Jesus Wasn’t Concerned With “Taking The Country Back” And Neither Should We

Jesus Wasn’t Concerned With “Taking The Country Back” And Neither Should We April 27, 2015

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It’s that time again… and happens every four years. With each new election cycle there is one predicable rallying cry that emits from the political stage: “it’s time to take our country back.”

 Quite often I hear these words uttered by fellow Christians, seemingly petrified that their individual worlds will collapse if their particular party doesn’t get back in power. Now, in fairness, I more often hear this from the conservative side of the fence- but it’s a cry that’s shouted from both sides even if they use slightly different language to express it.

People are always wanting their country back whether it is the power of one side or the other. Sadly, this desire to control the government is a thirst that never quenches itself- like a carbonated beverage, the more you drink the more thirsty you become, regardless of how much you’ve consumed.

Yet, every few years we pop the top off the bottle and start guzzling as if this time things will finally be different. In fact, it is often Christian leaders– those who should be administering the body and blood of Christ– who essentially substitute the Eucharist for the unholy cola of political power. Case in point: Franklin Graham recently announced that he would begin a campaign to get Christians to run for political office at every level across the country from local to federal, so that we might take our country back. However, even if his plan was successful beyond his wildest dreams I can promise you this: in just a matter of years you’ll be told that we need to take our country back… again.

This is how the unquenchable thirst for power works.

Instead of just blindly following religious leaders off a cliff, Jesus people should always be asking and wrestling with the questions of, “But what did Jesus say about this? What did Jesus do? What example of Christ have we to follow?”

Often it can be hard to get answers to modern questions from the Bible. When we present modern dilemmas to ancient text we often ask the wrong questions of the Bible, expect it to do something it wasn’t designed to do, and often arrive at a place where we can justify just about any position we prefer to justify. However, once in a while we actually do have a one-for-one correlation between modern questions and ancient ones– and this is the case with the whole notion of political power and “taking the country back.”

While the entire concept of “taking the country back” is a misnomer here in the West (it hasn’t been lost), this wasn’t the case in the context of the New Testament and the life of Jesus. Israel actually had lost their country. While they were no longer living in exile in foreign countries, they lived under the brutal rule of foreign tyranny– Rome.  They were taxed into poverty, denied human rights, and practically crucified for the entertainment value. In the rare case of a one-for-one example in scripture, the religious leaders of Jesus’ time were actually having this same discussion: how do we take our country back? In fact, they anxiously awaited the arrival of their messiah who they believed would be a political figure who would finally help lead them to take their country back.

But, they got Jesus… and that’s not what Jesus did. Jesus completely resisted the political invitations from the Franklin Grahams of his time– actually living and modeling the opposite– beginning and ending his public ministry by rejecting political power and rejecting it at every step in-between.

At the beginning, Jesus went out into the wilderness where he fasted and was tempted by Satan. What was one of the key things the Devil himself tried to get Jesus to accept? Political power. When asked about taxes, Jesus didn’t join the chorus of complaints, but simply told them to give to Caesar whatever belonged to Caesar. When Jesus talked about the oppressive government authorities he didn’t chart a path to overthrowing them, but said to love them, pray for them, and even carry their bags for them. When he revealed to his disciples that he would be taking the way of suffering and not political power, he was rebuked by one of his best friends. His response? Jesus called Peter “Satan” because changing the world via political power was the same invitation that had been offered by the Devil himself. Finally, when his disciple Judas tried to force his hand and spark the awaited overthrow of Rome, the entire thing blew up in his face as their expected political messiah was led away to his death.

If there ever was a time to talk about “taking the country back” it was the time of Jesus– but that wasn’t anything he was concerned with. Jesus spent his time rejecting political power and instead, invested into building an other-worldly Kingdom where the power-rejectors are actually the greatest. Jesus saw his Kingdom, not political rule, as being the solution to all the ills of earth.

Changing the world via political power will always be a future invitation that never fully materializes. But changing the world through investing in God’s Kingdom? That’s an invitation you can accept and experience right now.

And this is why Christians on both sides of the political coin often get sidetracked: whether we realize it intellectually or not, we have grown to see government and political power as being the answer to the world’s problems– instead of the Kingdom Jesus came to establish.

Unfortunately, it’s not. It never will be. No matter how much power and control we have, it will never be satisfying; it’s all a “lather, rinse, repeat” cycle.

Imagine with me how unified the Church could be if we rejected Satan’s invitation?

Imagine the good we could do with our time, attention, and emotional energy if we diverted it from a quest for power into a desire to serve?

Imagine how many people we could feed, how many homeless we could shelter, and how much clean water we could distribute, if we diverted the potential 2-5 billion dollars we’re about to spend electing a corporate owned presidential candidate, and instead used that money to actually meet people’s needs– right here, right now?

My friends: whether you’re on the liberal or conservative side of the fence may we– people who desire to live like Jesus– resist the Devil’s invitation to “take the country back” as if that’s the missing link to fixing the world. Instead, may we embrace our role in God’s Kingdom– a Kingdom where we don’t need political power or might to begin changing the world.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Gematizoieighthday

    Preach it Ben! Amen.

  • Wolf

    Well said, Ben. That one steps on all our toes, but it’s what we need to hear. :)

  • Mark Schnitzer

    I agree with you, yet I struggle with political power in regards to helping those living on the edge. People in the LGBT community, the poor and disenfranchised, racial minorities, women, these are just a few people groups that can either be helped or hindered by those in power. Gun control, marriage equality, civil rights, environmental issues, these and many other social concerns can only be dealt with effectively when somehow the Federal Government is involved. How do we balance this all out?

  • I hope it’s not the case, but it feels like Graham is making God a means to the end (a better America). Thanks for writing this.

  • One of the biggest things we have forgotten is that we are called to serve. Yes, I am a Christian. Yes, my belief system informs how I view things, but that should not be the qualification for how I would govern. I’d rather have an atheist who was fiscally responsible govern than a Christian who couldn’t balance a ledger.

