Unholy Alliance: The Grand Old Party and the Southern Baptist Convention

A few years from now, in the thick of some really important election, someone will spend a lot of money conducting a survey to see who evangelical Christians will be supporting in that really important election. I could save that guy a lot of time, money and trouble. I already know who evangelical Christians will be supporting in the next really important election. And the one after that. And the next one. And so on. Here it is.

The Republican.

But, some may wonder, what if the Republican isn’t all that great? Suppose his policies don’t make much sense. Or what if he’s just a really foul individual whose entire life contradicts traditional biblical teaching?

The Republican.

For as long as I can remember, so called evangelical Christians, and more specifically Southern Baptists, have been connected at the hip with the Grand Old Party. Most won’t confess that but it’s no less true. If you don’t believe me, you need look no further than one man for the proof.

Russell Moore.

Russell Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. For now. There are several influential churches and pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) who would like to see him go. Some of those influential pastors have promised to withdraw their regular funds to the SBC because of Moore. The Louisiana Baptist Convention is even working to see Moore silenced, defunded or let go.

But why? What did Russell Moore do to find himself on the hot seat?

During the last presidential election, Moore did the unthinkable. He did the unforgivable. He went public in his opposition to Donald Trump. Gasp! In that opposition to Trump, Moore didn’t then throw his weight behind Hillary Clinton. But that didn’t matter. Simply not blindly following the Republican nominee and eventual president was enough to earn Moore the scorn of the convention he has devoted his life to.

Influential leaders were worried that Moore’s vocal opposition to Trump would cost them a seat at the table. They were not, however, worried about losing their seat at the table a few years ago when, as Dwight McKissic notes, Richard Land, Moore’s predecessor said that a black males is, “statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.” For many in the SBC, it appears to be more important to have a seat at a table in the White House than it does to have a seat at your black neighbor’s house.

Here’s the sad reality that many SBC power players just can’t seem to learn. They are a joke. A punchline. A necessary evil. That’s how the elites in Washington, yes even the Republicans, view them. And that’s the best case scenario.

I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of George W. Bush’s devotion to God. I’m no supporter but I believe Mr. Bush to be genuine in his faith. And yet, even in his White House, influential leaders were referred to as, “nuts.” Behind closed doors, of course. That’s how Washington works. Democrats need the poor. Republicans need religious conservatives. Both parties are trying to get the same thing: power. Both groups, the poor and the religious, are left worse off than before as they sell their souls for a supposed seat at the table.

Many Trump supporters have fallen into the same trap that Obama supporters did eight years ago. Back then, if you questioned the president, you were a racist, flat-earther, and a bigot. Today, if you dare question President Trump, you are an elitist who is funded by George Soros. And no proof is needed to support such claims. That was only in the old days when truth mattered. If you want to know what idol someone worships, watch how they react when that idol faces the least bit of criticism. Sadly, many in the SBC worship a giant golden statue of an elephant with the phrase Grand Old Party carefully and lovingly carved on the side.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church. I currently serve as the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church. I say currently because who knows what will happen to me once the Louisiana Baptist Convention gets a hold of this. Anyway, I’ve got the SBC in my blood. When I was growing up, Jerry Falwell was Moses leading us into the Moral Majority Promised Land. Madonna was the devil because of her immorality and crude language. But I’ve learned something over the past year. If Madonna ever wanted to change her reputation among my kind, it appears that all she had to do was run for president as a Republican. She could’ve gotten away with whatever she wanted. Man, she’d even be compared to King David if she said the right things about the Supreme Court.

Thank God for President Trump. He’s exposed a lot. In just a short time, he’s shown us that much of the so-called conservative media wasn’t as much concerned with conservative principles as they are with getting their man in the White House. And he did the same to the church. As one friend put it, President Trump has revealed that whatever unity the SBC enjoys is not centered around Christ and his kingdom but rather being white and Republican.

