Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The imminent revival, part 7 — why supporting Trump won't bring it about

Apparently many evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump for president because they sought “religious freedom” (read: cultural dominance) and possibly considered his election the key to a religious revival.

I have some sobering news for such people: If there is to be a spiritual awakening, it will happen despite, not because of, him.

Reason? Because in history, spiritual awakenings start from the bottom up, not the top down. Trouble is, many religious leaders don’t understand that, insisting that “electing Godly leaders” is the key to staving off moral decay and, not coincidentally, raising money in the process. Trouble is, they seem to have set themselves up as leaders — similar to the 1980s, the “golden age,” shall we say, of media ministries but hardly effective for Christ in the long run, in large part due to financial and sexual scandals that some of the larger ones suffered.

What’s really required in any spiritual awakening is a desire for change, not primarily in society or the world but first in one’s heart and church community. And priority number one is, was and always will be a desire to abandon any and all known sin regardless of what it is.

The civil-rights movement, to give one example, came about because of prayer meetings in conservative African-American churches in the 1950s. (I believe that one reason it has had little power since is because of its abandonment of its overtly Christian roots.) Another is my own church, less than two generations ago white and racist though located in a largely African-American neighborhood but, after “concerts of prayer,” broke down those walls and is now rainbow. It has never sacrificed doctrine in the process, however.

Bottom line, revival will happen not when they get it but when, and only when, we realize that we don’t have it. There’s no other reason to seek God in such times except “Maybe we’re missing something.” I don’t see that happening here. 

Franklin Graham and James Dobson, two Trump supporters, were likely hoping that electing Trump would kick off the revival. But making abortion illegal — which I do support — and driving gays back into the closet, among other things, won’t do it because fighting the culture war with carnal weapons can never work.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The biggest losers

A lot of people are trying to determine the “winners” and “losers” in November’s presidential election. Conventional wisdom holds that the Democratic Party, the extreme political left, women and people of color suffered an ignominious defeat due to their connections, real or perceived, to “liberal √©lites.” That may be correct.

But only to a point.

I see an arrogant conservative élite, representing think-tanks and media who also took a stand against Donald Trump as being not being sufficiently conservative, as taking a major hit as well. A number of them, including Rich Lowry of National Review and several writers for the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal as saying that a Trump victory would end the conservative movement as we know it. And, in one sense, they were right.

Because they too were out of touch with Trump voters.                                                                                                                    
Only recently did conservatives admit that income inequality, globalization and other issues plaguing much of the white “working class” that overwhelmingly voted for Trump was major. However, they still remained committed to cutting taxes on the rich as a key to economic recovery even though it absolutely never worked. During the campaign Trump also leaned toward protectionism, also anathema to conservative think-tankers. Others, and rightly so, were put off by his insulting those who disagreed with him.

But he blew away the rest of the Republican field, virtually all of them more conservative than he.

What that has demonstrated is that people really weren’t buying what they were selling after all. Still trying to channel Ronald Reagan, whom Dinesh D’Souza inaccurately insisted had “the winning agenda,” they don’t seem to understand that Reagan brought them to the table, not the other way around. And Reagan got to the White House with equally flowery promises, albeit much smoother and more polished, as well as scapegoating others, in his case the poor and African-Americans.

Many if not most Republican politicians dutifully lined up behind Trump, if for no reason than to save their own skins. And that strategy worked.

I haven’t heard just how the “never Trump” movement on the political right is dealing with the new reality. Perhaps it’s still trying to figure out just how it went wrong — because it certainly did.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Papering over differences

Some years ago I was having a strained online discussion on a left-leaning Christian blog with an extremely conservative man named Mick when he told me about a black friend of his named Charlie who, he said, had never had issues with race. When I asked Mick if they’d ever talked about the issue, he said they hadn’t. So how do you know what Charlie thinks, I asked.

Mick never responded to the question.

One concern that I’ve had for a while and especially since November’s election is the notion that people should simply paper over their differences and work together. It sounds noble at first, but if you get below the surface, it’s really, really arrogant.

Arrogant because it devalues the differing views of others that may come from their history or experience and assumes that there’s only one way to think — yours.

I occasionally have gotten flak for my outright rejection of the right-wing worldview despite having a strong church background and my actual coming to Christ just before graduating high school. But the person who spurred my interest in the Scriptures in the first place was Martin Luther King Jr., the civil-rights leader who, by today’s standards, would be considered extremely left-wing. (This is also the reason that most African-Americans, even those of us who follow Jesus Christ and read the Bible, generally vote Democratic.)

Which leads to my ultimate point: It’s been my observation that many conservatives simply want to think, vote and act the way they do without regard for others not like themselves who don’t share those views and, in extreme cases, even openly oppose them. Occasionally, if the person is a Christian, his or her faith is questioned.

That certainly isn’t fair, especially now since the most polarizing election in my lifetime — and that’s saying something — has ended, further exacerbating the division that has existed since the 1970s (yes, that long; I became aware of it in 1980). How do we overcome it? By being real with each other and willing to confront over things that could, and sometimes do, cause pain — and not just saying, “Get over it.” It’s the “do unto others” principle that Jesus taught.

A member of my church choir once said that he previously couldn’t understand why any believer would vote for a Democrat, but after getting to know folks who did he came to accept that, well, some actually did for what they felt were legitimate reasons. As a result he’s learned not to conflate his ideological views with the Word of God. Moreover, people are truly mourning right now and gloating will make — indeed, has already made — things worse. And that doesn’t help the necessary healing.