Dear Christian: If the Thought of Either Romney or Obama Getting Elected Makes You Fearful, Angry, or Depressed, You Have What we Call a Theological Problem

Before we get going here, let’s be clear on what

I.am.saying.

and what

I.am.not.saying.

This is not a cynical, “I’m above it all,” anti-political rant.

I am not telling you both candidates are the same.

I am not telling you not to vote.

I am not telling you to stop arguing about politics and coming to strong convictions. Have at it.

I am saying that if you get so worked up about it that you become really angry, or you actually “fear for our country,” or are thinking of moving to Greenland or freezing yourself if “that guy” gets elected, you may need to step back and think about what’s happening inside of you.

You can and should be genuinely concerned about health care, our economy, and many other issues–there are issues of justice and compassion.

But, listen for the rhetoric in others and in yourself.

If you fear for your way of life, that if the wrong person gets elected all is lost and you simply don’t have any hope for your future or the future of your children, you have accepted what we like to call in the industry a “rival eschatology.”

I’ve just lost half of you, but hang with me.

All political regimes are utopian. Communist, socialist, fascist, monarchic, and democratic. All of them. They all make promises to be the ones who will deliver the goods. They all promise that, without them, you are lost. They all claim to have “arrived,” to represent the culmination of the human drama, to be the true light, a city on a hill, that which brings you and all humanity true peace and security.

That is what “eschatology” means. It doesn’t mean “end of the world” in some video game apocalyptic scenario.

Eschatology means: “We have brought you to where things are as they should be. You are at the place where you can now–finally–have reason to hope. Trust in us. Fear not.” Eschatology means the pinacle of true humanity, where wrongs are righted, all is at peace, and the human drame comes to its fullest expression.

They all say that.

When we fear, or rage, or are depressed about politics, it means we have invested something of our deep selves into an “eschatology”–into a promise that all will be well, provided you come with us.

Christians can’t go there, because Christianity is an eschatology.

And I’m not talking about going to heaven or escaping the world we live in. Many Christians on both sides of the aisle work hard in the world of politics to bring about justice and with deep conviction (even if Christians disagree strongly on how that should be done). This is good and right.

But Christians should not adopt the rival eschatology that this or any political system or politician is of such fundamental importance that the thought of an election turning sour or the wrong laws being passed mean that all hope is lost.

There is a huge difference between saying, “That person would make a horrible president for the following reasons,” and “If he is elected, I just don’t know what I will do, where I will go–how we can carry on.”

The Christian never says the latter, because, regardless of where things play out politically, we know that no political system can actually deliver the goods, try as they might.

This is what the first Christians were taught about the Roman Empire, which promised its citizens peace, grace, justice, protection from enemies–all of which was called “salvation” (that’s the word that was used at the time). The Gospel offered an “alternate eschatology,” where the goods were delivered, not though the power of the state but through suffering and enthronement of King Jesus.

Hence, the rhetoric of the book of Revelation, the paradox of the slain lamb of God (Jesus) exalted above every earthly power. Hence, St. Paul’s claim that our “citizenship is in heaven”–not “up there somewhere” but the kingdom of God come to earth in the crucified and risen messiah, which is never caught up in political systems, but stands ready to work with them or deeply critique them depending on what is happening at the moment.

This entire line of thought goes back to the Old Testament prophets. They preached, harassed, and annoyed Israel’s leaders not to fear the nations around them, nor to trust that the any of them will make things right and give Israel lasting peace. They were much more critical of  Israel’s own leaders when they set up a “rival eschatology,” by promising to deliver the goods through military strength or savvy political alliances rather than following God’s path. The prophets said, “hope is elsewhere.”

If you are watching political ads, speeches, debates, and you find yourself growing fearful, angry, or depressed (the latter two are often rooted in deep fear), remember that your true trust is elsewhere.

Remember your eschatology.

  • Neil Newman

    I have never thought of chryogenics as a way of continuing on until the rapture…… you my man, are sheer genius! Now I need to go win the lottery to pay for it…..

    • Terri Kaye

      What? Are you on the same page?

      • sgfguy

        Terri, he was making a joke that was referring to this:
        ***or are thinking of moving to Greenland or freezing yourself if “that guy” gets elected***

    • Josh

      If any of you still think there is such thing as the “rapture” you should do your history on how this whole idea of the rapture came about…..The Bible NEVER mentions this whole rapture idea.

      • Gtr

        Hallo Josh, I don’t believe in the Rapture either, but I am curious, where did the ‘Rapture’ theology come from.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com Kullervo

    Amen and amen.

  • http://hamiltonmj1983.wordpress.com Matthew James Hamilton

    I would point out the difference between viewing, say, Obama’s presidency as Utopian and Romney’s as Hell-on-Earth, and viewing both Obama and Romney’s potential presidencies as being far from Utopian, yet one significantly worse than the other.

    I believe the state of the country under one of the two candidates will be significantly better than it would be under the other, while completely recognizing that neither will be perfect (or anywhere near perfect!).

    • http://okaywhatever.com *daniel

      If you think that one or the other will make a real, lasting, long-term difference, you’re probably putting too much emphasis on the Presidency and not enough on the other branches of government, and also too strongly delineating differences between the two candidates.

      • http://twitter.com/sxeptomaniac Sxeptomaniac

        Dude, you made a very wise comment there.

      • http://intothehills.org Kullervo

        Amen to this as well.

    • Ernest Bennett

      I believe God is in Control. I believe God has a plan and he will stick to his plan. There is nothing new under the sun. God is the same Yesterday-Today- & Tomorrow. I will vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan one strong reason is abortion. I believe we are in the generation of the Fig Tree. ( if you don’t know this parable Jesus said know this Parable I advise you to learn it )
      My concern is I don’t want to disappoint my Lord and Savior. I want to be ready to stand before My God on judgement day.

      • chuch

        Grow up, and start with basic science. Evolution for example.

        • Schmic89

          A cheap comeback to say the least.

