Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The End of Christian America: A Christian Response

'Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.' Jeremiah 23:1


Last night my friend Jonathan was telling me about his decision to confirm Christ in his heart. He had been raised in the church, and upon reaching adulthood had gone through a period of doubt and disbelief. He also specifically expressed having a problem with some Christians, whom he simply didn't like. I empathized with the sentiment, though in the end I think our problem is largely with people who claim to be Christian but are not.

This morning I saw that the cover article of Newsweek was entitled: The End of Christian America. Today being April 9th, and this being Holy Week, it's a logical choice for a lead story, and I looked it over. As I read I was struck with the idea that some of the people most up in arms about that sad decline are in part responsible for it.

The article, written by Jon Meacham and published April 4, begins: 'The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen ten points in the past two decades. How that statistic explains who we are now--and what, as a nation, we are about to become. It was a small detail, a point of comparison buried in the fifth paragraph on the 17th page of a 24-page summary of the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey. But as R. Albert Mohler Jr.--president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the largest on earth--read over the document after its release in March, he was struck by a single sentence. For a believer like Mohler--a starched, unflinchingly conservative Christian, steeped in the theology of his particular province of the faith, devoted to producing ministers who will preach the inerrancy of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means to eternal life--the central news of the survey was troubling enough: the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent.' -- Newsweek, April 4, 2009

I first heard of Mohler--who likes to be called Dr. Mohler--last fall. His radio program is aired on one of my local Christian stations, WTBN. One evening I decided to give it a listen. It really wasn't to my liking, because rather than expositing scripture and glorifying Christ, he was pontificating about contemporary issues like some self-appointed moral authority. I was reaching to change the station when I heard something that dropped my jaw. Mohler's show is sponsored by Superior Gold Group--gold101.com. I went to the website out of curiosity, played the introductory video, and in the background of a shot of some shiny gold coins, the first three words I heard were: "Gold is king."

I was absolutely flabbergasted that a Christian radio program would be sponsored by a company that would make such an audacious statement, so contrary to Scripture and Christian philosophy on so many levels. There is but one king, who is the King of kings, who is Jesus Christ, and 'no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.' Matthew 6:24.

And we all know how God regards gold, for His disdain of man's esteem for the stuff appears repeatedly throughout the Bible. 'The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.' Psalm 19:9-10. 'Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold...by me kings reign...my fruit is better than gold.' Proverbs 8:10,15,19. 'The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.' Haggai 2:8. 'Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold...but with the precious blood of Christ.' 1 Peter 1:18-19.

I emailed a number of employees at WTBN and Dr. Mohler to express my incredulity at this glaring incongruity. I know WTBN received my missive, because someone there inadvertently replied to my email when asking the station manager how he intended to answer me. He never did. Nor did anyone else at WTBN. Neither did Dr. Mohler. And as of this moment, Dr. Mohler's show continues to air on WTBN, and continues to be sponsored by Superior Gold, who continue to proclaim gold as king on their website. So, Dr. Mohler, let me ask you this: in exchange for the plugs on your show, does the Superior Gold Company pay you in cashier checks and bullion, or with prayers for your soul?

I left the Newsweek article, and just a few moments later came across this headline in The Colorado Independent: FOCUS ON THE FAMILY NARRATOR ARRESTED FOR LURING TEENAGE GIRL FOR SEX ON NET. Focus on the Family is an evangelical organization based on Colorado Springs that was founded and led by Dr. James Dobson, who recently announced his retirement. Juan Alberto Ovalle, a 42 year old man who works in the Spanish broadcast department and narrated Focus on the Family's audio Spanish Bible, was arrested on two felony counts of using the internet to lure a teenage girl for sex, when he drove to meet the girl--who turned out to be an undercover cop--after detailing the sexual acts he wanted to perform with her. Ovalle had appeared in court on Monday, April 6th. And while it is certainly unfair to blame and indict an entire organization for the unseemly conduct of one member, I do find it odd that as I edit this article, on April 14, Mr. Ovalle's Santa Biblia (Holy Bible) is still available for purchase ($24.99 plus shipping) at Focus on the Family's website. While he must be presumed innocent, if in fact he committed the crime, the truth is that Focus on the Family is distributing a version of the Bible read aloud by a pedophile, insomuch as we can substitute 'child' for 'woman' and 'pedophilia' for 'adultery' in the scripture: 'whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery in his heart.' While Focus on the Family has every right to wait until the justice system makes its pronouncement, God already knows the truth, and for my part I think I would err on the side of caution, and remove those bibles from the shelves.

