Politics

Prayer on the 4th of July

O ETERNAL God, through whose mighty power our fathers won their liberties of old; Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.–1928 Book of Common Prayer

Not a Primitive Philosophy

Will Willimon writing for the Christian Century asserts that truthfulness is most clearly seen in its practical force. “How shall they know you are my disciples? When you love one another.” This was Jesus’ simple response. At the same time we must not forget that truth is contextualized in history by the writer of history. Life cannot be divorced from truth. Life is formed and lived out by truth if it is to be lived out accordingly. Pagans may conform externally to the law, but manifest “enlightened self-interest” in their actions. The Christian faith, on the other hand, sees truth affecting both external and internal motivations. These motivations are self-less and are shaped by the God/Man who was the embodiment of truth Pilate wondered about. As Willimon concluded:

Christianity is not another philosophy  or some primitive system of belief; it is a community  of people who worship the Jew whom Pilate sent to the cross.

This devotion to the Jewish Messiah is what enlivens the Christian truth and what changes the world.

Why I am proud to be an American

In the best sense of the term, this has been a very patriotic weekend for me. It began on Thursday evening at the Banquet for Life hosted by Safe Harbor. Safe Harbor is a ministry the saints of Providence have invested in for quite a few years. It is more than just another pro-life ministry, it is a labor that saw 162 women this past year choose life rather than live with the blood of the innocent in their hands for the rest of their lives. They provide counseling, medical help, and the environment to best guide confused young women out of their present chaos.

At their annual fundraising banquet they invited Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum was still living off the energy of last year’s election. The Senator from Pennsylvania shocked the nation by losing to Mitt Romney by only eight votes in Iowa and going on to win several other primaries. Though Santorum was no match for the prosperous GOP establishment candidate, the Senator was still able to leave a lasting impression in the GOP Primary.

Santorum observed in his speech that though he had opined continuously on the state of the economy and on other pertinent matters, the media chose not to pursue the Senator’s opinion on these issues, but rather focus on some of his more “extreme” ideas. Ideas like opposition to abortion, which according to the general American public are far from extreme. Yet, we are at such a stage in the civil discourse that when anyone speaks passionately about any moral issue, he is already termed a radical. To hell with logic!

The Santorum event renewed my commitment to the life issue and my support for organizations like Safe Harbor in Pensacola, Fl. May they prosper!

Friday morning then was a continuation to this patriotic weekend. After 17 years in these United States, I have finally made official what many thought had been official for a long time. The reality is, I waited this long because I understood what this meant. In one sense, it meant that my allegiance to my birth country of Brazil would move to the passenger’s seat. Practically it has been that way, but a liturgy was needed to confirm this commitment. Though I love my country’s beauty and culture, I am and will be an American at heart. My commitment to the well-being of this nation is a deep part of who I am. Though my skepticism about our government’s actions will always prevail, I am deep inside an American by choice. I didn’t have to be, but I chose to be.

The naturalization ceremony flowed with all its pomp and persistent commentary by the Judge. Her American pride was gallantly streaming. But in some ways the ceremony had to be slow for I had been waiting for a long time for this moment to come to pass, and the slow and tedious ceremony was just an symbol of how long this entire process took; thousands of dollars, the patience of a loving wife, and the trips…so many trips. So here I am: an American at last.

My religious and political propensity demands that I refrain from exalting too much this nation. But it is hard to remain silent about a nation that has done so much for me. It has nourished me in all the human luxuries imaginable. It has provided for me confirmation of my calling. It has romanced me into its beauty and culture, and then asked me to take part in it. It accepted me even when I declared from the mountain tops that this country needs repentance of the II Chronicles kind.

So this has been a patriotic past weekend. I have tasted officially of the American air with a flag pin to prove it. I indulged in corn dogs and French fries (yes, freedom fries), and no, I still do not have an appetite for country music. I entered into the fine company of what the Judge so repetitively described as the “melting pot.” I enter as one, but hope to impact many.

I am proud to be an American, but in a different way than the obnoxious tune. I am proud to be an American because I know that my loyalty is to the King of America, Jesus Christ. And though this blessed nation has deserted our Lord and Maker, I decided to use my mouth and vote to opine passionately and studiously about why this nation needs to pursue this Lord. She is lost without His care. I don’t want to only glory in her past; I want to glory in the future she will have if she turns, and repents, and bows down before the only One who can make her great.