    I so wish that religion would stay out of politics. This is perhaps one thing I learned from living overseas. Religion never played a role in how one voted.

  • Terry Firma

    If I embrace Jesus, does that mean the NSA will stop spying on all Americans? Will it mean an end to U.S. foreign adventurism? Will prayer bring about police reform, legal same-sex marriage in all 50 states, more economic equality, more personal freedom, and other things you and I care about?

    If we turn away from politics, do political goals somehow become more attainable? Are you prepared to tell the spied-upon, the racially exploited, the poor, and the unfree that all they need to do is Believe in Jesus?

    Wait — is that what you just did?

  • Without trying to sound too anti-American, but I do think that what you’re describing is largely a New World problem. Back in Europe, we have already had religious governments for centuries and all somewhat agreed that it wasn’t the best idea ever. That odd integration of right-wing politics into Christianity has not really happened to the same extent over here. To a European it doesn’t really make sense why beliefs like “guns are great, climate change is a hoax and all social security is a ponzi scheme” should be more prevalent amongst christians than they are amongst anyone else.

    Or to say it in a positivistic manner: Where in the Bible exactly are we called to take charge? No one was ever able to explain this to me, but all the Bible ever talks about is to heal, to feed and to lay down our lives. This whole “let’s take over and fix everything” business is simply unbiblical.

  • I think the balance is resisting the urge to think that controlling government is always the solution/primary tool to accomplish things. One will not always be in power or control, so then what? If we view power and control over government as a primary means, it renders us helpless when the tables of power shift. I think we need to invest in modalities of social movement that can keep changing things without the constant need for power as life-source of the movement.

  • Side note: Jesus was ALSO not concerned with getting the Romans to treat people fairly and justly but, instead, to make sure that the people who should know better (that being, the worshippers of Yahweh and his own followers). I find it VERY interesting that he didn’t say anything about petitioning Pilate or Herod to feed the poor, homeless, lost, etc… As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this idea of not “Taking our country back” I think applies to ALL Christians, not just the Religious Right…

  • Let me note that this doesn’t mean I don’t want governments to do good things for the “least of these”… just that, for me, and based upon Scripture, it’s not a priority for the Jesus-Follower to petition the government to do so.

  • I resent your unfair accusations against carbonated beverages!

    I won’t say which, but a -very popular- evangelism organization gave a presentation at my church, recently, and it opened with an American flag flying in the breeze and led with the message that we need to get our country back, and the first step in this process is evangelizing the youth.

    So, even “the gospel” (and I use the term loosely) was subjugated to the desire to change America politically.

  • I think there’s a difference between pursuing social justice wherever it needs to be pursued and identifying your Christianity with American politics.

  • Mark Schnitzer

    I see what you mean, I guess I am just thinking that for any major social shift, those in power have to be convinced that the shift needs to take place. The women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, and now LGBT equality cannot become the “law of the land” without pressure from somewhere to make the necessary change. In those examples I cited there was “power” behind the movements but didn’t they still need the sympathetic ear of those “in power” for the change to take place?

  • Gematizoieighthday

    Amen!

  • Gematizoieighthday

    Another big AMEN!

  • Shiphrah99

    Richard Beck has an interesting take on a similar subject over at Experimental Theology http://bit.ly/1EK2z0b

  • otrotierra

    And as soon as Jimmy Carter or a present-day equivalent declares “time to take our country back,” be sure to let us know. Then, once you have actual examples from reality, you’ll have a valid counter-point to offer the conversation.

    Benjamin above mentions the self-serving and deceptive Franklin Graham, but he could have easily named Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, David Lane, and numerous others on the idolatrous “take our country back” train. Concrete examples from reality.

  • otrotierra

    Thanks for the link. An interesting read. At some point in the future it will be interesting to read an analysis of why religious fundamentalism has become so strong and concentrated in the U.S., and why all the obsession with dispensationalist “rapture” mythology and its deadly consequences in the present.

  • Matt

    Ben, you write about how we should “opt out” of politics. How we should not be concerned with politics, Empire, etc. Basically what you are saying is that you don’t think Christians should vote, or at least they shouldn’t put in the time and effort required to be an “informed voter”. I see a couple of problems with this admonition.

    First, if you don’t participate in the political cycle, what right to do you have to critique it? You often write in opposition to the ill-treatment of gays, immigrants, and other marginalized people. You write against the death penalty and police brutality. But if you are not willing to actively participate in the system, trying to work for change within, what right do you have to critique it? What real-world alternative do you offer for change, here and now?

    Second, if you care about equality and justice (think LGBTQ rights, immigrant issues, etc), why don’t you care about the system (politics) that is influencing these peoples life? What do you say to a gay person, denied of equal rights? Do you say “come join me in the kingdom of God where it doesn’t matter if you can be married to the love of your life”?

    I guess what I’m getting at is this. If you “opt out” of the system, in what way are you working for actual change in these social and existential issues?

  • Shiphrah99

    I think it’s a result of the desire for instant gratification. There’s been a line floating around the inter-tubes the last several days that American churches are very shallow and need to go deep instead. We watch TV clicking the remote if the program doesn’t catch our interest in the first 6 seconds, tweet and text in brief bursts. We don’t want to do the work of studying texts – let alone in the original languages! – and learning what they really say, in their milieu, to their original audience. We want magic and we want it NOW! Filtered through pop culture.

    My wee little church has a Bible study group a couple of times a month in which we spend an hour picking apart the day’s gospel, Greek lexicon in hand, and it’s a revelation for most of the group. Just the historical background is news. These are educated people, too, but they’ve never even had the opportunity to learn the history.

  • frippo

    “Basically what you are saying is that you don’t think Christians should
    vote…”

    Why don’t you respond to his actual argument rather than this imaginary version of it? The article suggests that Christians who want to imitate Christ should not devote themselves to running for political office. I wasn’t aware that running for something was the only way to become an informed voter.

