Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Honest Political Opinion

Let the controversy continue. I see the church being divided when it comes to political opinion in a pretty hard way. It divides the nation, but we let it divide the church as well. With something so dividing, I feel like the discussion should be had in a very honest and open way. So, let's get into it. 

I guess I'll start with the Religious Right. This has been the party most associated with Christianity for quite some time. However, the only real stand-out point between just the Republican party and the Religious Right is that these are the people who would have us be a distinctly Christian nation guided by Christian morals. Now, that sounds pretty good at first glance, but it gets a bit muddled up in my opinion. Take the emphasis put on not allowing same-sex marriage as an example. Since marriage according to the Bible is one man and one woman, this party does not support it. I'll say that I don't at surface level agree with same-sex marriage, but let me explain. Christian marriage would not allow for it, but do Christians have a monopoly on marriage? Hinduism practices marriage, so it’s not a distinctly Christian practice. Should we outlaw any non-Christian marriage? Should Vegas weddings be made illegal since they are often far from the Biblical example of marriage? It would seem hard to push all of our Christian ideals off on the nation at large. I've said it multiple times before, I say it now, we are NOT a Christian nation that is set apart by God. Israel was the only one, and the church is now. So, the church is set apart, but our nation is not. God gives us freewill to be a part of His bride; people should not be legally bound to live in the church. I'm sure I'll end up saying more about this, but for now let's just leave it at that. 

OK. The Republican Party. Marked by small government, capitalism, working hard, and elephants. Like I said before, the Religious Right isn't really far off from here. So how does it measure up in terms of Christianity? I should say to begin that I think this party works pretty well when it comes to creating a prosperous nation. However, prosperity isn’t a concern of Jesus, and in fact, he condemns it from time to time. 1 John 3:17 says “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother or sister in need, yet closes their heart against them, how does God's love abide in that person?” The same might be said of those who despise all forms of financial aid to the poor because it “builds character” and “you have to earn what you get.” Granted, many make the argument that this is the church’s job, and not the government’s, and I would agree with that. However, most who say this (and in all reality, me when it comes down to it) really are not anywhere near where Jesus would have us be in terms of benevolence and compassion. Most of the time, we don’t give a crap about the poor, and if I said that from a pulpit, many might care more that I said crap than they do about the poor. Jesus loved the poor though, and asks us to do the same. What if “loving your neighbor as yourself” actually meant not spending more than half your income on yourself while spending the other half on your poor neighbor? It’s a heck of a thought. 

The church described in the NT is one marked by persecution and love. They willingly went the second mile when asked by a Roman soldier to carry a pack one mile and they were often martyred by a nation that rejected them. This seems to be a far stretch from the 2nd Amendment loving, gun toting, give me liberty or we’ll secede mindset of the Republican Party. This is also the party that is most likely to support the death penalty and war, both of which do not exactly measure up to the “enemy love” ideal set forth by Jesus. Jesus wouldn’t have us love “Merica” and all the butt kicking that comes with it, he would have us love our enemies and turn the other cheek. The government “does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4), however, we are told just a few words back that as the church, we should “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (Romans 12:19). So, it would appear we don’t get to be a part of that. We instead are told to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…Live in harmony with one another…Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:14-18).

Now it’s time to switch to Left wing of things. Both parties like bigger government in some areas, this side just likes it less in issues of values and morals and more in the domain of finances and other areas. Christians in this party tends to not feel as though they can push morals off on people, but include other issues of life in this. Most notably, abortion most commonly gets thrown in with this party. I’ve written more extensively on being “pro-life” and so I will just recommend looking back, but this tends to be an issue that gets at a lot of Christians, and I can’t blame them. 50,000,000 babies have been killed via this means, and I wonder if we’d give that more of a thought if they would have all been born first? While I don’t think we can push our morals off on people, I think this is an issue that Christians should work to better because a healthy respect for life is a great attribute for a country to have (and that’s all I’ll say here since I already wrote on it).

