Why Christians Should Totally, Definitely Vote for Donald Trump

I’ve repented.

I have crusaded against Trump for over a year now, but with the election in four days, I have seen the light and turned from the error of my ways. I now endorse Donald J. Trump for President.

Why?

Because I had an epiphany about Jesus’ teachings. I finally realized what all of my evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr. and James Dobson have been trying to tell me.

The ends justify the means.

Isn’t that simple? The ends, whatever good we’re trying to accomplish, can actually justify the means, the things we have to do to make it happen, however bad. If I want something good to happen, it is perfectly right and just to do bad things to get there. All my misdeeds on the way are covered up and made okay by my attempt to make something good happen.

This is what we Christians are called to do for Trump. Hillary is basically the Devil incarnate, after all, and electing her would obviously obliterate the shining paradise that is our nation today. Therefore we are justified in doing anything that is less bad than the destruction of the whole country to stop her. With the stakes this high, something like voting for Trump is no big deal at all, just what we’ve got to do.

I’ll admit, a vote for Trump is pretty sketchy in and of itself. I mean, he’s made loads of money exploiting and degrading women (and men, really) by owning strip clubs, and he’s made more money exploiting and ruining the poor and/or gullible by running a casino empire, which is a blasphemy inviting of swift divine judgment, to  be sure. He’s a serial adulterer who brags about his sexual immorality, probably even including sexual assault, if not rape. Yeah, he lies over and over again about basically anything and everything, even if half the time he doesn’t actually see a difference between lying and telling his truth. And of course, he supports the kind of sexual lifestyle that leads to rampant abortion even if he’s technically pro-life. He doesn’t know anything about policy, and he’s willing to order the use of war crimes and torture. Certainly he has used racially provocative language and tactics to secure the entire white supremacist vote.

But, however bad all of that would be in any other situation, none of it matters this year. Because the ends justify the means. Hillary Clinton is a demon from hell sent to destroy the United States of America, so it’s irrelevant how completely abominable Trump and all he stands for may be on their own. Compared to an old woman who takes really bad email advice detrimental to national security and plays politics in a self-serving way just like anyone else who’s spent decades in Washington, Trump is almost a saint. But even if he’s not, that doesn’t matter, because the ends justify the means. We can do anything, no matter how bad or compromising, if our goal is to stop Crooked Hillary from getting into the White House for a few years.

The Christian way, then, is pretty simple. We are called to make whatever compromises we have to in order to keep the Democrats, especially Killary, out of the White House. If we have to make a deal with the Devil (oh, wait, the Devil’s Hillary, I forgot), so be it. Jesus is our example here. If He were offered a chance at political power, but He had to bow to a wicked ruler first, He would do it for the greater good.

After all, what good is it if you lose the Presidency but gain your souls?

Why Christians Should Totally, Definitely Vote for Donald Trump

The American Solidarity Party: Social Issues

A while back, I posted about the American Solidarity Party as a potential third way for Christians who are sick of the polarization, incompetence, and corruption involved with our two major parties, the party of death and the party of standing-for-nothing-but-at-least-we’re-not-Democrats. The ASP is a Christian democratic party of the kind seen in many European countries, to sum it up. But when I originally posted, I didn’t offer very much detail in their introduction. So now I want to do a relatively brief series of relatively brief posts on the ASP platform (read the whole thing here) and why I think it at least offers a general direction for a third way in today’s political situation.

So, for this first post on the platform, I want to comment on some highlights in ASP social policy, which is essentially a committed social conservatism. I haven’t included everything, only a few big points.

  • We support constitutional and legal measures that establish the Right to Life from conception until natural death.
  • We call for an end to capital punishment.
  • We oppose the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The very first principle in the ASP platform is an unreserved pro-life one, even up to a Constitutional amendment to establish a right to life from conception. The Democrats are opposed to this, Libertarians are divided, and the Republicans who actually have any power pay lip-service but really just don’t care anymore. But the ASP makes it a #1 priority.

The ASP also opposes the serious evils of euthanasia and assisted suicide, a welcome addition. The opposition to capital punishment is likely off-putting to many of my evangelical friends, but really I think it’s not a half-bad idea, and even if you disagree I don’t think it should be viewed as a big problem.

  • We acknowledge that the Judeo-Christian worldview has played a positive role in the history and culture of the United States of America. We advocate for laws that allow people of all faiths to practice their religion without intimidation and deplore aggressive secularism that seeks to remove religion from the public sphere.

The ASP is committed not to theocracy or making Christianity dominate the state, but nonetheless they have no desire to have references to God, Christianity, and the like removed from the public square. They recognize our heritage and want to at least respectfully acknowledge it. They care to preserve the rights of all religions to be publically heard and expressive.

  • We support the legal recognition of marriage as a union of one man to one woman for life.
  • The ASP is committed to the defense of the Bill of Rights.
  • We deplore the reduction of the “free exercise of religion” guaranteed by the First Amendment to “freedom of worship” that merely exists in private and within a house of worship. The right to follow what the Declaration of Independence called “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” must be respected.
  • We will defend the rights of public assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. We oppose the expansion of censorship and secrecy in the interests of “national security.”

