July 26, 2017

The Revival of Civil Religion

Here is an announcement from the website of First Baptist Dallas. Their pastor, Robert Jeffress, has been one of evangelical Christianity’s prime cheerleaders for President Trump throughout the past election year and since.

• • •

President Donald J. Trump to Join Pastor Robert Jeffress in Honoring Veterans at the Kennedy Center for the ‘Celebrate Freedom’ Concert This Saturday

 

This Unforgettable Patriotic Evening Will Feature Music from a 500-Voice First Baptist Dallas Choir and Orchestra, a Tribute to Our Veterans from President Trump, and a Word from Pastor Robert Jeffress

 

DALLAS—President Donald Trump will join Pastor Robert Jeffress to honor our veterans at the “Celebrate Freedom” Concert at 8 p.m. July 1 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The event, which is being co-sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Dallas and Salem Media, will be a night of hope, celebration and commemoration. President Trump will deliver a powerful address honoring our veterans, hundreds of whom will be coming from D.C. area to attend the event, including patients from the Walter Reed Medical Center.

“The Kennedy Center, known for presenting the greatest performers and performances from across America and around the world, is the perfect location for an unforgettable patriotic evening that honors our veterans, celebrates our country, and proclaims a message of hope,” said Pastor Robert Jeffress. “We are honored the president of the United States will be joining us, but we are not surprised. We have in President Donald J. Trump one of the great patriots of our modern era and a president who cherishes the sacrifice and service of those in our armed forces.”

Stirring patriotic music will come from the renowned choir and orchestra of First Baptist Dallas, under the direction of Dr. Doran Bugg. The First Baptist Dallas Choir & Orchestra is no stranger to our nation’s most prestigious concert halls, having been the first church music ministry invited to perform at the world-famous Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas and host of the radio and television program “Pathway to Victory,” seen in 195 countries, will also bring a message of hope and encouragement.

The “Celebrate Freedom” Concert is free and open to the public, but tickets must be reserved in advance by going to http://www.ptv.org/washington.

The “Celebrate Freedom” Concert rally will be the capstone of a weeklong series of events Pastor Robert Jeffress will host through the nation’s capital including speaking at a Bible study for Congressional staffers in the Capitol, a tour of Washington highlighting our country’s Judeo-Christian foundation, and personal visits with various others numbered among our nation’s leadership.

“I’m grateful that President Trump has created an atmosphere in which Evangelical Christians feel at home once again in our nation’s capital,” said Pastor Jeffress.

• • •

I have no problem with the idea that devoted Christians can love our country and appreciate the influence faith, and Christian faith in particular, has had on our history and development. I’m also fine with Christian citizens working to pass laws and maintain governmental institutions that are just and beneficial for society.

I don’t believe, except in the broadest possible terms, that the U.S. is or ever has been a “Christian nation.” In their genius, our founding fathers separated church and state, rightly suspicious of allowing state-sponsored religion. This has allowed both political freedom and religion to flourish for much of our history.

I also understand that many Christians are sentimental for what they think was a more stable moral and prosperous period in our history in the mid-20th century. However, in my opinion, much of that is, in fact, only sentiment. There were no “good old days.” There were, however, days when certain forms of “Christian” morality held more rhetorical sway in the halls of power and the public square. In other words, many actually long for the day “when we were in charge” and “when the things we saw in public were more to our liking.”

Frankly, I don’t find this a particularly “Christian” attitude. No matter what kind of world and culture we live in, the Christian’s duty is to follow Jesus Christ. In the Bible I read, that means loving God, loving my neighbor, and indeed, loving my enemies. Nowhere do I see that it involves avidly promoting the civil religion of any particular nation or political party, seeking power at all costs, and triumphantly waving the flag and the cross in the face of fellow Americans who hold other views. I get the idea that a lot of people are saying, “Well, they (whoever they is) had their turn, now it’s ours. Let them sit back and see what it feels like.” What are we, in third grade?

In my view we must always beware the dangerous mixing of God and Caesar, no matter how “Christian” Caesar and his minions may appear.

I find it particularly appalling that Christian leaders like Robert Jeffress are so gung-ho over such a transparent snake-oil-selling president as the one we have now, who has adopted “white evangelicals” as an integral part of his base but who, by any account, shares nothing in common with them except the lust for power and control.

It is hard not to be completely cynical and despairing when observing the current situation.

Comments

  1. cheesehed says:

    Great post, Chaplain Mike

    This is kinda nauseating.

    Unfortunately the Rev. Jeffress will say more than just “a word.” Too bad in this case, it’s just a metaphor and not reality.

  2. I suppose you would rather the days of Muslim domination of the North African barbery coast, the rape of Spain for 700 years, the cutting out of the tongue if speaking any language other than Arabic. Calling President Trump “snake-oil selling” isn’t a sign of civility on your part, and what do you consider as seeking power at all costs? Voting is the only thing that happened.

    • Was Jesus “civil” when He drove the moneychangers out of the temple, or called the Pharisees “snakes and vipers”? Refusing to call a spade a spade is neither civil nor loving.

