The Bible says that all things work together for the good for them that love God, the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). So how is the Trump presidency and the current political and social climate working for the good of those that love God? After some introspection, here are my thoughts:
1. The exposure of religious hypocrisy: No matter how one may claim to represent God, acting in a manner that is contrary to the nature and will of God indicates you really don’t believe in the God you claim to represent. The actions of the Trump administration and the climate it fosters forces the church in America to decide, in the sight of God and the rest of the world, if it is going to truly be like Jesus or be like the Scribes and Pharisees! If a church or faith group endorses or is silent toward the racist, hateful, and inhumane actions that are currently being perpetrated and encouraged by the present administration, then they prove themselves, for all rational thinking people to see, NOT to be the real church or the real representatives of the God of the Bible! Now actually, this is a good thing, because now we have the opportunity to know who is really real and for all hypocrites to be exposed for the hypocrites they have always been!
2. The exposure of political hypocrisy: Now we see who are statesmen and who are politicians! A statesman does what he or she thinks is good and right for the country; a politician only does what serves his or her self-interests and the interests of the people who financed their campaign. A statesmen puts the good of the country before the pride and ego of political parties. The politician will defend his or her party to death; even if their position is wrong and evil! The statesmen’s politics is influenced and tempered by their morality; the politician bends and manipulates their morality to fit their politics!
3. The exposure of social hypocrisy: After all these years; race is still the number one social issue in America! Why? Because America refuses to acknowledge her historical hypocrisy! America refuses to acknowledge that much of her greatness was achieved unfairly with unpaid slave labor! America refuses to acknowledge that she has historically manipulated belief in the God she claims to trust to justify her social and political evils! Racism is WRONG! And any social, political, or religious system that supports it is WRONG!
If you are uncomfortable with the way things are in America today; that’s good, because you should be! But don’t ever think for a second that Donald Trump is to bear all of the blame! No! The biases and racist filth that have risen to the surface since the Trump campaign and presidency were there all the time; Donald Trump just created a climate wherein they can be more easily seen, recognized and expressed! So in a sense, the Trump mantra of “Make America Great Again” presents America with the opportunity to shed the hypocrisy, because in the true moral and social sense; America has never been great for all Americans! But now, since everything is so blatant and obvious; we have the opportunity to work together to truly make America great. . . for the very first time!
I feel compelled to write this because there is so much misunderstanding and confusion today about Christians and Christianity. There are those who think Christianity was an invention of White people as a means to use religion to control Black people! There are those who think Christianity is the religious or moral authority of the Republican Party or the conservative right.
In thinking about that, I am reminded of something Jesus said in response to his disciples’ inquiry about the end of the age. We read in Matthew 24:3-8: “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?’ And Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers (various) places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” When Jesus said that many would come in his name, saying “I am Christ” he wasn’t necessarily saying that people would come saying that they were literally him, returning in the flesh (although he does not eliminate that possibility and some have even done it), rather many would come in his name, supposedly representing him, saying that they are anointed; they are his, they are Christian! Jesus said that they would deceive many.
Is that not what is happening today? People are deceived and confused so much that many don’t know what ‘real Christianity’ is! Well, let me try to add my two cents to the discussion. First of all, in response to the Black nationalists and other Afro-centric groups who are flooding Facebook with propaganda that Christianity is the tool of White people to control Black people. Such thinking is absurd because it belies historical facts. Even before Christianity, Africa was well familiar with the worship of Yahweh from the days of King Solomon. And according to the Book of Acts, Christianity was introduced to the African continent in Chapter 8, years before it was introduced to the European continent in Chapter 16! So, what probably happenrd was that when the White missionaries went to Africa, they didn’t really introduce Christianity to the Africans, but actually reminded them of the faith they once had and had lost! In addition to that, the same religion that some claim was invented by the White man to control Black people was used by Black people to inspire and empower them to fight for freedom and liberation! And, even further, their point would have some semblance of validity were it not for the fact that there are White people who are Christians and there are Christians all over the world! Christianity was not ‘made in America!’
