Nobody Asked My Opinion. But that Doesn’t Stop Me from Giving It.

Patheos has been running a debate among high-profile thinkers about Christian engagement in politics.

I am not in the league of the intellectual/social/pundit gravitas of the writers who have addressed this. Also, nobody has asked my opinion. But that doesn’t stop me from giving it.

Let me begin by saying that political Christianity as it has been practiced in America for the past four decades is heresy. It is based on the totally incorrect but implicit teaching from a lot of wing-nut preachers, religious leaders and religio-politicians that righteousness before God is to be found in how you vote and who you hate.

That is heretical. It is also anti-Christ. It teaches self-righteousness, encourages slander and leads people away from the cross, not to it. It is the astral twin of the same kind of co-option of the Christian moral voice that took place in Nazi Germany.

Political parties have “claimed” the Christian moral voice as their means to getting votes to gain power for themselves that they then use to allocate the budget and government favor to those who pay the parties’ bills. They have not delivered on any of their promises to the Christians who blindly voted in their column, and they will not. That was never their intention.

This heresy of a political christianity (little c) has done a great deal of harm to the moral voice of real Christianity at a pivotal time in the moral decline of our nation. It has also, as time has passed and people have begun to gag on its hypocrisies and obvious lies, declined in its vote-getting ability. This has happened at the same time that members of the public who are disgusted with political christianity and who have become diametrically opposed to it have reached a critical mass in key electoral states and can now be big players in the outcome of presidential elections.

In other words, political christianity has become something of a liability to the people who have used it to gain power for these last four decades, largely by virtue of the fact that it has diminished and tarnished real Christianity in the public eye to the point that real Christianity itself is becoming besieged in the larger culture.

To put it bluntly, the smart money is beginning to be on the anti-Jesus crowd and for this reason, the smart money is backpedalling on their aggressive “moral” stands, which were nothing more than political poses in the first place.

Since Christianity has spent so much of its moral capital in lending itself to the election of people who are nothing more than puppets of an amoral corporate conglomerate, it is floundering a bit.

What to do?

Should Christians (real Christians) withdraw from the pubic sphere, head for the hills and comfort one another around the hidden campfires of our faith? Should we drop all pretense of taking our beliefs into the court of public opinion? Should we stop taking a stand for the things we believe because those beliefs no longer resonate with large groups of very vocal people?

Should we get smart in the worldly sense and go along to get along, even if that means giving up on what has been basic Christian teaching for 2,000 years?

Should we, in short, tuck tail and run now that the pay-off has become a pay-back?

That is what a good many political christians who have capitalized on the naiveté of the earnest believers they led into this heresy decades ago are hoping. Shut up and leave us alone, they tell their befuddled flocks. We’ve got deals to do and this morality stuff is no longer helping us do them. It has become a liability we want to shuck.

The answer, at least so far as I’m concerned, is that yes, the political christians who were using real Christianity to gain power for themselves need to take off their lamb’s wool and be the wolves they always were. I also think that the many political preachers who’ve been teaching the heresy of redemption through politics to their flocks need to stand down. In fact, I think a lot of them need to leave the pulpit altogether and go into the wilderness to find their Lord.

Does this mean that I think that Christians should give up on the sanctity of human life and holy matrimony, or that they should stop being engaged with the world?

Absolutely not.

We are the light of the world and we need to be that light. That is true especially now when we are becoming besieged and battered by a culture that is (rightfully so) turning its back on the heresy of political christianity.

There is a difference between genuine belief and political expedience. This difference manifests itself in a number of ways, one of which is standing firm when things go wrong.

My advice to Christians is that they should not become cowards about their faith because people who were using Christianity for their own purposes have begun to desert the ship. That’s what rats do, you know. Let them do it.

But you stand firm.

Catholics are being challenged by a Pope who is deliberately and directly addressing this heresy of political christianity and calling us to take on the whole Gospel of Christ. Political christians and their phoney-baloney religious leaders have taught a shorn and neutered political gospel that they have mis-interpreted to fit the political fashion of one or the other of the two political parties for a long time now. They have many well-intentioned but deluded followers.

There are several generations of American Christians who have grown up being taught the heresy of political christianity as if it was real Christianity. When Pope Francis goes in your face with this heresy and teaches us the whole Gospel instead of a truncated corporatist version of it, these people are confounded and offended. Some — perhaps many — of them will not follow the Pope, but denounce him for his failure to validate their allegiance to the false gods of political christianity.

That is sad, and it rests entirely on the doorstep of the political christian leaders of the past decades. By that I mean the same exact christian leaders who are now trying to turn the political christian ship away from the very things they once trumpeted as “non-negotiable issues” for “serious” catholics, or, ‘serious” christians.