Jesus didn’t die for the Republican or Democratic party. And he doesn’t need us having a seat at some table in Washington. He’d much rather us represent him before the people he has put next door to us. And get this. Some of the people who God, in his sovereignty, has put down the street from us are in this country illegally. Now, we can debate how to fix that. There is no doubt that reform is needed. But it is even more clear that we are called to love our neighbors, even the ones who, “don’t belong here.” Good luck trying to do that while getting your marching orders from the GOP rather than the King of kings.

The Southern Baptist Convention needs Russell Moore. But they want someone who will tickle their itching ears. They want a man who is much like many of the pastors in their churches – a hireling. And it appears that many within the convention are willing to go to extreme measures to get that man.

Keep in mind, Moore never criticized people for voting for Trump. On national TV he said that he understood the lesser of two evils approach but that he did not agree with it. Joe Sixpack (non-alcoholic for you SBC readers) was never in Moore’s crosshairs. An immoral candidate and institutions that bent over backwards to excuse that immorality as if God could only work through one political party were. And now one of those institutions is firing back.

I am a proponent of a very limited federal government. I can pretty much guarantee you that I’m more conservative than you are. I can say with certainty that I’m more conservative than the president is. So save the liberal tag for someone else. Our government has grown larger and more corrupt every year of my life. But I’m doing just fine. That’s because my identity is found in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, not some silly donkey or elephant in Washington D.C.

I just wish that more people in the Southern Baptist Convention could say the same.

A Political Warning For The Church

Silver Islet, Sleeping Giant / Sibley Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

There are a few people in my church who will be voting for Hillary Clinton. There are more who will vote for Donald Trump. And then there’s me. I’ll find someone else to vote for because I don’t like either candidate.

But I love the people in my church, regardless of who they’re voting for.

We really need to be careful. This election year has been more intense than any I have ever seen. The country is divided. It’s been divided for a while but the divisions are becoming more and more obvious. And if we don’t watch out, those divisions will find their way into our churches.

Two emotions seem to rule our political age. They are anger and worry. People are angry with the way that politicians are representing them. And for good reason. But inevitably, that anger toward a broken system usually redirects itself toward other people. We’re not just angry at Washington D.C. We’re angry with one another.

And we’re afraid. Some are afraid of what might happen if Hillary is elected and rules the country with her progressive agenda. Others fear the chaos of a nation led by President Trump.

With that in mind, the words Paul wrote to the Philippian church two thousand years ago seem like they were written this morning.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Philippians 4:2 (ESV)

Some issue had divided these two Christian women. It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t simply tell them to figure out how to get along. And he doesn’t tell them to find some common interest that they can agree on. If he were writing it today, Paul wouldn’t tell these women to vote for the same person. Instead, he tells them to agree, “in the Lord.”

Everyone in our churches won’t vote the same. There will be people who have different opinions on education, state politics and who the next president should be. And not everyone will agree with the pastor’s political views. We shouldn’t want that. An assembly where everyone shares the same views on every single cultural issue is more like a cult than a unified body.

So the source of our unity will not be our politics. For the church, Christ is what binds us together. At the appropriate times, we can have discussions on school choice and Hillary and Donald. And we can agree to disagree. But we must always find agreement in the reality that Jesus Christ is the crucified and living God who died for the sins of his people and is coming again.

There’s another “in the Lord” phrase in this passage.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4 (ESV)

The answer to your fear of Hillary is not found in Donald Trump. Your worries over a Trump presidency will not ultimately be relieved by a Clinton presidency. Yep, you guessed it. The remedy to our fears are found, “in the Lord.”

When we place our identity in a political party or candidate, consuming fear is a natural result. But when we realize that as believers our identity is found in Christ, we really start to respond to scary situations differently.

Instead of doubting God’s sovereign control, we worship him (Philippians 4:4).

Instead of lashing out at others, we treat them with grace and love, knowing that the Lord is always near (Philippians 4:5).

