Pastors and Politics

June 20, 2014 in Bible - OT - 2 Kings, Church History, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Ecclesiology, Homosexuality, Politics, Sexuality, Ten Commandments

Well it seems the editor of the Coeur d’Alene Press is upset that a number of local pastors have expressed “political” opinions and may very well have influenced the last election. There was an article in the press expressing Representative Ed Morse’s exasperation at his and others’ defeat in the recent election. In the article he is quoted as claiming that he is going to bring these actions to the attention of the IRS. More disturbing than Representative Morse’s exasperation was the editorial piece of the same day. Yikes!

I debated writing a letter in response but couldn’t get myself sufficiently motivated. Fortunately, a number of folks have written some excellent responses. Scott Grunsted offered a compelling critique of the editorial and corrected many of the misrepresentations of the Founding Fathers found therein. Unfortunately, the Editor missed Grunsted’s point and entitled his article, “Church, State are inseparable.” This is not the point Grunsted was making and very few Christians would defend it.

We must distinguish between the issue of church/state and relgion/state. Church and State are separate in Scripture – kings were not priests and priests were not kings. Consider that King Uzziah was struck with leprosy when he tried to assume priestly duties for himself. While Church and State are separate, religion and state are not. Every state, ancient and modern, is built upon some religious foundation. The reason is that states impose morality – they penalize certain behaviors and reward others. So how does a state decide which actions to penalize and which to reward? Religion. Historically the religious foundation animating our public policy has been Christian. We are now in the process of apostatizing and abandoning this foundation – and the ease with which this is being accomplished is due, in part, to the failure of our Founding Fathers to articulate in our founding documents the necessity of this Christian foundation. While they did make the point in their private correspondence and public letters and speeches, they did not make this explicit in our Constitutional documents and this was a tragic error. It seems unlikely that our great republic will be able to persist as a result. Hopefully, the next time such an experiment as America takes place, their founders will repudiate the heretical notion of the secular state and recognize that every state is built upon some religious foundation. And the religious foundation that provides for personal liberty, liberty of conscience, and constitutional limits on political power is the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Another excellent letter responding to the editorial was written today by Kim Cooper. She demonstrates the absurdity of the editorial’s attempt to compartmentalize portions of people’s lives. She gives a great example of worldview thinking! Excellent work.

Let us just note in passing the inconsistency of the editorial as well. The press has campaigned rather clearly for numerous moral principles lately. They’ve opposed bullying, advocated the homosexual agenda, and portrayed the transgendered agenda sympathetically – and on each of these issues prominently featured within the articles is the Human Rights Education Institute and Mr. Tony Stewart. Is bullying wrong? Let’s ask Mr. Stewart and find out. Should homosexuality have public sanction? Let’s ask Mr. Stewart, he’ll tell us. But has anyone cried foul? After all, I think that the HREI is a 501c3 entity. How dare they dabble in politics? Sheesh! Haven’t they read those regulations? But of course it’s ok for them to express opinions, teach at the local government schools, nurture our children in the evils of discrimination because – well, because they agree with us! But those pastors – shut them up! Wisdom is justified by her children.

Sennacherib, Satan, and the Nature of Temptation

March 23, 2009 in Bible - OT - 2 Kings, Meditations, Temptation

“31 Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make peace with me by a present and come out to me; and every one of you eat from his own vine and every one from his own fig tree, and every one of you drink the waters of his own cistern; 32 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive groves and honey, that you may live and not die. But do not listen to Hezekiah, lest he persuade you, saying, “The LORD will deliver us.”
2 Kings 18:31-32

In the text before us today, Sennacherib’s messenger tries to get the citizens of Jerusalem to open the gates of the city by making grandiose promises to the people. For several years now Sennacherib had been laying waste the countryside around Jerusalem and was now laying siege to the holy city itself. The people were understandably frightened. They had no illusions as to their doom – they would be torn from their homes, sent into a foreign land, likely seeing Jerusalem never again. But Sennacherib knew that with such a clear understanding of their future, the citizens would never open the gates. And so he makes them grand promises. You’ve got my intentions all mixed up, Sennacherib declares. I’m really bringing joy and harmony your way. The future under my rule is bright. I’m going to let you stay in your homes for a while and then, when the time is right, I’m going to escort you to another home – just like the one you’ve got, with plenty of land, plenty of food, plenty of drink.

To us the offer of the king of Assyria should seem patently absurd – that is, if we know anything about the Assyrians. Their brutality was legendary. Masters of the most current military technology and ignorant of all ethical restraint, they not infrequently slaughtered entire cities and repopulated them with inhabitants from other lands. Listen as one of their kings boasts of his exploits:

“Many [of the defeated] I took as living captives. From some I cut off their hands and their fingers, from others I cut off their noses, their ears, and their fingers, of many I put out the eyes. I made one pillar [pile] of the living, and another of heads, and I bound their heads to posts [stakes] round about the city. Their young men and maidens I burned in the fire, the city I destroyed, I devastated, I burned it with fire and consumed it.” [As quoted in Don Nardo, The Assyrian Empire, pp. 12,13.]

This is what the inhabitants of Jerusalem could in reality anticipate. But this blunt description is what you provide after the victory is won – in the mean time, Sennacherib knew, promise them the world.

The offer which Sennacherib makes contrasts vividly with the reality which was lying in wait and teaches us valuable lessons about the nature of temptation. All temptation gets its force from twisting the facts and making it appear that satisfaction and joy lie where they in fact do not. Satan is no fool. And like Sennacherib he knows that no one will submit ahead of time to one who promises them raw sewage for supper and dead cat for dessert. And so he couches his temptations in the most plausible of disguises. Whether it is Eve beholding the fruit which is good to make one wise or the children of Israel longing for the leeks and onions they enjoyed in Egypt, the nature of temptation is always the same. Satan endeavors to make it look attractive. He wants to be the one who defines the good life – the life that makes one truly happy.

But note that he has no interest in our happiness – just like Sennacherib had no intention of making the life of the Judahites as pleasant as he promised. Like the pagan gods of antiquity, the demons who owed their origin to his machinations, Satan is selfish and consuming – promising the good life but bringing destruction to all those who succumb to his wiles.

And so, this morning as we enter into the presence of our thrice holy God, let us come confessing the many ways in which our community believes the lies of the evil one. But let us not stop there. What lies do you come believing? What lies have you believed this week? Whom have you allowed to define the good life? Have you listened to the one who promises happiness but ultimately gives grief or have you listened to our Heavenly Father who knows what will truly bring us joy and gladness and who has created us that we might find our joy in Him? Let us kneel and confess these things to Him.