Politics


The Lord takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people.  The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: ‘It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses” (Isaiah 3:13-15 NIV). ”

One commentary says, “[ruined, plunder] Normally refers to that taken by violence, but this is probably Isaiah’s way of condemning a social order which allowed the powerful to grow rich at the expense of the weak, even though this might be done by legal means…all the more appropriate that Yahweh is here depicted as bringing the powerful to trial”

I find it interesting that this passage is probably on the verge of the Assyrian invasion and exile of the Northern Kingdom.  More liberal scholars would place the date perhaps after the exile.  Either way it is apparent here that although it would seem that the Assyrians are in control of history and the fate of Israel and Judah—it is actually Yahweh who calls the shots and is at work.   For instance, in Jeremiah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is viewed as the Lord’s “servant.”  That is, Yahweh uses him to bring judgment upon his people.  Not a very comforting thought, huh? As a side note:  I don’t think God deals with his people like this anymore, even if he does have to chastise/discipline us at times.  I will not get into it here in this article but let me put it this way…EVERYTHING changes within the life, death, and resurrection, especially the way God deals with his people and all people of the world.

I suppose that the invasion and exile caused many to blame the evil of Assyria or perhaps Yahweh.  Yet this passage here paints a different picture.  It is because of the evil of the leaders of Israel and Judah that terror came upon the region as judgment.  Yahweh is envisioned as The Judge in the court room delivering the accusations and verdict.  It is intimidating and fearful.  He is the defender of the poor and an ever watchful protector of them.  When those leaders whose essential role was to provide for and defend the poor instead exploit and rape them economically, socially, and emotionally, Yahweh intervenes on their behalf.

Although I am discomforted by this image of a forceful god, I am comforted by the thought that he is on my side—or rather I hope I am on his.  He is a god who is involved, and even though there are times where it seems as though he is silent, he is fully aware, attentive, and watchful–especially for the vulnerable.  Leaders should serve with fear because it is apparent from this passage alone that they will be held accountable for the way they lead.  Are they ethical and honest?  Are they egocentric and self-serving?  Are they mindful of the people or are they more mindful of their wealth, power and careers?

This is an important thought not only for leaders to consider but for those of us who live in a quasi-democratic society that “chooses” our leaders.  Who will you vote for for president of this nation?  What is our accountability when we choose leaders?  Are we aware that some of them may be getting rich or making this nation rich at the expense of the poor or third-world countries?  Do we care? What about the abortion issue?  If we vote for a president who supports abortion, is the blood of millions of innocent children on our hands too (an issue for many Democrats)?  If we vote for a presidential candidate whose answer to most foreign conflicts is war, is the blood of all those young men and women who are fighting for oil or our “influence” around the world on our hands (not to mention foreigners blood)?  That’s a typical issue for Republicans.  Or ignoring the poor or making fun of those on food stamps or government assistance.

These are big issues with a lot of consequences.  We must vote prayerfully.  I may even suggest not voting if you don’t have a peace of mind about who you vote for.  Don’t fall for these comments that people make that you are irresponsible if you don’t vote and have no reason to complain then.  That is a lie!  We have every reason to complain when what we are offered for candidates I wouldn’t trust them with cutting the grass in my backyard nonetheless running the government.  And frankly, I am tired of voting for the lesser of two evils.  I vote for Christ because in the kingdom of God he is king and commander-in-chief and is such over this world if they recognize it or not.  My allegiance is the Christ first and foremost and the state is at best secondary.

Let’s also not vote for people just because they say they are a Christian.  I don’t want to hear they are a Christian, I want to see it.  I want to see the fruit of it.  And sadly enough, the Republican candidate who appears to be most Christian of the four stooges is a Mormon.  Then there is another who touts Christian values but has cheated on his wives more than my brother cheats in monopoly.  And that’s just the Republican field.  My point is, God is watching and is fully aware of their ploys and our votes.  Let’s not vote for who we want but for who God wants.  And if we don’t have a peace about anyone…vote for no one.  I believe that when it is our turn to give an account…God will understand that we trust in him and in good conscience could not vote for anyone.

Lord, help me to defend the poor and out of my substance and ability serve them.  I pray for the leaders of our nation that tend to hide behind the rhetorical veil of “freedom” “liberty” and “democracy” and yet either do or are tempted to be drawn by the lust of wealth and power.  May they serve the people like Christ serves and loves his Church.  In Christ name, Amen.

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The older I get and the more time I reflect on things, the more I become a pacifist.  I see no need for violence and war, even though many argue with me that we have the right to defend ourselves or protect the innocent.

I am usually accused of being a coward or a traitor for not seeing the romanticism behind being a pawn of the state to be sent off to do the state’s bidding.   I am not fooled by the nationalism of a so-called Christian nation.  I have seen what it is like to be on the receiving end of capitalism and economic imperialism in a third-world country.