Another vital plank of the ASP platform is natural marriage. The Democrats hate it, the Libertarians generally oppose it, and the big Republican donors (with their silent establishment puppets) are all opposed to it now, so it probably won’t last on the RP platform for much longer. Natural marriage and the family are essential to the fabric of human society, and the ASP supports it explicitly.

The ASP is also strongly committed to basic American rights. Religious freedom and freedom of association, among others, are in pretty bad danger these days from all parties, though especially the Democrats and, while the Libertarians shouldn’t be this way, Gary Johnson is. And of course the battle has been lost on the Republican donors. But the ASP is committed to all Constitutional rights, especially free religion.

  • We support the decriminalization (not the legalization) of recreational drugs. Funds currently expended on the “war on drugs” should be directed toward prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.
  • We support the implementation of the so-called “Nordic model” for dealing with prostitution by imposing stricter and more uniform penalties for the purchase of sex, decriminalizing the selling of sex, and providing viable employment alternatives to those who are exploited as prostitutes.

The ASP is also opposed to tough laws on social vices, as they seem to cause more harm than good. They prefer decriminalization (not legalization) so that average participants do not have to be stuffed into prisons with actual bad guys. These tough penalties help no one, hurt lots of people, and cost loads of money. The ASP would prefer an alternative system in which vices are problems to be solved moreso than crimes to be prosecuted.

This is in contrast to the Libertarians, who would usually like to actually legalize and normalize the majority of drugs and other vices. Such a system necessarily offers a social endorsement of those evils. But Democrats and Republicans keep wanting to make a bad thing worse by wasting time, money, prison space, and human life to punish people who are as much victims as perpetrators. Neither is desirable.

The American Solidarity Party: Social Issues

Moving Past Polarization: The American Solidarity Party

If you’ve read my post on Trump from a little while ago, or especially if you’ve followed me on Facebook, you know that I am very unhappy with the state of American politics. The offerings our two major parties are giving us for the Presidency are each quite awful enough, and yet it is even more frightening to realize that this merely reflects the awkward combined state of each party’s establishment and normal voters. There is a direct correspondence between the infantile rhetoric of our candidates and the infantile rhetoric of their supporters. This year more than most, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, hate each other and cannot agree on anything. And, to our shame, too many Christians are simply taking one of these sides and towing their party lines. And, to even greater shame, too many Christians are willing to participate in the same polarization, name-calling, hate, yelling, straw men, and impropriety which characterize normal partisan politics.

This is, of course, an antichrist way to do politics, and it must be rejected. Christians cannot wed themselves to the political philosophies and powers of this age to act and think on only their terms. Christianity is not Republican or Democrat. Jesus is not a modern conservative, a classical liberal, a modern progressive, or anything else along those lines. He never promoted, endorsed, and created any system like capitalism, democracy, communism, authoritarianism, republicanism, libertarianism, or socialism. He is the being, the very nature and existence, of the Church, and the members of the Church are thus not free to bind themselves to any of these things.

None of this is to say that Christians can’t work with or align ourselves with any political party or candidates. We are certainly allowed to do so. But we cannot let them set our agendas, beliefs, or our vision of human freedom and flourishing. We must stand on our own, Christian, Scripture-informed principles and beliefs without giving a single inch of authority to the parties or movements we ally with in this age. They have no authority over us, but only Christ does. We may find them as useful partners in advancing the causes we believe must be advanced, but we must not be misled into advancing their own unique causes under the banner of Christ.

This brings me back to this election. I am (quite strongly) of the opinion that both the Democratic and the Republican parties have proved themselves entirely worthless as allies or partners for Christian political efforts. Democrats have, among other things, made themselves allies and servants of Death by fully adopting the cause of abortion. This is an unforgivable sin. The Republican Party has also nominated Donald Trump as their Presidential candidate, something which I think is (or should be) a major problem for Christians. But even apart from Trump, the party is splitting into useless factions, one very rich part towards social liberalism, another towards authoritarianism, and others still in many directions.

So where do Christians turn? No doubt, many will be willing to compromise with the two awful dominant parties still, some in good conscience and some out of fear or partisan desperation. My suggestion, though, which has caught my eye in the past couple of months, is the American Solidarity Party. If you haven’t heard of them, bear in mind that I have no delusions that they will be winning national elections, at least in anything like the near future. But at the local level, any party can make something of a difference with enough hard work. And even with our national elections, I believe being able to vote consistently with conscience is not only morally preferable but also has, over time, the capacity to influence things.

So what is the American Solidarity Party? I will be doing some more blogging on them to elaborate, but as an introduction, they are a Christian Democratic party. They are socially conservative, taking strong positions in favor of life, marriage, and family. They are also economically distributist, an intentional third way against capitalism and socialism which favors small business, local markets and governments, and private property for the common man. Their motto is “Common good. Common ground. Common sense.” Their policies are very centrist: both ideological leftists and right-wingers will probably chafe at some of their policies and love some others. People who have wedded all of their political thought to the Democrats or the Republicans will not like them at all.

But for those who are willing to keep an open mind, I think the ASP has a great deal of value, and there is a lot that they stand for which I believe is truly Christian. I’m not saying every Christian will or should agree with everything in the ASP platform. Even Spirit-filled believers can disagree on what policies are the best. I’m not sold on a handful of their policies. But I think the ASP is the best option we have at the moment, both in having overall the best policies and having the best goal: a Christian approach to our pressing political problems. In future posts I will elaborate and summarize some thoughts on their platform.