In response to those who think Christianity is mainly the moral authority of the Republican Party or political conservatism; God is NOT a Republican, neither is God a Democrat! In thinking about that, I am reminded of an incident I read about in the biblical book of Joshua. In Joshua 5:13-15, we read: “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, ‘Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, ‘What saith my lord unto his servant?’ And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, ‘Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” (KJV) Here’s the setting: Joshua was about to fight the battle of Jericho and as he is contemplating about the battle the night before, this mysterious stranger appears. The stranger has such an awesome appearance that Joshua reasoned that whoever’s side this guy is on, they are bound to win! So Joshua asked him: “Whose side are you on; which side are you going to fight for; us or our enemies?” The stranger said, in essence: “I didn’t come to take sides, I came to take over!” And that’s what God is all about! God is not for the Republicans as opposed to the Democrats! God does not stoop so low as to get involved with petty political in-fighting! The only government God promotes is the Kingdom of God! No! God is NOT endorsing the Republican agenda or the Democratic agenda! God doesn’t want to take sides; God wants to take over!
In that same vein of thinking, God is not even an American! There are many American Christians who like to think God is pro-America as opposed to all other nations. But the Bible says: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD. . .” It doesn’t matter how much we sing: “God bless America,” America will only be blessed as she adheres to the principles and teachings of God’s word. America will only be blessed as she promotes justice and equality for all of her citizens. America will only be blessed as she seeks to live out the true meaning of her creed.
So, in essence, real Christianity is NOT tied to nationalistic devotion, nor is it wedded to the American flag or national anthem. Real Christianity supersedes race, ethnicity, or political affiliation. Real Christianity dictates behavior and allegiance instead of being dictated by behavior and allegiance. Real Christianity is more about respecting people, justice, and equality than about respecting a flag or an anthem!
I mentioned that last statement because I recently viewed a video clip of a supposedly Christian preacher who was berating athletes for kneeling during the national anthem. I found it sad that he refused to acknowledge the truth that the athletes are not protesting the flag or the anthem, but rather are using the flag and anthem to call attention to the systemic racism that pervades the justice system in this nation! He spent his whole preaching moment condemning the protest without even acknowledging the real reasons for the protest! But real Christianity is more concerned about people than flags and anthems! Sadly, in the name of Christianity, many have hi-jacked the conversation about racial equality and justice and turned it into a trivial debate about a flag and a song! That is NOT real Christianity!
This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
(John 21:14-17 ESV)
If most (not necessarily all) Americans who claim to be Christian, were more devoted to actually practicing Christian principles than defending and practicing their cultural heritage, political ideology, or personal interests, most of the current issues plaguing American society such as racial divisions, politics, police brutality, and even gun violence would not exist.
So, the question for every American, who claims to follow Christ, is the same question Jesus posed to Peter: “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15) Do you love God more than your guns? Do you love the Lord more than your cultural heritage or racial identity? Do you love God more than your political party affiliations or platforms?
If the so-called Christians, really loved God the way they say they do, then that love would supersede racial and ethnic differences and Black and White Christians would stand together to protest and eliminate the systemic police brutality and racial injustice that is so prevalent in America today!
The bottom line is this: Unless the confessing Christian’s faith controls his or her politics instead of that Christian allowing politics to taint and distort their faith; any claim to Christian authenticity is suspect at best, if not just simply a farce in reality! Until practice is consistent with statements of faith, those who don’t believe have no credible tangible evidence that the Christian’s faith is actually real!
Our nation is severely divided along racial lines today because many people have confused real Christianity with politics! A real Christian is not the one who is on the political or social Left or Right! The identity of the real Christian is not determined by political affiliations. The real Christian is the one who follows Christ!
My prayer is that all who claim to love the Lord would actually love Him more than their own personal agendas! Then, and only then, will there be healing in the land!
Most have heard the proverbial warning: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” The meaning of the expression is that one should be careful not to throw out or get rid of something good in an attempt to get rid of something bad. But that is exactly what I have been observing lately as I am reading more and more of people who are rejecting Christianity and the church because of the state of the church today.
Now I will admit, there are a lot of things that are amiss in the church today! There are charlatans in the pulpit and all sorts of shenanigans going on in the pew! It seems like there are more ‘profits’ than prophets and there are more pastors and church-people, trusting ‘in God we trust’ than trusting in God! But if you think this a new trend, you are mistaken! There has never been a time when there was nothing amiss in the religious realm! I’ve heard people longingly say that the church today needs to get back to the New Testament Church. Honestly? Have you actually read the Bible? The Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthian letters as a direct response to ‘church-mess!’ Jesus was rejected by the ‘church-leaders’ of his day and those same church leaders convinced a mob-crowd to petition for the freedom of a murderer and condemn Jesus to die on a cross! No! There never was a day when the church was perfect! So, for those people who are going from church to church, looking for the ‘perfect’ church; it doesn’t exist! It never has!