      As for the rest… ask the Native Americans what it’s been like being ruled by (self-professed) Christians for 500 years. All the atrocities you credit to Muslims were inflicted on Natives, by our ancestors, and for the same “religious” motivations that Islamist warriors used then and now. Nobody is innocent of this charge. Paul himself said in Romans 2 that religious folk do NOT get to sit in self-righteous judgment of others, since we ourselves stand guilty as charged of all the same crimes.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > Refusing to call a spade a spade is neither civil nor loving.

        Exactly this.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          And as yesterday’s post suggests, if you know God, if you know Christ, then you must share love.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I suppose you would rather the days of Muslim domination of

      Huh?

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        This was my initial response. But upon consideration, deflection via non sequitur is a common rhetorical technique. At least he didn’t mention Hillary’s emails.

    • Robert F says:

      CM, Take courage. We believe that Christ has overcome all evil, including the one behind snake-oil salesmen. If it was true for our Christian forbears in the first centuries of the church, under the yoke of Roman rule, it can be no less true for us. When you feel the cynicism and despair coming on, do your best to spread Christian love to neighbor and enemy, and to resist evil in the way suitable for a Christian, as best you understand it, and hang on to hope, with Christ’s help. Just a word of encouragement (however imperfect) from a brother who has been encouraged by your words on more than a few occasions.

      • Robert F says:

        This was meant to be a freestanding comment, not a reply to cheeshed’s tendentious one above.

      • Robert F says:

        That is, it was not meant to a reply to Jeffery’s tendentious comment. My apologies, cheeshed.

        I’m making too many mistakes too early in the morning; not a good portent.

    • StuartB says:

      Nonsensical cut and past from /r/the_donald. Yawn.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      Funny you should try and bring the Barbary Pirates up. Because they were defeated, in conjunction with Sweden and the Kingdom of Sicily, by the most definite non-Christian US President ever, the Deist Jefferson, champion of the separation of church and state.

      You people really need to learn your own history, says this African born-and-raised Canadian.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Oh, but I’m sure it was Christians who were manning the boats and storming the beaches!

        (note sarcasm)

  3. Robert F says:

    I find it particularly appalling that Christian leaders like Robert Jeffress are so gung-ho over such a transparent snake-oil-selling president as the one we have now, who has adopted “white evangelicals” as an integral part of his base but who, by any account, shares nothing in common with them except the lust for power and control.

    The mutual lust for power and control means that they actually share a lot in common, perhaps the most important things to both parties concerned.

    • Christiane says:

      these ‘white evangelicals’ are about to get trumped when their local rural hospitals have to close their NICU’s and their nanas nursing homes are shut down and no one comes any more for hospice because T dried up all the Medicaid $ for his rich friends to benefit from . . . . .

      his working-class evangelical white ‘base’ won’t get it until it has personally paid the price of T’s victory

      • SottoVoce says:

        And when I’m feeling particularly cynical, I suspect they will fail to get it even then. Their ideology does not allow them to be wrong.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Double Down AND SCREAM LOUDER!

          Sunk Cost Fallacy — the con man’s greatest friend.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > It is hard not to be completely cynical and despairing when observing the current situation.

    I’ve felt that.

    But then I look at the people around me and I know that despair would be a betrayal, and an insult. There are so very many amazing people, concerning themselves with the “tiny, decent things”.

    The Church I have largely abandoned as hopeless; it is overrun and shot through with petty mealy mouthed cowards.
    But The People remain and they are luminous.

  5. “I’m grateful that President Trump has created an atmosphere in which Evangelical Christians feel at home once again in our nation’s capital”

    If what has happened in recent months is what it takes for evangelicals to “feel at home” in DC… 40 years in the wilderness might be far too little to cure what ails us.

    • That line made me want to throw-up.

      • What disturbs me is that no Christian – especially an evangelical one – should feel at home in the nation’s capital. The values espoused by both President and Congress are at cross-purposes with the mission and values of Jesus Christ. To me, this sounds like 1984 style stupidity. Sad.

    • That’s both sad and funny….I’m leaning on the funny cuz I need the laughs.

  6. Burro [Mule] says:

    The Southern Baptists have had these “God and Country” rallies since forever. My mother dragged me to several during the Goldwater campaign in 1964, even though we weren’t remotely Baptist. Even at that young age, I knew that churches were ill-suited for that sort of program.

    Anti-communism was just coming down off its post-war peak back then. A kind of generic Christianity was a vital component of this “Americanism”, and it was diffuse enough to cover even Catholics like William F Buckley, Jr, and Jews like Frank Meyer. I don’t know why Baptists took to civil religion so enthusiastically. Historically, they’ve been more suspicious of church-state entanglements.

    Snake-oil salesmen are in our national DNA. Americans are supposed to be able to govern themselves. Let’s see if we can still do it. Trump is the first inhabitant of the White House that hasn’t any experience in either government or the military, so he’s bound to put the experiment to a stress test. I’m still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. There’s a lot of hysteria surrounding this man, but to be honest, he doesn’t seem to be any more self-serving or venial than the last three. He’s less beholden to the political media than they were, and that makes them nervous and insecure. That said, I don’t think he’s an engaging enough speaker to suffer through a speech delivered by him at First Baptist of Dallas.

