To My Fellow Believers on This Election Eve


If we know whom we are for, the right person will live hereMost of you know that I don’t write much on politics. This last month has been an exception as I have tried to wade through the hysteria plaguing this election to find an island of sanity. I fear that no sanity is forthcoming, at least not from this year’s angry electorate.

But I wish to write to you, my fellow believers, about a truth that few discuss much anymore. It’s about knowing what (and whom) we are for.

Let’s examine a verse that most Christians believe strongly but you won’t find in your Bible no matter how hard you look:

Finally brothers, whatever is not false, whatever is not unjust, whatever is not corrupt, whatever is not ugly, what is not lamentable, whatever is not dishonorable, if there is no mediocrity, if there is anything not deplorable, think about these things.

Many of you will recognize that as NOT being Philippians 4:8. Yet that is how most Christian think today. We have little concept of what we are for, yet we write what we are against on the lintels of our doors. Everyone and his brother knows what we Christians are against, yet very few know what we are for.

The problem of only knowing what we are against leads to dissipation and confusion. Imagine if the Lord had requested of the Hebrews that they choose this day whom they would NOT serve. Isn’t it much easier to know whom we are for? Doesn’t that exclude all others by definition? Otherwise, the Hebrews could have spent 40 years naming all the people(s) they were not for. Being for something or someone automatically means that we have excluded other options.

Christians are not to operate from the negative. We don’t find truth by exclusion, but by recognizing it straightaway. It is not enough for us to say that we know what is not of Jesus. Instead, we must know Him alone. When they train Secret Service officers to recognize counterfeit currency, they first familiarize them with the real thing. It makes finding the bogus bills so much easier. So it should be with us when we look for truth.

But as I noted, very few Christians know whom or what they are for.

A pertinent case in point…

I’m sure that a few of you, myself included, attended church this last Sunday and witnessed others sporting some sort of sticker, button, or label declaring allegiance to the GOP presidential candidate. Many are saying this candidate is the last hope for America. They cite him for his strong moral convictions. Some even claim he is God’s own candidate.

I find this curious because of the hypocrisy behind it. How so? Well, if we remember back to 2000 (and I would hope most of us might remember back that far!), that same GOP candidate was vilified by Evangelicals as some sort of hellspawn compared to the eventual GOP winner and future president. When I ask evangelicals today why they now support this once loathed man so vigorously, inquiring when this man experienced the born again conversion that has resulted in this wave of sudden support, I get blank looks.

Truth is, most of the people supporting this GOP candidate are doing so not because they are for him (though they pretend they are), but because they are so vehemently against the Democratic challenger.

Folks, positive outcomes never come out of siding against. They come out of demonstrating what we are for.

Well, conservative Christians are most definitely prolife, right? Not really. What we are is antiabortion. We are by no means prolife. If we were truly prolife then orphanages would be relegated solely to Dickens’s Oliver Twist, and nursing homes would be empty, instead of filled with our elderly parents. Again, what we are against and what we are for are not the same thing. We have to stop pretending they are.

If we were to stop pretending, I think things would improve. For instance, we would start electing politicians who state what they are for, not what they are against. And we would vote accordingly and stop lying to ourselves.

They say the definition of insanity is to keep repeating the same action while expecting different outcomes. By that measure, much of the American electorate is insane because we keep voting in the same two parties who are running our country into the ground, each time expecting a different outcome from voting the status quo.

This is because we have forgotten what we are for.

George Barna has repeatedly shown that Christians no longer know the basic truths of the Bible. And any history teacher will tell you that Americans are woefully ignorant of the founding documents of our country. Again, we have no idea what we are for. It is why our country is in the woeful state it is.

If Christians understand what we are for, then we will vote for born again candidates who are led by the Spirit of God and the Scriptures. If we understand what our country is for, then we will also vote for representatives who are for the preservation of the principles found in our Constitution.

Now, ask yourself this: Which of the two major party candidates is a born-again believer who is also a strict constitutionalist?

Again, this is a question of what we are for, not what we are against. If you answered that neither candidate meets the criteria, then you are on the way to understanding what you are for.

There are candidates running who are strict constitutionalists and born-again believers. If Christians knew who and what we were for, we would be throwing all our support to those candidates.

Many Christians will claim this election is about morality. But morality is little more than God’s rules with God excised from the picture. This is not what our nation can be for. We are either on God’s side or we are not. This is not about morality but staying true to Christ.

President John Quincy Adams said it well:

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.

When we know what we are for, then we will know how to vote, even if in doing so we choose the less traveled road. We are not responsible to men but to God alone for the choices we make in this life.

