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Why Political Speech Is Inappropriate from the Pulpit!

For years now, I have been criticizing the preaching of politics from the pulpit. Why? What's so wrong with talking about issues and can...

Saturday, January 30, 2021

from whence cometh these blessings?

It is a notion as old as time: We must have what we have, because God gave it all to us. The wealthy and the powerful have often justified their circumstances, both to themselves and others, by claiming God as the source of their wealth and power.

Notions like "God made me king" or "God ordained that we should possess this land" have been used to justify all manner of evil from the dawn of time. Indeed, for many millennia of human history, people have employed these arguments to justify the executions and slaughter of anyone who opposed them or in any way impeded their access to what they believed God had given them. And, in a grotesque kind of circular reasoning, they have argued that their triumph over their competitors/enemies supplies the necessary evidence or proof that God intended for them to have it in the first place!

This is the reasoning that underpins things like the Divine Right to Rule, White Christian Nationalism and Anglo-Israelism. The existing order is the way that God intended for things to be - otherwise, they wouldn't be the way that they are! After all, God gave the Israelites their land, and God decreed that the Assyrians and Babylonians would conquer them. God decreed that the Greeks and Romans would rule the world. Isn't that right? Didn't God tell Daniel "that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses..." (Daniel 4:17)? Didn't God tell the Israelites that he was the source of everything that they had (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)? Didn't they call it the "Promised Land" for good reason?

In the United States, this kind of thinking has been used to justify the dispossession and extermination of Native Americans, the enslavement and further mistreatment of Africans, imperialism, the exploitation of our natural environment and resources and to deny to women their equal rights as citizens of this republic. In more recent times, this kind of thinking has been used to justify the harsh treatment of immigrants, the erosion of the rights of labor, the destruction of the middle class and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. And all of this has been justified by claiming that it has been carried out according to God's will.

In an article for the Berkley Forum, Philip Gorski wrote: "To understand how American Christianity became so entangled with racism and violence, we first have to trace it back to its scriptural roots. Those roots are dual. It turns out that WCN [White Christian Nationalism] is not just one story, but two. The first is a promised land story. The New England Puritans saw themselves as the heirs of the biblical Israelites. They imagined themselves as a 'chosen people,' and they came to see the 'new world' as their 'promised land.' And as their relationship with the natives shifted from curiosity to hostility, they began to see the Indians as 'Canaanites,' who had to be conquered." He continued: "The second story is an end times story. Most Christian theologians read Revelation in allegorical terms, as a depiction of the moral struggles within the believer’s heart. But some interpreted the text more literally, as a description of bloody struggles to come. That is how many Puritan radicals read it, and they exported those ideas to New England." see White Christian Nationalism: The Deep Story Behind the Capitol Insurrection

In the same article, Gorski went on to explain how these notions were applied to the American experience over time. He wrote: "But how did Protestantism and Englishness get entangled with whiteness? To answer that question, we need to shift our focus to Virginia. There, and elsewhere, the most common justification for the enslavement of kidnapped Indians and Africans was that they were 'heathens.' But this argument broke down in the late-seventeenth century as some enslaved persons converted to Christianity and some white Christians sought to evangelize them. The problem was initially resolved by shifting the legal basis of slavery from religion to color: 'Blacks' could be slaves; 'whites' could not. It was then more fully resolved by creating a new theological basis for slavery. Perhaps the most influential was the 'Curse of Ham.' Blacks were the descendants of Noah’s son, Ham, the argument went, and their color and enslavement were a result of the curse that Noah had called down on head."

In the most recent manifestation of this notion of White Christian Nationalism [WCN], Gorski explains how Trump has taken advantage of these historical threads and motivated a new movement within the United States. He concluded: "Trumpism is, among other things, the latest version of the WCN frame. Echoing the promised land story, Trump says he will 'take back the country' from the outsiders and invaders who have taken control—immigrants and secularists, Muslims and Mexicans—and then restore it to its rightful owners: 'real' (that is, white, Christian) Americans. Echoing the end times story, Trump paints the world in terms of us and them, good and evil, and hints at violent struggles to come. The first such struggle took place on January 6, 2021. It will not, I fear, be the last." And, of course, what Gorski didn't mention is the fact that "God must have placed Trump in office to accomplish these things."

