Mark Driscoll and the Presidential Inauguration

So on the day of the presidential inauguration, Christian celebrity Mark Driscoll decides it’s a good and relevant time to insult the president and cast doubts on his Christianity. Mark Driscoll apparently said: “praying for our president who will today place his hand on a Bible he does not believe and give an oath to a God he does not know.” While the USA allows Mark Driscoll to say anything he wants to, it bothers me for several reasons.

First of all, the president claims to be a Christian, and so I think that we ought to believe him when he says that, after all we have no reason not to. The second point is that just because Obama’s beliefs go against the beliefs of some of the more conservative Christians, it doesn’t mean that those Christians are right. Is it not possible that on some of the things in which Driscoll and Obama disagree may be things that Driscoll is wrong on? I’m not naïve enough to believe that Obama is right all the time; I just believe that his policies line up more with Christianity than Romney did. I’m not naïve enough to think that the president is a perfect Christian, because none of us. That means that he makes his mistakes like the rest of us and that, unlike most of us, his mistakes are made public for the whole world to see.

I see conservatives fight for causes like keeping the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, and yet I see those same conservatives break one of the Ten Commandments, particularly the one that tells us not to bear false witness. What Driscoll said bears false witness against Obama. If we want to keep the Ten Commandments in public places, we should probably be living them out so as not to appear hypocritical. I’m glad that Driscoll is praying for Obama, because Obama needs the prayer with the position he’s in. But even so, I’m sure that Obama would appreciate the prayers of others even if he wasn’t president, it’s one way that Christians can support each other.

Instead of trying to tear down his brother, perhaps Driscoll should continue to pray for the president, and remember that he is in fact his brother. 
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Discussions of Faith and Doubt – Part 1

Although I’m entering the political discourse again today, I hope that those of you who blatantly oppose my political views (which is probably most of you – and I’m cool with that) can see the bigger picture, the main message that I am trying to communicate, which transcends politics. My aim with my blog is to intelligently discuss issues that pertain to evangelical Christianity, and unfortunately politics plays a really big role in the expression of evangelical Christianity, and therein lays one of the problems.

I’m writing this post in response to two different articles from Christianity Today. “WhyWe Should Reexamine the Faith of Barack Obama” by Owen Strachan and “Barack Obama: Evangelical-in-Chief” by Judd Birdsall, which was written in response to Stachan’s article. The first article argues that President Obama is not a Christian. The article admits that the president talk often of faith, but the author’s argument is that if the president were a saved man, he would be against abortion.

Saving faith creates a relentless desire in the name of Christ to heal the wounded, restore the weak, and defend tiny fetuses that kick and spin and wave their miniscule arms when they hear their parents’ voices. Saving faith causes us to weep and yell and wrestle with God in prayer for infants that are savaged in the womb. Saving faith cannot abide unlawful death. It must and will decry it.

So when someone professes faith, yet has none of these instinctive reactions—and actually opposes such instincts despite years of membership in supposedly Bible-teaching churches—we realize, chillingly, that something greater than right morality is missing. The gospel, the ground of our ethics and the animator of our conscience, is very likely missing. Perhaps the person speaks of faith and their nearness to God. In reality, though, they are far from him. They may have come near at some point to the kingdom, but like the rich young ruler who chooses reigning with sinners over reigning with Christ, they are desperately far. (Strachan, “Why We Should Reexamine the Faith of Barack Obama”).
I think it is extremely dangerous to assume that a person is not a Christian simply because they don’t believe the same things we do. The Bible never mentions believing abortion is murder to be one of the pre-requisites of salvation. I as a Christian do not agree with abortion, but I do not assume that those who don’t agree with me are not Christians. When we get saved, Jesus comes into our lives and he changes us from the inside out…he changes the things that he wants to change, not the things that everyone else thinks we should change. I don’t know the mind of God; perhaps he is more interested in working on other things in President Obama’s life than he is about Obama’s beliefs on abortion.
One of the problems with evangelical Christianity is that we have chosen a select few things, normally things that the majority of evangelicals don’t struggle with, such as abortion and homosexuality, to be defining factors of Christianity, and the things that we choose to be the most passionate about. But, what if we decided to major on things that we actually struggle with? How might we be able to change the world were we first willing to take inventory of our own lives and be morally outraged about lying, arrogance, gossip, theft, greed, gluttony, fighting and the like? If we worried about ourselves and our sins first, and if we tried to rid ourselves of those sins as passionately as we try to outlaw abortion or ban gay marriage, maybe then the world would at the very least have a little more respect for us when we say we don’t agree with abortion or homosexuality. Choosing things that majority of evangelicals don’t struggle with and turning those into big issues is really a good example of the classic Biblical story talking about us trying to remove motes from other people’s eyes when there are huge beams in ours.