    I’m glad to see the ill-used veterans of my country get some well-deserved recognition. I hope that it is followed up by substantial policy initiatives that benefit them, but I’m not holding my breath.

    I wonder if Finn moves among the same People I do. I don’t find them luminous, but adipose.

    • Robert F says:

      Diametrically opposed to you on willingness to give Trump the benefit of the doubt (he blew through the little capital I advanced him and credited to his account a long time ago), but like you find more adiposity then luminosity among most people I encounter.

  7. Stephen says:

    “The Kennedy Center, known for presenting the greatest performers and performances from across America and around the world, is the perfect location…”

    This said without even a hint of irony.

    This is just pandering to the base. I hope the evangelical Trump fans enjoy this sis boom bah because this is all they’re going to get. The non-event response to the Johnson amendment proved that.

  8. Over 60 million people voted for DJT. Over 60 million people also voted for HRC. The U.S. Is a deeply divided country , it would seem, and lots of people have lots of axes to grind including those who didn’t vote at all and those who don’t attend any church at all. Separation of church and state (a Jeffersonian phrase) is a good thing, IMO. Maybe we could observe the concept here at iMonk. In the words of that famous Christian patriot of yesteryear, Rodney King, can’t we all just get along?

    Apparently the answer, increasingly, is no.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Apparently the answer, increasingly, is no.

      No. Is it Christian to be silent in the face of naked hypocrisy? Apparently, yes, but this should not be the case. The Church needs much more courage to speak to THE SINS OF THE CHURCH; rather than cowardly keeping to criticism of the sins of The Other. The Prophets rebuked Israel.

      The answer is more, not less, politics. The Church’s hand-wave of being apolitical lies at the genesis of this crisis, not politics. There is no Asocial Gospel and there is no Apolitical Community. And the Separation Of Church And State requires neither.

      • In the Roman Empire, “Jesus is Lord” was very definitely a political statement.

        The problem exemplified in the OP is not that there is a political agenda there, but a near-idolatry of political power and nostalgia for lost cultural supremacy.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      In the words of that famous Christian patriot of yesteryear, Rodney King, can’t we all just get along?
      Apparently the answer, increasingly, is no.

      Why “get along” when you can WIN?
      And once enthroned as The Wnner, throw your weight around HARD?

  9. Patriciamc says:

    Reading the Facebook comments for Christianity Today, for many people, right-wing extremism equals Christian, and any true Christian teaching equals liberal. That’s pretty bad.

    From what I’ve seen, extremism on both sides has grown in this country as knee-jerk reactions to the other side (who are automatically “evil” now), fed by partisan media who are only partisan because it equals dollars To me, in some ways, Obama did go a bit far to the left, causing extreme knee-jerk reactions from the right. I saw this because I’m related to many of these people. They created what I call God Don, the Great Savior of White Conservatism. God Don is a fairy tale character. There is only Donald Trump, a deeply flawed man. But the far right knows how to manipulate: candy-coat their beliefs in the flag, throw in just enough facts to fan the flames of fear, throw in some feel-good phrases about God and country, and the dollars will come – because that’s what it’s ultimately about. Oh yes, the left has it’s sins too, one being the call to violence, but that’s another discussion for another time.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      They created what I call God Don, the Great Savior of White Conservatism.

      Guess what? I have a Verse!

      And they shall follow, and marvel, saying
      “WHO IS LIKE UNTO THE TRUMP? WHO CAN STAND AGAINST HIM?”

      As a survivor of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay, I find it a real hoot that all these Christians who would get all so smug about those who Will Follow The Beast (complete with a verse: “God shall send them strong delusion that they shall believe a lie”) are exhibiting exactly the same behavior they oh-so-piously sneered at.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Samuel Butler in The Way of All Flesh wrote of people who (going from memory) would be as shocked to hear Christianity questioned as they would be to see it practiced.

    • Wow. A very prescient comment. Thank you.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      –> “From what I’ve seen, extremism on both sides has grown in this country as knee-jerk reactions to the other side (who are automatically “evil” now)…”

      It’s not just America. I just got back from London where I read a good editorial in one of their local papers about the “raging” that people are doing these days (in the UK) regardless of what side of the fence you’re on. This person was even perceptive enough to notice that the raging has transitioned to WITHIN camps that are normally aligned in philosophy/ideology. In other words, even within conservative and liberal camps, divisiveness has begun sprouting when one “faction” disagrees with another “faction”. The writer’s conclusion was this: “When did we become people so unwilling to listen to viewpoints that we disagree with?” (This was all from a UK perspective, which sounded so very familiar to me as an American.)

      –> “To me, in some ways, Obama did go a bit far to the left, causing extreme knee-jerk reactions from the right.”

      I believe Obama was a very divisive president. He had several opportunities to bring different people together in response to emotionally- and ethnically-charged events, but tended to drive the wedge further between us. I think other presidents (and even a personality like MLK Jr.) would’ve done a much better job of uniting us during those moments.

      • StuartB says:

        Through no fault of his own. Remember, he was black. And a democrat. And liked the wrong kind of mustard. And educated.

        Don’t underestimate those things, the right people certainly used them to spin the narrative against him.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          –> “Don’t underestimate those things, the right people certainly used them to spin the narrative against him.”

