issues. Let’s be reasonable and calm, recognizing that if your candidate isn’t elected, it’s not the end of the world, that is, unless the other candidate is the antichrist, and then it could be, but that’s different topic! (Maybe I’ll write a guide on determining if a certain candidate is the antichrist in another post).

 

3) Be passionate and inflexible about the issues you should be passionate and inflexible about.

 

This said, there are certain issues that we should, as Christians, be inflexible about. I have in mind abortion and gay marriage, for example. The reasons for this, are that the Bible is very clear on what should be thought about these issues in a way that it is not clear on others (like the welfare state, or which form of government is the best to pursue). In other words, it is obvious that Jesus would have opposed Roe v. Wade, but it is not at all clear whether or not he would have supported No Child Left Behind. Issues like abortion are not merely political. As I’ve heard others say, they are moral issues with political implications. There can be flexibility as to how best to approach these issues, but as Christians we should we working, for example, to abolish abortion.

 

This understanding has obvious implications for the election. For me personally, I will most likely vote Republican because I think it is more likely that Romney would support pro-life initiatives and would oppose gay marriage. Yes, I know Romney has flip-flopped on abortion, yes, I know that he probably does not think social issues are currently as important as economic ones, but with President Obama being clearly pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage, I don’t know if I could, in good conscience, vote for him. Does this mean that I think all Republican policies are the best ones? No. Does this mean that all Obama’s ideas are terrible? No. Does this mean that I think all Democrats are pro-choice? No.

 

Some people might be thinking to themselves “You can’t legislate morality!!” And I would say yeah . . . . kind of . . . . but we already do, and there are tons of moral assumptions in how our government passes laws. You will probably never see a law passed by a legislature that says “Murder is evil, and therefore it is forbidden in our society.” That’s an expressly moral statement, and I don’t think it’s necessary for legislatures to issue it. But there are many laws which would say in effect, “If you kill another human being, you will spend the rest of your life in prison, or be executed.” That law does not expressly say that murder is a moral evil, but it implies it. Even if we can’t legislate using clear, moral statements, our government can still put in place buffers to prevent gross injustices and moral outrages on the part of its citizens. People should really qualify what they mean when they say “government shouldn’t legislate morality.”

 

Please feel free to comment and give any other suggestions that I might have missed!

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Sovereignty, Sovereignty, Sovereignty

BEAUTIFUL picture of God’s sovereignty at work in Luke 3: 23-38.

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,[e] the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32  the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34  the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

 It looks just like a long list of names, because it IS a long list of names! But what do those names signify?

1)    It’s only possible to see God’s entire plan when it’s finished. Each name is a story (Adam, Abraham, Noah, David, Boaz/Ruth) which, in themselves, cannot show how God is sovereignly working to produce salvation through Jesus. At the end, we can see how He was paving the way for Christ. It’s a beautiful mosaic of lives, experiences, success, failure, and emotions that all end in Jesus Christ!

2)    God fulfills all His promises in Jesus. He promised Adam and Eve that their seed would crush the Serpent’s head; he promised global blessing through Abraham; he promised an eternal throne to Kind David. In other words, “all the promises of God find their ‘yes’ in Him [Jesus]” (1 Cor. 1:20). There are many more promises that are fulfilled in Jesus, but these ones stand out as you read over the list of names.

3)    The Old and New Testaments are intimately connected. This removes all doubts that God was somehow was “different” in ancient Israel’s time. The same God was working the entire time to fulfill his purposes in this location, at this point in time, in Christ.

 Sovereignty, sovereignty, sovereignty, basically sums it up!

Pixar’s Brave – Animation: Awesome, Plot: Meh.


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Friday night, my roommates and I saw the newest edition to the echelon of Pixar movies, Brave. It’s caught a lot of attention for the fact that it is the first Pixar feature with a female protagonist, a young, fiery, red-headed girl named Merida.

