Are we really a nation in unity or am I just telling another lie? Wouldn’t you want the nation to be united? Wouldn’t you want to have a healthy strong country? The fact is we are more united than we realize, if only we did as Jesus said and stop trying to take the speck out of our brothers eye and rather take the plank out of our own.
Why would anyone within the Christian faith desire to be known as a heretic? Cast out like a leper, always on the verge of getting stoned; and not the good kind of stoned! Sooner or later your orthodox friends will stop arguing with you, they will either accept you for who you are or pray for your eternal soul. Some may tell their friends that it is best not to associate with you because your heresies could lead them astray. I personally have been deleted on Facebook by many people including pastors who did not wish to view or argue my questions. Some have removed me from their social media as they fear I may influence their friends. I am flattered by the attention. I ask questions, but what I ask may not be what I believe. What if I do not know what I believe? What is wrong with asking questions pertaining to the very core of the faith? After all, as a Christian we are devoting our lives to this thing; might as well know what is really going on!
Here is the deal; the last execution for heresy took place in 1826 his name was Cayetano Ripoll. He was a Spanish school teacher who was put to death for supposedly teaching beliefs that were said to be deist. Yes, 1826 that was only about 200 years ago. Up until the modern era people have been frightened by the idea of thinking for themselves. Over the span of hundreds of years we have micro evolved into a people who give religious authority to the supposed chosen. This is very sad. The United States was founded by prominent deist who insisted on a separation between the church and the state. No longer will religion and government mingle; no longer will religion have authority over someone’s life. For the sake of freedom, for the love of country and my fellow Americans I am a proud questioner of the faith. I am a proud heretic!
Those that made decisions during the religious councils were no better than you or I. Generally as Protestants, like it or not, most orthodoxy is derived from the early councils. These guys did not even have a consensus of the divinity of Jesus. They created the doctrines of the faith based on early text which would become the Bible as we know it today and by the opinions of the members of the ecumenical councils which was led by the Pontifex Maximus. This was not a priest trained in theology this was the pagan Empower of Rome; Constantine. The Roman emperor was the high priest of all the Roman religions and this would now include Christianity. Of course they changed the name from College of Pontiffs to ecumenical councils to distance themselves from the pagan past. What is important is just as the council members rendered their opinion so you have authority in your opinion. Contrary to popular belief we can have a church with doctrines as different as its members.
A church with different opinions and beliefs, how can this be? Simple, the members of the church only need to live within the love of God. You may not believe the same way as your fellow but love teaches to be forever patient and kind. You may wish to dictate your opinion of the faith, but love teaches we should not be self-seeking. We should not hate, we should not boast, we should not hurt others. We must hope all things, believe all things, and when this world passes away we will one day know all things. Until then we know nothing. In fact we know less than nothing. The first step is to admit to yourself and God that we are lacking. If it is that simple, why do we make it so hard? We are human, that is my excuse. My simple teaching comes from 1 Corinthians 13 because of this teaching I am generally viewed as a heretic. I cause division because I seek to ultimately unite. I would have once been burned at the stake yet here I stand a proud heretic!
America first! This proclamation has been touted significantly over the last couple of years. As an American, having an attitude of America first is wonderful. But, what exactly is America first? How do we determine what is best for us? These two questions are what I am going to try to answer.
America first involves a strong economy, military, borders, and trade deals in favor of American interest. I support these American first policies. I would be a fool if I did not. First, other countries would tear us down limb by limb until we were no better than them or worse; misery likes company. I am not one who believes in American exceptionalism as we are all created equal. America has been given this unique position as the wealthiest country in the world, we can use this to make our lives more comfortable and do our best to help our neighbors.
Every country desires a strong economy. Regardless if we like it or not. Workers are divided up by income. In America there are lower, middle, and upper classes. Generally the majority of the population is in the lower to middle class structure with the smallest percentage being the upper class. This will primarily always be the case, although in America we have great divides in wealth between the middle and upper class. The middle class is becoming closer to the lower class as corporations look to cut cost and pass the savings on to new generations who are hired at a fraction of their predecessor’s wage.
