Saturday, February 14, 2009

Watching the Church

These days, no one is safe. Everyone from the basest to the most prestigious are in danger of losing their means. We are all holding our breath while those in power in our Federal government try to wiggle and shake us free from the current economic upheaval.

But there is one entity I am not hearing too much about, nor am I hearing too much from. That is the Church.

By "Church", I mean the living body of believers in Jesus Christ as the messiah and as the means of securing salvation.

I am very interested in watching the church's reaction to these times. Partially, because it is a necessary prerequisite to the so-called "revival" the church has pretentiously been asking for the last fifteen years. And also because the church is partly responsible for the situation.

Let me explain both points.

I will begin with revival. Ever since I have been calling myself a Christian in earnest, I have heard the word "revival" thrown around in the church as a byword. I imagine if any pastor was asked what was meant by "revival", they would say, "A turning of the hearts of the people back to God." Personally, I am convinced what is really meant by this isn't a real turning of our hearts back to God, but simply raising up yet another generation of churchy-wurchies, whose religious convictions are, as I once heard it so amply put, a mile-wide and a inch deep.

Why wouldn't churches want revival? It guarantees their success. Salaried pastors are guaranteed job security when churches are full. Indeed, I think what is meant by revival today is a return, not to God, but to a special form of prosperity. It is a return to a lifestyle where certain moral standards, even Christian morals, are implemented. Where college-educated suburban families buy their Bibles, and tote them back and forth to church in their four-door sedans, listen to a sermon, give intellectual assent to what has been said, and go back to "business as normal" on Monday morning.

I think revival is something much different. And it needs to occur within the church as much, if not more, than outside it. When real revival happens, churches will not fill up. Indeed they will empty. When Christ brings about a revival, it starts by pruning the already existing tree of resource draining, but non-bearing, limbs. This current economic crisis could be a precursor to such an event. Revival erupts, not from prosperity, but from persecution. And right now, the conservative principles upheld by evangelicals and Catholics alike are under scrutiny.

If the church reacts the proper way, then it will tell its people they aren't above suffering. It will tell its people that things may not be okay, and that there may be casualties. An honest and sincere pastor will tell his congregation that there are hard times coming, and that it is a terrific opportunity to seek God, not in the lackadaisical manner we've all grown so accustomed to, but to become proactive in seeking Him. Like an old maxim I heard once, faith isn't faith until it is all you have.

But I imagine that the Church won't react properly. It will claim that they don't have to suffer with the rest of the world. Twisting Scriptures, pastors will say that this affliction has come upon unbelievers, and that Christians are exempt from this type of suffering. Churches will continue to build larger sanctuaries, design elaborate stages, and offer even sillier amenities, to go along with their aerobics classes and social dinners, to draw people in, while the nation around them crumbles and looks in vain for the church to help them in some objective way. They will preach nice principles, like unity and love, but dilute any real theology to the point that simply taking your seat on Sunday morning constitutes real Christianity. So while the rest of the United States faces home foreclosures and standing in soup lines, I imagine the middle class, suburbanite Christians will keep buying bigger and better televisions and computers, have the best cell phones, keep driving their "mobile living room" SUV's, making sure their wardrobes are up to date, and keep on ordering the filet Mignon at their local steakhouses. Business as usual.

In China, the church, the real church, meets secretly at night. They hold their baptismal services in cover of darkness so its oppressive government doesn't find them. Yet, their church is experiencing sincere revival. They are growing to know Jesus in a way that American Christians cannot even imagine. They are paying the price, and they are experiencing revival. They aren't thinking about love and unity. They aren't thinking about themselves at all. They have their minds on Jesus Christ.

So, in short, a full church is not indicative of revival. A church with members who have completely forgotten about themselves and with a mind only for Jesus Christ, is.

Now, regarding why the Church is partly responsible for the economic mess we are in. In the past, the welfare of the people was overseen by the Church. It was a potent ministry that seen to the hungry and needy around them. Today, the Church has foolishly allowed the government to usurp that and take over that commission. As of today, the government is pouring over a supposed "stimulus" package, which will, if passed, slip in all kinds of legislation that will pave the way for Socialism. Once again, the Church sits idly by while they allow a central government rob them of their opportunities to serve God. If someone needs an operation, it isn't for the government to play Robin Hood, and rob, via taxation, from those who have money, and give it to those who have not so they can get their operation. It is for the church to ensure that people receive proper medical care. Caring for the sick and afflicted is supposed to be a church function, not a government function.