        • DMW

          Explain evolution – you are saying a male and female were evolved at the same time to keep the species going forever; and that numerous species either came all from one source and we are all related to all animales ( snakes, spiders, goats, sheep, turtles )? Interesting concept with no backbone.

          • PVP Warlord

            …and what exactly is Paul Ryan and Romney’s stance on abortion?

          • Nick Gotts

            I think you mean: amazing and initially counter-intuitive but extremely well-supported theory, which has survived and thrived through a century and a half of far-ranging and detailed research, to which there is no coherent alternative whatever, and of which the Christian evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky said:

            Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I believe we are in the generation of the Fig Tree. ( if you don’t know this parable Jesus said know this Parable I advise you to learn it )

        I learned it — in an End-Of-The-World Cult during Hal Lindsay’s heyday. Back when “We Might Not Have a 1978!!!!! Or Even a 1977!!!!!” (It is now 2012.)

        It’s a favorite parable of the “Ye Ende Is Nighye — Any Minute Now! Any Minute Now!” crowd.

      • Pastor Dubya

        This is the real “eschatology” that we all believe in. The best summary of Revelation were Christ’s own words…”In this world you will receive tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” We may want to (and should) play our role, as far as our participationi n the process allows, in determining the best course for our country. As Peter says, neither canadidate has the best course for our country in his platform, but nonetheless, God is bigger than all of this. He is on his throne. Regardless of the outcome, the church of Christ, individual followers of Christ should be living the lives that demonstrate the reality of Kingdom of God as it was brought in by Christ and continually empowered by the Holy Spirit today.

  • http://watersblogged.blogspot.com Bob Waters

    Enormously sloppy logic. Evidence that the American people accept same sex “marriage” and the tilting of the Supreme Court so far to the left that its anti-life decisions of the past become, humanly speaking, beyond redress are certainly not reasons for eschatological despair. But they are very definitely things to fear.

    Noogies are things to fear, too. And the consequences of this election will be more serious than a noogie.

    Suggestions that both candidates are “the same” and that we not vote are as irresponsible as they are ridiculous. Eschatorlogy is not the issue here. The issue is the Gnosticism of a theology which doesn’t think that the consequences of this election- and the here and now- don’t matter.

    • peteenns

      Bob, I think you misread part of my post. You are also helping me make my point.

      • http://TheReluctantSuburbanite GSV

        Indeed.

    • Jessn

      In states were there is same sex marriage, churches have had to decide if they want perform same sex marriages and some Christian churches have. And in reality, same sex secular marriage for has focused the Christian community to really look at what it means to be married and to provide services and support to traditional marriage in a way it has ever before. Secular same sex marriage has improved Christian marriage, not detracted from it.
      As for abortion, when they were illegal, they existed. When they were dangerous, they existed. Changing the laws will not fix the problem, making it easier for a person to keep their child or allowing them to decide when to have one due to better contraception is the solution. No abortions would exist if there weren’t unplanned pregnancies and POOR safety nets.
      Given this, my views are exactly opposite yours politically. I would support a pro-choice candidate who wants to strengthen the social safety net over a pro-life candidate who wants to gut it. I do not; however, believe that we need to fear politicians, they too will pass.
      Equilibrium will be restored.

      • John Q.

        Jessn, you are a walking fallacy. Your statements about same sex marriage and abortion are like saying drugs and murder are good for our society. People who do drugs show great contrast against people that don’t and that is good for everyone right? Murder exists whether or not it is legal so do worry about it just focus on social justice like free condoms.

        Fact of the matter is that we as a society should fight to save the foundation of what is good in our society (moral standards set by GOD). We shouldn’t do it with hate or fear but we should be vigilant against those who promise that bigger government is the answer. The government cannot fix problems by providing free condoms and food stamps. The illusion of a social safety net that is created by the government is a false sense of hope. In fact that causes more dependency on the government and leads towards tyranny. The solution should be that groups of like minded people (such as churches) get together in their communities and make things right without government meddling in their affairs.

        • Betty

          Amen!

        • Paul Steele

          John Q., I agree with you!

        • pam

          So Christians are to be the world’s grumpy nanny?
          Als, just on condoms, countries with comprehensive sex education, freely available contraceptives, and more affordable health care, have considerably lower rates of teen and unwanted pregnancies than the USA. The evidence is squarely in support of condom usage and promotion.

          • lady

            FYI: Condoms may act as a tool to lower teen and unwanted pregnancies therefore lowering the statistics and in a way lowering abortion rates, BUT, IT still does not make freely available condoms right! Premarital or extramarrital sex (leading to or not leading to pregnancy) IS A SIN! read about it in the bible. By promoting such “education” you are promoting excusable sin which leads to further problems down the road like immorality, promiscuity and moral degragation of our society as a whole. How about each one of us as individuals, adults and parents take on our responsibilities and teach our children, teen the biblical rules of sex and abstinence instead of taking the easy way out of providing free condoms, abortions etc.

          • Nick Gotts

            Right, lady – so you don’t actually care about “teh babeez” when you “oppose abortion”, since by your own admission, easily available contraception would reduce the number that take place. You just want to impose your own beliefs on everyone else. Glad we got that clear.

        • eddie

          actually, people who do drugs and whatnot don’t differ so much on the outside from those who do. sure, drugged out stoners, meth-heads, and whatnot are easy to spot, but that’s not where most of the drug use in this country and others occurs. it’s not so black and what as you like to pretend :p

    • Ed

      Fear the Lord, not any of those things. Have concern about them, pray about them, but fear only the Lord

  • http://craigvick.wordpress.com Craig Vick

    What you write makes a lot of sense in our country now, and for the most part I agree. It doesn’t sound quite so good, however, if I’m a German reading this in the early 1930s. Political systems can’t deliver utopia, but they can do horrific harm.

