Tag: Donald Trump

What is the “Old Guard” really Guarding?

By Jonathan David Faulkner,

I will be honest; it was hard to get on the internet last week, especially after Tuesday Morning when over 500 Evangelical Leaders met with Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump. I read some of the more legitimate articles on the subject, Jerry Falwell Jr. and James Dobson’s comments on the meeting, notes from those outside of the group of “Evangelical Leaders.” I took it all in, saw the article about Trump’s Constantinian style Conversion to Christianity (wasn’t he already a Christian, something about a speech at Liberty?) It was hard to read all of it, it really was, I mean, both sides were just aghast and fighting with one another. It was, for lack of a better term, pathetic.

All of it leading to a deeper disillusionment with American Christianity. One that would have grown this week had I not read any of those articles and simply heard the promises Trump made to Evangelicals. Promises like allowing Religious leaders to endorse presidential candidates and creating a “Christian Advisory Panel” that includes Michele Bachman, Falwell, Dobson and others, members of that Old Guard Fundamentalism that at one point was a very good thing for the church in America (I mean, it gave us Jim Elliot, so it wasn’t always bad). Now claiming that Trump has “Accepted Jesus into his heart;” An ideology many Christians in the coming generation have abandoned because it is simply not biblical (See the book of Romans).

Of course, I am not questioning Trump’s conversion (though I am personally skeptical of it) the fruit of his life will determine if it is true or not. But I am wondering, what are Dobson and Falwell and others, the “Old Guard” actually “Guarding?”

I mean, if you are a guard you must be guarding something, either as a leader or a knight or a soldier or whatever, you are guarding something. My question is, what are they guarding, because it does not seem to be the Gospel.

What do I mean? The Gospel is by its very nature unifying to those who believe in Christ. In its truest, unadulterated form, will bring the believers together and through that unity and love draw in outsiders. This point is not in dispute, that’s why we do not only verbally speak the Gospel message we actually live it out. The idea is a two-fold evangelistic approach of living out and speaking, you must let your actions back up your words. It would not be enough for me to talk about encouraging my girlfriends walk with the Lord daily, I actually have to do it by 1.) making sure I am walking with the Lord daily so I can lead her by God’s grace and 2.) by asking her what the Lord has been teaching her and actively showing her what God has been showing me. If I talked about those things and my actions did not back them up I would simply be doing lip service to what I want to do. But if people see her grow closer to God and be encouraged in Christ then they will know that I am not merely talking about doing such a thing but actually doing it.

It is the same with the Gospel, we must live it out and proclaim it. But here’s the thing, part of proclaiming the Gospel is living it out. It also means that instead of throwing in our lot with a man or woman whose rhetoric and life have been openly lived in sin for the sake of having some government influence we should be focused on the building up of the Church and the Kingdom of God where our true and genuine future hope and citizenship lie. Since the church gained power under Constantine it has misused and abused that power in many ways. If the Gospel is in ruins because non-believers see Christians seeking worldly power and caused greater division instead of relying on the God who is all-powerful and Sovereign then the Gospel has not been guarded, it has been left in ruin.

They are not guarding the church, the simple act of doing something so divisive (there was another group of Evangelicals that support Hilary) that it would deepen the already surgically deep wounds in the American Church then you have not guarded the church. The church is meant to be one body, one people (read Galatians) and to not follow any other Gospel but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If your actions cause division in a body that is mean to be one and it becomes two factions (or in our case many factions) then you have not guarded the church by promoting unity and grace among all believers. The catholic (universal) church can be the most influential and greatest influence in the world, in fact, it actually is, but when it is divided, when the American Church looks more like Ephesus or Corinth, you have failed to defend it against Heresy and Division. If all people see of the church is a group of people divided and bitter because of your actions then you have denied them access to the true and pure gospel.

