Opinion: Presidential Theology

There are more than few people who have announced they want to be the democrat nominee for president in 2020. Some I know their name and many I do not. One of the people that I was not aware of before he announced is Pete Buttigieg who is only a mayor. I say “only” because normally mayors of less than major cities do not make much of a splash when they announce a run for president however this mayor has raised amazing amounts of money and garnered many puff pieces in major national media. One of those articles in USA Today got my attention because the article talks about Buttigieg’s faith and how his faith intersects with his politics. While the bio on Buttigieg’s accomplishments demonstrate he is a highly intelligent and successful man (Rhoads Scholar, veteran, speaks multiple languages) the description given to him that catches my attention the most is “devoted Christian”.

Upon this authority as devoted follower of Christ, the article goes on to lecture other, one assumes less devoted, Christians for focusing on things that Christ “said so little about” and not focusing on things that Christ “said much about”. From there the article is a rehash of the old story of progressive Christianity that wants to use the government to accomplish earthly things. Below are the two main ideas where Christians have supposedly focused on what Christ said little about.

Abortion: “Let’s parse this insightful formulation: “Saying so much about what Christ said so little about” applies to the religious right’s treatment of abortion as a litmus test for Christian faith, when in fact Jesus never mentioned the issue.”

To say Jesus never “mentioned” abortion is technically correct, but at the same time disingenuously insulting. Abortion is new only in technology but not in practice. Before I explain that statement, we need to address the question and the impasse on this topic. The question that must be answered is how far are we willing to go to rationalize the need for abortion which is rooted in our selfishness? Abortion is selfish because the need for abortion is sold to women (and men) who are not ready for children. Or women who are in bad relationships. It is an argument of timing. Sometimes the need for abortion is masked in the health of the woman but those are exceptions and not the rule. Our focus for this topic should be on when does life begin? At birth or at some point before that? Is life a beating heart? How is a newborn and a baby yet to be delivered to be compared on the question of life? Killing babies is not new to society and the Bible speaks clearly on this topic. Even if this was truly unclear like Mayor Buttigieg suggests that Jesus does not care if we killed babies in the womb, would it not be better to be on the side of not killing the unborn? At one time the progressive line was abortion should be rare. Now the progressive line moves more and more toward celebrating the act.

The “religious right” unwaveringly believes that babies are baby inside that womb as well as outside the womb. Because of that belief then it is understood that killing babies is wrong for all cultures in all places in all time. This is a universal moral truth that can’t be changed. When the Israelites moved into the land promised to them by God, they were carrying out God’s judgment on the peoples before them. Israel was ordered to purge the land of the evil practices of the people who came before them. But Israel did not do that instead they adopted many of the evil things that the people before them also practiced.

34 They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, 35 but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Psalm 106:34-38 ESV

Jesus did not need to speak directly on abortion because Israel had learned the hard way not to live lives ensnared by idols that demanded the blood of their children. Modern western society has become ensnared by the idols of convince and wealth where the unborn are sacrificed daily.

The other main topic in the article is compassion for the poor and outcast: “As to the religious right saying “so little about what (Jesus) said so much about,” Buttigieg made this observation: “When I think about where most of Scripture points me, it is toward defending the poor, and the immigrant, and the stranger, and the prisoner, and the outcast, and those who are left behind by the way society works.”

The church even churches filled with the “religious right” are busy at work in their communities helping those who are in need. There are even many Christians ministries that have impact at a national or global scale. Christians live for ministry it is what they do. So, what is this complaint from the progressive Christian really about? Mayor Buttigieg believes that Christians who do not vote for him and his views are standing in the way of the scriptural mandate to “defend the poor”. But clearly that is not true since churches all over America are helping the poor. What this debate is really about is how defending the poor should be achieved. Should Christians use the power of Government to end poverty and all forms of inequity in this life? Mayor Buttigieg and progressives in general imply that if one does not expand government and use government resources that inequality cannot be fixed. Only the government is big enough to fix the world. Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty” by expanding government to help the poor. Poverty rates in the generations since have not really changed and this is because poverty will always exist. Jesus told the disciples there would be time to serve the poor after his death burial and resurrection. Here more than 2,000 years later there is no shortage of people who are poor.

