How to Play The Conscience Card

I totally get it. Faithful and God-fearing means one has to stand up for the cause of God in the face of encroaching evil. Students of the Bible do more than wait as human conflicts increase and environmental breakdown intensifies. In the unseen clash between rulers of darkness and angels of light and right, we are participants.

Participant may be too lazy a word here. When it comes to the influence now being waged by some of America’s evangelical groups, they’re working with a vengeance to bring Christian values to the forefront of world morality. It is vengeance because, as one conservative author and commentator writes, when they helped elect Donald Trump as president, they vowed to “hit back twice as hard” because they believe they had to take a backseat in the era of Barack Obama.

Obama, a professed Christian, increasingly sought to uphold the Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. The White House began to neutralize the language that traditionally recognized Christians. Federal agencies and funding recipients were expected to offer their services with neutral and thus inclusive treatment. Further, Obama created an atmosphere that was inclusive of a diversity of people, religious beliefs and practices. He included Muslims and members of LGBTQ+ communities into official White House ceremony and tradition.

With Trump’s election, largely credited to the support of Evangelical Christians, the power of the church, at the invitation of the state, is just warming up. From a cabinet with eight active and vocal Christians, to the quick and unobstructed appointment of pro-life judges on the federal bench, Make America Great Again, means Christians are back in style.

The Netflix documentary “The Family” traced the underground influence Christian leaders leveraged among elected leaders in the U.S. and globally. The National Prayer Breakfast, according to the film, has been more than a time for prayer, reflection, and direction. Rather, it is a chance for well-connected, yet religious activists to gain access to world leaders in order to influence their policy and governance. So much for the separation of church and state.

Evangelicals, so sure that they are on the right side of the Bible and history, claim Trump is the most “biblically friendly” president the U.S. has ever seen. They are so sure on this that when Trump surprised his own cabinet and intelligence personnel with an abrupt change in Syria, Evangelical pundit and pastor Pat Robertson said Trump was in danger of “losing the mandate of heaven.”

Whether you consider yourself Christian and care about the unborn or the incarcerated, the rule of law or police abuse, there has to be a balancing analysis and maybe synthesis. Matthew 25’s mandate to reach the poor, the oppressed, and the incarcerated in mercy for Christ is clear. It is clear, also, that the Bible invites each believer to cast his or her whole being squarely on the Lord’s side—believing and doing the work of the kingdom (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 10:32, 33; Matthew 12:50; James 2:17, as just some example texts). For Christians who cherish liberty of conscience, there is a critical question: how much of God’s kingdom comes to this world, when Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”?

If there were a playbook, I would think some of these ideas would be central operating principles for the Christian seeking to affect her world:

The end does not justify the means. Consider the tragic story of Judas, who for 30 pieces of silver, sold away the Messiah to be crucified. This illustrates the idea that even though the plan of God to redeem the world meant His son would shed His blood and die, God didn’t endorse the betrayal, the conspiracy, the blood money. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” Judas cried, on his way to a guilt-ridden suicide.

Hollow participation to gain position and power likewise damages the unity, commitment and the witness of the body of Christ. The Spirit exposed the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira, and their final, lying words condemned them.

Love covers a multitude of sins, but don’t use love as your cover-up. Maybe David, a man after God’s own heart, was too secure in his prosperity, power and poetry. He completely blanked when tempted to wield his power to get what he wanted, and again, to what end? The shedding of innocent blood.

Finally, we can never fool ourselves into thinking whatever fundamentalist mission and vision we’re on need not pass the test of the light of scripture, and wise counsel. God sees all. (Revisit the scenes in Ezekiel 8 in which spiritual leaders betrayed God’s trust behind closed doors.) Sure, there will come a time when the masses will not endure sound doctrine, and true believers will suffer. In the meantime, the prospect of public scrutiny should lead us to act with transparency and accountability before God and people.

This article is part of our 2019 November / December Issue
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Strike Kit

Quick Guide to Earth Care for Christians Who Care about the Environment.

