Five for Friday

8.24.12Here are some great links that will get you to think. Enjoy!

The Danger of Calling Behavior ‘Biblical’ – Great article by Rachel Evans. Read slowly through this one.

The Business Case for Reading Novels – Why I’ve read every book by John Grisham and Tom Clancy (among many others), and why it’s not a waste of time.

Create a Great Experience – Incredible insight by Brad Lomenick. Why we work so hard to make the Mt Vernon Church experience what it is each week.

Dave Ramsay’s 3 Keys to Being Awesome – True words by Jon Acuff.

The Inside Story of Charles and Andy Stanley – If you know either of these men, this article is well worth the read.

Five for Friday

Wednesday and Thursday I wrote about the fallout from the election. This Five for Friday will be one last cathartic experience to try and put the bitterness of the election behind us.

The People Have Spoken – What Should Christians Do Now? – Great thoughts from Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research.

3 Things the Church Can Learn from the Election of 2012 – If you love the church, you need to read this post.

Christians, Let’s Honor the President – Great reminder from Russell Moore of Southern Seminary.

Bigger Fish to Fry Than Politics – Desiring God and priority of disciple making.

Postscript of a Presidential Election – Final thoughts from Thom Rainer of Lifeway Christian Resources.

Bonus Article: Slow Train Coming – Great perspective of how this election was decided fifty years ago.

 

A Letter To Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Although I did not vote for you, I will support you as my president. I understand that you bear a greater and deeper burden then most Americans could ever fathom. In and of itself, the presidency is a responsibility too great for any one man. The time for politicking and posturing is now over. The people have spoken. It is time to put away what divides us and come together around what unites us.

As a follower of Christ, I am commanded repeatedly throughout the New Testament to honor those in positions of authority (1 Pet. 2:13-14, 1 Tim. 2:1-2, Acts 23:26, Acts 24:2, 1 Pet. 2:17, Rom. 13:7). While ‘honoring’ does not mean blanket endorsement, it does mean I am to honor and show proper respect for those God has put in places of authority. While we’ll never agree on contentious issues such as abortion (you support a woman’s right to choose, I support a child’s right to live), that does not give me license to dishonor you. To do so would be to dishonor the God who is Sovereign over all things.

My vote was not determined by geography, race, political party, or religious affiliation. My overriding concern in the election was economic. I fear that the entitlements we are enjoying now are crippling the economic future for my three young boys. We cannot sustain the levels of spending and debt that we are currently employing. If we cannot get our economic house in order, then our future is grim.

Please don’t get sucked into the partisan nature of politics that have polarized Washington and poisoned our faith in the governmental system. The toxic nature of Washington politics have paralyzed the political process and made it nearly impossible for any worthwhile to be accomplished. Rather than using your moment in power to score political points, please use your position of influence to show both Democrats and Republicans how to rise above petty politics and serve the greater (long-term) interests of this nation.

Although I don’t agree with the idea of higher taxes to enable a lifestyle that erodes a strong work ethic, I will gladly pay my taxes, whatever they are. Thankfully, I learned a long time ago that ‘my’ money isn’t really my money. It’s God’s. He just lets me play with it for awhile. Take what you want; my God has and will continue to provide for me.

I will commit to pray for you as a husband, father, and leader of our country. I will pray that your marriage to Michelle will stay strong and that you will love and honor her as your wife. I will pray that you will continue to be a strong and involved parent to Sasha and Malia, knowing how important it is for girls to have a loving father in their lives. And I’ll pray that God will continue to  grant you wisdom, discernment, and courage to be a great leader for our country.

Sincerely,

Josh Daffern

(Image Credit)

A Faith Of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars, by Jonathan Merritt

On the day that our nation is deciding its future for the next four years, it’s fitting to pull back for a moment and reflect on evangelical Christianity’s impact on American politics over the last few generations.

Jonathan Merritt is uniquely positioned to offer words of insight into this delicate subject. Born and raised in an environment that actively engaged in religious culture wars, he had a front row seat to watch conservatives such as Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority have its run of influence in American politics. Merritt even went so far as to attend Liberty University, the fusion of evangelical Christianity and politics in America today.

His critique of Christianity in politics and religious culture wars is scathing. Looking back at the addiction to power and lack of movement on any of the touchstone moral issues (such as gay marriage and abortion), Merritt correctly calls the Christian culture war a failed experiment.

