Nothing baffles me more than the intersection of politics and conservative American Christianity.
The election of 2012 promises to pit more of the same old, same old against itself, as Republicrats and Democans battle to see who will preserve the status quo for the ruling powers that be. Into this fray comes the handwringing, conservative, evangelical Christians who will go on and on about “the soul of our nation” and “if my people will humble themselves and pray….”
I’m about as truly conservative as it gets, both in politics and theology, but anymore, I can’t identify with any of my supposed Christian brethren when it comes to governing the nation or running a church.
I don’t understand how supporting a pro-life GOP candidate makes one iota of difference in overturning the demonic Roe v. Wade. Pro-life politicians have had decades to work, even having insurmountable majorities at times, yet nothing has budged Roe even the slightest.
In addition, we keep electing politicians who campaign on platforms of reducing government, only to show their true big government colors once in office. They get in power, put out the nepotism shingle, and the next thing you know, a pack of Ivy League School frat brothers are running the country (club) again. Democrat or Republican? Who cares? It’s just a different set of frat rowdies subjecting the country to the same hazing.
Worse, we Christians are running our churches the same way. The same failed programs get repackaged year after year and voted on by church councils as the “new direction for our ministry”—only to wind up abandoned on the dustheap a year later, their ashes choking us, even as we ignore the coughing.
Something in the conservative Christian mindset has congealed around a set of unchanging parameters that has us locked into being neither all that conservative nor Christian. We’ve become unable to challenge the status quo and ask hard questions about why we keep failing to meet the goals we set for our nation or for our churches.
Honestly, I can’t think of a battle we are winning on a macro level, either for America or for Jesus. And if we want to be truly depressed, try finding a winning battle that is both for America and Jesus at the same time.
The problem as I see it is an inability to take every assumption we make as Americans and as Christians and put holy fire to it. When even our brightest minds are unable to ever ask the question “Why are we doing things this way?” then how is it that we can ever expect a different outcome? Unless we start challenging every practice we have forged within American politics and the American Church, we will be lost. The amount of bovine methane production from the sheer number of our sacred cows will keep reducing the amount of oxygen to our brains, and then what hope will we have?
Anyone familiar with computer software understands the concept of “skins.” The menu bar in your Web browser may look different from your neighbor’s, but it’s still Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox underneath. You just chose different art to “skin” your personal copy.
I look at Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama and I see the same underlying person, albeit with a different skin over the top. The same goes for our churches.
The problem is what lies underneath the skin. And we are failing to address those problems, instead swapping in different skins with the hope that our experience will be different.
But as the old Southerner opined, “Ain’t no sense putting lipstick on a pig.”
I can’t sit idly by and not question what’s underneath the skin. I won’t put lipstick on a pig and tell myself she’s a beauty.
We Christians have got to stop supporting systems that are based on a foundation of repeated failure. We must question not only the silliness in modern politics but also the identical silliness in our church praxis.
This is not about assaulting the core truths of the Gospel or of our Constitution, but it’s a hope that we will get back to what is truly important, while questioning everything else.
Why do we do what we do in our church meetings on Sunday? Why are we supporting Church systems that perpetually fail to produce disciples? Why do we run our churches like businesses, with hierarchies that are not only not biblical but actually rob average people of their God-given birthright to serve the brethren and not be just a passive lump deigned to absorb another Sunday message that won’t stick beyond Sunday lunch?
Why do we continue to elect cold, calculating political animals who are only in it for themselves and their Ivy League frat brothers? Why do we prattle on about change while electing the same old type of yahoo?
Is ANYONE asking that question?
Folks, it’s time for the sheep to wake up and heed these words of Jesus:
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
We’ve been solely innocent doves for too long, and it has not served well either our nation or our churches.
32 thoughts on “The Mystery of Why American Politics and American Churches Resist Change”
Meanwhile, the “real work” is getting done by organizations outside the churches (though not necessarily outside the Church). Most of the “disciples” I personally know belong to churches and are supported by their churches, but the organizations they work for (or lead) transcend the church and reach out to like-minded Christians who believe in their goals — whether they be missions to particular countries, preaching the gospel to kids and teens here in the US, or helping others to recover from the effects of criminally-run ‘churches’.
Even this Blog — CS — is it sanctioned by a particular church? Doubtful. If it was, you probably couldn’t say half the things you’ve said on it.