But just because the church or church-people are not perfect, that’s not a legitimate reason to reject what the church represents. Would you stop flying on planes just because some planes crash? Would you stop buying a certain brand of automobile just because some of your friends had a bad experience with the same make and model? In every barrel, there may be some bad apples, but does that mean you should stop eating apples?
There are some African-Americans today who suggest that Christianity is the ‘White man’s religion’ and that it was invented as a tool to control the slaves. They suggest Jesus did not really exist and that he was a fictional character invented as a tool of white supremacy. Seriously? Now, I don’t propose to be an expert historian, but I do know how to count! In the Bible, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles; Chapter 8, there was an Ethiopian official (a Black man) who was visiting Jerusalem to worship. Now, why did this Black man from Ethiopia (Africa) go to Jerusalem to worship? And how did he know about the Hebrew God in Africa? Well, it was probably because his ancestors worshipped Yahweh; the God of the Hebrews, from the time of the Queen of Sheba (a Black sister), who learned about Israel’s God from her visit with King Solomon. By the way, there is a tradition that suggest Solomon gave the Queen of Sheba more than just silver and gold when he gave her “all that she desired,” in 1 Kings 10:13 and 2 Chronicles 9:12. (In case you can’t read between the lines; according to the tradition, the gift he gave her was opened nine months later!) So, this Ethiopian official already knew about the God of Israel, for he was reading from the book of Isaiah when Philip approached him. He was a little confused by what he was reading, so Philip explained to him that the prophecy he was reading was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified and raised from the dead. The Ethiopian believed in Jesus and was baptized! After which, he returned to Ethiopia and no doubt shared with his country the good news about Jesus.
Now, I mentioned this story because it takes place, soon after the Day of Pentecost in Acts 8. Therefore, Christianity was probably introduced to the Africans, who were already familiar with Hebrew religion, at that point. That’s Acts chapter 8. Sometime later, in Acts chapter 16, the Apostle Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia saying; “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” From that vision, Paul determined that it was God’s will for them to go to Macedonia and preach the Gospel. The significance of this is the fact that Macedonia was in Europe. When Paul went to Macedonia, it was the first time and the first place the Gospel was preached in Europe! Are you doing the math? The Africans, who already worshipped Yahweh, got the Gospel in Acts 8! The Europeans didn’t get the Gospel until Acts 16! Therefore, how can it be honestly said that Christianity is the ‘White man’s religion,’ when according to the Bible, the Black Africans heard and accepted Christianity long ‘before’ it was introduced to the White Europeans?
Did the White slave masters and the White church use the Bible and Christianity to justify and perpetuate slavery? There’s no question about it; of course, they did! But the problem wasn’t with the Bible or Christianity! The problem was the White man’s interpretation of the Bible and the distortion of Christianity. The same Bible and Christianity Southern Whites used to justify and preserve slavery; Black preachers and sympathetic abolitionists used to fan the flames of freedom and equality! The difference wasn’t in the Bible or Christianity; the difference was in the use and interpretation!
And that’s the same difference today! You can make the Bible say anything you want it to say, if you don’t follow the proper rules of hermeneutics, exegesis, and plain common sense! So, don’t blame or reject God because of the unauthorized dealers or bad ambassadors who claim to represent Him! If you do that, you’re throwing out the baby with the bath water! The bath water might be dirty, but the baby is alright! Yes! There are pimps in the pulpit and prostitutes in the pews, but the baby is alright! There are preachers for profit; pushing prosperity for their pleasure, but the baby is alright!
As long as there has been a world inhabited by free-thinking, fragile and flawed human beings, there has always been a distortion of the truth. But just because the bath water of distortions, deceit, mistakes, misinterpretations, and malice is dirty, that doesn’t justify throwing the baby (the Truth of who and what God is and His plan for us) out! Pick the baby up, out of the dirty water, and see how beautiful and precious it really is! Please! Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!
