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Evangelicals & Civil Liberty

The Year 2020 is quickly sizing up to be one for the ages. COVID-19 pandemic, the racial strife, the cessation of sports to name just a few, and we have not completed the month of July yet. My biggest conundrum by far is the radical, unorthodox response of so many professing Evangelicals from both the Caucasian & African American the Evangelical communities.

It seems Cultural Christianity is the new normal in Evangelical circles. Evangelicals seemingly espouse one set of beliefs on Sunday and detach themselves as soon as they leave the church parking lot. It is frightening; it is disheartening, yet all the while what the Bible promises will take place in the last days (see a passage like 2 Timothy 3:5-7).

First, let’s look at the issues from the Caucasian perspective. Just judging from social media (I am one of the newest members of Twitter), it is fair game to mock governmental officials with impunity. Funny, because the Bible I read and love commands me to honor and pray for those who are in authority (see a passage like 1 Peter 2:17). I invite the concerned Evangelical to go back and read a passage from the Acts of the Apostles. Paul did not realize he was addressing the current High Priest. Go back and carefully read the narrative.

Paul was addressing the council in Jerusalem, and unbeknownst to Paul, someone commanded that Paul be struck because apparently what Paul said was determined to be offensive. Paul responded with a pretty stern rebuke of his perceived mistreatment. The Bible records Paul’s words as follows, “God smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

Using modern parlance, Paul was asserting his rights as a citizen, but wait there is more. Someone from the crowd informs Paul his response was not proper, no matter how Paul felt he enjoyed the freedom of speech. Paul was told, “Revilest thou God’s high priest? Paul quickly understood he was not addressing just any old commoner; Paul was addressing the High Priest. On a dime, Paul changes his entire disposition. He changed his whole tune, expressing sincere, deep regret. The Bible records him as saying, “I wist not brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written (Oh! Oh) Thou shall not speak evil of the ruler people.” (Acts 23:5).

This passage finds it first sighting in the Old Testament. We find it first communicated in Exodus 22:28. So, what happens when anyone sees a passage in both testaments. Well, it signals to the exegete that what God seeks to communicate is not culturally based; it is timeless. God expects obedience in every epoch of time.

Thus, Evangelicals are not free to take to Twitter or Facebook or whatever and just vent and rant because the government takes an action they disagree. Yet, what do we see? We see prominent Evangelicals tweet mocking comments about the government response to COVID-19.

Evangelical civic obedience is not to imply Evangelicals must agree with every decision the government has made. The government consists of humans, and the human enterprise will always be imperfect, even when they are attempting to serve the public good. I personally do not like wearing the mask just like most Americans, but if it can slow down the spread of the virus, then I am all for it.

Evangelicals, adhering to a Biblically-based worldview, should be the prototypical good citizen. One of the reasons that the Roman Emperor, Constantine, eventually accepted and recognized Christianity as legitimate was due to the excellent reputation the Christian of the Roman empire garnered for their civic conduct.

It is unconscionable what I read from many professing Caucasian (I will get to my African American brethren shortly) Evangelical brethren. They seem to take their cue from the President with freely expressing whatever appears to be their particular thoughts on a matter. Herm Edwards, current head football coach at Arizona State, has a wise word of counsel governing wisdom and the use of social media. Think long and hard before you press send.

As I often communicate with my wife just because something is true does not mean it is wise and appropriate to express it verbally. The Apostle Paul, even if he still felt what he had the right to voice his opinion, once Paul realized he was addressing the High Priest, he refrained from further comment but take a look at social media. Many professing Evangelicals evidently believe it is their God-given right to vent as they see fit.

Sticking with my look at Caucasian Evangelicals, they are still willing to support President Trump as 88% of Caucasians Evangelicals voted for President Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Although President Trump Evangelical support is regressing, but he still enjoys strong support in the Caucasian Evangelical (I hasten to add that issue will be my next book so more on that subject later).