Healthcare is only one facet. There are many more. The Church is clamping off a conduit of blessing by delegating these opportunities to the government. I have heard the argument that when the problem got too big for the Church is when the government took it over. But does that sound right? A divine institution, who claims to draw its power from the Almighty God Himself, had to delegate its responsibilities to a man made government, when they became too burdensome?

I am watching the church's reaction. Will it continue to teach what superficial Christians demand it teach, a God who doesn't demand anything, but who is expected to meet their needs in spite of their neighbor's destitution? Will it continue to sit back and allow the government to rob it of all its means of winning the heart of Jesus? Or will it continue as the Ichabod Church, with its daily sacrifice, the priests in their garb, going through all the motions, but no ark... and no shekinah.

The Church is, truly, an Ichabod church. All the functions continue normally, but there's no ark in the Holy Place.

Worship, but no glory.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Opposing Political Views

I have been thinking quite a lot about politics lately. This election was the first time I voted where my candidate didn't win the election. Of course, I was not seriously entertaining the possibility of Chuck Baldwin winning, but I must vote my principles regardless.

Obama won... But you already knew that. And he is a man whose political stance stands quite nearly diametric to my own. Obama is beyond liberal, he is very nearly a full-on Socialist.

Anyway, it got me thinking about if there are any of the opposing political party's stances I agree with. Being a Republican (until I can get to the courthouse to change it to independent or Constitution Party), the opposing party is, of course, the Democratic Party. In my thinking, I have come up with 6 issues where I can jive somewhat with liberal politics.

  1. I am opposed to the death penalty. Why? I get it from the Bible. Read St. John 8:3-11. One day I was thinking about this scene when it hit me. The Pharisees were right. According to Mosaic Law, which was national law at the time, the woman's penalty was death. Christ essentially circumvented the whole Israeli Justice System. But don't think me completely in line with liberal thought on this issue. I believe prisons should be rat-infested dungeons, not four-star hotels. Why am I against corporal punishment? People who commit crimes forfeit their freedom and liberty, but not their life.
  2. Socialism, or the equal distribution of resources, is by its very nature a better system than Capitalism. Yet I am a Capitalist because I believe Socialism suffers from a fatal flaw. It must have a mediator. Now, is there anyone in this world you would trust to fairly distribute wealth and other resources? I cannot think of anyone I would even remotely trust with this. So I am a Capitalist, imperfect system though it may be, in spite of believing Socialism a better system.
  3. When a doctor sounds competent in diagnosing a problem, is increases our confidence in his prescribed treatment. So it is with Karl Marx. I have read The Communist Manifesto, and I found that I agreed with him in nearly all his critical points against Capitalism. In other words, he diagnosed the problem brilliantly. Where we diagree is in his prescribed treatment. Socialism, and certainly Communism, cannot be a viable alternative to Capitalism.
  4. I believe the presence of social classes is ultimately detrimental to society. Simply because it represents demographics of people absorbing more than their fair share of this earth's resources, while other demographics suffer want for resources. I don't believe social engineering and government programming will remedy this, so I don't completely fall in-line with the liberal politicians on this issue either. Again, as with #3, I think it is a good diagnosis, but bad treatment.
  5. I have never been big on "government programs", but I do believe agree that taxpayer money should be used to maintain the welfare of the retired and the sincerely disabled. I cannot see where such an issue as this can even be debated.
  6. I think Conservatives are too quick to cut Liberal Arts from the classrooms when money gets a little tight. I have no problem with academic and technical education. But it is the Liberal Arts that pours the salt on academia and technology. Without imagination, what good is all the academia and technology going to be. Academia will tell you how to write, but the arts inspires us to write.
In the grand scheme, I am still a true-blue conservative. But it isn't because I believe liberal politics is without some merit. I do not believe liberal politics is viable. Either way, what I believe is of little value, as it would seem that liberal politics is on cue to be implemented across the board without any resistance from conservative influences. John McCain proved that today's Republican Party is no longer the party of Conservatives.

The Constitution Party, however... Well, let me give you a line from their preamble...

"The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States."

That sounds to me like a wonderful start.

In short, the more I study political science, the more I am convinced we need a viable third party that fully understands both the United States Constitution and is willing to revert back to the old Conservative values. The Constitution Party, being the third largest political party in the United States, seems to stand for that very fact.