In other words, maybe the church isn’t the Church anymore. Just like politicians have become fundamentally interchangeable (with accessories to please their particular segment of constitutents), so have churches — and people tired of playing dress-up Barbie dolls have put aside childish things to go work on efforts that are more ‘real’.
Interesting perspective, Bob. Perhaps people have moved beyond the churches. If so, that’s a powerful repudiation and heartbreaking in its implications.
Many Christians who love Jesus Christ and reject the satanic new world order system realize what the churches have become part of.
I have been outside a church for many years, and would rather have the blessing and fellowship of local believers.
The politics of the majority of them with pastors praising Vatican-connected Mormon Glenn Beck from the pulpit and endless crusades and the police state, are enough to walk besides the endless false teachings.
This is what is happening behind the scenes, but it won’t be talked about in the media or elsewhere, outside some Emergents who want a piece of the action.
“Vatican-connected Mormon Glenn Beck”?
I smell Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory.
This was a great post. I wish that it was as easy as to say that we are where we are because we are just being “innocent doves.” the reality is that we’re a bunch of lazy pathetic sloths who don’t care enough about our so called “faith” to put in the effort to see if anything is going wrong. We just trust other people to make decisions for us and tell us what to think. It’s no surprise that such apathy leads to abuse by so-called “leaders”
Thanks for writing.
I don’t think it’s a case of laziness. I think its a case of paralysis, familiarity, and groupthink. If you start to thrash around, you might pull out the feeding lines that you’ve always been hooked to. That feels bad on multiple levels, but it’s the only way to get up and start living.
“But this is the way we’ve always done it” is the enemy of change in politics and the American Church. Asking WHY? does not come naturally in either case, as it paints one as a troublemaker or malcontent. No one wants to be labeled a problem child. Despite all our talk about individualism, being isolated from the herd still works as a form of punishment, and none of us wants to be punished.
I must say, I agree with a lot of what you’ve posted, but I’m tired of being “that guy” who is always talking about these things, and in the process seeing no progress and losing all my friends because I’ve gona radical or whatever…
You’ve identified the problems. And I wish it wasn’t just the blogosphere that saw them and was talking about them…
The “eternal” status of Roe v. Wade (next year it’ll be 40 years) should be all the evidence that is needed to prove how far America actually is being from a Christian nation. If it truly were the country simply wouldn’t have stood for abortion-on-demand, no matter what a bunch of liberal justices may have twisted in their own minds to justify the killing of children. Before I was a Christian I can tell you there was continual hand-wringing that leading Christian figures like James Dobson and evangelicals in general were in fact king-makers – when we are of course anything but. Naturally there still is the same hand-wringing going on over the influence of evangelicals – and deep concern that we’re somehow warping the political landscape to have it fit our vision (a little Googling will no doubt reveal many lengthy splenetic articles analyzing the apparent influence of American evangelicals on politics) – yet if they were simply to ask a Christian they’d realize all the concern was for naught. Our real influence on the political landscape is mostly fodder for Leftist agitprop rather than representative of any direct influence on the political process, legislation, and individual politicians (with perhaps a scarce few scattered out there). Ultimately this suggests the truly marginal nature of contemporary Christianity in America and how bland and amorphous and vague it has become. If it were truly as radical and motivated and Christ-like as it should be, then those who genuinely oppose Christianity – and there are many in our society, including our current President – would have something to genuinely be concerned about.
Not sure I can agree entirely with this statement:
If that were true, then the entirety of the Religious Right was fooling itself as to its influence. I don’t think I can buy that every person in that movement was snookered. Some, maybe, but not all.
I agree many aren’t asking the WHY questions… at least not with serious conviction. Lack of answers can be a problem when the dominant discourse doesn’t offer solid alternatives. We often bury our disillusionment, dissapointment and doubt for noble reasons, loyalty, duty, believing the best, being realistic.
Funny thing is come election or conference or sermon time we buy into idealism and promises of change as you pointed out.
Our love for comfort and a sense of control even at the expense of others outweighs our love for the truth or what is best for all peoples.
It does give me some assurance though that the kingdom of god is the only kingdom that will remain and increase exponentially over time, all others will fade, including instituional church kingdoms. For the most part corruption and greed is foundational to world governments, the US is no exception whatsoever. Sometimes what is needed is to first unplug from the matrix rather than getting caught up trying to question within its limitations.
