The Shack: A rickety Emerging Church construct concealed in a stirring story of spiritual discovery

God

Have you ever had someone portray you as something you’re not? I have. I don’t like it. At all. I wonder how God feels about being misrepresented in The Shack? Probably not good.

Emotion and identification are powerful components of good fiction. William P. Young uses both effectively to craft a readable and powerful yarn that’s inspiring to many, confusing to others, and disheartening to me.

And now comes the movie version and another round of fresh emotions. Thanks, Hollywood.

What does The Shack have to do with the emerging church? Everything.

But first, what IS the emerging church? It’s a movement started by disaffected evangelical Christians who initially sought to make church more relevant in our postmodern age. In doing so, like Young with The Shack, they recreated a god, Christ-figure and spirit they can live with.

Young’s god in The Shack is a portly African-American woman named Papa who is warm, loving and accommodating in contrast with the cold, distant and demanding deity Young claims is the God of the Protestant Bible.

In a 2013 interview, Young said this:

“I’m a missionary kid and a preacher’s kid—evangelical, fundamental Protestant … You know, that’s about as distant from relationship with God as you can get. And it’s always been you know, religion that has been the primary impediment to actual relationship with God, because it creates a mythology about performance—that you can perform your way into the appeasement of the deity.”

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Not to invalidate Young’s personal experience,

But don’t fundamental Protestants believe the Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches that there is nothing anyone can do to appease God? Hence the necessity of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross? If Jesus’ life and death removes “the impediment to actual relationship with God,” what does Young mean by a “mythology” about performance?

What I think Young means is this:

Many emerging church adherents believe that evangelical Christianity’s teaching about sin and our response to it in light of Christ’s sacrifice is a performance-based appeasement strategy. This is because they believe God is only love, like Papa, and does not require a response to Christ’s atoning death.

And because emerging churchers do not consider the Bible reliable, they can dismiss its teachings that God is a holy and sometimes angry God. Just as they dismiss the existence of Hell and believe that God will forgive all, no matter their lifelong rejection of him. In the end, you see, love wins. And justice loses.

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Lost in translation?

There are no examples of performance-based mythologies in the Protestant Bible. It has always been about Grace. But many in or sympathetic to the emerging church say they never felt like they fit in with evangelical churches. Or they decry evangelical pastors’ preaching about heaven and hell and the response to each for the Christian.

Perhaps they refer to Jesus’ Gospel teachings like this one in John 3:36 as a performance-based myth: “He who believes the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Ah. So perhaps this is the hang-up: People like Young have a problem with Protestant beliefs that call for obedience—or using their translation—performance. Can you imagine Young’s Jesus in The Shack uttering such absolute and intolerant words?

God’s word?

Young, like other adherents of his belief system, reject or affirm Jesus’ words based on what they choose to believe about him. When many in the emerging church do not believe the Bible is God’s word and cherry-pick it to build their construct, anything and everything is on or off the table.

In depicting God as a black woman, the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman and Jesus as a Jewish carpenter—all of which are all love all the time—Young covers many progressive bases—feminism and the anti-paternal God, universalism and the humanization of Christ.

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Papa is no Aslan

Some will point out Young’s Papa is merely an allegorical device as, they say, is C.S. Lewis’ Aslan. This comparison is faulty for two reasons: Lewis’ Narnia is allegory, and Aslan is an alternate-world Christ-like figure; Young’s The Shack is didactic (meant to teach) and his Papa and Sarayu are depictions of God and the Holy Spirit, not allegorical devices.

For a better discussion of the differences between Papa and Aslan, feel free to read Tim Challies’ Why Papa of The Shack Is not Aslan of Narnia.

For an accurate description of Aslan, I leave it to the characters of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia:

“Is—is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

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Young’s Trinity is a triad of his own creation

Granted, many will find encouragement in a safe, passive Papa, a mousy and mysterious Sarayu and a bumbling, comical Jesus. I know that some feel burned by fellow sinners and pastors of traditional American Protestant churches, and I realize that The Shack is a balm to many.