Moving Past Polarization: The American Solidarity Party

Son of David, King of Justice

I preached yet again last night, and this is my manuscript. Due to the context, I ended up significantly compressing this sermon. What you’re reading here is much longer than what I actually preached.

I thought that, before I begin tonight, I should tell you all a little bit about myself, but not too much, because I’m just a nerdy theology student and my goal tonight is to speak about the God of Jesus Christ. But it doesn’t hurt to know a little about a messenger before you hear his message. As they said, my name is Caleb Smith. I’m 21, married to a very lovely wife over there, have one crazy kid outside the womb and one kid still inside. I go to the Baptist College of Florida like a lot of the other people at Grace Fellowship, and I’m working on a degree in Ministry Studies. I hope, by God’s will, to be able to do mission work for some time after graduation, and then maybe to pastor somewhere and even perhaps pursue further education. But who knows what will actually happen? God rarely works in expected ways.

Anyway, Grace has been a kind enough place to let me do some preaching, and I actually just preached there last night. I only learned I would be preaching here about two weeks ago, so I was originally going to simply preach the same sermon with some modifications. But in truth it didn’t seem like the right one. I felt God leading me elsewhere. What I eventually came to was Isaiah 11:1-10. It seems to speak relevantly to the concerns which had been building up in my heart in relation to preaching here tonight, so I dug in and found the gold of God’s promise. So, without any further ado, I’ll get into the text.

Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.
He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.
In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.
The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow.
The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.
In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.

This is an amazing passage in my opinion, but to understand it we need to go back a bit into its context in Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet who was called by God to prophesy to Israel around the time that they would go into Exile, the ultimate punishment God had promised Israel in the Torah, the law given to Moses. His first job was to call Israel out for their sins and tell them to repent, to stop sinning and turn back to God, in order to avoid being judged and exiled.

But what was Israel doing wrong? Why did they deserve to be judged like this? The very first chapter of Isaiah gives God’s case against them. You guys don’t have to turn there if you don’t want to, but I’m not going to read it all, I’m just going to mention some highlights. Isaiah 1 shows us that Israel had gotten messed up. According to verse 17, the orphans, the widows, all of the people who were able to do the least for themselves were being oppressed and taken advantage of. This would be hard enough in our day, but in theirs especially widows and orphans had an awful time of it. In verse 21 God says that what used to be a faithful people had become full of murderers. Violence and killings were everywhere. We know what that’s like today, though it does seem like it was even worse there.

And this corruption filled Israel everywhere. Verse 23 adds that their political leaders, their judges, and their priests were all corrupt. They were more interested in money and power than justice. They took bribes to hurt the innocent and protect the guilty. They got rich for themselves at the expense of everyone else. The leaders hoarded gold, and they stacked up on military power even, according to Isa. 2:7, but the average people and the poor didn’t benefit from it at all. They got nothing, and the leaders got everything.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, 2:8 adds that the people were all idolaters. They all worshipped other gods instead of pledging their allegiance to the true God alone, who had taken them out of Egypt and made them into a nation. They worshipped these gods because all of the false gods represented things like fertility, or power, or wealth, and they craved these things more than they wanted to be faithful to their Redeemer.

So, because of all of this evil, God was getting ready to judge Israel. Right before our text, in Isaiah 10, God says that this will be done through Assyria. Throughout the Old Testament we see God judging through human nations, kind of like they are wild dogs He keeps on a leash until they are needed. Israel needed to be roughed up at this point for their disobedience, so God let the Assyrians conquer them.

But the other problem is that Assyria was just as evil, if not worse, than Israel. In Isaiah 10:16-17, God says:

Therefore, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will send a plague among Assyria’s proud troops, and a flaming fire will consume its glory. The Lord, the Light of Israel, will be a fire; the Holy One will be a flame. He will devour the thorns and briers with fire, burning up the enemy in a single night.

Assyria had to be judged, too. And once they are judged, God will be ready to restore Israel. He made a promise to Abraham to bless His descendants, and that means He will be faithful and restore Israel. He made a promise to David to put his sons on the throne, and that means Israel will have a throne. That is where our text, Isaiah 11, comes in. God revealed to Isaiah that one da, a “Branch” will come from the old root and stump of David’s family. A new king is coming.

God also promised to fill this king with His Spirit. God’s Spirit, throughout Israel’s history, was given to prophets and kings and leaders to accomplish important tasks for God’s plan. And unlike any of these people before, God says that this His Spirit will “rest on” this king. The Spirit will stay on Him, not just temporarily like everyone before. This Spirit, God’s Spirit, is the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of God. This means the king will be totally wise, he will understand what he needs to understand, he will learn from God how to rule rightly, he will be strong enough to work everything out, he will know what is going on, and he will always submit to God.

