Theological Album Review: Until This Shakes Apart – Five Iron Frenzy

Five Iron Frenzy has put their time in lockdown to good use, bottom line, this is a must listen.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

Release Dates: January 14th 2021
Rating: 9/10

It is true that I am very selective about what I review these days, when I was working for Altrocklive.com and even afterward I would occasionally review an album if it was sent to me or if I thought it worth while to review. One of the events in Christian Music I did cover during my time at Alt Rock Live was the return of Denver based Ska band Five Iron Frenzy after a ten-year hiatus from music. 2013’s return Engine of a Million Plots and its follow up EP Between Pavement and Stars should be hailed as two of the best comeback albums by any band in Christian Music (sorry Stryper). Now they have come back again, with their first full length album in 7 years, and it is a masterpiece. Since this is a Theological Review, I will only make brief comments on the album’s music context (how it fits with the genre, their other works, etc) though I will address those more traditional criteria. My interest here is addressing the theology of the album because that is where the albums strength lies as a critique of modern Christianity in America. It should be brought to the readers attention that I am going to quote some of these songs at quite some length and so this review will be slightly longer than most I have written in the past. Still, if you have not gone out and bought it Until this Shake Apart is worth the money and a place in your music library, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

Before we get to this album, I want to make why I chose this album to review clear. This year will be the ten-year anniversary of my summer in Denver as part of the Denver Urban Semester, a time in my life which no amount of brain scrambling will ever let me forget. That was the summer when my spiraling deconstruction found a bottom and reconstruction began. That summer living and working among the cities homeless population and taking classes on Urban Ministry, as well as with my encounter with God on the side of that Mountain in Evergreen were the catalytic events God used to make sure I would stay in the faith and teach me to love His church and His people again. During that summer I had the blessing of attending The Scum of the Earth Church which is the Church that Five Iron Frenzy founded in one of the inner-city neighborhoods of Denver. So, instead of just having a love and appreciation for their music, I have a personal connection with the band through my first real exposure to a truly multi-ethnic, organic church where the Dividing Walls of Hostility were torn down and the Gospel was preached.

The first and obvious thing the reader will notice is that this is not going to be your grandfather’s rock album. It is, from start to finish, a protest record worthy of some of the best Ska. The genre, which of course, is known for its protest anthems, even in Christian Music. To some extent, this has always been the lane which Five Iron has driven in, sharing a car with The OC Supertones, but this album goes beyond even the bands usual standards of what makes up their protests. The closest song in the Five Iron catalogue I can think of to this album is “God Hates Flags,” their devastating critique of Westboro Baptist Church on Between Pavement and Stars. Except for all but one song on this album, “Homelessly Devoted to You” the albums eighth track, this album levels a devastating critique of American Popular Christianity and the current Christian Political movement steeped in Christian Nationalism and other forms of what I have been calling Christianity+. It should be noted that there is no reason to believe that Five Iron is offering these criticisms from “the opposite side of the isle.” When I was at Scum of the Earth one thing that stood out to me was how they married “conservative” theology with a strong call for biblical justice in the public square. We should consider this a critique from the middle, another reason I am writing this review, as well as a critique from a friendly source, not a hostile one. While it is clear that Five Iron is fed up with the state of American Christianity, they are still friendly to it, as the albums concluding some reviews, but we will get there in a second.

I want to caution the reader against making foolish accusation at Five Iron of things like “Cultural Marxism.” That accusation would be as far from the truth as one can get, and it is an intellectually lazy one. To really seek to grasp the concepts in this album one must be willing to question their foundational beliefs and go through a good amount of Deconstruction. One should also familiarize themselves with the communitarian nature of Christianity that comes from the Margins. Many of the topics covered in this album will be “triggering” for conservative Evangelicals, but it should be noted that Five Iron is not advocating for a Liberal Christianity, but for a Christianity from the margins. So while they discuss gun violence, the debate over statues and confederate monuments, immigration, racism, Christian Nationalism, corporate greed and sexual immorality, they must be understood as speaking from the margins, not from the left or the right.

This critique starts from track one: “In Through the Outdoor” the title of course we recognize as a fun jab at the people at Wal-Mart who do not pay attention to the signs above the door, but the song is anything but. A critique of the restrictionist immigration policy that many Christians on the right have supported. The song begins by fleshing out how contradictory this attitude is when compared to Christian teaching: “They’re at the fences, They’re at the border, Your brand new gospel – Deny them any quarter You’ll want a blockade, You’ll draw your swords, God save your sovereignty, From syndicated crime-lords, Completely righteous, Save a little slandering, God blessed your district -, With lies and gerrymandering.” Believe it or not, this is not the strongest language in the song, the second verse takes us into Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: “To all the hungry, You locked the doors, You sunk the thirsty, Before their boats make the shores, To every stranger, You closed the gates, Your new gospel:, Spitting venom , Black with hate, You sold them out.” But they go on: “You were once a stranger on this soil, Serpents at your heart, will they now uncoil? Your brother’s at the door – bless the poor in spirit, Your sister’s in a cage – but you do not fear it.” While this may anger you reader, consider the point I heard made by Daniel Montanez of Gordon-Conwell: “A sovereign government has the right to make and enforce right and just immigration laws, it has the right to protect its borders, but it has to do it justly.” I made the point with a parishioner recently that these things are for governments to decide, but the Church, the Church is to make a place for the foreigner among us, to care for them and make sure their needs are met. That is a the proper interpretation of God’s commands concerning when foreigners come among Israel, and in the New Covenant Context, we are all resident aliens and so while we live in the confines of a sovereign nation, we are still bound by the biblical values of the Kingdom of Heaven and must show regard for the foreigner among us. Instead, as the song says, our sister is in a cage and we do not fear it. There are statistical and theological facts to back this up. According to a Pew Research study from 2017: “A majority of religious minorities entering the United States are Christians.” Further, The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell has discovered that: “The average Christian in the world today is a black or dark skinned teenage girl from the continent of Africa or South America. As for the second line, remember that Jesus tells us that how we treat the least of these is the same way we have treated him, and those who sent him away hungry, or thirsty or who rejected him, they go away into eternal punishment (Matt 25). Bottom line, the immigration policy Christians currently support on the right is a direct path to eternal punishment, not life. This may seem harsh, but it is the truth, the girl who is very likely a Christian is your sister and in her poverty is among the Least of These, Christians treatment of her is how Christ identifies their treatment of Him, that should strike fear in our hearts.

