Thoughts on a Prayerless House of Prayer, “Premarital Sex” as an Oxymoron, and More

Standard

I’ve been accused of being a thinker, but I just bluff well. Fact is, my Myers-Briggs is strongly ENFP, which makes me a feeler instead. Still, I’m always in my head, though the heart rules.

Some things I’ve been pondering…

Prayerless House of Prayer

I don’t have any figures to back me up, but my own experiences over the years tell me most evangelical churches spend about five minutes praying corporately during any 60-90-minute Sunday meeting. Mainline Protestant churches may up that to 10 minutes out of about an hour. Either way, it’s slim pickings prayer-wise.

When Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple, He referred to the temple as a house of prayer. While it’s an error to conflate the OT temple with a NT church, the idea that corporate prayer matters still exists. Consider how many references to prayer the Bible contains.

Consider this also: On your own, you can listen to a recording of a teaching/sermon, sing songs to God, and find out about goings-on in your church, but you can’t pray corporately without a corpus, the Body of Christ.

So what the heck is our problem on Sundays with praying as a group of believers and actually spending some time doing so? Isn’t that one of the purposes and tasks of the Church? Do we simply not believe our own mantra concerning the power of prayer?

Makes you wonder if one reason people eschew church meetings is because the church isn’t doing what it should be doing anyway, so what’s the point?

Is Premarital Sex an Oxymoron?

Facebook’s trends sidebar recently included “news” of celebrity couples who “saved themselves” for marriage by refraining from the wango tango before the wedding. How bizarre that this qualifies as something we need to know.

We think of fornication as sex before marriage. Adultery is sex after marriage but with someone who is not one’s spouse. Both trend high on the “really bad sins” list in the minds of most Christians.

A challenge: What does the Bible say constitutes a marriage?

Almost all Christian wedding ceremonies quote this verse from Genesis:

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
—Genesis 2:21-24 ESV

Here’s the baffling reality: For as highly as God and Man hold marriage, there’s no proscribed marriage ceremony in the Bible. No set words to say. No vows to make. Nothing. We have other examples of things to say or do as shown in the Bible for hallowed events, but weddings, nope.

When you look, almost nothing is said except that a man who defiles a virgin must pay a bride price for her and make her his wife, but if her father objects, the man still must pay dad the money (see Exodus 22:16-17).

So does the wedding ceremony really mean anything?

If we get down to the purest essence from that Genesis passage, we find these elements:

  • Leaving parents
  • Holding fast (cleaving) to a spouse
  • A sexual union that formally makes the couple one flesh

So, is marriage simply the following?

  • Have sex exclusively with one person, leave your parents, and set up your own household.

Because it seems to me that’s the definition of marriage from a biblical perspective. Which makes the whole issue of premarital sex an oxymoron. The sexual act itself creates what God recognizes as the formal union. There’s no ceremony there, just the intention to start a separate household.

We understand why adultery is wrong. But what if the real sin in fornication isn’t the sex itself but having sex without any intention both to stay true to the other person and to establish a separate household with them?

Really changes the perspective, doesn’t it?

Super Bowl as Church Meeting

Heard more arguments for making Presidents Day the Monday after the Super Bowl. I don’t see any drawbacks in doing so.

Except that the Super Bowl has become an alternate Thanksgiving Day, only with friends instead of family members. It’s the religious holiday for people who feel no compulsion otherwise to do anything religious.

Used to be that Sunday evening church services didn’t bow to the Super Bowl, but now they do. Many churches cancel whatever Sunday evening meetings they ordinarily hold in deference to the Big Game. One could argue that all the elements of a church service (communion meal, worship, separation from other events, identification with a restricted group, and fellowship) exist within a Super Bowl party.

Makes me wonder if instead of decrying our perpetual slide into worldliness and placing too much emphasis on things that will pass away (such as Super Bowls), we Christian instead try to understand what we have done to our church meetings that so many people would rather be at a Super Bowl party substitute.