All of these great traits, all of this strength and brilliance, will be how God brings justice back to the land. He won’t “judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.” Now, I don’t know how the justice system actually looked like in ancient Israel, but today that would mean he would be fair, he wouldn’t give in to polarized partisanship, and he wouldn’t let dumb posts on Facebook, trending tweets, bribery, or biased news sources distort his judgment. He will be totally fair and just and right.
Verse 4 tells us that this king will use these qualities to fix the rigged and broken systems. He will give justice to the poor, and he will make fair decisions in his court cases. Under this king’s rule, the innocent won’t be unfairly convicted, and the guilty won’t get away with their crimes. He will take the corrupt and unjust people down from their positions with his power. As the verse says, “one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.”

And he’ll do more than that. He’ll make Israel safe again. Israel had been living in a really dangerous situation. There were murderers within and armies without. But this prophecy talks about a totally different kind of world. Under this new king, Israel will be safe again, so ridiculously safe that even carnivorous animals will be friendly. Verses 7 and 8 say that wolves and lambs and leopards and goats will be friends. Little kids will be able to run around with them, and babies will be able to play in snakeholes. These aren’t supposed to be saying, necessarily, that the king will literally domesticate every dangerous animal. The point is to paint a picture of perfect peace, just as verse 9 says, “Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” Through his promised king, God will bring safety and security to Israel, ending the murders and the constant threat of foreign enemies.

In fact, the threat of foreign enemies brings us to the rest of verses 9-10, in which we find out that this king will change the whole world, not just Israel. It says that the world will be filled with people who know the Lord as much as water fills the seas. The king will be a “banner of salvation to all the world.” Apparently everyone from every nation will be blessed through the king who blesses Israel. Israel will be on top of the world, the king will be on top of Israel, God will be above this king, and everyone else will benefit from it. Israel, and through Israel the world, will be safe, just, and even great again.

So, with everything we’ve seen about the coming king, we’re forced to ask: who is this king and did he ever come? How did God fulfill this promise? Well, for Christians the answer is no surprise. We jump to Matthew 1:1 and find out straightaway that this king is Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah. In fact, the word Christ, which actually means Messiah, literally means “anointed,” and it refers to the anointing with oil that a king would receive. Jesus is the anointed King, anointed by the Spirit of God mentioned before at His baptism, where the Gospels say that the Spirit descended like a dove and remained on Him, just like the verse in Isaiah said.

Jesus fulfills even more of this passage. By the Spirit He was Himself filled with wisdom, and power, and knowledge, and the fear of God. He was always righteous and just. He obeyed God all the way through, even to the point of death. His whole life proved that He was filled with the same Spirit and character that Isaiah prophesied.

He also fulfilled the promises for justice for the poor and oppressed. In Israel, He healed and forgave the least of these, the poor and the marginalized and exploited. He let them back into the Temple by cleansing them from being unclean both inside and out. He gave to those in need, and He helped people who were down on their luck or otherwise messed up, whether it was their fault or not, and got them back on their feet. Actually, it might be better to say He didn’t just get them back on their feet, but He gave them new feet altogether that they could use to live new, redeemed lives. He did this all while challenging and condemning the people in charge of rigged and broken systems and institutions, like the crooked King Herod, the elite Jewish establishment, and even the Roman Emporer in a few ways. He turned the world on its head, putting the last first and the first last, because they already had things in a crooked balance.

In fact, Jesus made this theme major to His ministry. He applied another, closely related prophecy in Isaiah to Himself in Luke 4:18-19. It says:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

But there is a legitimate question in how Jesus fulfilled some of this. After all, Israel doesn’t look like this prophecy says today. They’re not safe, and there’s still injustice, even terrorism. So what did Jesus do?

The key lies in the last bit, that the King will affect all the nations of the world. See, as we see in Ephesians 2:11-15, Israel was recreated around Jesus. Israel in its new, born again form is no longer a nation limited to a certain people or area, with Jews and Gentiles united across the world. Gentiles were once outside the covenant, but now in Christ one new people has been made. He does not rule merely a nation, but all nations. This fulfills Isaiah 11:10’s promise that the King would be a banner for the whole world.

So for this new kind of Israel, Jesus was resurrected from the dead and exalted as the Lord not just of one strip of land in the Middle East, or for one race out of all races, but of the whole world. Philippians 2:9-11 says:

God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This means that Jesus’ kingdom is universal now, so we don’t look to the state of one nation or people to see this prophecy fulfilled. But either way, now it seems worse. The whole world certainly isn’t just and safe, is it? We have poverty. We have injustice. Bad guys still win and good guys still lose. Corrupt systems still exist. The reason for this is that Jesus has temporarily left the earth, putting that mission on pause. He ascended into heaven to give us time. What do we need time for? 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that the reason for this delay is so that people have time to repent. Jesus wants to allow time for millions, maybe billions, of people to hear of His rule and submit to Him. It is not until He returns that He will finish the mission. At that time, as Revelation 21:5 says, He will make everything new.

And this is no empty promise. Jesus’ gave us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee, and in fact His own human nature is a guarantee that He will come back to us. And when He does, He will take down all the wicked and unjust people, systems, governments, institutions, and powers. He will stop rigging and institute real, actual justice forever. The corrupt and wicked people who take advantage of others and make the world unjust and rigged will be overthrown, and those who march in behind Christ under His Lordship will inherit the world promised in Isaiah 11, where there is nothing but peace, justice, and unlimited life.