The animation (as usual with Pixar films) was superb, and the sweeping landscapes of ancient Scotia were beautiful. The music from Patrick Doyle was, all in all, very well done. Additionally, the movie had some very entertaining and humorous scenes that at least got me laughing pretty hard. A few of the characters had well-developed personalities, like the king (Billy Connolly) and the triplet princes. Also, as a proud Ginger, it was good to see my kind represented! As a ‘good’ movie, that’s about all I can say for it.

Unfortunately, the plot wasn’t too creative (I’ll try to not give too much away!) Basically, it involves a young princess, failing to meet the strict expectations of her mother, the queen. It’s pretty much the old tune of the parents keeping the kid ‘down’ with tradition and strict guidelines, while the child wants to be ‘free’ to choose her own course. The central problem of the entire story is a “failure to communicate” between the daughter and the mother. Put simply, the message of the film is to “follow your heart” and pursue your own destiny, even if your family expects something else from you; not always the best advice to send out to the next generation of young minds.

 It was definitely a ‘pro-female’ movie (which I don’t think is necessarily bad). All the men were basically idiots, who couldn’t wait for the next chance to start another brawl. In the relationship between the king and queen, you definitely see how it was the queen running the show, as the king was fairly incompetent in doing anything else besides fighting. It was also only the queen that discussed the “important things” with their daughter. I know it’s supposed to be a comedic portrayal of men, but all movies comedically exaggerate what is already at least partially a reality in societies. That’s a cause for fear concerning the state of guys in our time.

 The films understanding of reality was also pretty questionable. Basically, you can alter your fate, but, as is usually the case, it would have been better if you hadn’t tried. Merida succeeds in altering her destiny, but we can always ask if it was her destiny to alter the course of her destiny! I know, ten-year-olds aren’t supposed to think about such questions, but if I met a ten-year-old thinking about that question, I would definitely give them a high-five.

 Of course, the experience wasn’t a total waste of time. I got to see the new Monsters Inc. and Hobbit trailers on the big screen. The film also gave my roommates and I an excuse to talk in Scottish accents for some time afterwards (even thought its arguable that no excuses are ever needed) That alone made it worth it. I’d probably give the film a C, one of those movies to see on DVD when it comes out.

Disgruntled Platypi

 I wonder if some animals would feel insulted by the names we give them. What if they had a say in their original labeling? You can just imagine all the animals getting in line before Adam, awaiting their names. The bear wobbles on up, and Adam says “Berken!” Instead of submitting, the bear shakes his head quickly. “Hmmm” says Adam, “Hurfy!” Understandably, the bear shakes his head again. “Bear!” Yep, that one hit the spot, and the newly-christened bear wanders off content, in the full knowledge that ‘bear’ perfectly hits the spot. If animals had our level of consciousness, I think a lot of them would hold formal committees to decree new names for themselves, thus usurping man’s God-given task of naming creatures. The House of Platypuses (Platypi?) would sovereignly decree that their new name would henceforth be Beaveducks!

I wonder if animals would form inter-species confederations or would their governments consist solely of members of their own species? Would different species have a tendency toward certain forms of government? Wouldn’t it be ironic if lions (who, as we all know, are the “kings” of the jungle) were the staunchest of democrats (little ‘d’)? Oh, and who might be the tyrants, you ask? Most definitely house cats. They’ve already made significant progress to world domination. If there DID arise an inter-species confederation, the military would consist in rhinos supplying the heavy armored division,   all birds supplying air support and scouting. For ground forces, squirrels could do some heavy damage. Even if only the squirrels concentrated around the Michigan State area were to unite into several regiments, just imagine the carnage they could inflict! Cats, of course, would be the commanding officers, riding their dog-slaves.

Others, like the great philosophers Simon and Garfunkel, have already attempted to “anthropomorphize” various species. Take, for example, some lines from At the Zoo:

The monkeys stand for honesty,

Giraffes are insincere,

And the elephants are kindly but

They’re dumb.

Orangutans are skeptical

Of changes in their cages,

And the zookeeper is very fond of rum.

 Zebras are reactionaries,

Antelopes are missionaries,

Pigeons plot in secrecy,

And hamsters turn on frequently.

What a gas! You gotta come and see.

