Tag Archives: political activism

Your Enemy is not a Secular Government; Your Enemy is Satan

That statement sounds like a copout to some people. Of course, Satan is behind all the restrictions and pressure to conform. Sure, he is the one who motivates even people who call themselves Christians to vote for bad leaders and bad laws. That is a real oversimplification of the difficulties we experience just trying to live our faith according the freedom the Constitution protects.

It sounds too simple to be worth thinking about, but it is exactly what we need to think about. If we think that presidents or senators or judges or laws or neighbors or foreigners or unbelievers are the problem, then we will contend with all those people. To focus our efforts on the people enslaved by Satan is like telling an unjustly imprisoned man to fix his problem by breaking out of jail. If we believe that our society will be improved if we win some legal battles or a few elections, then we are doomed to deep disappointment.

It is the elected and appointed leaders who enact and interpret and enforce laws that restrict religious liberty. It is neighbors, friends and fellow employees who make spiteful remarks about religious fanatics and militant bigotry. But these people don’t dream up all these problems by themselves. They are inspired and motivated and pressured by the most powerful evil force in the universe. Without Christ in their lives, they have no hope of resisting that power. Even people who have received Christ may be very weak in their commitment and may still be lured by satanic turns of phrase that sound ever so sophisticated and mature.

The enemy who masterminds cultural shunning and scorn, government restrictions, and outright persecution is Satan. Eve could not withstand his cunning, and people today are just as gullible. If we fight the world only by fighting fellow-citizens in street demonstrations, petition campaigns, legal proceedings, elections or on the floors of legislatures, we will never really win. In every war, there are numerous battles. Usually one side wins some contests, and the other side wins some. The death of an infantryman in a muddy foxhole may be necessary to the cause. Death and destruction mount up over time. Still, the person who must actually be defeated is the mastermind behind all the action. No matter how many men take the field in a given conflict, there are two generals whose decisions set everything in motion, and one of them must surrender or be soundly defeated. Otherwise, winners and losers scurry off with their dead and wounded, clean up, re-provision, and start over somewhere else. This is what happens when Christians engage in the battle for religious liberty without recognizing the real enemy.

The real enemy is Satan, and the only power who can defeat him in time and space is the same power who defeated him for eternity on the cross: Christ our Savior. The battle for religious liberty in the US and countries around the world is not a battle for the power of good in eternity. That battle was won when Jesus died and rose again. The competition today is against evil in the time-space realm. We battle for religious liberty primarily in order that we can rescue all the people imprisoned in the ranks of Satan’s troops. Think about it. We don’t want to be able to speak and live our testimony to Christ in order to make more money or even in order to feel good about ourselves. We do it, because Christ told us to share the good news with everyone. We cannot share the good news with those who need it if there are laws and enforcers in place to forbid us to speak our testimony.

Laws and rules and practices which restrict and constrain our ability to share the good news in word and deed must be overturned and ended, because Christ loves all the people. He loves and desires fellowship with all the people who call him a figment of a wishful imagination. Those laws were enacted by people deceived by Satan’s lies, because Satan does not want those people to follow Christ. Why do you suppose he offered to hand over the kingdoms of the world to Jesus in return for worship? Satan knew that if Christ, God in the flesh, worshiped him in order to get the kingdoms, the people would be following a Jesus who followed Satan. As long as Satan gets the people, he is not picky about who is leading the pack behind him. He will let anyone lead the pack, as long as he leads the leader.

Christians must remember that Paul warned the Ephesians not to be confused about who was their enemy. He said, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) This is the description of our enemy as well. Before we sign petitions, plan campaigns, vote in elections, sue in court, write to our legislators and so forth, we need to call on the general of our army, the Lord Jesus Christ, and we need to get our uniforms and weapons from him. He wants us in the trenches and the fray, but he probably thinks we march best on our knees.

Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. … And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:13, 18 NIV)

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What is the Real Goal for Marriage?

The beauty of this nation has always been the willingness of the citizens to allow one another considerable latitude in matters of opinion. For example, even though two political parties dominate US politics, numerous other parties exist and thrive despite the fact that the viewpoint of each little party represents a tiny minority of the population. The right of each individual to hold his own views has always been respected culturally and protected in the Constitution. There have certainly been instances when violence erupted over issues, but in the big picture of American history, there has never been a time so chaotic that people across the nation felt that they would be in danger if they expressed their opinions.