Caucasian Evangelicals were not as charitable with President Obama. I routinely saw disparaging comments about President Obama. I still remember the anger I registered after attending a Renewing Your Mind Conference while I was living in Virginia. RC Sproul Jr. (not Dr. Sproul Sr.), while speaking in an official capacity at the conference, mocked and ridiculed the sitting President at the time, Barack Obama, by questioning whether President Obama was an actual citizen of the country. Many of you will remember many people in their attempt to denigrate Barack Obama while running for POTUS routinely questioned both his heritage and the locale of his birth.

My second source of criticism is the irrationally I see from so many who, if you let them tell it, are subject matter experts on so many different things. The health experts inform the American public the best course of action to flatten the curve is to wear a mask whenever in public. Yet, I see many Evangelicals I personally know just freely spouting their two cents on the matter. Let me reiterate again; Evangelicals are duty-bound to obey those in authority over them with only two and only two exceptions:

1) Those in authority commands Evangelicals to do something the Bible expressly and explicitly forbids

2) Those in authority prohibits Evangelicals from doing something the Bible expressly & explicitly commands

Please note that even when Evangelicals decide to disobey, it is their solemn duty to disobey in a manner that does not bring ill-repute on the name of Christ. I invite you to look at the Apostle’s response when the Sanhedrin Council forbade the Apostles from continuing to preach the Gospel. Please note Peter and John’s humble and deference response, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19).

You must judge, let that sink in for a moment. The Apostles realized no matter what, they lived in time and space under the authority of this council. Yes, they were genuine and authentic members of the Bride of Christ. God promised the Apostles seats of influence in the next dispensation, but at the time they were citizens of an earthly realm that held their collective lives (humanly speaking) in their hands

No calls for violent revolution, no demands for their rights because they understood they lived in a fallen world. That, by definition, means the Evangelical will not always win, not in the temporal sense. It seems too many Evangelicals are imbibing from the Joel Osteen worldview, where we get to live our best lives NOW.

My last point must be brief as I have a plane to board shortly. As an aside, I am heading to Denver, Colorado, to visit my first grandchild, Malachi. I am, of course, so excited and looking so forward to this next chapter in my journey. I just completed the second edit of my first book, so all is well in Kylesville. I pray and trust you come to that same place in your pilgrimage we call ”life.”

There was a couple who were videotaped brandishing assault weapons because they informed the police they “feared for their lives.” There was a group of protesters who descended on their particular subdivision. It turned out the local mayor lived in this subdivision. Apparently, there was a gate that secured access to the subdivision. The group, seeking an audience with the mayor, broke down the barrier to gain access. On their march to the mayor’s residence, they passed directly in front of this couple’s home. At least with the video I have been able to see the crowd made no menacing move toward this couple. Please note I do not condone the destruction of property, and the people responsible should be held both criminally and financially liable.

This couple gives an entirely different meaning to “fearing for their lives.” There has been a couple of occasions where I feared for my life, and my disposition was never as militant or confrontation as this husband and wife team. We seem to be living in two different Americas. I, again, see, on social media, many Caucasians Evangelicals defending and, in some cases, celebrating the actions of this couple.

I found their actions deplorable and highly problematic. They did not display actions consistent with someone in fear for their lives. When I am fearful, I do not stand menacing with an assault weapon. I do not seek to get into a debate about the Second Amendment, but I am driven by Christ’s word to Peter when Peter was quick to reach for his sword. Those who live by the sword will perish by that same sword. All I know, I ultimately trust in God to protect me in this sin-stained world, and when I am in real danger, my second reaction is to call the police.

I will address my issues with my African American Evangelical brethren in Part II of this blog post. I often get notes of affirmation from several Caucasians Evangelicals when I speak of critical matters that primarily are African American centric. I will be curious as to the response to this blog post.

In all, I write and say I do so with the commitment to being consistent and aligned to a Biblically-based Evangelical worldview. Let me know what you think. Until the next time, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.

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