And rather than allowing ourselves to become consumed with fear, we take our concerns to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6).

That’s when we experience the peace of God (Philippians 4:7).

In just under a month, we will elect a new president. That new president will have a lot of power. But the next president of the United States will not have the power to heal fractured relationships. And that president will not have the power to bring genuine peace to our hearts and minds.

So, no matter our political differences, let’s remember to love each other. And let’s not believe those who profit from preaching a gospel of fear. Let’s not look to Hillary or Donald to give us what can only be found in the Lord.

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The Most Confusing Religion On The Planet

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There is one religion that confuses me more than any of the others. It’s not Islam, Mormonism or even Scientology. All of those are wrong and, to varying degrees, weird but they are no match for liberal Christianity.

Liberal Christianity is the belief in, well, nothing really. There are liberal Christians who deny the virgin birth, doubt the resurrection of Christ and only believe about 30% of what the Bible says. And, for whatever reason, they still call themselves Christians. For centuries, everyone else has been calling them something else. Non-Christians. Maybe even pagans.

This is why it’s so confusing. If you only believe part of what Jesus says, how do you decide which part? The Internet? If Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin and if his bones are still somewhere in the Middle East, why should we care today about what some crazy man who claimed to be God had to say? And finally, if Jesus is still in the grave and we can only trust a third of what we read about him in the Bible, why bother with church? If this life is all that there is to this life, shouldn’t we be spending our Sunday’s recovering from a weekend of partying instead of sitting in a pew? Come to think of it, that might be the norm for some.

When we only believe some of what Jesus said, he is reduced to the ace card up our sleeve that we only pull out when we need to prove a point. And who needs a Lord when you have one of those?

Many people my age who grew up in conservative churches were essentially taught that the twelve disciples were all Republicans who wore American flag lapel pins on their robes. Eventually, we grew up and realized that none of that was true. But some, in leaving the false teachings of the Republican churches of their childhood, simply embraced a more liberalized version of the same error. So now, their Jesus spent his days drinking free trade coffee and fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

The churches they grew up in fought hard against abortion. But today, many liberal Christians pray blessings over Planned Parenthood facilities. Others remain silent on the issue, choosing to love instead. Everyone appreciates love but there are a few million babies who would really appreciate love with some action. Sadly, this doesn’t fit into liberal Christian theology. They only embrace social justice issues previously approved by the American left. That’s good luck for Columbian coffee farmers. Not so much for the unborn.

The burdens of the GOP Jesus and the socially liberal Jesus, while different in appearance, still weigh us down all the same. Such is the danger of reading our culture, our politics and our desire to be liked into the Biblical text. Folks on both sides as well as those in the squishy middle would be much better off allowing the Bible to shape them instead of the other way around.

It has been said that the Holy Roman Empire was not holy, Roman or an empire. I think that the same could apply to liberal Christianity. A liberal, at least in the classical sense of the term, is one who values individual freedom and a limited role for government. A Christian is one who believes that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the perfect God Man as presented to us in the Bible.

It is clear that the words liberal and Christian probably aren’t the best descriptors for those who claim to love Jesus and yet deny most of what the Bible says about him.

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Worse Than Hillary Clinton

On Sunday, to the surprise of no one, Hillary Clinton announced that she would be running for president. If Mrs. Clinton is elected, the United States would suffer greatly. In fact, the country may not even survive. President Hillary Clinton would be very bad for America.

But it could be worse.

We could elect the lesser of two evils.

If there’s one thing that many so called conservatives haven’t been able to get right over the years it’s telling the difference between Democratic Party tyranny and the GOP variety. If a Republican president signs a law taxing us for spending too much time in the sun, he’s patriotic. If a Democratic president does the same thing, he needs to be thrown out of office. Conservatives just can’t seem to get the idea that, when your freedoms are trampled, it doesn’t really matter if it’s a donkey or an elephant doing the trampling. Either way, you lose.