Biblical Earth Management

Genesis 1: 27, 28: “So God created humans to be like himself; he made men and women. God gave them his blessing and said: ‘Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth.’ ”


Genesis 2: 4b-8, 15, 19, 20: “When the LORD God made the heavens and the earth, no grass or plants were growing anywhere. God had not yet sent any rain, and there was no one to work the land. But streams came up from the ground and watered the earth. The LORD God took a handful of soil and made a man. God breathed life into the man, and the man started breathing. The LORD made a garden in a place called Eden, which was in the east, and he put the man there…The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it…So the LORD took some soil and made animals and birds. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give each of them. Then the man named the tame animals and the birds and the wild animals. That’s how they got their names.”

Deuteronomy 10:13-15: “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.”

Exodus 20:8-11: “Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. You have six days when you can do your work, but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day—not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns. In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That’s why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.”

Let Change Begin Here. Four Ways to Start.

God has placed you on earth to responsibly care for it. And if He has given you a job to do, you will be held accountable for how well you do—or don’t—do it.

So how can you be God’s best employee in taking care of the earth? Here are four things you can do to be a better steward of God’s creation:

  1. Minimize wastefulness of precious resources like gas, electricity, and water. Be mindful of your use. Turn off lights in rooms that aren’t being used. Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth or lathering up in the shower, and look into purchasing more efficient appliances, like washing machines, dryers, water heaters, or air conditioners. In many cases, the federal government will give you tax credits for your investment of energy efficient appliances. You can also buy “low-flow” toilets, and “low-flow” shower heads. If you can swing it, look into an electric vehicle, or even one that uses a combination of electricity and fossil fuel. Lastly, you can contact your local utility companies and request a free resource usage audit. For instance, the companies will check your windows, doors, level of insulation, and water and gas pipes for their maintenance level.

2. Recycle as much as you can. In your local community, city, or state, there is someone who is in charge of this. Find out what you can and can’t recycle and then commit to consistently doing it! You’ll quickly be surprised at how much trash you can keep out of the local landfill. Even reduce the amount of packaging you use by preparing fresh foods, and using reusable containers at home.

3. Educate yourself and others on this issue. These days there are many people who don’t understand or know about this crucial issue. However, there are certainly others who do know but don’t know where to turn for information or even how to begin. As a Christian, and a responsible citizen of the world community, you can be a leader in educating yourself, educating others, and advocating for positive changes.

4. Get personally involved in your local government. Many people have both the time and talent to effect a bigger, wider change, but they sometimes think that it’s the job of “professional politicians.” But all it takes is a willingness to get involved, and a heart to make a change. Check your local city government office to see if you can volunteer to help spread the message. If there isn’t someone in charge, run for the office. And if there isn’t an office, then ask the local governing authorities to consider creating such an office. There’s a reason powerful movements that begin small are called “grass-roots” movements—the grass grew first from roots.

Help and Be Helped

Knowledge is power. If you’re interested in arming yourself with knowledge and being an advocate in spreading the crucial news of care for God’s creation, check out these free resources:

Adventist Development and Relief Association (ADRA)

A Rocha International:

Evangelical Environmental Network 

Plant with Purpose 

Eco Justice Ministries 

National Religious Partnership for the Environment

Au Sable Institute 

Federal Energy Efficiency Program 

State & Local Energy Efficiency Programs

Federal Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (tax credits for electric vehicles)

Feverish Fear of The “Caravan”

An Old Story of The Hard Heartedness of An Ancient People And Their Pharaoh

It’s not just left-leaning writers, like Nicholas Kristof, who are attempting to diffuse the paranoia of an “invasion” of impoverished refugees. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith calmly and succinctly called out the fearmongering for what is. David Thornton of the unapologetically conservative website, The Resurgent) tried to disarm the disinformation campaign as well.

All three are in agreement that there’s no need for a massive troop build-up at the U.S.-Mexico border. Like its prequel in April, 2018, there’s not likely to be much of a caravan left by the time a few of them make the 1,000-mile trek on foot. There’s also no evidence of Middle-eastern terrorists masquerading as Central American migrants. But I guess brown is the new black and they all look alike, right?

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Why is this feverish fear so contagious? It has politicians “concerned” about people exercising their right to vote. The civil rights’ era label of “outside agitators” has been pulled from the recycle bin to apply to voting rights activists. It has lawmakers wanting to revoke the citizenship of people born in this country. It has conspired to disenfranchise the Natives of this land from casting ballots.


Exodus of the West?

