What if the evangelical understanding of the Gospel got it all wrong?
Few words in the American lexicon evoke more emotion and more gentle kicks under the table at polite dinner parties than the word ‘abortion.’ I believe we must risk that kick, however, and march bravely into a different type of abortion discussion; a more nuanced one, because abortion is the lynchpin issue of our ailing, divided culture. How often do we hear something like this:
“Yeah, I don’t like the president’s tweets, but… abortion.”
“Yeah, I know that Democrat might be a good candidate, but… abortion.”
Nothing has more given Christians a pass to use divisive rhetoric, to demonize others, and to put aside normal, caring empathy than the issue of abortion. I think it’s worth asking questions we’re not often willing to consider: Is God’s demand that Christians be part of an all-out political war to force a law onto the country, even if that war negatively impacts our ability to share the gospel? Is it possible our desire to win the battle blinds us to a better plan God has had all along?
First, let me be clear. As a Christian and Evangelical minister, I personally believe abortion is not God’s best plan for humanity. I also believe most pro-choice and pro-life proponents are good people who believe they’re fighting for vulnerable people. I dream of what could be if both sides were willing to lay down their animus in order to strategize towards the common goal of preventing unwanted pregnancies.
That being said, my challenge today is for my people – the Evangelical, largely pro-life crowd – to consider a Romans 12:2 testing of our belief system. Are we willing to hold our identity as single issue voters up to the light to determine if it’s truly God’s command for us, or if it’s actually an outgrowth of a manmade political mindset?
In my novel, Joseph Comes to Town, a pastor seemingly wins an abortion argument with a young woman only to hear that woman gasp “if he’s right, then I’m a murderer.”
In the Bible, Jesus told a group of God-followers “You’ve heard it said ‘don’t murder,’ but I say if you call your brother a fool you’re bound for hell fire.” Jesus wasn’t nearly as impressed with the staunch religious rules of the day as he was concerned about the lack of empathy for people. I’ve often heard Christian friends declare that supporters of pro-choice candidates and pro-choice legislation support the ‘murder’ of babies. To justify such incendiary language, would it not behoove us to make sure that if Jesus were to say today “you’ve heard it said ‘abortion is murder’” there wouldn’t be a “but I say…” twist after it?
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE ACTUALLY SAY?
Is the Bible clearly behind the staunch, Pro-Life position? Well, there’s no direct reference to abortion in the New Testament. Jesus never uttered a word about it, despite the common practice of infanticide by the Romans occupiers of Jesus’ homeland. A Roman father could legally abandon an unwanted newborn on the roadside to die of ‘exposure’ (the name of the practice) or be picked up by another family or an animal predator.
It must have been horrifying to hear these babies cry out, yet Jesus is never recorded alluding to it. Nor are his close followers who also ministered in the Roman Empire: Paul, Peter or John, the main authors of the New Testament. It seems odd to me that the issue we believe to be seminal on God’s list doesn’t warrant a mention from his representative on earth.
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Christians demand ‘scripture’ to be the final confirmation of all Christian beliefs and often use a saying “the main thing (in the Bible) is the plain thing.” Yet, when it comes to the abortion issue, it can only be supported by linking a number of bible passages, none of which are direct references to abortion. Jeremiah 1:5 speaks of God knowing a person in the womb and Luke 1:41-44 attributes human activity and gender to a fetus. However, the Bible also tells us, in passages such as Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:4, that God knew every human before the creation of the world. If Jeremiah 1:5 is a command to ban abortion, then wouldn’t Ephesians 1:4 forbid contraceptives or demand punishment for married couples who don’t procreate? Each of these passages can be interpreted as poetic descriptions of God’s love for humanity and while that can point to the value of life before birth, none of these texts are a direct command to criminalize the act of ending a pregnancy.
Jewish law and tradition, the religious roots of Christianity, provide more provision for allowing abortion than for outlawing it. Adam was fully formed but was not considered “living” (or having a soul) until filled with the breath of God. The Jewish Talmud provides an option for a woman with “great need” to terminate her pregnancy and the Old Testament book of Numbers commands a poisonous concoction be given to any woman accused of adultery. If a pregnancy is miraculously saved from miscarriage, then the woman is declared virtuous. Today, most Jews trend Pro-Choice in no small part because of their scriptures allow for it.