Nevertheless, this kind of thinking fails to account for some other very important Biblical concepts that undermine the use of those scriptures in Daniel and Deuteronomy as justifications for bad behavior. Indeed, in their proper context, the verses cited in Daniel and Deuteronomy suggest that bad behavior will only result in the loss of whatever blessings a person/people has/have received. The Bible also informs us that sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. In other words, wealth and power are NOT always indicative of God's favor (see Ecclesiastes 7 and 8 and Luke 16:19-31). Christ taught that promised rewards and blessings will not necessarily be received in this world/life (see Matthew 5:1-12 and Luke 16:19-31). Jesus also taught his disciples that God "gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." (see Matthew 5:45) And, in a similar vein, Scripture also teaches us that disaster doesn't just befall the wicked - that there is a thing called time and chance at work in the world (see Ecclesiastes 9:11 and Luke 13:1-5).

In conclusion, while we should always be thankful for the good things that we have received, those blessings should never be seen as an entitlement. Blessings should never be used as a justification to oppress others or to deprive them of their blessings. If you are fortunate enough to be blessed with some wealth, power or privilege in this life, then just be thankful for what you have received and be very careful not to do anything which might warrant its removal or earn you some future punishment!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Authorship of the Torah and Its Implications for the Work of Jesus Christ

Some longtime students of the Bible and most Biblical scholars have concluded that the Torah was written by many individuals over a period of several hundred years. In fact, the Bible itself contradicts the notion that Moses authored all of the first five books of the Bible.

As Elon Gilad has written: "Even a cursory read of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, shows that the Torah could not have been written by a single person – because of differences in style, language and contradiction in the texts, among other things. Scholars studying the bible in Germany during the 18th and 19th centuries concluded that it was a composite work by editors tying together earlier texts written by very different authors." see Who wrote the Torah? - Jewish World

Likewise, Konrad Schmid has written: "Who wrote the Torah? In light of more than two hundred years of scholarship and of the ongoing disputes on that question,[1] the most precise answer to this question still is: We don’t know. The tradition claims it was Moses, but the Torah itself says otherwise. Only small portions within the Torah are traced back to him, but not nearly the whole Torah: Exodus 17:14 (Battle against Amalek); 24:4 (Covenant Code); 34:28 (Ten Commandments); Numbers 33:2 (Wandering Stations); Deuteronomy 31:9 (Deuteronomic Law); and 31:22 (Song of Moses). Despite all disagreement in current scholarship, however, the situation in Pentateuchal research is far from desperate, and there are indeed some basic statements that can be made regarding the formation of the Torah. This is what this contribution is about. It is structured in the following three parts: the textual evidence of the Pentateuch; the socio-historical conditions for the development of the Pentateuch, and “Ideologies” or “Theologies” of the Pentateuch in their historical contexts." see Who Wrote the Torah? IAS

After going through the available evidence from those three areas, Schmid concludes: "But how do such different ideologies and theologies go together in the Bible? It is important to see that the Pentateuch in particular and the Bible in general are not uniform pieces of literature. They instead resemble a large cathedral that has grown over centuries. Its content is not the result of one, but rather of many voices. And these different voices establish the overall beauty and richness of the Pentateuch." see Who Wrote the Torah? IAS

As Christians, when we entertain the possibility/likelihood that the Torah (with all of its statutes, ordinances, laws and rituals) was not authored by one man (Moses), it is not surprising that we would begin to ask ourselves what this understanding means for the work and teachings of the founder of our faith (Jesus Christ)? After all, an integral part of that faith is our understanding that Jesus Christ came to fulfill the requirements of the Torah for us. Hence, if the Torah is not entirely God dictating to Moses, why did Christ have to perform all of its requirements? Indeed, the entire story of the New Testament presents Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, the heir of David, the promised Messiah, and the lamb without spot or blemish. In other words, the Torah (along with the other writings of the Scriptures which Christians refer to as the Old Testament) is/are the basis/foundation for the story of Jesus!

