Is God Really a Republican?

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As we move ever closer to the upcoming presidential election, debate as to the best candidate is heating up. I, for one, think this debate is healthy. I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion and has the right to express it. Most of the time I find value in opinions I disagree with and can respect the person despite my disagreement. Even if an opinion happens to be offensive or inappropriate, I can usually ignore it and move on without another thought. However, a recent trend in political manipulation has caught my attention and it bothers me a great deal. This trend is the use of God to leverage people into voting republican. This maneuver takes various forms, but really caught my attention when a blogger recently wrote that you cannot be Christian and a democrat. You can also find this argument all over social media in different varieties. As a Christian, even a conservative one registered as a republican, I find this terribly offensive and I believe God does as well.

I know that faith has played a part in our nation’s government since the very beginning and I am fine with that. I know that every election one candidate or another claims to be a Christian and automatically gains voters simply by association. What troubles me is the claim that God somehow supports one political party over another. This type of claim or belief requires a tremendous amount of both arrogance and ignorance. It is arrogant to think that we can know the mind of God when it comes to something like government and politics and it is ignorant to believe that any aspect of our political system is untouched by corruption and immorality.

God’s primary concern is His kingdom, not any one earthly government or nation. His plan is to redeem men and women and move them from the kingdom of darkness into the light. He requires that His children obey His commandments and walk in justice, mercy and love. He honors morality of nations, but does not dictate their actions. His concern is with the actions of individuals within those nations.

Furthermore, He is sovereign over all leaders and places and removes kings (and I think we can say presidents) as he sees fit. Throughout history, God has allowed wicked men and women to rule for his purposes. He used pagan nations like Syria and Egypt to punish the nation of Israel and used men like Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh to preserve them. Jesus urged submission to Caesar and through the writings of the apostles God urged Christians to honor emperors like Nero. Do any of these facts indicate that God was “on their side” or in their political party? Of course not!

What scripture indicates and history bears out is that God is in control regardless of what individual or political party is in power at the moment. What he cares about far more than your vote or political persuasion is that you know Him and love Him; that you love others and treat them with respect and compassion. Being a Christian isn’t about being a republican, democrat or even American! Being a Christian is about a personal relationship with God through His son Jesus and a commitment to follow Him. We should make this our focus, and instead of fighting over political positions and opinions we should busy ourselves sharing the love of Christ with everyone – regardless of whether they are voting as we are.

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Some White Thoughts on #blacklivesmatter

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I went to bed Thursday night troubled by the unfolding stories of the 2 black men who died in police involved shootings over the previous 2 days. I woke up Friday to the terrible news that 5 law enforcement officers had been killed overnight. I have kept silent in the aftermath of similar events in the past. I have written nothing about #blacklivesmatter and virtually nothing in regard to race in general. This silence is somewhat due to the fact that there are always an abundance of voices speaking out after these events. It also probably has something to do with not knowing exactly what to say. And, honestly, it’s also been because I am white. I have felt like this fact has left me somehow unqualified to speak or rendered my opinion irrelevant.

However, after these most recent events I feel I must say something. I feel it is time for white men and women to speak up. More importantly, I think it is time for white Christians to speak up. And I don’t mean speak up merely to defend police officers or to try to smear the reputations of the deceased men. I’ve seen too much of that and I am as tired of that as I am of the very loud silence from white Christians. We must speak up with comfort for those who are hurting. We must speak out against violence. We must speak up in support of our black brothers and sisters who are treated differently because of the color of their skin. We must speak out against racism of all kinds. We must speak up.

We must speak up with sadness. When someone dies a tragic and violent death, we should be saddened. We should be filled with sorrow that an image bearer of God has been taken from us. In John 11:33, Jesus was “deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled” when he saw the sadness of his friends weeping for their dead brother. This should be our first response. Before we get defensive; before we get angry; before we try to figure out who was right and who was wrong; we should feel sad. I am greatly disturbed by a culture (even in Christian circles) that is unmoved by violent death. I believe that when we hear about these acts of violence we must speak up with a shared sadness.

We must speak up with compassion. Another thing to keep in mind is that every one of these lives that are taken leaves a hole in another life. I don’t care if these men are good or bad, saints or criminals, black or white; we should feel compassion for those who are hurting as a result of their death. In many of these cases, that includes whole communities. It doesn’t matter if you understand or agree with why a particular community is hurting; if they are hurting then you should care. I should care. We should be moved with compassion by the pain of the black community in the aftermath of these deaths. We should feel compassion for the law enforcement community. Showing compassion for one does not mean I don’t care about the other. Before we take sides, we must have compassion.

We must speak up with sensitivity. Too many of the voices that I do hear after a tragedy such as this are defensive, ignorant and disrespectful. I must be sensitive to those who are different than I am. I must not assume that my experience is theirs and that I have the right to determine how they must feel. As a community, we must speak up with a voice that is sensitive to the plight and pain of our brothers and sisters rather than dismissive of it.

