Jesus vs. Religion. An audio lesson on Mark 11-12

Success

Dressed in his finest $11,000 suit,

He cut a fine figure standing in the

Pulpit invited to read the Lectionary

Which he prefaced with a smile and the

Explanation that hell was but an ancient

Construct to indicate the just

Punishment of murderers, rapists, and

Drug dealers like those in the city.

While his classmates were protesting

And cities were burning; while

Children were dying in villages

Blanketed with napalm, and the 

Dark-skinned young men were locked in cages,

He was devising a plan, a very

Practical plan, to become rich.

Top preparatory school, then

Prestigious university where he

Wore suit and collegiate tie and joined the

Young Republicans until he was 

Accepted at the well-known

School of Business.

MBA in hand, office in Manhattan,

Owning his own firm, house in

Connecticut, train to the city,

Two-thousand-dollar shoes,

Trips to Europe, sports cars,

Summer place on Martha’s Vineyard,

Power yacht, world tours, 5-star resorts,

Six-hundred-dollar bottles of wine in

The wine cellar; million-dollar

Art on the wall.

A fund-raiser for charities that serve the

Elite – galleries and Ivy League, his

Name on the sides of buildings designed by

The latest architectural phenom 

All American success, fine Christian man,

A life without purpose, self-absorbed, 

Self-seeking, emptiness 

void, lacking compassion

Never noticing begging

Lazarus, nor his sores being

Licked by dogs.

A life without love.

A life without God.

Outer darkness.

Wailing. Wailing. Wailing.

Alone. 

Power

Power

Interesting word, power. It may refer to control, influence, or dominance. It can mean ability, as in aptitude or skill; strength, as in force or might. It can refer to authority or rights, privileges, entitlement. It is used of nations in the sense of military or economic force. Power refers to influence or dominion. As a verb, power may be used in the sense of causing something to be set in motion; or in the sense of fuel. 

Power can be either negative or positive. In the negative sense, it is sin, diametrically opposed to Kingdom living. In the Kingdom of God, we are never to coerce, dominate, control, or force anything on anyone. Violent power is to be eschewed. 

On the other hand, power as ability, skill, and energy to serve, love, and work for justice is godly and Kingdom-like. It is this latter form of power to which Paull refers in 2 Corinthians when he tells us that God told him that power is perfected in weakness. (2 CO. 12:9). 

We have no desire to follow the way of the world with its violence, control, and coercion; we have every desire to follow the Way of the Lord by using the gifts, skills, and energy God gives us to advance the Kingdom of God by spreading shalom, wholeness, grace, mercy, and the good news of redemption to all.

Radical Jesus Freaks

Radical Faith

In a superlative article entitled Bono’s Great Adventure, David Brooks speaks of the conversion of the U2 bandmates that lead to them embracing “a faith that simply bypassed the encrustations of 2,000 years of religious civilization and returned straight to Jesus; the helpless baby who was born on a bed of straw and shit; the wandering troubadour who put the poor, the marginalized, and the ailing at the center of his gaze; the rebel outsider who confronted the power structures of his society and took them all on at once.” (Brooks, David. Bono’s Great Adventure. The Atlantic. Vol. 330-No. 5. December 2022. p. 46)

This is the radical faith of pre-Constantinian Christianity, of the desert mothers and fathers, of Francis and Clare of Assisi, of Anabaptists in the Reformation, and of the Jesus people of the 60s and 70s. Sadly, it is not the faith of most occidental Christians today, be they evangelical, Pentecostal, fundamentalist, or mainline. Instead, our cultural narrative places sex, drugs, rock and roll and libertarian unrestraint on one side of the fence, and religion, judgmentalism, control, sexual repression, and authority of the other. Radical Jesus freaks became fundamentalist megachurch pastors supporting right-wing politicians. 

Ever since February 27, 380, when the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius I (347 – 395) signed a decree in the presence of the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian II (371 – 392) that made Christianity the religion of the state and punished the practice of pagan rituals, the Christian religion has been encrusted with power, politics, wealth, and violence. 

Radical Christians who bypass the “encrustations of 2,000 years of religious civilization” and return “straight to Jesus” still exist in Bruderhof communities, at the Simple Way in Philadelphia, in small inner-city faith communities tending community gardens, among Mennonites, Brethren, and Amish, and in the hearts and lives of sold-out Jesus-people who are living by the Sermon on the Mount. 

With loving, serving hearts, they forgive enemies, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, wash feet, oppose killing for any reason, protect and care for the environment. They stand against racism, homophobia, misogyny, antisemitism, islamophobia, and injustice, and work to alleviate poverty and end exploitation. They join God in making all things new by taking up the causes of the homeless, incarcerated, addicted, disabled, and mentally ill. They confront the power structures that perpetuate injustice. The speak truth to power.

