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Jesus vs. The Founding Fathers

December 10, 2010

Every once in a great while, I read something that changes the little paradigm I have constructed for my world. It’s like getting a new pair of glasses or a really cool microscope. Everything is clearer, including some things that, perhaps, I really did not want to see.

This week, the new glasses arrived unexpectedly.

I don’t think it’s any secret to those who know me that I have issues with certain politically active persons who identify themselves as evangelical, fundamentalist Christians. Now, by definition, I am an evangelical, fundamentalist Christian. I believe in the “Great Commission” that commanded us to share our faith:

Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded …

1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

And, on the fundamentalism side, I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. Of course, today, “fundamentalism” has come to mean something different outside of traditional Christian circles.

In recent years, I have been deeply disturbed by the equation of Christianity with love of country and “patriotism.” I hear of churches using the Pledge of Allegiance in their services. I hear Christians on television saying that the United States is a “Christian nation,” founded by Christians and based on Christian ideals. And I hear Christians supporting the idea of revolution if the President doesn’t do what they want.

While researching what the Bible says about patriotism and such, I found something more. An article that simply and plainly explains that the American Revolution itself was not Christian, and was actually a rebellion against biblical principles.

Can. Of. Worms. But, I couldn’t simply close my browser because it was controversial. The truth is usually controversial.

Let’s look at what the Bible says, what Christ said, about government and see where we are:

1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul, 12 and maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears. 13 Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether to a king as supreme 14 or to governors as those he commissions to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do good. 15 For God wants you to silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 16 Live as free people, not using your freedom as a pretext for evil, but as God’s slaves. 17 Honor all people, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king.

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment 3 (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation, 4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience. 6 For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants devoted to governing. 7 Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

I can hear the arguments now. “But Jesus surely couldn’t mean we should follow people like President Hussein Obama (or that W. guy). They are so evil and un-Christian!”

Hmmm. Who was the government when Jesus was living His ministry? Were they Christian? Were they democratic? Did they persecute followers of Christ? Didn’t they crucify Christ?

Where was Paul when he wrote many of his letters? Oh yeah. Prison.

Who were the rulers that men like Joseph and Daniel served? Weren’t they despots?

Many of Jesus’ followers were angry with him for NOT overthrowing the government and taking control. He certainly had the power to do it. Many expected the Messiah to come with a sword in His hand to do physical battle with the rulers.

Instead, He spoke little of politics and told His listeners that they must obey their rulers because they are placed in power by God. God will deal with them. we are to obey and pay our taxes and set an example of good.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we blindly obey when the rulers command us to do something against the laws of God. But, then we must submit to the worldly consequences and set an example by our good behavior. This is what Paul did. This is what many conscientious objectors have done during times of war. It is what many Christians did by hiding their Jewish brothers and sisters from Nazis. Christians like Corrie Ten Boom and her family.

And look at the case of King David. He had been hand picked by King Saul as his successor, but as Saul grew older and committed more evil deeds, David’s men encouraged him to kill Saul and take the throne. David wasn’t falling for it…

1 Samuel 24:1 When Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, they told him, “Look, David is in the desert of En Gedi.” 2 So Saul took three thousand select men from all Israel and went to find David and his men in the region of the rocks of the mountain goats. 3 He came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave. Saul went into it to relieve himself.

Now David and his men were sitting in the recesses of the cave. 4 David’s men said to him, “This is the day about which the Lord said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you can do to him whatever seems appropriate to you.’” So David got up and quietly cut off an edge of Saul’s robe. 5 Afterward David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off an edge of Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, “May the Lord keep me far away from doing such a thing to my lord, who is the Lord’s chosen one, by extending my hand against him. After all, he is the Lord’s chosen one.” 7 David restrained his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul.

Then Saul left the cave and started down the road. 8 Afterward David got up and went out of the cave. He called out after Saul, “My lord, O king!” When Saul looked behind him, David kneeled down and bowed with his face to the ground. 9 David said to Saul, “Why do you pay attention when men say, ‘David is seeking to do you harm’? 10 Today your own eyes see how the Lord delivered you – this very day – into my hands in the cave. Some told me to kill you, but I had pity on you and said, ‘I will not extend my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s chosen one.’ 11 Look, my father, and see the edge of your robe in my hand! When I cut off the edge of your robe, I didn’t kill you. So realize and understand that I am not planning evil or rebellion. Even though I have not sinned against you, you are waiting in ambush to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between the two of us, and may the Lord vindicate me over you, but my hand will not be against you. 13 It’s like the old proverb says: ‘From evil people evil proceeds.’ But my hand will not be against you. 14 Who has the king of Israel come out after? Who is it that you are pursuing? A dead dog? A single flea? 15 May the Lord be our judge and arbiter. May he see and arbitrate my case and deliver me from your hands!”

16 When David finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is that your voice, my son David?” Then Saul wept loudly. 17 He said to David, “You are more innocent than I, for you have treated me well, even though I have tried to harm you! 18 You have explained today how you have treated me well. The Lord delivered me into your hand, but you did not kill me. 19 Now if a man finds his enemy, does he send him on his way in good shape? May the Lord repay you with good this day for what you have done to me. 20 Now look, I realize that you will in fact be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand. 21 So now swear to me in the Lord’s name that you will not kill my descendants after me or destroy my name from the house of my father.” 22 David promised Saul this on oath.

How in the world have we, as Christians, strayed so far from the truth that is plainly written in the Bible? No matter how you paint it, you cannot justify the American Revolution with the Bible or with Christ or God. Therefore, you cannot say that the United States was founded by Christians on Christian principles.

And, considering that other countries (Canada, Australia…) separated from England through non-violent means and are strong countries today, buries the notion that it was the only way. In fact, having studied the history of slavery, I am convinced that we paid a heavy price for our revolution. Slavery remained in the U.S. much longer than it would if we had stayed under English rule, triggering an horrific conflict that we still feel today. A conflict that is ever present in our politics of fear.

Can God do good through the results of the Revolution? Of course, He can. There are countless times in the Bible where He has used actions done for the wrong reasons for His purpose. (i.e. – Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, or Judas’ betrayal of Jesus)

I am very grateful that I was born in the United States. Our Declaration of Independence notes that our Creator gave us certain unalienable rights (note, they are given to us by God, NOT by the U.S.). Our freedom to worship is given by God, enforced by the U.S. government.

But, no matter how much I love and appreciate this country, it is of the world and I am not. I am God’s, first and only. I am no better than any of his other children, whether they are from Haiti or China or Iraq.

This brings me to the idea of Christians being politically active. Groups like the “Moral Majority.” Aside from the VERY dubious beginnings of these groups (which always seem to coincide with the success of Civil Rights Acts…seriously, do the research yourself), Paul specifically warned us against this:

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.

Be very careful before you “support” anyone for political office. One thing I know about human nature (since I am human), once we support something/someone, it is almost impossible for us to ever admit we were wrong. We end up supporting ludicrous and very unbiblical things.  To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, we need to stop claiming that “God is on our side,” and start asking “Are we on God’s side?”

I believe history shows (and will show) that the involvement of “Christians” in politics as PACs has done more damage for the cause of Christ than having non-Christians in political office. We have completely forgotten 1 Peter 2:11-17.

Wake up, brothers and sisters, and let’s remember that we are all in God’s hands. Let’s drop the arrogance that says we know better than He and that we are going to create God’s kingdom on earth. We have enough to do in just loving and honoring God and loving our neighbors.

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