Now, while we can easily see why this understanding about the authorship of the Torah might present some real problems for Fundamentalist Christians, it shouldn't pose any difficulties for those Christians who are unencumbered by that doctrine. For the rest of us, it does not change the reality that Jesus and his disciples accepted the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures extant at the beginning of the First Century of the Common Era. In other words, for Jesus Christ the authorship of the Torah had no impact on his acceptance and application of its teachings for his work!

Christ did not dispute the understanding of the religious leaders of his day that Moses had authored the Torah, and that its terms were binding on humanity (though he did challenge the notion that all of those teachings had been what God intended - see Matthew 5:21-48, and note specifically the teaching on divorce). Christ simply accepted all of the statutes, judgments and laws which the Jews had NEVER been able to perfectly obey; and he obeyed them perfectly. Christ simply fulfilled all of the things that those priests and traditions had added over the centuries to whatever framework someone named Moses actually authored! In other words, "whatever you people believe that God has required of you, I've fulfilled it on your behalf!"

And, in anticipation of fulfilling all of that and having to sacrifice himself as a sin offering for us, Christ taught us that LOVE is what God actually intended for us all along. He even summarized the entire law as the principles of love for God and love for our fellow humans. Then, finally, Jesus willingly played his part in what had been set in motion by his Jewish forbearers over the course of many centuries. Hence, for "TRUE" Christians, whoever authored the Pentateuch, the essential point for all of us is that Christ accepted it, chose to work through that tradition and fulfilled its requirements for us - period!  

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Calling Out A FALSE Prophet

The leader of the so-called Philadelphia Church of God, Gerald Flurry, has had an article posted in The Trumpet magazine entitled Why Donald Trump Will Remain America's President. In the article, Flurry states: "By most appearances, Joe Biden will be America’s next president. But I absolutely do not believe that at all. Mr. Trump will weather this storm too. Regardless of what the media says or how things look right now, I am confident Donald Trump will remain president." Why did Gerry believe this? He said: "Because a Biden presidency is contrary to Bible prophecy."

He went on to say: "The Bible has a lot to say about Donald Trump and his presidency. The main prophecies are in the book of Kings and in Amos 7, and several other passages speak more generally about America under his leadership. God cannot lie! These end-time prophecies must be and will be fulfilled!" For Flurry, Donald Trump is represented in Bible prophecy by King Jeroboam II of ancient Israel. He went on to write: "2 Kings 14:26-27 show that God used Jeroboam ii as “a savior.” This is also true of the modern-day Jeroboam. It is a temporary salvation, just as it was under Jeroboam ii before Assyria finally conquered the nation. Still, God uses this man to ensure Satan and the men he uses do not blot out the name of Israel! And this job is not yet finished! The modern Jeroboam doesn’t know any of this, but the prophecy in Amos 7 shows that God will explain it to him before it’s over. We have to get this message to him, and we haven’t done so yet. This is another reason I am confident Jeroboam is not going to disappear from the scene!"

Although most Christians are accustomed to thinking of Jesus Christ in the role of Savior, Mr. Flurry sees Trump as a kind of savior for the United States. Moreover, Gerry reiterated his conviction that God was not finished with The Donald. He wrote: "Is his job finished? No, it isn’t. So I don’t believe at all that he will depart from the scene! I still believe these prophecies are 100 percent accurate. This means this nation is about to be shocked. I believe you are going to see frauds exposed like you’ve never even imagined! In a sense, you could say the left is fighting against God and God’s prophecy! Who do you suppose will win that battle?"

Flurry goes on to talk about Trump's false charges of election fraud and to denigrate the left's efforts to destroy traditional American values and get rid of Trump. Nevertheless, Flurry maintains throughout the article that God will perform a "miracle" to keep Trump in power.