I first heard about Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family last summer, around the time the presidential election shifted into high gear. They came to my attention when they released that absolutely preposterous video in early August calling on their followers to pray for 'abundant, torrential, umbrella-ain't-gonna-help you, flood advisory rains of biblical proportions to swamp the streets of Denver,' during the Democratic National Convention. They immediately retracted the video, claiming it was partly a joke, but how do they reconcile that with the inerrant scriptural truth of Matthew 12:34 'O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.'

A few days later Tropical Storm Fay formed, and over the ensuing three weeks Fay, along with Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike dumped a few gallons of rain upon places ranging from the Caribbean to Texas to Florida and as far north as Massachusetts. They also caused an estimated 900+ deaths and roughly 40 billion dollars in damage.

Is that Christian prayer answered?

As the election approached, Dobson endorsed the McCain Palin ticket, even after unequivocally stating, on February 5, 2008, that "I cannot and will not vote for Senator John McCain, as a matter of conscience." Did a few shekels thrown at your ministry buy a change in conscience? During the 08 election cycle, Focus on the Family also funneled over half a million dollars into the fight over Proposition 8, which proposed to define marriage in California's constitution as between a man and a woman, thereby outlawing gay unions. A woman on Focus on the Family's board, Elsa Prince, donated almost another half million dollars to the campaign. Proposition 8 passed narrowly.

Not two weeks after the election Focus on the Family announced that it was laying off twenty percent of its workforce. They spent thousands and thousands of dollars in a fight to bar homosexuals hundreds of miles and three states away from marrying, then a week before Thanksgiving informed 202 members of their staff that they no longer had jobs in this terrible economy, and had to go elsewhere for employment or go on the dole. That's the holiday spirit! And then he heaped insult upon the injury when, just a couple days later, I happened to hear Dobson on WTBN one morning running down the list of retailers he deemed acceptable to shop at for holiday gifts, his determination being based on which ones would and would not say Merry Christmas in their advertising, as opposed to the more generic and broad appeal Happy Holidays. I was truly in disbelief at the boorish insensitivity of what I was hearing. I wondered if his retailer warning was airing within earshot of the laid off staff. I wondered if he informed them of their unemployment with a personal visit in his luxury car, or with a simple heartless email, or if he hired some minimum wage lackey to heft the axe. I wondered how much money Dr. Dobson had in the bank, and what nice, retailer correct gifts he planned to buy his own family for Christmas.

So after reading about Mr. Ovalle's arrest, I surfed around the internet and shortly thereafter found an interview with Rick Warren conducted two nights before by CNN's Larry King, on April 7. In the interview the renowned author and pastor Warren said, and I quote: "I am not an anti-gay, or anti-gay marriage activist. I never have been, never will be. During the whole Proposition Eight thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never, never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop Eight was going."

That is a LIE.

I just watched another video of Rick Warren from last fall, wherein he said, taken word for word from the video: "By the way, the election's coming up just in a couple weeks, I hope you're praying about your vote, and one of the propositions of course that I want to mention is Proposition Eight, which is the proposition that had to be instituted because the courts threw out the will of the people, and a court of four guys, actually, voted to change a definition of marriage that has been going for five thousand years. Now, let me just say this really clearly: we support Proposition Eight, and if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition Eight. I never support a candidate, but on moral issues I come out very clear."
We know how God feels about liars. 'I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars...who shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.' Revelation 2:2, 21:8. By this do I say that I think Rick Warren is damned to skinny dipping in the flames of hell? I judge no man. I only give two examples of how scripture speaks to dissembling, and nowhere do I see it described is justified nor virtuous.

While I haven't yet read his books, what little I do know about Warren I find troubling. I watched the Obama McCain forum he held at Saddleback in August 08. He promised to ask each candidate identically worded questions about which they had no advance knowledge; he did not. And while Obama went first, during which time Warren assured his audience that McCain was backstage in a 'cone of silence,' McCain was in fact en route from the hotel, with very plausible access to the live feed of Warren interviewing Obama. And while Obama, when asked about his faith, gave a very eloquent discourse about his relationship to Christ, McCain, when asked the same question, diverted his answer to a story about his imprisonment in Vietnam.