ABORTION IN POLITICS
It’s incorrect to believe Evangelical furor over abortion began with the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade. In 1979, Paul Weyrich, a Republican political operative, chose abortion as a political tool for motivating Christians to vote against Jimmy Carter, ironically, a dedicated Evangelical president. Weyrich opposed Carter’s edict that private schools, like Bob Jones University and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, lose their tax benefits if they continued to refuse racial integration of their student bodies. Understanding that the underpinnings of the abortion battle were political and racial, rather than moral, could cause us to squirm a bit in our pews.
CAN CHRISTIANS BE MORE ‘PRO-LIFE’ AND LESS ‘ANTI-ABORTION?’
Does Christian responsibility for ‘life’ span only from conception to the baby’s exit from the birth canal? Abortion totals have taken a dramatic downturn in the U.S. over the past two decades and statistics point to contraceptive access and education as major drivers for that decrease, yet many Christians still oppose these tools. Those same Christians often oppose community funding for health care, food or day care costs for parents, despite these financial burdens often serving as major factors in abortion decisions. Could there be solutions to the abortion issue we haven’t been able to consider due to a sharp focus on laws? Particularly when abortion bans have not proven effective at stopping women from choosing abortive options – even at the risk of their health and their lives.
South Korea has had an abortion ban in place for more than sixty-five years, yet, it’s estimated there are more abortions per capita performed in South Korea than in the United States. When Alabama and Missouri recently passed the most restrictive abortion laws in American history polls showed that support for abortion skyrocketed in our country and support for late term abortions reached its highest level ever. Laws don’t change hearts. Good laws are downstream of cultural change. Could a heart-shift towards prevention of unwanted pregnancies more powerfully impact the mindset of culture more than a divisive battle over laws? It’s happened before.
After Jesus’ crucifixion, Christians began a routine of collecting ‘exposed’ Roman babies from the roadside, even while suffering persecution and having limited resources. This sacrificial routine caused exposure to become frowned upon and then completely outlawed in A.D. 374. Angry protests didn’t change the law, demonstrating a higher way to live did.
THE ABORTION BATTLE’S IMPACT ON THE GOSPEL
More Millennials now declare themselves to be “Nones” (people who don’t attend any church) or “Dones” (those who have left their church) than those who declare themselves regular attenders of Evangelical Churches. They point to the right-wing stances of the Church as the number one reason for leaving. If our command is to share the message that “God so loved the world…” is it a good strategy to position ourselves as a divisive political machine? In the first century, the Pharisees and Zealots wanted to overthrow the government for God’s sake, but Jesus said it would be a humble Christian people, willing to lay down their lives and desires for their enemies who would truly change culture.
What if our abortion beliefs compelled us to ensure there were no unwanted pregnancies, no unwanted babies and no unwanted people? What if we were more concerned about the root causes of abortion (poverty, income inequality, shame, hopelessness) than we were of the sin of it? Could the heart of our culture simply turn against the practice of abortion because the need no longer exists?
I believe most Christians are very sincere in their abortion beliefs, yet the ‘fruit’ of that battle can still be sincerely wrong. We love to preach self-control yet the Bible lists love, joy, patience, peace, and kindness before dealing with our actions. Perhaps a shift in Christian thinking to challenging our mindset on abortion and being known for what we’re for – more than for what we’re against – might be exactly what God would have us do to not only see abortion numbers decrease but for the peace of God to come to our cities, regions, and to our entire country in this generation. Maybe laying down our political weaponry will bring a never-ending increase of that shalom.
It’s at least worth a try, isn’t it?
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone, don’t be anxious about anything.
It’s time for evangelical voices to own our mistakes, admit we got it wrong – and MAYBE, we can win back the trust of our culture.
Being a Christian leader does not protect someone from turning into an opportunist that preys on people’s fears in order to boost their own career, on the contrary it makes them even more susceptible to i
“…Someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’ – James 2:18
“…their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things?” declares the Lord, “and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?” – Jeremiah 5:27b-29
I’m a Christian, a lifelong evangelical and Reagan Republican and I’m NOT voting for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Why? I believe my relationship with God and how I interpret the teachings of the Bible compel me to vote against the president from having another term.