Now, as we all witnessed the departure of Donald J. Trump this morning and the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden this afternoon as the 46th President of the United States, we are forced to conclude that Gerald Flurry's prophecy about Trump has failed! And what does the Bible say about prophets who make predictions that do not come to pass? In the book of Deuteronomy, we read: "But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’ “But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?’ If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared." (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

Jesus Christ warned against false prophets (see Matthew 7:15 and 24:24). John warned Christians not to believe everything they hear and test whether or not the messages they received are from God "because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (I John 4:1) Gerald Flurry has clearly revealed himself to be a FALSE prophet. Hence, any member of the Philadelphia Church who continues to follow him from this point forward is clearly not following God's clear instructions regarding prophets (as related in the book which they claim to be His word)! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Jesus Christ's Kingdom of God

What did Jesus Christ actually teach about the Kingdom of God/Heaven?

First, it is clear that he preached about it Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14, Luke 4:43, 8:1, 9:11

He taught that the pursuit of the kingdom should be our priority Matthew 6:33, Luke 12:31; and that no second guessing would be tolerated Luke 9:62

He equated himself with the kingdom Matthew 12:28, Mark 1:15, Luke 11:20, Luke 17:20-21

He said that it was hard for wealthy individuals to enter Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:23-25, Luke 18:24-25

He said that the kingdom belongs to the poor Luke 6:20, Matthew 5:3 and persecuted Matthew 5:10

Jesus said that the most inconsequential person in the kingdom will be greater than John the Baptist Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28

He said that it was easier for sinners to enter that kingdom than for religious leaders to do so Matthew 21:31; but that those who adhere to the commandments will be the greatest Matthew 5:19; and that those who wish to be a part of the kingdom must be more righteous than the religious leaders of Christ's day Matthew 5:20

He said that it is not the birthright of the Jews Matthew 21:43; and that people will come from all over the world to be a part of it Matthew 8:11, Luke 13:29

He said that it had been revealed only to those whom God had chosen to reveal it Matthew 13:11, Mark 4:11; and he told a parable about how different people react to the message Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:10

Jesus compared the kingdom to the growth of a farmer's crop Mark 4:26-29

He also compared the kingdom to a mustard seed - pointing out that it starts out small and grows into something big Matthew 13:31-35, Mark 4:30-34, Luke 13:18-21

He compared the kingdom to a a farmer who planted good seed and an enemy who planted weeds, and that the two would be separated at harvest time Matthew 13:24-30, 36-40

He said that the kingdom will be manifested in power and glory (the transfiguration) Mark 9:1-12, Luke 9:28-35 He also said that the patriarchs and prophets would be in kingdom Luke 13:28

He said that the inhabitants of the kingdom will exhibit the innocence and humility of children Matthew 18:1-4, 19:14, Mark 10:14-15, Luke 18:16-17

He compared the kingdom to a nobleman going to a distant country to be crowned and return and settle accounts with his servants Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:11-26

Jesus compared the kingdom to a treasure or priceless pearl Matthew 13:44-46

He compared the kingdom to a fisherman sorting the good fish from the bad Matthew 13:47-50

He compared the kingdom to the owner of a vineyard who employed the people whom he chose to work for him and rewarded them how he wanted to reward them Matthew 20:1-16

He compared the kingdom to a king who prepared a great wedding banquet for his son and invited the guests Matthew 22:1-14

He also compared it to a polygamous marriage ceremony in which 5 of the brides were prepared and five were not, and the ones who were unprepared didn't make it into the marriage/kingdom Matthew 25:1-13

He said that the institution of the kingdom would be preceded by signs Matthew 24, Luke 21

He declared that one must be born again to see the kingdom John 3:1-5

He gave the keys of the kingdom to his disciples Matthew 16:19

Jesus said that the inauguration of the kingdom would involve rewards and punishments Matthew 25:31-46

Finally, Jesus Christ said that those who would overcome in this life would be allowed to share his throne Revelation 3:21; but he also said that it would be God's prerogative to assign positions under him Mark 10:35-40

Now, it is true that his disciples elaborated on these teachings, but it appears that these constitute the actual teachings of Jesus Christ on the subject of the Kingdom of God/Heaven.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Why Don't You Keep Your Mouth Shut?

Whenever I post something related to the Armstrong Churches of God, I'm inevitably asked: "Why must you criticize/challenge/attack your father's religion?" The clear implication being that, out of respect for my father, I should remain quiet. From my perspective, the obvious problem with this line of reasoning is that it completely ignores the fact that it was also MY religion once upon a time!

