A great many things have weighed on my heart and mind for the past couple of years about politics and religion in our country, how we got here, why, and how our country can be healed.
I have always been as out spoken on ‘religion’ as much as I have politics. For me, the two were closely interwoven, being a Bible believing Christian and a believer in social conservatism. At the same time, I realize that our government has no right to step into any religious or even social issue, because it’s not their job. The founders formed the Constitutional Republic for a moral people, and before the Revolution took place on the battle fields, the church (that is, the body- not a specific denomination) experienced a revolution in their hearts during the Great Awakening. The people for a large part were a moral people.
French Statesman Alexis DeToqueville saw this in evidence when he toured the United States and wrote, “It was not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her success. America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
As much as I love this country, I know that it’s not so special anymore. America wasn’t a chosen people or nation, but America is the only other nation besides Israel which was founded by a covenant. When the first settlers came, they came for the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the first settlements were dedicated to God.
We have come so far from the settling of this country. I know the debate over the Christian heritage will always go on, but that’s not my intent here. Here, I want to address Christians- no matter what denomination they identify with- because any believer who claims a relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is supposed to be a part of the body of Christ. It is American pastors and American Christians who need to take note because the mess in our country; our politics, society and church lies solely on us.
This past year the religious and ‘moral majority’ deceived themselves and millions of others by putting politics and one person above Jesus Christ.
Let me make it clear, I’m not going to trash Trump, not Hillary or Obama or any politician. They are not the problem; they are the outward results that have been growing for decades longer than a lot of us have even been alive. The lack of Godly wisdom and spiritual guidance, lukewarm and worldly nature of the church for generations is what has made our country diseased, and it is we who elect these people who have ‘transformed’ our Godly nation into the worldly selfish nation we’ve become.
The church in the west is growing cold, yet around the world, specifically the Far and Middle East; the body of Christ is thriving. Why?
In a nutshell, I’ll quote Billy Graham who said, “Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.”
I could post quotes all day from old time preachers about adversity and how it makes Christians grow in their faith, and about as many quotes about how comfort makes the church stagnant but that doesn’t necessarily mean people will look at their own lives and how living in the west, especially the US, has seemingly made us believe we are exempt from the warning Jesus gave His believers that we will be hated, and we will face persecution.
This again, is the fault of church pastors and leaders who have given more and more sermons about living your best life now, and by leading people to believe that God wants His kids to be wealthy, healthy and happy when they say God wants the best for us.
God does want the best for us, and maybe sometimes that will include extra blessings by way of wealth, good health and other gifts- but it’s pretty shallow to believe that when it’s said that He wants the best for us, that we deserve to live a materially abundant life when in other parts of the world Christian brothers and sisters lose their families, friends, jobs, and often their freedom and/or lives because of their faith. What about them? Doesn’t God want them happy? Maybe they’re not praying hard enough, naming it and claiming it. Maybe they need to have more faith.
I have to say something that might make people in our country a little uncomfortable. God doesn’t want his kids to be happy- He wants us to be Holy. Holiness leads to happiness that can’t come from outside material wealth and comfort. Holiness is attained by obedience, and sometimes- often times, obedience is picking up your cross to follow Him wherever He may lead. Christians in oppressive areas know and trust in this.
Let’s go on a little tour for a minute shall we?
In Columbia, a pastor has received death threats all during his 12 years of ministry. Before he moved into ministry, his coworkers warned him, saying, “That’s a violent place. There are paramilitaries there, and they are going to kill you.”
He told them, “God gave me an order and I have to go… Even I have to die for Jesus, I will go.”
He’s been threatened by guerrillas, paramilitary members and even street gangs and his wife was robbed but let go. He says God has protected them through it all.
In Iraq, a Christian family was asked, “What did this whole business with ISIS do with your faith? Were you not challenged? Did you not lose faith?”
And the whole family, the women and the men, said, “Our faith has become stronger.” The man who asked the question said: “How can it be? You had to flee.” And the answer was: “Look, God protected us so we could flee. God protected us so we could be in Erbil, and our faith has become stronger.”
In Pakistan, a six year old girl goes to school after prayers with her mom. Her father’s faith has been toughened by years of threats and danger as a pastor and his family sees his strong faith and witness whenever anyone has threatened or challenged him about his faith in Christ.