They are not guarding the individual people: A short study of history tells us that Christians who gain and use power often leave the commoner open to more persecution and hatred based on actions. Just look at those who act as though all Christians are like Westboro, the regular, bible-believing Christian becomes the target of outrage and hatred because to some the name “Christian” means hatred because of what one group in Topeka Kansas has done. The people always suffer, whether it was the oppressive authoritarianism of the Medieval Church in the High Middle Ages or Christians in Germany who persecuted the Confessing Church for not backing Hitler or whatever example you want to use. The Common people, those outside of the clergy or those outside of those 500 evangelicals who met with Trump in New York, the everyday Christian suffers. Granted, so do the Clergy who oppose such a group.

So what are they guarding? If it is not the Gospel, if it is not the Church, if it is not the individual people, then what are they guarding? It would seem the answer to that would be simple and sad…”Earthly Power.”

See, since the 1950’s the church has had a perceived Earthly power, I say perceived because while the church did have great influence and it did help define policy and while Christians still made up the majority of the population of the United States (they still do by the way). “Christian Power” was still a bit of a misnomer and the power Christians did have was often misused or not used at all (which was the case during the Civil Rights movement). But that’s what Dobson and Falwell Jr. and so many others are clinging too so viciously, they want that power, as if Christians can’t effect change without a role in government (because Jesus was an ally of the state, you know…that killed him). They want it so bad they will even meet with a presidential candidate who has made a living by living a life that is in almost all ways contrary to the Gospel. As if the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are dependent on Christians holding influence in the government. Or the Gospel needs a lobby to be spread effectively.

It has become for Dobson and Falwell and others an idol of clay and wood. It cannot see them, it cannot hear them and it cannot do anything for them. Earthly Power will not save the American Church from itself or from the direction our society is taking. In the end it will only make things worse for those who are genuinely trying to live out the Gospel. It will lead ot the ultimate destruction of the American Church and not its rise. Just like the Authoritarianism of the Catholic Church in the 14 and 1500’s the desire for power will become our downfall and only further divide and destroy us. These men are watching the church they helped build slide into perceived irrelevancy and they are quite literally grasping at any tidbit that can be dropped to them by almost anyone. Like the Prophets of Baal they want fire to fall down from heaven but they are relying on man-made means to get it.

Here’s the thing I wish I could say to these Evangelicals (who I do believe are sincere believers): We do not need some Earthly power for the Gospel message to spread like fire throughout the land. We do not need to have our voice heard in the government to have the most relevant message of all-time. We have that solely in one place and one place alone. The Gospel of Jesus Christ which has been passed down throughout the ages by men and women who knew, like I do, it to be true because it was confirmed over and over again by God the father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit which dwells within us. The Godhead three-in-one, that is where our power lies, that is where our relevancy lies, that is where our hope lies, that is where our joy lies and that is where our love lies. That is truth and it has been the same since it was first given to us when God created. Because man changes, God and His truth do not.

Does that seem harsh to say to men who have gone before us? It is meant to be an exhortation, men who did a pretty good job at one point building the church in America. In the hopes of seeing them restored to seeking after the Kingdom of God by God’s means and not by mans. The only hope for the American Church is a total reliance in the sovereign God of the Universe. To rediscover the greatness of what God has given us and to turn from the idols of earthly power and trust wholly on God.

It’s time to stop waffling, either we follow God, or we follow Baal.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oJonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

 

 

The False Promise of “Earthly Power”

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

The Teacher is about to leave; he stands on a hill with those who have followed him, watched him die and be brought back to life. He had performed miracles among them, taught them, walked with them, for three years, they had gone to Jerusalem with him. They had seen the resurrected body and the power that he had. So they stood on the mountain that he would soon ascend from and ask him one more question. “Teacher, at this time will you restore the Kingdom of Israel?”

Between 166-122 B.C. another group had tried, and for a time, succeeded to free the Kingdom of Israel, this revolt, known as the Maccabean Revolt had been asking the same question, and for a time, they succeeded. Freeing themselves from the Seleucids before Rome controlled the known world.