The next song I want to focus in on is the albums 5th track “Renegades” which deals with the issue of School Shootings (which they also touch on in track 3 “Bullfighting for an Empty Ring”) and the idolization of the 2nd Amendment among Evangelical Christians. As a kid growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, the Columbine tragedy is still etched in my mind. And since the band hails from Denver, I am sure that what has played out in this country in the last twenty years has been a source of deep pain. The songs specifically reference Sandy Hook, an event that has deeply affected people I know and love. The entire song grabs the listener by the collar but for our purposes I will highlight two portions, starting with the second verse: “The congressmen are concubines, For lobbyists who feed them their lines, Who Frankentein some pantomime, Some crying over Columbine, Yes your capital, It swarms with cannibals, When some other people’s kids are shot, They chalk it up as an afterthought, They load their guns and reminisce, And tell us it’s just business, They hope we’ll overlook, The halls at Sandy Hook.” You can hear the frustration expressed by many teachers and students who have had to go through lockdown drills while nothing changes to prevent these things from happening. The sorrow behind this song is felt in the music, the anger comes through the lyrics, especially in the final line of the bridge: “You want your ledgers black; we want our children back.” It is important to note that what is at issue here is not the owning of guns themselves, but the laissez faire attitude towards gun violence and the dismissiveness that has been prevalent among many on the right, especially lawmakers, towards guns in general. While the second amendment is enshrined in the Constitution, it is not meant to be an idol, and to many it seems to have become such. For Christians who claim a “Pro-life” ethic, we should put that into practice by working to ensure the absolute safety of our kids from these types of Mass Casualty events like Columbine and Sandy Hook. We should not be so quick to trade in conspiracy theories or brand any preventative measures taken as a “violation of second amendment rights.” Again, the Bible is our authority well over and above the Constitution, the Bill of Rights is a document of laws made by man, the Bible is the authoritative word of God. The Centrist Christian view would be to take a commonsense approach to protecting our students that may mean minor inconveniences in our ability to buy and maintain weapons. Our priority should always be the life of image bearers, rather than our rights to own and do whatever we want. We also need to repent of the fact that this issue has become so politicized when it is an issue of human life.

I wish I could review every song on this album, but that would go on forever, if you’ll allow me to review two more.

The next is the power protest song: “While Supplies Last.” The title is ironic as it is a response to the ongoing Evangelical Culture Wars, over everything, including masks. This is reflected in the songs “Stream of consciousness” style like Jars of Clays “Oh My God” but with the punch of Kids in the Ways “Burt Rutan.” Since Conservative Christians led many of the “Anti-Mask” movement in 2020 the line: “Hiding behind, hiding behind your mask” is a shot of schadenfreude for the listener, as is the rest of the song. Most of these songs, as you’ve notices, generally use irony well, a line that jives with cultural Christianity is juxtaposed with a line from Scripture or a historic Christin teaching. In this song though, the gloves come off. Consider the songs ending stream:

Save some profits for your cadre of vipers, Because your God only favors survivors, If you vote to stop abortions, Damn the pregnant girls and orphans, Blame your decline on the LGBTQ, Offer platitudes not portions, Then your rancor is your fortune, And your poison is what’s poisoning you, You said “we all deserve this”, For not forcing kids to pray-, While your party loots the earth, And you tell us “Jesus saves”, You’re ignoring half the gospel, Wearing clothing made by slaves, You never “rendered unto Caesar”, Now you, now you fear the fever, Fear the bottom dropping out of your stocks, You voted for the devil, Let that narcissist embezzle, Put the hen-house in the mouth of the FOX

These words really should break our hearts, this whole album should. What is reflected here is the idea that all our culture wars, all our attacks and waring against those who our leaders have told us to “hate” has led to our decline. That the culture is not the problem the Church has, the Church is. I have told my congregation many times that Christianity is not a: “Might makes Right” faith but is instead a place where our weakness is made perfect in our weakness. I have also told them that while we can agree that abortion is a blight on our society and affirm traditional marriage, the moment we start demonizing the girl who had the abortion or the person who struggles with same sex attraction, we are not showing them the love of Christ, we are not “living the Jesus Life in the Jesus way” to borrow Eugene Petersons phrase. The fact is, the decline of the Church in America is not because kids “can’t” pray in school, but because of our reaction to the things a secular government has done. The secular disillusionment with Christianity does not come from our failure to pass legislation, but from Christians who do not live out the way of Jesus, but in fact, do the opposite. We have in fact seen the enemy, and he is us. Christian Leadership has done everything listed above and led the people into the pews into these things which are the opposite to the way of Christ. In doing so, they have fed us to the fox, or as I have said, to the wolves and fed those who do not believe to the wolves. If Christians are the opposite of salt and light in the world, should we be surprised when the world is tasteless and dark? No, we should not be.