I recently exchanged emails with my former pastor who thinks the movie version of The Shack can spiritually help “millions of people.” I certainly hope not. If helping millions requires misrepresenting God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus, please William P. Young and those behind The Shack film, don’t help us.

Stripping God and the other members of the Trinity of their purity and holiness and “dangerousness” while denigrating and dismissing the beauty and sufficiency of the Gospel and Christ’s atonement, as The Shack does, is no help at all.

This will help grow the emerging church; and it will help grow Young’s and the movie makers’ bank accounts. But it won’t help grow genuine faith in a loving, holy and just God.

The Shack distracts and confuses people from seeing God as he is, and seeks to depict him as Young and others want him to be. This is a shame and a sham. It’s also a foolish misrepresentation.

Give me a dangerous Warrior-God who’s also the ultimate loving father over a passive Papa any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Subjective truth: It’s a lead balloon and the tie that binds progressives in religion AND politics.

truth

While watching Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s Senate hearing, it hit me like a bolt out of the blue—our BIG issue as a nation is not Russian election meddling or LGBTQ rights—it’s our embrace of subjective truth.

I watched a senator say our Constitution is a living, breathing document that should adapt to the times. As if the principles of American liberty require adjustment because things have changed so much in a mere 229 years.

Does the senator truly believe we should reinterpret meaning in a static document simply because it’s more to her liking? And more to the liking of people who pretend that the truths woven into the Constitution are somehow less true with the passage of time?

The notion that truth is subjective is an absolute non-starter—and it’s faulty thinking.

If truth doesn’t exist, then it would be true that truth doesn’t exist, and once again we arrive at truth. ~Nabeel Qureshi 

Truth is, we all operate in a world of absolute truth, and we all affirm its supremacy a thousand times a day whether we realize it or not.

During the same hearing, another senator described the type of Supreme Court justice American needs right now.

It went something like this:

America needs a Supreme Court justice who will look out for the downtrodden. One who will protect our children and keep the rich from taking advantage of the poor.

Excuse me, senator, protecting our children and the poor is your job, not a Supreme Court justice’s. You draft and vote on laws; our justices make sure those laws are Constitutional. This is how our democracy works.

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Progressive beliefs, regressive truth

Similarly, the progressive wing of the emerging church believes that the Bible is not Scripture because, as a “library of books,” it was written by men whose prejudices and viewpoints make it unreliable as a guide for Christian living.

Question: If the Bible is a library of books, who’s the managing editor?

But rather than reject all Scripture, emerging church leaders cherry-pick Bible truths they can live with it. Like the uber-easily digestible maxim that God is love. But to them, God is only love. He doesn’t ask anything of them in terms of obedience or justice or sharing truth, no matter how unpopular.

To these spiritual progressives, we all have carte blanche to live for others without structure and without guidance other than what we feel is right. This eliminates personal responsibility and accountability.

Is not spiritual life without the truth of Scripture like self-governance without a timeless Constitution?

When either incompatible state is taken to its logical conclusion, the result is anarchy.

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If there is no objective truth, how can we know the Constitution OR the Bible is reliable?

In the minds of progressives—in culture, government and religion—truth is purely subjective. Except when it comes to bolstering an agenda; then helpful truths quickly become absolute.

Like these convenient truths:

All men are created equal. This truth actually means that everyone is created with equal worth to the Creator. It has been subverted to mean that everyone IS equal and thus should be given every opportunity to act upon this equality through denigrating measures such as affirmative action.

God is love. According to Scripture, love is only one of God’s attributes. The Bible also says God is holy and just and righteous and pure. These characteristics, if true, call for accountability and responsibility—just as our Constitution calls for rule of law based on self-evident truths.

When progressives disregard the Constitution’s or Scripture’s authority, there is no rule of law—civically or spiritually.

Care for the poor. This is where progressives in religion and politics coalesce and differ most strongly with evangelicals and conservatives. But it’s not a question of if we should help the poor; it’s how.

Progressives think the federal government is best suited to help the poor. Conservatives think state and local government and religious groups and churches are best suited to help the poor.

I receive care from the federal government—the Veteran’s Administration. Trust me, the federal government is a ponderous, inefficient caregiver; it’s far from ideal. Local volunteers and people on the ground who can help poor people help themselves are much better suited to make a real, lasting difference.