    • peteenns

      To be sure…

    • Dieter Quick

      Hitler’s Nazism definitively was a gospel of salvation in the face of a perceived looming darkness, and ‘the movement’ nothing less than an end-time revival. It had its saviour, its antichrist, its martyrs, pits of hell for the ‘demonic forces’ you name it, it was all there… It only shows how deep and destructive delusion can go. A German

      • DMW

        Hitler violated no written law in his country so what did he actually do wrong? Morally yes, legally no.

        • SMS

          This is a complete misconception; of course Hitler violated a lot of laws. Do you think there was no law against murder in Germany? He came to power legally, but after that he did whatever he well pleased; he broke any law without thinking twice about it.
          Another German

          • Nick Gotts

            He also broke plenty of laws before coming to power; I imagine DMW has never heard of the Beer Hall Putsch, or the thuggery of the SA. In the case of the 2012 election, it’s clear that large parts of the Republican Party are actually theocrats, who want to impost their own misogynistic, homophobic form of Christianity on everyone else. America dodged a bullet by re-electing Obama, despite his many faults.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        And Communism was an Apocalyptic Utopian Cult, preaching much the same thing (salvation, end-time revival, savior, antichrist, martyrs, pits of hell, demonic forces) except citing a different set of all the above.

    • Adam O

      I would disagree, I believe this would have been especially helpful in the German 1930s, in fact, this was in some ways the message of the Barmen Declaration by Barth and co. In as much as we should avoid falling prey to fears, we must also avoid being swept up in the tide of political ferver of politically realized eschatology, nationalistic or otherwise.

    • http://craigvick.wordpress.com Craig Vick

      I can see I wasn’t very clear. I don’t doubt that Hitler promoted a Utopian eschatology (as did the competing political systems at that time). My point is that Nazism really was something to fear in a way that Obama or Romney aren’t. Fear, anger and depression don’t seem so out of place there at that time. It’s not so much a fear of the failure of Utopian political promises, but a fear of an horrific evil. Should that fear have limits? I agree our hope isn’t in this world. I suppose what I find most tiring is how flippantly we today associate our political opponents with Hitler. I want to make sure there’s room for seeing a qualitative difference.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com Derek Rishmawy

    Thanks for this post. Political idolatry always involves eschatology. Actually, Ross Douthat’s recent book “Bad Religion” has an excellent chapter on the heresy of Americanism that deals with the issue of “apocalyptic” political loyalty and its distorting effect on our national discourse. When you buy in to someone’s vision for America, or the good life, anybody who opposes it becomes one of the “sons of darkness” arrayed against the “sons of light.”

    Good stuff.

  • http://www.TheComputerGuysLLC.com Dennis Wilson

    Thank you for reminding me. It is sometimes too easy to forget who is really in control!

  • Beau Quilter

    But …. wait …. isn’t this heresy?

    I mean, after all, isn’t this a Christian Nation? Isn’t that why in 1776, Thomas Jefferson put “in God we trust” on our money, “under God” in our pledge, and “We the people of God” in our constitution?

    • Amy

      “Only the motto “E Pluribus Unum” (“from many, one”) survived the committee in which Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin had served. All had agreed on that motto from the beginning. The current motto, “In God We Trust,” was developed by a later generation. It was used on some coinage at the height of religious fervor during the upheaval of the Civil War. It was made the official national motto in 1956, at the height of the Cold War, to signal opposition to the feared secularizing ideology of communism.” -Thomas A Foster

    • PW

      I hope you are being facetious in your reply since all three of those things are completely and totally false.

      Amy has it right about the added motto on our money; and adding “under god” in our Pledge of Allegiance didn’t happen until the 1950s. Neither of those things happened in 1776; and Thomas Jefferson himself said, among other things, “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” He believed that strongly in separation of church and state.

      Also, anyone who honestly believes the words, “We the people of God” is anywhere in our constitution, needs to read it again or go back to school because that was never included then, nor added later.

      • Beau Quilter

        Hello PW and Amy

        I’ve just revisited this post many months later, and noticed your replies to my comment. Just in case it wasn’t obvious the first time: yes, I was being facetious.

  • Adrian

    Church and state are different. I can fear for where I live and not have it affect my faith. I can want to live in a place where there is more liberty versus a place where liberty is not honored. I can fight for that and not effect my faith.

  • Matt

    And yet, despite all of this, tyranny *does* happen. Oppression *does* happen. Revolution *does* happen. Just because Christians have an eschatology to call their own doesn’t alleviate them from fears about the here and now.

  • http://www.thinkhardthinkwell.com Benj

    Excellent piece, Pete.

    • peteenns

      Thanks, bud.

  • Maltz

    That’s all well and good… except that our system claims none of those utopian things. OUR system was founded on the idea that people suck – people with power, doubly so. So let’s make a government that fences them in to the maximum extent possible. Tearing down those fences to replace them with any of these alluring “eschatologies” is something against which we must be ever-vigilant. For a decade, we’ve been tearing down fences at a disturbing and accelerating pace, and THAT’S what people are fearful of.

    • peteenns

      Ask yourself whether, in any political rhetoric, anyone acts as if our system is ever deeply faulty in some way or whether it will one day come to an end. Walter Brueggemann puts it this way, “Kings and kingdoms think they are’forever.’” I think that holds for our “kingdom” here in the US.

    • F. Lynx Pardinus

      ” OUR system was founded on the idea that people suck – people with power, doubly so. So let’s make a government that fences them in to the maximum extent possible.”
      This is a mischaracterization of the US Constitution. The purpose was to limit government to certain enumerated (but still expansive) powers (regulating commerce for example), and to create a separation of powers so there would be checks and balances inside the government. The purpose was not to “fence them in to the maximum extent possible.” The founding fathers were not modern-day libertarians.

    • Nick Jackson

      I think you’re really mixing Christianity and the Enlightenment. True our country was largely founded on a distaste for monarchy, but the solution to the problem was found in how exceptional people are the abilities to rationalize, contrary to your statement that “our system was founded on the idea that people suck.” The US is the product of the grand experiment of the Enlightenment. Because of our ability to reason, we can create the best system of government. This is not a system based on family lineage or divine right, but the power of the human mind. God is absolutely non-essential to a democratic system. We see how some of this thinking has hung around. The “shining city on the hill” that Regan talked about was not the church with Christ as its head, it’s a country based on Enlightenment principles, with a democratic system that works because people are so smart.