At this point you might wonder if Five Iron is going to offer us anyway forward at all. Once again, it is important to remember that they are speaking from the Margins and for those in the margins. It also should not be lost on us that throughout the album there are glimmers of hope, like the rock Anthem “We Will Sing” and “Like Something I Missed” both provide a glimmer of hope. But the albums closing song: “Huerfano” may provide the most hopeful tones on the album. Following the story of a teen who has struggled with being bullied by his school mates for some unspecified reason. He talks about being hung upside down in a sleeping bag, punched, kicked, stuffed in a box, having their song stolen. But then the Chorus comes in: “Now fly you orphans, Here you belong, Welcome you wayward souls, Now lift your song.” This is similar to Children 18:3’s “Come In,” the point is that mainstream Christianity is far from what Christianity should be, given the thrust of the rest of the album it is safe to assume this bullying may have happened on the playground of a Christian School. But this is not what Christianity should be, Christianity should be a place where you can come as you are, be transformed by Christ, and belong. This is the message of Christianity on the margins, come as you are, Christ will transform you, and you will have a place to belong. While this may be the most hopeful song, it may also be the most offensive for mainstream Christians who have spent years curating what they think Christianity should look like and who they think should get into the Kingdom, this song speaks directly against that sort of pharisaic sorting and curating of the Church.

Now, this album does have some serious drawbacks, there are points where this album comes across with the same kind of Pharisaic attitude they are trying to denounce. This is the struggle that any band has who tries to address issues like this and Five Iron is not immune to that pitfall. The Album will also play very, very well to a niche audience, which is why I spent so much time explaining some of these points. If you have never experienced Christianity on the Margins, then you may not understand the perspective or even the incredible hope outlined in the Album. The album also lacks a definitive Gospel Message, though the justice issues they address are all Gospel issues, they make a veiled point about Christianity being a place where they belong. One wishes these themes would have been directly tied back into Jesus as Jesus proclaims about himself in the book of Isaiah.

Regardless, this album will be a good response to bands like Seventh Day Slumber who have been actively advocating for Insurrection and the preservation of Christianity+. As Christians, we represent a Kingdom that is not of this world and by wrapping ourselves up in the things of this world we lose the Gospel. Five Iron reminds us of the dangers of wrapping ourselves up in politics and this warning needs to be heeded across the political spectrum.

 

 

Until This Shakes Apart (2021)Five Iron Frenzy

  1. In Through the Out Door
  2. Lonesome for Her Heroes
  3. So We Sing
  4. Bullfighting for an Empty Ring
  5. Renegades
  6. Tyrannis
  7. Auld Lanxiety
  8. Homelessly Devoted to You
  9. One Heart Hypnosis
  10. While Supplies Last
  11. Wildcat
  12. Like Something I Missed
  13. Huerfano

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center

Yes, I am Angry

Yes, I am Angry.

“I do not have a faith in Jesus problem, I have a trust in people problem.” – anonymous.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

When I was in seminary I would get two critiques on my sermons, when I was gentle and soft in my presentation I would get praised and when I was admonishing or let my passion get the best of me I would get comments about how great the kind and gentle Jonathan was. I appreciated that critique but I think there are times when, while we always need to speak the truth in love and out of abundance of love, when you need to let people see your angry, especially if that anger has been coming up in your times of quiet prayer not as a distraction from prayer, but because you are praying. In my prayer times I have increasingly discerned that the Spirt is angry, that there is a righteous zeal burning in the heart of God for His church which Jesus demonstrated in clearing the temple that is burning now against the Church in America.

I have told my congregation that if we do face massive persecution in the coming days it will be one that we brought upon ourselves, that it will be a direct result of our failure to live a life that is found in and obedient to Christ. What Eugene Peterson called: “The Jesus life in the Jesus Way.” That failure consists of the idolatry that is Christian Nationalism, our unwillingness to hold our leaders within the Church accountable for their actions, be it their sexual immorality, their racism or sexism, lust and greed. Not just failing to hold them accountable but failing to call them to repentance and even justifying their behavior and defending them. It will be a result of our failure to have a nuanced conversation about oppression and injustice and our complicity in oppression and injustice which God hates. It will be because instead of teaching people to do “All” that Jesus has commanded us we have taught them to do the opposite.

Before you crucify me, consider this statistic memorized you should, the level of trust the public has in Clergy right now is around 15%….15%….the amount of trust in Christians is probably around that area. You can bet after this past five years it has only dropped. Tell me, how are we going to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and teach people to do all that He has commanded us to do if we are not trusted by the people we are trying to reach? When non-Christians see rioters storming the capitol with Jesus Saves signs and giant crosses are, they going to think: “Wow, this Jesus guy must be really great, I wonder what he saves me from?” No, they’re not going to want anything to do with this Jesus we speak of, they’re going to further cement an already deep hostility to Christianity that has formed because of the ways Christians have acted for the last century. When they hear Christians talk about how great and awesome and powerful God is, and then turn around and say that if the Republican party loses power Christianity is going to disappear, are they going to believe that we believe that God is who He says He is? No!