There is no reason for people to be dismayed or frightened by all this. Christ will prevail. All we have to do is follow Him and not some bogus political christian leader who is manipulating us to maintain his or her access to the political halls of power.

There is no better way to do this than to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church as they are elucidated by His Vicar, Pope Francis.

Should Christians be engaged in politics?

Absolutely.

We are the leaven, the light, the salt and the hope of this fallen world. Involvement in politics is not our mission, it is an expression of our fidelity to Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives, including the political. For those of us who have a calling to active involvement in politics, this expression becomes both more compelling and more fraught than it is for those who are called to live out their faith in other arenas.

But America is somewhat unique in that every citizen is to some extent a politician. Government of, by and for the people is not only a privilege, it is a responsibility. No American can shrug off their responsibility to vote according to what they think is best. If you are a Christian, then what you think is best will be in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. To that extent, every Christian is political.

Genuine Christian involvement in politics at any level must be indifferent to party loyalties and the various demagogues who try to exploit our faith. You cannot follow Christ and these bogus religious leaders with their bogus gospel both at the same time. They lead down entirely different paths.

As I said earlier, I believe that the best way to follow Christ in any endeavor, including the political, is to be faithful to the teachings of the Gospel as interpreted by the constant, 2,000-year-old teachings of the Catholic Church.

We don’t need to re-invent the wheel or re-write the Gospels. We just need to be faithful to our call, which is always and forever, the Person of Jesus Christ.

India: Faith Grows Among Persecuted Christians in Orissa

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We have been faced lately with the defection of a number of highly-placed American Christians on serious matters of faith. 

In particular, there has been a large retreat among political and intellectual Christian leadership on the question of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. They are either tossing marriage out the door altogether, or they are, as I was once counseled concerning abortion, urging the rest of us to leave our beliefs at home or inside our houses of worship. 

I’m not talking about one, specific, runner. I’m talking about a whole group of people who have grown fat off denouncing other people for not supporting the very values they are now running from themselves. Excuse me please if I won’t go along with their self-serving patter. 

But I’m not going to. 

I think they’re self-serving phonies. 

I also think that they should consider persecuted Christians around the world who are holding fast to the cross in the face of horrific suffering. 

A case in point is the persecuted Christian population of Orissa, India. Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (Orissa, eastern India) says,

“Faith in Orissa is growing because of the persecution. This mission, in the face of violent persecutions, has become the focus of religious and priestly vocations.”

Consider, for a moment, what sincere Christians face in India. According to Archbishop Barwa, 

… the district of Kandhamal, where the majority of Catholics of the Archdiocese live, has faced untold persecution”. The highest point were the pogroms of 2008: “During the persecutions, there was an ethnic cleansing of all Christians in 400 villages, more than 6,000 houses, 340 churches and chapels, clinics and schools were burned and destroyed. Thousands of believers were injured, several women and girls, including a nun, were raped and about 60,000 men, women and children were left homeless”. The Bishop recalled that 75 Christians (22 Catholics, 28 Baptists, 12 Pentecostals, 5 of independent churches) and 8 non-tribal Christians were brutally murdered.

The text continues: “Five years after the persecutions, visiting the affected communities, the faithful say to the Bishop: the persecutors burned our houses, property, and killed our loved ones, but they did not manage to destroy our faith and cannot separate us from the love of Jesus Christ .We are proud to be Christians and proud of our faith”. Words and actions of this kind “are clear signs of growth in faith. They may be poor and illiterate, but rich people of faith”, he comments.
The Archbishop explains that still there is no guarantee that persecution will not be repeated: “We live trusting in God and making every effort, as individuals and communities, to build peace in Kandhamal, but we surrender to God and say: Let there be your will”.

He goes on to describe what I believe is beginning to happen here in the “Christian” West when he says, “Each growth is a process that requires pruning, trials and suffering.”

The devil is collecting the low-hanging fruit with the runners who are running away from traditional marriage in America today. These folks don’t need persecution to make them tuck tail and skeedaddle. If you stop and think about it, they’ve never really talked about following Jesus. Their focus for decades has been on denouncing other people. They haven’t urged us to live by our faith or even to bring people to Christ. Their entire focus has been on manipulating us into believing that being a Christian was summarized by how we vote.

The purpose of all this wasn’t our souls or the conversion of our culture. It was their power.