This party usually gets the wrap for being “socialistic” or “communistic” as well. Honestly, that kind of sounds like what the early church was about, at least at a lower community level. One of the things that gets me though is how these things tend to be incredibly wasteful and godless. No nation has ever tried “communism” without “atheism” being very attached to the idea, and that’s kind of unsettling to me. I don’t know why it is, it just is. “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” says Paul (1 Cor 13:3). This makes me not so sure this can be praised as “Christlike” if it does not associate with Christ. Plus, at a national level, the idea just really doesn’t seem to work out the way utopians want it to. Just an observation.

I'll say it, labeling this party as communism isn't fair. However, This party is surely connected with larger levels of governmental control in these areas. Whenever the government runs an arena, there will be insane amounts of waste because of the concepts of third-party purchasing (someone using someone else's money to buy something they will not personally use). So, there will always be waste. I think some of this is actually connected to the idea of doing something without love as I mentioned above with 1 Corinthians 13:3. It's impersonal. Also, programs that do seek to help people usually perpetuate the cycle of poverty rather than break it. While I say that, it is better than nothing. There are times when I am running somewhere and am able to do little more than give a few dollars to the person with the sign on the side of the road. However, this does nothing to break the cycle of poverty. Neither does a single meal. The answer to breaking the cycle of poverty is love, not money. When you have the type of love that frees you from monetary selfishness, there's the ticket. 

Now, I don't plan on everyone agreeing with everything I just said. I'm sure there are countless counterpoints and differing views. However, it's cool because the rest of my view actually makes up for any inaccuracies or discrepancy in opinion.

This is where we come to my real opinion about politics. What party do I associate with? NADER!

Just kidding. None of them.

How could I vote for a party that doesn’t respect life or a slew of other things the way I feel they should? Neither side is the Jesus side of things despite each claiming to be. Here’s what Jesus said about politics “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Luke 20:25). Pay your taxes. That’s all Jesus says about it. That’s really all that Paul says to do in Romans 13 as well, in addition to submitting to authorities (e.g. not breaking the law unless that law contradicts God’s law).

A guy named David Lipscomb taught (concerning politics) that Christians should neither vote nor participate in government, because that was earthly kingdom business and we are to be about Kingdom of Heaven work. The only thing he said we should do is obey the law to the extent that it doesn’t make us go against God, and to pay our taxes. I think it’s possible to be very actively pro-life and benevolent without being involved in government. I think when we are about Kingdom work we do what really needs doing.

The early church was not concerned about making any government more churchlike. They focused only on making the church more Christlike.

For Lipscomb, being involved in government meant having to make too many decisions that simply were not in line with Christian thought. After all, the government is an avenger, and Christians are told not to be.

So, am I saying that it’s wrong to be an active member in government or vote? Nope. I think there are good reasons not to but I don’t think I can truly justify saying that as a hard and fast rule. However, I am very willing to say that earthly kingdom work is 1,000% second to heavenly kingdom work.

For myself, I don’t vote and am certainly not in line to change things about our government. I am far too concerned with changing things about our church that seems to be so nation influenced to be concerned with any of that other garbage. I want to change the hearts of men and women, not the heart of an institution.

After all, discipleship is strongest in situations where persecution exists. The early church we admire so much existed within a governmental frame that was far more oppressive and negative towards Christianity than ours is. It was when the church became associated with the state (Constantine) that some of the strongest corruption entered the church. It seems the church is more negatively influenced by the state when associated with it than the state is positively influenced by the church.

The church does not need the government in order to be effective in this world; the opposite may be true in fact.

Quite frankly, I think the church has better things to worry about, especially on something that divides people so often and makes them so lividly angry. "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Captain America: The Red, White, and Blue Jesus

So, got to see the new Captain America movie, and it was really quite good. Kept me on my toes the whole time and it really did just pack a cinematic punch. Much better than the first one. There was action, adventure, ethics, and allegory. So, I highly recommend it. Great movie. But let’s deal with that last descriptor, allegory for a bit. Note: this will be brief; I'm sure there are other things to talk about. These are just the highlights that I saw. 

