Whose “Stoning” Would Jesus Stop Today?

I read an article in Relevant Magazine recently that completely misrepresented the relationship between Law and Love. Here’s the quote that is problematic. See if you can figure out what’s wrong:

“Jesus, left alone with the [adulteress] woman, simply says to her two things: ‘I do not condemn you. Now leave your life of sin.’ The order of these two sentences is everything. Reverse the order of these two sentences and you’ll lose Christianity. Reverse the order and you’ll lose Jesus.

As was the case with Jesus, so it will be with his people when we create environments that communicate ‘no condemnation’ first, before we ever start talking about law, obedience and ethics. Because with Jesus, grace and love establish the environment for the morality conversation.”

So, is this factual?

Is it theologically sound?

To be fair, I had to spend quite a while thinking about it before I was able to put my finger on exactly the issue. So, here is a question that might help the lightbulb come on:

Was “Jesus” the same God as the one of the Old Testament?

If yes…then there’s simply no way to make the argument that he put “no condemnation” BEFORE “law/ethics.” He literally spent hundreds of years drilling law-and-ethics into his Children’s heads, before Jesus introduced the other side of the coin. 

When we understand that Jesus was the same God of Justice from the Old Testament, then we can understand why he didn’t “condemn” the religious leaders any more than he condemned the adulteress.  (That’s something today’s “Love and Mercy Pharisees” might want to consider.)  Jesus didn’t tell the religious leaders they needed to “go and sin no more.” 

Maybe that’s because the religious leaders weren’t wrong.

The angry, “scolding,” judgmental crowd was just following the rules that God himself had put into place. If Jesus hadn’t come along before the stoning that day, the religious leaders would have been completely justified in carrying out the execution of the adulteress woman.  Have you ever thought about that?

They were justified by God’s law to keep doing what He commanded them to do.

So, if Jesus was God, then law/ethics and obedience came first, long before grace/mercy. The Relevant article has it exactly backward.

In other words, the religious culture of Jesus’ day is exactly backward from the “religious” culture we’re dealing with in the West in 2017. 

We no longer live in a culture where the importance of law, ethics, and obedience has been drilled into our heads since childhood.   Most of us, instead, have been taught the Law of Never-Condemning, as preached by Relevant magazine.

That makes a huge difference!

When you don’t understand that you deserve to die (the way the adulteress woman understood it), then the grace of Jesus has no impact.  None.  

When you reverse the order and put “no condemnation”  BEFORE the lesson that all humans deserve condemnation, the ministry of Jesus doesn’t make any sense at all.

What if Jesus happened upon an adulteress woman being confronted today? How would that look?  This is what I think he would see:

Rare Religious Leader: This woman was caught cheating on her husband…

Crowd: So what? Nobody is perfect.

Rare Religious Leader:  True. Nobody is perfect. But she’s destroying her family.

Crowd: You just think you’re better than everyone!

Religious Leader: What do you think, Jesus? Should there be consequences for this woman’s sin?

Jesus:  Let the woman speak.  What do you say for yourself, woman?

Adulteress:  Well, my actions weren’t right.  But–I know you won’t condemn me. You will love me no matter what!

Jesus: As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Adulteress: Uh…Jesus…that’s Old Testament stuff…

Religious Leader: How about this one, then:  “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them…?”  That’s from the book of Hebrews.

Crowd:  Pharisee! Pharisee!  We should focus on grace, like Jesus did!

Religious Leader:  I’m sorry, but it kind of sounds like you’re making a new Law out of your favorite Jesus quotes…and maybe ignoring others…

Crowd: *picks up stones*  Judgmental heretic! You are precisely the type of person Jesus hated!

*Religious Leader Cowers*  *Adulteress Woman also picks up a stone*

…What would Jesus do?


For more about the role of Justice in the Gospel message, you can read this personal story about the time my 3-year-old experienced mercy for the first time.  Would that lesson have been impactful, if my daughter hadn’t learned about rules/obedience FIRST?  What’s the point of mercy, if a child doesn’t really believe they deserve consequences?

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God Bless Divorce

I’ve been asked, “Why are you so negative?”   But that’s just one way the question is phrased. Others say, “You just enjoy creating division!”  or “You can’t leave things alone.”