All they needed to switch horses on these issues they were pushing in lieu of actual Christianity was for the manipulations to stop delivering enough votes to give them the power. They are switching — and trying to get us to switch along with them — on 2,000 years of Christian teachings because denouncing people over those teachings has stopped being profitable. The minute they see the money is leaving the fight, they leave the fight right behind it. 

Christianity is growing in India because the Christians there are following Christ. 

Cowardice and Christianity don’t mix. Opportunism and political manipulations don’t mix with Christianity, either.

They never have.

Christianity was so ascendent here in the West that its popularity covered for the manipulators and cowards in our midst. But things are changing. Faithfully following Jesus is beginning to be a career breaker, rather than a career maker. 

We shouldn’t be surprised when people who were only pretending to follow Jesus in the first place fall away under these circumstances. It is inevitable. 

I am humbled by the persecuted Christians in our world today, those in Orissa among them. I know that God holds them close, because I know that none of us has the courage to stand toe to toe with satan incarnate and not run unless the Holy Spirit is empowering them. 

We need to help our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in every way we can, including by praying for them every single day. I hope they in turn will pray for us.

Because their prayers avail much. 

Because they walk with God. 

 

The link to this article is courtesy of reader Fabio. 

The Heresy of Little g gods and Running Runners Who Run Away

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Don’t be alarmed by defecting Christians.

It’s just the Holy Spirit, pruning the dead wood. 

Christianity in America suffers from a blight that is choking out the Word and covering up the Light of Christ. 

That blight is the heresy of conflating Christ the Lord with partisan politics. This has gone on so long and become so endemic that a lot of people actually think that they are following Christ by how they register to vote. 

Even worse, people who confuse Jesus with the R and the D always seem to end up lopping off parts of Jesus in order to make Him fit into the partisan box. If you’re an R, this has historically meant that the Sermon on the Mount is just jesus (little j) blather that comes from the First Century and doesn’t mean much. I’ve had the experience of using the phrase “If you’ve done it to the least of these, if you’ve done it to Me,” in debate and seeing the bored, patronizing expressions cross those Republican faces. 

They don’t want to hear it. 

Likewise, anyone who has ever gone into a Democratic Party what-not with the idea that gay marriage or abortion or any trendy social sin is not a “human right” is going to learn what the word “cut” means in the Victorian sense. They will cut you dead. And that’s if they’re in a good mood. 

My point, which I’ve made over and over again, and which I’ll keep on making until it’s no longer pertinent, is that the R and the D aren’t Jesus. Party platforms aren’t the Gospels. 

We are now living with the inevitable consequences of this decades-long heresy of political jesus. People are increasingly sick and tired of the heresy. They find — quite rightly — that it is a sham and a flam and that partisan politics jesus is a bogus god not worth their time. 

Many outspoken Christian leaders have maintained so loudly and for so long that this perversion of the Gospels that they’ve been preaching is, in fact, the true Gospels of Christ, that they’ve managed to convince not only their besotted followers, but the larger population, as well.

A lot of people believe that political jesus; political party apologist jesus, mean and heartless django jesus, is actually Our Lord.

Why do they think this?

Because Christian religious leaders and their followers have been telling them so for decades.

This group of disenchanted, disaffected-with-Christianity reactors to political django jesus, has grown to the point that they are now able to affect the outcome of national elections. Which means that they are now players.

That also means that the same political parties who’ve used and abused the name of Christ for so long are now trying to get shed of Him. The stampede for the exit ramps among politicians and professional Christians of every stripe has become such a crowded field that it is a parody of itself. 

STAMPEDE

The National Review published a whimsical essay today titled “A Form Letter for Defecting Conservatives.” This humorous article is an accurate representation of what is happening and the flabby, flimsy lies these runners are using to explain themselves. 

What interested me the most, however, is that the National Review’s title underscores the heresy I’m talking about. The “issues” these running rabbits are dumping are the same issues that traditional Christians have fought for these past decades. They are the issues that put the Rs in the winner’s circle. Hence, the use of the word “conservative” to describe these folks. 

However, what they are, are sham Christians who’ve used a faked fealty to Christ to win elections or build big careers in publishing, think-tanking or some other moneyed and powered endeavor. As anyone who isn’t wearing a mental blindfold can tell just by looking around, they haven’t done much good. But they have certainly done well. 

The reason they are hitting the door on these “issues” now is because they never believed them in the first place. I’m not saying that people can’t experience a change of heart, that they can’t be converted. But this mass stampede of political opportunists for the higher ground of a different take on traditional Christian teaching has nothing to do with conversion. It is pragmatic people being pragmatic and taking care of themselves. 

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They never believed it in the first place, and whatever they tell you now, they don’t believe that, either. 

