The gods of our culture and the mark of the beast

I was listening to a teaching on eschatology given at a church camp by one of my favorite all-time teachers. Gordon Anderson has been president of North Central University for many years, but I was privileged to have him as a teacher when I was a student in my undergrad program before his appointment as president. Listening to his teaching on “end times” reminded me of his teaching as his student.

One thing he would constantly talk about in those days was the symbolism and how we get it wrong. We go around looking at our right hands and checking our foreheads saying, “Whew! No mark of the beast today!” But, he speculated, what if it wasn’t a “mark” but a selling out to the world’s system? We can go around all day long saying, “No mark yet!” and have sold out to the allegiances of the gods of this world.

I reflect on that today as I continue to be stirred by the insanity of our culture and what gets us upset… or not. And quite frankly, what gets us upset in one area often dictates we somehow can’t get upset in another area. And THAT, I would contend, is a sign we’re wavering in our allegiances and we may have a bit of the “mark” in us.

For instance:

Why is it we can’t be horrified by the actions of Planned Parenthood selling human body parts AND be upset by “Cecil the Lion” being killed?

Why is it we somehow have to “choose” between being ALL for the police or ALL for #BlackLivesMatter?

What is it we have to be ALL for Israel (as evangelicals) and never for Palestinians?

Why can we not be deeply concerned by poverty in our country and still desire people to earn a good living and live a good life?

Maybe the “mark” of the beast is seen in blind loyalty to such marks as “Planned Parenthood” and the “NRA” and yet we go around thinking we’re still somehow totally loyal to Christ at the same time.

Maybe the “mark” of the beast is seen in blind loyalty to a political party or being labeled “progressive” or “liberal” or “conservative” and that has become more of our “mark” than our allegiance to Christ.

We are really struggling in our Christian walk these days and it’s not because Christ is confusing. It’s because we’ve allowed marks to be applied to identities other than that what is the “mark” of Christ… and we’re confusing “brand” loyalty with “CHRIST” allegiance.

If we don’t get this figured out soon, those identifying too closely with any other allegiance than Christ will find themselves swept under in the next wave of whatever liberal or conservative garbage that washes ashore.

My greater fear is so many may have taken a mark and just not realized it yet. Then, the cost will come. Not a pretty day.

God help us.

When the shoe is on the other foot…

Now, the call from the “left” is that it’s time to stop calling “fundamentalists” Christians.

Which is okay, I suppose, because “fundamentalists” have thought “liberals” weren’t saved a long time ago.

So… no one is the Kingdom now.

Do we feel better now?

There is no amount of pleading right now I could do… or anyone… to keep the shouting down. We’re just determined to set up new “fundamentalisms” and declare who is “in” and who is “out.”

In this, Christ is lost, and the Church continues to fail to listen, to pray, and to REPENT. 

Not that this will do any good whatsoever, but I would warn those on the “left” who are choosing to be shrill that 30 years ago those on the “right” were “in” when it came to influence… and look where that landed them. Now, those on the “left” who are shrill enough to be graced with column inches on the Huff and Puff Post are feeling the good times.

Just remember… it cycles. When you want to play this world’s games and find favorites in this world’s systems… this world’s systems WILL chew you up and spit you out.

I know this goes unheeded, but I said it.

All the shouting and we forget something

We’ve just gone ballistic. Between World Vision and the Supreme Court case with Hobby Lobby, we’re just plain nuts.

I’ve done all I can to just read and evaluate and pray… but we’re just going nuts.

As I sit here watching Facebook and Twitter just explode with anger (as it did yesterday with the first World Vision decision), what has been lacking is any type of prayer. Even on my part. I am not more holy.

But I cannot jump into this melee.

So if no one else is willing to stop and repent… of the vitriol and so much more… I will.

In a famous letter to the editor in the time of G.K. Chesteron, a newspaper asked in an editorial, “What is the trouble with the world?”

Chesterton wrote this back, “Dear sirs, I am.”

We are blowing up at each other in the body of Christ. What is the trouble?

I submit: I am.

Psalm 103.8,10-12

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He has not dealt wit us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

Eternal God, in whom we live and move and have our being, whose face is hidden from us by our sins, and whose mercy we forget in the blindness of our hearts: cleanse us from all our offenses, and deliver us from proud thoughts and vain desires, that with reverent and humble hearts we may draw near to you, confessing our faults, confiding in your grace, and finding in you our refuge and strength; through Jesus Christ your Son.

Book of Common Worship,
Louisville: Westminster/John Know Press, 1993

 

The Politics of Power

For years I have had the realization that American politics is ONLY about power. I have carried no delusions about my party winning and then God would bless America once again. It is straight up power. They can yack about how they have the will of the people in mind, but when they get elected… game over. It’s about power.

David Brooks hits the nail on this head in this column. He says it far more articulately that I ever could. This paragraph is spot on:

“…populism is popular with the ruling class. Ever since I started covering politics, the Democratic ruling class has been driven by one fantasy: that voters will get so furious at people with M.B.A.’s that they will hand power to people with Ph.D.’s. The Republican ruling class has been driven by the fantasy that voters will get so furious at people with Ph.D.’s that they will hand power to people with M.B.A.’s. Members of the ruling class love populism because they think it will help their section of the elite gain power.”

Home run, Mr. Brooks.

On the Republican/conservative side (which is the source of my political upbringing), it was about saying to the right people, “Vote for us and abortion will be illegal. Vote for us and we’ll defend marriage.” Guess what? Nothing happened. They controlled the White House and both houses of Congress and did nothing on either issue.

On the Democrat/liberal side, it was about saying to the right people, “Vote for us and the poor will be taken care of. We will have healthcare reform. We will end global warming.” Guess what? Same story.

It’s about power. Their power. Now, with the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations and unions to pour millions of dollars into campaigning for their candidates, you really need to know your voice will never matter again. We will just shift from PhD’s to MBA’s and back. We’re the tennis ball in the rich boys’ tennis tournament.