In Acts 11:26, the Bible says the disciples or the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” at Antioch. Historical evidence suggest that it was a derogatory term given by unbelievers. Today the term is used to describe anyone who has even a loose association with the teachings and character of Jesus or to describe one who has made an authentic profession of faith. For some, the term “Christian” is merely a political label, used to distinguish those who advocate a certain political agenda. For others, the term is used as a synonym for church membership. For years, I thought all church members were Christians! It wasn’t until I became a church leader that I discovered that was not the case! But, even though all church members are not Christians, all Christians should be church members!
So, the problem today is an age-old one. Many who claim the name “Christian” have caused the name to be dishonored and cursed. There are just so many un-Christ-like Christians! It is because of these un-Christ-like Christians, the name of God, is as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 2:24, blasphemed, or spoken evil of, among unbelievers. I think the real problem many unbelievers have with Christianity is not so much with Christ, as with those who profess to be followers of Christ! By and large, those of us who claim to follow Christ have not been very good representatives of him.
For many people, Christians are considered to be narrow-minded, bigoted, judgmental, and hateful. To those people, I would say: “Please don’t judge the Father by the short-comings of his children!” Real Christians are by no means perfect people, they are just people who have been perfectly forgiven! And often, they forget that just as they have been forgiven, they have been commanded to forgive others. A real Christian is a works in progress; unfinished, still in the growing process.
But what is the difference between a real Christian who is a work in progress and a person who is not a Christian at all, but just is merely claiming the title? Well, for the real Christian, there was a definite point in time when their lives were transformed by the power of God. At some point in time, God transformed their lives and His Spirit took residence in their hearts. At that point they were “born again” and the growth to spiritual maturity began. The person who is merely trying to act like a Christian has not had this experience.
But my purpose is not to discuss the differences between those who are Christians and those who are not. What I want to point out is some of the un-Christ-like attitudes and actions that even genuine Christians might from time to time perform. For instance, there has been so much talk since the death of Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Baptist Church in Lithonia, GA. Many so-called Christians have used the occasion of his death to demonize him and his legacy. Truth is; Eddie Long was not a perfect man! (But neither are any of us perfect people!) He made his share of mistakes, but he also did a lot of good things. While I did not personally agree with his theology and many of the things he did, I dare not defame him or his memory. The Apostle Paul asked in Romans 14:4 “Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master, he stands or falls.” (Rom. 14:4 NET) No matter what any of us think of Bishop Eddie Long or anyone else, in the final analysis, it really doesn’t matter! We don’t have a heaven or a hell to send anyone to! And besides that, we should also remember; the same rule we use to measure or judge others, we will be measured and judged by!
Even in the matter of obvious sins, we should be careful that we don’t attempt to usurp the authority of God in judging people. We often quote John 3:16, but very few people remember John 3:17 which says: “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. (Jn. 3:17 NLT) If we call ourselves Christians, that means we are Christ-like or like Christ. Well, if Jesus wasn’t in the business of judging people and we’re supposed to be like him, then why are we so quick to be judge, jury and executioner? Now, I hear somebody saying: “Preacher, I’m not judging, I’m just telling the truth!” That might very well be, but the Bible teaches that we are not to use the truth as a weapon to harm others! Ephesians 4:15 teaches us to speak the truth in love. In other words, our motivation for speaking the truth shouldn’t be to tear others down or to belittle them, but rather to lift and build them up! Now, this doesn’t mean that we are not to condemn sin. No, we are to love the sinner and hate the sin! Just because you may point out someone’s sin, that doesn’t mean you’re being judgmental or hateful. In fact, if it is done correctly with the right motivation; it is an act of love! It is a mean and hateful person who sees me headed for destruction and does not say anything to warn me! It’s a poor parent that doesn’t say anything to a toddler who is about to tip boiling hot water on its head because the parent doesn’t want to hurt the child’s feelings!
I didn’t mean to go off on a rant, but I felt compelled to write this in view of all the hateful, mean-spirited, words that are being spoken and written by those in and out of the church today! The bottom line is this: If we claim the name “Christian,” the least we can do is act Christ-like! Do we honestly think Jesus would say some of the things we say and act the way we act? The Bibles says, the same mind that was in Christ Jesus should be in us. Let us pray that as we live our lives, we will be shaped into the image of Christ and be strong enough to resist the temptation to try to shape Christ into our image. Let us pray that we will truly be “Christ-like Christians.”