Social Justice, Uncategorized

5 Scriptures That Should End Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign

(This article originally appeared at Huffington Post Religion.)

“They have to go.”

That is the crux of the long-awaited Donald Trump immigration policy. This past Sunday, Trump repeatedly told Meet the Press host, Chuck Todd, that the 11 million people who entered the country illegally must be deported. He did not specify how the country could afford the hundreds of millions of dollars that a national deportation bureaucracy would require, but that’s the deal he’s offering.

But wait, there’s more…

Trump added that their children who were born in the United States would have to be deported as well. That, of course, would require repealing the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution that grants birthright citizenship to every person born in the U.S.

Every decent human being, regardless of faith, should feel righteous indignation at a brash billionaire threatening to nullify the Fourteenth Amendment, revoke the citizenship of children born in the United States, and ship them to another country. This policy punishes the most vulnerable in our society who had nothing to do with their parents’ actions, and it has no place in the United States of America.

Not only is Trump’s immigration policy a moral outrage, it is also hypocritical. The Atlantic pointed out that Trump’s policy would have barred his own grandfather from entering the country. We also know that two-thirds of “The Donald’s” wives were born outside of the United States. Thankfully, almost a super-majority of the nation of immigrants disagree with Trump, as 65 percent of Americans favor some kind of path to citizenship.

While I support regulated borders and a sensible and compassionate immigration policy, one of the most often repeated values in Scripture is offering hospitality to the stranger. Even dedicated people of faith may be surprised to know how forcefully the biblical authors spoke out on the issue of immigration.

With Trump’s immigration policy now public, those of us who desire to follow Christ have the opportunity to examine what our faith tradition teaches us about showing hospitality to the immigrants and the vulnerable among us. While some Christians short-sightedly stop at quoting Romans 13:1, others will step back, look at the big picture, and acknowledge the existence of a higher law. For example, consider Leviticus 19:33-34…

(Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post Religion.)


How Evangelicals Can Regain Our Superpowers


When I was four, my mom took me to see Superman II at a drive-in theater. Neither the awesomely bad, late-1970s special effects nor the tinny audio from a speaker hanging on the car door could stop this enthralled little boy from wanting to be Supes.

I jumped off the living room furniture wearing a red cape for the next several years. In spite of new incarnations, to me, Christopher Reeve is still the real Superman, and I’m sure somewhere deep in my psyche there still lives a four-year-old boy ever-aspiring to be a superhero.

In Superman II, the plot thickens when Superman, determined to love Lois Lane as a normal human, steps into a mysterious, clear chamber in the Fortress of Solitude and surrenders his superpowers. He emerges as a very human Clark Kent, but even more vulnerable than he realizes, as he now overestimates his strength. Having only felt super-human confidence his entire life, he fails to realize how weak he really is. On a subsequent dinner date, forgetting he is no longer the Man of Steel, Clark sticks up for Lois and gets bloodied in a bar fight.

Trying to make authentic disciples through a theocratic government

Around the time Superman II was filmed, conservative Christians began enjoying political power in the United States. The Moral Majority (also known as the Religious Right, Values Voters, Christian Right, etc.), led by televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, attempted to legislate their Southern Evangelical version of Christian values. Recently defeated in his support for school segregation, Falwell led others to build a coalition united against women’s rights and gay rights.

You read that last sentence correctly. In 1967, Falwell started a whites-only “Christian” school named Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg, Virginia as an alternative to the recently desegregated public schools of the South. Ten years later, he blamed born-again Christian President Jimmy Carter for making it harder for these “Christian” segregation academies across the South to remain tax-exempt. Throughout the 1980s and all the way up to the presidential election of 2004, conservative evangelical Christians wielded impressive political power.

That level of political influence is now gone, and the memory of it seems as outdated as the Superman II special effects. When a favorite of Christian conservatives, Indiana governor Mike Pence, endured that humiliating press conference last month in which he sheepishly stated that he never expected such a backlash following his signing of Indiana’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he was probably telling the truth…

Read the full article here.



Are Followers of Jesus the Kind of People Who Put Someone to Death?

This Holy Week, Shane Claiborne, Brandan Robertson, and other faith leaders are collecting signatures for a “Christian Faith Leaders Lenten Statement Calling for an End to the Death Penalty.”

You can sign the petition here.

The U.S. is among the last countries on earth to retain the death penalty. Of the 195 countries in the world, the United States is one of only 36 countries (18 percent) still enforcing the death penalty in law and practice. In 2013, the U.S. was the only country in the western hemisphere to carry out an execution. Pharmaceutical companies in the European Union are no longer supplying U.S. states with certain chemicals after they discovered their medicines were being used to put inmates to death.