The LGBTQ activists don’t want to continue in this tradition.

They obviously desire to be able to feel that everyone likes them. They don’t want to feel threatened. But there is a deeper reason. The deeper reason is that the LGBTQ activists want to be perceived as normative and authoritative in their superior understanding of human sexuality. The culture used to believe heterosexuals were normal and other sexual practices were considered to be mental illness. Since the beginnings of the church, Christians have taught that homosexuality is sin, and they certainly considered that treatment for it as a mental illness was a compassionate attitude. The LGBTQ activists have come up with some wishful scientific thinking that they use in order to claim that nobody actually has a gender or any gender-specific traits. They claim that people acquire all their traits and their entire gender identity from the family, and they want this all to stop. They want children to choose their gender identity the way they choose their hairstyles – by experimenting with various options till they find one they like. That sort of an upbringing is diametrically opposite to the kind of family life most people consider normal. People who advocate that marriage is the union of a man and a woman almost always include in the justification for that norm the fact that it is better for children to be reared in a home with a married father and mother. The values normally expected to develop in a child reared that way would be the values their parents held. This is not what the LGBTQ activists want for families.

The truth is that the LGBTQ agenda is not about permission to get married. It is about ending the institution of marriage. If you do not believe this could be the agenda, then here is what Masha Gessen had to say on the subject of the LGBTQ agenda for marriage and family:

It’s a no-brainer that (homosexual activists) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. …(F)ighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.

The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist.

If the institution of marriage ends, then families are just whoever happens to be together at the time, with no commitments and no protections for the children. But then, if children are supposed to figure everything out for themselves without any sharing or guidance from parent to child, then who needs marriage? Who needs families?

Christians who want political popularity are announcing one by one or in droves that they can’t find anything in the Bible to be a basis for disagreement with the LGBTQ agenda. But they all seem to think that this agenda is about the quaint idea of “marriage equality.” It isn’t. If Christians give up the definition of marriage by using the term “marriage equality” as if they think they know what it means, then they have already given up the ground on which to defend marriage and family and the right of parents to teach their values to their children.

Fortunately, Christians still have the right to disagree, at least in the words of the Constitution. Christians are still free to speak up and assert the truth that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. They may be laughed at or they may be cursed. Those things do not matter. Christians still have the right to speak and they still have the right to vote. Those things do matter.

Christians also have the right to take their case to the throne of God. When James wrote about the power of fervent prayer, he spoke from experience. James knew two things: 1) he knew that when human beings are not living in relationship with God, they are subject to take aggressive action to persecute Christians, something that is incipient in the behavior of the LGBTQ political agenda; and 2) he knew that when Christians pray, God hears them. God’s response is not always what Christians expect, but it is always good. If something good is to come of the current activism to legitimize homosexuality and various other sexual practices, then God will have to make that something good happen. It won’t happen as a consequence of Christians giving up their commitment to the Bible as God’s all-sufficient guide for faith and life. It will only happen when Christians are willing to be completely submitted to Christ and willing to love, bless and pray for the people who want to persecute them.

When I was a child we used to sing a little chorus that said, “God can do anything … but fail.” The chorus may have sounded trivial to some people, but it is completely true. If you believe the Bible, then you believe that God cannot fail. Pray with that conviction in your heart, and something good will happen. The disciples prayed once for boldness to speak the good news, and it landed them in jail, so don’t assume that prayer will bring a fairy tale ending. Don’t even assume that you will live to see God’s good outcome. Just live the way Jesus told us to live. Put him on the throne of your heart and go where he leads.

The LGBTQ activists have an agenda. So do Christians. The Christian agenda is:

  • Love God and love people with all our hearts
  • Speak the truth, even if it is not popular
  • Love, bless and pray for everyone who disagrees
  • Always give faithful testimony to Christ in every setting.

Speaking the truth may put us in opposition to views with powerful support. We must trust God and our Constitution to protect us when we speak truth and stand firm in our convictions.