Allow me to give you a glimpse into the future. Let’s suppose that Hillary and some candidate who believes essentially the same things as Hillary but with an R next to his name are the last two people standing in the presidential race. And, since we don’t want Hillary, most Americans vote for the lesser of two evils. “Finally! A Republican is back in the White House. Maybe now we can get the country back on track,” we’ll tell ourselves.

And, as the government grows like it did when other lesser of two evils led us, we’ll remind ourselves that the inevitable loss of personal liberty and financial freedom isn’t as bad as it would be if Hillary were in charge. And, when that lesser of two evils throws us a bone by saying something against abortion but never actually doing anything to stop it, we’ll think that things are finally back in order. In reality, nothing will have changed. Nothing except for the bosses our new boss answers to.

The only real difference between Hillary Clinton and many other national politicians, even the Republicans, is which set of international bankers they answer to. Many of these politicians, like Hillary, come from prominent political families that look more like the monarchy our country broke off from than the land that Jefferson and Washington imagined. They favor a strong, centralized federal government. And they will run your freedoms over. Elephant or donkey? Isn’t freedom of choice grand!

So, in 2016, if your only choices for president are Hillary and Diet, Republican Hillary, find another name to write in. David Lee Roth. Patrick Henry. T Swizzle. I don’t care. Just don’t settle for the lesser of two evils. And if Hillary manages to pull it out, don’t give up hope just yet. At least her bad policies won’t be considered patriotic or good for the country. At least her motives will be a bit more clear. And at least the Republicans in D.C. will be more apt to stand against her power grabs than they would be if someone from their party were in charge. Okay, I may be reaching on that one.

Our nation is in trouble.

Our debt is at very dangerous levels.

We’ve turned the killing of babies into a tax-payer funded industry.

The federal government, rather than protecting us from bullies, has become the bully.

Instead of asking what we can do for our country, we’re asking what our country can do for us.

Our constitution has been shredded.

And the last thing we need is another battle between Democrats and Republicans. We don’t need to convince ourselves to vote for the lesser of two evils. No candidate is perfect but conservatives have been voting for the lesser of two evils for a while now and look where it’s gotten us.

Hillary Clinton would be bad for America. Very bad.

Just not as bad as a so-called conservative Republican who is a carbon copy of Hillary Clinton only with less backbone and a better pant suit.

As long as we’re content with the lesser of two evils, we shouldn’t be surprised when the results are, well, evil.

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Why I’m Not Picking A Fight With The IRS

I’m not a fan of the IRS. I don’t even think that there should be an IRS.

But I’m not picking a fight with the IRS.

A lot of my fellow pastors are. It’s called Pulpit Freedom Sunday and many church leaders are using the opportunity to voice their support for specific candidates. That’s a big no-no for churches wishing to continue enjoying their tax exempt status. But these pastors don’t care. In fact, they welcome a lawsuit.

That’s not why I’m refusing to pick a fight with the IRS. My reasons have nothing to do with the fear of a lawsuit from a government organization that likes to bully its subjects into submission. My reasons have more to do with the guy on the back row.

I rarely ever get to talk to him and the five or ten others who are like him. I don’t see them until I get up to preach on Sunday mornings. By the time I’m done preaching and talking to people, the building is cleared out. The guy on the back row is gone. Even though I don’t know his name, I think about him every time I prepare and deliver a sermon.

Why does he keep coming back?

What’s he going through?

What is his standing with God?

I assume that he’s hurting. I could be wrong. Statistics tell me that I’m not. The old saying among preachers is that there is a broken heart on every pew. Personal experience has shown me that it’s more like three or four broken hearts on each pew. My guess is that the man on the back row has a broken heart.

And that broken heart doesn’t need to hear what I think about David Perdue or Michelle Nunn. It doesn’t need to hear my thoughts on foreign policy. It doesn’t need to be told how to vote.

It needs the gospel.