Could the book of Exodus give us a clue to what’s going on in the minds of some Americans, who consider themselves the Americans? Let’s consider the following excerpt:

Joseph and his brothers and all that generation died. The Israelites, however, were fruitful, increased greatly, multiplied, and became extremely strong, so that the land was filled with them.

Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power over Egypt. He said to his people, “Look at the Israelite people, more numerous and stronger than we are! Come, let’s deal wisely with them. Otherwise they will continue to multiply, and if a war breaks out, they will ally themselves with our enemies and fight against us and leave the country.”

So they put foremen over the Israelites to oppress them with hard labor. As a result they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more they multiplied and spread. As a result the Egyptians loathed the Israelites, and they made the Israelites serve rigorously. (Ex. 1:6-13, NET)

Deliberate Disinformation

Let’s dissect a couple of things here. First, this king had a case of selective memory and strategic forgetfulness. How is it that he could know about a foreign people living in his land, but not know how they got there and where they came from? He referred to this rapidly growing demographic as Israelites, in other words, the offspring of Israel. Doesn’t referring to them as Israelites beg the question, Who was Israel and how did his offspring come to reside in Egypt?

The truth is, this king didn’t want to know about Joseph’s role in making Egypt great. Pharaoh wanted to deny or diminish any people or accomplishments that would credit outside agitators with meaningful progress to Egyptian science, politics, economics. To borrow from Rage Against the Machine’s “No Shelter,” this king’s agenda was for everyone to see through…


[Egyptian] eyes, [Egyptian] eyes

View the world through [Eyptian] eyes

Bury the past, rob us blind

And leave nothing behind!


It’s much like American amnesia regarding people like Peter Salem, Paul Cuffe, Benjamin Banneker, Charles Drew, Garrett Morgan, Alice Ball, Dorothy Vaughan, Patricia Bath, or Michelle Alexander. Hebrews in Egypt could’ve identified with Public Enemy’s line, “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps.

Irrational Anxiety

Not only was there deliberate disinformation going on, there was also irrational anxiety. As Proverbs 28:1 says, “A wicked person flees when no one is chasing him” (NET). Why would this pharaoh imagine that a people whose ancestors had helped Egypt prosper during a catastrophic famine join ranks with a foreign army? Could it have been the unrestrained greed and unresolved guilt of the Egyptian leaders that aroused their fears of the Hebrews? Did his legacy of subjugating others to get ahead make him dread his chickens coming home to roost?

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Pharaoh’s ignorance and fear led to increasingly oppressive policies. The harsher the Egyptians treated the Israelites, the more they despised and feared them. What the pharaoh and his followers didn’t realize is that retribution wouldn’t come by the hands of the Hebrews themselves. God’s hand would hold His cup of wrath to their lips until the last drop of His indignation was swallowed. The more pharaoh hardened his heart against human cries for mercy and Divine calls for justice, the fuller the bitter cup of vengeance became.

Siphon Up – Trickle Down

Pharaoh could have saved his empire and family a lot of devastation by humbling himself before God and changing his ways. However, it seems almost impossible for rich, powerful bullies to repent. They fear that if they repent, then they might have to repay (Luke 19:1-10). Such people are rare as a camel walking through the eye of a needle. Most prefer to keep siphoning up surpluses, while stingily allowing droplets of sustenance to trickle down.

Just as ancient Egypt had its chance, 21st century pharaohs have their chance to reverse course and be agents of reconciliation, peace, and prosperity for the people under their authority. However, Revelation lets us know that just as with Egypt, worldly powers in the last days are filling up God’s cup of wrath by serving themselves at the people’s expense. Soon a global series of plagues will eclipse the severity of Egypt’s tribulation.


Exorcising the Demonic Forces of Fear

As in Exodus 12, there is a way for the people of God to escape, and it’s not by colonizing the moon or Mars. Jesus is our Passover Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world (1 Corinthians 5:7; John 1:29). This Lamb dedicated Himself to be our sacrifice before the world even began (Revelations 13:8). However, our profession of faith in Him has to be more than meeting under a steeple or having cross tattoos and jewelry (Matthew 7:21-23).