Added to all of this is the fact that this weekend our brothers and sisters of color had to make a decision, do we meet and face the threat of violence or do we protect our people and go back to remote services because of this threat of white nationalist and white supremacist violence that is accompanied by and even empowered by a Christian Nationalist Heresy rooted in Idolatry and fear. It should not be lost on us that this day comes as we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The great Civil Rights leader who so many of us quote but know nothing about or the context of his quotes. In allowing this, in not speaking out against all of this, we are violating scripture by allowing the “dividing wall of hostility which Christ tore down in his flesh, expressed through ordinances” to be rebuilt. In the context of the book of Ephesians that is both a wall between us and God and a wall between us and one another. Do you think people hear us making overtures to unity and love and peace and then see us fighting and involving ourselves in white supremacist violence turns people to the Gospel? Do you think the secular world wants anything to do with us? No! By no means.

Why, because what we do in this life and what we say matters, how we act in the public square matters. There are cliches that have developed like: “you are the only bible some people are ever going to read” because they are true, the only encounter some might have with the Gospel in their life is you and your life. But if you share the Gospel with them and then contradict it with Christianity+ you are going to drive them away, or, you will not have led them to saving faith, but deceptive destruction. So when we excuse the sins of our leaders in the Church and otherwise, when we fail to hold them accountable for their actions and call them to repentance and if we participate in those same sins unapologetically then why should we be surprised when chastisement comes for those who claim the name of Jesus. We do not believe in Cheap Grace, we believe in a bible that tells us that “If you are in him, you will keep his commandments” (1 John 2:1-6), where there is to be unfalsifiable evidence that you believe and have moved from in the world, to in Christ.

What the Church in this country is doing is only hastening our demise, we are in a free fall, as attendance plummets and Churches close, we find ourselves unable or ill-equipped to deal with the reasons why. We are likely headed to some kind of real persecution, not the cultural exclusion that we claimed to be experiencing during “The Culture Wars” (read: we were not being persecuted) but actual persecution similar to what Muslim’s in this country have faced since 9/11 where Churches are wiretapped to make sure they are not planning sectarian violence in name of an armed crusade. This is the kind of persecution a friend of mine in the military envisioned for the church going forward on a recent phone call. Not because our churches are places where we live a “Called out” life as the Bible shows us, but because we are involved in violent behavior designed to overthrow the government. No matter what this persecution looks like, the church is about to face a reckoning for our adherence to “Christianity+.” The Pandemic has already started this winnowing process and it is only set to continue as the secular forces in this nation turn against us and we come under judgment. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but this is where we have come, this is what Church History tells us is the next step in our journey as the Church in America when compared to the Church in Russia, in Germany, in England and everywhere Christian Nationalism has arisen.

In the by-line of this article, I used a quote from a Tweet that I came across a few weeks ago. I used it because it resonates with me. This has not been a crisis of faith for me, if anything, it has driven me deeper into the scriptures, deeper into my prayer life and deeper in Jesus. Similar to how the rise of Liberal Theology at Tubingen in the 1820’s and 30’s deepened the faith of the young Philip Schaff as he sat in classes with E.F. Baur. I have been forced to learn what Christ taught us about what the Jesus way is and how that is supposed to be lived out in our daily lives. This time has also helped me refine my historiographical method as I study History for how this has played out when it has been tried. To put it mildly, my credentials have been put to good use the last two years, thank you Gordon-Conwell.

But while my faith in Christ has been deepened, my trust in the people who were once instrumental in shaping that faith has been shaken. I have watched as, one by one, Evangelical Leaders have either bought into the lie or thrown their support behind these movements instead of calling their people to repent and return to Christ and Christ alone. I have watched as these people who were held up as great leaders to me as a kid have prostrated themselves before the god of earthly power and prestige and abandoned the people in the pews to be devoured by wolves. Which is exactly what I was concerned would happen way back in 2015, and it angers me that I am vindicated in what I wrote back then. I feel betrayed and abandoned and lied to and yes, I plan on working towards forgiveness and trying hard not to sin in my anger, it is burning and I am tired of all of this.

Church let me tell you something, the secular world may not be better than this, but the Church certainly should be. In fact, the blueprint has been set forward for us in scripture, along with the means, to being better, and instead of living out that radical third way we have openly embraced the ways and weapons of this world. Yes, we should expect a reckoning and we do not need revival, we need reformation that is rooted in the Word and Spirit of God. That is the only way forward for the Church and persecution may very well bring that about, as a necessity.

May God have mercy on all of our souls and call us back to himself.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center

SermonCast: What is Epiphany? Part 1: Jesus Baptism. Matthew 3:13-17

In this week’s sermon we take a look at the question: “What is Epiphany?” as we looked at the Baptism of Jesus and what we can learn from Jesus’s obedience and submission as we live in as resident aliens in this world, citizen’s of the Heavenly Kingdom of God.

Watch the full Service here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqroY…

Statement against White Supremacist/Nationalist and Christian Nationalist Violence in our Nations and State Capitols.

By the God’s Heart Team.

Dear Reader

In 2020 God’s Heart for Those adopted the Hashtag #FortheunityoftheentireChurch as the websites yearly Tag. It is in that spirit and as part of that ongoing effort to bring healing, reconciliation, and unity that we, in the strongest possible way, denounce any and all violence from white supremacist and white nationalist groups. We are saddened to hear that many of our Brothers and Sisters of Color are in fear for their lives this weekend and have decided to hold many services remotely instead of in=person if their church is in the state’s capitol. Violence is never acceptable for Christians and violence based on Skin color or Ethnic background is especially heinous. Unfortunately, this is something rooted in our history, a cancer that needs to be uprooted. This is not an issue of liberal’s verse conservatives, or woke verse unwoke, this is an issue of dehumanization, one group continuing the legacy of stripping the humanity from another.  God’s Heart recognizes that the Imago Dei is present in every human being from creation and conception and that the Imago Dei is fully actualized and restored in each person in Christ and that our actions towards other individuals should lead them to Christ Jesus, not away. In Church History, violence and dehumanization has never led anyone to Christ and in fact has hindered the cause of the Gospel and Church Unity. We also those who have covered for, failed to condemn and even enabled and empowered these groups to commit these acts of violence and hatred whether they be pastors or politicians.