This is wonderful hope, the real hope of the world. Our hope is in the return of Jesus Christ, and there is no other hope for the world at all. And we need this hope, because our world is as broken as Israel was in its day. I know you’ve all seen the news lately. We have shootings and murders, people being killed left and right. We face threats from the outside, too, from foreign enemies. People just don’t feel safe anymore, regardless of their job, race, gender, or religion.

The same goes with the injustice problem. Our systems and institutions are messed up. They all seem rigged for rich and powerful elites instead of everyone else. Justice looks like a joke. Too many criminals get away with their crimes, or get off easy, while innocent people lose out. Everything is out of whack. Just like Israel, our leaders have loads of money and power but somehow none of this helps most people.

So we need this hope from Jesus. He is coming back to undo all of this. He will save us from the mess the world is in and recreate it in line with His own will, in the pattern of His own victorious resurrection. In fact, He has already overthrown all of these powers and problems. He defeated the death which haunts us on our newsfeeds and TVs. Because of His resurrection there will be another resurrection which overturns death around the world. He defeated the corrupt and rigged systems and powers, because those kinds of people condemned Him to death but He rose from the dead in defiance of their unjust ruling. They’ve been thrown down and mean nothing. The powers we see today are already disarmed and are guaranteed to be overthrown when Jesus returns to claim His Lordship. We wait for this day. We have hope that Jesus will return to make all things new, to make the world safe and great and just again for people of all stripes and classes. This is the only hope to live again.

But all of this isn’t to say that there is nothing for us in the present. Jesus hasn’t simply left us to nothing in the meantime while we wait for His final victory. Instead, Jesus has called forth His Church to live as a people of the age to come who still live in this present age. We who believe in Jesus and have been baptized into His Church, we are called to bring the future He has created into the present. We must model His justice and protection in our own communities.

This means we must be a haven for people who have been treated wrongly. If someone has been a victim of a rigged system or an unjust decision, we may or may not be able to fix it, but we can welcome them into a world where all people are treated rightly with the justice of Christ. The world may not be fair, but we should do all we can to make our churches places where there is true fairness.

We also must provide a haven for those who feel unsafe. In our churches, people should be free from every threat of violence or abuse, whether physical, mental, or emotional. We must instead show the kind of protecting, self-giving love that Jesus showed in laying down His life for us.

And we must be charitable. If Jesus promised justice for the poor, then we are called to do everything we can to compensate for the imbalance in an unjust society and share what we have with those who need more. Not only this, but we must help people to learn to earn an honest living for themselves, so that they don’t have to rely on the chance kindness of strangers to make it by anymore. After all, a just system isn’t just one where everyone gets enough, but where everyone gets enough and fulfills their own responsibilities.

But more than this, the Church is also given the task of proclamation. We are required to speak God’s truth and God’s judgments to the world and all of its broken systems, just like John the Baptist preached against King Herod’s wickedness. The world in all of its injustice and violence is under the judgment of God, and it is our job to tell them and to beg them to change their ways. Jesus is the true Lord, who rules over everything. He will come back to judge every nation and leader.

This means the Church ought to call the world to account for its injustice and tell them about the right way to run things. We have to tell them about how to do justice, how to promote peace, and how to best treat all of the people in the world. We may not change much, though by God’s grace we pray that we do, but we will do all that God calls us to and all that He helps us to so that the world can experience even now a taste of the great world that Jesus is going to bring about when He returns as our Lord and King.

Right now, then, it comes down to this. God has sent us a king to make the world brand new again, and His name is Jesus. He will come back, but for now we must love each other, do justice, have mercy, and walk humbly with our God, who rules the world in and as Jesus Christ. He will set all things right, and we are here now to make what we can right in honor, hope, faith, and anticipation of that day.

Son of David, King of Justice

Don’t Vote Trump, And If You Do, At Least Frown

I’m #NeverTrump all the way. I will not vote for that man. But I realize many people feel compelled to, even if they don’t like him. Hillary Clinton is, after all, a frightening possibility if you care about things like abortion or religious liberty. If you really feel like Trump’s the lesser evil here, and you think your vote is actually a worthwhile and useful tool, then I won’t stand in the way of your conscience. (And before I say anything else, I should point out that I’m also #NeverHillary and I’m not thrilled with #GaryJohnson2016.)

That said, I would like to offer some considerations for your conscience to digest before casting a vote for Trump. If nothing else, I want to point out that a vote for Trump cannot be, for anyone who cares anything about Christianity, an enthusiastic vote. Compromise with Trump is one thing, but positive support for him is entirely unacceptable.

So, why do I think that Christians should refuse to vote for Trump? A handful of reasons.