Likewise, the girl has never shown fear by bullies at her school even when she came home from school one day trying to hide a couple of bruises and cuts and a sore leg. Her classmate threw her down, mocked and yelled mean things at her for being a Christian.
When asked about the pain in her leg which still persisted over a month later, she replied, “It’s okay—a boy hit me because I am a Christian. He does not like Christians, but… Papa reminded me Jesus was also hit and wounded, and even killed-so it’s OK.”
Her eight year old brother worries for her and his family. He said “These days, anyone can turn our words around, and take us and our parents to prison for saying something about the Prophet Mohammad. There are so few Christians in Pakistan that I am sure some of us are needed outside the prisons.”
“That means the best churches must be inside prison!” Was his sister’s reminder.
Somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula, a man wonders if he’s been followed, watched by government authorities or if he’ll even live another day. No, he’s not a criminal, yet hiding Bibles in secret compartments in his vehicle, driving a circular route to confuse any followers and praying fervently, he is in as much danger. “It’s up to God… My life is in His hands.”
He knows the risk of sharing the gospel in his part of the world, but he says, “I’ve seen the power of God’s Word. The Bible gives life…I have to share it, no matter what it takes!”
In Iran, a mother wonders what would happen to her child if she were taken away.
Being involved in full time ministry, she knew some day the authorities would find out, so she and her husband began preparing their little girl for that time. “When they come and take mom and dad away, don’t worry… The Bible tells us it is normal to be persecuted as believers. They will take us to prison, ask us some questions, and hit us. Then we will come back.”
That someday became reality one winter morning when the authorities came. Their daughter was then 12 years old and already gone to school. After searching everything in the house, they ordered her and her husband to go with them, and they were taken to prison. She knew her sister would have to pick up their daughter, and then they would pray.
They were split up in prison, but she was allowed to call her daughter four times a week. However when she refused to give names of others in the ministry, that privilege was taken away. She was devastated and distraught, but she felt God’s presence and heard Him remind her that her daughter is in His hands, and was immediately comforted.
She and her husband were released not too long after, and their daughter had prayed every day while they were incarcerated. She looks back and said that she never grew more in her faith then during that time they were in prison and was able to put their daughter in the hands of the Lord, knowing He would take care of her.
In a war torn city, a church still stands. According to one of the faithful flock, “It seems we have been able to do more ministry in the midst of war than prior to it!”
Several locals from his part of the city come to the church to receive clothing, supplies and food. Other churches in the area have partnered in providing meals and sharing the gospel with the neighbors. “People are giving their lives to Christ, and we have had more requests for Bibles than ever before,” he shares. “God is doing a mighty work here!”
In East Africa, a young man became a Christian. After sharing his new faith with his family, they all shunned and rejected him, including his cousin who was a committed Muslim. His cousin was angry with him and when he was shown verses from the Bible, he threw the Bible down and stomped on it before trying to attack his cousin. The young man told him, ‘This book you are jumping on is actually the Truth’.”
Through hearing and learning more, the cousin finally came to Christ as well, and both young men had to leave their home and village. They found a safer place with Christian believers who help each other survive and thrive while sharing the Gospel.
These people have never had the ear tickling, live your best life now, how to win friends and influence people kind of gospel- they’ve only ever had the plain truth that Jesus is the truth, the life and the way, and that God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son.
In many cases, none of them have ever had a bible of their own, and the gospel they hear is behind locked doors read from bibles smuggled into their homes or churches. They know the power of the Lord, and are willing to follow Him to the death if it means their witness and testimony will lead more to Him.
American missionary Jim Elliot was murdered along with 4 others in the jungles of the Amazon in South America. He didn’t mince words when he once said, “Those whimpering States side young people will wake up on the Day of Judgment condemned to worse fates than these demon-fearing Indians, because, having a Bible, they were bored with it – while these never heard of such a thing as writing.”
Charles Finney, a pastor from the 1800’s once claimed, “If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.”
It is the pastor who should be the regulator of the spiritual condition of God’s people which affects the nation. And while there are many good pastors who have a strong burning to share the gospel and disciple believers, too many pastors are exchanging truth, boldness and conviction for comfort, worldly gains both personally and politically and in de Tocqueville’s words, they are not aflame with righteousness.