Faith in Jesus means walking in the light of truth and love with Him (1 John 1:6-7). As we walk with Jesus, He infuses us with a love that casts out fear and brings us into fellowship with others we wouldn’t normally gravitate to (1 John 2:6-11 and 4:18). Instead of seeking to take the life of others, Jesus’ love moves us to live sacrificially for their benefit (1 John 3:16-17, Romans 12:1). Living out the gospel in this manner gives us confidence, rather than fear, when judgment comes (Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 25:31-46). It also give us peace of mind in this life (2 Timothy 1:7).









The Romans 13 Challenge, Part 1

They Quote It, But Do They Believe It?

Because imperialists have used it to crush dissent ever since Constantine baptized the Church into Romanism and militarism; and now Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, and some Evangelical preachers are reviving the use of it; and because it is a serpentine slander of the life and teachings of Jesus; we cannot let their use of it disappear beneath the latest deluge of distractions.

Immigrant Border Crisis: We should not let the latest misapplication of Romans 13 disappear in the distractions.

What is it? It is the misapplication or the “scriptorture” of Romans 13:1-4, most recently used to rationalize the separation of families of immigrants and asylum seekers. It has been a reliable tool of “Christian” colonizers for the last 500 years. They used it to justify unjustly wresting two continents from their indigenous peoples, and then worked the newly acquired land with enslaved Africans.

Belief in a Higher Power

Want to know what’s amazing about it? While wool-covered wolves (see Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29) misrepresent this passage’s alleged command for compliance, they don’t actually believe or practice it themselves. Look at the evidence of resistance:

  1. Independence Day—American preachers of Romans 13’s supposed principle of subservience will be celebrating 4th of July fireworks today, glorifying the bloody revolt of British colonists against their God-ordained British government, because they felt oppressed.
  2. The Civil War—While Southerners were mentally whipping their slaves with Romans 13, they started the bloodiest war of U.S. history when Abraham Lincoln was duly elected president. Confederate President Jefferson Davis, along with the Confederacy’s first general, P. G. T. Beauregard raised arms and an enemy flag against the nation whose military and congress they used to serve. Many of the states that rebelled against their national authorities still have official state flags with patterns based on rebel flags to show that Romans 13 doesn’t apply to them.
  3. The Civil Rights Era—Soon after the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and other Civil Rights advances, Southern states began flying the Stars and Bars at their government buildings in defiance of the very same government they now say is God-ordained.
  4. President Barack Obama—Many of the same right wing religious leaders and politicians quoting Romans 13 today became “The Party of No” to anything President Obama recommended:
  • No to increased health care access, in spite of how underserved their constituents might be
  • No to criminal justice reform, which should interest all those concerned about a militarized police state
  • No to environmental protections, in spite of the water crises many rural, as well as urban, residents are suffering from
  • No to fuel efficiency standards, despite their arguments that we should be less dependent on foreign oil
  • No to consumer protections, in spite of how many vulnerable people are hurt
  • And definitely no to his judicial appointments, because we don’t want activist judges—except to overturn stuff we are against!

Ministers of God?

Wool-covered wolves misrepresent  Romans 13’s alleged command for compliance, and they don’t actually believe or practice it themselves.

When leaders have been voted into office by their supporters, it becomes their turn to manipulate the law according to their ideology. As the power shifts from one party to another and policies swing from one side of the pendulum to the other, that’s politics as usual.

When the party in charge, however, tells opponents that they’re carrying out God’s will as God’s ordained agents, then they’ve gone from politics to hermeneutics. They’re proclaiming to do more than just speak for the people who elected them; they’re pretending to speak for God.

What is the basis of their pretense to speak for God? They say Romans 13 claims they’re ordained by God by virtue of being government leaders. If God hadn’t ordained them, they say, then they wouldn’t be in power. Them being in power is offered as evidence that God is speaking and working through them. Expanding from this, it is then argued that only ungodly people would dare to resist and therefore deserve whatever punishment comes to them.

Problem With Inconsistent Biblical Application

As shown above and repeated many times throughout history, politicians only preach Romans 13 when they are in power and have things going their way. When they don’t like what’s going on, they quickly find a different text.

Since they don’t believe it, don’t you buy it!

Stay tuned for part 2.