False Football Prophets

Dear Lord, I hope it’s not true that some self-proclaimed prophet said revival would only come to America if the Panthers won. Looks like my hopes are dashed.

Are there any genuine prophetic voices left out there?

Of Kingdoms and Politics

Christians I know continue to line up behind their chosen presidential candidates, and it’s a hot mess honestly, much more than usual. It says something about the beliefs of the supporters and how they read the Bible.

  • Those who feel the need to upset the establishment, to turn against the Pharisees and usher in a new kind of Kingdom, so to speak, support Trump or Sanders.
  • Those who desire a kinder, gentler, humble Kingdom are falling in for Carson.
  • Those who want a Kingdom that transcends boundaries and makes peace between factions look to Rubio.
  • Those who instead want the King to come, winnowing fork in His hand, to separate the wheat from the chaff support Cruz.
  • Those who nostalgically recall the way the Kingdom used to be are in for Christie, Bush, Kasich, or Clinton.
  • And I’ve got nothing for Fiorina.  😉

Thoughts?

Want to rebut or endorse any of my musings from above? Please comment below. Your comments make Cerulean Sanctum a great place to be, and I appreciate them very much.

Post-Election 2012: Sex, Race, Evangelicalism, and the Future

Standard

A week ago, we as a nation were set to decide several important political outcomes. A week later, those outcomes are decided, with the clearest message of all being that Evangelical Christians were repudiated convincingly at the polls. Whatever hubris existed in that voting bloc at the time of the 2000 elections has been wiped away, possibly forever, in the wake of the elections of 2012.

I wrote some initial thoughts on the 2012 election last week (“The 2012 Election Results and What They Mean for ‘Evangelical Christian America'”), but I wanted to throw out more musings and questions for those of us who are Bible-believing Christians who vote conservative.

  • Rod Dreher may have prophesied when he addressed the same-sex marriage issue. Absolutely read this: “SSM, Social Conservatives, & The Future.” The gist of Dreher’s contention is that social conservatives (Christian, in particular), have lost the battle against same-sex marriage (and other “traditional values” issues). He believes this will force the Republican Party to move center-left if it wants to compete politically. I believe Dreher is correct, which means a GOP/Evangelical divorce in the future or a weakening of Evangelicals on issues of abortion, same-sex marriage, and so on—and possibly both.
  • 2012 Electoral Vote Map Adjusted for Population

    2012 Electoral Vote Map Adjusted for Population

    While the election was close by popular vote, it was not by electoral college vote. Not only this, but it shows a country divided by the following:

Urban vs. Suburban/Rural

All Other Races vs. Whites

Women vs. Men

Younger vs. Older

Liberal vs. Conservative

In every pairing, the group on the left sided with the majority of winners.