  • Part of the issue is a definition of power: the type of power we reject is the coercive, violent power of Caesar. However, we embrace the power of the cross, and embrace the power to influence culture- but what Boyd calls “power under” not “power over”.

    So, I agree– we must influence culture (as I do here on a variety of issues) while rejecting the need for coercive or violent power to accomplish it. So, I think we need to be “political” but in the way that Jesus was political, if that makes any sense.

  • Peter Calabrese

    The point is that unlike, Jesus who llved in a dictatorship, we live in a democracy and therefore your voting should reflect your Faith. You may not like the rhetoric of “take back the country” but frankly the powerful in this country do not use their power for sprwading the values of the Kingdom. You set up a straw man, based on your opinion. People who want voting decisions to include their conscience are not treating voting as the last missing link to establishing the Kingdom of GOd by earthly means, they are saying your Faith should inform your voting as it should inform the rest of your life. As for whether it is more a left or right issue, I guess you hear it more form the right these days because the President, who is a radical leftist has said he does not need to respect Congress and he appoints the federal judiciary, so I guess you would hear it more form the right in these years. But the left will be at that logic soon enough.

  • a little levening levens the whole loaf…or spoils it. a little salt savors. But I think if one becomes poluted by empire power plays of smash & grabs the salt in one loses its saltyness and what one sees is massive amounts of salt being thrown out; good for nothing! The kindom w/in informs one in ways of peace & integrity. Lies, damn lies & politics, as mark twain says, is not of the kingdom I need to be involved in trying to get things to come out just for the advantage of my tribe. As a marginalized powerless person the kingdom provides an alternative that works bc not being dependant on speculation of which candidate will keep their campain promisses. One KNOWS it’s a game for ppl in denial & bc of fear one lives in torment!

  • Patti Owski

    “Early Christianity was little understood and was regarded with little favor by those who ruled the pagan world. . . .

    Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. . . . They would not hold political office.” (On the Road to Civilization A World History, A. K. Heckel and J. G. Sigman, 1937, pp. 237-8) By the way, they were pacifists as well. They did not enter the military either. The Early Church and the World, Professor C. J. Cadoux writes: “Up to the reign of Marcus Aurelius at least [161-180 C.E.], no Christian would become a soldier after his baptism.”
    “While among Romans it was considered the highest honor to possess the privileges of Roman citizenship, the Christians announced that they were citizens of heaven. They shrank from public office and military service.” Persecution of the Christians in Gaul, A.D. 177 by F.F.G. Guizot, former prime minister of France, Vol. III of The Great Events by Famous Historians (New York; 1905), Rossiter Johnson, ed, p. 246.

    “The Christians were strangers and pilgrims in the world around them; their citizenship was in heaven; the kingdom to which they looked was not of this world. Christianity and the Roman Government.” (London; 1925), E. G. Hardy, Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, p. 39.
    Taken from Early Christianity, Politics, and War by Aretha Gordon; Dominica News Online.
    These are the words of historians. Please do not offer rebuttals to me. If you have a beef with these facts, please take it up with the people who wrote them.

  • Matthew

    I would agree LGBTTheology. It´s been my experience that where I live in Europe — specifically in the indigenous evangelical circles — the issues that dominate American evangelical Christianity don´t usually come into play.

  • Matthew

    I often find the conservative Christians in America rather perplexing. I mean there is all this talk about “taking back the country” on the one hand, but on the other hand there is their end time theology to consider:

    Apparently many conservative fundamentalists believe that the world is simply going to get worse and worse as we move through the latter days. If that´s the expectation … then doesn´t it stand to reason that the direction the U.S. is headed as a nation is simply in line with what their theology claims to purport? If I´m correct, couldn´t what they are attempting to do (the “winning back” part) be a bit counter-prophetic so to speak?

    Also … it´s my understanding that men like Tim LaHaye (a relatively well known American fundamentalist who dabbles in conservative end time theology) speculate that the U.S. will not continue to hold its position of international power in the end times. I think he even states that the U.S. will not exist as a nation as the final apocalypse draws near (please feel free to correct me if you´re a Tim LaHaye expert and know for certain I am misrepresenting his ideas). If he´s right … then why all the political heavy work to “take back a nation” that really is headed right where their eschatology is pointing?

    Strange really …….

  • SamHamilton

    Great blog post! I’ve heard this phrase from people on the left back in 2004 and 2008 and heard it from the right back in 2010. It always rubbed me the wrong way, as if the country had been taken over by some foreign nation or something.

  • SamHamilton

    I think it would make more sense if you think about “conservative Christians” as different groups rather than as all “fundamentalists.” The Fundamentalist stream is definitely more end-times focused and isn’t that concerned with political power in the here and now. However, politically conservative Evangelicals or the “religious right” aren’t all that concerned with end times theology and are more concerned with engaging the culture and engaging in politics, just like many politically liberal Christians are.

  • SamHamilton

    Do you think this is a model Christians today living in the American Republic should follow? Do you think that Christians should not engage in trying to influence public policy or that they should merely abstain from seeking political office?

  • SamHamilton

    I don’t see the author of this blog post as saying Christians shouldn’t try to influence public policy. I think he’s saying that we should make sure politics is in its proper place and to make sure our hopes are in their proper place (not in a political savior).

  • Herm

    Non-violent civil and religious disobedience to promote in everything doing to others as we would have others do to us??? … Christ Jesus, Gandhi, and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.???

  • SamHamilton

    I know you don’t live in the U.S. so I assume your ignorance is because of that reason rather than blind partisanship, but read this if you’re interested:

    http://nation dot foxnews dot com/2014/07/14/holder-says-taking-our-country-back-racist-remember-when-liberals-used-say-it

    People on the American left used this phrase all the time when they were out of power.

    Perhaps you shouldn’t respond with such disdain to people like Robert next time before you educate yourself on what goes on south of your border.