At the moment the jobless rates are at record lows. It is very easy to find a job although it is not so easy to find a middle or upper class job. Most families are made up of two incomes with one or both income earners working two jobs. Family life is cut, with providers living a life working and not much time being. In my opinion this is not America first. So what, I have a job, I have two jobs, but if I do not see my spouse or kids what does it matter? Yet to provide shelter, clothes, and food you do what you must in order to survive. Corporations understand that to squeeze as much productivity out of their employees they will work them more, and pay them less. The price of living goes up, but wages stay the same. This is not America first.
America is the wealthiest country with the most powerful military ever known to exist. A superpower as America needs a strong military in order to stay at the top; this is understandable. Possessing a strong military is placing America first. What is not placing America first is using this military for unjust causes. In my opinion there has not been a just conflict since WWII. Korea, Vietnam, both gulf wars, and Afghanistan simply were not needed to advance the country. Currently we have thousands of troops at the Mexico border as a political stunt keeping us safe from migrants. This is not placing America first.
A country needs borders not a wall and razor wire. A country such as America was founded on the premise that this land is open for those who seek a better life. This is America first. Currently foreigners are not welcome in the country, especially if you are poor. While we shake hands with Saudi murderers we spray tear gas at children. This is not America first. America first would be to stand up to outlaws such as the prince of Saudi Arabia. Kindness and compassion are the footsteps of God, and this is America first.
A Deal Maker
Currently America has a president that is supposedly an American first type of guy. He is supposedly a great deal maker. This is up to interpretation. There is no America first without putting the people first. An unregulated market and high tariffs on goods only will hurt us. Unfortunately people are too greedy not take advantage of deregulation. If you want America first you protect the people from cheats and scammers. This is not possible when you have someone who has always been a cheat and scammer running the show. Donald Trump is not America first.
Once again the debate of divine authority which has been argued throughout the centuries is being debated by Trump Christians who use the text of Romans 13 to force their agenda upon all Christians. First most of the Christians who are trying to pedal this agenda do not have any understandings of hermeneutics and allow a literal reading of the text to suffice which actually greatly distorts the meaning.
God did not put Trump or any other president in power. Voters did. It is my opinion that God when he gave us freedom to do as we wish that freedom extended to all parts of our lives and God rarely intervenes. Let us look at how God spoke to Cain about his frustrations with his brother Able.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you so angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7, NIV).
As we know God did not stop Cain from killing his brother. It was not God’s will that Cain kill his brother as the verses above attest to that. It was Cain’s will and his actions. God may warn us, and we have the law of love written on our hearts, but in the end the actions we take are our own.
Let us look at the lifestyle of Daniel. Daniel defied the authority that was above him throughout his life in captivity. We find examples of Daniel refusing to eat what he was ordered (Daniel 1) We find Daniel refusing to bow to the image in which he was ordered by the king to do. (Daniel 3). Daniel refuses to cease his prayers in defiance of the king (Daniel 6).
What may seem odd is the fact that Daniel also wrote, “He changes times and seasons; he disposes kings and raises them up.” (Daniel 2:21, NIV). Yet here we do not have a dilemma, we have the very reason why the Jews loved the book of Daniel. The text was a motivational story in which the Jews clung to in their time of distress. It is understandable to want to have some sort of rational explanation as to why God seemingly abandoned them. Yet the truth is God never abandoned, they were taken captive as many nations were and for a time they were forced into exile. You may disagree with me on this although many scholars have come to the same conclusion.
One more example before I focus directly upon Romans 13. According to Samuel God did not desire the people of Israel to even have a king. Samuel the prophet may have been saying this because he thought his place of authority was in jeopardy and like many invoke the name of God to strike fear into the hearts of men, or he may have heard actually from God. I don’t know. I know Samuel was wise in stating that if the people receive a human king he would take their sons and daughters demand taxes and also take their lands (1 Samuel 8:10-22).
Who then brought about the King? Not God, but the people demanded it and they received it. Look back at Cain and Abel. The freewill of man is mostly littered with sin.