      The only time in the early years of the US where anyone doubted in human reason as the way to success, dwas in the debate over federalism. And the side that doubted in people’s ability to reason were the ones who wanted big government. So let’s be careful before we start mixing the modern religious right evangelicalism with the founding of our country.

  • F. Lynx Pardinus

    “This is what the first Christians were taught about the Roman Empire, which promised its citizens peace, grace, justice, protection from enemies–all of which was called “salvation” (that’s the word that was used at the time). ”
    Do you have any sources on this? It sounds like a more modern view of the purpose of a government than that of the autocratic Roman Empire. I don’t know much about ancient governments, so I’m curious how you came to this conclusion.

    • peteenns

      This is documented and well travelled territory in NT scholarship. N. T. Wright has done a lot to popularize it.

      • F. Lynx Pardinus

        Can you recommend a book or article by N.T. Wright so I can learn more?

    • pete z

      that is totally what I learned in seminary. Caesar is LORD! HAIL CAESAR! were common phrases. Caesar was a “Son of God” and hailed as a god. He promised the pax romana…the peace of rome. and peace to those on whom his good will rests….which was echoed in luke 2. luke 2 is has political undertones about that fact that Christian peace comes from the kingdom of jesus not caesar.

    • Nick Gotts

      At the time of the first Christians, most inhabitants of the Empire – even excluding slaves and women – were not citizens, and were promised little more than not being punished provided they paid their taxes – much of which went to private tax-gatherers rather than the State. Only under Caracalla in 212, by the Constitutio Antoniniana, did all freemen become citizens.

  • http://benirwin.wordpress.com Ben Irwin

    How about this as an antidote to our rival eschatologies? http://ElectionDayCommunion.org

    • peteenns

      That’s just crazy talk :-)

      All kidding aside, that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.

  • Brian

    But you don’t even have a correct soteriology, let alone eschatology.

  • byron curtis

    Well said, Pete.

  • James

    Christian eschatology is why we go about doing good with a bit of a smirk on our face–not smug but a little like the LORD in Psalm 2–even if we happen to be a presidential candidate.

    • peteenns

      Don’t follow you…

    • Chris

      I understand the reference to Ps. 2, and note your further clarification in the reply below. But what do you mean by “go about doing good with a bit of a smirk on our face, even if we happen to be a presidential candidate.” Do you view one of the candidates as doing this, and if so, which one?

  • James

    We know something some others may not know–who’s ultimately in charge.

  • michelle h

    Beautifully written….thank you!

  • infidel4life

    You don’t get out much, do you? Well, there is a real world out there. You should visit it sometime, it ain’t anything like the picture you paint.

  • Maurice

    Right. And when you forget these things, go back and read some good old testament writings. Like, say, Jeremiah. Or maybe a little bit about Daniel.

  • Allen Calkins

    My personal despair over the political scene, is similiar to the despair of Jeremiah. I do not like thinking that the message of the church is going to have to change to faithfyully point out the present judgment of God on America that may result in our ruin as a nation as well as our eternal hope in the Lord. …Just not looking forward to being the bearer of that message and the persecution that comes with it.

    • Nick Gotts

      Ah, the good old Christian persecution complex!

  • Thomas

    Thank you. This helped in more ways than you know.

  • mike h

    Very well done. The claims being made by all candidates, not just presidential, seem to be designed to make fear and anger ways to motivate people to vote their way. Not helpful.

  • http://undeception.com/ Steve Douglas

    Dr. Enns,
    The context is undeniably different, but would it be fair to say that we have precedence for at least the attitude you’re proposing in John 16.32-33?

    “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

    • peteenns

      Yes, it seems to me this reflects the basic idea that the reality of God and our part in him transcends earthly matters.

  • Susan Donroe

    This is good to remember. Although I won’t spread it around! I know so many black-and-white thinkers on both sides, they will be horrified by this idea.

  • James

    Remember, those running for public office may be Christ followers too, and tempted like everyone else to spout the system of this world’s party line of earthly utopia. So we should pray for everyone in authority…

  • Craig Collins

    You make some good points, but overall, I disagree with your premise. Yes, ultimately, God is in control, but He still allows evil to exist and suffering and harm to come to His children. Our time in this life is relatively short. Why look for or accept trouble needlessly? We don’t know when Christ will come back or when God will step in and intervene in history. Until then, he gave us brains and free will. I intend to use mine.

  • John

    I feel like this is a somewhat irresponsible interpretation of the phrase “eschatology”. After all, literally translated from the Greek, the phrase is just “the study of the end,” and while most religions interpret this as a Utopian model (for religion is, in some senses, an optimistic impulse), it does not mean so exclusively.
    The eschatological beliefs arising from Norse mythology, for instance, are not at all optimistic or utopian.

  • George Schmink

    This is Biblical bullshit

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  • David White

    Yes, as Christians our ultimate hope is the fullness of God’s coming Kingdom that is promised in Christ’s resurrection. That doesn’t make electoral politics irrelevant. In fact, it should make bad policy more intolerable. We are invited to participate in creating this Kindom of shaloam now, even though we will not see its fullness apart from God’s completion.

  • http://www.christianlibertyparty.org/ G. Washington

    Join Christians and vote for one nation under God.

  • Norman

    Pete,
    I hope this doesn’t make you too nervous, but you keep edging closer and closer to the full Preterist ideas of fulfilled eschatology. :)
    When one realizes that part of the reason that Jesus was rejected by the Jews was because he didn’t fulfill their idea of a physical Kingdom they rejected Him. Their literal reading of an OT coming Davidic Kingdom didn’t allow them to grasp the paradigm change that Jesus, the apostles and Paul presented regarding a Kingdom that could not be seen and was no threat to Pilate and Rome physically.
    Same thinking has been happing ever since and is especially appropriated again by those who want Christ to come back and do it right the next time. It’s hard to get people to stop and think how close they are to the apostate Jews in their thinking today instead of the first Christians. Eschatology is hard but not necessarily so if one stays true and consistent instead of adapting a little of the spiritual and a little of the physical tweaking along the way to suit ones materialistic mindset.

