"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Friday, February 18, 2011

Perceptions, Profiles, Politics and "Prophets"? ~ EC-5

I have probably pretty much exhausted this topic for most readers that stumble across this blog. But I want to write just two more posts, maybe three, on my thoughts on Richard Stearns book, The Hole in Our Gospel. In this post, I intend to get political….only because Stearns has. I simply want to write about some political ideologies in which Stearns has given voice. If you think I have already been political…oh boy, just wait. ;-)

This post will be a difficult one for me to write. I have had a political “bent” all my life. I have simply found all of it extremely interesting. I know it is not always popular. I have watched the rolled eyes, whispers, and snickers at my political comments, but the truth of the matter is, I don’t believe the two can be separated - i.e. faith and politics- and no, I am not talking about an issue of separation of church and state here. That would have to be for a completely different post. The whole reason I have found politics so interesting is because of my faith. For me, politics has always been about protecting our religious freedoms and maintaining the moral values our nation has had because our country’s foundation springs from a Biblical foundation.

If the richest country in the world doesn’t keep freedom to spread the Gospel, here and abroad, then which one will? Statistics show that it indeed has been the US that has done more than any other nation. Oh, I know God could always raise another; but I believe, as does Stearns, that God expects much from this one. With all the statistics Stearns has given, it simply troubles me that it is the American Christian that he has chosen to condemn. He even gives a warning before doing so:
"Let me say something at the outset. Some of the things I am going to say in this section are very critical of the Church universal and also some of our individual churches. They were hard to write and may be even harder to read. I love the Church and truly believe that it is at the center of God's plan for the world."
Well, that's good to know. Anyway, on to the politics of Stearns' book. Keep in mind that through all of his writings there is an element of truth. That shouldn’t surprise us. How would he convince us to his way of thinking if truth wasn’t included? Also, I am not questioning his salvation, or his desire for right things. I only wish to speak to his methods, and his political leanings and affiliations.

When I made my initial glance through the book I was troubled by a number of the quotes at the beginning of the chapters and throughout his writings. I saw the author had used a number of statements from emergent leaders. That was as I expected. He quotes a number of well-known liberals and even one of our well-known liberal U.S. Presidents. That’s fine; I like reading quotes from all – it doesn’t mean I will always agree – but I like reading all kinds of quotes just the same. I suspect, however, by seeing each individual Stearns chooses to quote, that Richard Stearns and I most likely have diametrically opposite thoughts and opinions.

To be fair, he also has quoted some solid Christians and successful politicians, but they are not the majority. Instead, he leans heavily on emergent leaders like Dallas Willard, and Rick Warren, and religious leaders of the world such as Confucius, and Gandhi; and he seems to love little proverbs from other nations which include an African Proverb, a Chinese Proverb and one from a woman from Egypt. I will leave you to consider from what sources each of those might come.

Granted, he also quotes Jesus, lots of Scripture (I would hope so in a book labeled Christian Non-fiction.), Jim Elliot and past American leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and John Adams. Some of the liberals he chooses to quote are: Bono, (and boy does he love to talk about him!) Jimmy Carter, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Yes, Dr. King was liberal in his politics and not quite accurate in his theology.) Oh, and of all people: Margaret Mead!!! Oh man! For me, quoting liberals and running down conservative Christians for being too political is a huge “red flag”. But then to see Stearns quote Margaret Mead, anthropologist, secular humanist and the outspoken advocate for open marriage and other grave sins; as well as an advocate for a liberal agenda and worldly mindset! And that is somehow viewed as acceptable in his eyes and not a political statement?? Oh man!! Below is the quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
So there Stearns goes again; by using this quote he is giving credit to anyone except the One who is the only One that deserves credit. Now those words coming from Margaret Mead is no surprise. But to quote words such as hers in a book claiming to be “Christian” is heartbreaking. Further troubling is the fact that the quote is an incorrect ideology. Christians should be the first to proclaim the Good News of the One and only One Who has ever changed the world. And for me, it is absolutely mind-boggling that a Christian such as Richard Stearns would choose a quote from a woman who caused a great deal of political controversy during the unrest of the 60’s and 70’s with her liberal thinking and platform. Again, it seems he believes this quote from Margaret Mead backs up his point on the dust jacket, that I mentioned would be the foundation for all that he hopes to teach us in his book.