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When we leave caring for the poor to the federal government, we wash our hands of them.

The poor become enslaved to a system that crushes their spirits and keeps them dependent.

If political progressives think we should give people what they need without encouraging them to give themselves what they need, they do not understand human nature. If religious progressives think the Creator is all love and is not holy and pure and just and that the Bible is not reliable, they do not understand God’s nature or human nature.

Because our topic is subjective truth and its effect on the rule of law and the reliability of Scripture, allow me to offer these concluding arguments:

But first an observation:

I’ve never seen such a starkly obvious difference between those who rely upon Constitutional and Scriptural authority for governance and interacting with God and others and those who seek to create their own framework for the same. This self-created framework is based on feeling rather than thinking, emotion rather than cognition.

Today’s progressives in the political and religious arenas seem to have forgotten this objective truth: What feels right is not always what is or ought to be right.

Subjective truth is by its nature not true. If a tree falls in a forest, it’s irrelevant whether anyone is there to hear its crash. And no, God cannot create a rock that even he can’t move. The size and weight of the rock is irrelevant. If he can make it, he can move it.

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Subjective truth is the pig that doesn’t fly.

It’s a sideshow clown who distracts and pleases childish minds with colorful balloon dogs. It’s a non-entity that binds the minds of many.

And sadly, its effect is on full display in our Senate chambers as we seek to confirm a Supreme Court justice whose job is to ignore subjective non-truths in favor of the rich tapestry of truth and human dignity found in our Constitution.

My message to Congress and my fellow politically- and/or spiritually-minded Americans is this:

Let go of the lead balloon of subjective nonsense and soar on the wings of truth. It will truly set you free.

Looking for Clover: Our pursuit of Paradise in a wonky world—Death is not the end. It’s the beginning.

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Is this life all there is? Is there a resurrection? Or are we here to muddle around as best we can and hope and strive for a good life?

What does clover have to do with life and death? Consider clover a metaphor for significance, for purpose—for whatever it is that you think makes life worth living. Is it life for life’s sake? Carpe diem?

Carpe diem. Living life to the lees.

Seems inspiring, but the problem with this philosophy is that it’s absolutely unsustainable. We grow older, we get sick, we fight cancer or heart disease or a myriad of other ailments. It’s hard to seize the day when your arthritic fingers can barely seize the remote.

Life to the lees? Many can barely choke down their plastic cup of meds and juice.

Is this hopeful? YES!

Do you know that we’re made in God’s image and that he’s eternal? Do you realize what that makes us? God loves you and me and everyone reading these words with an EVERLASTING love. How would he love us everlastingly when we no longer exist? In memory?

“Today you will be with me in Paradise,” said Jesus to the penitent thief. He loved the man dearly and promised him eternal life with him and with God. He didn’t lie to him or offer some mild encouragement in the face of death.

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Heaven is the original Paradise. And one that can never be compromised by what some spiritual leaders call the “messiness” of our lives. It’s the real clover—the dazzling green and fresh stuff. And it’s well worth dying for.

Do you know that death is only a perishing of our broken bodies? When they dig that hole in the ground, it’s for our flimsy shells—it’s not for us. We won’t be there. Burial is for the living, not for the dead. They need it.

We need it like we need a hole in the ground.

I appreciate the exhortations to slow down and live. But these words make me wonder if people who write them know WHAT to live for. Our momentary lives are like hairs on a never-ending highway. Poof! Like a vapor—they’re over.

But real life is forever. Death is merely a portal to a richer, much more significant, ETERNAL life.

C.S. Lewis describes Heaven as a wondrous place where everything is deeper and brighter and more substantial. His words make this world seem like pale reflections of the greater world. The real deal.

God loves us infinitely more deeply than we can love each other and this momentary life. Do you know this?

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Here’s what encourages me.

These words were written by a man who talked with Jesus. I don’t mean talked in the form of prayer—I mean, he TALKED with Christ. And when he faced a sure and painful death, Paul wrote these words:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed … then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

Now, that’s encouragement.