Jesus Loves the Little Children, (Some of) the Children of the World


They seemed surprised, as though they didn’t see this coming. Who is they? The 60% of white Catholics and 81% of white Evangelicals who embraced President 45’s message. What is it they didn’t see coming? Children being herded like cattle into chain-link fenced warehouses, reports of nursing infants being pried away from their mothers, and government officials abusing scripture to support severing family ties.

As a candidate in 2015, the President of the 81% voiced his admiration of and intention to reproduce Operation Wetback (yes, they really called it that) of 1954:

“Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president, people liked him. ‘I Like Ike’, right? The expression. I like Ike. Moved a million 1/2 illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again, beyond the border, they came back. Didn’t like it. Moved them way south. They never came back. Dwight Eisenhower. You don’t get nicer, you don’t get friendlier. They moved a million 1/2 people out. We have no choice.”

Clear Choice

They didn’t see it coming? The “Two Corinthians” president wasted little time pardoning the racial profiling, tent city architect, Joe Arpaio. Why not pardon a man who shares the same contempt of the courts? Doesn’t it follow that the President would pardon a man who pioneered, on a local scale, what he promised to implement nationally?

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Heart-breaking Images

Why don’t they see the recent images and soundbites as the logical products of their values votes at work?

What did the defenders of family values think it was going to look and sound like when law enforcement exercises “zero tolerance” on people characterized as rapists, drug dealers, thugs, and bad hombres? Didn’t we already have photos of Arizona’s tent cities? Didn’t we already have the courts demanding a halt to the racial profiling that kept those tents full?

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Haven’t many of these MAGA-church members raised funds for overseas missions after seeing heartbreaking videos of scared, lonely, grieving, hungry, parentless children? And, haven’t they read about children who have been separated from family because of natural disasters, civil unrest, disease, crime, and war?  So, why didn’t they see that those images would be reproduced in our land if we implemented the political rhetoric of the last few years?

Ask about Indian boarding schools. While you are at it, ask about Japanese internment camps. Ask about the Children’s Crusade of Birmingham.  The “melanated” masses know what violence against children looks and sounds like. Why don’t the Christians who supported the candidate and now the President on these issues?

What happened to their Bibles?

What happened to “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts share its suffering. If one part is praised, all the others share in its happiness. You are Christ’s body and each of you is an individual part of it” (1 Cor. 12:26-27, God’s Word)? Why don’t the majority of “non-melanated” evangelicals empathize with the suffering that Christians of color articulate?

What happened to “He [God] makes sure orphans and widows receive justice. He loves foreigners and gives them food and clothes. So you should love foreigners, because you were foreigners living in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19, God’s Word)?

What happened to “’Whoever deprives foreigners, orphans, or widows of justice will be cursed.’ Then all the people will say amen” (Deuteronomy 27:19, God’s Word)?

What happened to “The LORD protects foreigners. The LORD gives relief to orphans and widows” (Psalm 146:9, God’s Word)?

What happened to “This is what the Lord Almighty says: Judge fairly and honestly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and poor people” (Zechariah 7:9-10, New Living Translation)?

And What About What it Says About the Little Ones?

What happened to “Beware that you don’t despise a single one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10, New Living Translation)?

What happened to “And he [Jesus] will answer, ‘I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me’” (Matt. 25:45, NLT)?

What happened to “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9, NKJV)?

What happened to “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10, New King James Version)?

If Jesus loves all the children of the world, why don’t His followers?

Jerusalem: A Prophetic Challenge

Exactly seventy years before the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, President Harry Truman was among the first heads of state to recognize the newly established state of Israel. Sanctioned by a vote by the United Nations in 1947, this new nation was to be a sanctuary, of sorts, for mostly European Jews who were seeking refuge from centuries of government sanctioned persecution in their European homelands.

Jerusalem, Israel – view of the Mosque. Jewish worshipers pray at the Wailing Wall, Friday evening starting Shabbat in the sunset, Old City of Jerusalem.

The historical record provides a morbid picture of Christendom’s England, France, Portugal, Spain, Poland and Russia carrying out terrible atrocities against their Jewish neighbors. This seemingly coordinated genocidal quest culminated with Adolph Hitler’s dreaded Holocaust that claimed an estimated six million Jewish lives!

