“The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” (Hebrews 12:6 NIV)
The other day someone commented, in response to a blog, that it was a “vicious attack” and then thumped me with a Scripture reference that I promptly forgot to read. But they couldn’t have read much more than that particular proof-text because, otherwise, they would be doing less Bible-thumping about my lack of their religious refinement and their protest sounded remarkably similar to those offended who stopped Jesus to ask him if he realized that his words were insulting to them.
My words were not slanderous nor untrue and not written to be meanspirited either. In fact, I never even mentioned a name, because my point was not about the person, it was about the behavior and errant ideas behind the behavior. Sure, it was a rebuke to those who engage in this sort of thing, but certainly not as severe as the preaching of Jesus and definitely not as scathing as what St. Paul had to say to these sorts of religious bluebloods who were trying to influence others to live by their standards:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
(Galatians 5:1-12 NIV)
Paul was taking direct aim at the Judaizers (equivalent to the “good Mennonite” or others who hold their mastery of a particular tradition as a point of pride) for burdening others down with their rules and employed a very crude double entendre to make his point. I mean, circumcision is literally to “nip the tip” of the male genitalia, as part of the Jewish tradition, and Paul is telling them he wishes that these men would cut off the whole cucumber to prove how superior they are. Of course, he’s also saying he wishes they would leave the church, compares them to a contaminant, and is definitely not mincing his words to be polite.
Jesus would not have tickled the prissy ears of the pretentious. He was provocative. He would likely be called a racist today for using “dog” in reference to a Canaanite woman. St. Paul too, he would surely have made the religious prudes blush then and would have enraged our social police. Both men threw their rhetorical bombs at those who felt too secure in their self-righteous positions and they made no apologies for it. The truth is sometimes harsh. Waking people from the stupor of their pride can take some colorful persuasion. Yes, absolutely, we must keep our own pride in check, but passive and mealy-mouthed men are not living the example of Jesus.
In the end, the opinions of some clucking hen, taking offense on behalf of a man quite confident in himself already, means nothing to me. As the old saying goes, “Throw a rock into a pack of dogs, and the one that yips is the one that you hit.” Feel free to shatter my “glass house” of hypocrisy if you see where I do not live up to my profession. It is better that I am insulted today than be forever damned. Niceness is not a synonym for love and Jesus was not some “you do you” hippy either. And this insulted woman would know that if she would read (or was able to comprehend) the Bible. Jesus didn’t come so that we can be feckless and ineffectual, he came to upset the status quo and the religious elites were his favorite targets.
It is better that I rhetorically cut false teachings to pieces now, while those holding them can still be saved, than allow anyone to go unwarned to final their final judgment and be cut to pieces, thrown in a fire, and destroyed. The yelps of those insulted and offended are proof that the message is true enough to not be laughed off as a joke. Those using the Gospel of Jesus to sell their political-ideological Social Justice wares, trying to enslave others to their repackaged Marxist philosophy, will find no quarter here. I will whip them, and whip them good, with the truth of God’s word.
‘Tis the season for conservative Mennonites to preen on social media about their apolitical “kingdom Christian” stance. These Biblical fundamentalists, with an Anabaptisty twist, talk about worldly politics more than many in the voting public do and never miss an opportunity to distinguish themselves with their rude apologetics.
Any more I try to ignore this noxious grandstanding display of religious elitism. But then I saw a video post, with a title proclaiming a change of mind about voting and featuring someone that I’ve run into on various occasions in my travels and as part of an online Mennonite discussion forum. I’m quite familiar with his long-held positions and this claim of transformation astonished me.
Perhaps he had voted in a mock election in grade school or something?
Anyhow, starting in general…
The Utterly Non-Revolutionary Act of Not Voting
Mennonites, like other Anabaptists, have built entire religious doctrines around cherry-picked Biblical phrases. The words “be not conformed to this world,” lifted from Romans 12:2, is used to justify everything from not driving motorized vehicles and dressing like it is still the 1800s to condemning military service and not voting in elections. That is standard fare for all traditional or Old Order Anabaptists.
But Fundamentalized Mennonites, unlike their Amish and Old Order Mennonite cousins, feel this unquenchable need to broadcast and announce all that they do. Ignoring the not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing advice that Jesus gave, while slamming hypocrites. Mennonite fundamentalists, taking their cues from Protestant fundamentalists, are all about political influence and religious apologetics.
The disdainful retort of a Mennonite gentleman to those who dared to talk about voting in his presence, “I vote on my knees!” This sanctimonious announcement, alluding to prayer rather than direct involvement in the political process, was met appropriately with humorous remark to the effect that crawling to the ballot box being an odd way to vote. But it does also describe the strange dichotomy, or rather the inconsistent application, of non-conformity rules.
The grand irony is that this kind of political non-participation does not make someone unique from ‘the world’ as religious separatists claim.
