Which is to say, is there any real meaning to our understanding of how people ought to behave? We talk a lot about right and wrong, or about good and evil. This Question 3 is to explore the spiritual question of sin v. righteousness. Are our ideas about how people ought to behave just conceptual? Is there any reality to the concept of sin? Are there any real spiritual consequences, other than logical life consequences, involved with sin?
Before we get very far with this, we have to have a definition for what we mean by “sin.” It is clear that there are Ratburghers who think of “sin” as a personal shortcoming, like a lack of musical talent or poor eyesight or weak willpower. However, I mean something very different. Here is a dictionary definition:
an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.
The world takes offense at God. The Pagans hated the idea that their gods have no real power. The Muslims and the Mormons are counterfeits of God. Buddhists say that “God” is not a real person, but a spiritual amalgam. Atheists are angry at the God they don’t believe in.
Communists, being Atheists, are angry at God. So the latest outrage from China comes as no surprise. The First Commandment is outlawed. It started recently in just one church that we know of, but the Party statements indicate that this is a nationwide China policy:
One of the officials explained, however, that Chinese President Xi Jinping “opposes the statement,” referring to the first commandment.
“Who dares not to cooperate? If anyone doesn’t agree, they are fighting against the country,” the official warned. “This is a national policy. You should have a clear understanding of the situation. Don’t go against the government.”
The church was forced to take down the Ten Commandments sign that day.
There is a Liberal strain of Evangelicalism that gets a lot of favorable coverage in Leftist Mass Media. They are both political liberals and theological liberals. The thing that makes them popular with Big Media is the way their spokespersons use credentials as “Christians” to bash American Christianity. In particular, these are the liberal Evangelicals who are Democrats who oppose President Trump, and they oppose Christians who support President Trump. So we are at the intersection of religion and politics and the culture war. Lamestream media promote Leftist Christians as a way to drive a wedge between President Trump and his base.
I am writing to address one particular thing that gets said by liberal “Christians.” I saw it recently on several Leftist blogs, where they were riffing on coverage of the release of a new book. It did not generate much in the way of media coverage, primarily because Big Media was chasing Mueller investigation squirrels and Charlottesville anniversary racism squirrels. However, I thought it worth addressing because we have seen it before and we will see it again.
The topic was “Fear.” It was said that 81 percent of ‘Evangelical Voters’ had been motivated to vote for Donald Trump by fear.
Well, I agree, but, I strongly disagree with the things that were said. Some of the things that were said are that the Evangelicals who support President Trump are “mean” “selfish” “racist;” you know, all the usual Leftist blather. But stick with me and eventually I will get around to a theological point.
The book this time is Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, by John Fea, who is a liberal Evangelical and a history professor. Last month The Atlantic ran a long feature by Fea. Near the top, the professor gets to spiritual issues:
Moses told the Israelites to “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.” The Hebrew God told Job: “At the destruction and famine you shall laugh, and shall not fear the beasts of the earth.” The Psalmist wrote: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
The Gospel of John teaches Christians that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” St. Luke writes: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Despite all these scriptural passages, it is still possible to write an entire history of American evangelicalism as the story of a people failing miserably at overcoming fear with hope, trust, and faith in their God. But it is also possible to find evangelicals, drawing deeply from Christian theological resources, who sought to forge an alternative history.
Fea then launches into a diatribe, reviewing historical points to trash American Evangelicals of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. He grinds the ax of how American Evangelicals were fearful anti-intellectual xenophobic racists. After too many words, he wrapped that up with remarks about racist fear of Obama, and homophobic opposition to SSM. He pivots to current times with this:
After a recent lecture on Trump and his evangelical supporters, a woman approached me at the lectern and identified herself as an evangelical who voted for Trump. “I am part of the 81 percent,” she said, “but what choice did I have?” I have heard something similar many times from evangelicals who voted for Trump.
He gives a brief review of the Hillary campaign, and then brings out the big trope:
Ironically, some evangelicals have found a savior. They sought after Trump, he answered them, and he delivered them from all their fears.