Forgetting “Never Forget”

Gripped by global guilt, the Europeans that controlled the United Nations thought they were righting a wrong when they voted to carve out more than fifty-percent of the land of Palestine and gift it to the mostly immigrant Jewish population. They were totally oblivious to the fact that the creation of this new “state” would mean that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would be immediately colonized and disenfranchised. This callous insensibility was undoubtedly based on the fact that the very governments that sanctioned the partition of Palestine were themselves colonizers over nations and islands in Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Caribbean.

When the newly created “Jewish” Palestine became “Israel” in 1948, the “Israelis” officially aligned to the colonial quest of their European counterparts. Sanctioned, equipped, protected and trained by their former oppressors, this new “nation” fashioned a society after Jim Crow America and Apartheid South Africa—a society in which the Palestinians were the “negros.” While screaming “Never Forget” to their western compatriots whose shameful inaction had almost led to Jewish extermination, these survivors of the cruel concentration camps had themselves “forgotten” what it meant to be victimized.

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Ignoring—and sometimes embracing—the overtly racist concept of a “Jewish” state, American Evangelicals have been firm in their support of the State of Israel. As far as they are concerned, God had masterminded the 1947 vote in the United Nations. They are steadfast in their conviction that the Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob personally commandeered the return of His dispersed people to their ancestral homeland in fulfillment of select biblical prophecies. Evangelicals throughout North America proudly profess their love for the so-called “Holy Land” and its people.

A Triple Irony

Ironically, Evangelical “support” for Israel is not as pure as it appears. As far as they are concerned, the “return” of Jews to Palestine is a necessary chapter in their prophetic book. As a number of Evangelical influenced apocalyptic movies have recently demonstrated, the next chapter in the scenario features the catastrophic Battle of Armageddon that will take place in that very region and end in the deaths of many of the very Jews they now claim to love! In no uncertain terms, their support of Israel is based on theological selfishness. Unless the Jews maintain political control of Israel, they reason, Jesus cannot execute the secret rapture that leads to the Millennium.

The bigger irony lies in the fact that the Evangelical scenario is eerily similar to the same Islamic Salafi apocalyptic interpretation that has inspired ISIS and Al Qaeda. They too expect a final battle in the region when the Mahdi (the “rightly guided” Caliph) is confronted by the Dajaal (false Christ) and the forces of Gog and Magog. The disastrous war can only end when Jesus the Christ, the Son of Mary intervenes and defeats the forces of evil.

The irony behind the Evangelical and Jihadi extremist support is trumped by the irony behind Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Embassy opening. The entire world watched as the jubilant Zionist leader lauded praise on President Donald Trump for his defiant violation of international law. Bolstered by words from the prophet Zechariah, Netanyahu interpreted Trump’s rogue decision as an undeniable fulfillment of prophecy.

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Even as he delivered his speech with the intonations of a Baptist preacher, Netanyahu was undoubtedly aware that the Christian ministers who accompanied him on the dais embraced a completely different interpretation of the events that day. He was well aware that both John Hagee and Robert Jeffress viewed this as the beginning of the end for the Jewish state. However, his eschatology tells a different story. His vision of the future sees the appearance of a Messiah who would establish the global supremacy of Israel. In his mind, this is a sophisticated game of chess, and Trump was the essential piece on the board that had placed the Evangelicals in check mate and had consequentially immobilized the Salafi jihadists.

Not A Game

The opening of the Embassy in Jerusalem may seem like an apocalyptic chess game to those Christians, Jews and Muslims who view themselves as the exclusive beneficiaries of Divine favor. However, real people are being seriously harmed by these theologically based political decisions. Even as Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump posed for photos and sipped champagne with their ideological counterparts, the Israeli Defense Force was engaging in yet another massacre of oppressed Palestinians.

True believers in the God of peace will not see this as an opportunity to celebrate the fulfillment of a chapter in their prophetic timeline. Even if they are correct, what is there to celebrate when this audacious act will only lead to the shedding of more innocent blood and the fomenting of more unrest in the region? If anything, this event highlights the need for a renewed understanding of prophecy. Not prophecy in the sense of foretelling the future, but the type of prophecy where men and women of God confront societal injustice.

As the recently deceased Dr. James Cone recognized, Divine justice always sides with the oppressed. Those who claim submission to God’s will have no choice but to be God’s channels of love to those who need it most. As you ponder these words, never forget that a tree is known by its fruit.