Another thing we as evangelical Christians need to realize is that we don’t have the monopoly on truth. It’s possible that some of the ideas we cling to and promote as Biblical may be anything but. We need to be willing to be wrong, instead of being adamant that our view of the Biblical text is the only accurate one. In the words of the president himself:
No matter how much Christians who oppose homosexuality may claim that they hate the sin but love the sinner, such a judgment inflicts pain on good people – people who are made in the image of God, and who are often truer to Christ’s message than those that condemn them. And I was reminded that that is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights. I must admit that I may have been infected with society’s prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God; that Jesus’ call to love one another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history. I don’t believe such doubts make me a bad Christian. I believe they make me human, limited in my understandings of God’s purpose and therefore prone to sin. When I read the Bible, I do so with the belief that it is not a static text but the Living Word and that I must be continually open to new revelations – whether they come from a lesbian friend or a doctor opposed to abortion. (Obama, “The Audacity of Hope”, pg. 223 – 224).
Obama tells us what his beliefs are with his current understanding of God, and even has the humility to admit that he may be wrong, and is obviously willing to learn. If more evangelical Christians reminded themselves that they could be wrong and that they maybe don’t have the exclusive rights on truth, maybe we could then have better discussions and have more respect in the world we are supposed to be being a light to. 

References: 

Obama, B 2006, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Three Rivers Press, New York.

Strachan, O 2012, Why We Should Reexamine the Faith of Barack Obama, Christianity Today, June 21, 2012 accessed on 22 August 2012. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/why-we-should-reexamine-the-faith-of-barack-obama.html?start=1

The Christian Left – Part 5

Looking at the teachings of Jesus changed my worldview drastically, and it was the teachings of Jesus that, in the end, made me change my political beliefs as well. I’m not totally on the left side of politics either, I identify as a moderate that leans left because when it comes right down to it, on some issues I’m conservative and on some issues I’m liberal, I just happen to be liberal on more issues than I am conservative.


“As far as I’m concerned the teachings of Jesus are far too radical to be embodied in a particular platform or represented by a particular candidate. It’s not up to some politician to represent my Christian values to the world: it’s up to me. That’s why I’m always a little perplexed when someone finds out I’m not a republican and asks, ‘how can you call yourself a Christian?’” Rachel Held Evans, “Evolving in Monkey Town”, pg. 206-207.

If Jesus was walking this earth and he was in America in this day and age, I don’t think he would be a republican. I don’t think he would necessarily be a democrat either, because his teachings were so radical that not even Christians believe or follow all of them. I know that for me, sometimes the teachings of Jesus are downright scary because they are so radical and I’m afraid that if I live passionately for him, I’m going to face ridicule for it, because people are going to think I’m crazy. I’m not arguing that we need to fit in to our culture necessarily; I’m arguing that Christians need to obey the teachings of Jesus, and, if we did so, I believe that the current political landscape in the USA would look much different.

As Tony Campolo says in his book “Red Letter Christians” (2008, pg. 215), I’m a theological conservative who has embraced socially progressive ideas. I know that a lot of people don’t understand how the two can go together, but for me they just do. When I really and truly focus on what my Savior taught, I find that the two go together just fine. The “Lord’s Prayer” says “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Matthew 6:10 NIV. I believe that when I accepted Jesus, I became a citizen of the kingdom of God, and that as such I need to live by kingdom principles. These principles have changed me, and I think that’s the point.