  • Trump was pro-choice about 30 seconds ago. Is it really a coincidence that a sexually promiscuous man, people like whom benefit from abortion, only started saying he’s pro-life when he sought the nomination of a predominantly pro-life party? I find that awfully suspicious. It seems more likely that he’s just saying what his target voters want on this issue. If that’s true, we shouldn’t expect much help from him on abortion. More importantly, if that’s true, a vote for Trump is a vote for someone who actually doesn’t mind abortion, which is horrendous. After all, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:14).
  • Trump builds wealth for himself  by exploiting people with sin and vice. It’s no secret that Trump gets lots of money from casinos and strip clubs. These are institutions that Christians tend to oppose, and for good reason. Casinos take advantage of people’s greed and weakness, and of what they know about human behavior, to ruin them financially for profit. Gambling institutions break down families and drive people into bankruptcy. Yes, the people who suffer must take responsibility, but so must the businesses who know these effects and use them to get rich, anyway. The same goes for strip clubs, except instead of ruining people financially they ruin them morally and sexually. Can Christians really say, “I think a man who pays young girls to take off their clothes and parade themselves before lustful men should run the country?” Yet Trump owns and runs both of these kinds of businesses for but one reason (there really is no other reason for these businesses): the love of money, which is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). If Trump will use these kinds of corrupt, immoral, vile, and antichrist methods to acquire money, what might he do for money with the power of the Presidency?
  • Trump is anti-family. Trump, we should recall, is a serial adulterer who has divorced two women so far to marry mistresses. We as Christians believe that stable, traditional families are the bedrock of civil society and were always intended to consist of lifelong faithfulness (Gen. 19:4-6). The benefits of marriages like this are numerous and well-documented. The damage done to society by the breakdown of these marriages is also extensive and well-known. Yet Trump contributes to this very breakdown, putting at the helm of our country someone who actively participates in one of the most destructive forces known to human society. Imagine, my conservative friends, if Trump was married to man. How many of you would vote for him then? Is repeated adultery, divorce, remarriage, and inappropriate sexual comments and conduct any better? To willingly endorse Trump is to give up all right to claim to care about “family values” or traditional marriage. Moreover, if this man cannot be trusted to even keep the most important vows of his life and be faithful to his wives he’s claimed to love, how can he be trusted to keep the oath of office and be faithful to the American people?
  • Trump is, well, morally bankrupt. It’s no secret that Trump has no virtues of any kind, or any redeeming moral qualities. Besides his sexual promiscuity and willingness to break sacred vows mentioned above, he is also cruel, arrogant, selfish, greedy, proud, a compulsive liar (far more than Clinton, who is dishonest enough), sexist, intentionally incendiary, and disrespectful to all people. Maybe charges of racism and xenophobia are exaggerated and misguided (or maybe they’re not), but it hardly matters when he treats all people poorly either way. Every time he has a chance, he proves these traits over and over. He speaks of people he doesn’t like in a way that I would spank my children for. The comments he makes about women are frequently either perverted or painfully demeaning. He bullies and attempts to silence people who disagree with or criticize him. He also uses corrupt, underhanded business practices to enrich himself at the expense of others, as mentioned above. And the disrespect he has shown to veterans and their families is entirely unacceptable.
    As conservative Christians, we have frequently made the character of our political leaders an important issue. Bill Clinton was rightly criticized for his sexual immorality (something Trump is familiar with) as President, and Christians lamented his reelection for, among other reasons, that very reason. He is not the only one to have been subject to this criticism, and rightly so. Character counts. Christians should hopefully realize this more than anyone, for “when the wicked rule, people groan” (Prov. 29:2). As Samuel Adams said, “Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of unexceptionable character.” Noah Webster agreed: “When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, ‘just men who will rule in the fear of God.'”
  • Trump is spiritually bankrupt. To be sure, I don’t think we are obligated to vote only for Christians, much less spiritually mature ones. Nonetheless, I think politicians should be held at least somewhat accountable to the faith which they claim to adhere to. This is, to be sure, a problem for many politicians, and I wouldn’t usually consider it a make-or-break issue on its own. Nonetheless, Trump shows even the worst of the worst here. Trump has repeatedly shown himself to be as fake and nominal in his “Christian” faith as possible. His character mentioned above, plus his casinos and strip clubs mentioned also, prove that beyond a doubt. So do many of his statements from his own mouth about his faith, such as saying early in the race that he had never asked God for forgiveness, and later that he doesn’t plan on having to ask God for much forgiveness. His answer to “Who do you say that Jesus is?” is as shallow and worthless as any cheesy, MTD platitudes. His statements about his relationship with God and the Church reveal a complete lack of interest and involvement, and every time he mentions religion he does it in an obviously self-serving way. Trump is a blasphemer through and through, pure and simple. An honest atheist would take my vote a million years before Trump.
  • Finally, he can’t save America. Even if America is in as precarious a situation as most Trump-supporters imagine, which seems highly unlikely, there isn’t any actual evidence or reason to believe that Trump has any ability to improve the situation, or that any of his policies would be sufficiently better than Hillary Clinton’s to warrant him as a “lesser evil” vote. His brash, unpredictable nature makes for disastrous possibilities in foreign policy, an area which can save or kill thousands or even millions of human lives. His experience in business has hardly anything in common with the Presidential office, no matter what people ignorantly say to the effect that the “government is basically like a big business.” He has no self-control or self-restraint, which will only make our enemies hate us more and our allies like us less. He has a history of bullying and punishing people who criticize him, an awful tendency for the leader of the executive branch of the United States of America. If Congress doesn’t cooperate with him, which is quite likely, he will almost certainly be prone to continue and expand the practice of abusing power through executive orders. His use of torture will only add more blood to the hands of a nation already drenched in the blood of the aborted (speaking of whom, he will likely do nothing to help them, either). The comments he’s made about US borrowing are economically dangerous, to put it lightly, and he has had to be told repeatedly why he can’t just bust out the nukes. He is dangerous, probably moreso than Hillary Clinton (and that’s saying something).