And, they are known by their love.

I love Christian Nationalists 

(But Christian Nationalism is a Segue to Fascism)

What is Christian Nationalism?

Many, perhaps most, Christian nationalists are sincere, dedicated people. They go to church regularly, spend time in prayer and devotional reading, and are good citizens. They believe America has a special place in God’s plan. Some honestly believe God has called them to promote the “seven mountain mandate.” (More on what that is below.) The Christian nationalists I know are well-meaning good people. 

Christian nationalism misunderstands the Kingdom of God, has a mistaken theology, and leads people to innocently join a dangerous movement[1], but I hope nothing I say or write is construed as condemning or judging any individuals. My purpose here is to challenge an ideology, not condemn anyone. “Who are you [who am I?] to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” (Romans 14:4)

What is Christian nationalism? Simply put, Christian nationalism commingles church and state. It is an ideology that puts an empire (in this case, the United States) at the center of God’s plan for the world. It reinterprets the historic orthodox understanding of scripture and winds up in Jesus’ name supporting things contrary to his teachings.

Christian nationalism is the amalgamation, the merger, the homogenization of Church and the nation-state[2]. The Church becomes the chaplain of the empire. Seduced by power, some self-identifying Christians fuse religion with the Empire/State/Nation.[3] Christian nationalism uses Christianized language to support the state, and to support and excuse political corruption while ignoring the Sermon on the Mount.[4] 

Historian David Scott: “Christian nationalism identifies the nation with God’s will and action in the world; conflates national and Christian identity; and identifies service of the nation with service of God.”[5] 

Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, defines Christian Nationalism as “a political ideology and cultural framework that merges American and Christian identities.”[6]

Christian nationalism is civil religion. It baptizes the state and its leaders as divinely appointed. Christian nationalism imagines a special divine blessing on “our” people and “our” nation.[7] 

As professor Kristin Kobes Du Mez indicates, American Christian nationalism adheres to “the belief that America is God’s chosen nation and must be defended as such.”[8]  

What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism?

The state, whether the United States or the Roman empire, is not the Kingdom of God. The stated goal of contemporary American Christian nationalism is to take over and control seven areas of influence (the “seven mountain mandate”) in society; viz., family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business, and government.[9] Family is defined as one woman submitted to one man and their children. Religion means Christian fundamentalism. In their view, the media, the entertainment industry, business, and government at all levels should be run by fundamentalist Christians.[10]

Christian nationalism promotes censoring educational materials, male-dominated leadership at all levels, and ultra-rightwing politics.[11] Many white American Christian nationalists support Donald Trump, believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen, get their news from right-wing outlets, and at least partially accept conspiracy theories. Most, but not all, are white[12] conservatives, but there are white conservatives who are not Christian nationalists.

Nationalism frequently becomes jingoistic. Jingoism implies an aggressive, warlike, often belligerent foreign and domestic policy. Christian nationalism is militaristic; it strongly supports military might and power, proudly champions wars, and favors militarized policing, capital punishment, and punitive incarceration. Historically, Christian nationalism has always resulted in violence.[13]

Christian nationalism has so infected the United States that even some pastors of traditional peace churches[14] have lost their jobs for speaking out against wars.

Dr. Irfan Nooruddin from the Ohio State University Department of Political Science “found religious nationalism to be a significant predictor of certain attitudes toward U.S. military intervention abroad.” Using a battery of 10 foreign policy statements, he found that religious nationalists were more likely to think military service should be required of all males and to think the Iraq War was not a mistake. He concludes:

“They also supported using the American military to defend the U.S. oil supply, destroy terror camps abroad, attack Iran if it had nuclear weapons, and spread democracy, but not for using American power to intervene in genocide, protect U.S. allies, or uphold international law.” [15] 

Nationalism is nativist, favoring the native-born.[16] It is anti-immigration and xenophobic. Nationalism, nativism, and jingoism are antithetical to Christianity. A major theme of Paul’s writings in the New Testament is the eradication of barriers between people groups.

Christian nationalism tends to be strongly anti-abortion, but not pro-life.[17]  It does little to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty, provide mental health care and treatment for addictions, provide newly born babies with adoptive homes, or give support to mothers who need it. As previously mentioned, it tends to support killing in form of capital punishment and war. Many Christian nationalists are avid gun-rights advocates and are upfront with the fact that they are prepared for and looking forward to an armed revolution.

Christian nationalism is patriarchal,[18] encourages machoism, promotes submission to male heads of households and leaders, and the domestication of women.

Christian nationalism is based on fear. The influence of “white” Americans is waning, a fact used by fear-mongering politicians to increase their power and influence.[19] Racism and antisemitism are intertwined with Christian nationalism.[20] In coming decades, Christians by any definition will no longer be a majority in the United States.[21]

Everywhere Christian nationalism has gained a foothold, it has destroyed democracy, oppressed minorities, and promoted violence. It is Christian in name only.

