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

1 Samuel 8:5 | Not my President

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Leadership is a valued focus of the world we live in. Books on leadership are endlessly published. At the university level there are entire classes focused on leadership. The Kindergarten teacher recommended my daughter be held back not because she was deficient in the core academic competencies but because she was immature and lacked leadership skills. We spend billions every four years to pick a leader for the country.

In the Old Testament God laid out a very strange culture and government for the nation of Israel. It was a culture that was an anti-leadership program. The government was decentralized where families and communities lived their lives free of a King. As needed the Israelite life relied on judges. These judges were not voted into office. They did not come from prescribed class or family. Sometimes they were male and sometimes female. They were priests and they were average joes. Judges were chosen by God according to his will as they were needed. They were imperfect people with all their own strengths and weaknesses. Notable judges like Samson was hardly a model citizen. Deborah a woman. Gideon came from a small insignificant family. And Samuel served as priest as well as a judge. These men and women came and went. No family dynasties. No privilege was created to carry over into succeeding generations. This type of non government is outside of human nature and must have been very difficult for the populace to accept.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV

This was not the first time the people wanted to install a king. Gideon had been so successful as a judge that the people tried to make him a king. They were desperate to install a family dynasty to rule over them.

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Judges 8:22 ESV

It seems so very strange. But is it? History class told me that Americans wanted to make George Washington a king and he refused. Look at modern government today. If we had polling numbers how big would the percentage be that would want President Obama to be King and rule for the rest of his life? Or how many people would want President Trump to set up a kingship with his children to rule over us into the future? I bet those percentages would be more than expected. The desire I think is born out of insecurity.

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20 ESV

So why did Israel not have a King like “all the nations” around them? Both Gideon and Samuel answer that question and it is an answer that all of us living even today should take to heart. The reasons they provide apply just as directly to how we live our life and how we approach the world, church, and even our own governments.

23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” Judges 8:22-23 ESV

6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 1 Samuel 8:6-7 ESV

God organized the government into Judges because He is the King. God is the only King. The people did not need a king to rule them or to fight their battles. They had access to the very creator of the universe. When we cry out for leaders to rule over us (take ear evangelicals that are desperate for Trump to save Christianity from a liberal society! Take ear those who are woke and want government to lead society into the promised land of perfect morality and reparations!) we are rejecting the King of Kings. We are rejecting the true ruler of all things. We are clamoring for a god made in our own image and it is an evil selfish image. Salvation will not be found in books on leadership or the people who wrote them. Salvation will not be found in wall street or the mega church. Salvation will not be found in Republicans or Democrats. Salvation and true leadership will only be found in God through Jesus the King of Kings.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 ESV

Judges 8:23 | Vote for …

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It is political season and a new president will be elected soon. The choice at this point in the race makes some angry and some excited. The emotion that some have wrapped up in the candidates is greater than even those that follow sports teams in devotion. There is no logic or reason for some because it is all about party affiliation. Strawmen have been constructed and the opponent must be demonized and dehumanized so the hate can spew forth. Neither of the candidates are moral people. Both crave power and earthly temporary success or transformation. Their followers may stand to benefit financially or otherwise if elected but in the end all of it is temporary. Sometimes a leader is unanimously chosen because of great success and the people come to force them into position. Gideon was successful enough as a general freeing Israel from the surrounding aggressors that the people wanted him to be more than a judge they wanted him to be more than even Moses. They wanted him to be a king.

23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” Judges 8:23 ESV

The people wanted to Gideon to rule so that his success would be passed onto them so they could say to the surrounding nations “Look there is our King he is greater than your king that died at his hands”. Gideon rejected this advance because he knows that the success that was achieved with just 300 men was done to give God glory. Gideon tried to remind the people that God would be their king and ruler. It was God that saved them. It was God that provided for them. The same is true today. Do you want a Democrat or a Republican to be your ruler? Or do you trust Christ as the king of Kings? The Bible narrative tells us that the nation of Israel continued to ask for a ruler so they could be like other nations.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV

Samuel a prophet who is judge over Israel is advancing in years so the people come to him and tell him to appoint a King as successor. When Samuel inquires to the Lord for their request God agrees but it is not His desire or plan for the people.

7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 1 Samuel 8:7 ESV

How many Christians look to the government and politicians to save them, to guide them, or to provide for them? God never intended for government to be our King. That is His role. Is God not our heavenly Father providing all that we need? Why do we look first and only to government and the corrupt people running it to provide for our needs? Certainly the government has a role and we need a judge to maintain law and order but the emotional view of our doom or salvation being based on who is in office is the height of unfaithfulness to God. Look at God’s warning to the people who demanded a King.

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:10-18 ESV

Why can we not put our trust in God to raise up people to lead when the time has need? Even Americans have not learned. Americans should be the first to understand that no kings are necessary and Government is not our salvation. Even in the time of Christ they wanted a King to rule over them.

15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:15 ESV

And why did the people plan to make Jesus King right there even risking war with Rome? Because they were focused on the temporary things of now. Jesus had just served food to the five thousand with only a few loaves and the people wanted that kind of power to be theirs. Is that not how politics work? Feed us and care for us. Lead us in battle. Make us successful. All the while God is there and able to do all those things without either of people who are trying to be elected.

Go and vote this year. Pick the candidate that speaks in alignment with your values or pick the candidate that will do the least harm. But do not look to any man or woman to save the country, laws, values, or whatever is most dear because that comes from God and God alone. The fact is that we already have a King His name is Jesus.

16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelations 19:16 ESV