In the 4th and 5th century A.D Rome was losing power, co-rulers were fighting each other and there were constant invasions from the Gauls, the Huns and the Vandals. A series of Rulers and Co-Rulers tried with every means at their disposal to keep Rome in tact, striving to return to the greatness of Rome under their predecessors. “Making Rome great again” was the focus of such leaders as Valentinian and Constantinius. Their great empire was crumbling, and the people were panicking. Systematic Persecution of all who were not members of the church became the norm. The Sarasin, the Gaul, the Norman, the Saxxon, they would become the targets of the “Christian Empire.”

It does not matter how phrase it, whether you think this was good, or know that it actually turned out to go very badly for Christendom up through the time of the Reformation. History cannot be ignored, the Church abused its power, there was a negative reaction to that abuse, the church became fought to retain that power and so instead of greatness, the church suffered greatly.

In the 1920’s and 30’s a charismatic despot arose in Germany. His goal was to restore the glory of Germany. To, make it great again, and he enacted the most oppressive and deadliest government policies in history. His name was Adolf Hitler, and he had the backing (based on an agreement he reached with them) of much of the German Church. Something that grieved the Swiss Theologian Karl Barth and the great German Preacher Dietrich Bonhoeffer who became a leader in the Confessing Church and eventually would be killed by the German Government for participating in a plot against Hitler.

In the 1950’s and 60’s the American Church was at its peak, 1-5 people were Christians and a majority of the population attended Church in one of the mainline denominations. The New-Wave Pentecostal Movement was beginning to sweep across the nation and American Fundamentalism was rich with answers that were helpful to the people. The Billy Graham Crusades and Navigators were working together to do Discipleship and the Church enjoyed political power.

Today, American Christianity is in decline. Fundamentalists have largely turned to fear-mongering and legalism and the church is scrambling for a man who can restore us to power. Meanwhile, those of us who are seeking to build up the church in the way of the Gospel are told not to speak, that we should fall in line and openly support the man that they have touted as the answer. Even if doing so violates both our conscious and scripture. As I have said before, we are being force-fed a culture of fear, and many in the church have been eating it up.

We have so easily abandoned hope, we have so easily abandoned grace, we have so easily abandoned Christ.

Honestly Church, if Christ were here would we ask him what those Disciples did? “Teacher, will you now restore the Church to power in America?” How would we react if Jesus told us? “The Days and hours are not for you to know.” Would we, like the Macabees seek to retake a nation by force, or like the Crusaders, murdering innocent women and children. Or like Hitler, carrying out a plan to systematically destroy entire people groups. Have we so forgotten where our power lies? Are we willing to follow a man before we follow Christ? Is this not contrary to everything the church is supposed to stand for?

I weep for our current condition, and as long as those who are encouraging this type of thought have 1.5 million followers on Facebook it will be perpetuated through Social Media and everywhere else. Christian, we need to stop this, we are above this, not because we hold office or because we once had political influence or even because we have something man made to be proud of, but because of who and what the Bible professes to be True.

And we can be proud of that, and we should revel in that, it should be so engrained in us that we cannot forget it. Regardless of who the president is or what war is being fought. Jesus, who serves as our mediator between us and God, whose death made it possible for us to gain entry into the most Holy Place and the Presence of GOD is still our hope. Get this, He does not serve as president, He reigns as King, His power is not based on Earthly Authority, but on an authority that is divine. He is the Son of God, the First Born of all Creation, before America existed, He was. Before the Church was established, before the first dawn of the world, He was present.

Christian, if there was ever a reason for Hope, it is that the God of the universe is still in control and present in the lives of the Saints. It is that He never breaks His promises to keep His people, to do Justice for them. That He sent His son to totally appease the wrath our sins earned us and defeat Sin and Death, to set u free from the penalty of our sins and to proclaim us Righteous in spite of our deplorable state.

