Christianity Is Always Political

We are fortunate to live in a country in which we get to re-choose our major leaders on a rotating cycle. The up-side of this is that we get to regularly examine how we come to our political positions. We regularly have the opportunity to discover anew how our worldviews create our political opinions. The down-side is that it is easy to simply take party loyalty for granted and simply assume that (if you are a Christian as am I) our party affiliation is, “of course the most biblical choice” without continually re-examining whether our votes really align with biblical values.

In other words since voting for major offices is such a regular part of our life in this country, it’s tempting to simply fall in to patterns of voting without really thinking about why we’ve aligned with a certain candidate or party. It seems even rarer still for adults to switch party loyalties once they have been ingrained.

But Christians are called to continually re-examine their beliefs, “taking every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5, etc.), striving for a maturity that is not easily swayed (Ephesians 4:9-16). We are told to strive after maturity and expected to think deeply.

The 2016 election cycle has been contentious to say the least and it has caused lots of division among Christians. Many (including myself) have felt as though the Republican candidate is completely and utterly out of step with what I value as a Christian. Others have argued that the Republican party is always the more biblical choice regardless of the candidate. Still others take it a step further and say that Donald Trump is actually God’s candidate.

As I’ve dialogued with family and friends about the different positions Christians might take over this election cycle, one view repeated itself enough that I’ve been thinking a lot about it. In short, many people told me that they have actively tried to separate their faith from their political opinions and votes. Several people told me that Christianity can be interpreted and applied by people of both major political party and can be inconclusive at best and divisive at worst, so they have decided to vote aside from their faith. 

As I’ve tried to understand this position, I’m driven more and more to the conviction that Christianity is always political. Our faith cannot be separated from our politics. In fact, I would argue that our politics are an outworking of our faith. Christianity addresses how we should care for the poor (Psalm 34:6; Proverbs 22:9, 31:20; Daniel 4:27; Matthew 19:21; Galatians 2:10, etc.). Christianity addresses our attitude to violence (Exodus 14:14; 1 Samuel 17:47; Psalms 11:5, 17:4, 20:7; Matthew 5:9, etc.). We could go on, but my point is that Christianity directly addresses issues which fuel our voting habits.

We tend to forget that Rome viewed Christianity as a political threat. Part of being a citizen meant declaring that Caesar was Lord. But as people came to faith in Jesus, they were no longer able to declare such things because Jesus was now their Lord. This might be difficult for us to understand in our current political day and age but it is fairly easy to see why political leaders would not only view this as insubordination but as a threat to their own positions of power.

We tend to forget that it is the Christian faith which has led many to acts of civil disobedience and to become directly involved in politics. Whether abolition, women’s suffrage, the fight for civil rights, Christianity has not only always been political, it has often been quite unpopular.

Christianity in America has often been co-opted to support the pursuit of wealth and comfort. It has been used to justify oppression rather than combat it. Christianity has been turned upside down and used to endorse power structures which directly oppose biblical convictions.

We live in a time whose importance will only really become apparent with time. Christians in America have the opportunity to shed the skin of consumerism and leave behind (and fight) systems of oppression. Christians in America have the duty to follow Christianity rather than America. Christians have the chance (and perhaps obligation) to reclaim the practice of civil disobedience. Part of our prophetic voice in culture has always been to speak truth to power, not to court favor.

The heart of Christianity is for social justice, care for the poor, nonviolence and the flourishing of our cities. These convictions have unmistakable political ramifications. Christianity is always political and it’s up to us to work this out in public.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Trumpeters And Gospel Deficiency

12342869_10153827861846450_6195041571918097602_nMuch to my dismay, it’s a mixed bag that the ol’ Donald, who, if you have not heard, is running for President, has been in the press lately in the context of American Evangelicalism, of which I am loosely a part.

I say “much to my dismay” because it pains my heart that some self-professing Christians seem to support Donald Trump as, not only a viable presidential candidate but have come out in support of him. As you may have heard, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. recently endorsed Donald Trump for President.

I say “it’s a mixed bag” because at least this has caused toe “mainstream media” to try and understand Evangelicalism, even if it’s just to say: “Are some of you people really considering voting for this guy who so openly and adamantly opposes so many of your views?!” For example, CNN recently posted “3 questions evangelicals should ask about Donald Trump“. Have we really come to this point where the American Church is being told by CNN why a potential presidential candidate is simply not sympatico with our stated beliefs?

Even with all of this, there may yet to be some good to come of this socio-political fiasco identity crisis. Rightly or wrongly, Christianity has long held a special place at the table of American culture. It has been the assumed religion. So much so that many claim this to be a “Christian nation”. This is dangerous for Christianity because it implies that following Jesus is somehow equatable with the “American Dream”. It is not and it seems that there is a growing number of people coming to believe that the predominant version of Christianity practiced in America is not “Christianity” at all but something called “moralistic therapeutic deism” (oh look, I wrote about this very thing!).