In a recent blog I explained that I’m not against Trump, but am against the mindset that got him elected in the first place. I am greatly grieved by that mindset – our country’s corporate heart condition – that I see represented in Trump’s leadership. The healing of that corporate heart means much more to me than any “Christian” policy used to justify evangelical support of this ill-fitting leader.
Many of my Christian friends believe God sovereignly puts leaders into positions of authority and there’s a biblical case to be made for that idea. However, I believe the Bible tells us the chosen leader of God-followers is a reflection of the corporate heart of that people. That choice is a fulfillment of their deepest heart-desires.
Some say President Trump was chosen because he is a leader like King David, a man ‘after God’s own heart’ even though a bit ‘rough around the edges.’ I see Trump as a direct parallel to less able leaders, like King Saul and King Herod – pragmatic. amoral kings who molded themselves into whatever was needed to maintain power. Of Saul’s ascension, the prophet Samuel said this about the people of Israel:
Twice Samuel tells the people that Saul was THEIR choice of leader, not God’s. Out of their fear for safety and comfort, the people of Israel unwisely chose a king they believed would be their “strongman” to save them. They had lost trust in God’s ability to do so. Saul was corrupt. He was small & petty; attacking anyone who tried to hold him accountable or whom he viewed as a threat. He played to the crowds because he needed their adulation, even taking it upon himself to lead the religious, pre-battle ceremony of the sacrifice to keep the people happy and liking him. Sound like any other leader you know?
Because the heart of the people was self-focused, and out of alignment with God’s model of a loving, self-sacrificing life that would lead to peace, they choose an unjust and unfit king. It cost them dearly. Today, I believe Trump is that same supposed strongman unwisely chosen by a people to save them, as they’ve lost their trust in God’s ways to bring justice and shalom to their land. In my estimation, that choice is also costing us dearly.
Watch Paul’s Video about this Blog YouTube Link “But… Abortion” Few words
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone, don’t be anxious about anything.
I hear many evangelical Christians say “I’m not voting for the man, I’m voting policy.” I don’t see such pragmatism endorsed in the Bible.
In Jesus’ day there was a leader named King Herod the Great. Though not a Jew, and certainly not a man of the religious integrity, he was trusted by the Jewish leaders to save their religion and their nationalistic heritage from an evil government. Due to this loyalty, Herod was able to live a lascivious life, free from accountability.
Throughout the Bible we see God’s command for people groups – cities and nations. I quoted Jeremiah 5 above. In that passage, the accusation of God towards the nation is that its people desire to be wealthy and comfortable, while no longer caring about justice for the needy. Never mentioned: the location of embassies, income tax percentages, stock market levels or unemployment rates. God’s judgment is always based around the corporate heart of the people. When that heart is to be financially comfortable versus taking care of the poor, the marginalized, and the foreigner; God’s reckoning will eventually come. Evangelical support for Trump is not, today, simply moral issues like abortion. It now is an ever intertwining religious/political/economic belief system. It’s anchored as much in the belief that Trump will make us wealthier, less taxed and safe from any prophetic charge of hard-heartedness to God’s command for justice and welfare in a nation.
“Shall I not avenge myself against people such as this” is God’s biblical response to such a belief system. I believe those words should cause a shudder to go through our corporate spine.
“Capernaum, on judgment day Sodom will have a better day than you,” Jesus said. In the people of Capernaum he saw a people with access to detailed knowledge of God’s commands and goodness, yet still refused to repent of hard-heartedness. Thus their judgment day fate was slated to be worse than a city famously known to have been destroyed for its overt sexual appetites. Could our desire to use political power to impose laws be seen by God as more hard-hearted than the “sins” we hope to ban?
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I’m convinced our corporate heart matters a great deal to God (not just our individual salvation) and when our corporate heart says “make me fat and sleek” (make me financially prosperous,) then Christians should expect to come face to face with God’s demand for the presence of “welfare” in a city.
I know many of my friends will claim I’m a victim of the mainstream media or am suffering from the right-wing media created malady of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” My view of Donald Trump, however, isn’t ultimately about the president at all. My vote is against the spirit that got him elected and the heart of our country he represents.