We cannot fall into the plight of the Jews of Jesus day, searching for a military leader to free them from the oppression of Rome. We do not need someone to make our nation great again, especially when the idea of greatness is rooted in systematic racism and comes out of fear. We belong to the greatest nation in the Cosmos. Our citizenship and identity are so much greater than merely being American. We are sons and daughters of the Living God, citizens of the coming Kingdom.

Your hope is not in a man, not in a Macabean or Roman Ruler or Hitler type. Their attempts to cease power will only lead to destruction, and they will take you with them.

Believer, again I say, be bold, the hope that you have is greater than anything on this planet. The Joy that you know is not bound up in the events of Earth, but comes directly from the Father. Your power is not determined by the people in the media or our position in politics, but in the Spirit of God that is received at Salvation.

We must learn to use it, to speak the truth in love and to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, souls and minds again, not in some political leader. It is time to abandon this perceived power and start to really do what we, as a body, are called to do. A task that can be accomplished without political power, because it is done by God, working in and through us, to advance His Coming Kingdom.

 

Sources:

Encyclopedia Britannica
The ESV translation of the Bible (Acts 1:6)

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oJonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

“THE ONE WHO SHOWS MERCY”

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By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

One day, someone asked the pastor of the local Church; “Who is my neighbor?” The pastor sat back in his chair and thought for a second. Then told the following story. A man was walking along the road in New York City when he was jumped, mugged and left to die on the street. Before long a high ranking politician walked by and saw the man. “I cannot stop and help him, I am an important politician, I have too many meetings to attend, and a country to run.” So he goes on his way. A few minutes later a certain Fundamentalist walks by, seeing the man he scoffs and says “God must have just repaid him for his sins, I should not help him, lest I interfere with God’s judgment.” Finally, a Syrian Refugee walks by, seeing the man he helps him to his feet and takes him to the Hospital. He stays with him throughout his recovery and even gives whatever he can to help pay for and restore the man. He never asked for anything in return, he merely prayed for him and watched out for him. Who do you think was more of a neighbor to the man? “The one who showed him mercy” the church member replied. “Good, now shouldn’t you do the same?”

For those of you who have studied you will recognize this as the Parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37 though it has been contextualized for our modern world. A Politician, a Super-Religious Leader and a Syrian Refugee. In the original context the story would have been quite offensive, a Samaritan helping a Jew, what scandal since the Samaritans were considered half-breeds and even sub-human because they reminded Israel of their adulterous history. In today’s context the story serves to remind us that our neighbor is anyone who we might encounter. It also serves as an example to us to get down in the mess of the life of another and lift them up out of it so that they might glorify God. Most importantly, however, is the reminder to show mercy, always show mercy.

Step into today’s current crisis, millions of refugees, the UN Refugee Center had the number at 13 million with another 5.1 million in camps waiting for relocation as of mid-2014 (The number has most certainly gone up). This is undoubtedly a humanitarian crisis, as war continues to spread and those persecuted, whether it is for being Christian or some other religion, continue to be displaced from home and culture to escape the rise of ISIL and the growing threat of all-out war in those unstable countries. The numbers go up, the destruction gets worse, the situation goes from important to imperative meaning no one should ignore it, everyone should be willing to do their part.

Yet the response of the Conservative Evangelicals, a camp which contains GHFT, has been one of fear and crying out against such a thing. “We do not want refugees here” says one pastor, “They are going to just bring Jihad here.” Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas said in a statement “I have therefore directed all state agencies, departments, boards or commissions not to participate or assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to Kansas.” He goes onto say that is it “Unfortunate” that this has to be the case but the “Safety of Kansas” is the priority.

Meanwhile, Conservative Evangelicals flood to Donald Trump Rallies, with men like Jerry Falwell Jr and many other Conservative Evangelical leaders coming out in support of him, including former GOP Vice President Candidate and former Alaskan Governor, Sarah Palin. Franklin Graham even endorsed Trump’s plan to “Kick Muslims out.”