Why Most Christians Should Use Facebook!

It is likely that you are a Facebook user. In fact, over one billion people are on Facebook. And of course, it is likely that you are reading this article because a friend linked to it on their Facebook page. So the majority of you do not need to be persuaded. The small and insistent bunch that will not succumb to the technological and peer pressure may do well to continue on a perpetual Facebook fast. But there is another group of Christians out there that simply haven’t joined for lack of knowledge of the benefits Facebook can offer. As a friend, you may have to print them a copy of this piece, or send them a link via e-mail.

The reason I did not state “all Christians” in the title of this article is because there are legitimate reasons for some Bible-believing Christians to stay away from this tool. And that is precisely what Facebook is: a tool. I agree with Dr. Al Mohler that “Social networking is like any new technology.  It must be evaluated on the basis of its moral impact as well as its technological utility.” We are all called to be stewards of God’s gifts. Money is a tool for good, but the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. In like manner, Facebook can be a tool for good, and I am arguing that if used wisely it will be.

I am in the redeeming business. I usually prefer to begin with how something can be redeemed before I talk about its dangers. Dr. Mohler suggests ten ways for safeguarding the social networking experience. You can read them. They are helpful and can keep us and our children from abusing something that is so ubiquitous. Before you read those, however, consider how Facebook may actually be a constructive tool in the Kingdom of God, one that can benefit you, your Church and community:

First, Facebook offers invaluable information about loved ones. A couple of days ago as I was leaving the office I scanned briefly through the updates and discovered that the son of a dear friend was about to enter into surgery. She asked for prayer. As I drove home I petitioned to our gracious God on behalf of this little child. Without Facebook I don’t think I would have known about this surgery in time. I could multiply these experiences. Facebook has brought closeness with not only loved ones, but dear friends and their families.

Second, Facebook has provided me tremendous counseling opportunities. I already have a distinct call as a pastor to counsel my flock, but if someone outside my community desires 5-10 minutes of my time seeking wisdom on a personal issue I have the luxury to offer it through this tool. We are all called to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. I have done both regularly because of Facebook.

Third, Facebook offers exposure to new ideas. This may not seem appealing, but I have always believed that Christians need to frequently visit C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe. They need to be exposed to ideas that confront their theological paradigms. Of course, sometimes these FB discussions can lead to unfortunate and uncharitable debates that consume a lot of our time, but again I want to redeem Facebook (see Mohler’s list for safeguarding).

Fourth, FB provides a venue to encourage others with words of comfort (see #1). Many have been encouraged by biblical passages and quotes that speak directly to a unique circumstance in their lives. At the same time, the same venue can provide a proper rebuke to our unpleasant and ungodly attitudes. There are pastors and godly parishioners whose FB status I read daily for comfort and rebuke.

Fifth, FB can be a source of intellectual stimulation. I can’t tell you how many books I have purchased or downloaded on Kindle (another useful tool for the kingdom) due to the sample quotes posted on FB. For those with a book budget this can be a temptation, but again I am in the redeeming business.

Finally, FB is inevitable. “Hey, everybody’s doing it!” Seriously, everybody! Is this a good reason to do it? In this case I believe it is! Many Churches, Ministries, Charitable Organizations, Event Planners, all have their own FB page. Of course, you don’t have to be on top of everything, just be a lurker! But at least have a FB presence. FB serves a multitude of purposes, and can in fact facilitate communication, fellowship, and much more.

Facebook has been a tremendous tool for good. And as tool, it fulfills Dr. Mohler’s requirements, since it is morally impactful and technologically useful. So go ahead, start an account and join us!

Jamie Foxx’s Messiah

During the Soul Train awards telecast last night, Jamie Foxx declared his undying allegiance to his Messiah. But this is not the Creator of Heaven and Earth confessed by the apostolic church, rather, as Foxx enthusiastically declared: ”First of all, give an honor to God and our lord and savior Barack Obama. Barack Obama.” If we were following Pauline logic, one would conclude that Foxx referred to God as Barack Obama.

