The Gospel, America and Politics

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Russell D. Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist (my denomination)  Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He said this at his inauguration ceremony at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C.

The “end goal of the gospel is not a Christian America. The end goal of the gospel is redeemed from every tribe and tongue and nation and language dwelling in the new Jerusalem”

As readers of my various blogs know (and those who know me personally) I am a political person and am not shy about my conservative views. I sincerely believe that our Constitution is under siege and that we are plunging head long into a left-wing statist quagmire that will take away our liberties and radically transform our nation into something the founders would never tolerate nor imagine.

To halt the plunge I exercise my right to vote and to donate to candidates (esp on the local or grass-roots level) who share my views. I also write from time to time to my representatives. I also write on the intersection of the Scriptures and politics and pop culture hence the name of this blog. I care about where our country is headed.

On the other hand, I have absolutely no illusions about America becoming a Christian nation. Moore is spot on, America, or any other nation becoming Christian is not the end goal of the gospel.

As I read Moore’s quote in Southern Seminary Magazine I immediately thought of these passages:

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 ESV)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, [10] and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
(Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)

Revelation 21.5

As these verses illustrate the end goal of the gospel is the gathering of the redeemed from every nation, every tribe and every language into a kingdom and new Jerusalem.

Moore also said this: “The kingdom of God is not made of the moral. The kingdom of God is made up of the crucified.”

I believe that what Moore has said here has more than a few applications but for me as someone who is a Southern Baptist pastor and blog writer I have to ask my self every time I write something on my blog or post to FB, am I hindering or helping the gospel or at least doing the gospel no harm with my views or more to the point, how I express my views.

I learned a valuable lesson a number of years ago and I have to remind myself of it lest I unintentionally harm the gospel.

I had written a position paper at the request of the Sr. Pastor I worked with. What it had to do with is irrelevant.

So, thinking I was pretty good at that sort of thing I got to work affirming some things and denying some others. When I was finished there was no doubt where we stood as a church. A masterpiece thought I!

At the time, our church was in a type of alliance with other like-minded churches and the subject matter was of concern to all. Knowing this I asked another pastor to read over my position paper hoping that he’d tell me how wonderful it was. Instead, he gently asked me a key question. He asked me what was I trying to accomplish with the position paper?

My first thought was isn’t it obvious. It was to take a strong stand against “xyz” and let everyone know where we stood.

So, that’s how I answered.

He said, well, that’s nice but who are you trying to persuade?

Wham!!! Good question. Great question. He went on to say it was a well-written paper but I failed to show people what a gospel-centered alternative looked like. He was right. There was nothing redemptive about the position paper. It was me simply planting the flag and waving it as high as I could.

I appreciate this kind of flag waving!

I appreciate this kind of flag waving!

It’s relatively easy to undermine something and if that’s all you want to do then have at it. It persuades no one and probably unnecessarily alienates people who otherwise might give you a listen.

So it is in politics, a subject many people feel passionate about, including myself. I have to ask myself that question my pastor friend asked me years ago, who are you trying to persuade. The answer to that question should determine, how I write, what I write about and what do I post? Am I helping the gospel go forward or am I hindering it. My answer to the question is not a political statement, it’s a priority statement.

Moore also said this: “We will fight for justice, and we will fight for liberty and we will fight with our forefathers for all those things that have been [guaranteed to us] by the Constitution as Americans, but we will also remember that we are not Americans first. We belong to another kingdom.

I couldn’t agree more Mr. Moore.

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When will they speak up?

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For the moment it appears that controversy about Syria and poison gas has died down. The ever trust worthy and human rights advocate Vladimir Putin has brokered a deal where by Syria’s chemical weapons will be handed over to Russia and then to the U.N.

Yet, in the space of a day or two Islamic terrorists have killed over 60 in a shopping mall in Kenya and murdered 80 Christians in Pakistan. The incidents are notable for the death tolls but it makes one wonder how many other victims of Islamic terror are not noticed because the body count is less.

It seems the world does not care all that much. Perhaps if the terrorists use poison gas someone, somewhere will draw a red line and actually enforce it.