I’m nowhere near perfect at living out the teachings of Jesus, I fail at it every day, but when I absorb the teachings of Jesus and meditate on them, and live them, they change me.

“If our theologies make us focus only on the eternal and the individual (i.e., getting my soul into heaven) so that we avoid God’s concern for the historic and the global (i.e., God’s will being done on earth as well as in heaven), then the more people we win over to our theologies, the fewer people will care about God’s world here and now.

                The more converts we make, the worse the world will become.

If God really cares about justice in this world here and now, and if we are converting people away from that concern, then we are working against God. We could inadvertently become enemies of God’s wishes. Brian McLaren, “Adventures in Missing the Point” pg. 57.

I realized that if my political beliefs did not align with the teachings of Jesus, I was going against God. I started to realize that perhaps God cared much more that I love my neighbour and less about the culture-wars. Perhaps he would rather me act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). I started to realize that if I live as God is calling me to live, that would make a bigger statement than any political position I hold.

“Jesus replied: ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NIV.

References:

Campolo, T 2008, Red Letter Christians, Regal, Ventura

Campolo, T and McLaren, B 2006, Adventures in Missing the Point, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Evans, R 2010, Evolving in Monkey Town, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Christian Left – Part 4

I believe we need to live in this world, and as much as we can, to live in peace with everyone. In the Old Testament, Israel fought wars at God’s direction, but when Jesus came, the New Testament, the new covenant, came with him, and Jesus taught us a different way, the way of peace. Part of the reason is that when Jesus came, he brought the kingdom of God with him so to speak. The kingdom of God is not of this world, and the philosophies of the kingdom of God are far different than the philosophies of this world. Jesus came to save us from the world and it’s philosophies and to reconcile us to God and make us part of the kingdom of God. We discussed some of the ideas of the kingdom of God in the last post, but here is what Jesus himself preached:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3-10.

The way that I see it is that when Jesus came to earth, he established a new religion. Instead of Judaism which had been the way to be right with God until then, Jesus changed everything and instituted Christianity. There was no more need for Judaism anymore because Jesus had come to permanently bridge the gap between God and man, and Jesus’ blood rather than the blood of animals, was now what reconciled people to God. When Jesus came to earth, many things changed, and he brought the kingdom of God with him. Alisa Harris says beautifully what I am trying to portray:

“I had always heard that the Pharisees missed Jesus because they were searching not for a suffering servant but for a warrior king who would come with armies to overthrow their political enemies. How absurd, I always thought, never seeing that I, too, had searched my whole life for an earthly messiah who would overthrow my own political enemies, the one God would use to lead His chosen people in his chosen nation back to him.

I was done chasing supermen. I had stopped believing in the perfect leader who could say ‘let there be justice’ and by the force of his word change the whole earth into heaven. Instead I determined to grab hold of the truth I’d always known – that the leader had already come, had chosen instead to say; ‘my kingdom is not of this world,’ and had been despised and rejected because his message was bigger than the first century political pundits had predicted. When Jesus said to go the extra mile and turn the other cheek, he called us to subvert tyranny with love and redeem injustice with suffering. He didn’t say that tyranny and injustice would cease immediately, be he promised that the time would come when the meek, the poor, and the merciful would inherit the earth.” Alisa Harris, “Raised Right”, pg. 74-75.

