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
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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.