Well, voting or not voting is a habit, they do not believe that their vote matters, or simply do not care about the outcome one way or another. So this idea that not participating in elections is some sort of notable stand or great sacrifice is pure delusion. Not voting is literally as much like ‘the world’ as you can get. It is not revolutionary. It is a nihilistic cultural default, a bit Gnostic, and requires doing nothing. However, unlike most non-voters who have no need to explain their apathy for the democracitic process, conservative Mennonite fundamentalists have a great need to spiritualize and broadcast their decisions.
Sure, unlike other fundamentalists, who do vote and promote political involvement, the conservative Mennonite variety proudly distinguishes themselves in other ways. But they still go to universities like Bob Jones or Liberty University, fundamentalist bastions, and pick up the Evangelical attitude to apply to their Anabaptist doctrinal defaults. So, rather than simply live out their faith, like their forbearers, they must be “in your face” about their views, constantly propagandizing and promoting their supposedly ‘Anabaptist’ or purportedly ‘kingdom’ perspectives, and otherwise making sure that you notice them. If it seems self-aggrandizing and obnoxious, then it most certainly is. Worse, they are completely arbitrary and inconsistent in how they apply these supposed “Biblical principles” that justify positions they’ve inherited, never seriously reconsidered, and want to ram down your throat.
How do I know?
I was one of them. I would argue my Mennonite fundamentalism confidently with my teachers in high school. In college, I wrote a position paper to explain my inherited non-resistance dogma, thinking that my take would be fresh. But, for my efforts, ended up with a classroom more fully unconvinced of non-resistence than they would be had I said nothing at all.
Anyhow, while most from my own religious communities lean towards conservative politics. A few got out of this Mennonite intellectual ghetto long enough to read a little Karl Marx, meet some Socialists. And, now, armed with this new knowledge, come back to their conservative peers with a superior attitude and a whole new set of empty platitudes, borrowed from ‘the world’ they claim to stand apart from, that require nothing of them. They proclaim themselves to be different, imagine themselves to be the revolutionary thinkers, yet are really nothing but a new blend of the same old political ideologies, tired religious dogmas, and general nonsense.
It was one such story of a ‘transformation’ that caught my eye because I actually knew the guy and know him too well to be bamboozled by his slickly packaged testimonial.
The Completely Non-Transformative Transformation
I’m not going to reveal the source. More clicks will only encourage them. But it did not take long into the apologetics video to reveal that the title a bit deceptive, when this conservative Mennonite apologist confessed, “the truth is I’ve never actually voted.”
So, I guess a more upfront and honest title, such as “Mennonite-born Confirms His Confirmation Bias,” isn’t propaganda-ish enough to sell the point?
Anyhow, to be clear, he never changed his mind, he might have momentarily been slightly more open to the idea of political involvement before reverting back to the Mennonite default position. And, sure, his political positions may have evolved slightly from right-wing anarchist and anti-government to being slightly more left-wing anarchist, definitely anti-conservative and even more anti-government. But, in the decades that I’ve known him, he’s always had this smug sounding “voting only encourages them” signature line.
What is truly interesting is that this particular individual?
Simultaneous to his decrying the violent and coercive means of the state, he had also worked as a government employee and profited by these means for many years. That’s right. This man who claims that voting is some big moral quandary, because government uses force and threats, had no issues with taking money obtained by those means for years.
And yet, somehow, to merely cast a ballot is too much for them to stomach?
If voting is wrong, if political solutions are wrong, then how isn’t his taking through this system is extremely wrong?
If he really believes that the government is illegitimate, that we should not participate so much as to cast a ballot, then he ought to do as Zacchaeus did. He should return all of his ill-gotten gains, he should pay it all back with interest to us who paid his salary, and put his money where his fundamentalist Mennonite mouth is.
But what is, by far, the most disturbing thing about this video is the shameless promotional for progressive politics it contained. While claiming to be apolitical. He pushed the far-left social justice agenda as if this is what Jesus taught. Confusing what we should do as individuals, as a church, with the obligations of a nation. How disengious an argument. How heretical a theological position. How contradictory with his own religious tradition.
In short, the kingdom of heaven, especially their conservative Mennonite version, does not have open borders and will turn people away for falling short of requirements. Scripture lists whole long lists of who will and will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (false teachers one of them) and this studious fellow would certainly be aware. And, no, it is not cruelty or indifference that keeps some out. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Kingdom has borders to keep unrepentant murderers, rapists and other abusers away from those whom they exploited. So this criticism of nations for enforcement of reasonable border policies, for the protection of the nation and those trying to escape horrendous conditions, is asinine.
Imagine that, a conservative Mennonite, part of a denomination known for their strict standards for entry (oftentimes over the slightest minutia of application) taking issue with a nation for taking some precaution and vetting immigrants.