Looking for Clover: Our pursuit of Paradise in a wonky world—What is LOVE?

Love is a crock. I mean this in the way it’s defined in Western culture. You know what I mean. I’m talking about the sappy-sweet you-complete-me romantic sentiment that powers a billion-dollar Hollywood industry.

The longing for romantic love is a siren call of lofty proportions and a losing proposition. My wife does not complete me. I’m not half of a half-baked pink heart puzzle. And neither are you. One thing’s for sure though:

Love is a supercharged emotion. And one sure-fire attractive clover.

What does clover have to do with love? Consider clover a metaphor for happiness, fulfillment, significance, love—whatever it is that you long for that you think will make you happy. It’s something that if only you can grasp and make it yours, you’ll have found paradise.

Love is a form of clover we all look for. And if and when we find it, as hard as that seems to be, often the finding is a whole lot easier than the keeping. And finding it is only the beginning—love must be cultivated. If untended, it will grow cold and brittle.

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Love means never having to say you’re sorry. What the? Real love—not temporal infatuation or “true love” or romantic love—means always having to say you’re sorry. Love requires a humbling.

The greatest love—the kind that dies to self and cares for others—is the rare one. As rare as it gets.

The Four Loves

C.S. Lewis, in his The Four Loves, lays it out quite well. I’ve listed the English word, followed by the original Greek word in italics, and then a brief description of the four loves as follows:

Affection, Storge—love that grows from familiarity, like between family members and people who find themselves together by chance.

Friendship, Phileo—the strong bond that’s built between those who share a common interest or activity.

Romantic, Eros—no need to elaborate here, but rest assured, I will do so below.

Charity, Agape—the kind of love that perseveres regardless of circumstances. It’s the giving, sacrificial, often painful love. If we love this way, it’s because we’ve found a true clover.

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Loving supernaturally

Lewis considers charity or Agape (pronounced äˈɡäˌpā) love as the greatest love and describes the others as natural loves that are subordinate to it. He writes that God is the ultimate charitable lover. Does this mean that charity is a supernatural love? I think so.

How many times have I loved someone and showed my love by giving my time and tears without selfish motives? I can count them on one hand. Imagine a God who loves charitably every day, every minute of the day. His ability to love is as far beyond ours as he is beyond us.

And God loves lavishly. He lays everything on the line. For us, this higher love is unnatural. It goes against our broken nature. God loves us in spite of ourselves. And when we love someone God’s way, with Agape love, we give our all and expect nothing. We take big chances and are willing to suffer loss.

Affection and friendship are relatively safe loves. Romantic love, Eros, is dangerous because it’s a taking, selfish love. Romantic love is conditional and is ripped away when needs go unmet. This kind of love can be brutal and harmful because it’s overrated and misunderstood.

What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more. ~Haddaway

Romantic love

We misunderstand love because we’ve elevated precisely the wrong kind. How many rom-coms do we watch and quote dialogue from and base our dreams of romantic love upon? What of our songs? In my view, we’ve made romantic love, which is a lesser love, the greatest.

So, with that in mind, allow me to spurn the clover of romantic love and favor the others, especially charity, which I will refer hereafter as Agape, so as not confuse it with our perception of modern charity. I’m confident that affection and friendship need no defense, but in our culture, the selfless love—Agape—has been kicked to the curb.

If Agape love is rare and precious, the clover of romantic love is common and cheap. I don’t mean that loving another romantically is cheap. Come on, I’m married—I’m not about to put that live grenade in my pants.

In my view, romantic love, which often lacks commitment, is just barely above attraction and way below Agape. What I’m saying is that the search for the clover of romantic love is a wild goose chase compared to the real stuff. Love that lasts, selfless Agape, is the highest and best love.

I wish I’d read about the four loves long ago. Like when I was four. It would’ve saved me a lot of trouble. Love is an attractive clover—it can make you do and say some dumb stuff.

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Dumb love

My friend, I’ll call him Seth, claims that when it comes to (romantic) love, no woman is safe from his advances until she has said, “I do”—to another man. Seth is ultra-secretive about girls he’s into. He goes to great lengths to keep everything hush-hush. Which is funny because the girls he’s into almost always live out-of-state, even out of country. Dude, why so secretive?