Don’t Confuse it with Patriotism

Patriotism, Nationalism, and Jingoism are points on a continuum. Exactly where one blends into the next is not clearly delineated. Some Christian nationalists fall simultaneously into all three categories.

For our purposes here, patriotism is defined as love, appreciation, and celebration of the positive aspects of a nation’s heritage, culture, history, arts, and contributions to the global community. A patriot can love her country without idolizing it.

Nationalism is not simply patriotism, even though the two are often conflated. Nationalism idolizes the nation, promotes it as superior to all others, and ignores its weaknesses, failures, and historic sins.[22]  

Nationalism ignores and rewrites history.[23] It ignores the history of North America colonized by European imperialists who stole the land from indigenous people groups (that had been there for over 10,000 years), then worked the stolen land with enslaved humans. It refuses to see the intergenerational impact of Jim Crow segregation, convict leasing, the war on drugs, red-lining, and lack of access to healthy food, medical care, good schools, public transportation, and affordable housing.[24] 

Justice will not prevail, nor will God bless America,[25] until we honestly deal with America’s original sins of genocide and slavery. Denial of truth, coupled with refusal to even admit that there is anything to repent of, will ultimately result in the implosion of the American empire.

Christian nationalism elevates secular documents (such as the Constitution and Bill of Rights[26]) and secular holidays (e.g., Independence Day, Memorial Day) to the level of the sacred. Christian nationalist pastors lead congregations in pledging allegiance to the flag.[27] 

Christian Nationalism is Based on Falsehood 

Of all people, followers of Jesus should be honest about themselves and the nation in which they live. Christian nationalism promotes the myth of a glorious patriarchal past and imagines a group of “others” (e.g., Jews, African Americans, liberals, elites, atheists, Democrats, socialists, Communists, immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, LGBTQ+, etc.)[28] who threaten that great legacy.[29]

Christian nationalism advances its cause via conspiracies, lies, falsehoods, misinformation, disinformation, and focused propaganda.[30] It seeks to fully control the media, the educational system, and all three branches of state and federal governments. It labels anything it doesn’t like as “fake news.” It makes good into evil and evil into good. The basis of determining what is true and what is false is demolished until there is no common understanding of reality.

Christian nationalism is anti-intellectual.[31] Universities and scientific research institutions are branded as hotbeds of communism, feminism, and atheism. Experts are dismissed as elitists. Similarly, Christian nationalism is anti-science, which leads to opposing public health measures, denying human-caused climate change, and doing little or nothing to stop pollution and mass extinction. 

American Christian Nationalism is Cultic

In the United States, Christian nationalism is partially driven by self-proclaimed prophets[32] like Lance Wallnau,[33] who have claimed, among other things, that Donald Trump is anointed by God[34] and is a new Cyrus the Great,[35] that the Old Testament predicted the exact day Roe v. Wade would be overturned, that God will supernaturally reinstate Trump to the presidency before 2024, and that God is “raising up his army” to restore America to greatness.[36]  

American Christian nationalism is promoted by, among others, James Dobson’s Family Institute and Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Christian nationalism is idolatrous. Its gods are Mars (militarism, political violence like the January 6, 2021 insurrection), Caesar (political power, the Imperial Cult, the idolization of the strongman leader), and Mammon (the love of money because money brings power).[37] 

The toxic theology that undergirds white Christian nationalism is primitivist[38], woodenly literalistic, and naïve.[39] It embraces a simplistic hermeneutic[40] and an untenable eschatology.[41] 

Christian nationalism combines two streams of theology: a neo-Pentecostal/Charismatic theology that places great emphasis on what individuals claim God told them, and a Fundamentalist/Evangelical eschatology that is militaristic and subject to influence by conspiracies as “fitting in” with biblical prophecy.[42]

The metanarrative of scripture is God’s great rescue plan. Out of chaos, God creates a very good world where humans, plants, and animals coexist in harmony with one another and with angelic heavenly beings. The harmony is broken by bad choices made by the humans and some of the angels. Chaos returns and brings with it a world of violence and injustice, disregard for the natural world and empire building. Cain builds the first city after murdering his brother.

God immediately begins God’s rescue project by choosing Abraham and his decedents to spread God’s shalom[43] to all. They fail to do so and God becomes human in Jesus to do what Adam, Eve, Abraham, and Israel (and the rest of us) were unable to do. God in Jesus rescues the cosmos and defeats death and evil through self-sacrificial, enemy forgiving cruciform love on the cross. Since then, God is slowly developing God’s kingdom through the transformed hearts of those willing to follow Jesus. Every act of kindness, every decision to forgive, every stand for justice, every extension of love towards the unlovable, advances the kingdom of heaven. It will be complete when Jesus reappears and heaven comes to earth. Once more, heaven and earth will melt together as one. (See the final chapters of Revelation.)