We also strongly rebuke these groups for their use of Christian symbols and Rhetoric. There is nothing remotely “Christian” about these groups and their acts, their actions show that they are not in Christ nor have any interest in doing as He has commanded us in Scripture. Scripture is clear in 1 John 1 and 2 that these people are liars and the truth is not in them and so the their claim to Christianity is an illegitimate one. These groups do not act in the spirit of Jesus Christ but instead of “Antichrists in this world” (1 John 2:18-20. Their syncretism of Christianity and Nationalism or a Ethnic Identity is a violation of the Law of God as it makes an idol out of a nation or an ethnic identity. These things are blasphemous and carry the penalty of eternal death under the new covenant. This syncretism has led to the violence we saw at the Capitol on Wednesday and the death of image bearers and if not renounced condemned and curtailed will lead to more deaths in the future.

God’s Heart for those calls on anyone who has supported these groups, anyone who has propped them up, anyone who has actively participated in these groups to repent of this sin of Blaspheme, Spirit of Antichrist, sect and schism, Ethnic Nationalism and White Supremacy to repent of this sin against their brothers and sisters in Christ and against Christ himself and His Kingdom. Along with repentance there must be restitution made and evidence of a life transformed by grace marked by a willingness to accept the consequences of their actions and an understanding of the evil of their ways.

May God save us all.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

 

A Retraction

Gibbs Rule No. 51: “Sometimes You’re Wrong.”

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

Dear Reader

Sometimes in this life we are wrong, thus it has been brought to my attention that an article which was published here in January of last year falsely interprets the arguments of one of our brothers in Christ and for that reason I want to print a retraction of a post that has been celebrated on this site and was even published in a book last year. The Article has been taken down and removed. The article by the name of The Scandal of Carl R. Truman’s Mind was written in response to a First Things Article, which was a response to Mark Galli’s CT article on Trump’s impeachment. It is because I have an enormous amount of respect for Mr. Truman that I wrote the article in the first place, however, after reviewing the piece and the CT article it is obvious that I misread and misinterpreted what Mr. Truman was saying. For that I apologize, it was not my intention to bear false witness about my brother and it is the policy of this site to take incredible care in how we address arguments both in favor of and against ideas. I have failed to meet that standard which I have set for myself in public discourse. While I do disagree with one of Truman’s major points in the article, I have misrepresented his thoughts I have come to this conclusion after re-studying the source material more than a year removed and without the charged emotion of the moment, a much-needed distance I should have taken at the time, and in conversation with a close friend. I still believe that we must critique Populist Christianity and work towards reformation and Gospel renewal, but what Truman wrote was in support of Galli, not in antipathy and I misread, misinterpreted, and misrepresented his arguments. I want to thank the friend who pointed this out to me for coming to me in private and not participating in the often caustic “Cancel Culture” that pervades circles of Evangelical Scholarly debate.

As Christians we are not immune to getting caught up in the emotional fever of the moment and need to give ourselves space before we respond. I was not thrilled with responses to what I still think was an especially important line drawn in the sand and unfortunately, did not read correctly or with Care the response of a theologian and Historian I greatly admire. For that I repent and I ask both your, my dear reader, and his forgiveness. Some may ask why I am rehashing this after over a year, because it is important to model what humble repentance looks like, what it means to model what we have preached over the last year, that civil discourse requires humility and a willingness to say that you were wrong. It would be easy to push this to the side, ignore the concerns of the brother who brought it to my attention, fight with him, but that would put back up the dividing wall of hostility this site is seeking to tear down.

I want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem and so I apologize for my lack of care and misrepresentation of my brother and pray you will hold me accountable to doing better in the future.

Thank you.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

Pastors were Censored in 2020, by their Congregations.

“It is a poor sermon that offends no one” George Whitefield. but the offended need to wrestle with the Scriptures. 

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

On a recent Podcast for The Bulwark Tim Miller noted that we tend to become the very things we rant and rave against. Miller, who worked for the Jeb Bush Campaign in 2015 is old enough to remember all the talk among Republicans about having good moral leaders who have strong character, as am I. For this reason he was one of the most vocal Never Trump Republicans until he left the party last month in one of the most amazing Newsletters I have ever read. He also made the point that Conservatives have long railed against the kind of brand authoritarianism that they have embraced in the last four years. Christianity has had this problem for several decades, perhaps even a century, as we have railed against sexual immorality while propping up pastors who have willfully and unapologetically participated in it. This is what is called: “Blame Shifting” it takes the pressure off me and makes me a victim of something or someone else. When we blame shift we move from being the victimizer to the victimized and we never have to face a reckoning for our actions because, well, we are the victim. I was raised in a conservatism that was all about the consequences for ones actions. My parents never outlawed underage drinking in our house, but they did tell us that if we got caught and went to Jail, we would be spending the night there and then they would come a get us. If we broke the law, there would be consequences.

