Why I Don’t Want America to Come Back to God

I write this in an attempt at promoting a culture of dialogue and civility, even though both are in short supply these days. It seems as if most people have their heels dug in and their minds made up on every issue already, so what’s the point of attempting dialogue? It’s a great question that deserves a serious answer in a time when most people talk passed each other, only thinking about what can be said next to win the argument, rather than taking the more humble and disciplined postures of listening and contemplating.

While I am still but a student in the disciplines of listening and contemplating, the greatest areas of growth in my life have come as a result of being able to listen and contemplate thoughts and ideas that I had previously and whole-heartedly rejected. It is only when we can take a humble posture and open ourselves to hearing a new position or idea that we may begin to evaluate what we already believe and why we believe it, and then also begin to understand how and why another has arrived at a different position or idea. It costs nothing to be civil and listen to another’s perspective. We may even learning something new- whether it be a new idea, belief, or perspective, or maybe even something new about the person with whom we are speaking.

When we are able to have civil dialogue with one another, it honors each person’s humanity. We no longer see a person only for the idea or belief they represent, which we may have viewed in antagonism. We begin to see them as brothers and sisters who have been walking a different life path with different experiences or perspectives. And it is in that place where each side may begin to learn, grow, and broaden their appreciation for others. It begins with each one of us. May we each look inward at our hearts and move toward a more humble and disciplined posture of listening and contemplating, while honoring each person’s humanity.

With all of that being said as a proper foundation for discussion, it seems that one of the most contentious topics within American Christianity is the role followers of Jesus should or should not play within politics and government. The reason this topic is tantamount is that there are very different perspectives that have significant, profound, and very different effects and consequences in relation to a follower of Jesus.

In particular, there are those who believe that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that our country has turned its back on God, and that our country needs to come back to God, or that God will remove his blessing from our country. To that end, they believe that Christians ought stand up, be heard, and be involved politically so that Christian politicians will pass legislation that they believe will preserve Christianity in America and help our country turn back to God.

There are others, like me, who believe that whether the United States was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles or not is inconsequential, because Jesus was not trying to redeem countries by legislating morality from the top-down, he was inviting all of humanity into a different and alternative country (the Kingdom of God) with values and principles that completely contradict the values and principles of every man-made country on earth. To that end, we believe that this way moves forward, not by standing up against others, fighting for our principles or values to be imposed on others, or seeking the power of political rule to bring our country back to God, but rather by becoming the servant of all mankind so as to express and extend the grace and love of God and then inviting others into this “alternative country.”. It is a perspective that is not about “Christianizing” countries, but rather inviting all races, ethnicities, and citizens of the world to relinquish their inferior allegiances and inferior value systems, and enter into the transcendent ways of mercy and forgiveness, peace and reconciliation, and unconditional love of all.

The two perspectives could not be any different.

One moves forward in hopes of redeeming and restoring man-made governments and political systems, while the other understands that all man-made governments and political systems (no matter how well-intentioned) are built upon values and principles that will always be antithetical to the ways of Jesus.

One is built upon power, force, and law, while the other is built upon meekness, peace with all, love of friend and enemy, and the gentle ways of the Spirit.

One works to legislate morality through political means, which never changes a person’s heart, while the other moves forward humbly in grace and forgiveness, serving and demonstrating the love of God through example and relationship, changing hearts in the process.

One takes a very vocal approach that stands up for that which they believe to win the argument, while the other remains silently powerless in truth, even in the face of accusation and persecution, because the argument-battle does not have to be won.

One has a conditional view on which lives matter, babies in the womb, and which lives do not matter, enemies foreign and domestic, while the other views all life as God-given and worth saving.

One seeks retaliation and justice against aggressors and enemies through capital punishment and war, while the other will go down every peaceful path in love and forgiveness in the hope that tomorrow he or she will be a changed person.

One uses Scripture selectively, and out of context, to support a hybrid Judeo-Christian patriotism, while the other seeks to only pursue the way, life, and teachings of Jesus.

One is bent on judging the sins of special sin groups of the world, while the other extends a welcoming and loving embrace to every person in the world and humbly walks alongside them demonstrating and teaching the best and highest ways of Jesus.

One lives in fear of anything or anyone that threatens their vision of their country, while the other is never threatened or fearful because the country in which we are citizens, the Kingdom of God, will never fall and will always prevail, even when faced with violence or death.

One is perpetually unhappy and angry when cities, states, countries, and governments move away from their Judeo-Christian ethic, while the other finds happiness, joy, and peace in any worldly form of government, whether it be a republic, democracy, authoritarian state, communist state, or even in the midst of suffering under horrible governmental oppression.

