7 Steps for Surviving This Election


On this, the day after the U.S. general election, 2016, the states have given the 45th Presidency to Donald J. Trump. Some people are elated; others are deflated. No matter what the results were or would have been, the country has felt deeply divided over this election cycle. This has been one of the most divisive elections in our history. We need a path to healing.

  1. Remember, the office is bigger than the man or woman who fills it.

Presidents don’t just shape the office, they are shaped by it. In most Presidents, you can even see in physical terms the effects from carrying the weight of this office over four or eight years. No man or woman is sufficient for such responsibility. Just like any world leader should, a President may quickly realize the weight of his or her office and—no matter their sectarian belief—ask God for help! The Lord who raises up kings and removes them (Daniel 2:21), works through even secular rulers to accomplish his will. A surprising example of this can be found in the Persian king, Cyrus:

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
    whose right hand I have grasped. (Isaiah 45:1)

Unbelievably, God calls Cyrus, the conquering pagan king, his anointed, a title reserved for Israel’s coming king, the Messiah who would follow in David’s footsteps—ultimately Jesus Christ. In the imperfect situation of Israel’s captivity, God used Cyrus to accomplish his will:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23)

If God can use Cyrus, Israel’s captor, to furnish exiled Israel a decree allowing them to rebuild their temple and return home, how much more can he use a flawed President?

  1. Pray for the president.

Pray, because of what we said in the first point. Fallen men and women need God’s help to rule well. So, Paul writes to his pastor-protégé Timothy in the New Testament:

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. (1 Timothy 2:1-2, The Message version)

We must pray for President Trump, regardless of our agreement, disagreement or indifference toward his policies and character. Every President needs our prayers, and God commands them from us with the promise of the well-being of the church.

  1. As President Obama said on social media last night, we must honor the peaceful transition of power.

We’ve had divisive elections before. At election’s end, it’s time to remember we are all Americans. Be civil on social media. Be respectful of all viewpoints, and stay engaged, not just in presidential elections, but in self-governing at all levels.

  1. The best way to move forward is to listen and seek to understand.

Especially in the wake of this election, feelings are raw. People on both sides felt that if the other candidate won, not just the election but also the country would be lost. We need to realize how deep the wounds are. Don’t gloat. Don’t rub salt in the wounds. Christians can exemplify this if we heed God’s word:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

  1. No matter how the media caricatures it, Christians did not all vote the same.

Writing in Premiere Christianity, British evangelical Sam Hailes had encouraging words for us prior to the election. He began, “Dear America, I love your country. And I am praying for you today.” He went on to list several reasons we should be encouraged, including the reminder that good Christians will sometimes disagree about our choice of the best person to run the country:

In order to maintain any kind of Christian unity following today, it is vital to admit (even if it’s hard to do so) that God-fearing Christians are voting in all directions. It’s long been taken for granted in the UK that good Christians will vote for different parties. And it’s helped us all stay sane and avoid shouting matches.

If nothing else, this election has opened the eyes of Bible-believing Christians to the fact that we are each responsible for our own Christian convictions, wrestling through the implications of the gospel, seeking to apply a biblical worldview without allowing a political party bind our consciences. We are loyal to Christ first, to each other second. Love of country (and party) trails these prior commitments (see Matthew 22:15-22 and 37-38).

  1. Don’t move to Canada. Here’s why.

Canadian publication Maclean’s Magazine even set up a camera in Vermont on the Canada-U.S. border to see if any Americans cross over after the election.

Probably not many actually will. We Americans are fascinated with Canada, but we don’t really understand it and might not get on well there. As Mashable has noted:

  • They don’t have pennies, and their money is confusing.
  • You don’t know enough about hockey.
  • You’ll get spoiled on Tim Horton’s. (They say it tastes better than Starbucks and is creamier when mixed with milk.)
  • In below-zero temps, while New Yorkers turn on the heat, Canadians have a grill-out.

You’re probably safer just to hunker down here for the next four years. But seriously, don’t hunker down either. Why? Because of reason number seven.

  1. Teach your kids, and set an example for your friends that America works best at the local level.

When Alexis de Tocqueville surveyed the American social landscape in the mid-1800s, he noticed several features of democracy that fascinated him, which he recorded in his classic, Democracy in America. He was most enthralled with the way our democratic ideals were being lived out in local governments in the townships of New England. He noted:

  • Local government is the key to American democracy.
  • Democracy is more direct in local contexts: politicians speak directly to constituents; committees are made up of your neighbors; policy is decided by direct votes; everyone can watch over the implementation of policy for direct accountability.
  • Local government is a school of Democracy. Participation makes better citizens.

Whatever your feelings about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or a third party candidate, the democratic process has done its best job, and we have a new President-elect. As Americans, when the system works we all win. As Christians, we can lead the way in healing the divide between those who feel they won and those who feel they were defeated if we keep these seven steps in mind.

Advertisements

The Bible (Almost), Series Premiere


If you know someone over forty, ask them if they remember books like The Illustrated Bible  sitting on end tables in the dentist’s waiting room. Everyone used to display these, and I remember looking through their colorful renderings of

Image

important Bible persons and events. By the way, does the picture of two elderly pale European men in a tiny boat with (obviously) cropbearded Jesus strike you as an accurate rendering of the episode in Luke 5:1-11? If you think the cover is a stretch, click the link and take a look at Leonardo’s Annunciation on page three of the preview! Is that your idea of the angel Gabriel? Was Mary really that “mature,” and where did she get the marble table? (Thank you, Verrocchio!)