In times past, I've written about how my brother and I used to lie across our father's bed and listen with him to Garner Ted Armstrong on his little transistor radio in the mid to late 1960's. And, he even took us to Sabbath services on a couple of occasions thereafter. My father's circumstances (he was a divorced man with primary custody of two small boys and living with his parents), however, made him feel that he wasn't really able to make a commitment to the church at that time. Hence, while it was clear to him (and to us) that he had discovered "THE TRUTH," he NEVER formally affiliated himself with the old Worldwide Church of God.

Unfortunately, as an opinionated and sheltered adolescent, I did make the decision to attend the Worldwide Church and was baptized at the tender age of seventeen. I have also discussed in past posts how I was eventually disfellowshipped for dating outside of the church. And, although that was an extremely painful experience, it did force me to embark upon a reevaluation of everything I had believed and taken for granted. However, like many others before me, I made a pit stop in one of the splinters that emerged from the old Worldwide Church before severing all ties with the religion.

In the intervening years, my dad had remarried and had joined Garner Ted's Church of God International. At the time, it made sense to me to associate with a church that had held onto many of the "core" doctrines of my former church, but also seemed to have evolved into a more enlightened and expansive view of individual freedom and responsibility within that framework. It was, nevertheless, almost inevitable that there would come a day when my growth would render untenable any further association with any group which held onto Armstrong's teachings. The immediate cause of my final departure was the fact that CGI didn't appreciate some articles which I had penned for Dixon Cartwright's paper.

Over time, however, I had concluded that Herbert and Garner Ted were very flawed men who had taught many things that simply were not consistent with the "PLAIN TRUTH" which they claimed to be lifting from the pages of the Bible. With my new understanding, I was also made painfully aware of the fact that I had made many great personal sacrifices as a consequence of my association with Armstrongism. In short, my religious beliefs had profoundly and adversely impacted my educational, career, financial and relationship choices.

Hence, my personal awakening forced me to confront my feelings about my former affiliations. Would I allow bitterness and regret to rule my emotions and spoil my future? OR Would I try to keep growing and learning as a person and attempt to make better decisions and move forward with my life? I decided to move forward, but I was also confronted with the reality that I was leaving behind many friends and loved ones who continued to be ensnared by the deceptive teachings which I had escaped. What to do? Do you simply walk away and be thankful that you've saved your own skin? OR Do you attempt to pull the curtain back on what you've experienced and try to help others step into the light?

Unfortunately, I still have family and friends who are steeped in the religion founded by Herbert Armstrong - the religion which I have abandoned. And, I am sure that they and their associates would prefer that I slipped quietly away and not say anything about my own experiences or malign the teachings which they still hold dear. There is something within the psyche of the religion itself that expects those who are banished (or leave of their own accord) to magically disappear and never come to mind again. We are expected to hang our heads in shame and never dare to impugn "God's Church."

Nevertheless, I (like many others who have had similar experiences) feel compelled to share my experiences and help others to shake off the shackles of this flawed and harmful theology. And, while it's unfortunate that people whom I love and respect as individuals continue to choose to associate themselves with my former religion, I will continue to speak about my experiences and what I have learned. I do so in the hope that some of what I have shared may be of some use to others in their quest for peace, truth and fulfillment. I'm sorry that some see this as being disrespectful and hurtful, but that is certainly not my objective.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Christians Sometimes Don't Act Like Christians!

In the post preceding this one (True Christians Stand Against Insurrection), my friend and regular contributor to this blog, Nck, noted that he rejected the implication that the British weren't Christians (because of their actions relative to the American Revolution). I would hope that all of my readers would recognize by now that I am ridiculing the notion of a "TRUE" Christian when I reference such in my remarks. My use of this terminology is meant to acknowledge that many Christians think in these terms - that some or all of the folks who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ really aren't.

In its most basic application, we can say that a Christian is anyone who follows or professes to follow Jesus Christ. In appealing to a more spiritually and biblically based application of the term, we can say that anyone who has accepted Jesus of Nazareth as their Savior and who exhibits some or all of the evidence that he/she has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a Christian. Of course, we can and do embellish and refine that definition, but most of the other things we might add could justly be characterized as superfluous or nonessential.