  • Matthew

    Thanks SamHamilton — however I heard Franklin Graham once on CNN talking pretty specifically about the brand of fundamentalist end time theology I mention, yet he also wants to “take back the country”. Also, I’m nearly certain that members of the religious right – if pressed to give an answer – would embrace the end times scheme I am referencing. I mean they certainly are not amillennial for example. Are they?

  • SamHamilton

    Honestly, I don’t know much about what Franklin Graham believes. Maybe he’s knee deep in end-times theology. However, I’d bet that most politically conservative Christians don’t really think much about the end times. I hang out with plenty of politically conservative Christians and no one talks about it. But that’s just my experience.

  • Ben, you said “unquenchable thirst for power works”. I so agree. I agree with everything you wrote here. I’m a power-rejector. I always have been. My husband calls me A-political. He also calls me an A-typical woman. lol

    Great word! Thanks for sharing your insights and the truth.

  • Jim Braman

    I agree that voting (or sometimes not voting) in and of itself is not indicative of straying from the walk of Jesus, however, it depends on what is in one’s heart. Jesus participated, however lightly, in his culture and its regulations, but when he wept over Jerusalem, it wasn’t over the lack of political freedom of Israel, nor the loss of a better (more equitable) standard of living that might be available through better leadership. It was for the hearts of men and women who whose lives were dominated by the cares of this world that so easily replace the all-sufficient love and relationship with God.

    Having said that, my faith often ‘informs’ me that participating in elections whose outcome is controlled by advertising dollars, is complicit in perpetuating such a system. And that simply taking a side for one of the lesser of two evils (never a third choice whom the polls say can win) rather than voting for a person whom I think walks closest to the walk of Jesus is also complicit in furthering said system.

    Therefore, I choose to actively take part in my culture, including the decision to vote or not to vote, because in my participation, the spirit with which I speak and act concerning the various issues, injustices, and possibilities of reform becomes known as well, and it is a testament to where my heart is in the whole process. If at any point in a political conversation (that doesn’t involve listening to someone’s personal story), I cannot laugh (or at least find peace in my heart), then I consider myself engaging in a way unlike Jesus. There is a way to feel the pain of others who are caught up in this world and all its fears and to weep with those who weep, without becoming wrongly entwined with the spirit of worry.

    When I am successful at walking this line, I hope others will see this, and either learn how better to live and “be in the world, but not of the world”, or else let me know where they see my shortcomings in that quest, and point it out.

  • Jim Braman

    Matt, you raise some valid concerns …if only by extension of Ben’s article. I hope my perspective (above) ^^ answers some of those.

    Jesus vehemently railed against the evil he saw in how the religious and civil authorities abused their power. If this is not participation in a political system, I don’t know what is!

  • Jim Braman

    I think it has been demonstrated that both parties (and their leaders) are capable of being self-serving …there is always great temptation for whichever one (or whomever) is not the incumbent to appeal to the idea of ‘taking back’ or ‘returning to’ something better than what exists.

    Not sure if this example ‘works’ or not:

    “Yes we can!” …I don’t know if ‘O’ ever actually said the words, “take our country back”, but it may not be worth arguing except to say I see nothing wrong with being reminded (by Robert) that we are all capable of various degrees of us-against-them thinking without realizing it, and that this did not seem to be his point (or counter-point) for which it seems you kinda slammed him.

  • Jim Braman

    Right. Key word being “priority” …as it applies to our hearts and subsequent overflow into actions.

  • Frank

    So true. Especially for those who want the government to fix all the social problems instead of the people and churches.

  • I agree– and this is what I mean when I’ve said be political, but in the way that Jesus was political. Thanks for your input.

  • They (we) don’t actually want the government to have to do it, but in reality, it does- because the church doesn’t.

  • Frank

    The point is the solution is not in the government so let’s stop trying make it so.

  • yes! and as a recipiant of a disability check every month I wonder what will happen after ‘socialism’ in US is phased out completely.

  • theprozacqueen

    I get SSDI too, as well as Medicare…some people would love to get rid of pretty much *any* government activity in our daily lives, but they don’t realize that it can do *good* things as well as bad things. To be honest, sometimes I’d love to smack them because 90% of the time they have never had any need of help (unemployment, disability, affordable health care etc) and neither has anyone they love…I think we’re all going to be “the least of these” at some point, they just haven’t been and when they are, their viewpoint often changes dramatically. I’ve seen this with people in my life. I guess I put a “face” on it all?

    And sure, we’d *rather* the support come from the church (and maybe it does in other countries, I don’t know), but the way things should be and the way they are apparently always aren’t the same thing.

    Sorry about the ranting above, Ben…please remove it if need be!

  • David

    @theprozacqueen – Every person, when receiving a payment or benefit, should ask themselves the following question: is the source of this payment or benefit based on a voluntary or involuntary transaction? That is to say, am I receiving money that was involuntarily taken (under the threat of force) from someone else? That’s the crux of the matter. If your conscience will allow you to accept money that was stolen from your neighbor then more power to you. Most government benefits are funded through immoral direct taxes which is theft. Period. Your contention that “government can do *good* things” is naive. Government does nothing good because it is entirely driven by coercion and force. Any so called *good* that it does always, 100% of the time comes at the expense of someone else. And usually under the threat of use of force.

  • David

    @Matt – regarding your contention that anyone who doesn’t vote has no right to criticize. I assume you mean then that the 1st amendment is conditioned upon voting. Is that what you are saying? The Declaration of Independence states correctly that “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

    The key to that phrase is that our rights are unalienable which means
    non-transferable. I can vote to give away my freedoms but I cannot
    vote to take away yours. If our rights are unalienable (non transferable) then they cannot be usurped by a voter or group of voters and yet that is the crux of all voting. All voting is about taking something from someone and giving it to another or appointing someone lord and master over others against their will. Voting is an act of violence because each voter assumes the right to appoint political and legal guardians over other human beings against their will. No individual voter or even a majority of voters has such a right morally.