I mean, as one practically engaged to a woman who needs to navigate our immigration system, I have every reason in the world to want the current system to be made easier. And, despite that, despite my own personal struggle waiting on the cumbersome process, I still completely understand and appreciate that we have civil authorities to protect citizens and promote peace. I love her, and my neighbors, enough to want to keep evildoers out. Her uncle was murdered in her home country, as was her grandpa, both good men, it would be absolutely immoral for me to open the flood gates so that their murderers could follow her in.
Ultimately, had this fundamentalist Mennonite commentator stayed politically neutral (rather than parrot a leftist ideological position while falsely claiming to be apolitical) I may have let the duplicitous transformation claim slide.
I’m completely okay with someone being apolitical and not voting if they believe that is what their religious beliefs require of them. But I am completely not okay with? I’m completely not okay with misleading testimonials and phony claims of being apolitical while promoting a political position. I’m especially not okay with the hypocrisy of saying the government is violent, therefore we must not cooperate so much as to vote, while also being on the take end and unrepentant about it.
This one was a little more personal because I knew the character making the claim and it was so typical of the fundamentalist tainted brand of Mennonitism that I came from. Mennonite Evangelicals love to distinguish themselves from other Evangelicals, both products of Fundamentalism, by pointing to their Anabaptist doctrines (namely non-resistance and non-conformity) as if it is something revolutionary when, in fact, they are often religious promoters of progressive politics who oddly also decide they are also above voting.
Voting bad, taxes good…
Drinking the Kool-Aid of Evangelical Humanism
It started so wonderfully, a charismatic young leader blended concern for the poor and racial inequality with a Gospel message. Eventually this “Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ” moved from Indiana to sunny California where this social justice preacher, James Warren Jones, found a more receptive and racially diverse audience. He grew his following to a few thousand members, enough to gain the attention of left-wing political leaders, and hired an African-American preacher to further the social justice message.
Jones and his so-called “Peoples Temple” moved progressively in the direction of openly displaying their true Marxist intentions. Their home for senior citizens directly quoted Karl Marx, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” and drew parallels between this political ideology and Christian teachings. Jones became increasingly divisive, increasingly open with his far-left rhetoric, and increasingly controlling as time went on. Jones, the cult leader, preying on the urban poor and minorities, now pushed an idea of “religious communalism” and used various passages of Scripture to justify this aggressive push towards Socialism.
Of course, maybe some of you already know how this story ends, at Jonestown, where Jim Jones, the leader of this nasty narcissistic polygamous mess, ordered his followers to drink poisoned Kool-Aid. The infamous Jonestown Massacre, in the Socialist paradise (or rather a hellhole) in Guyana, totaled 909 dead, either by suicide or murdered outright, including a Congressman sent to investigate allegations of abuse. Jones was always only a wolf in sheep’s clothing, he was merely using a twisted version of Biblical texts for his political and personal ends. He was able, with this heretical blend, to lead hundreds of people to their deaths. And sadly, despite this sobering example, many still “drink the Kool-Aid” of social justice and end up spiritually dead having jettisoned the true Gospel.
Those who fall for the social justice ‘Gospel’ have indeed traded their birthright for a bowl of pottage. They, like Judas, have interpreted the words of Jesus through the lens of their worldly aims. They, like the betrayer of Christ, take the instruction of Christ, “sell all and give to the poor” as some kind of end in itself and not in the context of divine pursuit. It is not because they are far from Jesus. No, in fact, there is only a subtle difference. Judas may well have been the best of the disciples, trusted with the common purse, and able to quote the words of Jesus concerning the poor right back at him. And he was not alone in his confusion about the words of Jesus either. All of the disciples seemed to have worldly power and prestige in mind. They did not anticipate the life of suffering and sacrifice.
The close counterfeit is the most dangerous. Many warn of the crude caricatures and obviously flawed copies of the truth. However, when they encounter something that appears, on the surface, to be the genuine article, what do they do? They let down their guard, may even praise the effort, and never realize the missing substance behind the effort. The substance, of course, being that the purpose of everything a Christian does is worship. True, following after the instruction to give to the poor, in the context of Christian faith, will create a better world. However, when turned into some legalistic prescription and for the intention of political end, like social justice, it very quickly becomes abusive.
But Jim Jones wasn’t the first to start to push a brand of Socialism and defiance against ordained authority, there was an Anabaptist cult with similar views. The Münster Anabaptists were the true radicals of the so-called “radical reformation” and are the likely cause of the eventual crackdown on all Anabaptists. They too promised ‘the kingdom’ siding with the poor and the peasants, but their “new Jerusalem” very quickly ended up a polygamous nightmare. This disaster is why the “non-resistent” theology won out. This is why conservative Mennonites and Amish have remained relatively apolitical.
Returning to the Vomit of Münster
Modern Mennonites, of all stripes, share a similar antipathy towards authority. Those on the ‘conservative’ end of the spectrum are defiant towards things like Covid-19 restrictions or anything that interferes with their own agenda, while those on the ‘progressive’ side stand against everything from the punishment of evildoers and even national borders. The only significant difference is that the conservatives, like most other conservatives, mostly want to be left alone to practice their religion. While the progressives would be happy to use government to enforce social obligations on their neighbors. Where the conservatives can be neglectful of their neighbors, the progressives (like their worldly counterparts) are enthusiastically abusive.