The mistake that both people within and without the Christian community often make is that they judge any failure of individuals to meet/follow the standard of the founder (Jesus Christ) as evidence that the person should be disqualified as being identified as one of his followers. If that were the case, then there wouldn't be a single Christian extant anywhere on the surface of this earth! Moreover, Scripture refutes such a notion about who should or should not be considered to be a Christian.

The Apostle Paul wrote in very personal terms to the saints at Rome about his own daily struggles with sin. He said: "So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin." - Romans 7:14-25

Paul knew something that many of us have forgotten: Christians are sinners - sinners who have been forgiven by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Indeed, we read in the First Epistle of John that those who claim to be without sin are liars, and that they aren't acknowledging the very thing which makes them Christians! He wrote: "If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts." - I John 1:8-10 It is a hard truth for some of us to acknowledge, but there is abundant evidence over the past two thousand years that Christians do NOT always act like Christians!

Finally, just to head them off at the pass, I know that some folks will insist that some of the folks who claim to be Christians really are NOT Christians. This is undoubtedly true. Christ said that there would be tares among the grain, but it is exclusively his prerogative to determine who is a tare! God knows who is or isn't a Christian - only God can know what's in the other guy's/gal's heart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

TRUE Christians Stand Against Insurrection!

Conservative Christian commentator David French recently posted an article entitled "Only the Church Can Truly Defeat a Christian Insurrection." In the piece, he points out that Christian involvement in (and support for) the recent insurrection against the government of the United States of America is not consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ. That's fairly straightforward - should be self-evident - right? Sure, Christian's have resisted and opposed government throughout the history of this republic when they have felt a moral principle was at stake. We call it protesting and civil disobedience, but most Christians have always shunned engaging in sedition or participating in violence.

However, when Trump's supporters recently stormed the United States Capital building and many folks were injured (and five lost their lives), we had the unfortunate spectacle of a not insignificant number of Christians participating in the melee or supporting it from afar. I've heard "Christian" pastors justify this action by pointing out that Christian pastors led their congregation's participation in the Revolutionary War and the Underground Railroad and Civil War.

In answering such an attempt at justifying this behavior, we should point out that the American Revolution began as an act of civil disobedience which the British government decided to suppress by employing their armed forces against the native civilian population, and that the Underground Railroad was firmly within the tradition of civil disobedience (and the South initiated armed hostilities against the Union). In other words, in none of these instances did Christians initiate violence or attempt to overthrow or overturn anything by violent means - and any attempt to use those instances as a justification for this current insurrection is inconsistent with what actually happened in the past.

So, what has actually motivated Christian participation in this sedition and insurrection? David French succinctly answers that question in the piece referenced at the beginning of this post. According to French, "The problem is that all too many Christians are in the grips of two sets of lies. We’ll call them the enabling lies and the activating lies. And unless you deal with the enabling lies, the activating lies will constantly pollute the body politic and continue to spawn violent unrest."

French then goes on to explain exactly what he's talking about and give concrete examples of how these lies apply to the current crisis. He wrote: "What’s the difference between the two kinds of lies? The enabling lie is the lie that makes you fertile ground for the activating lie that actually motivates a person to charge a thin blue line at the Capitol or take a rifle to a pizza parlor. Here’s an enabling lie: America will end if Trump loses. That was the essence of the Flight 93 essay in 2016. That was the core of Eric Metaxas’s argument in our debates this spring and fall. Here’s another enabling lie: The fate of the church is at stake if Joe Biden wins. And here’s yet another: The left hates you (this sentence sometimes concludes with the phrase “and wants you dead.”)"

As French points out, it is the belief/acceptance of these lies that motivates and allows Christians to forget the clear teachings of Jesus Christ about loving one's neighbor and turning the other cheek and embrace violence. French wrote: "when the stakes are deemed to be that high, the moral limitations on your response start to fall away. After all, when people believe our national destiny hangs in the balance, they often respond accordingly. Or, as I said in a December 4 newsletter warning about potential violence, “if you argue that the very existence of the country is at stake, don’t be surprised if people start to act as if the very existence of the country is at stake.”"