Granted, these are big brushstrokes of the two perspectives, but is generally indicative of how both perspectives are so distinct and different.

If the whole point of being a Christian is to model the life of Jesus while he was here on earth, isn’t it crazy that one of the perspectives almost goes out of it’s way to not look or act like the example of Jesus at all?  As if Jesus is only good for saving people’s souls, but not having any bearing on what we think or how we live our lives or what we put our hope, faith, and trust in.  The entire life of Jesus, not the least of which was his sermon on the mount, centered around the ethic of how his followers should live and conduct their lives and daily affairs.  To me, it is utterly confounding and perplexing and sad how a large portion of American Christianity has lost the Christ.

One is in pursuit of an abstract “God” in which nationalistic and patriotic values and characteristics have been cut-and-pasted onto that “god,” while the other recognizes that the values and characteristics of God have been fully demonstrated in the life of Jesus. One perspective pursues a god that has been made in a powerful, retributive, violent, and tribal image, while the other perspective seeks to become the image bearers of God, which looks exactly like Jesus.

This is the reason why many Christians in the United States are more comfortable talking about God than Jesus. When one creates an abstract god made in our image, one can cut-and-paste any value and belief system onto that god without having to account for any of the specifics. That god simply becomes a projection or expression of the people who have created it. That god has the same values and principles as the sinful and broken people who have constructed it. And that is precisely why I have no interest in our country “turning back to God.” Because the god to which this perspective wants us to turn back… doesn’t look like Jesus at all.

I would rather invite every person in our country to follow the way, life, and teachings of Jesus, because that is where real life and true freedom are found.

What do you say?  Let the civil conversation begin.

Next week I will be asking the question, “Was Jesus a Repuplican or Democrat?

pro-life…

We were born into a world full of lenses that manipulate how we see. From the time we are small children we are already being told to interpret the world in certain ways. By the time we reach young adulthood we have very concrete ways in which we view and understand people, situations, and the world.

To be more specific: we all grow up wearing varying ideological lenses.

For instance, we may grow up wearing nationalistic lenses that cause us to view the world from our own country’s perspective. We may grow up wearing specific political or ideological lenses that cause us to view economic and social issues from a certain political perspective. Or, we may grow up wearing religious lenses that cause us to see and evaluate people, situations, and circumstances from the perspective of our own faith group.

The reality is that the lenses we have created over time and now wear primarily influence and govern our value and belief systems.

Let me be clear from the outset…there isn’t anything wrong with any of us having differing perspectives. The beauty of being fully human and a fully expressive creation of God lies in our uniqueness in seeing the world in new and different ways.

But the significant and disturbing problem I see running rampant among Christians is that we allow the man-made ideological, political, nationalistic, and religious lenses to shape our faith RATHER THAN allowing the transcendent values of God to be the primary influencing power that shapes how we see, interpret, and respond in the world. For many Christians, we have it exactly backwards.

The truth is that the only way to reverse this is to remove the lenses that distort how we see people, situations, and circumstances and adhere to a new value system of transcendent truth (life, love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, humility, and sacrifice) that renders every other value system as inferior and primitive.

Said another way: the only way for the blind to see is for our ideological, political, nationalistic, and religious scales to fall from our eyes so we may see as God sees.

And that is precisely what we find in Jesus Christ- transcendent truth embodied and unencumbered by ideologies, politics, nationalism, or religion. In fact, the transcendent truth of God cuts directly through man-made positions and ideas…and stands victorious on its merit alone, or said another way- love always wins. This simple fact alone ought to propel and give keen insight to the Christian on the necessity of fully embracing and then embodying…with every ounce of our being… the transcendent value system of God in our lives. The Christian should make the values of God the primary driving force in our lives and the basis for how we see people, situations, and circumstances. It is the very values and essence of God embodied in Jesus Christ…and given to us through the Holy Spirit. But, too many times, we reject this in favor of our own man-made ideas of how things ought to be and how people are.

Until we, as Christians, begin operating solely by the transcendent values of God…we will continue to fall short of who God has created us to be and remain divided against one another.

This is a significant issue that needs to be taken seriously…and this example makes my point very clearly.

Liberalism and Conservatism are man-made ideologies that significantly influence how we view and interpret people, situations, circumstances. These ideologies are so prominent and influential that, for many professed Christians, they become the lenses through which we understand our faith and issues related to our faith. This occurs to such a large degree that we, who ought to be bonded and united as one and operating primarily by the transcendent values of God, are actually divided against each other.