    What you are essentially saying is that if I don’t vote I forfeit my right to free speech. Free speech is not an unalienable right but contingent on me voting. This of course must mean that other rights are conditional and based on whether I vote or not. The logical extension of this argument would suggest that the other protections afforded me in the Bill of Rights are only valid if I vote. If I don’t vote I can’t own a gun. If I don’t vote I am
    subject to unreasonable search and seizure. If I don’t vote I cannot expect to be secure in my “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” If I don’t vote I cannot decline to testify against myself and due process is not available to me. That’s what you are saying. It’s a terrifying prospect to suggest that voting is the fulcrum on which all human liberty is balanced.

  • The Bohemian

    I agree. God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I am disturbed when people co-opt God or the Church for political means.

  • The Bohemian

    Do you have links to these sources? I’d like to bookmark them.

  • The Bohemian

    I’ve been hearing it from the right since the early 80s when, IMHO, Evangelicalism became politicized. It hasn’t ceased.

  • The Bohemian

    Yes, Jesus was not political in our sense of the word, as in politicized. He didn’t belong to a political party or try to start one. He railed against injustice but he didn’t put his faith on swaying, influencing the political power brokers of the day. I see so much angst among the religious right, many of them dear friends. I see genuine fear as well. IMHO, they have lost sight of what is most important. And their fear is not Godly fear.

  • The Bohemian

    Oh… that’s so sad. I think it’s an example of what happens when our focus is shifted, ever so slightly, away from the kingdom of God.

  • The Bohemian

    I think it’s especially true for those who are genuinely afraid that the US won’t survive unless their political party steps in to save the country. That fear indicates that the focus of that person’s faith is on partisan politics (and the State), not God.

  • However we see God admonishing the government in the Bible whenever it failed to take care of those who are on the fringe of society.

  • Timothy Weston

    The phrase “take back the country” is riddled with a nostalgia of something that never was. Every generation that grows up and old will think the new generation is slipping away in every shape. Since my teen years in the 1990s, I have seen may Christians give false warnings about God’s judgement for electing a certain president or for legalizing a certain behavior all the way to that said president taking away religious freedoms. All of this is done in the name of God and country. Thank you for reminding fellow Christians (including me) of where we need to go.

  • Matthew

    Good enough SamHamilton. Nevertheless I still find the “take back the country” project to be inconsistent and also futile. It´s also been my experience that Christians who are not attempting to “take back the country” typically are also not linked to fundamentalist end time theology. They seem to be more interested in simply preaching the Gospel in word and deed.

  • This is prophetic. You are hearing the Master correctly, Ben.

  • BT

    I always hate the “taxes are theft” argument. Taxes are a cost of living in society. Helping one’s neighbor through taxes is a cost of living in society. This argument is only slightly removed from anarchy in my opinion.

  • BT

    Precisely.

  • BT

    My experience in evangelical world has been the opposite. While it may not be a common topic of discussion, it’s like a low-grade fever. Not tremendously apparent, but ever-present. Millennialism tends to be the operating assumption most often, and it’s typically thought of as being sooner rather than later.

  • David

    Ah, the old Oliver Wendell Holmes argument. He said (and the quote is on the IRS building) “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization”. That’s like saying “Rape is the price women pay to avoid being murdered” There is a huge difference between ‘helping one’s neighbor’ in a voluntary way and out of compassion and being robbed from and enslaved by compulsory taxation collected at the point of a gun. It’s not out of compassion that my taxes go to fund your federal benefits. But most Americans have been inculcated into believing that compulsory taxes are simply necessary to an orderly and civilized society. If that was the case there would be no homelessness or poverty given the amount of money the US government collects. And what exactly is wrong with anarchy? Anarchy gets a bad wrap. It simply means (an) without (archy) political authority. Nothing wrong with that since most of the pain the world experiences is at the hands of government and political authority.

  • Peter Calabrese

    A thoughtful reply. Not participating is also a choice that in conscience one can make.

  • Peter Calabrese

    Very possibly true – but I would say that since the 1990’s there has also been a core of evanglicalism that has pushed from the left lead by Jim Wallis, who while he claims to be non partisan, IMHO remains very much of the Left.

  • Frank

    Can you provide support for that statement?

  • gimpi1

    I’m also puzzled by the notion that things are always getting worse.

    In the 200+ years that this country has existed, it has mostly gotten better. We don’t keep slaves anymore. We don’t have racist doctrines inshrined in law. We actually live up to the notion of religious freedom, rather than interpreting it to mean “freedom for large, Christian groups that most people approve of.” Human-trafficking, child-labor and domestic-violence are regarded as crimes, rather than being a normal part of society. Things like crime and drug-abuse are actually going down. (Remember, drugs such as cocaine and opium used to be sold over the counter until the early 20th century and the development of the FDA.) Virulent contagious diseases and water-borne diseases, the biggest killers for most of history, are largely a thing of the past. Smallpox, the greatest scourge humanity has ever faced, is extinct in the wild.

    Yes, we’ve just been through an (entirely avoidable) economic depression. Yes, there are terrorist-groups out there who are actively trying to attack us. However, for the most part, we’re more free, more secure, more healthy and more prosperous than we’ve ever been. Why do so many conservative people think things are constantly getting worse? Anyone?

  • gimpi1

    Thank you, Timothy! Yes! The whole idea that there was some perfect past that we’ve mucked up is nonsense. For the most part, things are better in the U.S. than at any time in the past. I’m older than you, and my teens were spent in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and I heard it then as well. There always seems to be some “golden age” that everyone hankers for, except it’s a moving target. The “golden age” is always just far enough in the past for nostalgia to have helped folks forget what was bad. Good on you for remembering.

  • gimpi1

    Then “failed states” such as Somalia must be true paradises, and people must be profoundly unhappy in the Scandinavian countries with their high taxes and social support…

    Oh, wait, never mind.