Warren doesn't always lie. Sometimes he's just factually inaccurate. In November 2006, after a trip to Syria, while commenting on Christian Muslim coexistence in that nation, Warren stated: "In fact, you know Saul of Tarsus...Saul was a Syrian. St. Paul, on the road to Damascus, had his conversion experience, and so Christians have been here the longest, and they get along with the Muslims, and the Muslims get along with them. There's a lot less tension than in other places." Saul was a Jew from Tarsus, which is in TURKEY. He converted to Christianity and changed his name to Paul.

In December of 2008, Pastor Warren presented George Bush with the first International Medal of PEACE, in recognition of his contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases. The absolute and utterly absurd hypocrisy of that act needs no elucidation.

And while Warren claims not to endorse political candidates, during the 2004 election he made no secret of his preference. Two weeks before the election, he sent an email to the several hundred pastors on his mailing list, enumerating "non-negotiable" issues for Christians to consider when casting their votes: abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, euthanasia and human cloning. That's like my saying: "I'm not going to call the sun by its name, but I am referring to that burning, yellow orb in the daytime sky."

While I was at it, I decided to do a search on Tim LaHaye, to see if he'd been in the news recently. Dr. LaHaye is co-author of LEFT BEHIND, the bestselling series of apocalyptic novels based on his interpretations of biblical prophecy. I read about one hundred pages of the first book. While there was not a single scriptural reference and nary a mention of Christ, I was treated to a tedious, two page description of an airplane modem. The writing was uninspired, and certainly not the sublime clarity one would expect from a writer through whom God was revealing understanding of biblical prophecy.

Anyway, in my search I found an interview conducted with Dr. LaHaye by Rachel Maddow earlier in March. In it they were discussing Obama, Socialism, the rapture and the antichrist. I have transcribed an excerpt here.

LaHaye: "I'm not worried about Antichrist right now, because the truth is, the rapture has to take place first. And then after a period of indeterminate time, the antichrist will come onto the scene...The antichrist isn't going to take over the whole world all in a moment of time without preparation for the people of the world, and you'd have to admit that some of the great intellectuals of our time believe that the only way you'll have world peace is to have world socialism. Now they may call it something else, but it's where the government controls everything. And when the government supplies money and decides who can be poor and who can be rich and so on, that's social government."

Rachel: "So you think that Obama is a Socialist, and you think that a world socialist system is a necessary precondition for the rapture, and that after the rapture, then there's the antichrist."

LaHaye: "Yes."

Rachel: "So Obama's the antichrist doesn't make sense even if everybody believes everything we believe."

LaHaye: "He might be a closet Christian. He only claims to be a Christian, so if he is, when the rapture takes place he's out of here too."

For all his talk of antichrist, it seems to me that Dr. Lahaye, along with Dr. Dobson, Dr. Mohler and Rick Warren all endorsed and voted for one for president in 2004. 'As ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.' 1 John 1:18. George Walker Bush is an antichrist. For let us juxtapose the two. Christ is humble; Bush is arrogant. Christ is loving; Bush is vindictive. Christ is truth; Bush is a liar. Christ said 'Blessed are the peacemakers'; Bush is a warmonger. Christ's blood was shed for the redemption of all sin; Bush shed blood. Christ saves souls and serves God; Bush sold his soul and serves his master. Some call Christ the Son of Man; some call Bush the Son of Sam. Christ sanctifies life; Bush claimed to respect the sanctity of life as he dropped bombs on innocent babies, arrogantly disregarding the scripture: 'It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.' Luke 17:1-2.

And while we have the Bible open, let us turn to Proverbs chapter 6, verses 16-19. 'These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.' Which of these abominations does NOT apply to Bush?

On the other hand, let us turn to Ezekiel 18 and consider what God finds pleasing in a man. Verses 4-9: 'Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, and...hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the LORD GOD.'

As I write this I just heard Dr. Mohler in the background on WTBN lamenting the increases in contraception use and abortions as directly related to the crashing economy. Dr. Mohler, does it occur to you that our economy was destroyed by the policies of the politicians that you rallied 'Christians' to elect into office? If I punched myself in the mouth then complained about broken teeth, would you pity my plight?

For all that you speak in the name of Christ, you manifest the truth of the scripture: 'Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.' Romans 4:15; insomuch as you judge my faith by my vote in elections, and if I don't disregard all the issues and vote based on the candidates' stand on abortion (strictly a privacy issue, according to the LAW), you impute innocent blood to my hands. But then your 'pro life' candidates wage war, so yours are drenched too, we all commit murder and none can be saved.