    • http://www.newcreationministries.tv Tami

      Norm,
      When I read the blog, my first thought was, “he sounds like a preterist!”

  • Robert Pershing

    With respect, I believe you need to define “depressed” and “angry” more precisely to demonstrate why you are not attacking a straw man. If you mean CLINICALLY depressed, then you are likely correct, but a very small % of the Christian population would claim that response to an election. My guess is that your audience interprets those terms according to their common usage, in which case your argument seems incorrect.
    If “depression,” means “mourning to the point of tears,” then it’s an entirely appropriate response to death (“Jesus wept” in response to Lazarus death) Likewise, if “angry” means something like “detest,” then it is an entirely appropriate emotional response to ACTS of injustice (i.e. Prov. 11:1) [Note: I’m NOT addressing emotions toward the actors]. Without importing an improper eschatology, a Christian could say, using the terms in their common vernacular, I am depressed and angry that if one candidate wins, acts of death and injustice will increase.

    Analyzing merely one “hypothetical” issue, this election could present such a scenario if:
    (A) The incumbent candidate had enacted the following policies:
    1) Mandate that health plans cover abortifacients (i.e. not merely chemical contraceptives);
    2) Require the funding of these health plans, and therefore the purchase of such abortifacients, through either taxpayer or employer subsidies;

    (B) And if we make the following assumptions:
    1) Abortifacients unjustly end a human life.
    2) Subsidizing abortifacients will increase their use
    3) These policies can be repealed through an executive order that the challenger promises to enact.

    A Christian on the Wednesday after Election Day would be justified in saying, I am depressed and angry that because the incumbent won, this significant manifestation of death and injustice will increase. If it were also true that Christians operating non-church religious organizations (i.e hospitals/social justice organizations) would be forced to choose between subsidizing abortifacients, or closing shop and no longer serving those in need, then they in particular would have a great deal to be depressed about.

    • mythopeia

      Robert, well said. Unfortunately far too many pastors/teachers with a blog lack clarity in making distinctions. Arguments and platitudes on these types of blogs often trade on equivocations. For instance, “don’t oppose gay marriage because we shouldn’t expect non-Christians to behave like Christians.” It gets discouraging, and dare I say, kind of depressing to see how non-rigorous our popular church leaders are. Yet they have broad audiences. I saw this post linked on facebook by several of my friends, with 9 or 10 likes each. Each one shared it as an authoritative way to perceive and respond to this election. Yet, as you note, it’s a completely false claim.

    • pam

      But Christians are also free to support this policy – the spread of Christian thought on issues just around contraception is enormous, from those who oppose any and all contraceptives (including so-called ‘natural’ contraception) through to those who support abortion being legal and accessible. The problems arise for Christians discussing politics when we get to the point of seeing policy positions as religious positions. Our faith should inform us, but we also need to recognise that different people will come to different conclusions, even when informed by the very same faith. The point of this post, as I read it, was a reminder to recognise the difference between policy and religion.

  • http://theresoundingdeclaration.blogspot.com/ Matt

    Peter,
    Great points. As a pastor I am consistently asked about “political” parties, to which I have adamantly stated that I will only preach the Gospel from the pulpit, as that is my mandate. We already belong to a kingdom and if we think that God has not raised up kingdoms and torn them down, for His sovereign choices, then we sadly read Romans 13 incorrectly. Does that mean I don’t vote my convictions or abstain from preaching the sanctity of life and holy living; certainly not! –But as you stated, to get angry puts our true faith in OUR King and citizenship, somewhere other than in Christ. God is and always will be in control, no matter who He chooses to put in charge. “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. “(Romans 13:2 ESV)
    Thanks for the post! ~ Matt

  • http://@RodReep Wm.RhodneyReep

    The last will be first and the first will be last. This is true for knowledge, but not for wisdom! Money (the tool of evil) talks and this election is speaking! What would the Prophets think-few would listen today!!

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  • http://TheReluctantSuburbanite GSV

    It is painful to read many of these comments. It is the link between heart and mind which forges the perception within each man, woman and child. I sense much fear here. I enjoyed your writing and found it balanced and sensible. Our ultimate faith and security must rise FAR and above the realm of politics because once a man has risen to such a plateau, he is corrupt in ways beyond our reckoning. I await the end of this election year because I always regret the negative light into which it casts the Christians of our nations because of our ultimate humanity and the way in which we wield our beliefs in the political arena. Sigh-h . . .

    • http://fromdeathtolife.com Todd Mogilner

      Jonathan Edward challenges us about when a man “wrongs” you and how we need to see the hand of God in everything. Wouldn’t that also apply to our feeling wronged by those running this country? See the quote below:

      Fourthly, love to God disposes men to have regard to the hand of God in the injuries they suffer, and not only to the hand of man, and meekly to submit to his will therein. Love to God disposes men to see his hand in everything: to own him as the governor of the world, and the director of providence, and to acknowledge his disposal in everything that takes place. And the fact that the hand of God is a great deal more concerned in all that happens to us than the treatment of men is, should lead us, in a great measure, not to think of things as from men, but to have respect to them chiefly as from God — as ordered by his love and wisdom, even when their immediate source may be the malice or heedlessness of a fellowman. And if we indeed consider and feel that they are from the hand of God, then we shall be disposed meekly to receive and quietly to submit to them, and to own that the greatest injuries received from men are justly and even kindly ordered of God, and so be far from any ruffle or tumult of mind on account of them.

      Edwards, Jonathan – Charity And Its Fruits

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  • http://www.thepoachedegg.net Greg West

    Wow! I really needed to read this. Thanks so much for the reality check.