  • theprozacqueen

    Maybe I missed something, but that’s not what I read in Matt’s post at all. His post reminded me of a public service announcement I saw trying to remind people to vote that said, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain”. It’s like someone who complains of a headache but refuses to take medicine for it-you (generic “you”) have the chance to at least contribute to the process of change, so use it. Otherwise, don’t grouse about it. Matt, did I read you correctly?

    I didn’t read the article as going to the extreme my Jehovah’s Witness friends do (have absolutely *nothing* to do with earthly politics, be it voting, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, serving in the military, etc) so much as not to go into it with “regaining power” in mind. If you’re going to reform anything, start with people’s hearts.

    Again, I could be wrong.

  • BT

    Oliver Wendell Holmes. Smart man.

  • theprozacqueen

    …especially when you consider that we (people on benefits) pay taxes too. Even if we don’t pay income tax now (although my benefits *are* taxed), we did in the past…you have to have, otherwise you’re not eligible. That’s not the case for everyone but my point is that nobody is “stealing” from anybody-they’re getting a “return” on what they pay too.

    That, and anyone who uses public roads, abides by a traffic light or goes to a state-run school, etc is benefiting from taxes. Perhaps everyone should use their own money to build the roads to their house?

  • theprozacqueen

    Yes..perhaps people who are so averse to taxes funding civilization and public need shouldn’t use it…go live on an island by themselves so they don’t have to deal with these “pesky” things. Problem solved.

  • denial and having no empathy are a trip! i think ppl don’t who
    Don’t understand and are triggered to act negativly and aggressivly when they see ppl w disabilities, living in poverty or the homeless project their fear on a convienient target. I try not to internalize others hate of my ‘face’ so I can continue to heal & have agency in the world.

  • hi david! I think there is more of a message bt the lines of what you say here. I hear your anger and bitterness comming thru your venting but I think it’s not telling the real story abt you. I think you want someone to love you and take care of your human needs no matter what your state of ability or disability is. I thank god that you don’t seem to need state assistance at the moment but if you ever do I would like you to know there are ppl who won’t judge you or try to shame you for your needyness. Ppl who have empathy for you will love you no matter what and are loving you even now not just bc you are paying your own way but bc you are worthy of love bc you are human and someday you will die.

  • BT

    The whole idea behind taxes requiring a certain element of compulsion has a long history. It goes back to the idea of “the tragedy of the commons”

    Taxes pay for the things we generally use in common – defense, social services, education, etc. if taxes weren’t compulsory in some sense, I could not pay my taxes but still use the roads.

    Eventually, everyone would freeload like that, and we would have no roads.

    Thus, all social goods have to be supported by some level of compulsory taxation.

    I guess you could call it stealing. I just call it reality.

  • Certainly. I was at a conference all day and am just getting back to you. Here is the Biblical support you asked for:

    Doom to those who pronounce wicked decrees, and keep writing harmful laws to deprive the needy of their rights and to rob the poor among my people of justice; to make widows their loot; to steal from orphans! (‭Isaiah‬ ‭10‬:‭1-2‬ CEB)

    The tyrant will be no more, the mocker will perish, and all who plot evil will be eliminated: all who incriminate others wrongly, who entrap the judge in the gate, and pointlessly postpone justice for the innocent. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭29‬:‭20-21‬ CEB)

    House of David! The Lord proclaims: Begin each morning by administering justice, rescue from their oppressor those who have been robbed, or else my anger will spread like a wildfire, with no one to put it out, because of your evil deeds.

    I will punish you based on what you have done, declares the Lord. I will set your forests on fire; the flames will engulf everything around you. (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭21‬:‭12, 14‬ CEB)

    The Lord God proclaims: Enough, princes of Israel! Turn aside from violence and oppression. Establish justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people! This is what the Lord God says: (‭Ezekiel‬ ‭45‬:‭9‬ CEB)

    Doom to you who turn justice into poison, and throw righteousness to the ground! (‭Amos‬ ‭5‬:‭7‬ CEB)

    But I said: Hear, leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Israel! Isn’t it your job to know justice?— you who hate good and love evil, who tear the skin off them, and the flesh off their bones, who devour the flesh of my people, tear off their skin, break their bones in pieces, and spread them out as if in a pot, like meat in a kettle. Then they will cry out to the Lord, but he won’t answer them. He will hide his face from them at that time, because of their evil deeds. (‭Micah‬ ‭3‬:‭1-4‬ CEB)

    Hear this, leaders of the house of Jacob, rulers of the house of Israel, you who reject justice and make crooked all that is straight, who build Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with injustice! Her officials give justice for a bribe, and her priests teach for hire. Her prophets offer divination for silver, yet they rely on the Lord, saying, “Isn’t the Lord in our midst? Evil won’t come upon us!” (‭Micah‬ ‭3‬:‭9-11‬ CEB)

    And probably one of the best examples:
    This is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud, had plenty to eat, and enjoyed peace and prosperity; but she didn’t help the poor and the needy. (‭Ezekiel‬ ‭16‬:‭49‬ CEB)

  • Shawn Oberg

    Sounds like you want to take the country back, too.
    As followers of Christ, is it okay if we act to try to take the country back TO…Jesus?
    When I examine my life and daily actions, I find I do better to go “back” to Jesus’ ways and actions, rather than “progress” in my own wisdom and experience.
    I need to be better at loving my brother than bashing them, better at being an authentic disciple, if imperfect, and yes, trying to invite others to “follow me as I follow Christ. (Is sharing Jesus like that still Okay? Or is that simply insensitive proselytizing?)