I’ve been calling out this sickened corporate heart of the right-wing Church for many years, even as far back as the first GW Bush administration – long before Donald Trump ever called Barack Obama a Muslim or made his glitzy entrance down the golden escalator.
For me, I see our corporate heart positioned just as those people who over and over were told by God “shall I not avenge myself against these people?”
Our country is divided, it’s hurting, it’s coming apart at the seams and, unfortunately, our Christians seem happy to have a leader that feeds, rather than attempts to heal, those ills.
To my friends who say Trump is the “chosen one” to save a “Christian” America, I finish this piece with another passage from the biblical book of Jeremiah – a tome written in another time when a country was coming apart at the seams:
“(The prophets) have spoken falsely of the Lord and have said, ‘He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine… An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” – Jeremiah 5:12; 30-31
Perhaps its too late to heal our land. God does have a big heart to heal when we repent, but these past four years, perhaps, have already ruptured our corporate heart beyond repair. I am certainly convinced that four more years of Donald Trump’s presidency will do irreparable damage to our corporate heart. And I believe that corporate heart matters to God a great deal.
This is why, in 2020, I have already voted against Donald Trump for president of the United States.
Jesus often taught spiritual concepts with stories. NPE shares “Modern Day Parables” to teach biblical concepts with stories that get past our intellectual defenses and challenge our hearts.
Person 1: Hey, this tree is burning, let’s put out the fire!
Person 2: Why the concern about this tree? It’s not a tree in our grove.
Person 1: Whaddya mean? This tree matters. We’re Christians, we’re commanded to care about what happens to trees. And, if we don’t put out the fire with this tree, it will spread to the trees around it and maybe even threaten our grove.
Person 2: You say this tree matters? I’m offended – ALL trees matter!
Person 1: Of course all trees matter, but this tree is in distress now. Let’s tend to it before it’s too late. In fact, look – other trees are catching fire around it.
Person 2: I don’t understand why you continue to focus on these trees? Our own trees need to be tended, too, and if we save these trees, their roots might reach into the groves of our trees. That’s why moved our groves away from here in the first place.
Person 1: We have to focus on these trees, right now. Their roots are already intertwined with “our” trees and even if they weren’t, we’re commanded to take care of poor, hurting and marginalized trees.
Person 2: Perhaps if these trees had taken better care of themselves, they wouldn’t be on fire right now!
Person 1: These trees are on fire because of a spark that came to this grove. They’re good trees, just like our trees. Come on, the fire is spreading fast while we’re arguing over this. It’s going to get out of control if we don’t do something.
Person 2: Are you calling me a “tree-ist?” You’re the one favoring these trees over ours. We passed laws in the 60’s to make sure these trees have the same opportunities to survive as all other trees.
Person 1: These trees grew up in conditions that make it more difficult for them to grow healthy as the trees in our grove. But, despite those disadvantages, they’re beautiful trees – created by God and loved by God.
Person 2: That’s “fake news.” My favorite cable new station said there’s no reason these trees have it more difficult than other trees. In fact, our laws make grove growth easier for them as we keep pouring money into this grove. They don’t have to work to grow like our trees do.
Person 1: Well, you live near our grove and have your back turned right now to these trees and refuse to look at them. How can you know what they’re really like?
Person 2: I can tell you these trees are setting each other on fire. Why aren’t you talking about tree-on-tree crime right now?
Person 1: These fires have been brewing for a long time and we’ve known, if our systems weren’t continually looked at and improved, a bad fire was coming. It’s beginning to spread. We can always have discussions of how our collective money can be spent, but right now we need to care about these burning trees.
Person 2: We’ll get the authorities to cut down these trees so they don’t affect our grove anymore and put anymore of our firefighters in danger. Firefighter lives matter!
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Person 1: Firefighter lives do matter and their goal must be to help all trees be safe. Look, the wind is spreading these flames and the firefighters aren’t going to be able to contain it.
Person 2: You say the wind is fanning the flames? Fake news! I heard it was leftist groups making the flames spread. My favorite internet chat board says one of the world’s richest men has been paying trees to catch fire for years.