We must speak up with humility. We cannot be so arrogant as to assume that we could possibly know all the facts in any one of these incidents, much less in all of them. The vast majority of us have no means of knowing what actually happened, yet far too often we pridefully formulate opinions as if we have all of the facts. Someone’s race does not make them guilty or innocent, but neither does the fact that someone is a police officer. We must be humble enough to admit that we have pre-conceived ideas and that they could be wrong. We must be humble enough to admit we don’t know everything. We must be humble enough to admit there could be societal issues and problems that we are unaware of or even that we are unknowingly contributing toward. I am deeply troubled by the number of Christians who arrogantly speak up after these tragedies claiming to have all the answers and condemning anyone who disagrees with them. I urge all of my brothers and sisters to speak up, but to do so with a gracious humility.

We must speak up with awareness. This might take some effort, but we have to be aware of the realities of the world around us. Do some research. Talk to people of a different skin color or nationality. Do something to gain awareness of what is going on in the world around you. We cannot hide our heads in the sand and insist there is no racism. The fact of the matter is that we live in a fallen world and in this world racism is alive and well. People are mistreated because of their skin color. People fear those who are different than they are. People make assumptions about certain communities and races without regard for individual differences. Unfortunately, I’m talking about good people as well as evil ones. We must be aware that racism doesn’t only exist within the hearts and minds of evil, hate filled extremists, but in the hearts and minds of good and well-meaning people. We have to quit denying that there is a problem. We must quit ignoring it. We must speak up with an educated awareness of the pervasiveness of racial discord in our culture.

We must speak up with truth. I’m not speaking of merely being factual, though we should certainly strive for accuracy and honesty. I’m primarily talking about speaking up with the truth of God’s Word. We must speak the truth that all life matters to God because we are each made in the image of God. We must speak the truth that God loves everyone, regardless of race. We must speak out with the truth that hatred and violence are an abomination. We must speak up with the truth that God offers forgiveness to all who will accept it. We must speak the truth that in God’s eyes we are one race, all equal before Him. We must speak up with the truth that in Jesus we can tear down racial divides and become unified in Him. We must speak the truth that only in Christ can we find healing.

Only when we speak up in this way can we make a difference. We cannot change the world by wishing it better or by ignoring its problems. We cannot change anything through arguing or fighting. We can’t make things better by placing blame. We can only hope to change our world if we are courageous enough to speak up in a way that honors God, manifests His love, and proclaims His truth.

 

 

Photo By Frerieke from The Hague, The Netherlands (Flickr: Day 20.06 _ Diversity and Unity) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Let Freedom Ring

The Fourth of July is upon us with all of its hot dog and fireworks filled festivities. Add an “Independence Day” sequel, the anticipation of the Summer Olympic Games, and Presidential elections later this year and you have a recipe for a heightened sense of patriotism all around. It makes for a perfect time to stop and think about what a blessing it is to call this great nation home. America, with all of her flaws, is still a land of immense blessing and opportunity. We may be tempted to gripe and complain about imperfections, but we are privileged to live in a land of tremendous freedom.

America’s Greatness

This dedication to the ideal of freedom has largely driven America’s greatness. Our founding fathers stoked the flames of this ideal when men such as Patrick Henry cried out “Give me liberty or give me death.” Freedom is one of the most treasured things that we have. We should thank God often for our freedom, particularly in light of the many men and women who have willingly risked and lost their lives in order to gain or preserve it for us. Freedom is truly a gift from God and should always be treasured as such.

God’s Idea

In fact, the very idea of freedom is God’s idea. We may have claimed it and even corrupted it a bit, but the idea began with God. His desire from the beginning was that mankind would be free. Free from sin, free from death, free from the control of others. We were meant to live in the freedom of being His. Though mankind lost that freedom when Adam sinned in the garden, God had a plan to restore it through His Son. That’s why Jesus said, “If the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The freedom that sin stole from us was restored through Jesus and it is ours if we believe in Him. He is the one true source of all freedom – social, spiritual or otherwise.

America’s Downfall

The truth about freedom is that it was God’s idea and can only be achieved through a proper relationship with Him. Our freedom is very much connected with God’s own character. In the many years since the founding of our nation we have traded this idea of freedom for a lesser one and have attempted to remove God from the equation. Instead of pursuing freedom in Christ, we are pursuing freedom apart from Him. Instead of pursuing freedom as a virtue based in God’s character and will, we pursue freedom as a vice to satisfy my own selfish desires. We have begun to worship freedom itself and have forsaken the God that offers genuine freedom. In this way, freedom has become not only our means of greatness but the probable means of our destruction. By casting aside God in pursuit of something only He can give, we risk losing the very thing that made us great in the first place.

God’s Offer

However, both individually and nationally, it is not too late. Jesus promises to everyone who will know and accept it that the truth will set you free. The truth, of course, is God’s Word and this is where we find our hope for the future. When the unsaved world pushes for a freedom that ignores God and virtually eliminates Him from the equation, we find increased hopelessness and dissatisfaction. When Christians pursue a freedom that is primarily political and is largely defined by their convenience and beliefs, we also find very little hope. Our only hope is that we return one by one, heart by heart, to a commitment to loving and living God’s Word. It is here that we can find the freedom that once made us great. It is here that we can find the freedom we long for and true hope for the future.