Election Blues and Dos

Faithfully ministering for God in a atmosphere where even many Christians wanted a political savior.

Andrew Camp had a rough start the day after the election. “Wednesday morning, I woke up sad,” Camp told Message.

Camp helped lead an Election Night service at Mountain Life Church in Park City, Utah. He is the church’s spiritual growth pastor. Mountain Life is, in Camp’s words, a “very typical white, evangelical church.” The congregation is fairly conservative, he added, but politics isn’t discussed much.

Ballot BoxEvangelicals and Exit Polls

The exit polls, even more than the outcome, are what bothered Camp. According to Pew Research, 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. No other racial-religious demographic group polled that high for one candidate. Pew also found that 88 percent of blacks voted for Hillary Clinton, but its research made no distinction between blacks who identify as Christians and those who don’t.

“We weren’t presented with great choices,” Camp said, a reference to the candidacies of Clinton and Trump. Camp especially didn’t like the divisive rhetoric Trump used on the campaign trail. He feels it didn’t reflect Christian values. “What is the true religion that God loves?” Camp asked rhetorically. “Care for the widows and the oppressed. Those words didn’t seem to rain from our new president-elect’s mouth.”

A Beautiful Evening?

All the more reason, perhaps, that it’s a good thing Camp had Mountain Life’s Election Night service to reflect on. He said it featured worshipful music and a communion service. “It was a beautiful evening,” Camp said. “The feedback was very positive.”

At least 350 churches across the nation hosted a service on Election Night, according to Jason Boone of the Peace and Justice Support Network of the Mennonite Mission Network (MMN). A small group of pastors, two of whom were Mennonite pastors, started the Election Night services in 2012. So MMN has become an unofficial coordinator and resource for many churches that want to have Election Night services.

Boone said that each service reflects the unique character of the churches that host them. There is no set format that churches are required to follow. But there is a common goal: to alleviate the unique pressures some may feel during elections.

“You’re being asked to get behind and make allegiance to candidates or political systems or causes,” Boone said. “Those pressures – which are probably around every day to a certain extent – they’re so magnified on Election Day that being able to walk into the church on that day takes on a special meaning.”

Overriding Spiritual Reality

Boone said that Election Night services strive to acknowledge the political realities in our nation while also embracing the spiritual reality that a Christian’s first allegiance is to Christ. Andrew Camp at Mountain Life agrees.


Election Night Services: Mountain Life Church Spiritual Growth Pastor Andrew Camp acknowledges that it was a sad day after the 2016 election. The question of what to do now for the Christian is found in scripture.
Election Night Services: Mountain Life Church Spiritual Growth Pastor Andrew Camp acknowledges that it was a sad day after the 2016 election. The question of what to do now for the Christian is found in scripture.

“We are Christ followers first,” Camp said. “We’re not defined by American politics.”

Camp points to Ephesians 2:14-22 as a good reference point for Christians trying to find the right balance between political ideology and spirituality in the aftermath of the election.

“For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”



When What We Want is a Political Savior

Camp also said that he was drawn to 1 Samuel 8, the passage in which Israel demands a king. It brought to mind questions that he believes Christians should reflect on in light of the election.

“How do we place our hope in the beauty and goodness of God’s kingdom over and against the hope of a political savior that may or may not have God’s kingdom’s interests at heart?” Camp asked. “How do I faithfully minister in a context where sometimes we want the political king and not our Messiah king? How do we train our people to look toward that over and against thinking that the Supreme Court can turn our nation around?”

Perhaps the lesson is that a divinely-centered peace can and should co-exist with a righteous passion for justice.

Camp’s morning-after reflections may seem at odds with Mountain Life’s Election Night service, which he described as quiet, unhurried and reflective. Perhaps the lesson is that a divinely-centered peace can and should co-exist with a righteous passion for justice. The same believer that finds refuge in an Election Night service certainly can go out the next day and look for a way to help those who have been historically disenfranchised.

“I think there is something inherently political about what happens when we gather and pledge our allegiance to Jesus,” Jason Boone added. “Jesus is going to go where there is pain and where there’s suffering, and where there are people marginalized.”

Do Black Lives Really Matter To The Church Triumphant?