There are Liberal Christians who believe abortion ought to be lawful in certain situations…and that women ought to have the “right” to choose what happens to her own body. As you know, this position is wildly debated and contested by Conservative Christians who believe that a fetus is a human life that ought not be killed in any situation. They believe that taking an unborn human life opposes the heart and will of God. This issue between the two ideological groups creates a tsunami of discord.

Oddly enough, while Conservative Christians fight vehemently for the life of an unborn baby, they fight just as hard to support war and the killing of people they view as enemies of our country to preserve their freedom. As you might suspect, this position of war is met with wild resistance by Liberal Christians who view killing enemies as antithetical to the way of Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine either of these “Christian” groups ever coming together and agreeing with one another based upon their uncompromising allegiance to their political ideology? Neither can I. As long as each group continues to allow the inferior lenses of Liberalism and Conservatism to cloud how they view issues…nothing will change. As I said earlier, it is only transcendent truth and a transcendent value system that can cut directly through man-made positions and ideas and then stand victorious on its own merit, bringing those previously opposed into unity.

The truth of God that cuts through every Liberal and Conservative position is God’s profound love of ALL LIFE. Rather than Christians being governed by and seeing the world through the limiting lenses of ideology and then fighting based on these inferior positions… it is essential that the Christian surrenders to that which we have been ordained to live by in the first place- God’s transcendent values of life, love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, humility, and service. It is God’s values that take prominence in the Christian’s life and nothing else- not man-made ideology, not man-made values, not man-made politics, not man-made countries, and certainly not any man-made religion.

Unfortunately, we have too Christians who are governed by inferior positions, who then arbitrarily attribute their inferior positions as the position of God. So rather than Christians conforming to the image and transcendent values of God…we have attempted to make God in our own image and attribute our own ideological, political, nationalistic, and religious misgivings to God! Do we not understand that this is the most egregious form of idolatry that exists? We significantly err by taking our inferior positions and speaking for the Most High God.

If we would remove the lenses we would finally see that God loves life…period! God values life…period! And not just some life but ALL LIFE!

God does not see issues or people from the perspective of a Democrat or a Republican. They are of no consequence to God. God isn’t an American or Anglo-Saxon (can you believe that?)…nor is God’s values the same as either one! God is God…and that’s just it. God loves and values all life…and there is no way to spin it.

We may not personally like it and this may not align with our inferior ideology, the lenses we wear, or the world we have constructed (that we would like God to fit within)…but we cannot change, manipulate, or confine God’s profound and unchanging love for life! Nor can we change God’s yearning and longing for US to be people who embody the EXACT SAME LOVE FOR ALL OF LIFE!!!

We cannot bring God down to our inferior position. It doesn’t work that way. Just because one may use the name of God to support his political or ideological position- IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT ALIGNS WITH THE TRANSCENDENT VALUES OF GOD! We conform to God…God does not conform to us!

We may yell and scream that we have “rights” and “freedom” until we are blue in our faces! We may argue for a mother’s “right” to choose or a citizen’s “right” for “freedom” at the cost of another’s life… but we argue from an inferior, worldly position. There is not one of us who has any rights before God! The right to choose when someone should no longer live is God’s alone. We don’t own one breath of our lives! So what “right” do we have taking the life of another human being for the illusion of acting on our “rights” and “freedom?”

It does not matter how small or inconsequential, the situation or circumstance, or how much one may deserve their life to be taken based upon our own judgment…we simply have no right my friend.

The One who has all the right and who grants all freedom values ALL life…and we have been sorely mistaken by standing against or taking life…ANY LIFE…by our own hands.

Take off the blinders and see clearly Christian! We must give ourselves over completely to the ways of God rather than settling for and perpetuating this worldly rubbish that we peddle in God’s name. Let our lives be conformed to God by the power of His Spirit to be lovers of all life, defenders of all life, and the means through which the peace and love of God extends in the world. God is unanimously pro-life in the most complete sense of the word and that is precisely what God is calling us to be as well.

peace…

brandon

the united states of Jesus?

When there is a discussion about politics and the religious heritage of our country it usually devolves into a back-and-forth battle between hardliners who either argue that the original intention of the founding fathers was to establish a country founded upon Judeo-Christian principles –or- that the founding fathers were deists whose intention it was to establish a country in which there was a clear separation of Church and State.

For outsiders looking in on such a debate, the position many may well believe speaks for the entirety of Christianity is the former stance, because it is the loudest or most publicized.

I would like to propose and give humble voice to another…very different…Christian perspective that circumvents entirely the “intentions of the founding fathers” discussion and that focuses narrowly on the politic intentions of Jesus, who the Christian ought to be primarily concerned.