I’ve noticed many privileged Mennonites, raised in conservative Evangelical/fundamentalist churches, in reaction to their own former ignorance, veer hard to the left.
They were raised in Mennonite homes, lived in Mennonite communities, went to Mennonite schools and a few finished their education in fundamentalist institutions. Most of their lives, unlike my own, they spent in this Mennonite cloister, then they go to the big city somewhere and find out other people see a different perspective from the only one that they knew existed. But rather than apply a grain of salt, or show any spiritual discernment whatsoever, they swallow the newly discovered grievance narratives lock, stock and barrel. They cheer on, from their ivory towers, the “people power” of those disrupting their neighbors, ignore or justify the violence of those destroying cities, and think their support for Barrabus is doing the Lord’s work.
They are blind guides, more misguided than the Mennonite traditionalists whom they frequently condemn, condescend and criticize, and yet imagine themselves to be the true standard-bearers for Anabaptism. And they are, but Anabaptist in the same way as Münsterites and of the same spirit as those religious elites whom Jesus taunted in this passage:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
(Matthew 23:29-32 NIV)
I mean, woe…
Leftward aligned, and “kingdom Christians” are less committed than their Anabaptist predecessors and yet making the same mistakes. They claim to be above the politics of this age, apolitical even, and pose as the enlightened minds, but are really lacking in introspection and this:
These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
(2 Peter 2:17-22 NIV)
Few Mennonites actually read the writings of Menno Simons, but many are familiar with his poem, “True Evangelical Faith,” a presentation that orients the reader towards the earthy and practical ministries of the church, and some of the reason he is described as an “evangelical humanist” by various sources. No, he would certainly not support the leftist policies of our day nor was he completely aligned with the Anabaptist comrades in Münster. But this understanding of the words of Jesus too easily transforms into left-wing anarchist politics and is very often misconstrued as an endorsement of Socialism.
Couple this with the Zwinglian denial of spiritual and mystical aspects of what Jesus taught, common to all Anabaptists, along with the political ambitions of the historical Anabaptist leftists, who in their zealousness, overthrew the ordained government of a German city named Münster, and you can know where this ‘kingdom’ is headed.
The contempt for authority is already there, the loss of a truly divine orientation is already there as well, and now they align themselves with those rebellious against all authority and acting out in violence.
This turn towards left-wing politics, those doing apologetics for grievance culture, are urging the faithful to take a big gulp of the same Kool-Aid that was passed around Jonestown. It is the same spirit that led to the horrendous violence of the Münster Rebellion. It is not remotely Christian even if it uses the words of Christ as justification.
Judas too used the words of Jesus. He deceptively used the words of Jesus, “sell all and give to the poor,” as a means to admonished a faithful woman for her impracticality worship of pouring out perfume on the feet of the Lord. He, like a Marx-inspired fundamentalist calling ornate houses of worship a waste, told this woman that she should have sold the perfume to give to the poor. He used his position, as follower of Jesus and disciple, an advocate of the ‘kingdom’ as he understood it, to hide his actual political ambitions. For this smug comment he earned the sharp rebuke of Jesus.
Those lapping up the radical leftist vomit of Münster Anabaptists, in modern forms, will be worse off than their more-traditional Mennonite counterparts. Marxist philosophy is not compatible with the message of the cross nor is this ‘kingdom’ opposition to the established government Christian. They might be sincere. Many are misled by them. But there is no reason for me to suspect that Judas, or others like him who betrayed Christ and the church, were insincere. Had Judas been only a fraud, why would he have despairingly taken his own life?
Oh proud Anabaptist. Oh fundamentalist with all of the answers and no actual wisdom. Oh you Evangelicals who are all talk and very little understanding, who flail to the right or to the left every time, desperate to be relevant. Oh you closeted Marxists, with worldly ambitions, posing as agents of the kingdom. Repent now, before it is too late!
Turn Not to the Right or the Left
Every so often a quote pops up, at the right exact time, so poignant, that it appears to be a gift from God. And such was the case when this quote was shared on my news feed while contemplating politics and examining my own stance as far as ideological positions. I tend to be right-wing. I do believe that the role of government is to set some basic boundaries, look out for the “common good,” and stay completely out of my personal business. But I also see the folly of individualism, the need of communities and voluntary cooperation between people.
I see both right and left-wing extremes, both totalitarianism and anarchism, as unChristian and dangerous. But never had succinct words to describe why this is, at least not before reading this quote:
There are two kinds of ‘atheism’: the atheism of the right, which professes to love God and ignores neighbor; and the atheism of the left, which professes to love neighbor and ignores God.