  • The vote of women decided this election, for the most part (but see below). And with the popular vote in four states approving same-sex marriage, it raises the question of whether women, as a whole, are less negative concerning lesbianism as men are of male homosexuality. It would appear so. (Witness the election of lesbian Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin to the Senate, for instance.) In addition, this outcome begs for clarification on whether women are more likely to desire same-sex marriage for themselves than men are. If so, the only way to prevent further erosion of traditional family values is to appeal to women.
  • One “truth” we are always told is that Hispanic and Asian cultures are both strongly pro-family, largely allying with Evangelicals in rejecting the liberal social reconstruction agenda. The results from Election 2012 violate that supposed bromide. The question is whether the strong support Barack Obama received is the prioritization among Hispanics and Asians of a racial minority mindset over conservative family values. Further research on this issue is necessary, because the liberal social reconstruction agenda those two groups assented to has not been adopted by the GOP—yet. If Hispanics and Asians are voting for a candidate primarily because they identify with that candidate as a fellow minority, then race is moving to the forefront of politics again, trumping any other social agenda.
  • In that same vein, if the GOP had managed to snag just 10-15 percent of the Asian and Hispanic vote that otherwise went to the Democrats, the outcome of this election may have been dramatically different.
  • For all the talk from Evangelical pastors of black congregations who were incensed at the Obama administration’s wholesale attack on values those churches hold dear , they were totally ineffective at swaying their congregations to vote to support those values and reject the current administration’s finagling. One must also look at the Roman Catholic vote, in that RC leadership leans GOP, while the congregants themselves seem devoted to the Democratic cause. This divorce only highlights an increasingly obvious truth: Leaders of “conservative” churches are far more conservative than are their congregations, and their own hubris causes them to overestimate their influence on the folks in their churches.
  • Stats show Mitt Romney pulled more votes from conservative Christians than any GOP candidate on record, nearly 80 percent of self-identified Evangelicals. In addition, few Evangelicals voted for third party candidates. Obviously, Evangelicals worried more about the policies of Barack Obama than were troubled by Romney’s Mormonism. This is a disturbing trend since it seems that Evangelicals will vote politics above theological truth. Regardless of where you stand on Last Days theology, Christians who downgrade heresy are setting themselves up to side with future leaders of questionable doctrine, all in the name of political promises. Obviously, few are reading the Book of Revelation.
  • Those of us who voted third party or for write-ins saw one of the worst showings ever for such candidates. However, if the GOP does move center-left on social issues (see above), Evangelical Christians will be stuck. Yet imagine a scenario where a new political party united by Christian belief challenged the Democrats and Republicans. It’s not hard to believe that a less Evangelical GOP could draw off some Democratic voters, while a Christian-leaning party would give the two other parties a serious run. Perhaps, though, it is impossible due to too much factionalism within Evangelicalism to create a political party favorable to its causes. Still, should the GOP move center-left as I believe it will, a competitive third party based on the beliefs the GOP is soon to repudiate might actual make some inroads and win a few elections. I mean, Maine elected an independent senator, so it’s possible.

Those are my additional thoughts. What do you think about the above or about other issues pertaining to the future we conservative Christians now face?

The 2012 Election Results and What They Mean for “Evangelical Christian America”

Standard

Four more years.

Whether that phrase elicits joy or sorrow in you in the wake of the 2012 presidential election results says a great deal about you as a person and your future influence in America.

If you are an Evangelical Christian who votes Republican, today seems a far cry from just 12 years ago, when magazine covers and stories trumpeted that Evangelicals were hot and in control of America’s future.

No more.

woman voterThe demographics of America continue to flex, and this is what the election results tell us about who is really in charge:

  • Women
  • 18-45 years of age
  • Nonwhite
  • Urban (or college town)
  • Non-Evangelical

That demographic pwned all others and gave Barack Obama four more years. Today, we understand that the conservative white male has been consigned to the dust bin of American history. Any idea that such people run this country is now passé. Given trends in overall demographics within the United States, this will not reverse itself—ever.

Yesterday’s election showed three other trends:

  • Same-sex marriage restrictions that passed in two states less than four years ago went down to defeat
  • Legalization of marijuana passed in two more states
  • Prolife candidates who were cornered late with the question “What do you think about abortion in the case of rape?” went down to staggeringly bad defeats despite having led their opponents for much of the race

Abortion and opposition to same-sex marriage are hallmark positions for the majority of Evangelicals, with opposition to illegal drugs another definable (though less broadcast) position.

What is worrying for anyone who holds a prolife position is that despite the overwhelming opposition to abortion as a procedure, pro-abortion forces have a new weapon for derailing prolife candidates that is perhaps the most effective ever: the rape question. Until prolife candidates can answer that question without seemingly inserting foot in mouth, expect withering losses to continue.