Person 1: That’s crazy. There was a spark, and now the fire’s spreading, we must do something!
Person 2: I don’t have to do anything, My family has never owned trees so how can you hold me responsible for this fire?
Person 1: Because if you don’t pay attention to what’s happening, this fire is going to spread and destroy other groves as well as this one – maybe even our grove.
Person 2: There you go again. You’re like those spoiled athletes who have “These Trees Matter” on their jerseys. If rich celebrities would stop talking about fires spreading we wouldn’t have these problem.
Person 1: Athletes have been trying to make us aware these fires were possible if we didn’t pay attention to the inequality in our forest culture. Come on, man, the fires are coming down the street towards our grove. Won’t you even turn around and help me fill these buckets with water to combat the flames?
Person 2: The trouble’s in “those” tree groves with those trees that don’t know how to act as decently as our trees do. This is their problem. I believe we are to love the trees, but hate their fire.
Person 1: No, our grove is on fire now. Look, it’s going to burn everything that belongs to all of us. We must do something.
Person 2: I am doing something, I’m voting. The president says he’ll stop all fires in our tree grove if he’s re-elected.
Person 1: By then, our entire grove will be burning and maybe in trouble of being destroyed. At very least it will never be the same. And, shouldn’t we care about other tree groves as much as our own?
Person 2: I do care. I told you, ALL trees matter. If the other party had raked the forest better we wouldn’t have these fires. The problems are all in the groves they lead anyways.
Person 1: No, the problem is now right here in our grove. The fire has spread and our trees are on fire because we’ve not been caring for these trees well.
Person 2: That’s OK with me. I don’t even want to have a tree in a world where we have mercy on “those” trees.
For reference, read the book of Jonah, particularly chapters 3 & 4 as well as many other Bible passages. Perhaps God asks us to care about people (and trees) that we believe unworthy of our care.
On the recent celebration of my 55th birthday, my wife asked me to share five (and a half) things I’ve learned in my half-century (+5) of life. Since five is the number of grace and wisdom I thought it might be appropriate to consider. So here we go: Five Important Things I’ve Learned in Fifty-Five Years of Life.
(1) If you want to be “Christ-like” you must know what Christ is like
The word “Christian” means “follower of Christ” or, more literally, “little Christ.” Yet it seems American Christians prefer the blue-eyed, patriotic, gun-toting Jesus that we invented, rather than the suffering servant of the Bible who constantly scolded well-to-do, religious, law-and-order people.
In biblical days, when presented with the choice of Jesus or Barabbas, the zealot who wanted to foment rebellious overturn of the government, the religious leaders stirred up the people to choose Barabbas. It very much seems today’s religious leaders would stir up people to the same choice.
The “American Jesus” we likewise choose today simply isn’t the Jesus we’re told by the Bible to follow.
(2) Jesus is not coming soon: “morning or night or noon.”
“Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon” was a catchy ditty from a song we sang often in the church of my youth. As catchy as that tune may have been, it’s actual meaning of “if you went to a movie theater or were listening to rock music there’s a great chance, at any moment, you were going to be “left behind” and have “666” slapped on your forehead to mark you forever doomed to hell.
The trauma of twelve-year-old me believing my family had been taken and I had been judged unworthy to go is bad enough, but the real damage of these end times beliefs has been much more far-reaching.
The “rapture” belief that Jesus would soon appear and take all the “good” people out the world and blow up all the rest has caused us to neglect the environment, to feel free from any concern of people who we judge will not be going with us, and generally feel unobligated to provide for any future generations through infrastructure or preservation. It’s also the genesis of much conspiracy theory thinking as this belief causes us not only to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for evil, but to celebrate it, even if it is invented in our own minds.
The command of the Bible, however, is to treat the world as a bride preparing for the imminent return of a groom for a wedding. Nobody allows their wedding venue to be trashed and neglected. They prepare it to be the most beautiful it can be for the moment that lay ahead. Christians need to know this is their job and everyone else needs to know you’re not going to be “left behind.”
(3) If we don’t know who we really are how will We live the way we’re supposed to live
In my work as an executive coach I often deal with people struggling with their self-worth. Christians find this particularly difficult as they’ve been consistently taught to see themselves as “dirt” – terrible creatures who are fortunate God doesn’t zap them right now. This view of a harsh God causes harshness to flow from them.