  • pete z

    frankly, both the christian right and left need to realize that the message of jesus is so radical, so against the ways of this world, that you CANNOT stay elected as a democrat or republican and actually live like Jesus…there is too much lying and moral compromise and wheeling and dealing.

  • http://www.amphomma.wordpress.com Alison

    Very succinct, intelligent, and rational. It’s all about keeping the proper perspective. I’m glad to read this, and I hope many will also appreciate your reasoning! Praying for our nation!

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  • http://versedbusters.blogspot.com/ Atheist621

    A nice read. In conclusion, Christians’ Eschatology should displace any major concern over who our next President is.

    Can anyone here respond to a concerned non-believer? Because I do find myself more upset than usual over this election. I suppose my “competing Eschatology” is based on the issues of climate and the economy. I’m an engineer by trade, and I think I understand the climate science well enough. (Also, when 97% of climate scientists agree, that is something Engineers call a “clue”.) In short, I have reason to believe the far Right is going to be ruinous to both the environment and the economy. That’s just for starters.

    “Fear for the country” ? How about “Fear for the planet and all of Humanity” ? So yes, I get really angry, think about moving, fear for my grandchildren’s generation, etc . if “that guy” is elected.

    • peteenns

      I tried to be a bit subtle in my post. Anger etc. are normal emotions and can be expressed for a lot of reasons, including elections. What I am after more is a deep fear of hopelessness and despair, where Christians–despite their rhetoric–put all their eggs in the political basket and feel that this is the way God needs to work.

    • Phil Miller

      If climate scientists really are correct, many of them say that we’ve already passed the point of no return, and anything we would do now apart from a very radical change in lifestyle in industrialized nations is just going to be fooling around in the margins of the problem anyway. Do you really think that a president from either party has the power to affect the sort of change necessary to really sway global greenhouse gas emissions very far in either direction?

      I’m an engineer too, and I have a more faith in technological progress than I do in political solutions. Certain activities can be incentivized, for sure, but that only goes so far.

      • pam

        I’m in the climate field, and I have to correct a bit here. We have done enough that we won’t be able to avert temperature rises, that is true. What we still can do, is affect how much of a temperature rise there will be. So far, we’re looking definitely at passing 2 degrees Celsius. How quickly we reduce greenhouse gas emissions will affect if the warming stays toward the low end or heads up to 5+ degrees.

  • William Reed

    I have been around a while. (Nixon vs. McGovern) I know that God is in control. I will accept the results of this election. I am not one of those people who every 4 years screams “THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIFETIME!” However, I do not think the economy of the USA can stand 4 more years of the monetary policy and spending of President Obama. Since President Obama took office in January 2009 the national debt has grown over $5 Trillion. Less than 4 years. Even if you think the money spent by our government is well spent, the fact remains we can not survive spending like this. If you look accross the Atlantic you see what has happened to some European countries in the past few years. Pray and vote smart.

  • http://www.patheos.com/About-Patheos/Frederick-W-Schmidt.html Frederick W. Schmidt

    Peter, thanks for this! I shared this on Facebook with this intro:

    So, some things I recommend you read, because it will give you a perspective that you haven’t considered — and as an independent — there is a lot from my perspective that is going unconsidered. BUT if you are a Christian, you really ought to read this. I haven’t read anything else that Peter has written and he hails from a different tradition, so I can’t comment on the rest of his work. But this is a really fine piece that Christians, regardless of their commitments, should read and take to heart…

  • Josh

    “Eschatology means: “We have brought you to where things are as they should be. You are at the place where you can now–finally–have reason to hope. Trust in us. Fear not.”” – WRONG!
    Eschatology is “a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind.” – Merriam-Webster. Therefore I reject the premise of the entire blog post. Thanks.

    • peteenns

      Shucks, Josh, why didn’t *I* think of looking it up in a dictionary rather than relying on 25 years of studying this stuff. I really blew it. (I hope you have a sense of humor.)

      • historyguy

        I guess their is no higher intellectual or spiritual authority than the venerable Merriam-Webster dictionary.

  • doughnut13

    Well while I agree that I am to be content in whatever state I am in, does not mean that I do not vote or stand for Christ while I have breath. Truly one candidate is not for Christ as a muslim and is trying to remove God from our nation. This is a christians duty to uphold our rights to worship and teach our children what the constitution and the people who wrote it , stands for,not stand with our heads in the ground and take whatever happens.

    • Nick Gotts

      The claim that Obama is a Muslim is, of course, a barefaced lie.

      • Nick Gotts

        OTOH, if he is sincere in his profession of the Mormon religion, Romney believes Satan is Jesus’s brother.

  • mike jones

    How does the simplicity of Christ’s love get lost so easily? This piece is not an indictment of the USA at all. It is a recognition that the Kingdom of God is where my true citizenship lies, and is an indictment to Christians who feel their first Christian duty is to win an election in order to make a more godly society here on earth. Our priority is to love the lord with all out hearts, love our neighbors, and love our enemies – praying for them and doing good to them.

    However THAT works into our election thoughts, showing Christs love to all mankind should be our Kingdom citizenship duty, no matter what early nation we live in.

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  • http://joendee.blogspot.com/ Deanna

    David, I just posted a comment on my page that lines up with your thinking. I get a lot of backlash from my Christian friends due to my service at the White House under GWB. I personally do not vote. I have worked in the highest court in the land, seen politics up close and personal, and a witness to some of our generations most tragic events. I believe Jesus when he told Pilate “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above”. You never saw Jesus up in the Sanhedrin lobbying for one High Priest over another, and I am fairly certain that the affairs that dealt directly with the “seat of Moses” and how God was being represented to His children Israel was of much more important to Jesus than how Caesar Augustus was running things around Israel. I like what you said David. I answered my friend quite plainly when she asked me if I vote. I asked her “do you believe that something OTHER than God’s will will take place if you don’t vote?? I reminded her of the story of Moses and Joshua when God called them into the Tent of Meeting and told them that when the Israelites cross over and enter into the Promised Land, that they were going to ask for a King to rule over them like the heathen nations that surrounded them” God gave them what they wanted but like what was spoken to Samuel “It was God they rejected by their request for a king”.