Romans 13 seems to be a very clear-cut text of the Apostle explaining to the often dysfunctional church how to keep their heads attached to their bodies. Written during a time in which claiming to be a member of the new cult of Jesus would bring one severe punishment if not death. Paul in writing to the Roman to warn them of earthly punishment as well as to help them to realize that even though they are children of God, and citizens of heaven it is still important to live a life of peace. Paul invokes the name of God although like many preachers and prophets. Invoking the name of God is always beneficial to validate an argument in which you desire no other sentiments. Paul was a wise man as was Daniel and Samuel, and himself defied the government of his day because of his convictions.
What we cannot do is use the text as a blanket statement in which can be translated to our lives today. I think we may be able to pull out many great points within Romans 13. Obeying the law is a good thing. Paying taxes and being fearful of doing evil because generally in most cultures the same laws against theft, murder, etc. exist. While it is clear that Christians should respect authority, we must also as Jesus pointed out be wise as serpents. To blindly follow a government that is wrong and ungodly is in itself foolish. Paul was not telling the Roman church to follow the orders of Rome, or to worship their Gods because they commanded it. If that was the case they would have converted back to the Pagan gods. He for all practical purposes wanted the Roman church to live in peace with the authority as much as they could.
In the United States today we have a drastically different type of Government than that of 1st century Rome. We choose our leaders such as the President through an election. God does not choose the leaders the people do. God is not going to interfere with the free will of the people. In the United States a country in which the very foundations were based on rebellion, how dare Jeff Sessions try to quote Romans 13 to obtain the obedience of the people! It is our very duty as Americans to protest and seek justice in which we feel is right in our eyes. We will not always get it right, but if we do nothing then nothing will get done.
Just as God did not raise up Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Saddam, or the Queen of England, God did not raise up Trump. What God did do was give us the free will to choose our leaders; that is if we are lucky enough to be born in a country in which that is possible. I am tired of Trump Christians praising him more than they do Jesus and thinking that this is all apart of some prophecy leading towards the end of the world. No, what it is should be a call for Evangelicals to start to learn to properly interpret the Bible.
What does it mean to be Patriotic? The general definition is a person who vigorously supports ones country. In a unique nation such as ours we have a country constructed of the people, for the people. We are more than the land in which we live on, we are team of people who has come together to share in similar values. When you are a member of a team, we should do our best to support our team members. We do this as a country by passing laws in which will help our fellows. Yet in today’s America many of these laws only divide and manipulate the team, for the benefit of the few.
Today in our country we face many issues in which we are letting our teammates and future teammates down. The first being immigration. Good people who are risking life and limb trying to come to this country in the hope of finding safety and freedom. Unlike the immigrants of past days these people are not met with lady liberty. Immigrants are met by men with guns, ripping mothers from their children and placing them in their perspective cages. What kind of a team play is this? Many say they are breaking the law; we are a country of laws, they say. Let me remind you that while we are a country of law, many people are not as fortunate as you or I to be born into this team; many would do anything to be in your position. Tell me about law when you need to risk your life for freedom.
Another issue is healthcare. Even if you have a good job you will pay hundreds of dollars per month to provide healthcare for your family. If we are a team wouldn’t we all want people to have access to health care, especially in a country like ours in which we have the ability to make it happen? Many will say, I had to pay, I have to work, they tell their teammates to get a job you bum, quit working that minimum wage job, that’s for kids. Oh if only it was that easy. Do you think people want to be poor? Do you think people want to be on welfare? Maybe just maybe you could trade places with the waitress serving you while you justify how you can leave a small tip. If I described you, then you suck at being on a team. You suck at being patriotic, never wave an American flag again! You have been benched! In a country such as ours healthcare should be a right not something that is a burden. I would rather my tax dollars go to pay doctors, and build hospitals, not more bombs to drop on tents and camels in the desert.
Let us examine the lie of higher education. We tell our children to get good grades, go to college and become whatever you want to be. I am all for instilling passion into our youth, they are our future. What I cannot understand is going tens of thousands of dollars into debt for a four-year degree in which you may never can use. Many college graduates end up working at a job they hate because they must pay back the student loans for fear of poor credit, so they can drive a Subaru. Don’t get me wrong, I support higher education. I hold a B.S. a M.A. and currently working on an Ed. D. Yet I served in the Army, I earned a considerable amount of money to attend college. Not everyone is given that opportunity. I believe that in a nation such as ours our people should be allotted monies in order to receive at least an associate’s degree or training for a skilled trade. I understand the importance of having some skin in the game. The student should be responsible for some of their tuition. Yet if we the people continue to provide poor salaries and an expensive cost of living, it is only right to help them with their education. Remember this is a team play.