Seth dates online and has been interested in girls in Canada or somewhere far away. You’d think the distance would make him feel safe enough to share his love life with his friends. Maybe he’s afraid the single ones will use his all’s-fair-in-love-and-war philosophy against him.

Seth rails against people who prefer courting. He thinks modern dating is the way to go. A mutual friend—Seth’s roommate—blames Seth’s kooky love ideas on the fact that he was home-schooled. Maybe, but I kinda think his being a minister’s kid has something to do with it, too.

Dating: The case for courting

Dating is not all it’s cracked up to be. Same for romantic love. I experienced enough of both to realize this: Dating is one pressure-packed, heart-wringing butt kicker. It’s like a promising land-mined field of clover one must navigate carefully in order to avoid blowing oneself and a love interest to smithereens.

Courting is different. I never courted, but rather wish I had. But then, I may have married young and dumb and would be sitting down to dinner tonight with eight bonnet-wearing, suspender-clad children—crops tended, fields filled with clover and horses stamping the field. Stereotype? Of course, it’s fun.

I’m glad I didn’t court, but not because I don’t believe in it. Relying on the boundaries of courting is an effective way to build genuine love based on sharing personalities, joys and values rather than bodily fluids.

And besides, had I courted young, I would’ve missed out on my wonderful wife and our little family of two dogs. Not looking for that clover anymore—I found the real thing. Suckah! Just tipped my hat to romantic love.

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Dating disaster

I don’t write this to denigrate dating, per se—my real target is the romantic love myth. Dating is merely a component. I know that one can find love by dating, but it’s a risky business.

My first date was a disaster. When I was a high school sophomore, I invited a girl I didn’t even know to get ice cream after school. I arrived at her place in my first car, a 1968 Mustang—candy-apple red, black leather interior, chrome mags and white-letter tires.

Up until the moment we drove away, I’d thought my aging Mustang was the coolest, tightest machine ever. By the time I dropped her off, my beloved pony seemed like a squeaky, lurching pile of junk. The whole experience was nerve racking—like a wreck.

Makes me wonder if my car was as embarrassed as I was. Like if it could, it would have said, what’s gotten into you, boy? We don’t need HER. Turn the radio back on and crank it—you’ll forget about my squeaks, if you don’t hear ’em. Let’s roll.

I have a high school friend who rode the exciting dating wave all the way to bed and then to the altar. He got to know his wife after building a relationship on the false intimacy of sex. Two kids and numerous legal battles later, they divorced.

I’m not saying that dating is a false clover love-hunt. It’s a crapshoot. I mean, let’s face it—on a date, everyone’s on the their best behavior. And real intimacy is developed by a whole lot more than sex.

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Love is not Paradise

Our problem is not love. It’s with our fallacy about love—that finding it is the key to happiness. In truth, it’s a seductive clover hunt that rarely leads to happiness. Here’s why:

No one can make you happy. And looking for someone to make you happy is selfish. It isn’t love—it’s loss. It’s not paradise—it’s parasitic.

If you want someone to make you happy, you have to take it out of him or her. And they out of you. So there it is—two people trying to squeeze happiness out of each other. Or worse, one emptying oneself for an emotionally grasping other.

At least in the case of two love-suckers, each will eventually realize they’re not getting what they think will make them happy, so one or both ends the relationship and moves on. But when one gives while the other takes, it can be a long sad sucky story.

“You are the answer to every prayer I’ve offered. You are a song, a dream, a whisper, and I don’t know how I could have lived without you for as long as I have.” ~ Nicholas Sparks

Spoiler alert

Here’s a spoiler: There is no such thing as a soul mate. How do I know this?

Well, for starters, there’s no ONE person in this world who’s ideally suited for you or for me. On a planet of nearly 7.5 billion souls, there are at least thousands who would be a good match for either of us.

Do you realize how arrogant I would be to think that only one person among billions could be my perfect match, my soul mate? As if my needs in a mate are that incredibly unique. Even eHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren can’t really believe this tripe.