I think that’s why the guy on the back row keeps coming back.

Perhaps the man on the back row is being routinely beaten up by an addiction. Maybe that’s why he’s by himself. Maybe his addiction has cost him his family. That could be why he comes every week by himself. It could be that he’s coming in to hear what the Bible says about hope. It would be a real tragedy if all he hears is what I say about Governor Nathan Deal and Jason Carter. What broken hearts need is the gospel message that has been handed down from the God of the universe. What too many churches settle for delivering is a message that people could have gotten if they had just stayed at home and watched Fox News or MSNBC.

We’ve forgotten something. In all of our political passion, we’ve failed to remember that it is possible for someone to vote like us and still have a broken heart. We’ve forgotten that there are intelligent voters in hell right now. I don’t want to be a part of more going there just because I wanted to play the role of political pundit rather than gospel proclaimer.

That’s why I’m not picking a fight with the IRS.

But, as is the case with most bullies, sometimes the fight comes face to face with you anyway. A first century follower of Christ named Stephen found himself on the wrong side of the cultural elites without picking a fight. All he was doing was ministering to widows and sharing the gospel. It cost him his life. And then he saw Jesus standing and welcoming him into heaven (Acts 6-7).

May the same be true of us.

If we find ourselves on some IRS hit list, may it not be because we picked a political fight. It should be our devotion to the gospel, not a political party or candidate, that gets us a visit from the IRS.

There are times when pastors have to talk about politics. Marriage, abortion and corruption are just a few examples that are frequently addressed in Scripture and that regularly sprout up in our political landscape. By all means, pastors must speak up on these issues. But we must do so out of a devotion to Christ, not a political persuasion.

A few months back I was listening to a couple of guys talking about church. One guy told of how his pastor regularly received death threats for sharing his political views from the pulpit. The other guy said something along the lines of, “Well, that’s what happens when you preach the word.”

True.

But that wasn’t preaching the word. It was just a political rant that made people mad. As pastors, we are called to do more. We are called to speak to those broken hearts on the back row. And even above that, we are called to lift up the name of Jesus, not our local congressman.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday shouldn’t be a day on a calendar. In this country, it should be practiced every week. But instead of using the opportunity as a chance to brag about our favorite candidate, we should use it to proclaim the power of the One who holds every politician in his hand.

I am a very opinionated person. I have strong political beliefs. Some would even call those political beliefs fanatical. I can appreciate that. Like most people with an opinion, I like to make mine known. That’s part of the reason why I maintain this blog. But it’s important to remember that with strong opinions comes the discernment to know when and when not to share them. Sunday mornings are not the time for a pastor to ramble on and on about his opinion. Instead, we ought to be about the business of passionately pointing people to the Way, the Truth and the Life. People like the man on the back row.

The courageous pastor isn’t the one who makes bold political statements and then dares the IRS to do something about it.

The truly courageous pastor is the one who boldly proclaims the gospel to the man on the back row, caring not what the IRS, the deacons, his old seminary professors or the pundits think about it. For him, love, truth and the glory of God are his motives, not politics.

Now that’s real pulpit freedom.

The Government Has Shut Down And I Don’t Feel So Good Myself

The government is shut down and our elected officials are being compared to children. Republicans and democrats, some say, are like spoiled brats who just can’t get along. They keep on fighting and never seem to get their way. Nothing is good enough. Nothing is fair.

Perhaps there is a better comparison.

A while back I was at the zoo with my family. Other families were there too. Hundreds of other families. One in particular stood out.

The child was crying. Not the kind of cry a kid does when he gets hurt. It was more like the spoiled brat kind of a cry. The I-Want-My-Way-And-I-Want-It-Now Cry. The kind of cry that doesn’t usually have any tears.

The mother was furious. She was sun burnt and appeared to be on the brink of a nervous breakdown. And that’s when she let out this little masterpiece.

“If you don’t shed up, Ima gonna cut yo foot off.”