The Bible does not teach that followers of Jesus should take over areas of influence in society, push their views on others, or mandate morality. Scripture does not teach that the church should be the chaplain of the empire. In fact, it teaches the opposite. 

In 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, the apostle Paul references Isaiah 52:11. Ezekiel 20:34 & 41, and 2 Samuel 7:8 & 14: 

2 Cor. 6:16b “I will live in themand walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore come out from them,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch nothing unclean;
    then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be your father,
    and you shall be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

In Revelation 18:4, John hears a voice from heaven referencing Jeremiah 51:45:

Rev. 18:4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say:

“‘Come out of her, my people,’
    so that you will not share in her sins,
    so that you will not receive any of her plagues

“Her” in the verse above refers to Babylon, which is code for the Roman empire in particular and all empires in general. Followers of Christ are called out of empire and into the Kingdom of God. For the first three centuries of Christianity, Christians refused military service, refused to hold government offices, and refused to kill other humans under any circumstances. Instead, they loved their enemies, adopted the abandoned babies, visited the sick and incarcerated, and shared all their worldly goods with others.

We who are trying, albeit haltingly, to follow Jesus are called to live under the auspices of the Kingdom of God, to turn the other cheek, serve the least, go the second mile, love enemies, return good for evil and conquer hate with love. We are not called to run empires, yet that is exactly what Christian nationalists propose when they seek control of school boards, libraries, and Congress.

“Moms for Liberty” is a group that actively seeks control of curricula and school boards and objects to diversity training, anything that relates to slavery, civil rights, or oppression against Native Americans, as well as things like children’s books that teach about seahorses. (They claim learning about seahorses is a subtle endorsement of gender fluidity.)[44]

The Kingdom of God is not a place “out there” called heaven. It is here now in the hearts and actions of every altruistic, justice-loving, enemy-forgiving person. When Jesus comes again, heaven and earth will be one and love, justice, and peace will cover all creation. The Kingdom of God is here now and not yet.

MAGA Trumpism is a glaring example of Christian nationalism. It is a religious cult.[45] Mr. Trump’s words and behavior are diametrically opposite the Sermon on the Mount. Thousands of documented lies, his extreme malignant narcissism, a history of unfair and illegal business dealings, multiple wives and affairs, threats, stoking violence, racist and xenophobic comments, and kowtowing to dictators like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Viktor Orbán, and Mohammed bin Salman make that clear.[46]

“ReAwaken America” is a traveling event featuring far-right conspiracists, anti-vaxers, election deniers, and Trump supporters set as an evangelistic event with worship songs, prayer, and invitations to be baptized. It is, as Peter Wehner says in The Atlantic, “… a world of fantasy and illusion, of crazed conspiracy theories and disinformation.”[47]

This prayer was offered at the “ReAwaken America” event in Lancaster, PA in October 2022:

Father God, we come to you in the name of Jesus. We’re asking you to open the eyes of President Trump’s understanding, that he will know the time of divine intervention. He will know how to implement divine intervention. And you will surround him, Father, with none of this deep-state trash, none of this RINO trash. You surround him, people that you pick, with your own mighty hand. In the name of Jesus.

Michael Flynn is a founder and frequent speaker at “ReAwaken America” events. Flynn is a retired Army 3-star general who led the Defense Intelligence Agency and resigned as Trump’s national security adviser after less than a month, then pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He has promoted civil war,[48] claimed that COVID-19 is a plot to rule the world,[49] and maintained that wealthy progressives are behind a conspiracy to electronically track everyone.[50]

Amanda Tyler defines the “ReAwaken” movement as “a partisan political cause, and the cause here is to spread misinformation, to perpetuate the big lie and to have a different result next time in the next election.”[51]

It Has Happened Before

I’ve been speaking of Christian nationalism in contemporary America, but it is nothing new. 

Pharaohs and emperors were considered gods. Kings reigned by divine right. Beginning in the 4th century, institutionalized Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, which gave Christians political power and influence, as well as great wealth.[52] 

In 1493, the Pope issued the “Doctrine of Discovery,” instructing the monarchs of Spain and Portugal to colonize and enslave the inhabitants of the Americas.[53] From the Reformation onward, virtually every European state church supported the exploits of their respective nations.[54] 

The German Lutheran Church supported Hitler. Vladimir Putin is buoyed by the Russian Orthodox Church. As a group, “white” Christian nationalists favor Donald Trump, gun rights, anti-immigration policies, and national exceptionalism. Christian nationalism supports unregulated exploitative capitalism and economic injustice.[55]

Christian Nationalism is a Precursor of Fascism 

It’s time to use the “F” word.[56] 

Fascism is a far-right, authoritarian, ultranationalist political ideology, characterized by a dictatorial leader, centralized autocracy, militarism, conspiracy laden propaganda, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation. Fascism draws moral authority from civil religion. Because Christian nationalism is anti-intellectual, anti-educational, anti-historical, and in bed with reactionary politics, it tees up fascism. 