But other evangelical options are available. Evangelicals are people of hope, not fear. The practice of Christian hope points us to a life beyond this world, but it also requires us to act in such a way that models God’s coming kingdom. The Kingdom of God is characterized by the love of enemies, the welcoming of strangers, the belief in the human dignity of all people, a humble and self-sacrificial posture toward public life, and a trust in the sovereign God of the universe. Fear is a natural human response to social change, but evangelicals betray their deepest spiritual convictions when they choose to dwell in it.
This is a conflation of fears. Throughout this essay he does what we have seen so often before. He is mixing up spiritual fear with worldly fear.
Spiritual fear is fear of eternity. In death there are two directions for your soul to take. Eternal rest with Jesus, or else eternity in the place that is without God. Christians can look forward to eternity in the full confidence that the spiritual debt they owe has been paid in full because they have been adopted into the family of God. There is hope in the blood of Jesus there, and no spiritual fear.
Worldly fear is the fear of bad outcomes in this life. For most white American Christians this does not mean fear of bad guys in the neighborhood. That may be a real fear for some, but, politically, that is a law-and-order, justice system issue. There was a great deal of fearmongering over this issue, but little of the Trump vote in 2016 was manifested as votes for personal safety.
Rather, these votes were for a secure future for children and grandchildren. The fear was that America would descend into chaos. First, in rough neighborhoods in blue cities that foolishly degrade and impede their own police forces. But, later, nationally, as our overextended economy collapses into a new Depression. These are thoroughly worldly fears. They are genuine fears, and they are not much related to spiritual matters.
Further to the worldly fears of Evangelical Voters, we feared that the Democrat Party will transform America in an ugly way that will dismantle our free exercise of our traditionalist Christian religion. We remembered that Hillary said that traditionalist religion “will have to change.” She was running to become the theologian in chief.
Evangelical Vote for a Sinner
We preferred to vote for a flawed man with the baggage of a past history of sexual sins. He was pledging to preserve religious liberty. Our concern was not for our salvation, but for the ability of our grandchildren to live openly as Christians. They may be saved by the blood of Jesus, but they may find themselves enjoying their spiritual freedom from the confines of a gulag.
It is Democrats who have made Christian business owners in blue states into second-class citizens. It is Democrats who have threatened Christian colleges and high schools with a loss of accreditation. It is Democrats who have forced the promotion of sin and forced our children to celebrate sexual sin in public schools. It is Democrats who have said that traditionalist Christians should not be allowed to hold public office. It is Democrats who have demonized any personality who has publicly lobbied for limits on abortion. It is Democrats who promote euthanasia. It is Democrats who pressed federal meddling into state and local bathrooms. It is Democrats who deny real data-based science about the climate. It is Democrats who deny the science of embryology as they promote abortion. It is Democrats who corrupted the social sciences and humanities with anti-Western and anti-Christian activism.
So, yes, we fear the Party of Death. They are anti-police, anti-law, anti-justice, anti-religious, anti-Christian and anti-American. They are the Party that booed God.
We did not elect Donald Trump because we see him as some kind of spiritual savior. We elected Donald Trump to postpone the day when the Left triumphs and dismantles Western Civilization. That will be a dark day for everyone, not just for Christians. Our concerns that led us to vote for Donald Trump were temporal, not eternal.
But they are very real and valid concerns. Though they are not spiritual fears, the fears are well-founded. That does not make us “fearful;” it means we have grave concerns that we express as “fears.” There is a big difference.
Conflating theological concerns with worldly concerns is a deliberate attack on weak-minded Christians, intended to sew confusion and doubt among believers. They impute to our support for our flawed champion a support of his past sins. They called us “immoral” for voting for “immoral Trump.”
They are not being honest, which is their habit. Leftists have always been liars.
Trust Jesus, and trust your instincts. You knew you could not vote for Hillary. However much they harangue you with President Trump’s personal faults, just remember that we are not putting our faith in President Trump for spiritual guidance. The trust we place in President Trump is strictly worldly. And he has proved to be surprisingly worthy of our trust, far exceeding our expectations. President Trump should be rewarded with our full support. He has worked hard to deliver on his campaign promises, rewarding our votes with a political delivery that is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes.