Editors Note for Readers Outside of the Southeastern United States: “Shed up” is the southern way of saying, “Please be quiet.”

I’ve heard a lot of parental threats in my lifetime. I’ve even given a few. But the cutting off of one’s foot was a new one for me.

Later on that day, the mother was still sun burnt and a few steps closer to that nervous breakdown. Her child was still giving that same cry. And he still had both feet.

Maybe, instead of comparing our elected officials to spoiled children, it would be more accurate to compare them to parents. Bad parents. Parents on the brink. Parents who have had enough. Parents who make empty, manipulative, scary sounding threats.

Government shutdown sounds scary. As if everyone in the military will have to leave their posts and come home. But in reality, it’s not quite that bad. We just won’t be able to watch the federal government’s panda cam at the National Zoo for the next few days.

Most of the government is still functioning. You are still being spied on. Drones are still flying in American skies. TSA agents are still taking your stuff and humiliating wheelchair bound veterans and teenage girls. NBC is still on the air.

The government and the media call the programs effected by the shutdown, “nonessential.” That is, things we don’t really need. Things we can live without. For once, they tell the truth.

Our founding fathers envisioned a government that focused on keeping citizens safe from tyranny, both foreign and domestic. For them, there was no such thing as nonessential government programs. Why force people to pay for something that is nonessential?

But those kinds of ideas didn’t last very long. So before long we discovered that we want our panda cam, and we want it now. Which takes us back to our comparison.

If many of our elected officials are like bad, manipulative parents, what does that say about us? What does it say about those of us who prefer nonessential government over essential freedoms?

It means that we are the ones who keep on fighting for all of the wrong things.

We are the ones who are never happy.

We are the spoiled brats.

Republican Cliff Divers

Every math teacher I ever had in high school said something like this.

“Okay class, stay with me on these next few problems and then we’ll try something fun.”

“Fun?  Yes!  I love fun.  Stay focused, Jay.”

I was expecting that if we could just manage to sit through a few more story problems our math teacher would take us outside and let us watch dogs catch frisbees.  That never happened.  Instead, we would always just do more word problems.  But these were fun word problems!

I learned two lessons from this.

First, unless you are criminally insane, math can never be fun.  Hitler, I am told, used to do math for fun.

Second, my math teacher and I had two different definitions for the word fun.  I’m sure that she thought that the problem about Harry taking a train to Dallas while Sergio flew to Portland was down right hedonistic.  That’s because she was criminally insane.  As for everyone else in the class, bring out the frisbee catching dogs.

Almost every morning on the news I hear about another “fiscally conservative” tea party politician who is considering abandoning his principles, assuming they existed in the first place, and supporting President Obama’s plan to raise taxes.

It appears that we must clarify what is meant by conservative.

Conservative, at least at the national level, once meant a limited, decentralized federal government.  Now it just means that when progressive politicians want to raise taxes by 30% the conservative thing to do is to complain about what this kind of a tax hike would do to the middle class and then support a 29.5% raise in taxes but use the word revenue instead of taxes.

When the next election cycle comes around there will be a lot of members of the GOP asking for your vote.

“I’m Senator Saxby Chambliss and I’m a conservative with a record of supporting the middle class.  But don’t look it up.  Just trust me.”

These kind of politicians don’t mean what you hope they mean.  If you want to know what they really mean, you can find out by watching how they respond to our nation’s so-called fiscal cliff.

If these self-described freedom-loving, fiscal conservatives support plundering more money from the citizenry in order to pay for a bloated government because, “it’s what’s best for the country” or, “desperate times call for desperate measures” you will have your answer.  What they really mean is that they are wolves dressed in wool.

So the next time a Republican tries to get your vote by telling you that he’s fiscally conservative, ask him to define his terms.

The term Republican, after all, comes from an old latin word used to describe dogs that catch frisbees.

Don’t bother with looking that up.

Just trust me.