          Nope. I base my opinion on my own observation and analysis. In fact, I think media gave him too much lee-way in getting away with divisive elements. I found Obama a bit passive aggressive in situations.

          • Robert F says:

            Obama certainly did like using those executive orders to circumvent Congress on some pretty big issues; in so doing, he set a precedent that the Current Occupant has taken and run away with.

            • Rick Ro. says:

              Yes. That was one particularly divisive element that falls in the category of “be careful what you cheer for.” When a president you favor does something out of line, but since you like him and agree with him you don’t mind it, just know the next guy in line may be someone you don’t like.

              There were several other divisive moments where I felt Obama really had the chance to be a unifying president, but chose the divisive path of passive aggression.

              • Robert F says:

                I have to say, even though I’m progressive, I thought the way the Obama administration strong-armed religiously conservative employers on the contraceptive coverage feature of the ACA was needlessly divisive, and guaranteed to produce a backlash.

  10. Let me throw out this question, although I agree with much of what CM wrote:

    In terms of the title of the post (Revival of Civil Religion), in what ways is this different than religious leaders attending the National Prayer Breakfast to hear Pres. Obama?
    Is it the sponsorship? Is it Trump? Other factors?

    • Granted it is a difference of degree, not kind. But there it is – in pastor Jeffress’ own words, evangelicals were “not welcome” in the National Prayer Breakfast before now… :-/

      • They also weren’t welcome in Hillary’s weekly bible and prayer studies because…you know, Methodist…

  11. Ronald Avra says:

    Robert Jeffress and First Baptist Dallas exemplify the perversion of Christianity in the United States.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      +1

      And that’s why we have so many Done’s around now. We Christians have done poorly representing Jesus because we’re more interested in “country.” (That’s a collective “we”, not anyone here specifically.)

      We MUST go overboard on Grace if we want people to begin to know Jesus, to make up for the years of pathetic ambassadorship of our King.

      • I’m slightly dreading having to explain the whole #done thing to the evangelicals at my new job. It’s hard enough having a discussion about theology or church history, most just don’t have the knowledge of what’s unique or has come before. I think day one or two I introduced Christus Victor to them, and that was ‘radical and novel’…

        And it’s hard to explain why I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been in my life being a #done.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        This.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Remember IMonk and The Coming Evangelical Collapse?

      Well, this is it.
      “WHO IS LIKE UNTO THE TRUMP? WHO CAN STAND AGAINST HIM?”

  12. >> There were no “good old days.”

    Hmm. Unlike most people here, I was alive and old enough to be conscious and aware during that admittedly brief ten year or so span which is what is referred to here. I was there. What most people now call the good old days, that time of post-war prosperity and Leave It To Beaver life style and leaving your front door unlocked was in fact quite real for most Americans. That this was accomplished at the expense of some few in this country and most all the rest of the world is quite true and was not realized at the time by Americans, but that does not take away from the reality of those times which were indeed enjoyed by a huge majority of ordinary people, not the just the 1% we deal with now. This reality and more is still possible today for most all people if we would stop fighting each other and focus our attention on that 1% worldwide whose main aim is to keep us fighting each other so they can steal our peace and prosperity. Seems to me we should stop helping them.

    I am fortunate to live where the good old days are as alive and well as it is possible to be in this world of turmoil and strife. I’m guessing that I’m probably in the lowest 10% of the folks here from a financial point of view, but I just looked out my window and saw the first appearance of Mama Doe and her new twins. Can’t afford your vacation trips and craft beer, but I am rich. And these still are the good old days for me and better, which are always available for anyone willing to take a break from the Punch and Judy show. It’s just harder today to find someone to enjoy it with and a place quiet enough to let it happen.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > was in fact quite real for most Americans

      No

      > That this was accomplished at the expense of …

      . . . immense government spending.

      > were indeed enjoyed by a huge majority of ordinary people,

      No

      > This reality and more is still possible today for most all people if we would stop fighting each other

      We do agree on that, at least. And it is the most important bit.

      • Heather Angus says:

        Like Charles, I was there. For middle-class white Americans, those were wonderful times. As Charles describes them. I was a white middle-class kid that could leave home after breakfast on a summer morning, play with friends all over the block till lunch or supper, and have no worries or fears of predators, creeps, and the other assorted fauna of today’s social landscape. My family didn’t live high on the hog, but we had a house, a car, and steak to roast over the outdoor fireplace whenever we wanted. We had a measure of safety that no one poorer than a millionaire could provide for his kids today.

        >> was in fact quite real for most Americans

        >No

        Yes.

        >> That this was accomplished at the expense of …

        >. . . immense government spending.

        No. The post-war economic boom involved little increase in government spending,

        >> were indeed enjoyed by a huge majority of ordinary people,

        >No

        Yes. from the Post- World War II Economic Expansion article in Wikipedia (if you find a better source, cite it): “The period from the end of World War II to the early 1970s was a golden era of American capitalism. $200 billion in war bonds matured, and the G.I. Bill financed a well-educated work force. The middle class swelled, as did GDP and productivity. The US underwent its own golden age of economic growth. This growth was distributed fairly evenly across the economic classes, which some attribute to the strength of labor unions in this period—labor union membership peaked during the 1950s. Much of the growth came from the movement of low-income farm workers into better-paying jobs in the towns and cities—a process largely completed by 1960.”