So there is is. This is my own contribution to the #NeverTrump position in Christianity, and I hold to it firmly. If you still feel the need to vote Trump, if your conscious forces your hand, then do so. But at least don’t smile about it. An enthusiastic vote for Trump, I believe with all my heart, is blatant sin, for all of the reasons listed above. To take pleasure in Donald Trump’s run for President is to take pleasure in an abomination before God. Let us never do such a thing. Our kingdom is not of this world, and it will last under the reign of Christ for all eternity, long after America is just one empire among many in boring history textbooks. The stakes are never as high as they seem in the politics of this age, but the stakes for our souls remain always paramount. Trust in God, not men, much less men like Donald Trump. To burn a pinch of incense to Caesar was always wrong, but so would it have been to join the barbarians who took Rome down.

Don’t Vote Trump, And If You Do, At Least Frown

Thoughts and Questions about Transgender Stuff

With all the transgender issues on the news lately, I think we as conservative Christians need to take a step back. From there we must ask and then articulate what precisely it is that we find objectionable in transsexualism and why. For example, I assume that most of us do not agree that merely the psychological aspect of feeling or believing that your mind is aligned with the opposite sex that your body constitutes a sin. After all, we don’t usually agree that experiencing attraction to the same sex is a sin, either.

Likewise, most of us I believe would not consider a woman being into “masculine interests” (e.g. cars, football, fighting skills, hunting) or a man being into “feminine interests” (e.g. sewing, homemaking, childcare, chick flicks) as sinful. We would still agree even if someone was completely the opposite of the norm for their gender.

Then come the more ambiguous questions about appearance. Most Christians in my experience would not condemn a man with long hair or a woman with short hair, or a woman wearing a pantsuit. Yet a total conversion, say a man with long, braided hair, a short skirt, high heels, and a flowery pink blouse, would garner a less favorable response. Where is the line, if it both exists and can be defined, and why? (Remember: if we were to appeal to Old Testament law we’d need to show that it still applies, and why it does.)

Then what about calling yourself a member of the opposite sex? Is that the line? Is it a form of lying? Then again, maybe it’s not lying if you’re not trying to say that you’re physically that gender. Is it sinful for attempting to redefine yourself in contradiction to the bodily reality gifted to you by God?

On the other hand, I expect most of us would agree that it’s crossing any lines to go through a sex change operation. Yet if we want to hold this line, we will need to articulate why it’s wrong. What makes a surgery to fix this mind-body disorder different from surgeries to fix other non-life and death issues? Is it, as some might argue, no worse than problems your hair or toning your abs? Is it more like a cosmetic surgery, and are cosmetic surgeries appropriate? Why or why not?

Of course, I imagine nearly all of us Christians with conservative views on sexuality would also agree that it crosses the last line for a transgender person to have sex with someone of the same biological sex, even after surgery. The only way out would be to say that the transgender person actually counts before God as their chosen sex, which seems a difficult argument to make.

Yet what about a celibate transgender? Are they in the clear, especially if they forgo a sex change operation? Or are they still in sin for identifying with a gender which is not their biological sex? Yet the latter would seem to place a greater burden on transgender people than we usually affirm for gay people, whom we will not generally condemn if they remain celibate. Or are the issues in fact just that different?

For some of these questions I have fairly dogmatic answers, yet for others, I am less certain. I’m quite confident that sex between a transgender person and someone of the same biological sex is as sinful as any homosexuality. I also believe that sex change operations do great violence to the inherent aim and meaning of bodily sexuality. But the celibate transgender? I’m not sure what to make of someone who remains sexually pure while identifying with a gender which is not their own. I’m suspicious, but not dogmatically certain of sin. (I also realize that this situation is highly hypothetical since people who commit to celibacy are rare enough in the 99% of society that isn’t transgender, and even in the Church.) There are other ambiguities as well, such as how someone who had a sex change operation in the past, but since repented, should go on to live.

Despite the issues that arise, we must be clear, confident, and courteous on this matter. It is not enough simply to express outrage, or mere confusion or head-shaking. The changing world will most likely not respect us no matter how we handle this, but at least if we respectfully offer a full, rationally defensible, coherent alternative vision of gender and sexuality then we can stand before God and conscience as level-headed, innocent peacemakers rather than obtuse, contentious reactionaries. And maybe, just maybe, when we adorn the Gospel with such grace and wisdom, some folks out there will be drawn to come to the Light. Not the light of our right side, of course, but the Light who is Christ and makes all things new, even broken gender identities.

P.S. For really good further reading, I recommend this post by Alastair Roberts and the accompanying podcast.

 

Thoughts and Questions about Transgender Stuff

Hate the World, Or Burn with It

Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle — is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.

1 John 2:15-17

This world will burn. I don’t mean that the physical, spacetime universe will be permanently destroyed, of course.1 I mean the rulers and systems of this age, the present cultures, structures, and institutions which are beholden to the flesh and the devil, which foster sin and exacerbate suffering. These are what John and Paul often refer to in Scripture as the “world” or “this age.” And as John said just above, they are passing away. The world will be condemned and toppled when Christ returns to judge and recreate.