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  • historyguy

    It saddens me to see so many of the comments here that miss the point of what Peter was saying here entirely. It seems that some folks think that anything that is not blindly supportive of the dominant evangelical/political way of thinking…not even questioning it, mind you, but simply allowing that it might not be the most important thing in the universe…must be condemned. Pray and then vote as your conscience dictates. I know I will. And realize that no matter what happens to the U.S. government, Christ is still Christ.

  • http://JohnLofton.com John Lofton

    Excellent piece. I posted something similar. Here it is:

    A FAITHLESS, CHRIST-REJECTING fear causes men (and women) to do many stupid and dangerous things — like voting for Mitt Romney. And make no mistake about it: Such a faithless fear IS motivating those “Christians” who are planning to vote for Romney! And such a fear, because it is a strong indication of unbelief, a rejection that Christ controls ALL things, also puts people in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). How many times have we heard those claiming to be “Christians” say something like: “Our country will be destroyed if Obama is re-elected. So, I am voting for Romney.” But is this true? Is the future of our country REALLY determined by the outcome of this election? Absolutely NOT!!! The future of this country — and ALL countries — is determined by the Lord Jesus Christ and NOT by any election. So what am I saying? — That if you vote for Romney you are going to Hell? My answer: Quite possibly but NOT because you voted for Romney. You may be going to Hell because your vote for Romney reveals your faithless fear and shows that you have NO faith in Christ, His sovereignty, His Lordship over and control of ALL things.

    John Lofton, Recovering Republican
    Editor, Archive.TheAmericanView.com
    JohnLofton.com
    Active Facebook Wall
    JLof@aol.com

    • Bruce

      Wow! So somehow you know that your simplistic characterization is THE reason why any Christian who votes for Romney does so?? How do you know all our hearts? And have you stopped to listen to the actual REASONS we give (many of them convictions of long-standing that are not about a particular individual). Could it not be for much more specific concerns about certain of his policies (whether a few key policies or quite a number of them) that we regard as mistaken and perhaps very destructive? Are you truly prepared to CONDEMN as rejecting Christ those whose objections (or perhaps agreement with his main opponents proposed policies more!) cause them to oppose him at the ballot box? Can a Christian (MANY Christians even) NOT oppose Obama for any principled reasons?? Or have you perhaps slightly overstated you intent when you make the sweeping statement “Such a faithless fear IS motivating those “Christians” who are planning to vote for Romney!” and you only intend to challenge SOME Christians who may be reasoning the way you describe?

      I, for my part, understand that people did and will vote for Obama for a variety of reasons. Though I may disagree with their decision — and even vigorously challenge them when I believe their reasoning or facts are mistaken (as a number of them have done toward me) — but I will not presume to lump all Christians who vote for him together as doing so.

      And make no mistake, just as you regard Romney as a “dangerous” choice, I will likely maintain my conviction (based on, I believe, a considerable amount of evidence) that a second Obama term is the greater danger (thought I hesitate to declare that all who make THAT choice are being “stupid”). Why is THAT “faithless”, but those who fear Romney (and you evidently do) may not likewise act out of faithlessness?

      Note: I’m not suggesting the simple reverse of your argument (though I don’t see why one could not do so just as well). I’m suggesting someone who makes EITHER choice MIGHT (or might not!) act out of improper/faithless fear. That, if I’ve correctly understood Peter, is closer to the point he was making.

      • peteenns

        Bruce, please go back and read my post carefully. You seem to have missed my point entirely.

        • Bruce

          And John’s claim that ALL Christians who vote for Romney are doing so out of fearful “faithless Christ-rejecting” is correct??

          • peteenns

            Take that up with him. I never said that in my post. I said something very different.

          • Bruce

            Note: I thought it was a thread and I WAS interacting with John — I specifically hit the “Reply” button connected to HIS post– and that my allusions (near quotes ) were clearly to what he wrote. Sorry for the confusion, though I’m not really sure why you would think my comments were meant to characterize your own remarks. I’m quite aware, and thankful, you wrote nothing of the sort. (I took one piece of that on later, in my remarks about “utopianism”, which I plan to respond to when I get a chance to write an intelligible reply.)

  • Sean Wrench

    Peter, incredible post, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Sad to see the angered responses this solicits. I only wish Christians cared more about
    injustice as they did about this election.
    Thanks Peter!

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  • Tony Forstall

    Thank you for the figurative “get a grip” slap. I needed it.

  • phiclub

    “If you fear for your way of life, that if the wrong person gets elected all is lost and you simply don’t have any hope for your future or the future of your children,” then you are probably one of the many victims of US wars, war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture chambers, drone strikes, US-supported human rights-abusing governments, insufficient climate change legislation, a for-profit health care system, etc.

    People die because of what our leaders do–or fail to do. As far as these people are concerned, these policies quite literally destroy their ways of life, ensure that all genuinely is lost, and justifiably destroy hope for their future. Who you vote for matters in precisely the enormous ways that Enns suggests are symptoms of inappropriately pledging allegiance to a rival eschatology.

    Unfortunately, no one pays any attention to the candidates who are serious about working to change these things. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, watch the debates on DemocracyNow.org from now on.

  • Jim Maddix

    #1 Agree with jssn.
    #2 Anyone who fears for the end of our way of life due to this election has not checked our past. I have witnessed a confrontation between Nuclear powers not because it was militarily sound policy BUT because our President feared the response of the opposition party. (read essence of decision), I have seen People killed by our troops when walking from one class room to another (Kent State), I have seen a President appoint a Vice President so that Vice President would pardon him when he resigned. I have seen a President call our troops BAD APPLES when he sent them to war getting our people mutillated. I have seen a President get angry when he was awakened from a nap to be informed we attacked an Independent Nation without provocation (Reagean). No matter how stupid and lousy our President is we will continue to watch Baseball and not really care. PROVE ME WRONG!
    #3 We have proven several things in our country. There is no difference in behaviors between believers and non believers. The only thing I see is accusations between the two groups.