        Baby Boomers who grew up through those days very naturally thought that this was the way things were and should be. I was there,, and I’m glad I had a chance to enjoy it. My black friends didn’t have the same chances, and my black friends today are not a lot better off.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > or middle-class white Americans, those were wonderful times

          I will agree with that; you add an important qualifier. BUT “middle-class white Americans” was ***NEVER*** “most” Americans. Never.

          > We had a measure of safety that no one poorer than a millionaire could provide for his kids today.

          Crime rates are currently at an historic low.

          > The post-war economic boom involved little increase in government spending,

          Seriously? That is an utterly ahistorical statement. The post-war economic boom saw the largest socialist enterprise in all of human history – the US Interstate Highway System. It also saw the expansion of public infrastructure enough to change the ratio of fire-hydrants to housing units from ~1:4 to something akin to ~30:1. The post-war boom had the GI bill, the introduction of mortgage assistance [for white people], and all manner of suburban subsidization.

          Also, during the war government spending counted for ****86%**** of the US Economy. 86%! The post-war boom was a long ride on the tail of that largess.

          And do we need to mention the largess-extension-justification programs like the Moon Shot?

          I know that Boomers love the Free-Market Economic Boom narrative, but it is categorically false.

          > [White Middle Class] Baby Boomers who grew up through those days very naturally
          > thought that this was the way things were and should be

          We agree on that; the expectation of Normal is a serious political problem.

        • Robert F says:

          I thought of responding to your comment, Heather, with the same basic facts, but then I decided that it would be better to wait for Adam to show up and do it in a more thorough and detailed way. GI Bill supporting the construction of millions of new homes and supporting neighborhoods, extensive and expensive new roadways pioneering the paths to and through the new American suburbs; without massive government spending, these things wouldn’t have happened.

  13. It is hard not to be completely cynical and despairing when observing the current situation.

    I am right with you there. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with me having been an MK and growing up overseas, but I’ve never understood the American brand of evangelicalism and its embrace of power. The mantra that keeps coming up in the back of my mind is “wrong kingdom, wrong kingdom, wrong kingdom.”

    Shocking as it is, the current situation is the culmination of a fairly lengthy trajectory for evangelicals.They’ve been courting and lusting after worldly power for decades; the forms and methods vary slightly, but not the goal. That is idolatry, and it’s sin. And it’s going to be (already is, actually) destructive to a lot of ordinary people’s lives, and to the church and its witness as well. The church in other countries knows this all too well, even as a large swath of American Christians choose to be blind to it.

    I left evangelicalism more than five years ago. I don’t see any reason to go back.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Shocking as it is, the current situation is the culmination of a fairly lengthy trajectory for evangelicals.They’ve been courting and lusting after worldly power for decades; the forms and methods vary slightly, but not the goal.

      If you’ve heard the interpretation of Revelation’s symbology where The Beast represents a corrupt political system and his sidekick the False Prophet a corrupt religious system, you might want to start checking for (invisible?) Marks on American Evangelicals’ foreheads and right hands.

      Remembering between that Beast (corrupt political system) and False Prophet (corrupt religious system), which was the Boss and which was the Flunkey.

      • Unless it’s a theocracy, the Beast always leads the False Prophet around by the nose.

        That’s something that overeager culture warriors would do well to remember…

  14. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    First Baptist DALLAS?
    As in the DFW Megachurch whirl?
    Setting of GCB?

    Was Jeffress one of those Megapastor/Kingmakers who delivered the Christianese vote in the DFW area and flew in private jets to the Inauguration for 15 minutes of fame at the Right Hand of The Trump?

    • Sickening isn’t it. You need to write a SF parody of this madness. Somehow these elite (both political and religious) remind me of the same in the Hunger Games.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I remember an online article many years ago about the Righteous social whirl in DC.

        I told Eagle (in DC) about it and said from what I read, you may as well change the name of the city to Panem and start hosting the Hunger Games.

        Which free-associated with this YouTube video about the close parallels between Panem and present-day China:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SST47dkn5JI

  15. There are so many painful issues raised during this political season, that each could generate a good book or two. However, in years to come, after DJT has gone to his grave (including all his executive orders and tweets) as well as many of us have left this earth, I think history will look back and see that 2016 was the year that truth died in America and that is the greatest tragedy of all. While relativism has been seeping in for 150 years, this was the year that truth was lowered into the tomb. The saddest part of this, rather than being the voice of truth in the storm of relativity, as people like Schaeffer had encouraged us to be, the American Evangelical Church, became the vehicle of factual and moral ambivalence. The Evangelicals were the pallbearers of truth. The church lost its voice for truth and morality to this generation. It will take a hundred years to restore that voice and that’s if they try hard. In days like this, it is hard for a post-mil optimist like me to remain optimistic. But I still do think the Church will prevail in the end, but maybe that Church will need some severe pruning.