Another reason soul mates don’t exist is because the maker of your soul is not nearly as interested in mating your soul to another as he is in you loving him back. God is not a heavenly matchmaker. He’s not Chuck Woolery looking to make a love connection for you and some other sucker.

That’s not to say that God isn’t interested in gifting you with a well-suited mate. Or that your husband or wife isn’t crazy wonderful. Don’t mistake me for a sourpuss soul mate scoffer. I love my marriage and my wife, and I love our love. But we’re not soul mates. No one is. It’s a rom-com myth.

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Love is bigger than us

Do you see how our perception of love makes love seem small? We think love is meant to be found, to be enjoyed for what it gives us. For how it makes us happy. That makes love a what-can-you-do-for-me proposition.

When we long for a soul mate, we elevate our need for love for and from another person above God’s love for us and his desire for us to love him back. The romantic love mythicized in movies, music and any other form of culture is fool’s clover. It’s not about us … with us. It never has been.

God is all about making a love connection with us. He loves you infinitely more deeply and completely than some schmuck like you or me. He wants you to love him back. If you do, maybe he’ll give you someone to love. But don’t settle.

After all, why would you settle for the gift when you can have the giver? We settle for less all the time—to our loss and God’s pain.

God’s love is the real deal and is free. A relationship with him, however, cost him infinitely more than we could ever pay—the death of his beloved son. This is how much he loves you:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16

What will you do with this kind of love?

The greatest love is not a form of clover. Nor is it found in a person. It’s found in the one who created love because he is love. God is the ultimate lover and you are his love interest. He—not Tom Cruise or Renee Zellweger—can complete you.

Trump is not the devil. And God is not a clockmaker. (REVISED)

Used with permission from Lalo Alcaraz

Resistance. I’ve been called to resist posting about politics. By my wife. By my peaceful nature. But today, I was called to resist—wrongly. And by people I love and respect, but who, I believe, have lost perspective on what warrants worthy resistance.

They’ve done so for worthy reasons—sympathy for refugees, respect for women, a desire for the elimination of racism and reaction to the oft-misused-now-talking-point-words like hate, bigotry, intolerance, ad nauseam.

My friends have tolerated the ridiculous and insulting comparisons to Hitler and fascism—ridiculous when examined in light of historical perspective and insulting to reason, logic and intelligence— and, most egregiously—to victims of the holocaust, genocide and real racism.

Dump Trump

Donald Trump is a flawed person and president. So was Barack Obama, FDR, John Kennedy—and yes, even Ronald Reagan. Trump is a short-fingered vulgarian—a cleverly concocted cut-down by Graydon Carter, the long-tenured editor of Vanity Fair. He’s thin-skinned and vindictive, which means he’s insecure and petty. Trump is also charismatic (in person only, I believe), persuasive, pugnacious, clever and patriotic.

I wish the Russians would disable his Twitter account—permanently. And his reliance on the shadowy Steve Bannon, who reminds me of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s ruthless spymaster, troubles me.

Is Bannon to Trump as Vader is to Emperor Palpatine? Or is it the other way around? Hard to tell with these two. And Trump’s shrill press secretary, Sean Spicer, doesn’t impress me.

Not a Trumpling

I, like many other citizens, never thought it would come to this. A billionaire, misogynistic, orange-yellow, cotton-candy-haired former (former?) reality TV star is now the most powerful man on the planet. Oops.

I’m not a Trumpling. He doesn’t inspire me like Reagan did. He doesn’t carry himself with dignity like Obama. I wish Huckabee or Bush or Rubio were president. Not Hillary. Never Hillary. If she had won, I would’ve avoided watching her or reading about her or thinking about her and would’ve cringed every time I heard Madam President or President Clinton uttered.

But I would not have resisted her authority … UNLESS. If her actions prompted a choice between submission to government or obedience to God, then I would resist. As I will do, if Trump’s actions prompt the same choice.

Divinely appointed

I have qualified my resistance to Trump’s authority because, ultimately, it has not been granted solely by Congress nor by the constitution nor by any other founding document nor by the American people—but by Almighty God.