Jesus’ message was bigger than the first century political pundits knew, and Jesus’ message is bigger than modern politics. I believe that I ought to make political decisions based on my faith, but I need to be careful that my political positions do not determine my faith, they are a manifestation of it, only one manifestation of it, and there are so many other ways to show my faith without making politics to be the most important. There are others that are more important, like worshipping God, and worshipping God is not the same as having the right political beliefs. Both show my faith, I just need to be careful not to elevate politics to a higher position than they deserve. There are many other legitimate ways to express faith, and I need to make sure I am expressing my faith in a variety of ways. I need to make sure that my faith gets its meaning from Jesus, not from politics. Alisa Smith again says it beautifully:

“For nearly all my childhood and adolescence, on into early adulthood, politics gave my faith meaning. Politics expressed my faith. Politics was a way of fighting for ‘a future and a hope,’ my way of proving I believed what Jesus said: ‘Take heart! I have overcome the world.’ A surge of political fervor marked my soul’s revival, and the vision of a godly America was my promised land. My faith was so intertwined with conservative politics that I viewed them as one and the same. In my ironclad worldview, faith and politics were inseparable.

So when I ventured out into the complicated world and found it shaking my confidence in the goodness of culture-war politics, my faith shook too. With the conservative political accoutrements of my evangelical Christianity stripped away, little of my faith remained.” Alisa Harris, “Raised Right”, pg 5-6.

I want to unpack what Alisa is saying here because parts of her journey were similar to mine. I went from a soldier in the culture-wars to being disillusioned with the culture-wars, and that disillusionment almost ruined my faith altogether. The injuries I sustained from fighting in the culture wars were almost lethal. But the thing is that Jesus heals. He’s the Great Physician, and with his gentle care to my wounds, my faith survived.

When I stopped fighting the culture wars, stopped living to prove about what I was against, I started figuring out what I was for. Instead of being self-righteous and telling the world that I was against abortion, gay marriage, birth control, illegal immigrants, and environmentalists, I started to be for life, love, peace, feminism, helping the less fortunate and taking care of the earth God has given us. Instead of passionately arguing the things I was against, I started to live the things that I was for.

Reference:

Harris, A 2011, Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics, Water Brook Press, Colorado Springs. 

The Christian Left – Part 3

When President Obama got elected, I was severely disappointed, and I “just knew” that it was a huge mistake and that the problem was that the American people had rejected God. I myself had worked with my church to promote Ron Paul’s campaign, something which now embarrasses me but is part of my journey. During the period of the Obama administration, I have gone from the extreme right, from believing conspiracy theories, from extreme conservatism and fundamentalism, to a position I believe is more balanced. Now I claim to be just Christian, definitely not a fundamentalist, and to being a moderate that leans left. Looking back, I’m glad Obama was elected, although sometimes I wonder if I might not have preferred Hillary Clinton for president. I personally believe Bill Clinton was a pretty good president. Anyway, the main thing that changed my mind on my political views is the teachings of Jesus.


The very first issue that I faced in my journey was the issue of war and peace. I had always struggled with the concept of war, and had always been unsettled about the idea, but I wasn’t sure why. So I purposed to study the issue out, and I have to say that it changed me. Basically, as I looked at the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament and the historic teachings of the church, I became a pacifist, and for me this was life changing in a number of ways. Not only did I become a pacifist, but it was not long after that that I started to support the idea of gun laws, and I have several ideas on what kinds of gun control I would like to see. I believed that human life was valuable, certainly more valuable than stuff. I say this because the main reason I hear people in this country claim that they need a gun is for if someone breaks into their house and tries to steal their stuff. I would rather let the person take my stuff than take his life; life is precious and certainly more valuable than stuff.

As I delved further into pacifism and my support for gun control, and the sanctity of human life not only for the unborn but for the born as well, it changed the way I viewed people, and slowly began to change the way I treated people. As I turned away from violent thinking and violent imagery, I began to think differently about people, and recognize how valuable they are to God. And in my journey to non-violence, I quit spanking my kids. Now when I get into an argument with someone, instead of just lashing out and fighting with them, I usually stop and think about how precious they are to God, and it helps me to be more calm and rational with my responses. (I did write some articles on pacifism which I am going to put up on this blog as an archive).