Religious freedom is a powerful and vital right. More than any other right, it dethrones the State, placing it subordinate to the conscience of the individual and the Supreme Being he chooses to acknowledge. This is why the Left cannot stand it – they cannot bear the competition. Only the Party and the State can define meaning – in essence, they want to establish Leftism as State religion, and block the free exercise of any other faith. Social Justice is indeed a jealous god, wrathful and merciless.
That said, there are limits to religious freedom. You cannot claim that heinous crimes are justified by your religion and expect to get away with it – no sacrificing children to Moloch (unless they are aborted fetuses). You need some degree of common sense restrictions – you cannot form the Church of Rockso and claim tax exemption along with having cocaine consumption as a sacrament. This is all common knowledge.
Now for a tougher situation. The Church of Scientology is a fairly small, but extremely rich organization. It does not acknowledge a supreme being, nor does engage in much charitable activity. More than anything else, it resembles a corrupt business selling self-help techniques, while using mental manipulation to control its members. The abuses and cruelties of this organization have been well-documented – there are numerous books, a documentary movie, and even a TV series.
When the Church of Scientology is challenged, they run behind their tax exempt status, which was obtained by a relentless campaign of harassment against the IRS. Eventually, the IRS bowed down before Scientology and its sociopathic leader, granting them a tax exemption. So now the IRS is cast as official arbiter of whether or not some group is a religion. While there is discussion that Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have some interest in changing this, Scientology regularly swats away lawsuits with the stamp of approval they extorted from the US government. How do we work to break the power of this vile organization, without jeopardizing all religious freedom.
If that was a thorny issue, this one is acid-coated razor wire. Political Islam is very tightly related with religious Islam, and Political Islam is blatantly incompatible with Western democracy. Yet there are vast numbers of Muslims who like the good life in the US, and do not want to make women wear sacks and decapitate everyone who disagrees. On the other hand, we see the continuing problem of Sudden Jihad Syndrome. Some scumbag watches some ISIS videos online, then decides to kill as many people as possible.
I understand that some people here think all Muslims need to be expelled from the US. I have had close co-workers who are practicing Muslims, and other Muslim acquaintances (even a guy named Jihad!) and I just can’t square kicking all of them out (much less killing them) with freedom of religion. CAIR and the various other terrorist-hugging mounds of porcine excrement certainly should get treated as enemy agents. I want people facing treason charges and similar treatment to Nazi agents in WWII. That still leaves a lot of people who follow Mecca Islam (to use Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s phrase) and have no real interest in decapitation. Do we need to toss them out? Hell, the Left hates us more than ISIS does. Can we trust that they would not expel Evangelicals if they had the chance?
That said, we do need to be mindful of the people following Medina Islam, and who are inclined to dominate or destroy us. How do we address this problem?
I feel guilty when I order takeout. Why? Because that’s money I could be saving for a rainy day. The frugal American we-don’t-have-servants mindset is that anything you can do for yourself, you should, and paying others to do something because you’re too lazy, is wasteful.
When my sister’s washing machine broke, she had to send out her laundry for a while as they waited on repairs. She said, “Olive, it’s great. I may never go back. I know it’s such a Rich Lady thing to do, but….”
I began to think: The services that we consider Rich Lady Things–Uber, Seamless, laundry service, etc.–put money in the hands of the poor. If I tip the delivery guy generously I’m putting money directly in his pocket, much more efficiently than a government entity or charity could do.
As much as I love the church, she doesn’t take care of the poor like she’s supposed to. Mainly because the government has stepped in to do her job for her, and made her irrelevant when it comes to taking care of the needy. Church budgets primarily go for buildings, and salaries, so there’s not much left over to give to the poor anyway.