This quote hits the problems of both sides squarely on the head. The ‘right’ frequently takes their independence too far, they become neglectful in regards to loving their neighbors and in this have rejected God. The ‘left’ on the other hand, professes their compassion for the oppressed and downtrodden, but this often is nothing but human effort that neglects worship. Both the right and left are motivated by selfishness. Both, at different levels, are looking for freedom or control. However, the left is much better at hiding their lust for power and true atheism under a veil of altruism.
It is interesting that frequently, in Scripture, we see passages warning against veering right or left, like this one:
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
(Joshua 1:7 NIV)
My guess is that partisan alignments, rightward or leftwards, take our focus off of the divine. Instead of being focused on Jesus, and theosis, we become mired in political controversy and tribes. It is true, we cannot serve two masters. And political ideologies, on a horizontal plane, will distract us from the vertical alignment. No, we do not stop eating worldly food or drinking physical water as ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven. Nor do we cease to choose McDonald’s rather than Burger King. But, as the Divine Liturgy reminds the faithful, “put not your trust in princess and sons of man in whom there is no salvation.”
A Christian Perspective of Government
There is a vast difference between the glutton, who looks to food as an end unto itself, and the traveler on the path of repentance who eats to be nourished enough for the days work. Political involvement, preferring candidate A over candidate B, is not sinful anymore than eating or any other choice. We are in the world, even if not of the world, and it is silly to pretend to be aloof from it all. But when politics becomes an obsession, when ideologies become idols, when we veer too much the right or the left, the look out. We imperil our own salvation when we turn to the political philosophy and economic systems of men for our help rather than God.
The Kingdom of Heaven is not a rival to any earthly kingdom. No, it is on an entirely different plane from any worldly government and those saying otherwise are false teachers. Sure, yes, the political and religious leaders of the time saw Jesus as a threat to their power, they were confused about the Kingdom as much as the disciples. But never did Jesus show any interest in overthrowing them. Instead, he acknowledged the authority of those who “sit in the seat of Moses” (Matthew 23:21) and told his followers to do what they instructed.
Jesus and those who followed him never once questioned the legitimately applied authority of Rome. St. Paul, even despite enduring brutal mistreatment at the hands of Roman authorities, having every reason to be scornful of them, instructed thusly:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
(Romans 13:1-7 NIV)
It cannot be spelled out any more clear than that. The authorities, in their capacity to punish evildoers, are divinely ordained, acting on behalf of God, and not to be resisted. To rebel against them, we are told, is to rebel against God.
Of course, this is where some smarmy Anabaptist ‘kingdom’ pusher will interject, to excuse their own topic and rebellious spirit, by saying “Well, America was started by a rebellion,” or “occupies stolen land” and go on to suggest this excuses or exempts them from applying St. Paul’s instruction. They, in their woeful arrogance, have appointed themselves to be the judge of nations rather than simply pray for their leaders and obey Jesus as they ought. And this is because they, like Judas before them, are duplicitous and truly more obsessed with worldly power than they let on. For them, the ‘kingdom’ is merely a front for political ambitions, it is so they can feel righteous in their contempt for what is ordained by God.
The idea of “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36 NIV) and the refusal of Jesus to even stand up to the miscarriage of justice, should put to rest this notion that there should be a rivalry between the Christians and civil authorities. If Jesus even refused to stand up to their abuses, how much more should we be willing to respect and submit to what is truly part of their God-ordained mission?
Both the church, and government, are ordained authorities. One is established for our own good as those traveling through this world and the other is a Kingdom that transcends everything in the world. I have no problem with those who do not vote because they do not believe worldly governance is the right place for a Christian. But it is incredible hypocrisy that those won’t so much as vote will turn the teachings of Jesus into a political message and use this in confrontation with civil authorities. Who are we to judge another man’s servants?
Instead of competition with God’s ordained authorities, snide remarks or violent protests, try this instead:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
(1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV)
In conclusion, those so delusional that they can’t fathom God using imperfect men probably should not vote. In their arrogance and delusion of their own righteousness they would be incapable of making a sound decision. Again, I have absolutely no problem with anyone who chooses to abstain from political involvement. The further along we are in our faith the more we will trust the means of prayer and leave our worldly concerns behind. But, that said, I likewise do not stand in condemnation of those who, out of love for their own families and neighbors, appreciation for their nation, participate in the most peaceable manner possible.
Diesel powers the world economy. I never considered the extent to which that is true until watching a documentary (click here to view it) about this type of internal combustion engine. It is named after the inventor, a French-German mechanical engineer, Rudolf Diesel, and is the reason why global trade is possible to the extent it is.
Early Diesel design, circa 1897
In considering the story of Diesel, his brilliant invention and the results, I could not help but see the pattern all too common with innovators. Diesel’s life turned tragic, he was found floating in the North Sea, dead of an apparent suicide, and likely a result of his despair over the unintended consequences of his own design.