The heresy here is that none of this — none of it — has anything to do with Jesus. By conflating politics with the Gospels, we have corrupted politics and defamed the Gospels. These aren’t “defecting conservatives. ” The reason they aren’t is that issues like the sanctity of human life and marriage are not issues. They are truths. The sanctity of human life and marriage are not “conservative” values. “If you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me,” is not liberal spin. 

These are the law and the prophets of God Almighty. They are the teachings of Christ the Lord. 

We are beginning to reap the whirlwind that we have sown by lying about the nature of God for political gain. 

My advice is don’t be alarmed or dismayed by all these recanting Christians and born-again nihilists. 

Let them go their way and don’t worry. 

The Holy Spirit is pruning the tree of life so that it can bloom anew. 

 

Here, from Monty Python, is an anthem for the runners.

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The Heresy of Politicized Christianity

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Deacon Greg Kandra published a post today describing a “study” that says that “Christian Progressives” are on the cultural ascendancy. 

I put the word study in quotes because all this study amounts to is some yo-yo with letters after his name who went out and tabulated Google searches, dividing them between “conservative Christian” and “progressive Christian.” His criteria: Google searches for “Christian right” vs google searches for “Christian left.” 

Based on this handy-dandy spreadsheet workout, this person has extrapolated to all sorts of predictions and prophecies about the direction of Christianity in the future USA. 

Aside from the fact that this is about as scientific as predicting the future by studying the entrails of a goat, it does reveal quite a lot about the researcher and the way that Christianity is discussed today. 

After I converted to Catholicism, I encountered a lot of talk about which Catholics were “orthodox” or not. I remember wondering what the tar-heel an “orthodox” Catholic might be. I had some idea about what an Orthodox Jew was. But an “orthodox” Catholic seemed to be one of those vague, do-it-yourself monikers that people hang on themselves in order to chastise other people. To this day, I’ve never heard a useful definition of what an “orthodox” Catholic might be, even though I still read about folks who claim to be one and seem to think they know. 

Now that I’ve dipped my toe in the blogging waters, I find myself repeatedly encountering verbiage that attempts to define Christians and Christianity along political groupings. Even here at Patheos we have a portal for “progressive” Christians. I don’t fault Patheos for this. The moniker is out there everywhere and the Progressive Christians themselves seem to think they are members of some clearly demarcated understanding of Christianity that groups them together and separates them from the rest of us who stand at the foot of the cross. 

Not that I’m saying they don’t stand at the foot of the cross. But I guess they would place themselves in a separate group of before-the-cross-standers that distinguishes them from other, non-progressive Christians. Of course, we also have the “conservative” Christians there before the cross, as well. In this Americanized/politicized version of Christianity I guess the rest of us who don’t want to be “conservative” or “progressive” Christians just wander around aimlessly, or maybe circulate back and forth between the two groups.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider this imaginary portrait I just painted. We have the cross, with the crucified Savior of the World hanging on it. And we have His so-called followers standing there in front of it, looking not at Him, but at each other. The “conservative” Christians are standing as far away from the “progressive” Christians as they can get, and vice versa. They are not thinking about or concerned with the God who died for them on Calvary. They are not grieved by what their sins have wrought. They are not caught in wonder at the love God has for them. 

Nope. They are both like the Pharisee who went to pray and spent his whole time thanking God that he wasn’t like that sinful tax collector over there. 

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Does anyone remember what Jesus had to say about the Pharisee? If you don’t, you can find it in Luke 8: 9-14.

I wrote a post yesterday, encouraging Christians to engage with the political structure. After reading the comments it garnered, I repented of that post. We aren’t ready. 

Before Christians can engage the larger culture they’ve first got to be all-in for Jesus. That appears to be a major stumbling block for a lot of people. These ridiculous designations of “conservative” and “progressive” Christians are a symptom and an expression of just how far away we are from actually following Christ, or even taking Him seriously at all.

In today’s America, “conservative” and “progressive” are political terms. If we were being honest, we’d just dispense with those terms and say what we mean. On the one side we have people who twist the Gospels to justify themselves for following right wing politics instead of following Jesus, and on the other side, we have people who twist the Gospels to justify themselves for following left wing politics instead of following Jesus. 

They are, both of them, following the world instead of following Jesus. And they are claiming that Jesus not only supports them in this, but He is following them. 

I’m not a theologian. I’m just a pew-sitting Catholic who is grateful that, after the things I’ve done, they let me inside the Church at all. But I love Jesus. 

This disregard of Him, this crude claim of ownership of Him, by people who carry His name hurts me. It stings and bites at me when I think about it. What is wrong that so many people can look at the living God and see a self-justifying reflection of themselves?