Something else I find a bit troubling about the author, is that he devotes an entire chapter about the accurately (according to Stearns) held “perception” he claims the majority of non-believers hold toward Christians. This fact, by the way, according to Mr. Stearns is only due to the conservative Christian that has inappropriately (according to Stearns) made strong, political statements and taken political stands on moral issues. I hate to say it Mr. Stearns, but by weighing in with divisive statements like that, and quoting the people you have chosen to quote, you too, are being political in a very harmful way.

Mr. Stearns explains to us how time and time again he has seen that Christians will balk at the idea that they are viewed in this manner and Christians will claim that it is simply not true. “Christians do not like to hear this fact,” he tells us; and he has had to clarify for us what is at stake.

Stearns condescendingly informs us: “Now I explain to them a simple but compelling truth: perception is reality.” He continues: “In other words, you may not think you are this way or that way, but if that is how you are perceived by others then you have to change either the reality or the perception or both.”

Hmmm; that means if someone perceives that I am a bad parent, because I spank my child, then I am therefore required to change their perception of me by no longer spanking my child. I’m pretty sure that’s what he just said. Right? I don’t think it works that way. I would say to him, that’s only his perception, and that absolutely does not make it truth. In fact, that is in direct contrast to what Jesus said. He warned us we would be hated by the world; and that we would be persecuted for righteousness sake. Paul warns us in Galatians 1:10 - “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Jesus certainly didn't tell us to change our behavior so that the world would approve.

To me the above verse instructs me that I really shouldn’t worry too much about what man thinks of me. Now of course I understand the point that we are to be salt and light and we are to lead our lives so that others will be encouraged and not "turned off". That is absolutely true, but I do not have to change my convictions in order to change someone’s negative perception of me. I do believe we need to meet a balance that Stearns does not appear to want to reach. I am not talking about compromise. I am talking about a balance the Holy Spirit brings, so that we do not run around with our Sword chopping of the heads of those that get in our way, but rather, we would allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide and be the One that prompts us into action.

On page 229 of his book, Stearns inform us that data suggests Christians have become defined by the things we are against, rather than what we support. He states that the world perceives us against gay marriage, and against alcohol, and drug use, and Islam and evolution. I'm sorry, but that is not what we are doing; that is what a liberal media is stating that we are doing. I do not believe that is the profile of the church in America (or throughout the world for that matter) that most people hold.

His definition of this supposed “perception of Christians that is in fact reality” is actually nothing more than what the liberal media has been spewing about Christianity for the last 40 years or so. He has simply joined their mantra. That’s political. One's perception is derived from one's world views and that does not make it truth.

One whom he interviewed says Stearns, explains it best like this:
“Most people I meet assume that ‘Christian’ means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, anti-choice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.” 
He uses faulty statistics to prove his point….well, maybe the statistics are not wrong, but maybe his deciphering of them is. He says that as recently as 1996, 85% of nonbelievers still felt favorably toward Christians and their role in society. However, just 10 years later (2006) he says the statistics reveal that only 16% of those that have no religious faith had a good impression of Christianity. He claims this is due to the conservative Christian becoming increasingly involved in politics and “trying to grab a share of the media spotlight.”

Wow…I have sure never viewed trying to stand for the sanctity of life, or working to preserve the tradition of marriage, as “trying to grab a piece of the media spotlight”. But aside from that, his rational does not make sense. Actually, the height of political activism for the Christian came in the early 80’s with the onset of Jerry Falwell’s "Moral Majority". It swept the nation, and changed the direction of our country after the trying years of the 60’s and 70’s. Try as they might, the liberals could not quench this faith-based movement. Instead, it ushered in a President that freely quoted Bible and referred to this nation as a “shining city on the hill.” For awhile, America was restored and our freedoms were kept safe under the guidance of President Ronald Reagan. The liberal media eventually successfully destroyed Falwell's "Moral Majority" and it got to the point where even the Christian believed Jerry Falwell, was some right-wing nut. He was not. He was a wonderful man of God that cared deeply about his faith and this nation. I will never forget an interview I saw with him in the early 80's on the Phil Donahue Show. Rev. Falwell showed so much of God's love and such grace, I believe even Mr. Donahue was shocked. Try as he might, Phil just couldn't make Rev. Falwell look bad. It was awesome, and I never forgot it. If you have been one led to believe this organization was a bunch of fanatical lunatics, do a little deeper research and see what you find.