 

 

 

 

Saturday Night Live

Whether or not you watch Saturday Night Live, you probably are aware of a recent episode in which Christ was portrayed as a mass murderer. If you are a Christian, this episode makes you angry. How dare anyone pervert the story of Christ this way!

Christians are reacting in various ways. Some have written or called NBC to express their outrage at this episode. One Christian is leading a group to boycott NBC and to boycott all the SNL sponsors. There are probably petitions circulating, too.

The focus of this blog is the way we live our Christian faith in a culture that sometimes merely dismisses Christianity as trivial and mindless and sometimes exerts destructive force against Christianity as if it were a force for evil. The government sometimes acts to restrict Christianity. As Christians we face big challenges and big questions when our freedom to live our faith is restricted. The culture and the government mutually energize the forces of restriction. In the USA, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship protected by the Constitution give Christians the same freedom as anyone else to fight back against restriction. In the face of a dramatic performance that shows complete lack of respect for the Christian religion, Christians wonder what to do in order to obtain the respect the media usually expresses for any religion.

The question for Christians is: how do Christians reconcile the right of a citizen to fight back with Christ’s command to turn the other cheek? To rephrase the question: How can Christians under assault be as wise as serpents in their response to that assault while remaining harmless as doves? Can a Christian fight back against repression and express faithful testimony to Christ in the process?

The SNL episode portraying Christ as a mass murderer is completely in keeping with a developing trend online. In various recent comment threads, writers who reject and scorn Christ and Christians in general focus on stories in the Old Testament about violent wars. Online commentary rejecting the very existence of God or rejecting Christ as a messenger of love talk about Old Testament texts and ask why Christians have no sympathy for the people God destroyed. They ask why Christians have no sympathy for the Amalekites or they wonder why Christians don’t mourn for all the people God destroyed in the flood when he saved Noah. This material is likely the basis for the SNL script. If secular culture today pays any attention to Christians at all, the spokespersons seem to be focused on that Old Testament violence which, to secular thinking, is both unfair to the victims and inconsistent with the message that God is love.

What is the right way for Christians to respond to this kind of speech and this misinterpretation of the Bible?

The person who is leading a boycott of SNL sponsors is trying to force NBC and SNL to take account of the Christian viewpoint by using a tactic that is quite popular in political and cultural clashes. It is a standard tool of political and cultural activism to make businesses leery of appearing to support certain viewpoints. A boycott of SNL sponsors takes the battle over the legitimacy of Christianity and the right of Christians to be respected like any other religion to the people who provide the money that makes SNL possible. Production costs for television are huge, even for a production as devoid of sets and props as SNL. If consumer outrage means that nobody is willing to sponsor the program, it will be hard for the program to survive. To date, no similar boycott on behalf of any idea has really accomplished the goal of creating a change, but it has certainly shaped public conversation. It has been effective enough that some businesses have caved to the pressure, even though it was clear that the business was acting under duress, not conviction.

The question for Christians is whether the objective of Christians is to obtain compliant behavior or to lead to spiritual transformation.

When Christians use the tools of activism, the tools work. They worked in the sixties and seventies, for example, to put pressure on government to eliminate segregation and promote the equal standing of all citizens before the law. In fact, the tools promoted preferential treatment for previously persecuted minorities and required specific behaviors that supported the goal of eliminating inequality based on physical appearance. (This writer refuses to use the word “race” because 1) there is no genetic evidence that skincolor or any other attribute differentiates one human from another in any significant way, and 2) the word “race” has such political overtones that it takes control of the conversation away from the speaker.) Unfortunately, the activism led to the creation of laws and regulations and cultural practices, but it did not lead to the transformation of the human heart. Segregation is immoral, and the public culture shuns it. Segregation is illegal, and the government enforces laws requiring equal treatment. But segregation lives, in the culture and in the media, where “racist” is almost the worst thing one person can say about another. The word “racist” has replaced the word “nigger” as a public way of expressing revulsion at the very sight of someone. Segregation of a very vicious sort lives in the hearts and minds of citizens.

This kind of outcome is not exactly the outcome Christians want when they resist an insult like the SNL episode about Christ.