The nicer folks will simply offer some positive advice: “Maybe try giving people the benefit of the doubt instead of being skeptical all the time!”

But, there’s a problem with that.  I can’t just give people the benefit of the doubt or stop asking questions, unless I silence my own conscience. 

There are certain issues, in the culture and the Church, that genuinely bother me.  I wrestle with what’s true and how to make good choices. And that’s where my “skepticism” comes from.

These are genuine questions I have.

So, unfortunately, certain people will always assume that I’m TRYING to start arguments, just for the pleasure of upsetting people. But I’m taking the time in this introduction to explain to whoever will listen: that’s not the case, at all.

I realize I’m going to say a few things, and use a few examples, that could get some feathers ruffled.  But I’m working through these issues in real life. And writing about them is part of that process.

If you’re looking for something fully fleshed-out (and “not too negative”) this is my way of warning you…

_______________

I want to know, what do you think of this statement by a pastor?

10.23.17 Humble Brag (Edit) (#1)

My main question is, what does church attendance REALLY have to do with a pastor’s failed marriage?

Anything?

Anything?

Bueller?

Is the lead pastor’s divorce related to baptisms at all–or was that just a random, off-handed comment that was tagged on to the equally cringe-worthy “Weekly Numbers Humble Brag” that (some) pastors do regularly?

Well, the commenters seem to see a correlation:

 

10.23.17 Humble Brag (Edit) (#2)

Ah, Roman’s 8:28.  We really like that verse, don’t we?

We think it says, “No matter what my wife and I choose to do, good things will be given by God.”

I suppose this overlaps with my post last week. I asked “How do we know when GOD has ‘called’ us?”  (Or, is it our own flesh which we can find ways to justify, no matter what?)

When enjoyable stuff happens, God is confirming that we’re on the right path!

But, when negative stuff happens, that just means we’re being tried/tested, and we need to stay on the same path!

In other words–no matter what happens–keep walking that path.

No need to wonder if you’re doing something wrong.

You’re God’s vessel, either way.

10.23.17 Humble Brag (Edit) (#3)

10.23.17 Humble Brag (Edit) (#4)

10.23.17 Humble Brag (Edit) (#5)

So, you see? The momentum of people joining the church is a sign the pastor is doing great things for the Kingdom!

AND, the fact that his wife is leaving the church (and family) is also a sign that God is doing great things for the Kingdom. Got it?

Look, I’m sorry.

I just can’t shut off my mind and go along with these comments without asking questions.

Is it actually good that people are continuing to donate, no matter what happens in their pastor’s personal life?  Is there anything this particular man could have revealed about his family which WOULD (rightly) affect how many people come to be baptized and give their money?

Are we bragging about a congregation that isn’t bothered by divorce?

I keep thinking, what if Joel Osteen started bragging (factually!) that–despite all the criticism of his personal finances–there have been increases in attendance and giving at Lakewood Church.   So take that, Devil!

Is that valid reasoning? Does it make sense, theologically?

Something tells me, if Joel Osteen announced tomorrow that he’s getting a divorce, then suddenly a few people would remember, “God hates divorce!”  And they would add that the list of reasons he’s a slimy manipulator for turning literally every situation into a sign that God is supporting his ministry.

Imagine Joel posting this on Facebook tomorrow:
“Not every church still pledges to write MORE checks–even when the pastor announces he’s getting a divorce–but Lakewood Church did!  Way to go Church! You’ve made the Devil look silly!”

At least a few people would go, “Uh, you’re nuts, Joel. Since when does a failed marriage make THE DEVIL look silly?”

“And what does your divorce really have to do with the greatness of your congregation?”

It seems to me, the only thing my example would demonstrate is that a false gospel successfully convinced thousands of Lakewood Church members to keep giving both time and money, regardless of what happens in the pastor’s personal life.  (“Because the more my family falls apart, the sillier you make the Devil look by following me anyway!”)

Sorry, I’m not super jazzed about that.

Life As an Unfair “Race” (Video Featured)

Perhaps you’ve seen “privilege” explained with the race analogy, as portrayed in this video:

 

One of the things I appreciate about this video is that it doesn’t focus on whiteness or blackness.  The creators made it clear from the beginning that the analogy represents PRIVILEGE in general–and not necessarily “white privilege,” specifically. 