Let me explain. Or better yet, let the Apostle Paul explain. In his—and God’s—own words:

Romans 13:1-7

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

As a Christian and a believer of Jesus Christ, I trust that the words of the Bible are true and reliable. And, here’s the kicker, that they reflect God’s sovereign will. Essentially, they are his words, written by men he appointed in order to make his will known. If God is truly God—all-powerful, pure and good—he is intimately involved with the affairs of this world.

Bigly questions

Trump is a chump. Not because he’s easily deceived, but because he’s a foolish man. But he’s not evil. He’s a sinner—like me, like you. Here are some “bigly” questions that emerge from the Romans passage above as it relates to Trump:

Did God make him president? We know that God doesn’t vote; did he influence voters to vote for Trump? Rather than influence voters, did God create and manipulate circumstances to cause voters to elect Trump?

Does God care about elections? If he does, did he want Hillary elected and is now wringing his hands? Is God above politics and merely uses presidents to work his will? How does free will fit in?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I do know this—God is in complete control of everything. He’s an active, loving, holy, all-powerful, omniscient God with an agenda that trumps (pun, not cared about) all others.

I think God allowed/facilitated Trump’s win because more people in critical electoral states voted for him than voted for Hillary. More voters exercised free will to vote for Trump in states that mattered most.

Two options, both bad

Did God influence voters to vote their consciences? He did me. I faced two disagreeable options:

One, a career political criminal who strikes me as an arrogant, condescending power-tripper and serial liar and who embraces ideology that I cannot stomach and with which I disagree utterly.

The other, an arrogant, buffoonish, sexist creep who is thin-skinned, petty and a political neophyte, but who embraces ideology that, in some ways, I agree with. Such as, but not comprehensively:

Smaller, less-intrusive government, reduced taxes and regulation, pro-life, pro-law and order, pro-business, pro-truth concerning hot issues regarding gender, morality, education and the environment.

In short, I voted for a platform, not for a person. And I voted my conscience. So, there.

Image by permission of Greg Olsen, https://www.gregolsen.com/

The clockmaker maker

I know, I have yet to offer any opinions regarding my questions about God’s role in the election. I can offer this—my opinions will not be satisfactory—to me or to others. Allow me to offer what I KNOW about God:

He made the universe and has a hand in everything. God is pure and good. If her were not pure and good, but merely all-powerful, if he were the clockmaker God; his interest in creation would begin and end with construction and maintenance. We would be as cogs for his machine. Or worse, playthings for his pleasure.

God’s character is one of pure goodness, which means that he cares about people, nations and leaders, about every aspect of creation. God is active, not passive. He’s not a clockmaker—he’s a clockmaker maker.

Free will and free grace

God allows us to exercise that which makes us in his image: Free will. And he gives us insight to parse candidates’ words and to form opinions on critical issues—insights based in truth and goodness and rightness.

God cares about elections because he cares for his children. If you’re a Christian, you are his child, and he loves you dearly. If you aren’t his child, you can be—God has made a way to forgive your sin and to adopt you. He loves you so much that he sent his son to die for you.

We all have a sin problem. So does Trump. So does Hillary. Our sin separates us from a holy God. But God’s grace and Jesus’ sinless life and death bridges the gap. All you need do is come to him in repentance and be forgiven and adopted.

Fear God, not Trump

At this juncture, I cannot, in good conscience, resist President Trump. Not because I wouldn’t want to, but because I want to obey God more than I want to give in to fear or outrage over immigration bans or so-called hate speech or perceived intolerance.

Donald Trump is our president and authority. And if Hillary Clinton had won the election, she would be our president and our authority. Until he abuses his power and/or his actions warrant resistance, I’ll submit to God-given authority.

James 4:7

 

 

 

 

 

Resistance is not futile

Meanwhile, if you want to resist someone, resist the devil. If you want to fight Trump’s policies, do so respectfully—don’t misuse words like hate, bigot and racist. Pray for him. Pray that God draws Trump to himself, and that he becomes a new creation and God’s redeemed child, and that he listens to God’s leading while leading us.