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As a church planting pastor, I do think it’s worth seriously considering the fact that some people who claim to be Christians have publicly come out in support of Donald Trump’s bid for the White House. What, if anything does this say about the version of Christianity adopted by many in the United States? We are left with some serious questions regarding the heart of of how Christianity is or is not practiced.

Trump clearly plays on a competitive spirit. What does the Bible say about trying to get ahead at the possible expense of others? Trump talks tough with threats of violence to adversaries. What does the Bible say about how we should treat others, even our enemies? Trump brags that he has never asked forgiveness. Not even from God. What does the Bible say . . . do I really even have to finish this one? Trump says that he will deport the refugees and build a wall around our suburb. What does the Bible say about how we should treat the foreigner? Those less fortunate? Those seeking safety and security?Trump has repeatedly left his current wife for his next. What does the Bible say about the importance of marriage? Trump has repeatedly denigrated women. What does the Bible say about equality? Trump has repeated denigrated anyone he disagrees with. What does the Bible say about how we use our words? What does the Bible say about the relationship between our words and what’s in our hearts? I could keep going but I’ve even exhausted myself.

What I do want to consider is the saddening fact that those people who do claim to be Christians and express support for Donald Trump may, in fact, suffer from what I have dubbed “gospel deficiency”. We don’t have time (or the patience right now) to address every question raised in the previous paragraph, but I would like us to consider some generalities when it comes to the outlook on life assumed by the Bible for those brought to life by the Gospel (the good news of who Jesus is and what He’s done).

Consider just a few verses in light of Trump’s campaign and public persona:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

“If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21)

How can people who claim to love Jesus consider supporting a candidate like Trump? I believe that the answer is not political but theological. If you support Trump it’s because you don’t fully understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for life and how we should live. In fact, it is likely that you suffer from Gospel Deficiency. I’m not saying that you can’t be saved and support Donald Trump. Far be it from me to judge someone’s heart. But it does seem that in order to support Donald Trump, you must turn a blind eye to many of the things God says to describe His people.

You can be alive but be iron deficient. I suppose you can be a Christian and suffer from Gospel Deficiency as well. You believe enough to put your faith in Jesus  for salvation but not enough to know that Jesus tells us that our hearts should not focus not found in this world (Matthew 6:21) and to be anxious for nothing (Matthew 6:25:-34). Paul tells us to consider others as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:1-11). You can identify as a Christian but the truth is that if the Truth has set you free, you will reject principles based on fear, prejudice and anger while Donald Trump openly accepts the “mantle of anger“. When the Gospel takes root, we begin to flower with kindness, meekness, self-control, (Galatians 5:22-23) all things conspicuously absent from Trump’s public persona.

I suppose the real issue I’m wrestling with is this: I just don’t see how you can understand biblical teaching and then support someone like Donald Trump for anything other than class clown.

Can you help me understand?

the Weekly Town Crier

Town CrierWell howdy do Scooby Doo? What’s up Buttercup? Hope to sure by golly that you’re having a heckuva day. If not, why not? What’s got you so blue, Sue? Turn that frown upside down. Because, you know, things aren’t usually as bad as they seem. Except for then they are. Then that sucks. I’m sorry for you. Is there anything I can do to help?

In the meantime, here are a bunch of links I’ve found interesting. Maybe that will help? Maybe not. Either way.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

See the first pictures from the set of the new Clash biopic.

Ever wonder how much the Pentagon paid your favorite sports team for its patriotism?

See the personal tattoo machine.

R.I.P. Gunnar Hansen, the Original Leatherface from ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’.

R.I.PAllen Toussaint.

R.I.PMotörhead drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor.

See “Fordite: a rare mineral only found in old Detroit auto-painting facilities.”

Browse Phoenix New Times‘s picks for the 20 best kids’ movies of all time.

Browse “A History Of Insane Art Prices.”

Watch David Lynch perform ‘Polish Night Music” with Marek Zebrowski.

Read Laughing Squid‘s report that Youtube has released an app dedicated solely to music.

Read/listen as NPR considers the process of editing tracks for airplay.

Read as The Atlantic urges: “Study Theology, Even If You Don’t Believe in God.”

Read about the woman who “shredded $1 million before death to spite relatives”.

Read as Trevin Wax asks Christians: “Does Your Facebook Rant “Honor Everyone?”

See an art instillation made from thousands of dead bugs.

Read The AV Club‘s report: “Sony to stop making Betamax tapes decades after everyone thought it did.”