I think many Christians in America have fallen prey to the ambiguous axioms of “duty” and “allegiance” to the state.

Perhaps all this nationalistic romanticism would not be as appealing to Christians if they lived in another country.  It’s a different ball game when you live under a Stalin or a Gaddafi.  The romanticism of patriotism shows its flimsiness then.  I don’t buy the “just war” package.  It should be returned to sender, marked “Middle Ages!”

I believe that Christ’s life, death and resurrection changed everything.  He ushered in a new kingdom that I believe has the power to end the cycle of violence in the world and usher in Isaiah 2:1-5.  But it starts with the Church.  We have to turn the other cheek, leave the sword to the state, allow vengeance to be God’s, and not return evil for evil.  We are to give our lives to end the cycle of violence if need be…but not by storming the beaches of Normandy, dropping a bomb on Nagasaki, or sending an aircraft carrier through the Strait of Hormuz to see what kind of response we are going to get.

I find it awkward that I have actually lost close friends because I have these convictions and that I was grieved for days after the assassination of Osama bin Laden.  Not that I didn’t believe he should’ve been brought to justice, but because as a spokesperson for the Vatican stated, “Catholics rejoice at the death of no man.”  I grieve for the wasted life of a man created in the image of God and a continued cycle of violence.  Did America decrease the numbers of her enemies that day?  Some would laugh and say yes…one.  I believe we created dozens more.  And I pity the Christians locked into this mindset of cyclical violence that they subscribe to.

Christians ought to be the first people to see the reality of the kingdom present in the world, the true governance is God, that the real king who sits on his real throne is Christ.  Our allegiance is to him first and only.  If that makes us good citizens, that’s terrific.  If not, then we conform to Christ and not Uncle Sam.

Let us therefore be the first to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  Call me naïve, but Christians have no business being in a military, under the whims of the state, and being dehumanized by putting bullet holes into other humans, beating infants heads upon stones, or urinating on the corpses of people God loves.

Some say I am extreme, radical or too loving and peaceful and that I live in a fantasy world.  Well, I trust that standing before the Judge in roughly six decades (give or take a few) I will rather be accused of being too loving and peaceful than not enough.

Not too long ago I was driving home from work and all of a sudden my car was swallowed up by the shadow of a mammoth SUV/pick-up truck.  This thing was a gas guzzlin’ monster-beast of a truck.  We came to a red light where the beast-truck was in the right lane and I in the left.  As we sat at the light and I was diagonally behind him, I could hear him revin his engine…VROOM…VROOM!!! Then my eye caught a white bumper sticker on his truck that read in red and blue patriotic letters…”I can drive this truck because we can’t all be on welfare!!!” 

Suddenly the light turned green and rubber tires pealed-out leaving smoke everywhere.  As I coughed on this manly man’s dust I couldn’t help but think about Deuteronomy 15:7-11 and feel the heart of God aching.

 

7 If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour. 8You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. 9Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near’, and therefore view your needy neighbour with hostility and give nothing; your neighbour might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. 10Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land.’

With this passage in mind I don’t understand the attitudes and prejudices that people who can obviously drive gas guzzlin’ trucks have.  Now one might say, “Well, you don’t know if he was a Christian or not so how can you hold him to that standard?”

Well first…I don’t know if he was a Christian but I have met MANY Christians with that same exact disgust for those in need or on welfare. These are Christians who have gotten caught up in the American dream and love affair with capitalism more than the economy of God and the ethics of the kingdom. 

Secondly, God does hold the unbeliever to ethical standards.  Unbelievers are not given a get out of jail free card and dismissed from a standard because they don’t believe in it.  There are several places in the Bible where unbelievers are held accountable to ethical standards of God.

But for the sake of this post, let’s explore our own feelings about those in our society who are in need.  How about the elderly, the orphan, the widow, the immigrant, the family stuck in the ghetto, the disabled, etc the list is unending?  It is so sad the bitter and horrible things I hear said about these people…from CHRISTIANS!!!  We can tolerate the widow and orphan as long as the orphan grows up and “get’s a damn job.”  We have little use for immigrants, especially “illegals” (as we title them) regardless of the circumstances they may be trying to escape. If they are “legal” we say “they can stay as long as they learn to speak our own damn language!”  And “there are NO families STUCK in the ghetto, this is capitalism they need to go to college and go out and get a job!”

WHAT CARELESS IGNORANCE!!!

I have heard all of these things, even from elderly church-going grandmas.  HOLY COW!!! What terrific attitudes we have toward the needy.  The Old Testament get’s a bad rap on a lot of things, but especially on this issue…it does not have the often affluent evangelical capitalistic American attitude toward these people.  On the contrary, the Old Testament goes to GREAT lengths to help and provide for these folks. 

Now do I think there are some people leaching off the system and taking advantage of it?  Absolutely.  But we are not called to be their judge of intentions on those issues.  We will be held accountable for what we do when we are met with those needs.  They will be accountable for their own intentions…but even God allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  He provides for all…and a so are we called to do so. 