    • While relativism has been seeping in for 150 years,

      Hm. Truth is relative. It always has been, no matter who is in power. No one person has the same truth as another person, just as an object cannot occupy the exact same space and time as another object. When truth hasn’t been relative is when truth has been suppressed and co-opted.

      this was the year that truth was lowered into the tomb.

      Firmly agree there!

      • I think there is a difference between the relativity of truth and the certainty of it. We can thrive without certainty, but we drift into a hopeless, chaotic nihilism if we say there is no truth to aspire to.

        • Robert F says:

          j Michael Jones, I agree with you. In my experience, those who claim that no objective truth exists always utilize one or more assertions of objective truth as part of their claim. Each of the claims on this thread that objective truth doesn’t exist utilizes assertions of objective truth in doing so. The problem is that those who fall into this trap don’t seem to realize it, and in my experience they get angry and stop listening or engaging in respectful dialogue if it’s pointed out to them, so I don’t bother to point it out anymore.

          • StuartB says:

            those who claim that no objective truth exists always utilize one or more assertions of objective truth as part of their claim.

            So the claim “no objective truth exists” is an objective claim? Is that it?

            • Robert F says:

              That’s one of them. But it is a self-refuting claim. If it was put in the form, There are no other objective truths than the one claimed in this assertion, then it would not be self-refuting, but it would still be a claim of objective truth for the assertion. But such an assertion would carry a heavy burden of improbability, making itself the only member of the class it belongs to. That would strain credulity to an extraordinary degree.

              • When reason was taken too far (not considering the fall’s influence), we then concluded that we must have 100% verifiable objective evidence to know anything, it ended with meaninglessness. Descartes illustrated this with his, “Cogito ergo sum.” The only real objective truth then, is that we exist because we can hold a cognitive thought.

                But that’s not reality. That’s not how we live. We live on conjecture, based on some evidence. That’s the best we can do with a mortal reason. We can hold high probability of truth despite the illusions and distortions, based on what objective evidence we have and using a reason that is good, God-given, but not perfect. If we give up on our aspiration to find real truth, what do we have left.

                A PCA pastor friend told me once that he went through a period of doubts. The way he resolved it was by coming to a point of accepting that Christianity is totally irrational and baseless That it has no advantage over any other system. That the reason he believes it is simply that was the way he was raised by his parents. So “his personal truth” was that Christianity was real and true. If he had been born in India, he will feel the same way about Hinduism and the same for Islam if born in Mecca. That was good enough for him.

                I found that to be a sad place. We must come to grips that we can never have certainty as mortals, and that is okay. But we can have a high probability and reason is part of that journey. Faith is not the substitution for an worthless reason, but it is the translation of an imperfect reason into a way of living. We must have a high probability that Jesus walked (objectively) in Galilee, that he died and, most of all, he rose again. With a high probability of knowledge, we can then exhibit that, through faith, in a life devoted to him.

                Truth still exist and is not just a linguistical-based world of shadow puppets.

    • Oddly enough, I am convinced that all the talk of “truth” and “objective truth” is just a smokescreen – it is those who believe that truth (or at least human perspectives on it) are socially affected and negotiated who show a higher commitment to truth in practice. I think Jesus would agree – he never said the Scriptures were the truth but that he was the truth. Many evangelicals would do well to meditate on Jesus’ teaching – “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > I am convinced that all the talk of “truth” and “objective truth” is just a smokescreen

        +1,000. I am soooo tired of that trite pithy nonsense. And Fallacy-Of-The-Disambiguated-Middle much! Something is either Objective -or- it is Partisan??? Please, just grow up already.

        > it is those who believe that truth are socially affected and negotiated who show a
        > higher commitment to truth in practice

        Yep.

        My question is: Can those who are not socially integrated even understand what “socially affected and negotiated” means? I suspect the answer is “No”; So of course it appears repellant or nebulous to them. The problem is not that truth is socially negotiated – it is that the their minds are insufficiently socialized.

        • Perhaps some Job 40-42 would be good here too! “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?” Um, no, I can’t do that… nor can I give a full and accurate account of any natural or spiritual phenomenon.

          • Robert F says:

            But it is true that we cannot draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, right? And it it is not, and I can’t understand that only because I’m not sufficiently socialized to understand the meaning of “socially affected and negotiated”, then it is true that I’m insufficiently socialized in this area, right?

            Don’t people look both ways when they cross the street everywhere in the world (excepting New York City, of course)?

  16. Well said, CM!
    When I was younger, I was taught that the United States was a “Christian” nation, and that we Christians had to somehow “turn the people back to God,” never mind that Christians were just as human as everyone else. I also didn’t understand why separation of church and state was such an issue, until I watched Christians doing the same things in church that the secular government did, plus a heapin’ helpin’ of Bible quotin’. Now I’m with you. Excellent post!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      When I was younger, I was taught that the United States was a “Christian” nation, and that we Christians had to somehow “turn the people back to God,” never mind that Christians were just as human as everyone else.

      Did that include the threat of God punishing America with nuclear war if we didn’t?