By the end of the video, it’s clear mostly white kids are out in front, while mostly black kids are left back toward the starting point.

But that’s because kids got to take two steps forward if their parents are still married…and if they have a relationship with their fathers…and if they “never had to help mom or dad with bills.”   And, sadly, far too many Black American youth can’t say those things apply to them.

Through no fault of their own, based on choices their parents made, many black kids (and a growing number of white kids) are starting behind. That’s true.

If the gym teacher is trying to make some generic point about fairness and the differences between well-educated, two-parent families (and under-educated, single-parent families), that’s fine.

But, if he wants to make a broader point about the way American culture REALLY IS, I need to make some adjustments to his experimental race for the $100 bill:

#1.  The video wrongly implies that life has a limited amount of money, and the first person to be successful (i.e. cross the finish line) is the ONLY one who will get anything.

In reality, there’s plenty of room at the finish for everyone. Successful people literally create wealth, no matter how many $100’s have been “taken” already by peers who crossed the line first.

For an accurate picture of The Race of Life, the gym teacher should offer an unlimited number of $100 bills, because any child who crosses the finish will get a reward, no matter how long it takes him/her to accomplish the goal.

#2. The video stops before asking WHY black children are being forced to grow up without their fathers.  

I understand this point may have been too large to tackle with a short video designed to get clicks and shares on social media.  But, ideally, viewers will begin to think about “why” for themselves. “Okay–WHY are black American families in poor shape?”

Unfortunately, people are quick to assume “White Privilege” is an evil, rather than asking whether “Black Self-Sabotage” might be a more accurate term.  I actually read multiple comments saying, “It’s up to those white kids in the front of the line to fix the inequality!”  But, until we know why one group is more successful than another, we can’t solve the problem.

How, exactly, are the white kids supposed to make their black peers get married before having babies? What can “successful” kids do for the rest, other than giving away parts of their reward to those who don’t make it? (That’s called “charity,” by the way.) To answer those questions, we have to peg WHY people are making poor choices that keep their kids behind in the first place.

#3. The gym teacher should have asked a couple more questions.    Again, I realize the video would need to be longer. But it would have been easier to find answers to the question “why is this happening” if the gym teacher had said something like this:

“If you’ve been told by influential people in your life that the entire country is working against you, take two steps BACK.”

Or maybe this:

“If your parents had a ‘talk’ with you–telling you how ‘different’ you are and planting the idea that you can’t trust white people–then take two steps BACK.”

Or maybe:

“If you were taught ‘the system’ is rigged and that you’ll probably be killed by a cop for no reason, then take two steps BACK.”

I think you get the idea.  What kids are taught at home (and now at school!) really matters. And we should take a hard look at those lessons to see whether we’re actually disadvantaging kids with our good intentions.

———

Just as an interesting side note, the out-of-wedlock birthrate among white mothers is about the same as it was for blacks in the 1960’s…

In other words, the destruction of white families is about 2-3 generations behind black families, but the trend is still headed in the same direction.  Just give Americans another 50-60 years, continuing down the same cultural path, and (I predict) most of us will be “equal” at the starting line again.

All the kids–both black and white–will be in a row, thousands of yards away from Success…

All of them–both black and white–will be unable to take any steps forward because they don’t know their fathers, they don’t know how money works, and they’ve been taught this makes them victims with no chance of reaching that single, $100 at the finish line, so there’s no reason to move.

Ah, equality.

No more privilege.

Sounds great, huh?

If Jonah Were “Called” Today

I heard someone say recently, “God always answers prayers one of three ways: yes, no, or wait.”

But American Christians have a special ability.  They NEVER have to hear the word “no” from God, if they don’t want to.

We always have the option of telling ourselves that guilt, negativity, and obstacles come from Satan himself.

If we’re successful in our plans, then obviously God has blessed them.

But, if we’re unsuccessful, it’s just a test of faith.

“God wants us to keep persevering,” we say.

“He always works everything for our good!”

So keep going with those selfish and ill-advised ideas!  God is right behind you, ready to bless your plans!

