Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Blurring the Lines

During the week of July 5, 2017, President Donald Trump make an impassioned speech to the Polish people in the historic Krasinski Square, in the heart of Warsaw, Poland. Among other things, the President said, "The people of Poland, the people of America, and the people of Europe still cry out, 'We want God.'" (Quoted in God and Donald Trump, by Stephen E. Strang, p. 142) All we heard from the liberal Washington Post was that this was a "dark and provocative address with nationalist overtones." It is no secret that most of the national media and TV and movie people "hate" Donald Trump. They are still smarting from an election they want to call rigged by the Russians and refuse to give evangelical conservatives the voice they deserve on national politics, policies and platforms. From their point of view, we are all bigots, homophobes, hate-mongers and out of step with most of America. What is more disturbing to me, however, is that many church-going, decent, fair minded American people believe the same thing about evangelical, Bible-believing Christians. What is going on?

What is going on is a massive seismic shift in traditional, Bible-based values. The authority of Scriptures has been so eroded, denied and ignored over the past several decades that it has been relegated to a past, pre-enlightenment era of thinking and doing. The obvious traditional definition of marriage, for instance, between one man and one woman is being systematically replaced by same-sex marriage partnerships and alliances. And we are told that all of this is fair, just, needed and reflective of America of today. Anything less, or "biblical," is out of step, old fashioned, and inimical to true freedom and discovery. And current and coming hate-speech legislation will make it a crime to publicly speak against anti-biblical practices and habits. High level, Supreme Court cases are being brought to bear against Bible-centered businesses and business practices. Either we go with the flow, or we will be forced out of business, out of our neighborhoods and even out of our churches. If you don't believe me, watch and learn. But, why is this happening, and can't people see it?

The answers are more complicated than a straight "yes" or "no." There are national, state and local influences that are determined to excise any biblical references or allusions to right and wrong. This is an intentional, deterministic anti-God league of people and powers that desire to denigrate and deny any God-oriented witness and safeguards to the fabric of society and life in general. This is planned, promoted and deviously initiated in our schools, courts and political arenas. It is all done under the guise of love and fairness to all without prejudice. But what is done is very prejudicial to those who believe and want to live out biblical values and priorities. This is a first obvious line of attack.

A second line of attack is promulgated by people who think they are correcting the ship of fairness. They have seen fundamentalist organizations and churches and Christian ministries who have operated out of meanness, narrowness and a spirit of being always against something and someone. They have witnessed Planned Parenthood center marches, tracts and even bombings. They have seen blood-red hatred in the eyes of zealots and fanatics who identify themselves with Bible-believing faith stances. They merely want to do the right thing and be protective of people of different belief systems and faith stances, or no faith stance at all. They want a society where all is love and warmth and personal freedom. Anything that limits absolute personal freedom is to be discarded and legislated against. They believe they are doing society a favor.

A third line of anti-biblical thinking and action is undertaken by those who are confused by a society seemingly divided into opposites. They want nice people with nice stories and non-confrontational agendas to go to school with and be their neighbors, grocery and gasoline clerks and helpers. Whatever they can do to foster a "gentler, kinder America" is what they want. Instead of the rule of law, they want a rule of love and tolerance. So, when the national news media generates a story of children raising money for a local Planned Parenthood or a gay couple who has fallen on hard times, this is Oh, so nice and lovely. This is what we should be doing, they think, especially against those Christians who want to cause division and disruption. Live and let live is their motto. These folks, unfortunately, have forgotten the old story of the frog in the kettle, who while sitting in a slowly increasingly heated kettle was eventually boiled to death. Our society is being boiled to death.

The solution is and always has been justice with love, or love with justice. As a theologian I have had to deal over the years with the false dichotomy of a God of wrath versus a God of love, or an angry God of the Old Testament versus the gentle God of love of the New. This is a false division of Scripture and a flagrant misreading of the nature and character of God. We have a just and righteous God of love. The same God who revealed himself to Moses and the ancient nation of Israel has not changed or been replaced by a new God -- “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6, 7) Ignoring or seeking to replace or recast this God means doing away with Him. We can have the rule of law with the blessings of love and fairness and kindness. It is not and never has been, either/or.