      “GOD’S JUDGMENT FOR AMERICA’S SINS SITS READY AND WAITING IN THE NUCLEAR MISSILE SILOS OF THE SOVIET UNION!!!!!”
      — radio preacher from the Seventies; all I remember of him is that one-liner

  17. The prelude was last Sunday’s morning hour at FBC Dallas, with singing about allegiance to America, little flags issued to the congregants, trooping of the colors, an indoor fireworks celebration and much, much more – look it up on the web. Those lost Catholic souls with their church calendar, crosses and prayer beads, and word and table at every service – I’m sure glad us evangelicals have gotten away from all that godless liturgy so we can focus on true worship.

    • I’ll never forget the first time I heard the Star Spangled Banner used as the closing hymn at a church service. And this was not at a generic non-denominational megachruch, but a staunch Presby congregation well-known for its theological rigor. I was very incensed when they started singing it at the end of the service, and afterwards I raised holy heck with all my friends there about how inappropriate it was to use a national anthem in the worship of the God of all mankind. And all of my friends there – NO EXCEPTION – could not see anything wrong with it, or why I was so upset.

      That day was one of the lonliest days of my life. :-/

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Sympathy-Fist-Bump.

        Ironicly, about the only pastor I’ve seen have the cojones to a stand up to a little nationalist whoopla in a church – was a Southern Baptist.

        Baptist history and thought is thoroughly anti-nationalist, it is sad, the categories have so decayed. 🙁

    • Patriciamc says:

      I’m 100% patriotic American and love patriotic songs, but in church? That’s called idolatry.

  18. So… tithes given at FBC will be used to transport their choir and orchestra to DC. I guess that is an “appropriate” use of the money…

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > is an “appropriate” use of the money

      Sure, why not? So long as the contributors/congregants are aware that is what their contributions will be used for; and in this case how are they NOT crystal clear?

      But I’m one of those Leftists [not really Liberal/Neo-Liberal] eager to see the Johnson Amendment fully repealed. Let churches endorse candidates *HONESTLY* rather than by feint. That would be a big improvement, IMO. Things would be clearer. There would be less shade to hide in.

      • I agree w/it being ok/permissable if congregants aware in advance. But I still do not think it is an appropriate use – I see it doing nothing to advance cause of the church. (even in an SBC context) (but then I am not SBC) (or maybe FBC Dallas is just different from most) (warning: parenthetical statements may lead to dancing)

        Must respectively disagree re: endorsements

        I am grateful that at least on Sunday mornings I do not have to listen to all the political screeds I hear elsewhere. It is a “sanctuary” in more ways than one.

      • StuartB says:

        Hm. I sort of agree, but wouldn’t that put us just one step closer to a theocracy, full of Imans?

        If we repeat the Johnson Amendment, can we also remove all the other government benefits and protections churches enjoy?

        • A liitle good old fashioned time in the sociopolitical wilderness, if not outright persecution, may be just what we American Christians need to get our heads extracted from our posteriors.

          • Robert F says:

            I can’t idealize persecution as an likely change-agent for the better. Persecution is more likely to generate hatred among us moderns than transforming love.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            A liitle good old fashioned time in the sociopolitical wilderness, if not outright persecution, may be just what we American Christians need…

            Careful what you wish for…
            A lot of those Perscuted Third World Christians would gladly trade it in for the conditions American Christians live under.

            And remember after the Second Russian Revolution? All the Persecution-refined Russian Christians who were going to come over and show us Spoiled Rotten Baby Fat American Christians what REAL Christianity was?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      So… tithes given at FBC will be used to transport their choir and orchestra to DC. I guess that is an “appropriate” use of the money…

      To make Pilgrimage to the new Trump Tower, so that ye may make sound of the trumpet, and of the flute, and of the harp, of the sackbut, and of the psaltery, and of the symphony, and of all kind of music; and at that sound ye fall down and adore, saying “Who is like unto The Trump? Who can stand against Him?”

      (Filking some verses of Daniel with Revelation crossover; had all that stuff in my head from my time in-country, now putting it to use.).

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        P.S. Years ago, there was this small-press contemporary-supernatural genre RPG with the title “Rapture: The Second Coming”. Did a better job than the official End Time Prophecy types (the difference between storytelling and propaganda). Original publisher was a small press called “Quntessinal Mercy Productions”, but was re-edited into a later D20 edition (don’t remember which publisher). The “Ugh, the Argh” title was a dig to White Wolf Games, which was famous for its gothy angsty grimdark contemporary-supernatural RPGs.

        Well, one thing the game designers put in that really stood out to me was how a lot of churches helped put the REAL Antichrist in power. Because his appearance and trajectory (and that of what was going down in the world) didn’t match that prophesied in their End Time Prophecy charts/checklists, they figured he COULDN’T be the one until it was too late.

        • “How could we have POSSIBLY known he was going to be so bad?!? He hated the U.N., he supported Israel, he wasn’t a New Ager… he didn’t match ANY of the Antichrist criteria!!!”

          “So… the fact that he was a selfish, exploitive, poor-hating liar didn’t clue you in even for a microsecond?”

      • (or stealing from another source)
        The Tower. He would come to the Trump Tower and there he would sing their names; there he would sing their names; there he would sing all their names. The sun stained the east a dusky rose, and at last Jeffries, no longer the last true pastor but one of the last three, slept and dreamed his angry dreams through which there ran only that one soothing blue thread: There I will sing all their names!