Some Christian nationalists are currently supporting neo-fascist candidates for public office. White fundamentalist evangelicalism, conservative Catholicism, and the Republican party are in the grips of far-right, authoritarian, ultranationalist political ideology, thanks, in large part, to a combination of toxic theology, fear of waning influence due to demographic shifts, and the manipulations of politicians.

Samuel L. Perry and Andrew L. Whitehead write:

“Simply put, Christian nationalism—an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of Christianity* with American civic belonging and participation—is a form of nascent or proto-fascism. Not full-blown fascism (yet), but a complex of ostensibly-religious ideologies, identities, and values that could potentially lead toward fascism given the right recipe of resources, political opportunities, and a population acclimated to its underlying ideals.

“Don’t miss the asterisk. It denotes that the “Christian” content of Christian nationalism stands for something far beyond (and we believe altogether different from) mere orthodoxy. “Christian” in this sense represents more of an ethno-cultural and political identity that denotes a specific constellation of religious affiliation (evangelical Protestant), cultural values (conservative), race (white), and nationality (American-born citizen).” [57]

Christian Nationalism is not Christian

The essential problem is that Christian nationalism is not Christian, if by Christian we mean following the teachings of Jesus.[58]  Again, I do not mean to imply that any individual Christian nationalist is not a Christian. God is the only legitimate judge. What I am saying is that the ideology of Christian nationalism is contrary to the teachings of Christ. In fact, according to Russel Moore, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, it is a danger to Christians.[59]

In Scripture, God calls us to love, serve, and care for, not take over and control. We are to wash feet, not run the empires of the world.  

Christian nationalism is diametrically contrary to the teachings of the New Testament and the implications of those teachings for social justice, war, violence, guns, immigration, healthcare, and environmental stewardship.

“Christian nationalism bears little resemblance to Christianity. Christian nationalism works in a decidedly un-Christ-like manner by supporting policies that marginalize those who, through their beliefs or identity, don’t conform to a biblically ordained order that reverences the traditional family, militarism, closed borders, and white, Protestant supremacy.”[60] – Dennis McDaniel

Christian nationalism twists and cherry-picks scripture to support “white” fundamentalist nationalistic exceptionalism.[61] 

Christian nationalism is diametrically opposed to true biblical Christianity. To again quote Peter Wehner:

What is being done by many people on the American right in the name of Jesus is a desecration of the actual Jesus—the Jesus of the Gospels, the Sermon on the Mount, and the parable of the Good Samaritan; the Jesus who shattered social, cultural, and religious barriers and hung out with the “wrong” crowd; the Jesus who was drawn to the forsaken and the despised, the marginalized and the outcast; the Jesus who demonstrated profound mistrust of political power and who declined Satan’s offer of the kingdoms of the world. The Jesus who said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” and “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of the Lord.”[62]

Once we check our brains in the narthex and settle in to listen to proven false conspiracy theories,[63] racist tropes, and jingoism couched in piety and sprinkled with disembodied scripture quotations, we have helped to pave the way towards fascism. 

Following Jesus includes the understanding that we are pilgrims and ambassadors, citizens of the Kingdom of God. The kingdoms of this world are driven by greed, power, and ambition. We have only one Lord – Jesus. To him alone we pledge allegiance. Hopefully, we are humble enough to be teachable, speak truth (not conspiracy or propaganda), and know there is no “us” versus “them.” 

Every person has unsurpassable worth, each created in the image and likeness of God. Obedience to God means we serve and care for the environment and the animal kingdom, promote justice and peace, welcome people of all ethnicities, genders, and beliefs, and care for those Jesus described as “the least” of his siblings.[64] We are to be known by our love. God’s criterium for success is how well we love. 

As followers of Jesus, we stand against injustice, against fascism, against “Christian” nationalism, and on the side of the poor, oppressed, marginalized and disenfranchised. We try to live by the Sermon on the Mount, and to follow the Lamb of God – not a donkey or an elephant. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We pledge allegiance to no other.

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ORA PRO NOBIS

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NOTES

[1] Dangerous because it also includes white supremists, antisemites, neo-Nazis, armed private militias, and others who promote violence. 

[2] In this case, “white” fundamentalist evangelicalism, “white” Pentecostal/Charismatic, and “white” conservative Roman Catholic, merging with North American jingoism.