11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. Matthew 26:11 ESV

Jesus did not deal with inequality. Jesus did not right wrongs. Jesus did not free slaves. Jesus allowed himself to be killed at the hands of an evil government without any challenge. Jesus did not ask his followers to petition Rome for better working conditions. But what Jesus did do was ask his followers to serve the poor and to preach to them the good news that each and every person can be restored to good standing with God. Jesus came to forgive and to see hearts changed. When the hearts of evil government bureaucrats where changed Jesus did not even make demands from them on how to move forward. Out of the overflow of the love of God they would make their own conclusions.   

And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich… 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. Matthew 19:2; 5-9 ESV

The problem that progressives bring to the table on this topic of using more and more government to fix inequality is that they have circumvented the regenerating work of Jesus on the cross to change the hearts of men. Buttigieg speaks about Jesus but only to justify government ambition. Not once in this conversation of priorities for Christians does the spiritual restoration of people enter into the equation.

The searing impact on the soul of the women, the significant other, the abortion provider, or even the nation itself when killing babies through abortion is not even a consideration spoken of by Mayor Buttigieg. The spiritual situations of those who need help and dealing with why we have inequality in the first place is not a consideration for Mayor Buttigieg. What Jesus spoke most about was the state of the soul and the state of each person’s relationship with their Creator.

47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died… 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. John 6:47-49; 51 ESV

Matthew 8:29 | Demons

Do you believe that demons exist? When I was younger the idea of creepy monsters or evil aliens would make me unnerved. I remember as a teenager watching, of all things, Larry King on CNN. He was broadcasting his show from the middle of a cornfield at night. They had set up a stage with bright lights focused on him on this stage. He sat at his desk in the normal talk show format, but in the background was darkness and the outline of corn stalks. His topic was a special on aliens and I was completely unnerved and found the setting a little scary. I would not have been surprised if Aliens announced their presence to Larry King on that stage at that very moment.

Any look through history will find stories of demons, goblins, and monsters off all forms that kill and terrorize the population. In contemporary America one would not be hard pressed to find mainstream scientists or celebrities convinced that aliens exist. Yet from within these same groups one might be hard pressed to find public acknowledgment that demons and specifically Satan exist because we are now “civilized”. This is because contemporary America is a materialist society. Only the material world matters. Only the physical world is real. Ghosts, goblins, and demons are fun stories but Aliens are real because they exist in the material world. It is hard to believe in God let alone evil demons when one is cutoff and blind to the spiritual nature of humanity.

28 And when [Jesus] came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.29 And behold [the demons] cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Matthew 8:29 ESV

The gospel accounts make regular notice of Jesus encountering “demon possessed” people. All four gospels reference demonic encounters as if this was normal. In this instance the author uses the Greek word δαίμων (daimōn) which means inferior gods to describe that these men living in the cemetery were possessed by. While these so called gods were tormenting the people they possessed they also tormented anyone that came near. When they approached Jesus the demons cried out asking if he had come to torment them before the appointed time. It is an interesting exchange.

While all this talk of demons is normal in the New Testament one would think that demons would be spoken of in the Old Testament but that is not the case. Very few times do scholars translate any Hebrew texts using the word demon. The Hebrew word for demon שֵׁד (shed) only occurs twice and in both instances the author is referencing rampant idol worship making clear that the idols of wood, metal, and stone that the people worshiped were the retail front of evil demons.

37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters. whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Psalms 106:37-38 ESV

Every generation deals with this spiritual reality in their own way. The ancient people worshiped demons by way of idols and false Gods and contemporary Americans worship demons by way of materialism. The contemporary culture ignores that we are more than our physical bodies. Most ignore any spiritual reality at all fooling themselves into thinking that the materialism or science they worship is somehow void of spiritual truth. Worshiping themselves they are influenced by the demonic without even being aware.