In the bible, there are consequences to our actions, in 1 John 1 and 2 we are told that if we say we are in the light and walk-in darkness the truth is not in us, we are liars, and if we say we know Jesus and do not follow his commandments then we are liars and do not have the truth. The consequence of this lying is that we are outside of the name of Jesus and we will face eternal punishment for that. Too many Christians believe the cultural Libertinism that has coaxed them into believing that their actions mean nothing in the grand scheme of salvation. I usually avoid Religious Litmus tests, but the one John gives us, in fact that Jesus gives us in John, is that if we love Jesus or know Jesus as Lord and Savior, we will do the things He has commanded us. Not out of legalistic obligation, but out of immense gratitude. The Jesus life and the way of Jesus are the way to exceptional blessings beyond what the citizenship of a nation can give. But the consequence of not living the Jesus life and not going the Jesus way is that we are outside the body, no matter how much we claim to be in. John does not want believers to sin, but when we do we can repent and go back to living the Jesus life because we have Jesus on the throne. Instead, Christians act as though their sin is justified by Christs Sacrifice, this is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer has called: “Cheap grace” which nullifies the cross of Christ. Sin is never justified, but you are justified only through Christ, not by making it up with good deeds, or ignoring it, pushing down the shame and going on to the next sin. The cross of Christ should drive us to repentance for our sins both before and after we are believers.

I say all this because censorship has been back in the news, specifically censorship of conservatives by “Big Tech.” I am not here to argue the merits of this argument, I do not believe there is a targeted war on conservatism. I believe in a free-market and negative rights meaning I believe that social media companies are private companies that have the right to protection under the constitution to make sure the government cannot infringe on their right to free enterprise. Because we live in a fallen world this is going to be abused or under applied or whatnot and demanded perfection from anyone is only going to lead to disappointment.

It is also disingenuous to argue against censorship when it was Christians who perfected the art of Cancel Culture and Censorship as far back as the nineteenth century. That is part of what it means to be a Historian who specialized in the nineteenth century, it is to study the history of the Church in America fighting with each other and trying to cancel each other out, it is the history of internecine warfare such as the debate over Slavery between Abolitionists and the Stonewall-Campbell Churches or the debate over the nature of the Church between Mercersburg and Princeton or the fight between Princeton/Mercersburg against the revivalists. If you understand this paradigm you can understand the politics of Christianity in the twentieth century as laid out in the incredibly thoroughly researched: “Jesus and John Wayne” by Kristin Du Mez. You can even find the roots to all this in the debate between the Old and New Light Puritans during the First Great Awakening. With Charles Chauncy trying to “Cancel” James Davenport, though Davenport probably needed to be canceled, still Yale used Chauncy’s arguments to curb the Revivals that broke out on campus, even banning students from attending a church pastored by a Revivalist. The story of the beginning of Mercersburg Seminary’s fame begins with the revivalists trying to “Cancel” Schaff and Nevin for “Romanizing.” An effort that went down in spectacular fashion in a 42-1 vote. The Church should be on the lookout for heretics, to some extent censorship can be a good thing, we should all be glad that Nicholas and Athanasius had the gal to stand up to Arius and his heretical notions about Christ. To some extent the debates of the nineteenth century were over important matters of orthodoxy, the debate over the nature of the Church for instance, is important, but some were debates of selfishness, such as the debate over Slavery, by that I mean there should never have been a debate among biblical Christians over whether it was justifiable is one of convenience. Slavery was never acceptable, as William Wilberforce argued, it should not even have been a debate, slavery should have ended and reconciliation and yes, restitution, should have been enacted right away. This is like Zacchaeus’s repentance and restitution when he encounters Jesus, he repents, he commits to making restitution and then Jesus tells him that Salvation has entered the house. Christians in America should have led the charge against Slavery, instead we fought over it.

My point is, we have been doing this for years and in the last 10 years or so it has gotten worse as we descend into chaos and infighting over every little thing. Pastors then, have become the targets of wild conspiracy theories, abusive church members via phone call, emails and face to face conversations or anonymous notes left on desks and crazy internet trolls. Usually, it is because the Pastor has failed to preach exactly what the person or congregation has been listening to on the internet. The Pastor gets canceled because he is not telling the “itching ears” what they want to hear. Of course, given the 2 Timothy 3 reference above, this should not surprise us, but it is a concerning trend among Christians who claim the name of Christ.

The problem is, when Christians do this, they are forcing their pastor to violate the Scriptures by which they are bound. Those who want Christianity+ and force their pastor to go along with it are putting their pastor at risk, not before the public, but before God. We are not supposed to give in to the itching ears, we are supposed to hold the line as part of the foundation of the House of God. Congregations, are of course, putting themselves at risk too, of eternal punishment, by refusing to follow the teachings of Jesus and instead insisting they be comforted in their false teachings and heresies, that their conspiracy theories be confirmed, and their idols be lifted, they are putting themselves in danger of eternal death. They will not see heaven because they have spent their lives denying Christ while claiming His name. Pastoral Abuse is a significant problem in the Church, as I noted last week, we have likely lost all the ground gained on Pastor health over the last year.

Whenever I preach sermons on controversial topics I always tell my congregation not to respond right away, if they are angry or uncomfortable, I ask them to sit with that, then to go and study the Scriptures for themselves and to wrestle directly with the scriptures. Then if they still have questions they can come and speak to me during scheduled office hours as long as they are able to have a conversation and constructive discourse. If they do this, they will have to wrestle not with what I said, but with what the Bible says and if they hold the Bible to be authoritative, then they should be shaped by it as Disciples of Jesus.

On Sunday I preached a sermon where I was intent on calling out the sin that led us to what happened on Wednesday. My expectation was that my congregation would get angry, that I may even face the possibility of losing my job, not because I do not trust my people, but because of the nature of the material and the experience of pastors around the nation. Thankfully, once again, it seems a majority of my congregation have been receptive to the message and call for repentance and Gospel renewal, an answer to be prayer, and not the experiences of some of my friends who went the same direction I did. Too many pastors, last year, reported abuse after mentioning everything from “BLM” and Policing, to Politics and Religion. This is unacceptable, abusing anyone, is unacceptable. After the sermon I told them what I mentioned in the paragraph above, so far I have not heard from anyone, but at the time of writing, it is Monday morning.