I think the hysterics that accompany any mention of the word socialism prevent the American Church from being all it can be. I can’t read the New Testament and see anything but a more socialistic approach to community. “What is best for all peoples” becomes hateful in the minds of far too many Christians, as if something is lost if other people are raised up, but that kind of attention toward others and their best interests are what I see in the NT.
I’m not talking communism here, nor am I talking European nanny state socialism, but real, genuine, Christian community-based socialism like we see in Acts.
so true. it seems odd to me that christians who acknowledge they are saved by grace not of their own works, struggle to see how maybe they should show grace to others in practical areas of life, like finances, healthcare, housing, food, foreign policy. I feel the gospel is unfortunately rather distorted to become another reason to feel superior and treat the ‘weak’ as cursed or to be forgotten. For sure though the ruling class shoulders much of the blame, they exist everywhere the question is only whether the masses realize it or not.
You nailed it, Eli.
Grace is always talked about incessantly in the American Church, yet I see very little of it practiced or dispensed. We always want it for ourselves, but we are slow to offer it to others, if we do at all.
Dan, have you read “The Ruling Class” by Angelo M. Codevilla?
I’d like to extend Codevilla’s thesis a little. Evangelicaldom also has “A Ruling Class.” That is why nothing changes, either here or there.
Yes, I’ve read it. Great piece. And your extension of it may be dead on accurate. Nice connecting of the dots.
Jesus gave explicit instructions to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom….unfortunately churches have for the past 100 years or more been preaching some variety or other of the gospel of salvation, hence its irrelevance. Churches in general have neglected the law and as a result our communities, societies, institutions,nations, etc have become lawless. The Church can’t claim “God rules” and then go about totally ignoring His rules.
Dan , you mentioned above ‘Christian community-based socialism like we see in Acts.’as some kind of model. It should be pointed out that they were a very specific group of Christians in a specific location ( Jerusalem ) who were well aware of the prophecies regarding Jerusalem’s imminent and total destruction and had every thing to gain by disposing of all property and any ties that would slow down their fleeing when the time came. I don’t think it was meant as a pattern for Christian living, it just doesn’t jive with the rest of the word
I highly recommend Rousas Rushdoony’s book “the Institutes of Biblical Law” Its available digitally online…
I tried to copy a link but for some reason it didn’t work…
Aren’t we aware of the prophecies regarding the world’s imminent and total destruction? 😉
Been there, done that, got the Hal Lindsay T-shirt back in the Seventies.
“ALL THE PROPHECIES ARE BEING FULFILLED EVEN AS WE SPEAK! WE MIGHT NOT HAVE A 1978!! OR EVEN A 1977!!!” — “child evangelist” of the period
It is now 2012.
When Ye Ende Is Nighye any minute now, you have no future. When you sign the future over to the Antichrist and wait to get beamed up, you have no future. When you have no future, you’re not going to dare great things or make any plans more than Twenty Minutes into the Future. When you have no future, the future has a habit of happening without you and you will be Left Behind.
I’m not sure which of the following was specific to first century Jerusalem only and is therefore not to be practiced today:
Sharing meals together
Meeting in each other’s homes
Practicing mercy to the downtrodden
Bearing each other’s burdens
Making sure no one among them lacked for anything
Having all things in common
Distributing goods to any who had need
And yet doing the above would paint you as a socialist according to some American Christians.
I don’t believe that any of the above have passed away. We should still be doing all of them in a way that builds and strengthens community.
Who would enforce such policies? Would they be imposed on all who would be part of the church? Would there be an auditing committee with Ananias and Sapphira powers checking on one’s generosity and sacrifice? Would the lazy be benefitted to the same degree as the industrious?
It seems to me that such fancy (only ever practiced in the early days of Jerusalem) easily, and perhaps unavoidably, devolves into socialism.
Read David Fitch. His church has implemented a very interesting benevolence ministry with common sense checks and balances.
It’s not really “giving” if you have to enforce it. 😉 And Ananias and Saphhira weren’t killed for a lack of generosity. They were killed for lying to the Holy Spirit. I recommend “Days of Fire and Glory” by Julia Duin for a true story about a Spirit-filled church in Texas which saw dramatic revival, and the church went communal, sharing all things in common and such, and you can read about the successes and failures.