According to biographical accounts, Diesel was a utopian idealist who had hopes that his invention would be a catalyst for social change, free the common man and break corporate monopolies. Unfortunately, while a revolution for transportation, Diesel power did not achieve the lofty social vision.
Worse, the Diesel engine found use as a part in an efficient killing machine, the German U-boat, and this no doubt grieved the pacifist inventor.
Here are some observations…
#1) What is intended for good can often be used for evil.
Diesel had never intended his invention be used as a means of terrorizing North Atlantic shipping lanes. And, likewise, many scientists and inventors had regrets related to their greatest contribution to the world.
I worry about this as a blogger. Once my thoughts are out there they cannot be contained again. Will someone pick up my words and run with them in a direction I never intended? It is a potential outcome that could scare a sensitive soul into silence and is at least a reason for me to be prayerful in what I post here.
I believe there are many people who do not thoroughly think through the potential unintended consequences of the ideas they promote. There are many government programs and social movements intended for good that might actually be creating more problems than the one that they were intended to solve.
Which takes me to a second point…
#2) Yesterday’s revolution is today’s loathed source of inequality and evil.
It is ironic that the invention that did actually outcompete coal for market supremacy is now enemy #1 for many. The internal combustion engine won in the marketplace because it was by far the cheapest most efficient means to power transportation and still remains.
Given there are no steam powered cars, tractors, trains and ships anymore, it is clear that internal combustion is the best bang for the buck and remains to be rivaled. Diesel powered locomotives and ocean going container ships are extremely powerful while being very economical.
109,000-horsepower Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C
Diesel power still outperforms hybrid technology—A loaded Diesel powered class 8 truck is more efficient pound for pound than a Prius.
Think about it: It takes one gallon of fuel to move an 80,000lb truck five to seven miles. A 2016 Prius, by comparison, carries a weight of around 4000lbs can go anywhere from 50 to 58 miles on a gallon of fuel. It may seem the Toyota is greener until you consider that it is moving twenty times less weight. Twenty Prius cars combined together, after dividing their individual consumption by twenty, would consume 2.5 to 2.9 gallons of fuel. Now, obviously, combining Diesel and hybrid technology on the scale of class 8 truck would undoubtedly yield even greater results if fuel economy were the only concern, but the point remains that Diesel power is extremely efficient and effective—and only more so the larger the application.
So what’s the problem?
Well, the current popular perception is that the petroleum industry “big oil” is the enemy and conspires to hold back technology that would dramatically increase efficiency. Worse than that, we are told that petroleum power is a source of global climate change and a threat to the global ecology. Poor Diesel would be driven even further into despair if half this is true. We fight over oil.
#3) Progressive aims of our time are at odds with each other or self-contradictory.
Globalism, higher standard of living for more people and environmentalist ‘green’ movements are at odds with each other. Pushing one direction will almost invariably come at the cost of the others.
Progressive politicians may tout an idea of a ‘green economy’ as a jobs creator, but the reality has been that wind and solar energy can only remain competitive through heavy use of government subsidies. Beyond that, even with the help, domestic ‘green’ manufacturing is unsustainable against foreign competition. At best we will merely replace jobs lost by the heavy regulations placed on fossil fuels and raise costs of living across the board.
Furthermore, it was the progressive policies of the past century that have created the current conditions. Government policies like the Rural Electrification Act, the Interstate highway system and trade agreements have actually moved us away from a more sustainable less polluting lifestyle. Our cheap and easy movement from place to place has harmed community and local markets.
Rural Electrification Act propaganda poster.
It is hard to know how the current landscape would look had the progressives of yesterday had not literally paved the way for suburban sprawl, the trucking industry (that currently employs me) and driven us to embrace a coal powered grid. But I do suspect more of our food would be locally grown, more of our products locally produced and solar energy far more the norm in places utilities would be to costly to maintain unless mandated by law.
In final analysis things might not be as dismal as they seem.
It is easy to focus on the negative without considering the good. The means of today are likely as unsustainable as the means of yesterday and therefore the progress of the past century might not be the end of us after all. The only consistent reality in the past two centuries has been that markets constantly change.
Canal boats an all the infrastructure to support them were soon replaced by steam power and railroads. In Pennsylvania the lumber industry rose in prominence before a rapid decline after the states wooded mountains were reduced to stubble. The coal industry once put food on the table for boat loads of immigrants before cheap efficient oil and a multitude other factors conspired against it.
Certainly the overconfidence and optimism about today’s new solution may become the big disappointment of tomorrow. Yet, do we really wish to go back to a time when a transatlantic voyage was only something a religious zealot or crazy Viking explorer would do? Would we really rather spend most of our time scrounging for just enough to eat as to avoid the possibility of mechanized warfare?
Nobody knows for certain why Diesel died...
However, what is certain is that his invention changed the world and provided a means for interstate commerce and global trade that never existed before. The pacifying effect of global trade, economic benefits of an expanded market place and inexpensive power are largely unappreciated. But we probably do have Diesel to thank for helping create the long peace and prosperity of our time.