[3] In Revelation 12-13, John envisions three monsters as metaphors – a dragon representing the satan that empowers a sea monster representing Empires and a land monster representing nationalistic civil religion. Every oppressive empire in history has found a handmaiden in organized religion to give it moral legitimacy. 

[4] See Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6

[5] Dr. David W. Scott, Methodist historical researcher and Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church

[6] https://bjconline.org/mission-history/ Accessed 15 October 2022

[7] In his 1862 message to Congress, President Lincoln said, “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” Lincoln had hope for America to become the world’s “last best hope” – a place of freedom for a world of refugees – but was wise enough not to maintain that the nation had achieved that goal.

[8] Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Ph.D., Professor of History, Calvin University; author of Jesus and John Wayne

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Mountain_Mandate

[10] https://www.texasobserver.org/dominion-theology/ Accessed 25 October 2022

[11] https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2019/08/the-hypocrisy-of-the-faith-freedom-coalition/; https://www.ffcoalition.com; https://www.drjamesdobson.org; https://currentpub.com/?s=dobson&wpessid=139452 Accessed 15 November 2022

[12] There is no such thing as a “white race.” It is a construct of modernism invented by light skinned people of European decent to justify chattel slavery. There is only one race: human.

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8724742/ Accessed 15 November 2022

[14] The traditional peace churches include the Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Friends (Quakers). A fundamental part of their core doctrine, based on the Sermon on the Mount, is opposition to killing in any form.

[15] Source: https://mershoncenter.osu.edu/research-projects/religious-nationalism-and-american-militarism 

Accessed 15 October 2022

[16] It is particularly ironic for the decedents of immigrants to promote anti-immigration policies.

[17] Pro-birth is not the same as pro-life. Not a few “pro-life” people are pro-war, pro-capital punishment, pro-militarized policing. Some even advocate the death penalty for physicians performing abortions.

[18] Whitehead AL, Perry SL. Is a “Christian America” a More Patriarchal America? Religion, Politics, and Traditionalist Gender Ideology. Can Rev Sociol. 2019 May;56(2):151-177. doi: 10.1111/cars.12241. Epub 2019 Apr 30. PMID: 31037842. Accessed 15 October 2022

[19] Non-Hispanic “whites” will be in the minority by 2045. (Source: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/demo/p25-1144.pdf Accessed 15 Nov. 2022

[20] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU9TDyYJc84 Accessed 15 Nov. 2022

[21] https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2022/09/13/us-christians-percentage-pew-secularism/ Accessed 6 November 2022

[22] Contemporary American evangelicalism is highly individualistic. Sin is seen as the bad actions of individuals. When national sins are mentions, some people react negatively, thinking they as individuals are being condemned. As individuals alive today, we are not responsible for slavery or native genocide any more than Germans under the age of 70 are responsible for the Holocaust. Nevertheless, as Germany has collectively repented of the Holocaust, and as ancient Israel repented of the sins that lead to the Babylonian captivity, so much America repent of its historic national sins by apologizing and working out some sort of fair reparations.

[23] See, for example, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVEqYk-hjNM Accessed 15 October 2022

[24] As of this writing in October of 2022, numerous states are passing or have passed laws making the teaching of what actually happened in America illegal, often under the guise of “Critical Race Theory,” which is a complex legal theory discussed in law schools. CRT has never been taught at any level below that. It has become a junk drawer term for anything that challenges the white supremist narrative.

[25] Irving Berlin’s song, “God Bless America” was intended to be a prayer as in, “God, please bless America, stand beside her, guide her …” It was first written in 1918 as World War I was looming, then revised in 1938 as WW2 was gearing up. It was never meant to communicate the idea that God has specially blessed America (past tense).

[26] https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/second-amendment-does-not-guarantee-right-own-gun-gun-control-p-99 and https://truerichesradio.com/are-gun-rights-god-given/ Accessed 15 Oct. 2022

[27] For an understanding of why that is inappropriate, see: https://www.redletterchristians.org/the-pledge-of-allegiance-2-reasons-why-christians-should-not-say-it/ Accessed 20 Nov. 2022

[28] Christian nationalism promotes “us” versus “them.” 

·       “They” are inherently lazy, violent, untrustworthy. “We” are honest and hardworking. 

·       “They” want a handout; “we” pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. 

·       “We” support and protect the traditional family; “they” are deviant and threaten to undermine the fabric of society. 

·       “They” want to defund the police. “We” support the thin blue line of brave officers who stand between us and chaos. 

·       “We” are the real victims – gains for “them” mean losses for “us.” 

·       “We” are the salt of the earth from the suburbs, small towns and rural areas; “they” live in crime infested big cities. 

·       “We” are true patriots; “they” want to destroy “our American way of life.” 

·       “We” love America; “they” hate America. 

[29] Historian Jemar Tisby speaks to this same issue in his blogs, newsletters, books, & videos, which I highly recommend.