The whole of the Bible story, however, is of a creator passionately pursuing those that were created to affirm their value, That each human was declared “good” even before they existed. Taking that story to heart causes us to want to know this benevolent creator more and thus, that benevolence can flow from us, as well.
(4) God is OK if you change your mind. In fact, he commands you to.
The idea that we have to defend our beliefs at all cost and use a label like “fake news” or “liberal” to discount any idea or person that disagrees with us goes against the command of the Bible to not be “conformed to this age” (to your own ‘bubble.’) The passage says we’re to be transformed by the ongoing renewal of our minds.
To often Christians say “I live by scripture” when, actually they are living by their preferred interpretation of the Bible. They rarely consider the existence of other Christians who read the text differently. In fact, our churches have created a fear of “being deceived” that implores followers to resist such consideration.
Jesus scolded the religious leaders of his day for “taking away the keys to knowledge.” There’s a proverb in the Bible that says “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” In other words, God created wisdom, science, debate, learning – if we understand our true identity as valuable (as ‘kings’), we’ll accept our duty and privilege to search out deeper understanding of matters.
A person shouldn’t be afraid to learn. All that can be lost in such consideration is bondage to an old mindset.
(5) Things might get ugly, but it’s going to be OK
Much of Christian political thought today is based upon fear – “If we don’t elect the “right” candidate, our religion will be taken away. Or we loudly scream “socialism” or some other scary word about boogeymen coming to get us.
There’s no doubt in my mind we are in tumultuous times and deeper troubles likely lay ahead, but in the story of the Bible, those times of “shaking” were important for causing a people to remember what’s really important and turning their faces and hearts back to God.
Yes, our culture might be in some peril now, but let’s not assume some purifying heat is the worst thing to happen. Perhaps these times are exposing heart issues to the light – particularly those of our Christian belief system – that need to be changed.
Yes, the coming weeks and months might be difficult, but I’m convinced something better is on the other side. It might take the transition of a generation, but a new and better ‘us” is ahead.
(5 -and a half) -at my wife’s request: It’s awesome to have a son born on your birthday
I’ve shared 18 birthdays now with my son, and it is awesome – well, half awesome. It does mean my birthday is now relegated second string to his. I assure you, that is a small sacrifice to make to have this amazing boy in my life!
If I feel that way as a father, how much more must God be willing to sacrifice his pure theology and right to judge us, in order to have relationship with us? Do you think humans are worth it to him?
There was a day when Christians valued “truth” – almost to an unhealthy level. Those days seemingly are gone, now, however, as Christians appear more than willing to accept “alternative facts” from their side of the political aisle. Conway introduced the term into our cultural lexicon in 2017 while attempting to defend President Trump’s outrageous claims of his inaugural ceremony crowd being “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.” This despite clear photographic evidence to the contrary. Conway’s display of her legendary ability to say to say easily disprovable things with the seriousness of an assassin signaled to all that we were living in a “post-truth era” where facts were now in the eye – or ear – of the beholder.
Right-wing Evangelical Christians not only believed what Conway was spinning out, they seemed to prefer her “facts.” This is odd to me since my evangelical youth group training often centered on the importance of “absolute truth.”
“That’s a brown chair, right?” Said the evangelical youth minister of my childhood as he loudly and emphatically placed an office chair in the middle of our circle. “If I told you it was a ‘blue seagull’ that would be untrue, wouldn’t it?” The question brought chuckles from the group.
“If I told you it was not a solid, that would be untrue, wouldn’t it?” he stated while rapping his knuckles on the chair. “Any other explanation of the chair would be untrue, correct?”
“Actually, it’s mostly made of air,” I said, raising my hand. The youth minister gave me a stern glance and continued on.
“That this is a solid, brown chair is an absolute truth and it will always be a solid brown chair, no matter what anyone else might say,” he stated with a serious look.
“Well, the Bible says all of these things will pass away and what is unseen will last forever…” The youth minister held up his palm to stop my statement as he closed his eyes in exasperation.
