Guest Post: When Policy Trumped Principle

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I don’t anticipate making too many friends with this post. However, as a follower of Christ, a pastor of a conservative church, and an American, I can’t stay silent anymore. I know I haven’t been completely silent, but I have tamed down my thoughts on this issue. But near-silence is not an option anymore. I care about this country too much. I care about the church too much. I care about the witness of the Evangelical church too much.

My goals in sharing this article are this:

  1. To call Christians to put God’s Word before nationalism.
  2. To encourage Christians who are struggling with this issue that they are not alone
  3. To show non-Christians that not every Evangelical is a supporter of Donald Trump.
  4. To start a dialogue (or at least contribute to it) about the future of Evangelical Christianity.

Please read the entire article before agreeing or disagreeing with me. Let’s show the world that civil discourse about ideas is still possible.

And, because it will be brought up eventually, just because I didn’t support Donald Trump for president doesn’t mean I voted for Hillary. It also doesn’t mean I don’t pray for the President of the United States. I do, and have almost every day since election night.

My heart grieves for this nation, the church, and the world my daughter is growing up in.

-Scott

 

When Policy Trumped Principle

by Jerry Gramckow

“Policies are many, principles are few, policies will change, principles never do.”                                       – John C. Maxwell

 

The year 2016 will go down in history as the year American Evangelical Christianity sold its collective soul for the proverbial mess of pottage. Don’t get me wrong: I love a bowl of stewed lentils—especially if some meat was diced and simmered into it. And, like Esau, after a long, hard day, with little to eat, I could easily be tempted to sell my birthright. I pray that when those temptations come I will remember the bigger picture—the long-term perspective over lentils.

Sadly, it seems to me, in the 2016 presidential election 82 percent of Evangelicals chose lentils. Faced with a choice between a morally bankrupt, power-hungry, socialist-leaning, woman, and a morally bankrupt, power-hungry, populist-leaning man (who claimed to be conservative), the vast majority of America’s voting Evangelicals chose the populist. In a binary world, they probably made the better choice. But the world is not really binary. We are rarely limited to choosing between terrible and dreadful. There’s almost always at least one other option.

Certainly, one of those two bad candidates was going to win. So, many calculated, better to choose the (slightly) lesser of two evils. It was, after all, the pragmatic thing to do. He might not be a great guy, but he has promised to enact policies we like.

But has God called His followers to pragmatism? Did God tell His people to put policies before principles? Are lentils now better than a righteous inheritance for future generations?

Eighty-two percent of Evangelicals knowingly voted for lentils, for a man whose entire life contradicted almost every imaginable biblical principle.

  • Love God first? Everything about Donald Trump screams self-love as his primary focus.
  • Sanctity of marriage? Which one? He’s had three and bragged about cheating throughout each marriage. And who can forget: “Grab ‘em by the pu***.”
  • Integrity in business dealings? Two words: Trump University (although many more could be added).
  • Love of money as the root of all evil? “My whole life has been money. I want money. I want money. Greedy, I was greedy, greedy. I want more money, more money.”
  • Humility as a virtue? “It’s very hard for them [some women] to attack me on looks, because I’m so good looking.” “And I’m sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest—and you all know it! And I also have the world’s greatest memory.”
  • Compassion for others? “You’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember,’” Trump said as he mocked the disabled reporter’s uncontrollable hands.
  • Honesty? Too many lies to list here, but see https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/opinion/trumps-lies.html

Okay, you say, I get it; he’s no saint. But at least he’s better than Hillary. And now we’re back to that binary thinking. Hillary Clinton is a dishonest, immoral person, so the one who opposes her is good—simply because he opposes her. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That was what Churchill and Roosevelt believed when they cozied up to Stalin against Hitler. How’d that work out? But then, these days, Russia—ruled by an ex-KGB spy—once again seems to some to be a good bet.

So that binary thinking has, for the watching world, tied Evangelicals and all they say they stand for to a man devoid of principles. We stand for love of God, sanctity of marriage, business integrity, humility, compassion, and honesty … to a point. But when we are forced to choose between those principles and getting policies that benefit us (at least in the short term) … Well, a guy has to draw the line somewhere.

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Well, what should we have done? Should we have let Hillary win and take us down the road to godless socialism?

Socialism is bad. No argument there. But if a Christian must jettison virtually every biblical principle to resist it, has he really won? I suspect that had Hillary Clinton won the election, she would have taken us further down the path to socialism and other evils. Instead, we have President Trump taking us down the path to white nationalism. Yes, we faced a horrible choice in November 2016. But, sometimes, when faced with two bad options, the best choice is neither.

Instead, Evangelicals put Trump over the top, and as a consequence, we will forever be remembered for that choice. People outside Evangelicalism now—and in the future—see Donald Trump, a man devoid of principles, as the standard bearer for Evangelicalism.

“If Donald Trump represents what Evangelical Christians hold dear, I want nothing to do with your religion.” Expect to hear that as a common refrain.

We got our bowl of lentils. We lost our birthright.

 

Jerry Gramckow

 

 

Temptation, Part Four

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Temptation is never an easy topic, especially when we are faced with it each and every day. The story of Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4 relates to all of us. The first temptation was that of identity. The second temptation was two-fold, an attack on Jesus’ identity (again), and an attempt to get Jesus to doubt God’s promises. The devil was really going after Jesus. In both instances, Jesus responded by quoting Scripture and affirming His trust in God. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it happens again in the third temptation.