M. Catharine Evans wrote on the American Thinker that the biblically saturated language describing Obama is actually the hallmark of Marxist thought: “If delusions of grandeur were good enough for Marx in 1848 they’re good enough for Obama in 2012.”

As examples of this messianic language, consider writer Ezra Klein who said before Obama was elected in 2008: ”He is not the Word made flesh but the triumph of the word over flesh.” Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called his neighbor the Messiah. A Danish newspaper pronounced Obama “greater than Jesus.” The first lady Michelle Obama once declared of her husband: “This President has brought us out of the dark and into the light.”

But this is 2012. Though Obama was re-elected convincingly, traces of his messianic character are all but gone. After all, to quote Quin Hillyer: “The parade of abuses, incompetencies, extravagances, and illegalities goes on and on.” The reality, however, for Obama’s supporters, is that like the death of his first four years in office, the second four years promises to be done in resurrection style. The promises are many. The gifts are abundant. The deliverance will be great. Watch and see for he will come just as a thief in the night!

Who are we kidding?

Obama is the paragon of incompetency. Hollywood’s worship of Obama is simply a further witness to the moral decay and Constitutional illiteracy of most in this nation. Obama is certainly a savior. He delivers people from misery to misery.

The messianic character of American politics is a mere reflection of a people who trust in horses and chariots, and who have bowed their knees to a false deliverer.

Localist Dominion

Like many of you, I was following closely as the results came in last night. The “respected” pundits who predicted a landslide win for Romney are now being predicted upon as to the relevance of their predictions. Obama’s “vengeance voting” strategy won. And quite a revenge was had. Democrats won Senate majority. The disastrous first-term presidency of Obama gets another four years to duplicate itself.

There were also some great victories for conservatism and moral libertarians last night. Tea Party, Ted Cruz, won his Senate race. The hero, Roy Moore, re-gained his post as Alabama Chief Justice. Several other candidates backed by Ron Paul also won.

But overall, it was a bad night for Republicans. That was easily exemplified by the cable news’ reactions. While MSNBC enjoyed her political drunkenness, Fox News was fighting itself.

The age of moderate, center, and ever-changing Republicanism is over. The GOP has thrown money at not only flawed candidates, but flawed ideas. Of course, if history teaches us anything it is that the GOP will not learn her lesson. And so the blame-game will commence. “We did nothing wrong. We simply lacked the the right strategy,” they will say.

The reaction will be two-fold to last night’s debcale: First, commentators will speculate that Todd Akin was partly responsible for the GOP’s defeat. They will then argue that the pro-life issue is a losing issue and a sure way to lose the independent and moderate vote. They will then become more focused on economic issues and leave the pro-life movement to die. We need to appeal to the middle. “Tea-Party candidates are insanely unpredictable, therefore they should leave and find a home elsewhere.”

The second reaction is a more hopeful one. After recovering from the defeat, there will be a vast number of Republican leaders who will realize that  political compromise did not energize the base. In fact, compromise and constant change are not good ideals. They leave voters confused and often disillusioned by the process. As a result, the Republicans will listen to the more Conservative voices and attempt to form a more coherent system echoing the great conservative voices of the past.

The second reaction is a bit too hopeful, and I acknowledge that such reaction will take time.

In the meanwhile, Francis Schaeffer’s piercing question stares us with vicious pertinence: How Now Shall We Then Live?

How should Moral Libertarians and Classic Conservatives react to last night’s results? The answer lies in localist dominion. We need to concentrate our attention on those issues that are nearest to us. Our cities need to re-gain their importance in our thinking.

Have you sought to bless your city lately? Proverbs 11 says that the upright needs to bless the city, and when he does so the city is exalted (see also Jeremiah 29). Localism is not merely a political philosophy, it is very much a part of the biblical dogma. We are to be concerned about our streets and counties before we are concerned about our nation and the rest of the world. The nationalist is not truly patriotic until he becomes a localist.

With this in mind, here are ten suggestions for becoming a better localist:

A) Pray for your city. Pray for the peace of your city. For justice to be known among her people. Pray for her shalom and its well-being as you drive through it daily.