We are known by the company we keep, and the list of 10 countries executing the most persons annually is one many Americans are not proud to make. The U.S ranked fifth in the number of executions worldwide in 2013, behind China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. The other countries rounding out the top 10 are Pakistan, Yemen, North Korea, Vietnam, and Libya.

The majority of executions in the U.S. take place within a small number of states. In 2014, U.S. states executed 35 persons, with 80 percent of these executions taking place in Missouri, Texas, and Florida. Texas has executed, by far, more inmates than any other state (522 since 1976), comprising 37 percent of all executions in the U.S. Since 1976, 81 percent of all U.S. executions have taken place in the South.

As we approach Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion of Christ, it is worth noting that the Catholic Church opposes the death penalty, as do most mainline Protestant denominations. Evangelicals, not so much. The National Association of Evangelicals continues to support capital punishment…

Read more at On Faith here.


Why Evangelicals Don’t Want Brandan Robertson to Be an Evangelical

Brandan-RobertsonBrandan Robertson is a twenty-two year old blogosphere phenom.

His activism has scattered his posts, photos, and tweets all over social media. Last year, he started an organization called Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, and a few days ago he almost broke the Internet machine when he lost a book deal with an evangelical publisher after coming out as queer.

Brandan is committed to his evangelical faith. He entered Moody Bible Institute a wide-eyed conservative evangelical and left Moody an intellectually honest, progressive evangelical. He maintains a blog called Revangelical “to help others rethink, reform, and renew what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus in our post-modern, post-Christian world.”

There is one reason why the comments sections following his blog posts call to mind the Inquisition, and why he lost his book deal. It’s the same reason that evangelicals don’t want Robertson to keep calling himself an evangelical. If he is allowed to be part of their group, it means they’ve not only lost the culture war, but now they’re losing their own definition of “evangelical”…

(Read the full article at Convergent Books here.)


How Lent Can Help You Reconcile Your Faith and Doubt


Even though Lent is a spiritually attentive time of year, for thinking people, this season of preparation for Easter can also remind us of the unanswered questions we have about faith.

Is there really a God?
Does organized religion do more harm than good?
Why does God allow suffering?
Why is religion in America so political?
Do miracles happen?
Does Bill Maher actually know something we don’t?

And, oh yeah, with Easter approaching…

Was Jesus really raised from the dead?

The loss of faith in America has become a cliché. The percentage of “nones” — those who claim no faith — recently grew by five percentage points in as many years. The Pew Research Center found that a whopping 32 percent of 18-29 year olds are unaffiliated with any religion.

It’s not difficult to understand why.

Pew put it bluntly, “Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”

The so-called “culture war” reminds many (including me) of what they find repulsive about religion. This is in addition to the age-old philosophical questions. The perpetual presence of culturally backward, anti-intellectual religious voices makes it almost embarrassing for curious, forward-leaning people to search for guidance within the vast, rich Jesus tradition of mysticism and spirituality.

I believe in thinking deeply about faith. I’m currently writing a Lent sermon series informed by Richard Dawkins and other New Atheists in which I acknowledge the hardest questions for Christians to answer. At the same time, I find myself agreeing with Frank Schaeffer’s assertion in Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God, “Scientists and theologians can’t offer better than circular arguments, because there are no other kinds of arguments.” As subjective humans, we can’t seem to escape our own presuppositions.

Lent doesn’t answer all of the questions, but perhaps Lent does suggest the initial reason human beings found value in spirituality in the first place.

When Oprah interviewed Rob Bell for Super Soul Sunday last November, she referenced Rob’s suggestion in his book What We Talk about When We Talk About God that the starting place for spirituality is to be open…

Read the full article here at OnFaith, the religion blog hosted by Faithstreet.


How Evangelicals Can End the Culture War

Billy Graham

I remember how tears streamed down my face when I prayed the “sinner’s prayer” with Billy Graham.

I was only 11 years old, sitting on my parents’ couch. About 30 minutes earlier, I had run downstairs from my bedroom out of boredom and flipped through the channels using this new handheld device called a “remote control.” I landed on a channel where a man was talking about Jesus in a stadium full of people. I didn’t know his name until the announcer said it at the end of the program.

After the man sincerely and vividly described the pain Jesus experienced on the cross on my behalf, in my child-like faith, I remember thinking, “If Jesus loves me that much, He deserves for me to love Him back.” Even though I was only 11, while the choir sang “Just As I Am,” my experience with God was real, and it changed my life.

Twenty-seven years later, as a pastor, I feel the same call that Billy Graham felt. It’s the call to be an evangelist. I don’t try to convert people like they have a target on their backs — like Billy, I believe that God’s Spirit is already active all over the world, calling people to Him, and we are all just privileged to present the invitation. In my relationship with Jesus, I have experienced a beautiful beckoning toward loving wholeness that I have never experienced anywhere else — and to me, evangelism is simply sharing my experience.

