Pete and Repeat

006-gnpi-014-jesus-temptation
Photo credit: http://www.freebibleimages.org

When any person or group pressures or manipulates others in the name of Jesus they deny the gospel of Christ. The Son of God died to liberate humanity from “this present evil world.” The systems of control which simultaneously order and oppress society constitute the “world,” or as some translations render it, “age.” So, when professing Christ followers attempt to shape the surrounding culture into conformity to biblical norms through ingratiation, lobby, boycott, litigation, or protest they actually deny any real efficacy to grace and faith – the very essence of our alien system.

To be clear, the faction of evangelicalism in America that seeks the redemption of America as a state has rejected Christ as king imbibed the spirit of antichrist.

Christ did not come to reform our systems of government, but to sentence them to eternal perdition. If he had come to fix our systems, he would not have died or returned to heaven. He would have set up an administration and gone about exerting political power to bring about his agenda. Yet, he didn’t. That approach was suggested to him a couple of times and on both occasions, his response was the same: “Get away from me, Satan!” 

King Jesus transcends politics. Of his ascension he said, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”

Christ didn’t stick around to set up an earthly kingdom which would rely on the way of the world to operate. Instead, he sits enthroned in heaven ruling his kingdom by his word, his Spirit, and through the prayers of his coregents – that is, those who’ve surrendered to him in faith. From his exalted throne the Messiah ministers under the double anointing as priest king.

You may have heard that the word, “Messiah” in Hebrew or “Christ” in Greek, means, “the anointed one,” but most people miss the significance of the title. The Torah tells of many anointed ones from Aaron to King David and every one of their successors. For Christ to be the ANOINTED one, signifies nothing special. Christ is special, though, because he is the anointed ONE. As the priest according to the order of Melchizedek and the Son of David, Jesus mediates between his people and God and rules over every aspect of their lives on God’s behalf.

As transcendent priest king, he serves his own directly with no need or place for human agency. Those who would attempt to stand between Christ and his people could only be usurpers.

Jesus is the Christ because the priest king anointing rightfully belongs to him. Anyone else who attempts to enforce religious ideology or practice through political means, then becomes an antichrist.

A friend last week asked whether I believed that a Christians should retreat from the public sphere or whether they could practice their faith by serving in an elected office. He works in the trucking industry, so I asked him what faithful execution of his job would be.

“Taking care of my drivers, ensuring that my customers’ needs are met…stuff like that.” He said.

“And when you do those things well without needing threats or recognition, you’re doing them for Christ, isn’t that right? Christ doesn’t expect you to conform the behavior of your drivers to biblical morality or to complain to your boss that your coworkers use profanity does he?” I asked.

“No, of course not.” he answered.

I went on, “The way I see it, governments exist to promote the common good. A Christian politician would be serving Christ by working diligently toward drafting and passing laws that allow the citizenry to live in safety and wellbeing. He or she wouldn’t use their position to force conformity to religious norms on others, but serve to influence through example and through bold profession in every appropriate context.”

My friend agreed…I think.

Maybe you do too or maybe you don’t. Let me help you decide by running a couple of scenarios from current events:

First, let’s take the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission :

Currently being deliberated by SCOTUS, the case will decide the legality of Jack Phillips’ refusal to bake a wedding cake on religious grounds for the same sex ceremony of David Mullins and Charlie Craig. This is a religiously and philosophically charged issue complete with a religious non profit serving as Mr. Phillips’ council. Obviously evangelical Christians by in large would agree with Mr. Phillips because we don’t want to be penalized for the practice of our beliefs. On the other hand, we can count on more secularly minded folks in our society to side with Mullins and Craig.

What would a common good approach to this case look like without reference to any sectarian ideals?

First, let’s consider Mullins’ and Craig’s side:

Mr. Phillips’ refusal to comply with their request was no doubt emotionally and psychologically painful for them. From the perspective of the plaintiffs, they experienced bigotry which was a reminder of their personal and historical marginalization as a demographic. Mr. Phillips’ refusal would have been seen as an invalidation of their love for each other, of their commitment, and of their standing as worthwhile people in society and before God. For the government to allow business owners to withhold specific services to people on the basis of religious conviction might open the door for further infringements on the legal rights of its citizens. Advocates of LGBT rights liken this scenario to the segregation laws of the sixties even citing previous arguments from segregationists appealing to religious conviction.  I’m sure we all want to live in a society where everyone has equal access to services provided to the public, but would a decision in favor of the plaintiff’s in this case result in the greater degree of common good?

Let’s take Mr. Phillips’ side for a minute:

When Mullins and Craig requested that he bake a wedding cake for them, he cited his beliefs and refused, but offered to bake them any other goods they might want. Despite arguments to the contrary, it seems that at least for Mr. Phillips the refusal of services truly sprung from his religious convictions rather than some sort of bigotry.

Should SCOTUS rule against Mr. Phillips, the law will officially prohibit the free exercise of conscience. It may seem that such a ruling would favor the common good over individual scruples, but that would not be the case. History has shown that societies which attempt to conform individual convictions to fit the common agenda destroy creativity and produce low performing work forces. Take as a case in point, the fiscal disaster which was the communist experiment in the USSR through the twentieth century or the 50% unemployment rate currently in much of the Muslim world. When people cannot come to and hold their own convictions, they lack any productive conviction at all. As the saying goes, “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.”

In this case, the common good would best be served by allowing Mr. Phillips to retain his freedom of conscience and right to artistic expression. Given the state of public opinion and the power of social media today, the plaintiffs won’t need a legal decision in their favor to drive him out of business should that be their desire.

Now, let’s consider the value to the common good of President Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In this case, the decision has resulted in no discernible improvements in the lives of anyone, but rather has incited violence and protests around the world. With nothing to be gained and everything to be lost, one might wonder what would have motivated Mr. Trump to take such an action.

Most analyses including this one in an Israeli publication, credit/blame Mr. Trump’s desire to please his base of evangelical Christians for the move. Assuming this is true, the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and the upcoming move of the US embassy stands as a clear example of religiously motivated politics. That is, it is Antichrist.

Hey, I’m all about hastening the end of the world, but when so called Christians use political influence to advance their agenda, they align themselves on the wrong side of that final battle.

I call on all who name the name of Christ to commit themselves personally to advancing his cause and publicly to advancing the common good. Crossing those streams will always result in cruel oppression no matter who holds the whip.

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