Christianity Should Never Rule…

The following blog post is from Peter Wehner (contributing opinion writer for the New York Times) giving his reflections on Good Friday and Easter.

“The writer Philip Yancey recently offered this:

I wrote in Vanishing Grace about an important insight I learned from a Muslim scholar who said to me, ‘I have read the entire Koran and can find in it no guidance on how Muslims should live as a minority in a society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find in it no guidance on how Christians should live as a majority.’

“(Yancey) put his finger on a central difference between the two faiths. One, born at Pentecost, thrives cross-culturally and even counter-culturally, often coexisting with oppressive governments. The other, geographically anchored in Mecca, was founded simultaneously as a religion and a state….”

While Islam seeks to unify religion and law, culture and politics, Yancey wrote, Christianity works best as a minority faith, a counter-culture…. Historically, when Christians have reached a majority they too fall to the temptations of power in ways that are clearly anti-gospel. Add to this the fact that, as sociologist of religion Rodney Stark has pointed out, Christianity’s greatest period of vulnerability and political weakness was the time of its most explosive growth. He estimates that Christianity saw a 40 percent growth rate per decade from 30 AD to 300 AD. As a result a tiny and obscure movement became the dominant faith of Western civilization. And its enduring symbol is not the shield or the sword but the cross.”

“Early on in my faith pilgrimage – a journey that did not come particularly easily to me – I was struck and to some degree captivated by how in many respects the Christian faith is a radical inversion of what the world deems worthy and worth celebrating. The last shall be first. Strength is made perfect in weakness. The humble will be exalted. Blessed are the meek, the poor in spirit, and those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Love rather than hate your enemies. Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for God. Whoever loses his life for God’s sake will find it.”

“Jesus himself came not as a king but as a servant. He was born not to wealth and privilege in Rome but in a manger in Bethlehem. He was a God who wept, was acquainted with grief and was ‘counted among the outlaws.’ He preferred the company of sinners to that of religious authorities, with whom he repeatedly clashed. He was abandoned and betrayed by his disciples. And he endured an agonizing death on a cross.”

“It is hardly the script you or I would write, a God whose crown was made of thorns. But for those of us of the Christian faith, Good Friday gives way to Easter Sunday – the days of God’s overpowering acts in history, acts in which God’s judgment and grace were revealed to all the world, in the words of the pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

I would agree with this assessment. What we have learned from the Moral Majority and the rise of the Evangelical Voting Bloc is that even when they have held sway, they have not produced a more Christian nation; just as the Crusades and the Inquisition did not advance the gospel to the world. Jesus was asked by Pilate if he was a king; his reply, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

We (the Church) have not been called to rule, but to serve and to live out Christ’s kingdom here on earth. Our sign will never be a scepter, but always a cross because it will include suffering. Our prayer should not be for America to become a winner again, but as Francis Schaeffer used to say even back in the 1960’s, we should pray that God would have mercy on America and bring us to our knees in humble repentance. This will be our greatest victory and greatest witness to the world.

The Future of Political Illusion

I started writing this blog just before the second debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Wherever you turned, the pundits were talking about what Obama needed to do to win this debate after the great “debacle in Denver.”  One writer said, “Every turn of his head, every extra blink of his eye will be subject to withering scrutiny.” Oh give me a break!  Do you realize what that says about our culture? It says that looks matter more than substance and image matters more than reality. We have become a nation of illusion and equivocation designed to supplant the importance of truth and clarity. The Proverbs warn that a “malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit; though his speech is charming, do not believe him” (26:24, 25).  I am not saying that either candidate is malicious, but both produce charming speech that can be misleading. Most polls have the candidates neck and neck and the argument rages whether Romney’s gains are due to a bounce from his strong first debate performance, which may recede, or whether they reflect a fundamental change in relative positions.  I suppose this would make more sense if you had two men with the same political platforms and you were trying to make up your mind as to who you liked better or trusted more. However, how can this be the case when the candidates offer a completely different view of America? An article in the British magazine The Economist said that “The gulf that separates the policies of the two candidates and their parties seems wider than in any election in living memory.” How can it be that anyone would remain unconvinced as to who they are voting for this late in the game? We are in dangerous waters when the future of our country is based upon the outcome of a debate which is scored by such issues as the turn of the head or the blink of an eye. I am finishing this blog after watching the second “town brawl” debate where these two alpha males went at again. I really don’t care which one was more aggressive or looked more presidential or appealed to the sensitivities of women or men. What I do care about is who will lead this country in the paths of justice and righteousness for all (including the generations to come), and whose moral and economic policies are more in line with the values of God’s Kingdom. I believe that God will either give us a President we need or a President we deserve.  He will either give us mercy or judgment. Your vote counts, so make sure it is based upon substance not style.

VP Politics

“How does your Catholic Faith shape your personal belief on abortion?” That was one of the questions asked Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in their Vice Presidential debate last night (and their response was not mentioned at all in the Chicago Tribune this morning). Biden stopped smiling (for once) and said that he personally agreed with the Catholic Church’s view on abortion but would not impose it on anyone else. His response reflects not only the realism of politics in a post-modern culture, but also the recognition that (to Biden and others) abortion is not a moral issue. I am sure that he would have no difficulty legislating morality on other issues in which he personally believes, such as health care for the uninsured and higher taxes for the wealthy. Continue reading “VP Politics”

Once Again, Politics Trumps Religion

Last week (September 25, 26) was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, celebrated by Jews world-wide. Yom Kippur is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year and was instituted in Leviticus 23:26-28, In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work … For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the LORD. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day. In the Old Testament, it was a day when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and made atonement for his sin and the sins of the nation with the blood of sacrificial bull. Today, with no high priest, Holy of Holies, or sacrificial system, it is a day set aside to afflict the soul, “to atone for the sins of the past year; sins between man and G-d, not for sins against another person. Continue reading “Once Again, Politics Trumps Religion”