Evangelism means good news. The name evangelical means something like, “people who want to live according to the good news of Jesus Christ.” While evangelicals will go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the good news in other countries, it is the tragedy of our time that when unreached young people in the United States think of Christians, they do not associate us with good news.

According to Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons in unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity . . . and Why It Matters, when 91 percent of people between the ages of 18-29 hear the word “Christian,” they think “anti-gay.” These are the people evangelicals say they are trying to reach with the Gospel. “Anti-gay” is the number one impression unreached young people have about Christians in the United States.

No matter what your view of same-sex marriage is, I know you agree with me that this is an absolute tragedy. Even worse, it is devastating to the cause of Christ and to the Great Commission. When younger unreached people hear our proclamation of the Gospel, it does not communicate the good news of the grace of God to them.

Evangelicals believe that we are called to obey the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, the resurrected Jesus says to His followers:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Over the past few years, I have heard less talk about the Great Commission among evangelicals. Talk of the Great Commission has largely been replaced by talk of the “culture war,” “true conservatives,” and the “definition of marriage.” Can anyone disagree that, over the past 30 years, culture war politics have, at least partly, co-opted the cause of Christ among evangelicals?

Especially later in his ministry, Billy Graham avoided partisan politics. He stayed out of the “Religious Right” political fights and even refused to sign the 1978 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, viewing it as overreaching and unnecessarily divisive among Bible-believing Christians.

Now, many evangelical churches have ceased to proclaim the Gospel to the unreached, and instead function as politically conservative enclaves, where “values voters” huddle together, easily manipulated by politicians for funds and votes.

Traditionally, evangelicals have believed in the forward advancement of the Kingdom of God and in the life-changing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We don’t retreat from society in apocalyptic fear and self-righteous entrenchment. Doug Pagitt has reminded me that reactionary separatism was a feature of the fundamentalism that Harold Ockenga’s neo-evangelicals rejected in favor of cultural engagement the 1940s. Evangelicals have a history of winsomely engaging culture, as it was said of Billy, with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

Rachel Held Evans posted a blog last year about the phrase, “The Bible was clear . . . ” She listed some of the ways that phrase has been used throughout American political history — to justify war against Native Americans, to keep slaves obedient, to relegate women to the kitchen, to attack science, to oppose civil rights for African-Americans and, yes, to clobber people who are gay.

Consider Alabama. Last Monday, an Alabama judge’s order to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage harkened back to 1963 when Governor Wallace nullified the federal government’s order to desegregate schools. The repeated pattern is hard to miss. No evangelical today wants to be remembered for opposing civil rights in the 1960s, but many did, and many are repeating the same mistake now.

Some Christians feel the need to defend the Bible because they assume that when culture changes, the Bible loses. That’s the essence of the so-called “Culture War.” They feel like they have to win a cultural “battle for the Bible.” But that is simply not true, and it’s easily disproven by our own American history.

It is true that when American culture changes, some parts of the Bible are interpreted more clearly in the light of other parts. We have seen evangelicals learn to interpret the Bible differently regarding slavery, science, women’s rights, civil rights, and now gay rights. How can we reinterpret and adjust to societal progress and greater human rights?

Because there is a part of the Bible that always wins. Take a look at Matthew 22:34-40:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Despite heroic portrayals of some Civil War era politicians, according to historian Mark Noll, verse 39 is what really ended slavery in America. When Christians realized that the African-American slave was their neighbor, the teaching of Jesus was activated, and slavery was on its way to being defeated. The teaching of Jesus ended slavery in the United States.

This Great Commandment is the central teaching of Jesus Christ. It’s also the foundation of all ethics. It is empathy. It is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and realizing that we all need love and that we are called by Jesus to love, not to win politically manufactured culture wars.

Perhaps we evangelicals need to pray a different kind of sinner’s prayer, a prayer of repentance for allowing partisan politics to supplant the good news. Regarding the perception that Christians are anti-gay, I welcome and affirm those who are gay because of the Great Commandment. Because of Jesus, I love members of the LGBTQ community as I love myself. For me, the clear teaching of Jesus trumps the six or seven highly debated “clobber passages” that were certainly influenced by the culture in which they were written.

Closer to home, in a time when many evangelicals fear the future, the core teaching of Jesus heals society and creates a better world for our children. As a dad, I want to partner with God to create a more loving, just, and righteous world for my son, whose name is, for reasons you now know, Graham.

Jesus is inviting evangelicals — re-empowered by the Great Commandment and Great Commission — to get back to our roots and repair the damage partisan politics has inflicted on the cause of Christ in our country. In a time when many evangelicals defensively feel the need to help the Bible win, there is a part of the Bible that never loses.

Jesus always wins.


This article was originally posted at OnFaith, a religion blog hosted by Faithstreet.