[30] E.g., https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/former-trump-adviser-michael-flynn-at-the-center-of-new-movement-based-on-conspiracies-and-christian-nationalism Accessed 15 October 2022

[31] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09636625211006271 Accessed 15 October 2022

[32] https://crcc.usc.edu/how-self-proclaimed-christian-prophets-provided-religious-motivation-for-the-jan-6-events-at-the-us-capitol/ In the article, Brad Christerson assets, “INC (Independent Network Charismatics) beliefs are different from those of most traditional Christian groups, including those affiliated with official Pentecostal denominations. INC promotes a form of Christian nationalism the primary goal of which is not to build congregations or to convert individuals, but to bring heaven or God’s intended perfect society to Earth by placing “kingdom-minded people” in powerful positions at the top of all sectors of society, the so-called “seven mountains of culture” comprising government, business, family, religion, media, education and arts/entertainment.”

[33] https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2022/11/05/lance-wallnau-mastriano-christian-prophets/ Accessed 6 November 2022

[34] Even more disconcerting than the fact that Donald Trump thinks he’s the messiah is the fact that so many American Christians want a Messiah like Trump instead of one like Jesus.

[35] Cyrus II of Persia (c. 600-530 BC) or Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire

[36] https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/10/23/right-wing-election-turnout/ Accessed 16 Nov. 2022

[37] See: The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church by Gregory A. Boyd and Postcards from Babylon: The Church in American Exile by Brian Zahnd

[38] Primitivism is a theological ideology that seeks to return Christian belief and practice to those of the New Testament church. My primary objection to that lies in its tendency to ignore the social justice and critical scholarship implications of the text.

[39] A woodenly literalistic reading of scripture is naïve in that it ignores context, original intent, purpose of figures of speech, symbolism, the ancient Neareastern worldview, and the purpose of myth. 

[40] It reduces the Bible to a flat text in which every verse is of equal value, thus ignoring progressive revelation.

[41] Misreadings of Paul, the Olivet Discourse, Daniel, & Revelation have led to doomsday scenarios, obsession with demonology, conspiracies, & bizarre predictions.

[42] Technically, that eschatological view is called premillennial pretribulation rapture dispensationalism. It has gained popularity in America from books by Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, and Jerry Jenkins. As theology goes, it is a modern view, arising at the end of the 19th century. It reads apocalyptic literature like the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation as predictive and envisions a vengeful violent second coming of Messiah. I was a very strong proponent of that view for many years, partly because it was all I knew and what I was taught, and partly because it gave me comfort to think I would escape divine wrath. It is a completely erroneous nonbiblical interpretation of scripture that has never been accepted by the vast majority of Christians. For further study, see The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham, Reading Revelation Responsibly by Michael Gorman, and Discipleship on the Edge by Darrell Johnson. 

[43] Shalom is the Hebrew word often translated peace, but it means more than the absence of conflict. Shalom is harmony, wholeness, actualization, peace within and without.

[44] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/11/07/the-right-wing-mothers-fuelling-the-school-board-wars Accessed 5 Nov 2022

[45] Its religious doctrine is heretical; it is under the spell of demonic conspiracies, lies, and deliberate disinformation; undergirded with racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia; and, idolizes a would-be dictator. 

[46] I was personally appalled when President Clinton had the sexual encounter with Monica Lewinsky and agreed with those who voiced protest on the grounds of immoral character. I am more appalled at self-identifying Christians today who ignore the immorality of Mr. Trump, excusing it on the grounds that he has repented and changed. He himself said he has nothing of which to repent and his behavior has shown no changes, nor any evidence of what the scripture calls the “fruit of the Spirit.”

[47] Peter Wagner, The Desecrations of Michael Flynn, The Atlantic, October 25, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/michael-flynn-maga-christian-trump/671852/

[48] At an event in Arizona Flynn said, “Did you know that a governor can declare war? A governor can declare war. And we’re going to probably see that.” https://news.yahoo.com/michael-flynn-ominously-warns-governors-001833381.html

[49] Flynn maintains that COVID-19 was purposely unleashed by global elitists in order to “rule the world,” “control humanity,” and “steal an election.” https://twitter.com/RonFilipkowski/status/1487432929038983172

[50] Flynn has warned about the dangers of a “new world order” in which people such as Bill Gates, George Soros, and Klaus Schwab “have an intent to track every single one of us, and they use it under the skin. They use a means by which it’s under the skin.” https://www.mediaite.com/tv/michael-flynn-makes-asinine-claim-that-bill-gates-and-george-soros-are-planting-tracking-devices-under-the-skin-to-usher-in-new-world-order/ Accessed 15 Oct. 2022

[51] https://www.scribd.com/article/599193969/Old-Michael-Flynn-s-Re-Awaken-Roadshow-Recruits-Army-Of-God

[52] In 380 CE, the emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which made Christianity, specifically Nicene Christianity, the official religion of the Roman Empire.