  • Shawn Oberg

    These are great Scriptures that hold rulers (government) accountable for when they are oppressive and tyrannical toward its citizens, either by unjust laws, corrupt courts, and/or bloodthirsty and directly violent leaders.
    But these are not specifically mandating a federal governmental welfare program/system or state.
    Rather, the Scriptures, in both Old and New Testaments, command the INDIVIDUAL CITIZEN to be generous to the poor and needy, the orphan, the widow, and the destitute. There were laws about landowner farmers leaving a portion of their fields unharvested so the poor could work them to glean grain for themselves, laws about not mistreating foreigners, laws about how to treat employees (“slaves” were for the most part an economic situation in Israel, and not a “skin-color issue”. And there were laws about their humane treatment and set terms of service.) There were the “levirate marriage” provision laws and “kinsman redeemer” laws, to be in action within the clan and tribal levels first.
    I love reading through the Book of Ruth to get a glimpse of how many of these laws were lived out by a kind, humble, and generous, Godly rich man, Boaz, who was a great example of an individual modeling compassion to the poor, even a foreign migrant worker, Ruth.

    More important than the Federal Government being “good” to the poor, with Other People’s Money (being “liberal” in that way is lazy on the part of the “giver” and greedy on the part of an able-bodied person who demands entitlements!), is the question: “Am I being good and generous to the poor in my community?” and “What am I PERSONALLY doing to comfort and help alleviate someone in pain or need?”

  • Trilemma

    When a politician says, “It’s time to take our country back,” I hear, “It’s time to take our country back to doing things my way.”
    When I hear one of my conservative Christian friends say, “It’s time to take our country back,” I hear, “It’s time to take our country back to the 1950’s.”

  • The Bohemian

    Jim Wallis may be farther to the left, but I see him more as influencing people, particularly millennials, who are leaving Evangelicalism. None of the Evangelicals whom I know would give Jim Wallis, nor Sojourners, the time of day. They would call what he and Sojourners have to say “liberal drivel”.

    IMHO, Evangelicalism should be a term that is used to describe a person who believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ and believes that they should share that good news. How that news is shared varies – many ascribe to ‘lifestyle evangelism’.

    That umbrella of true Evangelicalism should be able to include evangelicals who are politically conservative and those who are politically liberal.

    IMHO, beginning in the 80s, a politically active religious right group became synonymous with the term Evangelical and the original meaning of the word was lost. Also, IMHO, this has been to the detriment of the gospel.

    If Jim Wallis has made inroads, I think that’s positive. However, I think millennials and others will continue to leave Evangelicalism because it was co-opted by the right wing and because of the amount of harsh and graceless rhetoric.

  • Some people think the Bible mandates less government. That’s not the case. God mandates justice in government and taking care of those less fortunate. These verses were reactionary to governments that showed no justice. They were still required to take care of the poor and those less fortunate.

  • The Bohemian

    I have take issue with your statements regarding care of the poor being due to generosity of individual citizens. The OT law provided Civil Laws. Applying these laws was not something that one decided to do if they felt generous. Not obeying those laws was actually breaking the law of the land and God’s Law. It was mandated. Please review the below information:

    “The Old Testament. The Pentateuch emphasizes equitable treatment for the poor. Justice was neither to be withheld from the poor ( Exod 23:6 ) nor distorted because a person was poor (23:3; le 19:15). Such equity is illustrated by the collection of ransom money from rich and poor alike ( Exod 30:15 ). As part of the covenant community the poor person was to be treated with respect ( Deut 24:10-11 ) and supported, even economically, by other Israelites, since they were not to charge interest to the poor of their people ( Exod 22:25 ; Lev 25:35-38 ).

    Beyond direct legislation a number of institutions contained special provisions for the poor. Gleaning laws focused on the widow, fatherless, stranger, and poor ( Lev 19:9-10 ; 23:22 ; Deut 24:19-22 ). During the Sabbatical year debts were to be canceled ( Deut 15:1-9 ) and Jubilee provided release for Hebrews who had become servants through poverty ( Leviticus 25:39-41 Leviticus 25:54 ). During these festivals the poor could eat freely of the produce of all of the fields ( Exod 23:11 ; Leviticus 25:6-7 Leviticus 25:12 ).

    Further stipulations to aid the poor included the right of redemption from slavery by a blood relative (Lev 25:47-49 ), support from the third-year tithe ( Deut 14:28-29 ), and special provisions regarding the guilt offerings.”

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Benjamin, quite simply, this is a great post, full of spot on biblical reflections in the Spirit of Jesus! Kudos.

  • gimpi1

    It is not theft to tax people to provide benefits that keep society mostly stable, peaceful and healthy. It’s not theft to tax people to provide disability insurance any more than it’s theft to tax them to provide police or fire protection. We all hope we will never need these things, yet we know that any of us might, at any time.

    I pay taxes for roads I don’t drive on, for a military that I think is too big and costly, and for research that I won’t benefit from. That’s fine. I’m not the center of the world. We all benefit from a mostly stable society which does not suffer from rampant disease or crime.

    Societies that don’t provide basic benefits such as education, aid for the poor and disabled, protection from crime and relief in the event of disaster don’t last. They fall apart. A failed state allows warlords, crime and disease to flourish, creating suffering on a massive scale. A casual look around the world shows this.

    Theprozacqueen doesn’t owe you or anyone a debt, because nothing was stolen. They’re collecting on societal insurance, no different than my collecting payment from my homeowners insurance when I had a pipe burst in my upstairs bathroom a few years ago. (Don’t ask.) Smart societies attempt to insure their citizens against some catastrophic loss, to create stability, to give us all a stake in society and to prevent the society from falling into chaos in the event of disaster. We’re a fairly smart society. Smarter than some of our members, apparently.

  • Peter Calabrese

    You may very well be right. PArt of the problem is the fragmentation of churches. In evangelicalism like migrates to like and as a result it mirrors the political polarization. If the left (Catholic & Protestant) had held firm on traditional values re: abortion, euthanasia and same sex marriage, etc it would have been harder for Evanglicalism to be co-opted. the fact is the Left went so far left that it forced many who were comfortable in the Democratic Party into the GOP. I think many would be comfortable compromising on social spending, taxes, etc if there was some protection of life for the unborn and at least a nod toward conscience protections from the left. The fact is the graceless rhetoric comes form the left as well. I have been called bigotted and a hater and after all you must hate women if you are in the GOP and if you are black and conservative you are called an Uncle TOm. Somehow the lack of grace form the evangelical and political left is always excused as prophetic language. For example the public hammering of Rev. Franklin Graham was an example of interpreting one’s words in the worst possible way in order to score theologo-political points. There was nothing of dialogue about it and the ruse of presenting it as loving fraternal correction made me sad for evangelicals on both sides of the issue.