We taught our kids from the classic Egermeier’s Bible Story Book, because we heard of its legendary accuracy from the (very serious!) homeschool crowd. Published in the 1920s, it has survived the test of time and proven itself a classic. Yet it has been criticized on grounds of inaccuracy. One reviewer wrote “there are facts presented that are flat-out false,” while another notes that it, “softens or skips the less age-appropriate elements like incest and promiscuity” (see Amazon reviews). Our kids, and thousands of others, have quite profitably been taught Bible stories from this factually deficient book!

The point is that we can, and we do look past a lot of factual errors and “reading between the lines” in art and stories based on the Bible, appreciating their value and utility despite their fallibility and inevitably-culture-bound aesthetic. Viewers of The Bible miniseries on History will have to grant the same latitude if they want to enjoy its unique paraphrasing of the Biblical story.

I watched the series premier as something of a skeptic, expecting revisionist history, political correctness and more stale Jesus Seminar rhetoric about how we really can’t take the biblical canon as a historically reliable sacred text. To my delight, I noticed in the opening scene where Noah rehearses the prologue of (what would later be) Genesis to his family, there was no attempt to qualify, distance, or deconstruct. The Noah character took the creation story as authoritative revelation, passed on orally from generation to generation. As the docudrama unfolded, it stayed true to the aim of rendering a familiar body of stories and themes to an audience for whom they might be unfamiliar.

That last assertion is my reason for giving the series premier a tentative three stars out of five. Let me enumerate some the star-earning points:

  1. It didn’t assume revisionist history, but took the stories as they are given in the Bible and tried to render them for a contemporary audience.
  2. Like Walter Wangerin’s widely-read The Book of God, this dramatization of the biblical story invites us into the Scriptures themselves, bringing narratives to life and whetting our appetite to go deeper and learn more.
  3. The screenplay made mostly intelligent, limited choices of episodes and characters in an attempt to get the flow of biblical history and important themes, including covenant and faith. For me, these themes are clear, if deficient. I’ll explain why below.
  4. Like Medieval morality plays, The Bible miniseries can and will increase awareness of biblical content to the biblical-illiterate! This one is huge, because:
  5. Established Christians must accept the fact that bible illiteracy is the norm for American popular culture today.

For these reasons, and probably a few more, I feel fairly positive about watching the rest of the series as it unfolds over the next several weeks. However, I have to acknowledge some limitations and concerns:

  1. Some of your and my favorite stuff is going to be missing. Just like the books I mentioned above, screenwriters have to select from a mountain of material and put together a coherent story for a target audience. I was most disappointed that Joseph (a key figure in Genesis and a type of Christ) was entirely omitted.
  2. Theological presuppositions are going to color the story; for example, the themes of covenant and faith were presented in a very man-centered way. As a Facebook friend pointed out (Thanks, Al!), the Moses character talked about the Abrahamic covenant in a way that distorted its conditions, as if it were entirely conditional! (It isn’t. Here’s a concise discussion of that.)
  3. There is some buzz that the Christology is going to be messed up. If it is, my stars will drop off and my skepticism will have been confirmed. Let’s wait and see, please?

I do think we need to be discerning and informed whenever we teach, tell, act, sing, or allude to the inspired, infallible, inerrant text of Scripture. Especially those who teach. The Bible is not designed as a teaching series–though there are lots of revenue-generating support materials for teachers on the website–but, like Wangerin’s The Book of God, it admits (in the prologue) it is not a substitute for the Bible itself.

As for how adequate this docudrama proves to be at entertaining and informing audiences to help them become more interested in the greatest story ever written, that story remains to be told.

Global Faith Dying?


Regional Distribution of Christians

If you asked most people whether Christianity is growing or dying around the world, I’ll bet they’d choose the latter. At least in the U.S., Christianity is taking some really big hits from the New Atheists, from secular media and from the academy, where one can hardly admit to being a person of faith without being (fallaciously) considered a bigot, backwards and brainwashed. Much like the misinformation and disinformation of Christianity’s first centuries, dispelled by capable apologists like Justin Martyr and Athenagoras, reports of Christianity’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

As the above chart from tothesource.org shows, Christianity has experienced significant growth–just not here in the West.  While the West has turned to devour itself from the roots up, the East has discovered a new source of hope, liberty, meaning and a moral compass. At least that’s my opinion having experienced that same personal transformation and compared notes with many others in my three trips to India.

And do I as a modern, Western Christian lament the fact that Christianity may become an “Eastern Religion” in a few generations? Well, of course, but I lament the West, not the Faith. Christianity  HAS NEVER been a “Western Religion” in the sense that the West is the genesis of Christian faith! Indeed, just the opposite is true. We in the West have messed the legacy of Christ and the Apostles up in many ways, institutionalizing it, domesticating it, using it to justify occasional atrocities (even one is inexcusable). But that’s been OUR fault. Not the faith that arose from the fertile soil of the Ancient Near East. May it take root there and beyond once again, and grow to shade and nourish millions from the fallen condition of the world and the missed-mark of human religious institutions.

To read the excellent, balanced article, click the link below.

http://www.tothesource.org/1_11_2012/1_11_2012.htm.

To understand the core of the Christian faith (the gospel), click this link: http://bible.org/article/what-gospel

Alvin Plantinga’s New Book on God and Science – NYTimes.com


Alvin Plantinga’s New Book on God and Science – NYTimes.com.  If you can still get to this link (NYT is pretty proprietary), this is definitely worth the read. Plantinga has taken off the gloves in his sparring with the New Atheists. And he thinks science not only is compatible with faith, but actually fits a theistic worldview better than a naturalistic one. This debate–or the long running debate at this level–is just heating up!