We all have certain types of people in our hearts that we have been conditioned to despise.  Who are they in your heart?  Are they black?  Are they white or asian?  Are they Muslim?  Are they drunk, poor, homeless, elderly, ghetto, white-trash, rich, catholic etc?  When those feelings and thoughts arise we need to repent of them and reject them.  We need to love those people and “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”  God loves them and so should we.  We are called to love our neighbor…they are our neighbor!

We are not to be “hard-hearted or tight-fisted.”  We are not to “entertain a mean thought” against them.  But we are to “give liberally and be ungrudging.”  We are not supposed to drive around with stupid bumper stickers on our vehicles and join the culture in abhorring these people and treating them as lazy, invisible, and pests to society. 

I pray for you and for me that we can overcome this bitterness we have for different groups of individuals and see them not as  the world sees them but as Christ sees them in Matthew 25.  Jesus identified with the needy and said when we minister to them…we minister to him.  When we feed the hungry, we feed him.  When we clothe the naked, we clothe him.  When we allow the customer to shop freely without spying on their every  move because they might be stealing, we allow Christ to shop freely.  You get the point. 

May we see every human being as created in the image of God.  May we see them as Christ sees them.  May we see them as Christ.

The head lines read “Bin Laden is Dead!”  One in particular said, “Rot In Hell!”  Obviously this news brings up many emotions for people all around the world.  But how should the Christian respond and feel.  As we reflect, what are your thoughts about the quote below.

“Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions to this end. In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.” – Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, on the death of Osama bin Laden.
(Catholic News Service)

For the past ten years of my life my ideologies and worldview have gone through quite the paradigm shift.  I feel like a different man in so many ways.  There are a number of events in my life that contributed to those shifts—some I am proud of, others…not so much.  Yet the ones I am not proud of were also very constructive (or de-constructive) in the process of making me the man I am now.  The events I am most proud of are my marriage and the birth of my daughter and son.   By NO means do I think I have it all together nor have I arrived; as many of my posts and self-critiques show.  However, I feel and sense God’s hand in my life fashioning me like the clay in the potter’s hands (Jeremiah 18).  I am less selfish and more interested and concerned with others and their welfare (Phil. 2).  Each day I feel I am taking on more of Christ.  And I like that because I love who he is and what he is about.

One of those paradigm shifts has actually been in politics.  I will not get into it too much right now but will share a few details.  I was raised conservative by two loving parents who meant well and had good intentions.  I listened to Rush Limbaugh often and later picked up Glenn Beck and even Michael Savage.  I would listen to these men religiously.  When I watched the news, it had to be FOXNEWS.  I think you know where I am going.  I agreed with the constant drum beat and mantra of capitalism, trust the free market, big business, wealthy entrepaneurs, twinkle down economics, tax cuts for the rich, poor people in the ghetto are just lazy unproductive plebes and if they really wanted to be free from poverty they should just get out and get a job etc.

Now I know I am going to tick off some people reading this but come on…something is off here when you put it in juxtaposition with scripture.  When you compare that mindset with the OT prophets the messages don’t mesh.  When you listen to the words of Jesus and see him in action…it doesn’t jive.  Why?  Because Jesus believed in a “Kingdom Economy” where the poor were taken care of and helped.  What about the poor?  Much of the Church has forgotten these invisible people and has adopted the nonsense that the Right has been trying to sell us. 

At the same time the Left are no angels either.  They want to help the poor (maybe) but they would just rather keep God out of the picture.  Where the Right likes to use God as though he is a Right-wing, capitalistic, 21st Century, Mid-Western American with a pin on his  right lapel of an elephant that says, “Vote for Freedom”; the left is embarrassed by God and might offend their lobbyist who think that the idea of gods are out-dated and naïve.  You know the attitude—“only uneducated yuppies from the back woods of Arkansas believe in that Jesus Christ guy.” Let’s not forget to mention how they demonize each other.

For the Right it’s trusting the Market; for the Left its trusting bigger government.  HELLO!  Do you trust either?  I don’t think so.  Trusting the Market brought us the Great Depression and this wonderful recession that we are still in no matter how much D.C. tries to convince us it’s going away.  Remember all of those headlines in the newspapers some months ago?  When we trust the Market we are robbed by the greedy tycoons who set the system up for YOU to fail.  Ever notice when you get in debt it takes a miracle to escape.  Why?  I don’t know…fees and extra charges maybe. 

“Bigger Government anybody?”

 “Oh yes please!”

“Uh no thanks actually, I am stuffed on big government.”

So what is the answer? 

MR. GOD CAN YOU PLEASE COME TO WASHINGTON!?!

Let’s stop there for now because I am tired of complaining about this…for now.  Thoughts thus far?  Where are you with politics in America?  Any Paradigm shifts in your life?  What’s the solution?