Against all external evidence, God is still saying, “Yes” or “Wait.”   (But never “no,” Dear Child.)

That’s why I think Jonah’s calling would have looked different, if it happened today…

________________________

God: Go to Ninevah, Jonah.  Preach to the people there.

Jonah: (*cringes*)  Ew…. About that, God.  I’m really feeling like I’m being called to Tarshish. They need preachers there, too!

God:  I literally just called you to Ninevah. Did you miss it?

Jonah:  See, it almost sounds like you’re saying “Ninevah.” But I’ve always had a passion for Tarshish.  I’m going to keep praying about it.

God: Ninevah.

Jonah: I’m going to give Tarshish a try.

God: Ninevah.

Jonah:  You know, it’s better to try and fail than never to try at all!

God: (*facepalm*)

(*a few days later*)

Jonah: One-way ticket to Tarshish, please! I’ve been called to do God’s work there.

Captain: Cool, man! I’ve been called to be the lead singer in a country music band!  But I’m still waiting on his perfect timing…

Jonah: Cool!

(*big, big storm starts boiling*)

Captain: Yikes, that’s not good!

Jonah: Meh, don’t worry about it…  If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it!

Captain: Very true, Brother Jonah! Thanks for the encouragement! Full speed ahead!

(*big storm gets serious*)

Jonah:  Wow–I guess the Enemy really feels threatened by my calling. That’s how you know God’s got something special planned for me in Tarshish.

Captain:  And for my band, too! Well, not today, Satan!

Jonah: (*almost falling overboard*)  The greater the obstacle, the greater the glory in overcoming it!

Captain: (*tossing luggage into the sea*) Hear, hear! We will overcome!

(*the other sailors begin to doubt*)

Doubtful Sailor #1: I’ve never seen a storm like this in my life! It’s as if God is trying to tell us something!

Doubtful Sailor #2: You guys are going to get us killed!

Jonah:  Oh, what little faith you have, gentlemen.  Remember in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Doubtful Sailor #1:  And how do you know this is HIS purpose, again?

Jonah:  (*pauses thoughtfully, while clinging to the side of the boat*) Um…I’m pretty sure the “all things” is the most important part there. Stay focused.

Captain: Your perseverance is inspiring, Jonah! ON TO TARSHISH!!!

(*waves are crashing*) (*boat is creaking*) (*sailors are puking*)

Doubtful Sailor #2: The only way we’ll get to Tarshish is if our bodies wash up on the shore in a few weeks!

Jonah: (*half-hanging over the side of the boat*) God’s got this, Captain!…  He’s still–

(*Suddenly, a giant fish jumps up and snatches Jonah off the deck, swallowing him whole.*)

(*The storm instantly stops*)

(*The others on board stand dazed in the calm for a few seconds*)

Captain:  Gentlemen, what we’ve seen is a miracle. God has sent a clear message in our hour of need.

(*The others nod*)

Captain: Obviously, God has provided exactly what we needed–at precisely the moment we needed it!

(*The others nod again*)

Captain:  God saw the Enemy trying to mess up his plans, so he provided a fish to take Jonah to Tarshish.

(*The others agree*)

Doubtful Sailor #1:  Forgive me for doubting, God!

Doubtful Sailor #2:  Me, too! …And, God, to demonstrate that I trust you now, I’m going to wait, in faith, for front-row tickets to see the Captain’s first concert, when he finally learns to sing.

*curtain*

For Jenni: God’s Best

My sleep was fitful last night.

I don’t like saying “God woke me up.” But I think God wanted me to be awake. (Shout out to a few of my friends, who have been part of the conversation about assigning motives to God!  Anyone who’s interested to read it can click here.)

Anyway, regardless of whether God did the waking or not–I spent several hours just thinking and praying.

It started with some news I heard yesterday morning:

 

Thom’s wife–pictured above–is my friend Jenni.  She became one of my most trusted advisers in college.

Jenni was the baby of the group. Her parents let her fly across the country to a new home when she was barely 17, because they trusted her to be solid and faithful and handle all the changes with a maturity beyond her years.

And she did.

Our group of friends would spend looooong hours after lunch and dinner, discussing theology, philosophy, and politics. Often the clean-up crews had to wipe our table around our elbows, while we kept talking.  Everybody else was gone.