You rant incessantly about abortion, but you care more about the rights of the unborn than you do the living, for the moment they are out of the womb you turn your back on the babes. You rail against liberals who think it more important that our government give a hungry child some bread and fish rather than a wealthy banker another tax break that he may buy a limousine to drive around his Miami mansion. If you want us to be a Christian nation, how is giving tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of ministering to the poor government in the service of God?

You demonize the word 'liberal,' and use it to revile the people it describes.

According to the dictionary, here are a couple of definitions of liberal: Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. Tending to give freely; generous.

And here is a scriptural definition of liberal: Isaiah 32:5-6: 'The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.'

Jesus Christ is liberal. And if a hypocrite's condemnation accuses me of being like Christ, then I am eternally blessed....

If Jesus came back today in flesh and blood, would you regard him with scorn and reproach, as the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem treated him 2000 years ago? You'll say, 'of course not,' but I think you would. For the Christian leaders of today in many ways resemble the Pharisees who were in power when Christ walked upon the earth. Consider the criticisms Christ called upon the scribes and the Pharisees and the lawyers in the 23rd chapter of Matthew.

Verses 1-7: 'Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.'

That sounds to me like men who seek the spotlight wearing expensive suits, and who like to be called of men, 'Doctor, Doctor.' (Exactly why do Dr. Dobson, Dr. LaHaye and Dr. Mohler call themselves doctors? Who do they heal?)

Verse 14: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.'

You choose leaders whose bombs and bullets MAKE widows and DESTROY their houses; then you stand before television cameras and publicly pray in the name of Christ.

Verse 15: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.'

You cannot find enough lost souls who will follow you into the voting booth, and into your churches and rallies, and whithersoever you lead them.

Verses 16-17: 'Woe be unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?'

Are you listening, Dr. Mohler?

Verses 18-19: 'And, whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?'

There are not enough cash gifts and donations to satisfy the wants of some of these ministries. Just to give an example, I am on Dr. David Jeremiah's Turning Point ministry website now. His Circle of Friends is described as a giving program. It is a monthly minimum donation of $25 ($30 Canadian and International) to the ministry of Turning Point. Membership in The Inner Circle requires a minimum monthly donation of $50. What is the difference between the Circle of Friends and the Inner Circle, and why is it measured in dollars? Do you think Jesus charged the apostles an 'upgrade fee' for their 'promotions' from disciple?

Verses 23-24: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.'

You obsess about the sins of others, not taking heed to your own, and some of you spraying first stones like sanctimonious human tommy guns. You obsess about abortion while electing leaders who bomb innocent children on the other side of the world; you obsess about the points of law regarding homosexuals in other states--whose lives mean nothing to you, and have no bearing on yours, and who God will judge--while depriving your own family of their livelihoods. (WTBN is on in the background, and I just heard Dr. Dobson lamenting that because of the economy, people who once were able to sell stock options to make a gift to his ministry are now only able to offer smaller ten and twenty five dollar donations. Wow.) In the meanwhile our education system is a shambles, people are being foreclosed into homelessness, many impoverished are sick and dying because they can't afford healthcare, and we're sending our youth to die killing strangers on the other side of the world. In these ways and more do you swat at flies with bellies full of camel.

Verses 27-28: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.'

Armani suits and makeup, put on your public face. Lights, camera, action! The fields are green to harvest, and there are offerings to be gathered--er, souls to be saved.

Verses 29-30: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.'

As I said, you'll say that if he walked among us again today in an earthly body you would welcome and worship Christ, yet so many of you bear more resemblance to the murderers who hung him upon the cross than those who mourned at its foot.

You tell lies, protect pedophiles who are your own (see also the Catholic Church), pray for God to visit destruction upon fellow Christians, and exhort us to vote for an unholy warmonger for president, all in the name of Christ. How can you wonder why Christianity's rolls are in decline? Why would anyone who desires to live in truth, peace and love want to abide by your perverted examples of living in the faith?

'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the spiritual wickedness in high places.' Ephesians 6:12

Do wolves hunt sheep in the desert? No, they go to the flocks where they graze, don wool costumes and lurk among them. If you are at all curious, don't let the pastors in private jets, the quacks and the devils in disguise turn you off: Jesus Christ is the greatest thing in this world. Read the Word and see for yourself.

Happy Easter. The Lord is risen.

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