“Despite Paul’s technicalities,” he said after a deep breath, “we must believe in absolute truth so the ‘relativists’ don’t deceive us in these last days.”
The youth minister’s attempted demonstration was to highlight that “elite thinkers,” who dabbled in questioning the stalwart message taught to us in church were threats not only to truth, but to our very souls and to the Christian values that made America a great country. “Truth matters” we were told.
That was then, however, this is now.
Today, Christians are willing to put away belief in truth to follow our pragmatic hope that political alliances and victories can bring a hoped-for Christian takeover of government and an implementation of conservative Christian political causes.
Example: The recent Atlantic story highlighting President Trump’s lack of respect for military personnel hardly made a blip on the social media pages of my Christian friends. That Trump called soldiers who fought in American wars “suckers” and “losers” was met with relative Christian indifference. My friends chose to believe the “alternative fact” that the use of anonymous sources made the story “fake news” with a complete blindness to the irony that many of these same people regularly follow and believe anonymous conspiracy website sources, such as QAnon.
Whether the story’s details are completely accurate, we already know this tone was already publicly set by the president’s refusal to acknowledge John McCain as a war hero because McCain “had been captured” and Trump only liked soldiers “who weren’t captured.” In normal times, such statements would be deal-breakers for Christians (who despise NFL players for taking a knee during the National Anthem, an act evangelicals and conservatives claim to be disrespectful to our military personnel.)
Example: Immediately following the Atlantic report came the recorded voice of the president saying, in February, that he knew the Coronavirus was dangerous, was airborne and could seriously infect even young children while admitting that he was publicly downplaying the virus. Surely, the president’s recorded words would be enough to prove to fervent conservative Christians that their beliefs the Coronavirus was a hoax – or at least a Democratic concoction – would melt away.
Not so, however. The evangelical community is too invested in their own narrative on the virus. Too needful of defending their own position that only another simple fib from the president is needed for the “absolutely truth” of the president’s own voice to be drown out by “alternative facts.” Believing truth is no longer the mark of a true American Christian. “Nothing to see here” pragmatism for political purposes is the new rule of the day.
Not only is “absolute truth” at a low ebb, but so is intellectual honesty. This was highlighted in a recent post that was cut-and-paste material on the walls of several Christian acquaintances:
The assertions in many lines of this “reasons list” misses that nearly every line has a partisan spin equating conservative ideals to a morally superior level than anyone who might think differently. This intellectual twisting shows that re-posters of this content are either gravely deceived or willfully dishonest. Either way, “absolute truth” is taking it on the chin and is down for the count.
As of the writing of this blog we’re nearing 200,000 deaths for Covid-19. That’s 66 times the number people who died on 9/11. The cognitive dissonance of “alternate facts” has taken away the ability to grieve this horrific fact for a people commanded to “mourn with those who mourn.”
This desire for alternative facts has other dire consequences.
George Orwell wrote his book 1984 describing a day when a country would no longer be able to understand facts and, thus, would readily give over control of their government and lives to despotic leaders. Orwell called it “doublethink.” Today, we call it “alternative facts.”
Throughout history dictatorial leaders have sought to undermine media outlets and start their own propaganda agencies in order to manipulate truth to their own benefit.
When a democracy depends on a learned electorate, a lack of accountability to truth for our elected leaders is a danger to that democracy.
Our country is in grave danger of reaching this point today, if we haven’t already. Let’s face it – even most the fervent supporter of this president has to admit he at least plays a bit loose with details and willingly shares what seems reasonable in his own mind, even if it’s not true.
Truth must matter to us. “Facts are stubborn things” an elected leader once said – let’s make facts stubborn again. Securing a Supreme Court majority isn’t worth losing our ability to communicate in truth with one another. We have to let the Spirit of Truth guide us and not be afraid for public scorn for those who would try to make facts “alternate” – particularly our country’s enemies who wish to divide us against one another – can’t succeed.
Let me recommend tips on how to Avoid Sharing Fake News and this article from the Fresno State Institute of Media and Public Trust. Let’s repent of political expediency and, once again, ask God to show us his ways, which are higher than ours, so we can get a heavens-eye view of our world today and turn from our own. It’s not too late that yet God might heal our land if we do.