Resistance against authority, when unwarranted, is for pagans. Now if Trump orders the killing of civilians or the internment of muslims or something somehow more evil than a temporary travel ban, then, yes, let’s resist. I’ll lead the charge. If he forces me to choose between civil obedience and spiritual disobedience, it’s on.

But until then, submit to God by submitting to the one he placed in the presidency. Don’t give in to the fear mongers and fascism flingers of the world. God is our ultimate commander-in-chief, and he knows what he’s doing.

If this article stimulates, annoys and/or encourages you, please tell me how and why below. I value your feedback.

Tripping over Time: Why it’s inscrutable

time

I’m utterly fascinated by time. Specifically, its passage and how difficult, no, impossible, it is to comprehend. I think about time a lot. Time is a simple, linear, straightforward concept that trips me up every time.

Are you comfortable with it? Try this: stare at an atomic clock for three minutes. You’ll see that there’s nothing out of the ordinary about the tick-tock passage of time. But think about getting through the first week of a new job or waiting in a doctor’s office or for the first day of school. Time slows WAY down.

C.S. Lewis on time:

“The Future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”

time
C.S. Lewis

Lewis wrote of our inability to grasp time in his Reflections on the Psalms: “We are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. ‘How he’s grown!’ we exclaim, ‘How time flies!’ as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal.”

We struggle to grasp time passage because we weren’t created for it. It’s linear and limited; we’re fashioned for forever. We’re trapped in its constraints just as we’re trapped in our fragile bodies.

We know that time passes at the same rate regardless of how we spend it. But IT NEVER STOPS. We’ve all heard the expression, “Time marches on.” What a sobering thought. Sometimes it seems as if you can slow time to a wonderfully comfortable pace while at the beach at 10 a.m. on a weekday with only a few lifeguards, some hopeful seagulls, the bubbling surf and a good book.

It’s about perspective

I arrived at Navy boot camp on a balmy Florida night around midnight. They processed us, formed us into companies, assigned us “racks” (Navy-speak for bunks), had us fill out tons of paperwork and then finally, two hours later, led us to a sleepy barracks.

I climbed into my rack thinking how incredibly long the day had seemed. Up at 5 a.m., waiting in the processing station, then at the airport, flying to Orlando, riding a shuttle to boot camp … you’d think with all the activity it would have flown by. Not so. Everything was new. And I’d just been baptized in the Navy way—“hurry up and wait.”

time
pj in boot camp, November 1986

I fell asleep and what seemed like five minutes later some crazy man was banging a trash can, calling us names and yelling for us to get up. I blearily looked at my watch—4 a.m.—only two hours after I’d lain down. Two hours had felt like five minutes.

See what I mean? It was like the clock slowed and then sped up. Like in the movies when they make the hands spin.

Ever catch yourself trying to slow a wonderful moment? At that special, “timeless,” instant, you realize how much you’re enjoying life and how quickly the moment morphs into a memory. Oops—there it goes. Better take pictures.

Spaghetti monster

I worked at an advertising agency with a guy who was a bit of a Bohemian. I’ll call him John. John grew up as a hippie with hippie parents; he wore the same clothes to work each day and claimed that God is a spaghetti monster in the sky. And he made fun of people who think God is not a spaghetti monster in the sky.

John was for legalizing marijuana (and drugs in general) polygamy and other illegal activities. He was for whatever people want to do “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.” He lived for the day. No rules. No worries.

I’m not saying John’s philosophy is ALL wrong. I think he’s half right. There’s something incredibly freeing about taking each day as it comes and living in the moment. But when one lives in the moment with little thought for others or for the future, does he truly live a life worth living?

Carpe diem

Another guy, I’ll call him Harry, loved to get John to talk about God as the spaghetti monster in the sky. I think Harry longed to live like a Bohemian, but didn’t have the guts. He was more like George Costanza. He lived vicariously through John (but only when it was safe to do so).

What do John and Harry have to do with anything? This: Seizing each day and living in the moment is the way to go, but, it seems to me, only if it’s a lived with forever in mind. It took me a long time to get this. But I think, in the end, everyone does. Even the atheists.

If you trip over time, too, and/or enjoy this article, please let me know. I want to hear from you.