In an age of information overload, where we know about beheadings in the Middle East before the people the next town over would have heard a century ago, it is difficult for our finite minds to contextualize and easy to become overwhelmed. This, with an accompanying loss of faith, could be why middle-aged American white males are committing suicide(supposedly the most privileged in the world) and at an alarmingly increasing rate.
Diesel’s pessimism about the future in retrospect seems to have been premature and his nightmarish perception of reality overstated. In like manner many of our modern fears and despair inducing thoughts about the future could be negativity bias and nothing more. Every generation seems to believe that the world is falling apart and still here we are.
Whatever the case, ignore the fear-mongering propaganda of the punditry and politicians. Embrace temperance, a spiritual quality developed through faith, over mindless reaction and fearful impulse. Trust God to secure the future, we can only live one day at a time and never ever lose hope! If you are depressed about events in the world today, I invite you to see the higher perspective:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Perhaps the greater of two evils will be elected come November and drive the nation to complete ruin.
Who knows besides God?
We may all die tomorrow, we will all die eventually, our work blown away in the wind of time and forgotten. Everything comes to pass, nothing will remain as we know it today, but there is hope beyond all hope found in an eternal perspective. So look up, because the sun is still shining and the future remains bright!
Do you see the light and feel the warmth of hope eternal?
The latest salvo in the fight is over the current segregation of public restrooms. The proponents of change and traditionalists battle it out for control on social media and in the public arena.
Both argue the moral inferiority of the other side. Both claim to be defending the security of their loved ones. Both threaten to take punitive measures against those who do not comply with their demands.
It is a fight where nobody seems to win and everyone comes out a loser. But what if this two sided debate is actually false dichotomy? Could there be a third option solution where all could win?
Perhaps, if all sides of this struggle for control could put down their rhetorical and political weapons for a moment, there is a better example to follow?
I believe there is a better ‘third’ way that is neither dogmatically religious nor demandingly progressive. I believe there is an alternative where all can win and none lose.
However, before I can get to the solution I need to discuss where the other options fall short and to do this I have defined a few categories.
(Please understand in advance that there is overlap between my categories and many people may not fall neatly into one or another.)
1) Liberal ‘progressive’ or secular values are marketed as love, tolerance, inclusion and open-mindedness. The promise is a more fair or high-minded society, but the result is often as petty and even more divisive than what it seeks to replace. It is morally incoherent, in one breath claiming to be non-judgmental and making more allowance for free expression, but in the next moment enforcing strict dogmas of politically correct language and behavior.
Those who do not comply with the moral edicts of progressives should be prepare to be shamed, belittled and bullied into silence. Those who fall away, question or challenge the new orthodoxy will be labeled as a bigot, racist, homophobe, misogynist, hateful or insensitive. The shouts of “don’t judge me” are often only a tool to drown out dissent and not a consistently applied principle. These bleeding hearts are out for blood as much as those they accuse of lacking understanding or compassion.
2) Conservative ‘nationalistic’ or established values are the present cultural norms and current notions of common sense. This is the flag waving proud patriotic perspective held by those who believe their own values (football, freedom and frequent beer consumption) represent the greatness of the American past, present and future. These are the biggest defenders of the status quo, their status quo, and never minding that their current cherished culture was formed yesterday.
These are the people who complain about outsourced jobs while simultaneously shopping at Walmart and criticizing as lazy those who aren’t as successful as them. This is the moral majority of the moment that sees their own privileges and preferences as fundamental rights without respect or consideration of those who see differently. They have also abandoned the traditional values of their parents and grandparents yet still condemn those who go a step further than them.
In their eyes America was almost always right. Historic injustice is white washed with a brush of romanticism. Slavery, racial inequality, segregation of schools, massacres and other abuses against native people are forgotten. The sins of our modern imperialistic aggression and global hegemony are downplayed. “It’s ‘merica, baby, land of the free, home of the brave!”
3) Religious ‘fundamentalist’ or traditional values are those out of the mainstream who claim to represent God’s will and freely judge all people—especially those outside of their own sub-cultural group. These self-proclaimed sanctimonious gatekeepers to the realm of moral truth annoy everyone who doesn’t share their own interpretations. People call them the “Bible-thumpers” and they come with a “holier then thou” attitude that is a major turn off to those outside their own cult.
They pose as authorities on spiritual matters. However, their knowledge doen’t seem to know much beyond their proof-texting and dogmas. They use “the Bible says” and selectively quote the Old Testament when it suits their own agenda. But gloss over and don’t deal honestly with other culturally inconvenient Biblical realities like captured brides, naked prophets and daughters sacrificed in God’s name.
They make fun of the sensitivity of the progressives and then cry “persecution” when they themselves are opposed. They feel entitled to a special privileged position in society as God’s favorites. They use grace as a cover for their own sins without extending the same to those who sin differently or disagree.