Those conversations were good for my soul.

Whenever I asked a question of Jenni, she would look off in the distance and say “Weeeeeell…” as she considered it.  Until she inevitably concluded: “yes and no.”

Both yes and No.  Pretty much every time. And then she would thoughtfully outline both the pros and cons of my proposed theory.  Precisely the kind of discussion I love!

I haven’t been able to see Jenni face-to-face in almost a decade. But she influenced me in such a way that I will always call her Friend.

That’s why hearing there’s a tumor…it felt personal. I had to read it several times to make sure I understood.

This isn’t a cousin’s girlfriend’s mother.

That’s MY Jenni!

She’s not even 30 yet; just became a mom.  Things she has said and done have shaped who I am.  What in the world does God think He’s doing?

I can only imagine what her husband, parents, and church family are going through.

OUR Jenni.


 

These are just some of the things I was thinking around 3:00 this morning, when I was trying to figure out what I can DO in a situation like this.

Is it really very serious? Will she need a miracle? Should we pray, simply and generically, for God’s will to be done, as if that won’t be already?

Thom’s words about God using this trial for encouragement and growth ring completely true…but just what type of “growth” are we going to be experiencing?

When it’s all said and done, will we be thanking God for his mercy? For allowing a young mother to have many, many more years on the earth, serving her Heavenly Father?

Or will we be praising Him for the example of a race well-run…and for bringing his faithful servant home?

A C.S. Lewis quote came to mind:

As usual, Clive nails it.

Yes–God will do his best.  But, how painful will it be, oh Lord?

How much suffering should we be gearing up for here?

God, give my friend Jenni the patience to take it one day at a time, while you write the rest of this story.  And give the rest of us the wisdom to support her in a way that ultimately brings glory to YOU.


Just before I finally drifted back to sleep, I was reminded of what I already knew:  God loves “our Jenni” far, far more than I do…

I don’t understand exactly what He’s thinking. But it seems that Jenni’s Heavenly Father has made a decision very similar to what her earthly parents did years ago…

He’s letting his young daughter take a long trip, into an uncertain future, because he trusts her to be solid and faithful and to handle all the changes with a maturity beyond her years.

It was a privilege to be part of Jenni’s first journey.  And I expect those around her will get to witness God’s best play out in her life, once again.


 

For an example of Jenni’s thoughtfulness, you can check out her blog. She doesn’t write often, but this was the first post:  an introduction and a quest.

Mothers, You Don’t HAVE to Victimize Your Kids

Dear White Mothers Raising Black Children,

You don’t HAVE to say, “Raising black children has opened my eyes to racism,” or something similar.

You don’t HAVE to start sounding like this woman:

9.26.17 White Mother with Black Sons (#1, Edit)

You don’t HAVE to sound like this one, either:

Mother of two black kids and three white kids.

Do store personnel follow your children when they are picking out their Gatorade flavors?…they don’t follow my white kids.

Do coffee shop employees interrogate your children about the credit card they are using to pay while you are in the bathroom?…

Do shoe sales people ask if your kids’ feet are clean before sizing them…?

Do you have to tell your kids not to fight back because they will be seen as aggressive if they stand up for themselves?…

Have you had to discuss with your husband whether you should take your children to the police station to introduce them to the officers…?

Have you had to talk to your children about EXACTLY what to say and what not to say to an officer?…

(By the way, the answer to all of her questions is “yes.”  All of those scenarios were part of my experience growing up white, and they’ve been true for my white children.)

…my [black] boys have been cloaked in my protection. What I did not realize until now is that the cloak I was offering them was an identification with my whiteness. As they grow independent, they step out from my cloak and lose that protection.

You don’t HAVE to view the world through the Lens of Paranoia…so please don’t!

Please don’t confess to the internet that you treat your black kids different from your white ones. (Because, yikes!)

And please don’t hyper-analyze every step others make near your kids, assuming every negative encounter is a result of “THEIR BLACKNESS/WHITENESS.” Your obsessive, biased social experiments accomplish nothing except pitting half of your sons against the others.  

It isn’t rational and objective.

It’s just victimization.