I can’t say this was the director’s intention, but I saw such a strong allegory between Captain America and Jesus. He’s sacrificial (even from the beginning of the first movie), a leader, justice minded, above reproach, and brings freedom to people. Now, all those are great attributes that both the character and the Savior share, but there is something different about the movie guy – all of those attributes are just dripping with red, white, and blue.

He’s sacrificial for people…and the American dream. He’s justice minded…with the constitution clinched in fist (figuratively). He brings people freedom…from tyrannical fascists. He possesses many of the qualities and attributes that we see in Jesus, he just possesses a very American version of them.

Why do we want Jesus to be a butt kicker? Mark Driscoll makes the argument that Jesus was not a pansy by looking at the end of times, and says that he doesn’t want to follow a Savior he could beat up. I don’t feel like a good number of people are far behind that line of thought.

What Captain America, as well as all super hero movies teach me is that we have a deep and desperate yearning for a savior. However, we would much rather him be strong, look hot, dress like it’s the 4th of July, and preferably want Hitler to be taken down.

Really wrestle with this – would Jesus kill Hitler? Now, I don’t plan on answering that question or the question of whether it would be right to do so, after all, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an avid Christian pacifist and was also one of the leading minds of operation Valkyrie. It’s a question Christians have struggled with for years. But really stop and ponder. What would Jesus do?

Now, some people will read that and say “You’re saying Jesus would do nothing?” to which I would reply, "He did everything." Why must we always see every solution in violent terms? In all reality, that violence hasn’t really worked in every case (if not most cases) throughout history. I will say that Romans 13 describes the government as a retributive institution, so perhaps God was bringing Hitler’s reign of terror to an end, but my question remains of would Jesus had been an active, violent part in that?

Captain America fights for what is right. Jesus died for what is right. 

Now, this allegory isn’t all bad. There are positive aspects too.

For starters, Captain America values life immensely. Granted, he still kicks the crap out of his enemies in the name of freedom, but he doesn’t bust out the heavy artillery (minus his super boomerang shield) almost at all. He’d rather people live than die, and that’s something that truly comes out in the movie in two HUGE ways...if you haven’t seen the movie, I suggest skipping the next paragraph.

SPOILER ALERT: The first and foremost display of this is in his taking down of the fascist means of person elimination. I’m not sure everyone picked up on it, but the technology used by the German cult thing was basically a holocaust super weapon. It predicted what a person’s future would be like (by examining their past) to determine if they would live or die. Now, this could almost sound good. After all, this rids society of murderers, thieves, and so on. However, the movie portrays something else. When the machine collects its targets, EVERYONE seems to be one the list. If God wiped all the wicked out…it’d be an empty earth. Not a one of us are clean without the blood of Jesus. This is why we’re told not to judge. Second thing. I think that Bucky represents humanity, in particular the scoffers at the cross, in this allegory. Once Captain America finishes his mission, he refuses to fight Bucky, but instead shows sacrificial love to him to the point of death if that is what will come. It echoes Jesus when He said to “forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus absorbed violence into Himself; He didn’t reciprocate it. 

OKAY, it’s safe to read again if you haven’t seen it. So, Captain America taught me a lot. He taught me a lot about God, he taught be about Jesus (both comparison AND contrast), and he really taught me about our values as a nation and a church within that nation. I hope and pray that if you met the rejected, mistreated, bloodied and bruised Jesus in the street and Captain America walked by, you’d take the Christ. He alone can save, the rest is just flash and smoke.

Captain America may fight so that people can have a slew of freedoms including freedom to practice religion, but Jesus died so that you can have spiritual freedom, and He asks that you worship Him despite whether you have the freedom to or not.