[53] In 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued the papal bull “Inter Caetera,” which asserts the rights of Spain and Portugal to colonize, forcefully convert, kill, and enslave Native Americans and Africans.

[54] Christian nationalism has been historically and nonviolently opposed by radical Reformationists such as the Anabaptists.

[55] https://truthout.org/articles/wealthy-donors-bankroll-christian-nationalists-to-sustain-unregulated-capitalism/ Accessed 15 Nov. 2022

[56] https://time.com/6214724/christian-nationalism-threats-united-states/ Accessed 15 October 2022

[57] https://religioninpublic.blog/2020/02/05/christian-nationalism-talks-religion-but-walks-fascism/ Accessed 15 October 2022 Emphasis in the original. 

[58] Although Christian nationalism can be broadly defined, we are cautious to recognize that there are many individual exceptions to all generalizations.

[59] https://www.newyorker.com/podcast/the-new-yorker-radio-hour/russell-moore-on-christian-nationalism Accessed 15 Nov. 2022

[60] https://www.penncapital-star.com/commentary/what-to-do-about-those-less-than-christ-like-christian-churches-lloyd-e-sheaffer/ Accessed 15 Nov. 2022

[61] Nationalistic exceptionalism is the belief that one’s country is superior to all others. It is seen in phrases like “America is the last, great hope of the world,” “This is the greatest country on earth,” “save America,” and “Make America Great Again.” 

[62] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/michael-flynn-maga-christian-trump/671852/ Accessed 26 October 2022

[63] As, for example, believing that influential Democrats are involved in a global child pornography ring centered in the basement of a New Jersey Pizza parlor, or that widespread fraud resulted in the 2020 presidential election being stolen.

[64] The poor, sick, incarcerated, homeless, etc. See Matthew 25.

Greatest in the Kingdom: a video study on Mark 10:35-52

Trinity

One candle

Just one

Wafting the fragrance of

Spring apples throughout the room

One candle

Just one

With three wicks

Three identical flames

Burning in tender synchronicity

Harmoniously focused

Singular purpose

One candle

Just one

With three identical flames

Now cloven into multiple

Tongues of fire

Dancing, joyous, spreading

Light, love, beauty

Sweet bouquet to savor

Following Jesus Changes Everything: an audio teaching on MARK 9:42-10:34

On the Origin of Evil

Often, we have walked this shore

Felt the sea breeze

Watched the sandpipers stab translucent sand crabs

And the ring-billed gulls glide across the surf.

But this morning there’s a strangeness in the air

An odd glow on the horizon

An unnatural unnerving wind in the eel-grass

A cold inverted vortex lifts us aloft

The dark myth unfolds

As ineffable as it is unfathomable.

Swirling in the thickness of illogic

It makes no sense to speak of 

“Time before time,” of something

Before nothing, yet there it is – 

Before infinitely condensed space-time,

Pure ethereal spirits, flames of fire 

Created with free will.

(But, why? Surely not that the Omnipotent

Alpha-Omega had needs, or wanted slaves;

Nor would Divine Love be so aggrandizing as to

Narcissistically fashion beings just to adore the Divine Self.)

Unknown, unanswered, mystical and mythical

Creatures (if spirits can be called creatures) 

Some of which choose pride, rebel, and,

By so doing, self-isolate into terrible aloneness.

Grace becomes malice

Love becomes hatred

Order turns into chaos

A thick fog in the dead of cold night

Darkness upon the face of the deep

A cosmos without order or beauty or music

Great God of Goodness and Love – heartbroken – 

Loved these strange creatures, these shape-shifters,

These wraiths, these flames of fire.

Though humans were created in the Imago Dei, 

All of creation bears the fingerprints of the

Divine – snake and eagle, toad and puppy, orca and damselfish.

These fallen dominions, principalities, powers – 

Are they irredeemable?  

Can created beings place themselves beyond the reach of divine love?

Being eternal, are they indestructible?

Is it impossible to annihilate them?

And, if not, why allow them to continue 

Their spoiling of masterpieces?

They are dissonance, confusion, cruelty, heartbreak.

Did the Omniscient One not know they would choose

Havok, death, chaos, and cause merciless anguish?

Did not Perfect Love anticipate wars and burn units?

The whirlwind tenderly sets us down

As the chill dissipates and the sun – 

Blessed in its normalness – 

Rises to spread a warmth across land and sea.

With gentle strokes, we wave the warmth

Onto our faces as the portal softly closes

And feel the warm sand under our bare feet

And hear the lapping of the waves on a golden shore.

We are content with mystery.

We no longer need answers.

We bask in Love.

A Radical Christ: an audio teaching on Mark 9:2-41

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