It goes like this: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” This temptation was idolatry.

According the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, Idolatry is “1. The worship of idols, images, or anything made by hands, or which is not God. Idolatry is of two kinds; the worship of images, statues, pictures, &c. made by hands; and the worship of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon and stars, or of demons, angels, men and animals. 2. Excessive attachment or veneration for anything, or that which borders on adoration.”

Mark Driscoll explains idolatry this way: “The tricky thing about idolatry is that it is usually the pursuit of something that is otherwise good… Idolatry is enslavement to something we love… it’s a good thing that is elevated to a god thing.” Since our idols are the things we treasure and value more than Jesus, we discover them by honestly asking what gives our life meaning, worth, and value.

Scott Thomas and Tom Wood identify four idols in their book Gospel Coach: Power, Approval, Security, and Comfort. I have listed some of the things we pursue in each one. I would like you to read through each list slowly, asking God if you are pursuing any of these things more than you are pursuing Him. If so, make a note and I will let you know what to do afterwards.

Power Idol: control, position, influence, success, strength.

Approval Idol: relationships, achievement, social circles, appearance.

Security Idol: family, finances, protection, religion, safety, future.

Comfort Idol: pleasure, health, freedom, excesses, home and vehicles, recreation.

Our new “saviors” make promises to provide us with meaning or worth—ways in which we will achieve wholeness. But these self-made idols also threaten us, warning us that if we do not serve them, our lives will be worthless, meaningless, and empty. We start out by asking them to serve us, but eventually their allure is too strong. They overtake us, mastering our desires and ending up controlling almost every aspect of our lives.

So, what do we do?

When Martin Luther wrote the 95 thesis that kicked off the Protestant Reformation, he started them with these words: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ… willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.”

Thomas Watson, an English Puritan from the 1600’s wrote this, “Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed.” Watson identified six ingredients for repentance: Sight of sin, sorrow for sin, confession of sin, shame for sin, hatred of sin, turning from sin and returning to the Lord with all your heart.

While idol identification and rejection are necessary in repentance, true and lasting change is not complete without turning in faith toward God.

Let’s look at the idols again and see how we can turn toward God.

Power Idol: God is glorious, so I don’t have to produce results.

Approval Idol: God is gracious, so I don’t have to prove myself.

Security Idol: God is great, so I don’t have to be in control.

Comfort Idol: God is good, so I don’t have to look elsewhere for comfort, peace, and fulfillment.

Make these confessions and prayer your reality this week. Stop replacing the glory of God with our own glory. Stop worshiping the created rather than the creator. Run to God!

This was first published in The Chappell Register on October 30, 2014. Modified for this blog.

Temptation, Part Two

Hunger-1 Greetings! In my previous blog, we looked at the topic of temptation. We defined it as enticement to evil and looked at a few ways we are tempted. We ended by asking the question, “What is the way out of temptation?” Today, we will begin to answer that question.

Before Jesus began his public ministry, the Bible records an incident in which Jesus was tempted. That’s right, Jesus was tempted, much like you and me. Matthew 4 records the true story. It begins with Jesus fasting for forty days and forty nights. At the end of this fast, Scripture simply says, “He was hungry.” I don’t know about you, but if I go longer than four hours without eating, I am “hungry,” I can’t imagine what forty days would be like. It is in this moment of desperate hunger that the devil comes knocking. In my life, when I am weak, tired, hungry, sad, or angry, that is the moment in which I am most vulnerable to temptation.

Jesus was tempted three times by the devil. The first temptation was phrased this way, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” In this first temptation, the devil attacked Jesus in two ways.

First, he attacked Jesus’ identity by asking, “If you are the Son of God…” This is similar to the original temptation of Adam and Eve, “Did God really say…?” Identity is defined as “who someone is, the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others.” The devil was trying to get Jesus to doubt His true identity.

You may be struggling with this issue as well. Finish this sentence: I am……   Do you even know who you are? Do you feel that you don’t fit in? How do you define your identity? Is it your job? Your social status? Your number of friends on Facebook? The kind of car you drive? Do you define yourself by how happy you are? Who are you? Do you find your identity in the country you live in? The church you attend? The church you don’t attend? Or, do you let someone or something else define your identity?

A person’s true identity can only be found in Christ. Genesis 1 tells us that we were created in the image of God. This is a profound truth. John 1:12 tells us, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Receive Christ. Believe in Him. Find your identity as a child of God!

The second way Jesus was tempted in this question was the devils appeal to Jesus’ immediate needs, “command these stones to become loaves of bread.” I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the need for immediate gratification. I will tell you that if I was as hungry as Jesus was, and if I had the power to turn stones into food, you can bet there would have been a lot of pizza around me, immediately.

Jesus fought both of these temptations, identity and immediate gratification, with a heavy dose of Scripture. He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The “every word that comes from the mouth of God” was Jesus’ way of telling us all to read our Bibles when we are tempted.

Are you struggling with your identity? Read Ephesians 1 or Colossians 3. Are you struggling with immediate gratification? Read Proverbs. If you are struggling with something that you know is not right, go to the only source for absolute truth: God’s Word. If you don’t have a Bible, go to any church and ask for one!

We will look at the next temptation of Jesus next week, but let me ruin that for you as well, Jesus counters the attack with more Scripture.

This was first published in The Chappell Register on October 16, 2015.