I repeat: I am not a theologian. But I think that this twisting of the Gospels to suit fashionable politics and political power is heretical. It is also, evidently, deeply embedded in people’s hearts. 

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If you look at the cross and feel smirky holier than thou self-justification for you and your politics, then I would wager that you are not looking at the cross at all. You are considering a piece of jewelry you’ve hung around your neck that is made of cold metal and, without the real cross that it symbolizes, can not save you. 

Conservative/Progressive/Right/Left Christianity is a human invention. It gives us what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace,” which is to say self-approval. It makes us self-righteous and mean. 

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If you are interpreting the Gospels in the light of your politics, then you are not following Christ. This business of co-opting the Gospels to fit the world has eternal consequences. 

There is one Jesus; one narrow way; one means of salvation; one cross. 

Our job as American Christians is to believe that one Jesus, walk that narrow way, and to conform our lives, including our politics, to Christ and Him crucified.

I want to follow Christ. I do not want to follow conservative Christ or progressive Christ or right or left or middle of the road Christ. I want to follow and I pray for the grace to follow, Christ and Him crucified by conservatives and progressives and rightists and leftists and all the rest of the crowd who will not follow Him without reframing Him to suit themselves. 

That is why I accept the teachings of the Catholic Church. Not because they are easy or politically correct. But because I’ve tried making God in my own image. I know that I can’t judge, can’t decide, can’t know. Left to my own devices I will do horrible things, just as my heretical brothers and sisters on the left and the right are doing horrible things. 

Standing before the real cross means that you know you are not worthy to be there. You know that your own understanding put Him there. You know yourself for what you are and you realize that without Him you are doomed to the hell you have created and earned; to the hell you deserve.

“Lean not on your own understanding” the scriptures tell us. 

It’s good advice. 

The People Spoke. Case Closed. Done Deal.

The people spoke Tuesday, November 6, 2012. 

Barach Obama was re-elected President of the United States of America. Same-sex marriage won four important votes. Euthanasia got pushed back. Democrats strengthened their hold on the United States Senate. Republicans kept control of the United States House of Representatives.

These were fair elections.

Case closed. Done deal.

If you want a pity-party, we-wuz-robbed, how-DARE-they-vote-wrong post-election wail-athon, you probably should just walk right past Public Catholic, because you won’t find it here.

This is America. We decide things by election in this country. We had a big election Tuesday and decided a lot of things.

What we have to do is look at these events through the lens of the Gospels and, as much as we are graced to do so, through the directings of the Holy Spirit. I am going to go back over certain aspects of this election in fine detail in the weeks and months ahead. But everything I say will be aimed at helping us find a way forward. I am not going to re-hash things from the perspective of re-fighting yesterday’s fight. That’s not my way.

My sole aim with Public Catholic is to use what little I’ve learned in my not-so-young life to help equip Christians for what I’ve known for quite some time is coming. I am an elected official and have been for a long time. That gives me certain insights which I hope will help you develop your skills in dealing with the political side of being a Christian.

However, Christianity is not and never has been a political movement. What we have witnessed these past decades is a sharp turn toward heresy and idolatry on the part of many of our religious leaders. They have been abysmally bad shepherds because they have mis-used their prophetic and moral voice to shape the Body of Christ into a political machine and vote delivery system for one or the other of the two political parties. This has gone on so long and been pushed so hard that there are a number of Christians who actually confuse political party affiliation with following Christ.

These people have edited, twisted and manipulated the Gospels to conform the teachings of Christ to political party platforms. From what I’ve seen, these fallen shepherds will always kiss Caesar’s ring when Caesar demands it. They back up, sit down and go along, even when the political leaders they have sold their birthrights as Christians to demand that they turn their backs on everything … including the one or two issues they claimed were why they backed the politicians in the first place.

Never forget: Our Lord was crucified at the hands of a cowardly politician, a group of corrupt religious leaders out to protect their own power and the crowd that followed them.

The election Tuesday was not the end of Christianity in America. But it may have been the end of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace, at least for true Christians. Over seventy percent of Americans call themselves Christian. But many of them are wide-gate, easy-way Christians who consistently choose the world over following Christ.

I created this blog and will be speaking in the future to narrow-gate, hard-way Christians who want to follow Jesus and stand up for Him, no matter what.

You have to decide for yourself which one you are. For now, it’s enough for us to realize, accept and get past one simple fact: The people spoke Tuesday. Case closed. Done deal.

We’ll take one more day for post-election emotional adjusting, then I’m through with it.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7: 13,14


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