Too many pastors and congregants are either playing religion, while denying the power of Christ, using church as a social club and a place to network for business- or they are so busy ‘doing’ yet not doing in Christ’s Name out of fear of offending someone who’s not a believer. Both on the left and right, politically active churches are seeking favor and attention from politicians when they should be on their knees praying for healing, forgiveness, strength of their faith and to be a stronger Christian witness to all the people.
We are called to be light and salt to an unbelieving world- which means shining the light of truth and being a healing, preserving agent of Truth of the Lord. Our salt has lost its usefulness and our light is dim, while in closed countries the church witness is strong, vibrant and the fellowship is thriving.
While religious leaders in the US pray their televised prayers boldly laying claim to favorite patriotic verses such as 2 Chronicles 7:14 and tell us that God will heal our nation if we put conservatives in government and the supreme court, they have none of the humbleness that God requires from a repentant people. What has 40 years’ worth of public prayers, political action and lofty words promised in letters asking for donations to fill our government with righteous people worth, when year after year those righteous are elected but abortion is still rampant, churches bless homosexual unions and the church is more interested in conforming the Gospel message to the world instead of trying to reform the world to the Gospel?
A few days ago, some of us talked about missionaries and a calling from God. I don’t think we’re all meant to go into the dangerous places to preach and teach, and I have a ton of respect for those who do feel that particular calling. However, we as the body of Christ need to remember that He has ‘called’ all of us to love one another and share the gospel, which we can do in our own neighborhoods. Many of us have our own ways that we do that, but how is the gospel going to be heard when the lost in our midst see how Christians act when we claim to ‘serve’and trust Him yet put more trust in politicians and government?
The handfuls of stories of the persecuted that I included in this lengthy article were not meant as anything but a reminder of what following Christ can, and often does entail- whether one looks for it through mission work in these closed countries, or whether it comes upon us from somewhere else. These believers may be tortured, beaten and even martyred, but their treasure is not based on how they’re treated on earth, but anchored in Jesus!
Where are our treasures stored?
My hope for Christians in the West (not just the US) is that they would think about the reality of Christians all around the world. These faithful don’t look to politics or wait for politicians to grant them religious liberty; and they don’t look at politics to make their lives comfortable. They know and trust in the One that gave liberty to them. They don’t question the losses of homes, material wealth, freedom or lives of family members lost for Christ- because they know that to live is Christ, and to die is gain. We in the west have had our comfortable lives for so long that we forget that Christ warned His believers that they would suffer for His sake should they follow Him.
Russian novelist, historian, and short story writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was an outspoken critic of the Communist Soviet system and spent time in the gulags for dissidence. He once commented that “When you have robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power. He is free again.” Think on that for a little while.
Our brothers in sisters in Christ in other parts of the world have a deeper and more trusting relationship with Jesus than many of us can ever realize because they live their faith in trust every day because in many cases they have been robbed of almost everything. That is what Christian witness should look like to a lost world. But that is not the witness we’ve been giving through politics or even by our ‘religious’ talk.
I often wonder what my witness would be if real persecution came. Would I be able to bear that cross as so many faithful have borne? How do I handle the tough parts of life now, which aren’t even persecution, but just ‘life’? What kind of witness to our unbelieving neighbors, friends and family do we display when we continuously vote for the lesser of two evils because a little evil is better than bigger evil, all in the hopes of keeping our country comfortable?
In the big scheme of things, America is a blip in history, and is fast losing the light which made her a beacon to the world for so long. I don’t like thinking that our country is dying in my generation- but I have to say, I am grateful to see that the Bible is alive in my generation.
The western church needs to strengthen again if we ever want to see America survive and thrive until God decides it’s time Jesus rule the nations. But it will never grow spiritually tough through comfort, apathy and by focusing on worldly politics. Persecuted Christians will say that what makes the church stronger is persecution. I don’t like the thought of it, but why would we escape it when others are living it daily. If it comes, I want to know I’m ready, and that my faith will not waiver. The only way I can do that is by learning and practicing by standing faithfully on His word and putting my whole trust through every circumstance in Him now- even when it’s unpopular and uncomfortable.
Psalm 33:12 tells us, Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. Our God hasn’t been the Lord for generations, as politics, the economy and comfort has taken His place. Isn’t it time we turn back to Him with all our heart and soul, and trust once again in Him alone?