This is not a fear I have, and yet, the experience of my colleagues tells me I should. Let me put it this way, Tweets like these should not exist in Christendom.

Here is what needs to happen, there has to be a recovery of Biblical Literacy and a devotion to deep biblical study and a renouncing of idols by our congregations, there also has to be anew renewed understanding of the role of a Pastor in our Churches. We should not be ear ticklers, we should be tellers of biblical truth, fulfilling a call to prophetic ministry through the prophetic scriptures. Pastors are called so that the assembly of believers can have the scriptures opened to them by people who are trained, guided and directed both by the Holy Spirit and by wise people. We are not supposed to cower to the masses and tell them what they want to hear, we are supposed to prove ourselves as workman for Christ who are not ashamed of the Gospel (2 Tim 3:15). Our congregations need to respect that, and pastors need to understand this call. We need more Timothy Keller’s and less Greg Locke’s. It may cost us our job, but when people refuse to hear truth, we should shake the dust off and move on.

Congregations should not censor their pastors, they should listen to them, unless they are violating or adding to Scripture, then you need to address that in the manner prescribed in Matthew 18 and Titus 3. Pastors are not infallible, which is why we need to make sure we ourselves are humbly living the Jesus Life in the Jesus way. We also need to be examples of good and righteous discourse, an example of how to engage with ideas we disagree with in a manner that is reflective of Jesus and His love for the world. This is one way a secular education has benefited me, by learning the ideas that are present in the world I am able to refute them through a biblical lens and in a biblical way. Instead of cowing to our congregations, we should expect that they hold this standard themselves and learn to engage in a secularizing America in a way that is God honoring and which does not further undermine that already eroded public trust in the Church and in pastors.

Let it be known that there are situations where censorship is necessary, when someone is promoting a false gospel that has been debunked by the scriptures and when someone is pushing harmful conspiracy theories or inciting violence. These things go against the teaching of scripture and once evaluated, should be rejected by us because scripture rejects them. But let us not adopt the ways of the world and cancel anyone and everyone that does not agree with us. Let’s make it so that the above tweets are a thing of the past as we conform ourselves, once again, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and let it conform us to the image of the Son. Your zeal should be for Orthodoxy in the worship and service of the Father, but Zeal has to be tempered by Love, love spoken and acted upon because we have received grace from the father. Congregations and Pastors alike, there are consequences for our actions, some are going to play out in this world, but also eternity, we are not living for today, but for eternity. The way you treat your pastor matters and if God chastises those whom he loves, then there will be consequences.

May we repent for our sins against one another, for the sake of the Gospel, turn from our wicked ways and return to Christ.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center

Rejecting Christianity+

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-fwte5-f75688

What is Christianity+ and why should we reject it? On this episode we take our first stab at talking about Syncretism in the American Church and how it lead to the Christian Symbolism that rioters waved at the Capital Building. 

You can also hear Jonathan’s Sermon on this topic here: https://godsheartforthose.com/2021/01/11/sermoncast-christianity-and-how-we-got-here-1-john-21-6-15-17/

SermonCast: Christianity+ and how we got here: 1 John 2:1-6, 15-17

Our sermon for Sunday, January 10th 2021 is a direct response to the riot at the Capitol on Wednesday the 6th. Here we look at the book of 1st John and his argument against syncretizing the world with Christian Faith as well as living out the Jesus Life in the Jesus way as the only way our faith  We will also address the ways the Church has failed in this and how that has led to where we are today.

Please note that the communion service that followed the sermon is retained so that you too can reflect on the call to repentance issued in the service.

Watch the entire service here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOI0rCCa1rk

The Historically Doomed

“Those who are unwilling to learn from History are doomed to repeat it” – Santayana…oh and make Idols 

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

It may come as a surprise to some, but there is a consensus among Historians, both of Church History and otherwise that the Crusades of the middle ages were a bad idea. Especially the fourth when in 1207 the western church sacked and sieged the eastern church all in the name of the Holy Roman Empire. The goal of the Crusades was to “restore the Holy Land.” That was done through whatever means necessary. The logic followed that since the early Christians set up these sites they had to be defended and taken back and there was no tool off limits to getting that done. This meant that rape and torture were often used to excess by the Crusaders. They did not have the historical understanding we do now, that those sites were set up centuries after the fact because the Early Christians had no need to set up geographical markers and memorials since God’s Kingdom was not of this world. In fact, some of these sites were established by the Crusaders themselves as justification for their violence and brutality. The early Christians changed and empire by service to God in the face of mass persecution, the Crusaders defended a power-hungry empire that eventually turned on itself.

The Crusades have always interested me because they seemed to be a direct contradiction to what Jesus tells Pilate in John 18:36. “If my kingdom was of this world, then my disciples would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish Leaders. But no my Kingdom is from another place” (NIV). This is the Divine Logos, the one with all authority in heaven and Earth, telling us that his people would not fight to prevent his arrest because his Kingdom was not an earthly one. Jesus had already told Peter to put his sword away in 18:11. The people of God were not to produce violence in the name of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven was meant to be a place where “swords are fashioned into plowshares” (Isa 4:2), not used for violence. Even in the Luke 22 passage that is often used as a justification for armament the context is Jesus fulfillment of what was written, not going out to start a war. If anything, Jesus promises us multiple times in the Gospels that we ourselves should expect the sword to be used against by those who think that by doing so they are serving God.