  • Frank

    Thank you. I won’t repeat what Shawn wrote below as he is spot on.

  • SamHamilton

    When I hear people use the phrase it’s usually not in reference to taking it back to a specific time but take power back from some other group (usually the opposite political party). When Hillary Clinton said she wanted to take our country back in 2008, she wasn’t referencing a historical time, but take it back from the Republicans. When Republicans say it, it’s usually in reference to taking it back from the Democrats.

    But I agree with you that there was no perfect time or place that we should try to recreate, because most likely we’re romanticizing the past and forgetting the negatives. But there’s no reason why we shouldn’t look back at certain aspects of the past that were truly good and use them as examples of the way things could be in the future.

  • SamHamilton

    Yep. People on the political left romanticize certain aspects of our country’s past as well and would like to recreate it. They just emphasize different things in our past than people on the right do.

  • Yes, people have a hard time accepting the fact that God laid strict guidelines for governments in how they treat the downtrodden and poor.

  • theprozacqueen

    The time “hankered for” is usually a time when the person speaking would have been in power and/or wouldn’t be challenged on whatever the rest of the conversation is about. IMO, that is.

  • theprozacqueen

    …and what’s really interesting is that a lot of the time the thing they want to “go back to” (i.e. every family having the mom stay home with the kids) never existed except in 50s sitcoms.

  • The Bohemian

    You have many great points and I think you are on target regarding how and why Evangelicalism became co-opted. There is definitely room to criticize both the left and the right. One difference is that the harsh rhetoric from the right is usually targeted towards non-believers. The harsh rhetoric from the left is also sometimes, however, it is most often related to social justice – something we, as Christians, are supposed to care about. Franklin Graham placed his comment on Facebook. Believers are supposed to ‘judge’ those within the faith. IMHO, Christian leaders, both liberal and conservative, should have spoken out. I was (and still am) very, very disappointed with the conservative Christian leadership for not speaking out against Palin’s statement about “waterboarding” as a way to baptize terrorists.

  • gimpi1

    That may be part of the issue. The “golden age” is when “real people” – i.e. white, Protestant, conservative cis men – made all the decisions and everyone else knew their place. The idea that it wasn’t so golden for everyone else simply doesn’t matter, because all those not-white, not Protestant, not conservative, not male or not cis people aren’t really people, after all. We’re just props in their drama. We can be cherished props or throwaway props, and we don’t have any say in that. Props don’t have choices.

  • Frank

    That’s because God never did that. Try again.

  • The Bohemian

    Very well said!

  • The Bohemian

    And use their own money to make sure that the area (and water) around their home is not polluted by industry, and to ensure that the food they buy is safe to eat (health laws, USDA, etc.),

  • The Bohemian

    Your analogy is horrendous. And it says a lot about you.

  • The Bohemian

    Yes, and if you check on the verses that I posted, above, you will see that God provided Laws regarding taking care of the poor (e.g. not voluntary and not just individual).

  • The Bohemian

    I could be wrong, but I think it is due to a narrow focus on certain issues. That’s the problem. Their view is out of balance.

  • The Bohemian

    Sam is right about there being more diversity among conservative Christians.

  • The Bohemian

    I agree, Matthew. I think it’s inconsistent and futile as well. IMHO, I think they have lost their focus. I believe their basic intent is good but the outworking of it is inherently flawed.

  • Matthew

    It´s a good question gimpi1. I cannot remember who, but someone on this blog spot (I think) linked to a wikipedia entry about a man who wrote a book about human progress. I believe the man concluded that things are getting better rather than worse the world over.

    If that is true, then I suppose the fundamentalist Christian argument that everything is getting worse needs a better explanation than I am able to give. Maybe is has to do with the theory of entropy and the natural order. Possibly things are indeed getting worse within the realm of nature and the universe, but on a societal level things are indeed improving.

    Anyone else?

  • DC Rambler

    From my view in the cheap seats, I see these folks who are calling to reclaim America speaking only to their tribe..They have become a very exclusive lot and really don’t want most of us to join their club..Thank God !!

  • WiseMom

    Brilliant.

  • Andy

    “‘Taxes are the price we pay for civilization’. That’s like saying ‘Rape is the price women pay to avoid being murdered'”

    The only way those two statements are in any way alike is both have the words “the”, “price”, and “pay”.

  • Andy

    I don’t understand people who don’t think they should have to pay taxes but aren’t anarchists. Personally, I don’t see a lot of room in between those two.

  • Copyleft

    Well said. If more Christians focused on helping others instead of seizing secular power for the express purpose of -harming- others, Christianity would have a much better reputation.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    Hi herm! Been missing your voice on the blogs. Hope you are ok buddy!

  • Herm

    Thank you Louis and Seoc! I am okay. I just sensed it was time to take a short retiree’s sabbatical. I will be back.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    glad to hear it! Looking forward to your contributions onna blogs. Happy trails bud!

  • Darth Charming

    Good points gimpi1, but there is one thing getting worse. Abortion.

  • Nope, getting better. Abortion rates are the lowest they’ve been in 40 years. http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/03/health/abortion-rates-low/

  • Buhari

    Hmm and how has your christianity been of benefit to the racially exploited and the poor? Its all well and good using them as a cudgel to beat
    Ben over the head with…

  • Terry Firma

    Interesting that you assume I’m a Christian. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Darth Charming

    That link doesn’t prove your point. It just proves that there are fewer women getting pregnant. Less pregnancies, birth control, and morning after pills can all help us understand a falling abortion rate. It doesn’t prove that the abortion issue isn’t any better or worse.