"Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, no matter what name it is called." ~ John Stuart Mill
Dumbing Down the Church
In 2003, the Barna Research Group released a well publicized study indicating that only about 10 percent of Christian students possessed a biblical worldview. (1) I was reminded of this after talking with a friend recently after church.
My friend is not a political person, which probably speaks well of her. However, she seemed perplexed when I calmly implied that it was an outrage that Uncle Sam confiscates half our income before we can buy groceries. She responded that 'we get a lot of things' for those taxes we pay.
I heard millions of people speaking. She did not recognize that taxation is theft. She had no clue that things like oppressive taxation, gun control, government education and government welfare have no scriptural basis. I told her that this just may be the first time anyone had ever told her that the Bible has something to say about a limitless array of social and political issues.
If she had never heard this in church before, it would not surprise me one bit.
America's churches are as 'dumbed down' as its schools. In all fairness, several generations of pastors have been lied to about the political themes in the Bible. Our call to be 'salt and light' goes beyond loving our neighbors, telling the truth and being faithful to our spouses. It extends to all aspects of life including politics, economics, law, education, medicine and any societal issue you can think of.
The word 'king', as well as variations such as 'kings' and 'kingdom,' appears almost 2,000 times in the Bible. But, for some odd reason, we are not supposed to discuss politics in church.
I am no Bible scholar. That some folks think I am reflects their ignorance, rather than my intellectual superiority. I have just read more than some folks. This does not make me a better Christian or even a better person. I am just a bigger nerd. I am just a hack advertising salesman who has developed an interest reading the Bible with an eye to political themes. It would blow most people's minds if they knew what the Bible really said about these things and how much they are being lied to by pastors and purported Christian politicians.
Most churches nowadays do a rotten job of Bible education. This has resulted in a generation of gullible Christians who stand for nothing and fall for anything.
There are several forces at work here. The Church Growth Movement shares much of the blame. In order to get the maximum number of warm bodies through the doors each Sunday, many churches have sacrificed godliness in the name of relevance. Preach something too controversial and some folks might not come back. Relevance and a packed house are preferable to godliness and a few empty seats.
501(c)(3) is another huge contributor, if you will. This provision of the Internal Revenue Code requires that organizations refrain from endorsing political candidates and keep political comments to a minimum if they wish to remain tax exempt. Most pastors, I fear, are more committed to keeping this exemption than to the struggle against the rulers, authorities and powers of this world. (Ephesians 6:12)
The sad irony of 501(c)(3) is that, while churches compromise Scripture in order to avoid taxes, they remain silent about a tax code that inflicts far more harm on Christians than Ozzy Osbourne, Larry Flynt or Howard Stern ever possibly could.
This situation will only grow worse as federal funding for "faith-based" institutions grows from a trickle to a deluge. What a great way to get more money from someone: speak oh so glowingly of them! You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)
Contemporary churches typically discuss only three Scriptures pertaining to the Christian attitude toward government. And even then, they get things all wrong.
I Timothy 2:1-2 instructs us to pray for those in authority. This does not mean that we should be brainlessly uncritical of what they do just because we like their rhetoric or their party affiliation.
Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25 tell us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. There is a who-o-o-o-ole lot of difference between rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and rendering unto Caesar whatever he willy-nilly demands. Jesus never assigns any specific duties to Caesar. Here in America, our Constitution assigns only 18 duties to Uncle Sam and forbids him from engaging in any other activity.
All the fiery rhetoric of the American Founding ' it was based on Christianity, you know (2) -- was directed at a "tyrant" who taxed his subjects at a rate of about three percent. Let me give you a thought experiment: How much easier would it be for you to give ten percent of your income to your church and other Christian causes if half your income did not disappear in the form of taxes? Here's another thought experiment: How much more able would you be to provide for your family (I Timothy 5:8) if you were not being taxed into the pavement?
If I put a gun to your head and demanded that you hand over your purse or your wallet, you would call it robbery and have me arrested. It is no different when some government flunky demands that you fork over the fruit of your labor under penalty of fines, jail or death. It matters not that ' in some 'democracy' ' the majority voted that half of your income should be confiscated. In God's eyes, government agents are no better than thee or me. They are subject to the same judgment. (3)
Romans 13:1-7 is the favorite Scripture of control freaks everywhere. (3) It is too often taken to mean that Christians should obey secular laws without questioning. While we should obey godly laws ' i.e. those against murder, rape, theft, etc. ' the idea that we should heed every command of secular governments is madness. Indeed, it is downright unbiblical. Civil disobedience is a theme throughout the Bible. (For further reading, see Daniel 3, Daniel 6, Luke 23:2, Acts 4:19 and 5:29.)
Too many people think it is their pastor's job to spoon feed them Scripture. God gave you a brain. Use it! Take some initiative! Just because your pastor does not discuss certain subjects does not mean that they are not of biblical importance. Jesus told the apostles to be as 'shrewd as serpents.' (Matthew 10:15) Discern the world around you in light of God's Word rather than in light of party agendas.
Again, it would blow your mind if you only knew how much you are being lied to.
We hear a lot of talk about certain movies desensitizing children to the effects of sex, violence and so forth. I see a parallel in politics. Most people today have no memory of life before 1913. We are used to a socialist police state at home and perpetual war for empire abroad. We have no memory of life in a free society. Therefore, we are indifferent about the loss of our freedom. We view the world through the lens of socialism and consider it normal.
Add to this a church that has been derelict in its duty to educate people about a very important theme of Scripture, and you have greased the skids for a slide into slavery and persecution.
In the Old Testament, God rebukes the Israelites for setting up kings without His consent and princes without His approval. (Hosea 8:4) American Christians 2,700 years later are no different. We have rejected God as our king, and we clamor for political saviors. (I Samuel 8:4-20) We are just like secular people in our love affair with the modern superstate, which has no basis in Scripture.
Most Christians simply have no clue that every 'benefit' government provides carries a price. The more you ask government to do for you, the more government will do to you. Most Christians are unaware that the worst persecutors of Christians have been governments. Most Christians are unaware that, if you give governments too much power, they will at some point proclaim that 'Thou shalt have no other gods before us.'
The more we place our faith in the state, the more we reject God. Keep in mind that Jesus was put to death by people who proclaimed, "We have no king but Caesar." (John 19:15) They had become completely allied with Rome and no longer acknowledged their real king.
Government is not nice to begin with. It is at its cruelest when it rejects God. In the Twentieth Century, government was at its most godless. Indeed, in the Twentieth Century, more Christians perished at the hands of their governments for being Christians than in all prior centuries combined.
R.J. Rummel, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, has pointed out that in the Twentieth Century, '170 million men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners.'
But, for some odd reason, we shouldn't talk about this in church. The devil, undoubtedly, is in the details.
2 No, not all of the Founders were Christians. However, many were. And even those who weren't were far more Christian in their politics than so many of those who purport to be Christians in today's political scene.
3 Consider Romans 13:1 in the New International Version: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." Now consider it the King James Version: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." As stated in this essay, "In God's eyes, government agents are no better than thee or me. They are subject to the same judgment."