        • Robert F says:

          The Silmarillion?

        • Burro [Mule] says:

          Roland Deschain of Gilead, last scion of the line of Eld. The Gunslinger.

          srs wins the Internets for the day with the Stephen King reference.

          • (OT). Question Mule, re: the ending – Do you think the ending invalidated the stakes of the quest of the series?

            • StuartB says:

              Nah, because what goes around comes around…but just slightly improved.

              Which is why the movie coming out is a sequel.

              • I’ll rewrite the question w/spoilery details: If by saving the tower, existence is saved, then why would the tower risk itself by forcing the quest to repeat? (Or was the tower never really at risk?)

  19. OT, but I just read the “John Piper’s Best Tweets” article linked in the sidebar. Hysterical. I know the tweets are cherry-picked, but I was once again struck by just how consumed with sex and gender Piper is. It seems dangerously unhealthy.

    • Almost everything about Piper’s thinking is dangerously unhealthy. I remember hearing him speak at a reformed theology conference where he said (as near an exact quote as I can muster from memory) that if a person does not have positive emotional feelings towards God on a regular basis, they are probably going to hell.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      One really must ask oneself…

      1) Why does he feel the need to talk about these kinds of subjects?
      2) Why does he feel there always has to be a “Biblical” response to these kinds of subjects?
      3) Why does he feel he’s an expert?

      • 1/2/3 – because he has perfect theology

        “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”

        When you have perfectly refined theology, everything is Biblical(tm) and there are no non-essentials

        • Rick Ro. says:

          –> “…there are no non-essentials.”

          Bingo. And thus, related to the post a couple weeks back, people feel the need to go to him with questions about oral sex, he feels he needs to answer the questions about oral sex, and he feels he is qualified to answer the questions about oral sex.

        • Clay Crouch says:

          So there’s no need for Charity. Perfect!

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        +1,000.

        Dear Mr. Piper: We get it already. Enough with the Pelvic Obsession, anyone who hasn’t heard you yet doesn’t care. You should tweet more about flowers and beer

  20. I have no problem with a civil religion as long as no one such as an atheist is required to actively participate, and as long as no one particular private religion is promoted as exclusive, other than excluding Satanists of whatever stripe. I think the Bible has a lot to say about civil religion, not all of it applicable to today but much of it. I think the Bible also has a lot to say about being completely cynical and despairing, especially in the New Covenant.

    The post asks, “What are we, in third grade?” Today and too many days I would be inclined to answer, “Yes.” Too often the opinions expressed here amount to “Me and all my friends know what’s happening. Everyone else is a poopy head. If everyone thought like me and my friends, everything would be cool.” It is too often hard for me not to be completely cynical and despairing when observing what gets offered here.

    Recently it was reported that a number of the leaders of major religions in the world got together and suggested that it would be a good idea right now if people worldwide stopped quarreling and got to know people from other traditions better. I didn’t notice this reported in the mainstream news, but if true I would consider that one of the top stories of the decade, maybe of the century, maybe ever. Here at the Monastery, what I would call among the best available, we can’t even get along with other Christians, a blot on the name of Jesus, and too often all that we have to offer the world is cynicism and despair and anger and accusation and self-righteousness. In my view this is not helping to make the world a better place, but the opposite, giving aid and comfort to the Great Accuser.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      A friend recently told me he categorized me as “a hopeful cynic.” I guess that means I’ve got ultimate faith in Jesus, but dang it if the real world, the people in it, and bad Christianity doesn’t rear up its collective ugly head now and then to ruin it for me. But I’ve got ultimate faith in Jesus…

      Rinse and repeat.

      Not sure there are any Fargo fans here (the tv show, not the city), but there was a great moment toward the end of this season when the protagonist chief/deputy is sharing a drink with a police officer and somewhat lamenting that the good guys too often lose and the bad guys win. The police officer hardly bats an eye, saying, “Jesus wins in the end,” and the protagonist kinda nods, like reminding herself, “Oh, that’s right.”

      Great moment.

  21. I live in here. I am in his world but not if it. Is that division in the church? Whatever it is I can’t have fellowship with that ultra right, gun totin’, patriotic, evangelical, Gawd fearin’ thing that’s happening next door. It’s disturbing.

    • Just meant to say “I live here”

      • Perhaps “I live in here” is more accurate.

        Apparently the twelve disciple main crew of Jesus during his ministry included what we in modern terms might call a rabid extreme libertarian militia member and an establishment exploitative toady IRS agent, leaving aside the Satanic looking-out-for-number-one manipulator and thief. It seems Jesus didn’t have a problem with all this and neither do I.

        • What Jesus did seem to have a problem with was his disciples arguing amongst themselves, something we here at iMonk excel at. From my seat in the peanut gallery, it seems to me that the loudest arguers here are the ones least helpful to my growth and learning, and to the peace and unity of the world.

  22. Its funny how we often affirm one thing and live another.

    In Canada there are no laws whatsoever for separation of church and state. Yet it is strongly enforced by convention, we just don’t mix the two (in general).

    In the US there is formal talk and law regarding separation of church and state. And yet you mix both in such a way that could never happen in Canada.

    I find that ironic.