Read as “Talib Kweli reviews Pitchfork‘s review of Talib Kweli.”

Follow “The Strange Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe‘s Hair” at Atlas Obscura.

Watch “Veterans Talking About How They Felt About Killing Someone.”

Browse as 20 musicians pick their favorite music memoirs.

Read/listen as Gordon Lightfoot tells Steve Earle  how/why he “wrote The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

Browse this visual collection of 15 beautiful turntables.

Read as U2‘s Larry Mullen says ‘the music industry is broken’.

Learn how to make a “terrarium in a coffee pot.”

See “Typewriter portraiture.”

See Bill Nye get gritty Photoshop makeovers.

Listen to “Steve Albini and Ian MacKaye Interview Each Other.”

Browse Time‘s list of “The 5 Things Your Kids Will Remember About You.”

See “Willy Wonka cast members reunited after 43 years.”

Peep The Creator’s Project‘s piece: “Fibonacci Sequence Makes “Perfect” Celebrity Portraits.”

See restaurant that “only serves food from countries the US is in conflict with.”

Read about the recent study claiming to find that “religious” children are more selfish.

Read The Denver Post‘s report that Adidas is offering to help high schools eliminate Native American mascots.

Read The Atlantic‘s piece wondering if “Dorms for Grownups” could be a solution for lonely “Millennials”.

Read Christianity Today‘s piece on the Southern Baptist Convention: “The Southern Baptist S(p)ending Crunch.” The missions agency of the largest US Protestant denomination faces a $21 million deficit. Could it spell the end of the fulltime missionary?”

Watch a man interview himself . . . 38 years later.

Read as The Atlantic considers Albert Mohler and “Hating Queerness Without Hating the Queer.”

Read as Pitchfork remembers Sparklehorse frontman Mark Linkous.

Browse Lost at E Minor‘s collection of “Movies and their colour palettes.”

Read as Paste interviews Son Volt‘s Jay Farrar.

Read Arizona Central‘s report: “Mormon church issues rules aimed at gay members, their kids.”

Read The Atlantic‘s report: “Karl Marx’s Resting Place Has an Entry Fee.”

See the Japanese restaurant where you catch your own fish.

Ever wonder “What people talk about before they die”? A hospice chaplain shares.

Read Reuters report that Apple employees must submit to bag searches.

See a machine that visualizes the wi-fi waves surrounding us.

Watch NOFX get lectured on selling out.

Read Salon‘s piece: “Our stuff is burying us alive: Hoarding and the mountains of garbage we call “collections”

Read Newsweek‘s report that Sea World is phasing out its killer whale performances.

Read “The Unfair Truth About How Creative People Succeed” at Entrepreneur.

Read as Aziz Ansari talks to Pitchfork about the music on his new show, Master of None.

Read BBC Earth‘s report that dogs can tell if you’re untrustworthy.

Read The Gospel Coalition‘s piece on “Why Denominational Identity Still Matters.”

No friends? No problem. Japan’s Moomin Cafe has stuffed toys to keep you company.

Read about the UK couple being fined after installing an anti-child noise repellant outside of their home.

Read bout the who spent time alone in caves as part of an experiment on the effects of isolation.

Hear the “Aztec Death Whistle” used to intimidate enemies.

Read Vanity Fair‘s piece: “On the Existential Beauty of Peanuts.”

Read Time‘s report: “Kurt Cobain’s Unplugged Sweater Sells For $137,500.”

Get the clip on manbun at Groupon.

Read The New Yorker‘s piece on “The Curious Persistence of Poetry Shops.”

Read FACT‘s report that vinyl sales have had another record-breaking year.

Read as The Washington Post considers “The problem with following your passion.”

Read Consequence of Sound‘s report that (the artist again known as) Prince once fires Questlove from DJing to show Finding Nemo instead.

Experiment with the “Bob Ross lorem ipsum generator.”

Read Time‘s report that “Early Morning is Actually the Worst Time to Drink Coffee.”

Read as “Relevant” wonders “How Much Should I Care About Ethical Food?”

Read Pitchfork‘s report: “Michael Stipe Opens for Patti Smith With Covers Set.”

Read AV Club‘s Character Study piece: “With Lady Eboshi, Princess Mononoke presents something more subtle than a villain.”

Read reports that Joe’s Crab Shack has become the first US chain to do away with tipping.

See an octopus typewriter.

Read as “Spotify names its most streamed track of all time.”

Read about the voice of Charlie Brown who is being charged with an assassination plot on the sheriff of San Diego.

Browse Paste‘s list of “15 Really Polarizing Foods.”

See the very cool photo series The Mystical Origins of Fruit and Vegetables by Maciek Jasik.

See “The loneliest whale in the world.”