 

I suggest watching this interview with Deneen Borelli instead of meditating on your kids’ skin all the time:

Blacklash–How Obama and the Left are Driving Americans to the Government Plantation

(And please note–as you certainly will–that she’s a black woman.)

Interviewer: “Have you experienced racism in your life?”

Borelli: “To tell you the truth, I don’t believe I have. And I say that today because I’m sitting with you on a national television station, and I got here from taking advantage of opportunities. If somebody told me ‘no’–whatever color they were–I didn’t take it personally. I wasn’t offended. I just looked for another opportunity… for me to sit here and say I’ve ever been targeted, racially, I can’t say that I have.”

So, did she just miss all the baristas and shoe salesmen and TSA agents who treated her “very differently” from white kids?

Was she living under a cloak of protection?

Or did she simply refuse to wear the Goggles of Racism that were being pushed on her by Victimizers?

Borelli: “Growing up, it was the same message I heard throughout different publications in the Black Community: that blacks are victims, black Americans need special treatment because of their skin color.

[Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpon] are still selling that same message today. The message of victimization…

If you work hard and you persevere, you take risks, doors will open for you.
I can’t say enough how exceptional our country is. But it’s really important for people to take advantage of the opportunities that are available for them.”

See? There are ways to live your life without the crippling idea that there’s an invisible monster always keeping you down…

Your black child doesn’t HAVE to become a liberal.

In fact, even if you subtly suggest to him that all of his neighbors are treating him “differently,” he still may appear on national television someday testifying, “I honestly can’t say I’ve ever been targeted.”

That’s what Deneen Borelli’s (black) parents hear when they watch their daughter speak.

Also, Larry Elder says racism is “not a major problem in the United States.

And Economist/Social-Theorist Thomas Sowell wrote in 2013, “I’m so old, I remember when most of the people promoting race hate were white.”  (He now points to “leaders” in the black community, like Sharpton and Jackson, as the Victimizers.)

All of these people are successful, black Americans.

So why teach your children to think like victims, when they can think like successful, black individuals?

As you’re showing your children how to be offended by questions about their hair, I hope you’ll also show them the rich heritage of successful, black individuals who have escaped the mindset of victimization.  

According to them, it’s not just luck:

“My book tells people of how I came from growing up working numerous jobs taking advantage of all kinds of opportunities and advancing myself…and I never fell for the victim blame game. Blaming white Americans, for example, because of the failures that are happening in the Black Community…

And so I think my story is a great story, especially for young people, to see that if I can do it and I can achieve success, you can do it, too, no matter what your circumstances are or what your family situation happens to be.”

So, that’s your dose of encouragement for the day.

In this country, you can achieve success, no matter your circumstances or family situation!

That means your black child can be successful, too! …Even if you make it difficult by victimizing him! (Let’s still try not to do that, mmmkay?)

When the Idol of Patriotism Meets the Idol of Race

I’ve been encouraged this week by the number of white, Conservative Christians who are willing to speak against the Idolatry of Patriotism that has been growing since Trump’s election.

People who usually prefer not to be confrontational are trying their hand at judging their friends, and pointing out issues for fellow white Conservatives that need addressed. That’s a good thing!

Earlier this week, I saw a post being shared among some old college friends which said:

“One day, everyone will bend the knee–and no one will be singing the National Anthem.”

This has the potential to sting certain people, if their priorities have fallen out of order.  If any Americans have placed their identities as “Patriots” above their status as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, this quote might trigger them…

I’ve certainly met some politically-active Conservatives who would argue about that quote–even though it’s pretty obvious we won’t be singing the The Star Spangled Banner in Heaven. And I’m sure you’ve met them, too.

But I was pleasantly surprised by how many people gladly accepted the light criticism and didn’t take offense.  There were plenty of “likes” and “shares” and “amens,” even though I think the author of the quote probably expected some would react defensively.  (I certainly expected that, too.)

A little later, a blog post was brought to my attention: a letter to the Conservative, White Christian.