Remember this: When we do not know what we are for, God fills in the blank. Oftentimes, what fills that blank is judgment.

In the end, come Wednesday morning, no matter who the next denizen of the White House will be, Christians are charged to pray for our elected leaders. That is something each us us should always be for.

The Two Christianities on Display


Choose ye this day...About 18 months ago, I wrote a post called “The Two Christianities.” That post sparked a minor furor in the Godblogosphere and spawned two followups. As the days count down to the upcoming election and our country hurtles toward the Final Day, I thought revisiting that series of posts would be helpful:

The Two Christianities

The Two Christianities: Reader Feedback…

The Two Christianities: Comparison Table

The first link offers the theory, while the third provides a side-by-side comparison of the worldview differences between Externally Motivated (EM) Christianity and Internally Motivated (IM) Christianity.

The thing about politics is that it inevitably brings out the EM crowd, and it’s a shrill, pleading crowd at that. Funny thing is that the IM group typically has little to say around election time. They keep doing what they were doing all along, with the election just a blip on the radar screen.

What strikes me this morning is that one of these groups of Christians is going to be sorely disappointed some day. And it won’t know what to do with its disappointment. I think as the world gets darker that folks in the EM camp, who are used to God, Mom, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet are going to lose it when their apple pie is made in China with tainted milk, GM goes under, and mom croaks. Their interpretation: God has abandoned us. And many of them will reciprocate.

I guess it all depends on which kingdom holds your trust, the earthly one or the heavenly one. Where our hearts and treasures align, we’ll receive the rewards of that kingdom. But there’s kingdom and then there’s Kingdom. IM Christians side with the “big K” Kingdom nearly all the time. It’s a place of more lasting rewards.

So get ready for disappointment, EM Christians. There’s a sound of inevitability, that while coming from a trumpet with an indistinct sound, is ushering in an age where the courts will not be helping Christians evangelize, keep up nativity scenes, or maintain other Christian activity (whether genuinely Christian or not).

Here’s the thing: We can’t put our faith in governments. We can’t put our faith in legal codes. We can’t put our faith in our own tenacity. We put our faith in God alone or else we face assured, brutal disappointment.

Because the IM believer can’t be disappointed in events because his or her faith is in God—and in Him, the one who owns all the riches worth valuing, there can never be disappointment.

The Politics of a Short Memory


With my headache reduced to manageable levels, my fever broken, and some signs of flu-free health returning, I decided to write on a topic I don’t discuss much on this blog: politics.

Cerulean Sanctum is not a political blog and never has been. Here, we discuss issues facing the church. I don’t particularly like politics, though I married someone who does. So my wife and I talk about it quite a bit in our household. Those conversations just don’t show up here, mostly because I don’t believe that politics is the complete answer.

But in light of Super Tuesday and the drama of the 2008 presidential race, I felt compelled to write.

I’m a conservative. I wish that term meant more than it does right now in 2008. But just as the word Christian has been demoted by some in favor of the terms Christ-follower or Follower of Jesus, I wish someone would come up with a better word than conservative because I certainly don’t recognize conservatism anymore.

The word conservative tells you all you need to know. It’s a belief that valuable (God-given) things are worth conserving. What bothers me is that conservatives today have no understanding that this is the heart of traditional conservatism.

If we conservatives were all that interested in the purity of conservative beliefs, we would have to admit that not a single self-branded conservative running in this presidential race is a traditional conservative. Conservatives today have short memories and can no longer recall what traditional conservatism is. The conservatism of today looks nothing like the conservatism of fifty years ago when Eisenhower was president.

This election cycle, conservatives have whipped themselves into frenzies over a bunch of Republicans who call themselves conservatives but in no way resemble the true conservatism of old. Todays conservatives are yesterdays liberals when you get down to it. (With today’s liberals being yesterday’s socialists.) The closest thing to a genuine conservative in this presidential race is Ron Paul. Look at Paul and you see the shadow of yesterday’s conservatism. However, Paul’s libertarianism does not equal true conservatism. Russell KirkBut again, today’s conservatives can’t spot the difference.

What does traditional conservatism stand for? I’ll defer to Russell Kirk:

1. Men and nations are governed by moral laws; and those laws have their origin in a wisdom that is more than human—in divine justice. At heart, political problems are moral and religious problems. The wise statesman tries to apprehend the moral law and govern his conduct accordingly. We have a moral debt to our ancestors, who bestowed upon us our civilization, and a moral obligation to the generations who will come after us. This debt is ordained of God. We have no right, therefore, to tamper impudently with human nature or with the delicate fabric of our civil social order.

2. Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization. Uniformity and absolute equality are the death of all real vigor and freedom in existence. Conservatives resist with impartial strength the uniformity of a tyrant or an oligarchy, and the uniformity of what Tocqueville called “democratic despotism.

3. Justice means that every man and every woman have the right to what is their own—to the things best suited to their own nature, to the rewards of their ability and integrity, to their property and their personality. Civilized society requires that all men and women have equal rights before the law, but that equality should not extend to equality of condition: that is, society is a great partnership, in which all have equal rights—but not to equal things. The just society requires sound leadership, different rewards for different abilities, and a sense of respect and duty.

4. Property and freedom are inseparably connected; economic leveling is not economic progress. Conservatives value property for its own sake, of course; but they value it even more because without it all men and women are at the mercy of an omnipotent government.

5. Power is full of danger; therefore the good state is one in which power is checked and balanced, restricted by sound constitutions and customs. So far as possible, political power ought to be kept in the hands of private persons and local institutions. Centralization is ordinarily a sign of social decadence.

6. The past is a great storehouse of wisdom; as [Edmund] Burke said, “the individual is foolish, but the species is wise. The conservative believes that we need to guide ourselves by the moral traditions, the social experience, and the whole complex body of knowledge bequeathed to us by our ancestors. The conservative appeals beyond the rash opinion of the hour to what Chesterton called “the democracy of the dead—that is, the considered opinions of the wise men and women who died before our time, the experience of the race. The conservative, in short, knows he was not born yesterday.

7. Modern society urgently needs true community: and true community is a world away from collectivism. Real community is governed by love and charity, not by compulsion. Through churches, voluntary associations, local governments, and a variety of institutions, conservatives strive to keep community healthy. Conservatives are not selfish, but public-spirited. They know that collectivism means the end of real community, substituting uniformity for variety and force for willing cooperation.

8. In the affairs of nations, the American conservative feels that his country ought to set an example to the world, but ought not to try to remake the world in its image. It is a law of politics, as well as of biology, that every living thing loves above all else—even above its own life—its distinct identity, which sets it off from all other things. The conservative does not aspire to domination of the world, nor does he relish the prospect of a world reduced to a single pattern of government and civilization.

9. Men and women are not perfectible, conservatives know; and neither are political institutions. We cannot make a heaven on earth, though we may make a hell. We all are creatures of mingled good and evil; and, good institutions neglected and ancient moral principles ignored, the evil in us tends to predominate. Therefore the conservative is suspicious of all utopian schemes. He does not believe that, by power of positive law, we can solve all the problems of humanity. We can hope to make our world tolerable, but we cannot make it perfect. When progress is achieved, it is through prudent recognition of the limitations of human nature.

10. Change and reform, conservatives are convinced, are not identical: moral and political innovation can be destructive as well as beneficial; and if innovation is undertaken in a spirit of presumption and enthusiasm, probably it will be disastrous. All human institutions alter to some extent from age to age, for slow change is the means of conserving society, just as it is the means for renewing the human body. But American conservatives endeavor to reconcile the growth and alteration essential to our life with the strength of our social and moral traditions. With Lord Falkland, they say, “When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change. They understand that men and women are best content when they can feel that they live in a stable world of enduring values.

—From “The Essence of Conservatism,” 1957

Not a so-called conservative running for office today ascribes to those wise words. That’s sad for us.

Notice that Kirk said little about money. Yet isn’t that what most so-called conservatives are concerned with today? This is why the Republican Party has gone off the rails. All the true conservative ideals were jettisoned in favor of cold, hard cash and sordid allegiances to business partners. When worthy principles could be bought and sold, the GOP became nothing more than the Democrats, except with nicer vacation villas. The GOP of Eisenhower’s era would in no way recognize the GOP of 2008 as its progeny.

So where are the true conservative politicians today? Many have given up on politics or have been swept aside by those masquerading as conservatives. As for their supporters, too many have bought the fake conservatism bandied about today. That so many so-called conservative pundits have fallen for the decidedly non-conservative crew foisted on us by the GOP this year is proof enough that all definitions have been lost. The neo-con branch of the GOP successfully muddied the waters to the point that scant few can see clearly.

I firmly encourage conservatives to vote truly conservative and stop supporting those candidates who are not traditional conservatives. If this means writing in a candidate, then do it. I’ve done so myself. At some point we need to send the message that we won’t stand for pretenders, nor will we let this continued slide left persist.

Conservatism is worth conserving.