B) Give to the city by being a part of its affairs. Participate in local activities when possible.

C) Read about the city. Instead of turning to CNN, turn to your local news or newspaper. Be informed about the matters of your city, for the sake of better praying for her.

D) Biblicize your city. Start Bible studies. Equip others to love the city by discipling her. After all, this is the call of the Great Commission.

E) Vote and Elect godly leaders of the city. Before considering national politics, do not forsake your responsibility before your fellow city-dwellers. Seek to be informed about local politics. Comment on local on-line news about those decisions made by politicians that are blatantly against biblical principles and priorities, and always offer alternatives. We need practical solutions, not more theorizing.

F) Unite with other churches. Despise the divisive sentiment that is so prevalent. Know the local pastor’s names and meet with them. Pray for them when possible. Build relationships with others from other traditions who also seek the good of the city.

G) Imprecate against those who do not seek the well-being of the city. The psalms provide a perfect platform for such prayers. There is no neutrality. You either seek the good of the city through the blessings of the Trinitarian God, or you despise it.

H) Minister to the City through giving. Contribute to local charities either through the Church tithe or through personal gifts.

I) Teach others about your city. When I visited the Pacific Northwest once I was surprised how little and misinformed people were about Florida, and in particular the Panhandle. Inform people about the good, the bad, and the ugly while emphasizing the good a lot more.

I) Love the city by loving the Church. Congregate. Worship. Adore the Only-True God by worshipping the One who is King of the City, Jesus Christ.

Why You Should Vote Third Party!

Over at the Kuyperian Commentary, I have a piece you might want to read. I am not expecting much agreement, but if you wanna know where I stand, here it is!

Liturgical Strategy

The worship of the Church accomplishes work in the world. Battles are won or lost as a result of how our churches worship God. Too often we act as though our differences over liturgy were simply differences over decoration, instead of differences over effective strategy in the midst of a fearful war. There should be no disagreement over whether the warfare of an army should be coordinated or not…when the choir in militant joy goes out as the advance guard of the army, then God’s name is glorified, and His enemies are scattered.

{Doug Wilson, Mother Kirk, 146}

The Dinesh D’Souza Debacle

The crisis over D’Souza’s situation is unexplainable at some level. His vociferous opposition to Obama brought his name into the vastly politicized American scene. His apologetics’ insights and his status as defender of the faith have granted him debates with Christopher Hitchens, and the respect of many in the Christian intellectual community.

So we must ask: How can a man so vastly familiar with the world view of Christianity be a part of such a naive storyline? Further, why would he be so public about his engagement while still married to his wife? Also, if he desired reconciliation why would he move so many miles away rather than taking a sabbatical from his labors?

I do not wish to fire the first shot of speculative bullets and guess the basis of his rationale. I will let the situation unfold to get a better, more accurate picture. At this stage we can only ask questions; questions we hope will be answered and dealt with on a professional level, but most importantly in the context of the ecclesia.

Meanwhile, we, in positions of leadership, need to be even more aware of how much our testimonies and reputation matter to our communities. May God make us wise in an age of foolishness.

Political and Evangelical Theology by Brian Mattson

One of the fearful manifestations of modern evangelicalism is the embarrassing witness of evangelicals towards a manifestly evangelical political theology. This is exactly what Brian Mattson is not afraid of in his new book: Politics and Evangelical Theology: A Guide for Concerned Christians and Political Progressives. The book opens with a few illustrations, which prove the author’s thesis that political neutrality is impossible. Religion and politics do mix, and those who are most opposed to the connection between God and the Republican Party need also oppose those who would very easily associate Jim Wallis’ “charitable” Christianity with God’s agenda for the world.

It is true that God is not a Republican nor a Democrat. But the inconsistencies need to be pointed out. And when the political analysts decry the over-religious tone of the politicians on the Republican side while overlooking the conspicuous religious tones uttered in liberal churches under liberation theology’s worldview, then this bizarre inability to be consistent needs to be observed.

Since I know a little of Dr. Mattson’s work, I am fairly certain I will come to slightly different conclusions in a few of these matters, yet, his thesis is to be applauded. The Bible does provide a political agenda, and the political agenda needs to be framed by the Bible.