    • Bruce

      Nice recital of an OLD list of Democratic canards (following on a NEW one by phiclub). Each of these points is, at best, a gross oversimplification, at worst an outright lie (not yours, but one you have apparently chosen to accept as truth not subject to questioning). Example #1 – the claim that you have seen “a President appoint a Vice President so that Vice President would pardon him when he resigned”. This is a despicable smear against President Ford, with no basis in anything we know about him, and for which you present precisely NO evidence, unless the FACT of a pardon somehow “proves” the motive of both parties. Please stick to firmly established facts if you are going to make such charges.

      Then there is this broad, ill-defined “war crime” charge — which I also utterly reject — not to mention the odd pairing of the likes of supposed government-directed torture and murder with “insufficient” legislation in an area where the best resolution is highly debated (and it takes something approaching deep religious conviction to simply assert more — for either side), and a “for-profit healthcare system” which is somehow supposed to be self-evidently immoral.

      (I would suggest that the moral evaluation of a healthcare system might begin with how well people are truly helped by it — or whether it does actual harm (and abortion-on-demand might qualify, no?)— and perhaps also consider such things as whether it forces people to violate their religious conscience, rather than the economic system under which it is delivered. And, of course, a proper evaluation would have room to critique BOTH ‘for profit’ and government-run programs. That is, you may take it as a given that something “for profit” is somehow intrinsically immoral, but that is hardly self-evident, unless we’ve already adopted a whole set of socialist assumptions about economics and the role of government.)

  • http://www.fetchmasters.com thomas aaron

    here is another interesting angle on this issue …
    http://www.pilgrimsperspective.com/blog

  • Bruce

    “All political regimes are utopian. Communist, socialist, fascist, monarchic, and democratic. All of them….”

    Catchy. And seemingly plausible. But I don’t know how well it holds up to scrutiny, not do I see that you’ve presented much justification for such a global assertion.

    Fine, perhaps, if you’re loosely referring to the common style of political campaign rhetoric. Not so much when it comes to acutal political ideology and GOVERNING. It simply lumps together ALL types of political thought, equating ideologies that truly DO believe and present government itself as THE solution to our social ills with those that explicitly REJECT that notion! In other words, you seem, by your definition (of “government” or “Utopian” or both) to have ruled out the very POSSIBILITY of anyone ever being in a position of political authority governing (running a ‘political regime’) from a much more limited view of what government can or SHOULD do. But, of course, there ARE such views. To lump these together with authoritarian and totalitarian view as as equally “utopian” appears arbitrary and unhelpful.

    Since this assertion plays a central part in your overall argument, I would suggest it demands more careful explication and justification.

    • peteenns

      Give us an example of a political system that does not claim to be “the solution.” Note: I said political system, not a political party.

      • Nick Gotts

        Your post is intellectually very lazy. Political systems don’t claim anything, because they are not agents and hence are incapable of doing so. Individuals or organizations may make such claims about political systems, but it is quite possible to advocate a particular political system as the best available without believing that it is “the solution”.

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  • http://www.idprotectorpro.com Kathy

    Enjoyed reading your article! My heart finally became peaceful when I fully understood that my hope is in Christ alone.

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  • Eli Gillespie

    I do fear for the future of our country with the continued election of secular humanist leaders, which is the category Obama falls into. I fear the same way I fear that if I don’t take care of my house, and continue to work, I will not have a house to live in. I’m saddened by the slow decline of a great country. And I do put a certain element of faith in our leaders – the ones that promise to do less, to be less, and to have a smaller government that allows us the freedom to be Christians. Is this some sort of idol worship? I don’t think so. We have a unique country that allows us to have input. If there isn’t some emotion involved, that triggers positive action, we’re destined to lose this priviledge. I wonder if the author would think that I have an eschatology problem.

    • Nick Gotts

      According to all the evidence, Obama is a Christian. The claim that he is a “secular humanist”, like the alternative claim made above that he is a Muslim, is a barefaced lie with not a scintilla of evidence to support it.

  • http://southerngospelyankee.wordpress.com yankeegospelgirl

    “I’ve just lost half of you, but hang with me.”

    Dr. Enns, this article was the first of yours that I read all the way through recently. I must say that that this bit in particular did not make a good impression on me. It makes you sound, not to put too fine a point on it, like a pompous ass. “Oh, I’M sorry, I forgot… half of you aren’t as sophisticated and smart as moi. Hang in there plebs, just hold my hand and I’ll help you totter through.” It’s distasteful, it’s rude, and it’s just flat-out bad rhetoric. Quite frankly, even if you DID legitimately have something to offer that half your audience was missing, you shouldn’t talk down to them. I wouldn’t talk to a group of 8-year-olds like that. Present your material and move on.

  • http://southerngospelyankee.wordpress.com yankeegospelgirl

    Oh yes, one more thing I forgot to add. I’m giving you a new nickname: Peter the happy, helpful sophist. Wear it with pride. You’re welcome.

    • black sheep of the family

      Speaking for myself, who has been deeply hurt by “the church”, I find Peter’s vulnerability in sharing his questions about God and his sense of humor in doing so…quite refreshing. The questions he asks help validate my thoughts about such things, sometimes stretching me but almost always it makes me chuckle.
      “I’ve just lost half of you, but hang with me” makes me smile because its true (and funny).
      Could it be that you don’t understand or appreciate his sense of humor…

      • http://southerngospelyankee.wordpress.com yankeegospelgirl

        No, I think I understand quite well. I’m saddened to see how many people like you are falling for this though. The reality (including the scholarly reality, I might add) is that you’ve been had. This is a hack job, pure and simple. But if you persist in finding it vulnerable, humble and insightful, I can’t persuade you otherwise.

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