Demons hate God and want to destroy his image on earth. Since mankind was created in the image of God then we are all a target of their hate. It is no wonder that child sacrifice has always been a marker of their presence. Imagine God’s people sacrificing their own children to a demonic idol in the old testament. Is it not horrifying? How could they be so barbaric we think. Now realize that this same child sacrifice continues today but in a much more accepted way through abortion. Babies are sacrificed to the gods, demons, of materialism and convenience every day.  

They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:17-18 ESV

When I was younger the idea of occult or aliens caused me to fear. As an adult I recognize the demons that they represent and my fear of the unknown is no more. Jesus was not afraid of the demons in fact they were exposed from their hiding places and became afraid of Him. The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) reference demons more than 40 times between them. This is far more than the rest of the Bible combined. Jesus deals with our physical needs but he primarily is concerned with our eternal spiritual state. Is it no surprise that the demonic was exposed and dealt with everywhere he went?

Where have demons set up shop in your life? What do you worship that is not the one true living God? Jesus came that we would have freedom and life restored to worship our maker.

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Matthew 4:10 ESV

Judges 3:7 | Lustful Passion and Dead Children

forgot

After reaching the Promised Land the people of Israel abandoned God for the temporary and lustful pleasures that the other people groups around them had to offer. Forgotten are the god’s of Egypt they had found new god’s to worship.

7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Judges 3:7 ESV

Baal and Asheroth are a male and female divinity of the people that lived in the Promised Land before Israel. They are the god’s of that land and in effect the god’s of Israeli’s enemies. It is interesting how quickly the unholy surrounding culture seems to capture the imagination of the newly arrived Jewish peoples to the land. Within a generation these god’s were a trap that would plague the people of Israel until they too are driven from the land like they were commanded to do to the original peoples. These people that God judged and wanted displaced were not innocent occupants. These people were rebellious and evil before God. Looking at how Israel adopts their culture is proof of God’s justification to remove them from the land not unlike when He sent the flood that destroyed everyone except Noah. The Prophet Jeremiah more than 600 years later is telling the Nation of Israel that because of their evil God will destroy the nation and that their judgment had arrived just as it had for the peoples before them.

4 Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— 6 therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. 7 And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. 8 And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its wounds. 9 And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.’ Jeremiah 19:4-9 ESV

God is patient but the evil lived out by those serving false god’s is too much for God’s good character and justice to remain silent. Sacrificing children to an idol is a horrifying path of selfish evil and lest the reader think they are above such “primitive and barbaric” practices look to our own contemporary culture where children are sacrificed through abortion in the millions every year at the altar of convenience, rebellion, and sex. Nothing really changes when it comes to the nature of people.

The difference between the nation of Israel in the future and the newly formed nation of Israel is that this earlier generation repented and returned to God when they needed help.

9 But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died. Judges 3:9-11

While Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, was blessed by God and a worthy leader the remembrance and service to God by the people of Israel only lasts the remainder of his life. As noted in Judges 2 Godly leadership is a benefit to a nation however it does not have the power to change the hearts of individuals. After he dies the people returned to their rebellion and another Judge empowered by God will be needed.

One of the most amazing and powerful glimpses into God’s perspective that demonstrates God’s vision, plans, mercy, and grace is reviled to Elijah who as being hunted by Israelites who were also the servants of Baal. Paul recounts the event in his letter to the Romans.

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. Romans 11:1-5 ESV

The world may seem crazy and those that worship the gods of money, sex, and power in this land may seem to be everywhere but know that God is in control, God knows who His children are, and know that God has grace for those He is keeping from serving such evil.

Who will you serve? Who do you serve now? I pray reader that you would evaluate the priorities and the passions that you serve. If they do not come from God then you are no better off or more sophisticated than those of the past that served the Baals and the Asheroth.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:19-24 ESV