My position is: since Jesus’ primary motivation was not to Christianize governments or political orders but rather to establish an entirely different Kingdom, it really doesn’t matter either way if the founders intended Christianity to be an influencing force or not. And as a result, Christians ought to work to build up the Kingdom of God rather than try to Christianize America.

Taking on the label of Christian, by simple deduction, implies that one is a follower of Jesus Christ. If that is an appropriate assumption then one would expect his followers to be focused on and obsessed with his words, his ways, and his life. More specifically we would expect his followers to focus on and have an obsession with the one thing that he himself was focused on and obsessed with- the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that operates by a completely different value system than the countries, empires, and kingdoms that we are familiar with, including the United States.

A simple, cursory glance at the Gospels reveals that Jesus was not preoccupied with trying to make the Roman Empire, or any other government or political system, “Christian.” Even further, the movement Jesus initiated (even though we have egregiously missed the point throughout our history of Christianity and continue to miss the point now) was never intended to reform countries, empires, and kingdoms from the top-down through Christian legislation. Rather, the primary intention of Jesus has been to establish an entirely different Kingdom that operates by an entirely different value system within the hearts and minds of people through relationships and that works from the bottom-up through love and selfless service.

Unfortunately a section of American Christians so badly, and so desperately, wants America to be a Christian nation that we have performed some serious theological gymnastics to align Jesus with our own political ideologies. We can’t fathom how enshrouded and consumed we are with the American governmental and political filter and how they distort how we see Jesus and his mission. We can’t reconcile a non-governmental, non-political (in terms of not supporting and propping up a political system), non-partisan Jesus with our nationalistic aspirations. And as a result we use his name, while ignoring his teachings, and then mix it together with our entrenched nationalism and/or political ideologies to create a hybrid monster that is NOT what Jesus had in mind.

If you think I have gone too far…think about it. Even if it was a good idea to make America a “Christian” nation… many of you who believe that would not agree with applying Christ’s principles at a governmental level. Can you imagine America turning the other cheek when attacked? Can you imagine America blessing terrorists who curse us? Can you imagine America loving our enemies rather than engaging in conflict with them? Me either.

Beyond that, the way of Jesus is never about imposing a belief system on people. Things like fighting for the Ten Commandments on government lawns and arguing for prayer in schools just makes people resent Christianity (and Jesus by association) because it tries to force and coerce people into our belief system (whether we like to admit it or not). Does this approach not stand in sharp contrast to Jesus and his Kingdom? Rather than continuing in the way of Jesus through a humble, quiet, servile demonstration of God’s Kingdom on earth…we instead choose an overt, over the top, imposing reminder of “what you need to do” and “how it’s going to be.” Rather than taking the way of the non-retaliatory, non-argumentative suffering servant who does not need to defend himself…we instead believe we have to fight, claw, and defend to preserve our faith. Come on guys.

The truth is that we Christians are sorely mistaken for trying to co-opt the Kingdom of God and for trying to fit it into our own nationalistic, political, and over the top agendas. God help us.

We need to wake up and realize that we do not have to have the full support, backing, and authorization of the government in order to live, practice, and demonstrate our faith. Is God not with us everywhere we go? Do we not have the opportunity to have prayers on our lips at all times? Do we not have freedom through Christ in any circumstance? Then we don’t need to fight to preserve those things we already have!

We need to wake up and realize that we also do not have to have the full support, backing, and authorization of the government in order for the Kingdom of God to grow, flourish, and expand! I personally believe we have a better opportunity for people to follow Jesus if we quit pursuing this dead-end road of trying to Christianize America. Need an example? Look at how the Kingdom of God is growing and expanding in China.

I want to be crystal clear: I am not anti-American…but I am uncompromisingly pro-Jesus and pro-Kingdom. My first and only allegiance is to Jesus, his way, his Kingdom, and the transcendent value system of God…and many times the values of America will not align with any of those things. If God wants the United States to flourish for the sake of his Kingdom and his Glory…then praise God! But if God needs for the United States to fall down for the sake of his Kingdom and his Glory…then praise God!

For the follower of Jesus Christ the ONLY system we should be preoccupied and obsessed with is the Kingdom of God. For it is in this Kingdom we find peace, love, value, and life to the fullest…and it does not need to be mixed or blended with anything else. The Kingdom of God stands alone, is self-sufficient, and is not bent on nationalism or political ideology…because its values transcend each one of them.

only peace and love…

brandon

if you don’t have any idea about what the Kingdom of God is…download my book for free at www.theunearthedproject.com