But could paying for services that I could theoretically do, but don’t have the time or inclination, be the modern way of giving to the poor? Those who are perfectly willing to drive me to the train station, or cook my food and bring it to me, are depending on my generosity. Could it be that I actually owe them their commission and tip? I’m stingy if I have the money in my hand, but don’t give them the opportunity.
The Biblical model of giving and helping the poor is outlined in the Old Testament in “not gleaning to the edge of the field.” At harvest time, the righteous were commanded to leave a little bit of crop around the edges so that the poor could come after the reapers and gather what remained.
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 23:22
This was the wealthy man’s field–his grain, his land, his laborers–but in the Biblical sense, he owed it to the poor to not reap every single inch of produce his land yielded. Leave a little bit. Around the edges. For the poor. After all, that was there only chance at gathering–they didn’t have their own land or crop.
Yes, you could rightfully command your workers to gather every single stalk, every head of grain, but don’t do it. Leave a little bit around the edges. For the poor.
Today, I could insist on doing my own cooking and cleaning, but why? In one sense it’s a way of being rigid and greedy.
When my brother goes to the bank, he gets $100 in singles, in order to tip his baristas every morning. The idea of tipping as a way of giving comes from him, who declares he does not give to charities generally. But if you go out to eat with him, you will see that he gives generously to the poor.
Thoughts? Are there any Rich Lady (or Man) things you do, that may actually benefit someone?
@drlorentz put up a post called Leftism as Religion that I highly endorse. I started a branching thread within that about how I see Darwinism as being driven by similar (and very natural, of course) thinking.
Here’s what I said:
This matches the left’s penchant for Neo-Darwinism, too. At least, the version with all the happy talk about how things always just randomly, accidentally just get better and smarter and more complex and more ordered.
Followed by the doc’s:
I’m not familiar with such a version. I don’t think any biologist would agree with that characterization. Don’t confuse biological fitness with improvement. Cockroaches are neither especially smart nor complex but very fit biologically . The evidence is that they are c. 100 Myrs old and essentially unchanged in that time. Ferns are even older and simpler. Neither species seemed to require improvement.
You’re the first person I’ve heard who says things aren’t evolving – just staying the same. Odd.
It seems that cockroaches had to come from something, right? Was evolution not involved in the process that got us cockroaches?
And then this completely ridiculous comment in reply to my perfectly reasonable statement. (Hey, it’s my post.)
More Cathy Newman. Never said nothing is evolving. Some things are not evolving. See the difference? Cockroaches have not changed significantly in a long time. I quote myself:
The evidence is that they are c. 100 Myrs old and essentially unchanged in that time.
That doesn’t mean evolution was not involved before then. Emphasis on “in that time.” The Earth is about 5E9 years old: 50 times longer.
“So you’re saying…”
Edit: Please note the context of the original comment. It was in response to the assertion that biologists claim that “…things always just randomly, accidentally just get better and smarter and more complex and more ordered.” This assertion is manifestly false. Counterexamples were provided.
So, now we are up to date.
I think where we are presently differing is on the issue of what I meant by “always” (see immediately above). Always, to me, means that there is always pressure on the genome to change. For example, biologists tell us that cosmic radiation can cause changes to the DNA at the base pair level. This just means that it happens on a single rung of the DNA helix.
What drlorentz has noted above is that even if this is going on the species isn’t being changed. True, but that’s because there is a Spell Checker. This is my understanding as to why some parts of the genome are very stable over a long time. Either way (from the above link): “The difference is not in the number of new mutations but in the mechanism that keeps these mutations under control.” Cockroaches and sharks have locked the genome down evidently.
I would like to stop there and let the iterations begin. There’s no reason to go further on this until we are all on the same page.
[Background: drlorentz and I have met — it was at the Reagan Library Meetup with Peter Robinson and Pat Sajak. I consider him a good friend. If it seems that we are angry let me assure you all that this isn’t true. I’m completely comfortable with him and I’m quite sure that he and I will keep the heat to the medium level.
Also, @johnwalker and I have had many run-ins on scientific issues over the years and yet he is always cordial and gentlemanly to me personally.]