The more important question is why do the leaders of the religion of peace remain relatively silent about these atrocities? Their silence is deafening leaving one to conclude they either quietly approve or they are scared out of their wits to confront those who kill in the name of Allah.

Muslims living in western countries wonder why they are suspect. Perhaps it is their silence that makes them so.

Dennis Praeger address this issue in his Townhall Column for today. I don’t agree with Praeger’s view of the gospel but his main point about Muslim leaders remaining silent is spot on.

Link to NYT article on the suicide bombing of Pakistani Christian Church

Christian Minority In Pakistan Pounded By Islamists In Brutal Suicide Bombing (freedomoutpost.com)

What is Pluralism and its Application to Islam?

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Through my other blog that is titled, History Stuff that Interests Me, I have made some friends around the world and some of them are from Western Europe that like the US have significant Moslem populations.

Today one fellow blogger, an American who is married to a German and lives there, posted this image on her blog:

religion-of-peace

The image was in reference to a Moslem riot in Sweden and yesterday’s murder of a British soldier in London by two Moslem jihadists.

I also noticed today that two of my European friends were having a discussion on FB regarding the murder of the British soldier and they were accused of racism and bigotry simply because they were objecting to the pc attitudes prevalent in their countries (Britain and Germany).

No doubt the blogger will soon be subjected to the “all Moslems are not like that” routine that follows each jihadist attack just as my two European friends were (not one racist and bigoted comment was noted by me by either of them).

That’s about how it goes in this country as well. Say something remotely critical of Islam and you are labeled a racist or bigot or both, end of discussion.

No fair-minded person would hold all responsible for the actions of the few but that kind of argument fails to identify why there are jihadists in the first place and what are their ultimate goals..

The western nations have evolved politically to embrace pluralism.  The online Free Dictionary defines pluralism like this:

a. A condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society.
b. The belief that such a condition is desirable or socially beneficial.
In the wake of the Reformation Europe fought many wars, notably the Thirty Years War, that had religious ramifications. One of the results of the Thirty Years War was a drift, at times a slow drift toward pluralism.One the tenets of the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War is that each prince could determine the religion of their own state. The choices were limited to Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism. While it does not seem like much today, at the time it was a significant step toward religious pluralism.
Europe at the end of the Thirty Years War, 1648. In green is the Ottoman Empire turned back at Vienna, 1683.

Europe at the end of the Thirty Years War, 1648. In green is the Ottoman Empire turned back at Vienna, 1683.

Our own country enshrined freedom of religion in our Constitution and did away with State run churches in an effort to be pluralistic. As a result of these movements and historical events most of the west is pluralistic in outlook and content as a whole to live and let live in a sort of melting pot of cultures and faiths.
Do I think most Moslems are content to live and let live? Yeah, probably, but the minority that seeks to establish sharia in the western countries and use jihad (the passive and aggressive varieties) do not. Pluralism is not something they can accept because they believe their version of the Islamic faith will not allow that kind of tolerance. It’s not really any more complicated than that.
It’s also worth noting that every time there is a jihadist attack Moslem leaders in general are relatively silent, so silent, it’s deafening.
Why is this?
I can think of two reasons off the top of my head.
One is fear, fear that if you are not for us you are against us. The jihadists are ruthless as we’ve seen time and time again. Unless it would serve their political purposes to speak out the jihadists would have no problem killing off their own. Note how Moslems who convert to Christianity are treated.
Secondly, I think it would be unwise to assume that many mainstream Moslems are not at least sympathetic to jihadist and sharia ultimate goals. They might reject the violence to get there for a host of reasons but we would foolish to ignore that many think sharia is a good thing even in the west.
As  an American I believe the war on terror is ultimately a war on those who reject western notions of pluralism and would rather live like Iran or Afghanistan under the Taliban.
As a Christian, I see Islam in general as slavery and antithetical to the Gospel of Grace and what freedom in Christ means and does not mean.
The war is a war on ideas because ideas have consequences.

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