Finally, there is a saying, “money never sleeps.” Corporations in the United States have become modern plantations, and politicians work with these corporations to line their pockets. We have a separation between church and state, but the biggest need in America is a separation between corporations and state. It is the corporations who are dictating the politicians who pass the laws creating a slave state in which the worker is slowly losing their rights like a frog boiling in a slowly heated pot. It is a fascist system without a face, with greed turning the gears of the operation. The current government allows the super elite to continue to rule the country from their boardrooms. Corporations do not care about you or me. People are just commodities bought and sold between each other, buying their livestock at the lowest rate. They make employees feel good offering just enough money to keep the lights on so you will be forced to come back day after day. The lucky ones will have enough left over to enjoy a night out once a week, and the very fortunate are those who have the nice house and car but are drowning in debt, they may seem happy but look closely. They are often in a greater prison, never truly leaving work because they are shackled down with a company phone and laptop. When and if you do “make it” you may have enough money to pay for your nursing home and burial expenses, leaving your children without an inheritance. This is the America we live in. The government says we currently have the lowest unemployment rate in years, yet many workers have gone off the grid or are working part time jobs to keep the lights on, hoping to make it to work every day without getting pulled over because they would rather feed their children instead of buying car insurance. This is the reality we live in, and then we thank God and government that we have jobs all the while we are being robbed. Some people say that the devil’s greatest trick was to get people to believe that he does not exist. I would say next in line is making the people think the government actually cares.
So what does it mean to be patriotic? Patriotism is defined by a person who vigorously supports ones country. This should be clear then to any American. A patriot is not someone who waves a flag and screams “we are a land of laws.” Yes, we are a land of laws, but most importantly the country is only as strong as its people. If we treat our immigrants like criminals in which if you are white you are a decedent of an immigrant. If we do not care for the sick, the poor, and scoff at people working minimum wage jobs just trying to carve out an existence. If you think that education should come with a huge price tag leaving the next generation in debt. If you support the government control by corporations; which enables these entities to force us into servitude. If you think all these things are acceptable and are still waving a flag it is time to re-evaluate your actions because they go against the very definition of patriotism. Put down the flag put on a brown shirt and sing songs about Mussolini because that is what you have become. You are not a part of this team we call the United States, you are either working for the opposition or you are too dumb to figure out you have been duped, either way, get it together, or stay on the bench.
Nate talks about the spiritual creation of America in this episode. Of course, it is one like you may never have heard before.
In my opinion the context of Paul in his letter probably written for his new non Jewish audience was about what to do now that we are Christian? Does our freedom in Christ, or maybe even our very Christian nature allow us to challenge the secular government of the day. As we see in many ways it does as the apostles along with Paul broke the law. They refused to obey Cesar continued to spread the gospel despite the law. For such acts they were punished, but they were not shamed, but proud. I believe Paul wanted the converts to be good Romans to not break moral or natural law, because within that one finds peace and freedom from those who enforce the law. But at times when practicing and preaching the gospel our authority in Christ allows us to fight the law just as Jesus who healed on the sabbath. Just as the believers in Scripture as well as our modern missionaries in lands in which Christianity is forbidden, and yes in America when injustice is taking place. Also I may add our very constitution allows within the law the right to protest it even goes so far to speak of dismantling the government if it starts to fail. We are not in Rome under Roman authorities. Remember even Jesus destroyed property in the name of justice.
As we are still trying to get over the election of 2016 hoping that things do not get any worse, Nate gives us some words of Jesus regarding division. As you know we are experiencing great division in this country. Is it a sign of the times? Are we on a path towards a great revival? Or our we headed down the road of destruction? Find out on this episode of The Backyard Preacher Podcast.
You can allow the outcome of this election destroy your inner peace, cause division in your household, and literally cause an end to America as you know it or come to an understanding that the Kingdom of Heaven is near and has nothing to do with American politics. No matter who is elected next month let us fear not and continue in the Spirit of love to all people.