 Should we be thankful or sad that animals aren’t like us? I guess it depends. If we’re looking for more conversationalists, I think we’re fine. But if we’re in need of some more corrective criticism, it might benefit us to have some more constructive input from our Golden Retriever.  

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Evangelism from the Master

The goal of Robert Coleman’s, The Master Plan of Evangelism can be condensed into a short passage from his preface, “[This book] is an effort to see controlling principles governing the movements of the master in the hope that our own labors might be conformed to a similar pattern.”

 It’s an effort as relevant now as it was when the book was first published in 1963. Dr. Coleman does his best to present the core principles that define biblical evangelism, all from the life and words of the master evangelist, Jesus. Each chapter focuses on a different stage of Jesus’ plan to “conquer” the world with his message, such as selection, consecration, and delegation. He expertly uses prodigious amounts of Scripture to demonstrate how Jesus, with a small band of dedicated disciples, multiplied himself, so that when he ascended, his church could continue the great work of the Gospel he set into motion.

 With the many well-meaning evangelism programs that abound in the modern church, these principles are a breath of fresh air. This mission of the church to spread the Gospel can become quickly obscured when men and women with good intentions, forget the means by which Jesus multiplied his ministry. His ministry focused on pouring into individuals, not merely on offering altar calls to large crowds. It didn’t consist merely in classroom sessions, where those with “gifts” of evangelism shared with those ungifted the five points of successful evangelism; it involved sharing all of life together, so that Jesus’ disciples could see evangelism not merely as a task to be performed every week, but as a lifestyle to be imitated. Each chapter lays out the case for each stage of Jesus’ ministry from Scripture and shows how these principles can be applied today.

This is an honest book that should be read by any and all who would want to see more personal evangelism in their own lives, and especially by those who want to train others to follow in Christ’s footsteps. I was given a copy of a recent, heavily abridged edition (New Spire, 2010), which made it a more manageable read, but presented the author’s main points wonderfully.

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It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane, it’s a Super-Pastor!

“Pick your favorite four or five. Listen to only their sermons, only respect the words that come out of their mouths. When you visit other churches coming from different traditions, look down on them, although they’re preaching the same message. Elevate the man, not the message. Be impressed by their super-size churches, their books, and their conferences. Look down on older people who might not appreciate the preaching style of your favorite pastors. Consider that the best way to gauge the health of a church is by observing the charisma and public speaking ability of the pastor of that church.”

If you’re looking for a sneaky, hidden path to idolatry, just follow the above directions.

 This might be an exaggerated description, but I have done a little of all those things since being in college. I have found myself looking down on my family’s home church whenever I visit, because they don’t have the “right” music (in reality, they say the same things), or the pastor didn’t use the right words in his preaching, or the preaching seemed less “captivating.” I  oftentimes elevate the pastors I appreciate on a pedestal where they do not belong, to the point that they are the only authoritative interpreters of Scripture I know. I find myself wanting to be just like them, with their popularity, speaking skill, writing ability, and productivity, forgetting that if any of them found out I was thinking these things, they would properly rebuke me.

Satan’s not an idiot. He knows all the “soft spots” for Christians, and just like anyone can idolize politicians, athletes, or celebrities, we can idolize our “super-pastors.” This is an area in which I need to take Jesus advice in Luke 17:3:

“Pay attention to yourself!”

Villain or Hero?

I was walking past the magazines in my local library and I though it was hilarious that both the conservative magazine National Review and the liberal Progressive were featuring articles on governor Scott Walker, and his upcoming recall election.

 

The National Review displayed a victorious, armor-clad Governor Walker, the head of Medusa help up triumphantly in his hand, with a battle-cry pouring from his mouth. The title of the piece was Can Scott Walker Slay the Beast?

 

The Progressive had a different take on Governor Walker. On the cover page, we have a very green-faced Walker, portrayed apparently as either a zombie or Frankenstein’s monster (or both), about to attack and devour a helpless young woman in her car. Their article title was Walker Lurks Over Recall.

 

So, Governor Scott Walker is probably somewhere in between a victorious monster-slayer and a monster.

 

We’re pretty funny.