I believe that Jesus really meant it when he said to do good to those who treat us wrongly, and that by me choosing to love others, people will know that I am a Christian. As my ideas about pacifism and gun control and non-violence evolved, so did my ideas about social justice. Now that I viewed all people as precious and worthy to God, I believed that Jesus would have me help the poor, and do right by others. As I walked in the new things that God had shown me, it changed me, and my Christian faith began to have so much more meaning than before. In fact, here’s a quote that sums up better than I could what I am saying here:

“Jesus came to offer more than just salvation from hell. I realized this when I encountered Jesus the radical rabbi and re-examined my life in light of his teachings. When I imagined what it would be like to give generously without wondering what was in it for me, to give up my grudges and learn to diffuse hatred with love, to stop judging other people once and for all, to care for the poor and seek out the downtrodden, to finally believe that stuff can’t make me happy, to give up my urge to gossip and manipulate, to worry less about what other people think, to refuse to retaliate no matter the cost, to be capable of forgiving to the point of death, to live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loved, one word came to mind: liberation. Following Jesus would mean liberation from my bitterness, my worry, my self-righteousness, my prejudices, my selfishness, my materialism, and my misplaced loyalties. Following Jesus would mean salvation from my sin.” Rachel Held Evans, “Evolving in Monkey Town” pg 174-175.

Another quote that really made me think just recently as I take these ideas and values further and I live them out is this:

“I’m not always sure how to react to war today. I can vow to work at Dunkin’ Donuts before taking a job as a defense contractor. I can threaten to weep should my children decide to become soldiers. I can choose not to tell the lie that it’s sweet and fitting to die for one’s country and say instead that it’s tragic. But all of these are just taking stands, and Jesus requires something more. Jesus didn’t say ‘people who speak out against war will inherit the earth’; He said people who embody, in their character and soul, this strange and alien value of meekness will inherit the earth. He didn’t say ‘blessed are those who refuse to fight’ but blessed are those who make peace. He didn’t say ‘blessed are those who don’t kill’ but blessed are those who show mercy. He didn’t call us simply to oppose positions that are wrong but to embody values that are heavenly.” Alisa Smith, “Raised Right” pg 107-108.

In other words, I see now that God is taking me even further, not just wanting me to be against something, but to be for something, and to live out the ideas that I claim to believe in.

*Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an attack on people who believe in war, or the military, or those who are conservative, fundamentalist, and right-wing. I’m simply trying to tell the story of my own journey and why I believe what I believe today.

References:

Evans, R 2010, Evolving in Monkey Town, Zondervan, Grand Rapids

Harris, A 2011, Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics, Water Brook Press, Colorado Springs. 

The Christian Left – Part 2

This is a re-post from the old blog since I plan to continue the series on here. 🙂

Most of the time, I actually identify as “moderate” with leftist leanings because I really don’t subscribe to the entire leftist agenda either, I just happen to currently agree with them on a lot more political issues than I agree with the right on.

I remember in the 2004 presidential election, I was living with American missionaries in a coastal Australian city. The missionaries had the TV on most of the day of the election, and were following it closely. We had talked about the moral decay of society and how it was God’s will for George W. Bush to be re-elected because he was a Christian and the Republican party was the Christian party. Over the coming years I learned about and engaged in the “culture wars” and by the time I moved to the USA I was staunchly Republican because I thought that all Christians were. I have in fact noticed that a lot in America, that people tie their chosen political party into their faith. And on one hand, I get it.

I totally get that our faith influences our political decisions (it’s why I choose to be a moderate that currently leans left), what I don’t understand is that people who trust in Jesus for their eternal destiny would suddenly not trust that he cares and knows about what is going on in the country and that he can handle it. If Jesus can save us from our sins, can’t he be working behind the scenes in America despite which political party is in power? It troubles me to see how devastated some Christians get when the right is not in power. It troubles me to see how ugly and disrespectful some conservative Christians can be to government they disagree with, it troubles me to see what extremes some conservative Christians will go to. After all, I thought Christians believed that God was ultimately in control, so why all the panic? A big part of me wonders if all the panic comes from maybe we say one thing and believe another? We claim to believe that God is in control but we really believe that man is in control.