But back to Stearns' point. I believe the reason for the distrust Christians and Christianity is now receiving is due not to their political activism, but rather to the constant barrage of attacks by the liberal media and politically correct agenda that has become the new god of a minority, and a loud and clanging one at that. The world is buying into the media’s distortion of facts. If the new found disdain for the Christian was only about the Christian’s political stances, as claimed by Mr. Stearns, the low ratings would have occurred during the "Moral Majority" years when the Christian became more politically astute and active than ever before or since - at least in my life-time. Personally, I thank God for Jerry Falwell and President Ronald Reagan.

The Bible teaches us until the scales are removed by Salvation through Jesus we will continue in our sin. Without a doubt, there are absolutes that are black and white and it has nothing to do with perception. There simply isn't much mention of sin in this book, except in the way Stearns talks about Americans lack to help the needy of the world.

I find it interesting, that it appears the new focus is not the sinner, but rather the American. According to Mr. Stearns, Americans are the new sinful child wallowing in the mud and eating with the pigs. It seems Stearns believes it is Americans that are the new prodigal son – the sinner that needs to come home.

Indeed, according to Stearns and other emergent pastors, I believe, Americans are the guilty ones, now. No call for repentance to a world in sin…only to the American that is fat, greedy and puffed up. Stearns tells us on page 120 of his book that it is man-made actions that contribute to poverty and the apathy of the "well-off" who allow it to persist. Stearns fails to see it, but that is his perception of the American. It certainly isn’t mine. My perception of the American is that it is the American that is the first to bring aid, wherever the natural disaster, wherever the tragedy. The American is the first to fight for freedoms, and the first and sometimes the only one to come against those that would want to dictate, control, and torture. The American is the only one to come against the murdering, vicious dictators throughout the world. And there is no other nation that has brought more relief and aid to a hurting world.

Though Stearns loves to talk about Bono and his agenda to help the poor, there is no mention of the "Pat Robertson's" of the world that have been there with the work of organizations such as "Operation Blessing" almost before Bono was even born. And though “Samaritan’s Purse” was started by the same founder as World Vision, there is no mention of someone like Franklin Graham, that was deep in action before Richard Stearns became the president of "World Vision". Or even someone like my own church's mission organization "Far Reaching Ministries" who have put their lives in danger working in Sudan for years.

I have to question: why does Stearns choose to profile the words and actions of a rock star who is not even a Christian. He actually laments the fact that it could not be a great church leader that would speak such profound truths that Bono has. The truth of the matter is, had he wanted to quote a great church leader with a compassionate quote of concern for action, he could have. Frighteningly, he finds it more important to call Bono a "modern day prophet."

I simply have to question: why is Mr. Stearns so anxious to glorify the "liberal stars" that are not Christian, and so readily leaves out the work of the Christian that has been doing this work for decades. Even George Clooney (one of the most active liberal actors there is) shocked fellow liberals when he recently came back from Africa and made the statement: "Amazingly the ones that we do not agree with are the ones that are there doing the work in these God-forsaken lands." That's a paraphrase on my part...I am looking for the orignial quote.

Stearns is very much showing a political side and agenda in this book. I wonder why it's ok for him to be political, but not the rest of us? Stearns informs us that statistics show that 75% of non-believers say Christians are too involved in politics, Well, it is my perception that we are not involved enough.

Stearns' concern is great; his compassion wonderful; but those he chooses to commend and those he chooses to attack is anything, but fair.

To read these posts chronologically in one place, click here: http://jan-butterfliesandrainbows.blogspot.com/2014/03/in-light.html

Or in a series:
Post 1 ~ http://jan-butterfliesandrainbows.blogspot.com/2011/02/controversial-posts.html
Post 2 ~ http://jan-butterfliesandrainbows.blogspot.com/2011/02/good-and-bad-holes-or-attacks.html
Post 3 ~ http://jan-butterfliesandrainbows.blogspot.com/2011/02/concern-or-two.html
Post 4 ~ http://jan-butterfliesandrainbows.blogspot.com/2011/02/political-paraphrases.html

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