And why is that question so effective? Because the new vote-deciding demographic is women of childbearing age who live in urban areas (or college towns). And they will mercilessly punish anyone who answers that question poorly. Worse, that question may even sway women who are not in that demographic simply because all women have a visceral reaction to anything dealing with rape. When it seems that male politicians condone certain aspects of a post-rape experience—well, the resulting backlash cannot be unexpected.

So where do Evangelical Christians stand as of November 2012?

The trends of the last few years are telling. Any political power that Evangelicals thought they wielded was always illusory, and the conceit of holding power only goes to show how low Evangelicalism has sunk with regard to genuine godly humility. What it will take for Evangelicals to wake up is anyone’s guess, though, as no amount of political pain seems to break through the arrogance.

Evangelicals don’t seem to understand the lives of non-Evangelicals, which is why Evangelicals continue to fail to connect with people who are different from them. Blame this on a bunker mentality. Honestly, how many liberal friends do most Evangelicals have? Why expect any influence at all then?

That lack of influence illustrates how Evangelicals have forgotten the root of their label: evangelism (though not to lead people to convert to a political party but to convert to Jesus). Evangelicals simply do not evangelize non-Christians anymore. And you especially will not find them evangelizing women 18-45 who are not born again and who live in cities and college towns. If Evangelicals were to stop plowing so much of their time and energy into political causes and start leading people to Jesus, that trio of causes so near and dear to them (upholding traditional heterosexual marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious freedom) will take care of itself. How this reality continues to elude Evangelicals is damning.

Conservative Evangelicals failed miserably to help nominate a viable presidential candidate, with most of the supposedly workable alternatives proving to be ridiculously repellent to the average non-Evangelical voter. What must be avoided is a sense of persecution at being rejected. Instead, Evangelicals need to look at themselves and genuinely question whether it is Jesus who is turning off others or the personality of major Evangelical politicians. That distinction is critical, yet most Evangelicals don’t get it. Winsome Evangelicals exist, but a failure to place them on any national stage is a major failing of Evangelicalism as a whole. Instead, Evangelicals ended up stuck with a non-Evangelical presidential candidate who thinks God is an ascended man enthroned on the planet Kobol. One must ask what exactly was in that Kool-Aid they were drinking. One must also ask how much of their souls Evangelicals will sell to achieve by politics what they should be achieving through converting others to Jesus (see above).

Evangelicals must come to grips with their own diminishing demographic. Simply put, the Church is not growing in America. Having now slid into minority status, Evangelicals must pursue much soul-searching and honest reflection to find that humility they so need to rediscover. This loss of power is what it means to be a minority. It doesn’t feel good, does it? Still, if this second class position does not result in a refocusing on the main and the plain in Evangelicalism, if being a minority within a larger culture does not clean out the dross that is holding Evangelicalism back, then Evangelicalism is finished as a movement not just within American politics but within American culture, society, and religious affiliation. Period.

Evangelicals must learn that no political party is their friend. Selling out to the GOP has hurt Evangelicalism more than it can imagine, and Evangelicals must stop believing that any one political party represents them. Strange bedfellows have hurt the cause of Christ in America, and it is high-time the reflex to vote Republican stops. Evangelicals must support political candidates, regardless of party affiliation, who more accurately reflect the nature of God’s character and who perfectly answer how God can be known. Evangelicals must also realize that values voting is a major failure because it does not take into account all aspects of who God is. Picking and choosing values only further muddies Evangelicalism’s larger stance on what it means to be in Christ. All of who God is must be considered, and that means looking at aspects of God’s character Evangelicals have neglected. If Evangelicals were as well-known for championing the causes of the poor in America as they were for championing the cause of traditional marriage, perhaps those single, urban mothers who went en masse for “the other guy” might have voted differently.

I believe it is possible for America to return to greatness if born-again Christians stopped running around like headless chickens and instead focused on what is really important to the cause of Christ. If this latest election failing in the eyes of Evangelicals does not teach them anything, then we can forget ever seeing the American Church influencing our nation anytime soon.