I don’t believe, if Jesus was walking this earth today, that he’d be a conservative. I don’t really think he’d be completely liberal either, in fact, I doubt we could put him in a political box. From my understanding of Scripture and his teachings, though, I doubt there would be much about current conservative politics in America that Jesus would be happy with. But I totally understand that many people disagree with me. I am going to spend some time explaining the social issues and what I believe Jesus taught on those subjects. I’m not claiming to be right, I’m just giving a “justification” I suppose for why I believe what I do, because quite honestly, I feel misunderstood, and because of that, I have had many conservatives be downright rude and ugly to me about what I believe. I don’t want to be mean and ugly back so I am trying to present this in a cool, calm manner. I am not angry at conservatives, like I said in the first post, I’d wager a pretty good guess that most of my friends are political conservatives. It’s ok, I love them anyway. :p

I’m going to be exploring this topic with two books (as well as the Bible), the first one is “Red Letter Christians” by Tony Campolo, and the second is “Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics” by Alisa Harris. Both are very good books and I look forward to presenting some of their material here. I probably won’t post these posts every day, I will probably post about some other topics in between, but I do intend to keep posting them over the following weeks. 🙂

And remember, I don’t even vote because I’m not a US citizen yet. I’m just a woman with opinions. :p

The Christian Left – Part 1

This is a re-post from the old blog since I plan to continue this series on here. 🙂

Today, I “liked” a page on Facebook called “The Christian Left” and shared two of its pictures on my own personal Facebook page. The very first comment I got was from a tea party conservative which simply said the “Christian” Left? insinuating that one could not be Christian and politically left. I know of good Christian people who are liberal and good Christian people who are conservative, and while I would never indicate that you can’t be Christian and liberal, or can’t be Christian and conservative, for me it is harder to imagine being conservative and being able to live by Christian values. However, it appears that many Christian conservatives don’t believe one can be both a Christian and liberal, so I thought I would write some posts on why I, as a Christian, choose to be a liberal rather than a conservative.

When I first moved to the USA, I was told that in this country, all Christians were republicans. If someone wasn’t a republican they weren’t a Christian. A while later I found out some were even more conservative than the republicans, and some of those people thought that the Christians who were republicans were “selling out” their convictions and instead should be constitutionalists or libertarians or tea partiers. I, in fact, helped my church at the time in 2008 campaign for Ron Paul, even though I wasn’t then nor am I yet a US citizen. Although I’m not a citizen yet, I plan to be one day. My husband and my four children are all citizens, and I live here, so yes I care very much about US politics. We even had a Ron Paul yard sign right next to our church yard sign (someone stole the Ron Paul one). Now, I want to put an Obama bumper sticker on my car except that it’s my husband’s car too and I don’t think he’d appreciate it, because he’s still fairly conservative. 🙂

Yesterday, I was glad to see the individual mandate of the health care bill upheld. I believe that health care is a basic human right, and I suppose that Jesus did too because he was always healing people. The reason I believe health care is a basic human right is because of how much Jesus cared about the sick. Honestly, I don’t understand what people are so upset about. Since I’ve moved here I have heard many complaints from conservatives that “they” have to pay for other people’s health care. Well, now that the individual mandate passed, individuals will have to pay for their own health care, or else their own tax dollars will go to paying for it. This means that the individual mandate is a good thing, because now people will be responsible to pay for their own health insurance. Of course, I don’t believe it will solve all the health care issues and ultimately I’d like to see the US adopt a socialized system like other first world countries have with great success.

Conservative politics to me seem very selfish and completely unChristlike, although I want to be careful when I say that to make sure that I DON’T say that all conservative Christians are unChristlike, because that is not true. I know many awesome, conservative Christians, in fact I believe that most of my friends are conservatives and they are amazing people. I’m not trying to tear down individuals; it’s the conservative political system that I have a problem with. The goal of these posts is simply to talk about how and why someone would be a Christian and be left, and I will do my best to keep to that issue rather than bashing conservatives. 🙂