It’s a very kind and carefully-worded plea with the White, Christian Church not to bow to the Idol of Patriotism, and it’s worth a read:

“I am afraid that we are equating our hope in Christ with our hope in America. Can I be blunt? Our hope is not in America. True freedom is not ours because we are American. It is ours because of Christ. Now, don’t hear me wrong. I am incredibly grateful for those who have given their lives for this freedom. Yes, I am grateful beyond measure to God that I have been born in America, but I’m afraid we have become idolaters of this great country.”

Idolatry needs to be called out wherever it rears its ugly head, because it’s the most serious sin of all…and it has a way of spreading through sub-cultures like a virus.

This is why, once again, I was happy to see Christians generally responding favorably to the warning, rather than choosing anger and tightening their grip on the deadly idol.

All of this encourages me! When members of the Body feel at liberty to speak freely with each other, even about hard topics, I believe the Holy Spirit can do great things.


 

But what makes the “Idol of Patriotism” so alluring in today’s culture?

Why have certain Christians turned to this false god in recent years?

I believe those particular white Christians have responded wrongly and in fear of the “Idol of Race” that was exposed with President Obama’s election. 

Long before Trump took the office (with 58% of the white vote)–President Obama earned 95% of the black vote with his first victory.

That’s nintey-five percent.

When he was up for re-election in 2012 (in which he eventually received 93% of the black vote), black Conservative Alan Keyes had some thoughts about the Idol of Racial-Pride in his article “Black America: Reaping the Harvest of Racial Idolatry.

“Obama’s 2008 victory depended on virtually unanimous support from many black Americans. Among them were professing Christians, who put aside every consideration of faith and conscience to support someone dedicated to socialism, rooted in the God-erasing ideology of scientific materialism. This dedication led him to take stands on moral issues (like abortion and the law-enforced acceptance of homosexuality) that outrage and directly assault the tenets of the biblical faith these black Christians otherwise profess.

But for Obama’s sake, they put the idol of false racial pride above their respect for God and His word.”

Ouch and amen? Like the Conservative Christians have responded widely while their idol is challenged?

Or “Ouch, but you just don’t understand why I NEED this idol…”?  As I expected the Conservative Christians would react?

In another article, Bishops are Putting Race Above Values of God, Keyes wrote:

“Barack Obama is a dark-skinned man. But how can it be anything but the worst kind of racism to suggest that his skin color has greater significance for good than his dedication to [abortion] has for evil? Whatever significance we attach to the characteristics of the flesh, don’t the teachings of Christ…clearly ascribe essential significance to the characteristics of spiritual life…? Are we now to believe that God is a respecter of skin color?

[Christians] should know that their vocation calls them… to preach to Obama and all his errant followers the way to Christ…rather than to seek, on account of the idolatry of race, “things that unite” them to Obama, though he wars unceasingly against God’s will.”

In other words, Christians have been making idols out of political figures for at least a decade.  But, let’s be honest, it’s probably more like “forever.”  This is a human problem, not strictly a white one, which crops up when communities feel threatened by each other, and they start yearning for safety in political power rather than in Christ.

Many white Conservatives feel there is a double-standard when very little was said eight years ago about black Christians who were struggling with the Idol of Racial Pride.

-Maybe they just weren’t listening.

-Maybe there were more Open Letters to the Black Christians (besides the one written by Alan Keyes), and white Christians just missed seeing them.

-And, yes, regardless of whether a double-standard exists, it’s wrong to respond in fear by crowning an Idol of their own.

But that’s WHY these idols have such power and room to grow in today’s culture.


 

If we care about our white brothers and sisters enough to warn them about their idolatry (and we should), then we must also address the ways the Black Community has been guilty of the Idolatry of Race, which replaces Hope-and-Change in Christ with identity politics.

Both idols damage Church unity.

And it’s not okay when any Christian puts something in God’s place.

We must take a step back in compassion and empathy and think about the reason our Patriotic brothers and sisters believe “God’s Nation” is in jeopardy, and we must be bold enough to tell them when their fears are misguided…

…be bold enough to say, “You’ve let half-truths push you into the arms of an Idol.”

I’ve been encouraged to see that happening this week.

My question is, will we only call out the idols of the Christians who fit the stereotypes or physical category we put ourselves in? (Only speaking to other white, Christian, females, for example?)

Or will we be ready to address both the idols of Patriotism and of Race, when necessary for the sake of the Kingdom?