At GHFT we are baffled by this and deeply saddened. Why? Because, in looking out over the vast scope of history we have seen the damage that the kind of rhetoric being used in America today is similar to that used by others who have committed mass atrocities such as Hitler and Stalin. The demonization of a people, namely refuges, a lot of which are Muslim, is exactly what Hitler did to drive his genocide and final solution. The Jewish Journal, a publication here on the North Shore, recently released an article expressing concern for the reintroduction of Mien Kampf into Germany, with its 300 pages of commentary, asking questions concerning the possibility of something similar happening again, only this time at the hands of Syria. Americans should be concerned of something similar happening if the Hate-Speech and continue Fear-Mongering encouraged by Trump and his supporters is allowed to continue, only the target would be people of Syrian origin, and I do not see it stopping at Muslims, but Christians and any refugee who comes from the Middle East.

We have done it once, the Japanese Internment camps that were scattered all over the U.S, blaming all Japanese for the attack on Pearl Harbor, most of whom had no ties to Japan or had cut ties with Japan. Christians then turned a blind eye to the morality of the situation, as they did with Slavery one-hundred years before (with the exception of the Quakers). Trading sound moral living and philosophy, along with the fair and merciful treatment of all for comfort and safety. We have traded true sanctity of human life, the sanctity of all life, for our own security. Are we so conceited that we think we have the ability to slander others for the sake of our own seared conscious? Have we become so fearful that we have forgotten what it means to be truly Evangelical? So afraid that we would openly hate both our brothers and sisters from Syria and those whom they are trying to reach out to? What is wrong with us?

GHFT does agree that we should care for those here in America, a country should take care of its citizen’s, but they should also take care of those who are displaced and do so in such a way that they are built up and encouraged. If there is any organization better equipped to do that it is the church, not the federal government, the Church. With all its members and with all of its parts and programs. If we are to be a righteous and a Just people, then we cannot ignore the refugees or demand that they be denied entrance because they might make us “Unsafe.” Is our safety and comfort so important to us that we would deny aid and even call for the extermination of an entire people group?

Hey, you might die, you might have to be uncomfortable, you might have to give money, you may have to get down in the life of someone you disagree with and help them out. It might be asked of you to do such a thing, but did Jesus not do the same for you? And if He did, then should you not seek to, out of gratitude, seek to serve and love all those who come into your sphere of influence regardless of what you may think of them? At GHFT we assert that it is our responsibility to build up all people with the hope of reaching them for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Regardless of race, creed or religion at the time we meet them. We reject fear-mongering and hate-speech in the interest of being part in the great work of the spreading of the Gospel done through us by God. We recognize that our neighbor is all men and all women within the scope of the human race and we have resolved to treat others with that vision in mind. We invite you to do the same, we hope you would do the same.

I close with this: Last year in my Christian Ethics class here in the Seminary I was afforded the chance to learn Dr. David Gill’s thoughts on Christian Ethics and the Ten Commandments. I was struck by his application of the commandments. For example, “Though shalt not covet” is not merely a command not to covet your neighbor’s possession but is “A command for us to protect and help care for our neighbor’s possessions.” That we are responsible to love GOD and one of the ways we do that is by loving people. As I have pondered this in relation to the current Refugee Crisis I am struck by the fact that it is our responsibility to commit ourselves to aiding those fleeing from this war. Whether that is through boots on the ground, in the field and camps work or through constant prayer and intercession. We have an ethical responsibility, and it is our Christian responsibility to commit in whatever way we can to aiding in, and working to resolve this humanitarian crisis and it starts by accepting, in love, those coming, in spite of fear and possibly at the expense of our comfort and safety.

This is the only Christian Response, anything else falls short and ceases to be so.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

God’s Heart for Those is responsible for the Content of this Article, sources not in print are linked in the article itself, The Jewish Journal is a Newspaper publication from the North Shore in Massachusetts. 

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Jonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

 

 

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