The activist tool of boycott was recently used by Christians in reverse with great effect. When LGBT activists wanted to boycott Chick Fil-A because its owner expressed support for the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, Christians led an action that showed support, not boycott, of the business. Customers of Chick Fil-A created lines that extended out the door and down the street in a show of support for this business and its owner. It was an act that built up instead of tearing down. In the case of the issue with SNL, there is not an obvious way for Christians to support some counter-measure that will build in the same way as “Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day.” Still, despite the reputed “success” of the action, the outcome of that action has not been any reduction in the pressure to call a homosexual union a marriage.

Christians have a mission here on earth, but it may not be best expressed in political activism. If the Bible rightly portrays Christ and his mission, political activism’s tools may not be the right tools for achieving that mission. Those tools did not accomplish the color-blind society Christians thought they were working for in the sixties. In fact, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Christians using the tools of political activism have actually undercut their message while never moving any closer to their real goal. Christians want the fulfillment of the prophetic promise spoken by Habakkuk: “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) The goal of gaining respectful behavior toward Christ and Christians may not even be a step in the right direction.

The portrayal of Christ as a mass murderer on SNL is an outrage. Anyone who listens to the political/cultural rhetoric knows that SNL would never have presumed to portray Mohammed or Buddha in the same way. Christians are within their rights as citizens to be outraged by such a thing. They have a right to attempt to right this unconscionable wrong. But is that their mission?

As American citizens, Christians have the freedom to speak out against such behavior. As free citizens, they are not obligated to tune it to watch SNL. As Christians who want their behavior to be consistent with their Christian convictions, they have an obligation to choose programming that is not an assault on their values. The First Amendment right of free speech opens the door to them to write letters and make phone calls to NBC expressing their umbrage at the way this episode perverts NBC’s right of free speech and asking NBC to respect the religion of Christianity the same way the company respects Islam, Hinduism and other religions. But is is the mission of Christisnd to stand put a stop to disrespectful behavior without changing hearts?

Christians must, however, be clear in their minds about the outcomes they expect. If Christians engage in political action of any kind, they must expect a political outcome. If thousands of phone calls to NBC results in an apology for SNL and a promise that such a thing will never happen again, that is the best Christians can expect. If Christians are never again faced with such a performance, Christians can feel better about the behavior of NBC. However, none of this will fulfill Habakkuk’s vision. Changing external behavior results in nothing more than a Pharisaical problem Jesus pointed out graphically.

The reason Jesus disputed regularly with Pharisees was that Pharisees were too concerned with appearances. Pharisees regulated behavior. In order to assure people rested on the Sabbath, Pharisees told them exactly how far they could walk on that day. To assure compliant behavior, people developed elaborate behavioral fakery to allow them to walk farther. They obeyed the law, but their hearts were not in it. Jesus said that this sort of behavior was like washing the outside of a dirty cup and then pouring new milk into the cup on top of leftover, curdled, spoiled milk.

 This is exactly what has happened with the civil rights activism Christians thought would make America a better place. The federal laws that were written to wipe out segregation have resulted in compliant behavior. However, the behavior is translated culturally into more scorn than was ever part of the culture before Martin Luther King. If he were alive today, it seems highly likely that he would weep as bitterly over the travesty of justice enshrined in civil law as he ever wept over segregation. The attitudes and speech of the culture betray the truth of the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” The civil rights movement led America to integration, but it did not make Americans love one another.

The truth is that Christians don’t actually have the goal of preventing outrageous insulting performances such as SNL’s portrayal of Christ as a mass murderer. The goal of Christians is that the whole world know Christ. Christians want that global knowledge of God that Habakkuk envisioned. Christians want the people of the world to be transformed by the healing and reconciling work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart. It is right and proper that Christians should work in the political and cultural battlefield to promote better behavior and respect for the rights protected by the First Amendment. Nevertheless, Christians must prayerfully evaluate their own actions in the political and cultural realm to assure that achieving the political goal does not prevent the accomplishment of the real goal. A boycott of the sponsors of SNL in reaction to disrespectful behavior toward Christ on SNL may send a powerful message that Christians are “mad as hell and we won’t take it anymore,” but that may not actually be the message they want to send. Maybe the real message is “we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) If that is the message, a boycott of SNL’s sponsors may not be the best way to express it.

For this week’s news about the persecuted church and the culture wars in the USA read Living on Tilt the newspaper.