I am not talking here about Christian Pacificism, again, I do not believe in Christianity+, so no ist or ism words need to be added to Christianity (hint, hint, that means there is no Christian Globalism either). But I do think that there is a modeled pacificity in Jesus suffering that we are to model when the tides turn against us. When the world comes to our door and drags us out and beats us or the Governments of this world turn on us. The Early Christians modeled this, they did not return violence with violence but violence with quiet confidence in God and the fact that the Kingdom they were dying for was not of this world. In doing this, in following Jesus example, as Peter’s letters tell us we are meant to, the Gospel spread like wildfire. To borrow a quote from Robin Daniel: “The blood of the martyrs become the Holy Seed.” But these were not martyrs for an Earthly Kingdom with Earthly motivations, they were martyrs for a heavenly kingdom with the only motivation being making Christ known.

That is the difference between the early Church and the Crusades and us today. The Crusades were about power, about control of a geographical region “In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” They did not advance the cause of Christ or the Gospel, instead they hindered it and still hinder it today. If you do not believe me, ask anyone who has served as a Missionary in a predominantly Muslim country. Unlike the West, Cultural Memory and Oral Tradition are still valuable commodities in the East, and so the memories are long. In the west we want to move on from events, we refuse to see how events in one generation effect the next generation. That is why we cannot comprehend how we are still dealing with the Ghost of Slavery and Jim Crow, they make us uncomfortable, as they should, and so we want to move on and gloss over us. They scare us, and so we do not deal with them when we should.

So we fail to realize how what happened yesterday at the Capital is the culmination of three hundred years of Church History in America, a Church History that since the 1920’s and sought to fuse power religion with power politics, often choosing figures who are as far from Christ as they can get to represent them. I wont hash out the entire history here, but I strongly recommend you read John Fea’s “Believe Me”, Jamar Tisby’s “The Color of Compromise” and Kristin Du Mez “Jesus and John Wayne” as these are thorough treatments of the formation of the relationship between Christianity and Power Politics that we know today as “Christian Nationalism.” The idea that Christians should use the powers of government to enact a Christian Moral Code on our society. While I am all for Christianity’s moral teachings, often the tactics Christian Nationalists have used to make these things happen have backfired on the Church and the moral failings of the men who have led these charges have done even greater damage. Not that there is not room for Christian engagement in the politics of earthly kingdoms, but Christian Nationalism has contributed to, not stopped, the decline of the Church in this country.

It might surprise you to think learn that I do not think that patriotism and love of country are bad things. On the contrary, you want to love the place you live, and you want others to love it. I also have a great deal of respect for those who serve in the military. But what Christian Nationalism does is place at the center of Christianity the geographical kingdom of man not the unbound kingdom of God that is not of this world. It binds Christianity to a national identity and downplays points where the bible contradicts the actions of the leaders. It also forces Christians to ostensibly serve two masters. God and Country, as equals and Jesus is clear that we cannot do that without loving the one and hating the other (Mat 6:24).

The other glaring problem with this equaling of God and Country is that God wants our loyalty to Him and Him alone, there can be no other. When we elevate something to where He is supposed to be or try to set something alongside Him, we are making an idol of that thing. That is why, as you were watching yesterday you saw signs that said: “Jesus Saves” and “Jesus 2020” held by the people storming the capital building. They have decided to serve two masters and in service to one they have hated the other. In this case, in service to the president they have chosen hatred of God because they served the idol, the creation, rather than the creator. What we saw yesterday was in no way “Christian” and I doubt Jesus wants his name associated with it. In fact, I think he saw those signs as a form of Blaspheme, not devotion to Him. The Jesus Life is one of modeled and patient suffering, if the Son of God wanted to lead and armed uprising against Rome, he is the only one alive at the time who could have done so and succeeded. Every time Christianity has aligned itself with the powers of this world it has failed in its mission to be salt and light.

One of my former classmates said it best.

Christianity is, itself, the primary identity of a believer. I disagree with Mike that there should be Christian Progressives and Christian Conservatives, we are just supposed to be Christians and everything else is to be subservient to and informed by Christ and the Word of God, especially those things that the Civic Religion likes the make idols of. Let us also not try to deflect and make excuses of “Whataboutisms” or “This was actually Antifa.” What happened yesterday was organized in far-right and darkest corners of the internet and needs to be roundly condemned by Christians of all stripes. The second of those claims has been debunked by Capital Police anyway.

If you are a Christian and you do love your country, which again is not a sin unless you have placed your country on the same level as God, then what happened yesterday should shock and appall you because it was a direct attack on our institutions and the Constitution. Things that the conservative movement which I grew up in, claimed to love and respect. This was a heartbreaking day for us as a nation, whether you are a believer or unbeliever.

One final thing, one of the contributing factors in what happened yesterday was the elevation of one man far above where even our founding documents saw he should be placed. Christians have made a bad habit of that on both the left and the right. We look for functional saviors when Jesus is literally the only answer. Neither Donald Trump or Joe Biden can fix what ails the Church, to turn to either of them is to reject God. Yes, it is true that God appoints our leaders and places governments over us but he does so for two reasons outlined in Romans 13, to ensure our good behavior or to ensure that we behave like Christ, and the bring the power of sword as judgment when we do not. They are not to be confused with the Lordship of Christ and the Kingdom of Christ, because as Jesus said, our Kingdom is not a Kingdom of this world. We are a people of two kingdoms, plain and simple, perhaps we better learn to live in the kingdom of heaven first, so we can learn to live in this one.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center