Unfortunately, French is absolutely correct in his assessment of this phenomenon within the Christian community. Too many Christians have gotten swept up into believing the partisan political propaganda of Trump and his supporters and have forgotten the very fundamental principles which are supposed to be motivating their thoughts and actions: love, peace, patience, kindness, humility and meekness. They have forgotten Christ's and Paul's admonitions to submit oneself to the governing authorities and to live peaceably with all men (even ones whom you believe to be evil, or who are actively persecuting you and your faith).

This is not complicated. Christians should not be supporting or participating in insurrection. Even if you believe the lie that the election was stolen from Trump - Even if you believe that all Democrats are evil pedophiles - As a Christian, YOU ARE NOT JUSTIFIED/AUTHORIZED TO ENGAGE IN VIOLENCE - period! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

God, We Need YOU NOW!

Almighty God,

Please help our nation in its time of extreme need. Please help us in this hour of danger. Please frustrate the efforts of those who seek to hurt, harm and impose their will on others. Please quiet the voices of those who would provoke hatred and violence. Please protect our public servants from hurt and harm and strengthen them to do the work which your people have placed in their hands. Please intervene in this moment of excess and foolhardiness and restore sanity and common sense. Please protect this republic from its enemies - both foreign and domestic.


Monday, January 4, 2021

Armstrongism VS Traditional Christianity

In past posts on this blog, I have discussed the disdain/contempt of Herbert Armstrong and his followers for the values and teachings of mainstream Christianity and left-leaning political ideologies. We have discussed Mr. Armstrong's often stated belief that Traditional Christianity represents the "diametric opposite" of Christ's teachings or "TRUE" Christianity. Likewise, we have pointed out the aversion that many Armstrongites have for all things left of the political center. And, in both realms (religious and political), one can detect a blatant scornfulness for anyone who might lay claim to a scholarly or intellectually based expertise.

Why? What's behind this phenomenon? Is their thinking merely a clear-eyed reflection of the "truth" which has been revealed to them by Almighty God? OR Is something more sinister and human behind such reasoning?

I believe this phenomenon can best be explained by two types of HUMAN THINKING: two-dimensional thinking and oppositional thinking. Folks who engage in two-dimensional thinking see a world of only two polarities. They think in terms of black and white - good and evil. Moreover, this dualistic thinking gives rise to oppositional thinking. Different views must be adversarial in nature - one must be right and true and the other must be false!

Hence, if traditional Christianity believes such and such, the opposite must be true. If they celebrate "pagan" holidays, we must celebrate God's Holy Days. If they believe in the immortality of the soul, the soul must be mortal. They may say that they baptize, but they're not doing it the right way. They may say that they partake of the bread and the wine, but they're doing it too often (and some of them are using grape juice)! They say that they believe and follow the Scriptures, but they really don't.

Now, to be fair, Armstrongites do generally make an exception when it comes to questions of personal morality. For instance, like their evangelical counterparts, they tend to oppose abortion and homosexual marriage. Even so, for most Armstrongites, even in areas where they find themselves in some agreement with the traditionalists, they tend to view their counterparts on the other side as hypocritical, insincere or too tolerant and "worldly."

In similar fashion, Armstrongites display these same kinds of thinking when they elucidate their political views. The left is seen as godless and bad, and Democrats are the party of the left. Hence, anything that Democrat politicians say MUST be wrong. Indeed, if Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama say something, it has to be a lie. In fact, the correct posture/view/policy MUST be the exact opposite of whatever the left has proposed!

Unfortunately, two-dimensional and oppositional thinkers tend to twist facts/truths to make them fit their worldview. In short, they have a hard time arriving at the truth, and their thinking tends to engender feelings of indifference, hatred or rage against folks outside of their circle. And, as I've also suggested in past posts, this type of thinking tends to lead to a posture of willful ignorance - a refusal to entertain or accept any view which contradicts their own (irrespective of whatever evidence is presented). In other words, we have the TRUTH - you are deceived and in error!