4) Faithful ‘Spirit And In Truth’ followers are those who pick up the cross and live to be a consistent example of self-sacrificial love. These are those who seek to be the literal embodiment of Jesus Christ. This means they follow his commandments to love their neighbors as themselves, to do unto others as they would have them do for us and, while seeking to purify themselves of evil, leave judgment outside to God.
It is a way that doesn’t seek power to impose on others and instead is committed to self-sacrificial love and leadership by example. It is the beautiful alternative to the endless cycles of reaction, retaliation and repeat again. It forgives and frees others of their sin debt to us. It builds a new identity in Jesus and is a truth that is lived more than preached.
How are Christian values different from progressive values?
There are some similarities. Jesus broke from the established religious and cultural standard. He identified with the societal outcasts and was full of compassion for hurting people.
But Jesus did not turn to more law or greater regulation of offending behavior as the solution. He did not urge a political fight or demand his voice be heard by government authorities. He did not lead massive protests against the privileged and powerful. Instead Jesus showed the example to follow, he offered his own life as atonement for the sins of others and forgave offenses.
How are Christian values different from ‘traditional’ American values?
There are many who characterize America as a ‘Christian’ nation and really do a disservice to the truth in this. America does have some ‘Christian’ values reflected in its history and did certainly provide a haven of religious freedom.
However, this conveniently glosses over the fact that founding fathers were not faithful. Thomas Jefferson, for example, cut out portions of the Bible he found disagreeable. Ben Franklin lived immorally according to a Christian standard.
The individualism, materialism and entitlement mentality of modern America is not in the least bit reflective of the teachings of Jesus.
How are Christian values different from religious and Biblical fundamentalist values?
Oftentimes it seems those who are closest to the truth who are the furthest away. Or, at least, this was the case with those who inherited the Scripture in Jesus day and thought of themselves as experts in morality. But human efforts, even the most diligent of human efforts, cannot bring anyone a step closer to the truth.
The truth, as found in Jesus, is not an accumulation of knowledge and careful application that leads to moral superiority. No, the way of Jesus is acknowledgement of our inability—it is humble, repentant and is fully dependent on the grace of God.
Putting down Peter’s sword…
We could have everyone forced to use the ‘right’ restroom without accomplishing anything more than Peter’s sword:
“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?'” (John 18:10-11)
Peter thought he was defending the truth and mission of Jesus, but actually stood in the way of God’s plan. Peter, who was rebuked on several occasions for his lack of understanding and overzealousness, treated the servant as sword practice.
By contrast, the John’s account treats the man Peter wounded as a unique individual with a name: Malchus. And, in a parallel account (Luke 22:51) Jesus demonstrates a different way, he heals the ear of Malchus—a man sent to bring him to his death—and showed the true Christian value.
Peter was fighting a losing battle. He had his own vision different from that of Jesus. He thought he was defending truth when in reality he was a part of the problem. He thought his act was one of total commitment to the cause when it was in fact the opposite.
Peter’s act is perfect a metaphor of what happens when those of us who claim faith in Jesus go out militantly defending our own religious values with political force—we cut off ears.
And picking up the cross to follow Jesus…
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'” (Matthew 16:21-23)
Here Peter was completely willing to fight for the kingdom of God, but for his enthusiasm is called small minded, a stumbling block and mouthpiece for Satan.
Can you imagine how Peter felt?
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?'” (Matthew 16:24-26)
This was not what Peter or the other disciples had in mind. They pictured themselves as co-rulers of a worldly kingdom and had been arguing things like who would sit on the right hand of Jesus on his earthly throne when they finally defeated Rome.
But Jesus paints a picture entirely different. He’s predicting his death, a painful and humiliating death on a Roman cross, while urging them to follow the same path of self-sacrificial love. He was trying to explain a reality bigger than their worldly political visions and values.
What are Christian values?
Jesus, after being baptized, after receiving the Spirit’s anointing and being tempted in the wilderness, announced the start of his ministry by quoting the prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
That is where we start. That is Christian values in a nutshell.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already…” (John 3:17-18)
That’s the good news. Jesus didn’t come to condemn anyone, but to heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, forgive impossible debts, reconcile relationships with God and bring freedom to those condemned to death. It was a message of restoration and hope, not condemnation.
Christian values begin and end in living out the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not a progressive, not a defender of cultural status quo nor a religious fundamentalist, his values were higher and spiritual. He was not seeking legal power or political advantage so he could impose on others, that wasn’t his fight.
“Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.'” (John 18:36)
Having Christian values means one shares the same priorities as Jesus. It means talking up the cross of self-sacrificial love and showing the way of grace. Jesus was not a cultural warrior seeking to impose values by force of law or a sword, instead he is an advocate for those lost in sin.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what restroom your neighbor uses, that is an argument where both sides lose and a distraction. What matters is how our own attitudes and actions reflect those of Jesus Christ.
We must put our rhetorical swords down. We must love our (political) enemies and heal rather than cut off ears.