Have no problems with all these practices as a general principle except for the one about having all things in common, that goes against God’s dominion mandate with the family as the chief steward and governing unit, the issue here is not one of charity but of governance
But Hans, you can’t pick and choose. One can still fulfill the dominion mandate under a “socialistic” Christian community. The issue becomes ownership by the group rather than by the individual. Jesus also rewrote the nuclear family into the family of God. Much bigger vision than the traditional dominionist one.
Dan, I am not picking and choosing, all your above with the exception I mentioned are just good basic neighborly living as mandated in the Mosaic law, whereas ‘having all things in common’ just simply isn’t.
How can one possibly fulfill the dominion mandate under a “socialistic” Christian community?
Socialism = humanism, humanism = socialism, pure and simple, the humanistic ideal now becomes the new God. “Having ‘all’ things in common” means that now the individual has nothing, whats left to exercise stewardship over. For heavens sake almost half of the ten commandments deal in one aspect or other with the sanctity and protection the family domain of private property. Do you propose getting rid of them?
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand community and the need for it, however true community requires ‘freemen’ with power(property)under God, living together interdependently. What you are proposing strips men of their freedom and ability to serve God directly and creates in them over time a bond-servant mentality serving this new entity that now provides for them, In other words, worshiping other gods
Again what took place in acts was a specific time, place incident and dealt with a particular crisis and was therefore by no means wrong and we have to be open to similar recurrences in trying times. But we can by no means absolutise it
“I am not picking and choosing, all your above with the exception I mentioned are just good basic neighborly living as mandated in the Mosaic law, whereas ‘having all things in common’ just simply isn’t.”
Actually picking and choosing is exactly what you are doing. We are not living under the Mosaic law, we live under the New Covenant and that is the lens that we should look at all other issues through.
Community of goods is not “socialism”. Socialism is a secular economic system governed by laws and enforced by coercion and the threat of force. The community of goods comes from a willingness to eschew notions of “my property” for the common welfare of the Body of Christ. They are not even two topics that belong in the same conversation.
It seems by your contention that somehow the early church under the direct servant leadership of the apostles was somehow in violation of the “dominion mandate”, whatever that is. What they understood that you do not is that under the New Covenant notions of private property are meaningless. The accumulation and protection of private property is irrelevant to the actual mandate we have been given, namely proclaiming Christ to the world and loving our neighbor as ourself. To say “I love my neighbor but he can’t have my stuff” makes the second great commandment meaningless.
You speak of “worshipping other gods”, perhaps worshipping our “right” to private property is one of those false idols we should avoid, especially when it contradicts the direct command and explicit example of Scripture.
One thing hardcore dominionists don’t normally follow is that taking dominion in the NT means converting people to Jesus. This trumps all other dominion mandates.
Its more like that you hardcore dispensationists just don’t get it, God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. Did Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, tell us that we can disregard the Law now or did He not actually take it to a higher level.
The Mosaic law governs community and society in general and is still in effect and society is and will be judged accordingly, the New Covenant is personal and gives us the grace and ability to be like Jesus , upholding and fulfilling the Law.
The problem with man is not his environment, changing how he lives isn’t going to solve anything, his problem is with sin and has been from day one. Get with the program!
Dan……”One thing hardcore dominionists don’t normally follow is that taking dominion in the NT means converting people to Jesus. This trumps all other dominion mandates”
I’m sorry but that’s just plain nonsense
“I look at Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama and I see the same underlying person, albeit with a different skin over the top. The same goes for our churches.”
So very true. Get past the stereotypes and the major political parties – just like the dying mainstream denominations – have much more in common than in difference.
Have you realized both right and left are a lie?
Yes Obama continued every agenda of Bush’s except a few crumbs thrown to the social liberal programs.
All of them advance globalism.
Abortion is used as a “smokescreen” [never really ended] to garnish votes and gain more power.
Please read POLITICS AND CHRISTIANS DECEIT OF THIS WORLD
Most churches out there are united with the Rome driven new world order antichrist system and have joined with Babylon.
Again, I smell Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory, Mystery Babylon/Nimrod/Semiramis/Tammuz sub-type. And I also smell Troll.