Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The unholy alliance

“In the biblical view, it is actually an elemental law of human history that creation decays when it is separated from [its Creator] God.  When God is denied and forgotten, men [and women] cease to understand one another; they know only too well that the other person is no longer held in check by the command of God, but is left to his [or her] own incalculable urges.  This breeds distrust; and distrust produces quarrels, war, and fratricide.  None of this did God will, none of it did God send.  It is all the monstrous spawn and offscum of original human sin.”  Helmut Thielicke (1908-1986)

Thielicke’s observation is consistent with Jesus’ teaching principle that He, as the Word, is the vine from which we grow, and that we can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:1-8).  When we become disengaged from our very source of life, we cannot help but to wither until it becomes necessary to “prune” the “useless branch” from the vine so the vine may continue to flourish and produce good fruit just as it was created and intended to do.

Both observations speak directly to the highly charged and profoundly divisive political atmosphere in this country.  More ominously, these observations speak directly to the status and ineffective witness of the Holy Church.  We have created for ourselves an “unholy alliance” not unlike those political and military alliances which ultimately led to the fall and exile of ancient Israel.  The alliances failed, and the divided nation soon fell because it had a chance to make the right and righteous choice – and yet chose to distance herself from her Source of Life.

How can things be so nasty in a nation in which polls suggest nearly 90% of Americans “believe” in God?  Could it be more accurate to say 90% of Americans believe there is a ‘god’, hope there is a ‘god’, perhaps even a supreme and almighty being whom we so casually call “God”?  Of course it can be said, too, that simply believing something exists does not make it so, and believing without actually engaging in that belief as if it were true makes it even less true.  Therein, I think, lies the problem we face.

It is said every election season that “this one is the worst I’ve ever seen”, and I think we can honestly say it is truly getting worse each time, as the idiom goes: What we tolerate in this generation will be embraced in the next.  Yet this one is different and even more unsettling, more insidious, even perhaps diabolical - demonic.  What makes it so is that the nastiness on the campaign trail is a reflection of what springs forth from a faithless church.

I say that to say this (and will try to say it without getting too political or endorsing any candidate).  Donald Trump has the backing of the so-called “evangelical” bloc; preachers and lay Christians who are typically very conservative and fundamentalist when it comes to interpretation of the Scriptures. 

Donald Trump has shown himself to be a nasty, hateful, spiteful, vindictive hot mess with a foul mouth who curses those who disagree with him or call him on his nastiness (Trump is not the only one, of course, but he’s leading the pack of wolves).  This is also a man, a professed Christian (Presbyterian) who a) claims to an active member (his claimed church says he is not), and b) has publicly stated he has no need to ask for Divine forgiveness, a staple of Christian doctrine.  He simply self-corrects and makes right his own wrongs (his statement) according to his own standards.  Yet he curses and slanders his opponents (as do the others) and apparently sees no wrong in this.

This is not an indictment strictly against Donald Trump, however, or the others who are trying to beat him at his own game.  Rather it is an indictment of the makeup of a church which is substantially less than holy and doesn’t seem to care; a church that has decided someone like Donald Trump can and will be its protector; a man whom some seem to believe can actually deliver us from evil

The Church is made up of all kinds of individuals, and this is actually the strength of the Church.  There are those who are genuinely pious and faithful, and there are those who benefit from the faith and the piety of these few.  We become better disciples when we are called to account by these faithful individuals who are unafraid to call us on our bad behavior.  In fact it cannot be said we are truly “loved” if we are not called to account.  Rather we are being neglected to our own detriment.

So it is significantly the “evangelical” voting bloc that is supporting Trump and subsequently encouraging his foul mouth and activity.  What does this say, then, about a faithful church that is failing one of its own?  Are they afraid to confront him lest they lose whatever status they think they have with him?  Are they afraid to face the wrath of Trump?  Or is Trump expressing what is on the hearts and minds of this “evangelical” bloc?

What is destroying the Church is the false narrative in which we have been convinced that to hold someone accountable is to “judge” them.  We do not generally understand the difference between passing judgment (which is prohibited) and discerning good from evil (which is absolutely necessary for the Body to thrive) according to what is written in Holy Scripture.  What is much worse, even diabolical, however, is the idea that there is a man – any man – who can be trusted to deliver us as a people, who can save us as a church, who can satisfy our deepest cravings and desires … and do so while cursing anyone who may try to stand in his way!  My God in Heaven!  Can we not see that this is how the many will come to embrace the antichrist?? 

For the record, I am not suggesting for one hairy second that Donald Trump is the antichrist!

The fact that such persons even have a voice among the faithful means we have become almost completely disengaged from our Source of Life and are looking for another.  We are looking for tangible protection from perceived enemies.  We do not trust our God so we have removed ourselves from the Vine, and we are “withering” under the weight of our own curses until – while we are trying to destroy those we deem to be our enemies – we are ultimately destroyed ourselves.

“Hear, O [people of the Covenant]: The Lord our God, The Lord is one.  You shall love The Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength!  And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children …” Deuteronomy 6:4-7a

Is the political reality of our time what we truly desire to teach our children?  Can we not see that the political rhetoric gets worse with each passing generation because this is what we teaching our children?  Can we not admit that we cannot possibly be in two boats at the same time? 

Let the Church be the Body of Christ, what she has been called to be, in a world filled with darkness.  Let the Church be the Light of the Gospel’s call from that darkness!  Politics will be what it is and we can only vote the way our consciences tell us to vote, but we must not pretend we are electing a prophet who can protect or restore the Church to its glory.  The Church is built upon the Foundation of only One.  There will be no other.

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