But it is easy to talk about this stuff in general, abstract terms. What is this condemned world in real, actual life? What does it mean to love it and the things in it, as John warned us against? I’ve been giving this some thought lately, and it is not too hard to see how it works. The world offers its own vision for life in direct opposition to the call of Jesus. Naturally, this vision takes different forms in different cultures, and I do not know much about the way of worldly life presented to people in most cultures, but what I am familiar with is the American one. So what is the world in America?

One easily identifiable component of the world system in America is its relentless pursuit of personal wealth and “success.” Our society is powerfully shaped by this idol. Ideally, we go to school to get qualifications that land us in decent jobs from which we can work our way up to riches. Few make it all the way through this journey to the top, but its role as the standard goal is unquestionable. The life of corporate advancement, complete with expensive clothing, status watches, luxury cars, and all the rest, is taken for granted as an ideal, part of the good life for which we Americans strive.

Yet, while diligently working in a profitable job is by no means an evil or a sin, the system behind this success culture is clearly and certainly corrupt to the core. Quite frequently, it demands that you offer in sacrifice your integrity, your spouse, your children, your commitment to your church, and by all means your sacrificial giving on its pagan altar. It breaks apart families and in fact even individuals under stress and the pursuit of the wind. You are not permitted to give with unlimited generosity, sacrificing wealth and status too thoroughly to help the least of these, but must spend freely and extensively on certain restaurants, gizmos, and fashions with symbolic functions in order to climb the ladder. This system is greed and pride incarnate, the actual reality of the “pride of life.” It may be true that it is entirely possible to have one of these jobs while not participating in these corruptions, but it remains a frightening world, and one which demands intentional, diligent Gospel devotion for a follower of Christ to spiritually survive.

The world also manifests itself in the reigning sexual ethos, where the only thing that matters is personal sexual expression and unrestrained choice. The union of easy divorce, endlessly accessible birth control, affordable abortion options, casual hookups, proliferating online porn, and the de-shaming of adultery brings forth a sexual culture of death. It creates emotional distress, insecure men, unfulfilled women, rapidly spreading diseases, fuel for sex trafficking, and broken homes (the last of which tends to bring with it a host of other problems, such as generational poverty, drug abuse, gang crime, and school violence). What is hailed as “liberation” is actually slavery to the flesh. The culture which asks “What’s wrong with consenting adults doing what they want in the bedroom?” is the very same culture which robs millions of people of their consenting freedom to slavishly serve (in many cases quite literally) the god Sexual Pleasure.

I could go on exposing the systems and structures which make up the world, but I want to move on to make a more important point. We must hate the world. These systems are evil, pure evil, ruining God’s creation and the humans He loves so much, and they will be damned to Hell when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. We are not allowed to flirt and compromise with the enemy of God’s create humanity, even if this enemy is made up in large part of those same humans. Whoever may make up many of the ground troops, the rulers and powers behind the world are Satan and his hordes. To participate in the systems they have set up on earth in their time of power is to participate in cosmic, demonic rebellion against God. The force that might tempt you to a “harmless” casual hookup is the same one that turned a mere man into a naked, superstrength, chain-breaking monster before driving a horde of pigs to cast themselves off a cliff to their deaths.2

This brings me to a related point about human accountability. We often wonder how God could really be justified in condemning so many normal, seemingly decent people. Would it really be right for God to punish polite Jim Bob down the road just because he’s not sure Jesus rose from the dead? Yet I want to say on this that the majority of people are not as innocent as they look. No, Jim would never buy a sex slave, but he does give his money to a porn website that acquires much of its “talent” from trafficking organizations. Yes, Jim pays for welfare with his taxes, but despite his ability to afford a BMW he has politely ignored every email, telephone, and visitation campaign asking for his support for starving orphans in Afghanistan for 15 years. And of course, Jim would never expand his company with a sweatshop filled with impoverished children, but he has no problem making major business deals giving money to companies that do just that. He might be innocent of thousands of awful crimes, but in the end God sees how he is aiding and abetting tens of thousands.

The world is an omnipresent web of wickedness, and to avoid getting caught in it takes great care. But as Christians we must take that care, because to do otherwise is to entangle Christ with Satan. Nothing can result from such a union but pain, suffering, and judgment. As John said above, “the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.” If we do not want to pass away with the world, we will have to cling to Christ, but to cling to Christ is to hate the world which opposes Him and His reign of grace.  There is no other option. Hate the world or burn with it.

This will lead us to some tough questions about the lines and connections in participation with the evils of the world. We know it would be sinful for us to submit children to labor in rough conditions with pitiful pay just because they can’t survive otherwise, but is it wrong to give our money to companies that do so in exchange for affordable shoes? All evangelical Christians would agree that homosexuality is wrong, but does that mean we shouldn’t come to our gay non-Christian friend’s wedding? And while I may just need a job, is there something inappropriate in trying to sell services for a company that I’m convinced is seriously (though legally) ripping people off?

These questions all need to be addressed, but in addressing them all we must remember the enemy. The world is the devil’s kingdom. Let us not get drawn in, but draw our swords and fight to stand for the kingdom of God instead.

Hate the World, Or Burn with It