The fundamental question that Christians struggle with is this: how involved should we be in our political system? In the end, the answer is balanced and nuanced. The Bible commands Christians to engage in the world, not withdraw. When you go to either extreme, you diverge from where Jesus would have us walk. Some take the extreme withdrawal approach, where Christians should remove themselves from all societal involvement. This extreme only removes the light from an already dark world, making it even darker.

Merritt uses this book to argue against the opposite extreme: the over-involvement of Christians in politics to the point where we look to the political system (not God) for societal answers, where evangelical Christianity becomes synonymous with the Republican party, and where Christians attempt to legislate morality for the rest of society.

Drawing on personal experience and hefty research, Merritt makes a strong case that evangelicals over-engaging in the political process has not changed the moral fiber of America. Instead, it’s corrupted the moral fiber of the church. The result is a generation of young Christians actively disengaging from anything they see as partisan religious politics.

Merritt’s case in point was the 2008 election of Barack Obama. Seen as a blow to the ‘religious right,’ many scratched their heads to understand why so many young Christians would vote for a Democrat. As Merritt aptly states, the 2008 election “pointed to a larger narrative about a whole generation of Christ-followers who believe the culture-war model is broken and want to liberate their faith from its partisan captivity” (38).

Drawing correctly on history, Merritt looked at the early church and why it resisted the temptation to enter partisan politics in the Roman Empire, “they knew that politics is not the true threat; it’s thirst for power. Power can shipwreck even the most faithful follower” (65). Once Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and thrust upon it power and influence, Christianity diverted onto a path that it would not break free from for another thousand years.

Merritt and I grew up in similar backgrounds (pastors kids in Southern Baptist churches, educated at evangelical colleges), and while he had a much closer seat to the front line of the culture wars, we both experienced the same disenchantment.

As a ‘young Christian’ (since I’m 34, not sure how much longer I can use that label), I completely identify with Merritt’s description of the frustration my generation feels with the culture wars of our parents’ generation. For me, watching the Southern Baptist Convention vote to boycott Disney for its stand on homosexuality was the height of ineptitude. A body of churches that was supposed to be about spreading the gospel got more fired up about making a political point.

For me, the best quote in the book was actually from Tony Campolo, who said, “All too frequently, Christian activists at both ends of the spectrum see power as the primary instrument for saving the world. ‘If we just had the power,’ they say, ‘we could set everything right.’ I want to say to them, ‘I wonder why Jesus didn’t think of that!’” (80)

LESSONS LEARNED

1. Politics is not the ultimate answer. While evangelicals (Republicans) may decry the downward spiral of America over the past four years, recent history shows that evangelicals had incredible influence under the Reagan and Bush presidencies, and the decline did not stop.

2. The religious leaders that tried to dictate moral behavior in Jesus’ day were the Pharisees. While we castigate and demonize the Pharisees in our sermons, too many Christians act like them in society at large, giving everyone who calls on the name of Jesus a black eye.

3. The churches seeing the most life change seem to be the ones that operate outside of a denominational structure. The rise of non-denominational churches has been dramatic over the past generation. A reflection against the negative connotations of denominational politics, a new generation of churches have risen up to reach people without the denominational and political clutter.

I’m writing this review the day before the presidential election of 2012. I have no idea who will win. Most commentators are hedging their bets and saying it’s too close to call. Either way, 50% of the country will be disappointed by the end of the week. But politics isn’t our answer, nor is it our hope. Jesus still reigns, and the church still has everything it needs to change lives. We just need the church to remember that her power comes from Jesus, not from the political system.

The New Christian Agenda in Politics

As our crazy election season comes to a close, Jonathan Merritt has some great perspective on the history of American Christianity in politics over the last 50 years, and what a new generation of Christians (including me) are looking for in politics today.

Enjoy the video below. I’ll be reviewing his book “A Faith of Our Own” next Tuesday.

A Faith of Our Own

Five for Friday

Here’s a Five for Friday: political edition. I know everyone’s a little tense with the election. Let’s feed the dog that’s barking the loudest this week:

The Politics of Trust – why don’t we trust our politicians anymore?

The Church & Politics = A Mess – great words from a guy (Perry Noble) who tells you how it is.

The Inconsistent Logic of Abortion Rights Advocates – want to get politically touchy? Let’s talk abortion. Great dissection of the flaws behind the abortion rights advocates.

Why is Billy Graham So Involved in the 2012 Elections? – good article. What’s bringing Billy Graham out of retirement?

What am I Doing When I Vote? - what principles should guide you when you enter the voting booth?