As yet another Black man’s death comes at the hands of a White police officer, and the mysterious injuries that led to the death of a Black man in Baltimore after his arrest, reap headlines, a largely unpublicized, but highly significant dispute over the use of deadly force—mostly in minority communities—simmers out of sight.

Unlike the horrific scenes caught on cell phones in North Charleston, South Carolina, or in Baltimore, Maryland, very few media are focusing on the controversy regarding unjust, brutal policing between Franklin Graham, the son of the internationally famous evangelist, Billy Graham and Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and a leader in the Christian social justice movement. Nevertheless, given the national prominence of both men, the dispute has broad social, economic and political implications for the society at large.

The younger Graham, who directs Samaritan’s Purse, an international aid organization based in Boone, North Carolina, ignited the controversy with a Facebook post that shocked a large number of Evangelical ministers, lay leaders and many in the wider faith community.

“Listen up,” he commanded, “Blacks, Whites, Latinos and everybody else. Most police shootouts can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience.

“If a police officer tells you to stop,” he continued, “you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong–You OBEY.”

“Parents, teach your children to respect and obey those in authority,” the statement went on. It concluded, “Mr. President, this is a message our nation needs to hear and they need to hear it from you. Some of the unnecessary shootings we have seen recently might have been avoided. The Bible says to submit to your leaders and those in authority “because they keep watch over you as those who must give account.” Graham’s post drew more than 200,000 “likes” and 83,000 “shares.”

James Wallis, the nationally regarded White clergyman who founded Sojourners, responded to Graham’s Facebook post in writing.

“Dear Franklin,” his letter began, “the real issue here goes much deeper than obedience to the police or lack thereof. We all need and should obey good police officers whose important mission is to serve and protect—but that must be done equally and without racial bias. Most African American men, in particular, could tell you their own, personal stories of mistreatment by White police officers, which had nothing to do with not obeying them. Many Black women and other people of color could tell you stories too. You should be listening to them.”

The reality, he said, “is that there are two policing and legal systems in America; one for Black and Brown people and one for White people—and that is now well documented, showing it is most stark for Black men and especially young Black men.”

Wallis directed Graham to “please read the Department of Justice report clearly proving strong racial bias in the Ferguson police department and the report of Presidential Policing Commission (with six police commissioners on the task force), which shows that this is a national problem.

Why do you speak only of the Bible’s command to submit to authority and not to the many Scriptures which challenge the sin of racism?

Remember, in ‘Christ there is no Jew or Greek.’ Also, the Bible does not say that the law is always right. Jesus challenged the laws of his day when they were unjustly applied or interpreted and the Apostle Paul wrote the Epistles from prison.”

The accomplishments of the Civil rights Movement, Wallis recalled, “were only possible because many brave Americans, including many Christians, non-violently disobeyed unjust laws and the authorities who sought to enforce them.”

Wallis told Graham that “its time to listen to, and learn from, Americans of color, including our Black brothers and sisters in Christ. Listen to why all Black parents have to have “the talk” about White police with their sons and daughters. Your Facebook post makes you seem, at best, oblivious to the racial inequity in this country’s policing and criminal justice system, which is also still deeply embedded in our American society. At worse, your post reflects your own racial biases—unconscious or conscious. It makes me sad to read such things coming from a leader of your position. So until you are equally willing “to listen up,” please stop making such embarrassing and divisive statements.”

Some 31 other Evangelical ministers—Black, White, Asian and Latino—in “An Open Letter” reinforced Wallis’ admonition with several of their own. Graham’s words “hurt and influenced thousands,” said the ministers, who noted that their action was guided by “the spirit of Matthew 18.”

Therefore, they advised, “we must respond publicly, so that those you hurt might know you have received a reply and the hundreds of thousands you influenced might know that following your lead on this issue will further break the body of Christ.”

“Are you also aware,” they asked, “that your commentary resonates with the types of misinterpretations and rhetoric echoed by many in the antebellum church?” Are you aware that the southern slavocracy validated the systemic subjugation of human beings made in the image of God by instructing these enslaved human beings to “obey their masters because the Bible instructed them to do so?”

“As one who understands human depravity, your statement demonstrates a profound disregard for the impact of sinful individuals when given power to craft systems and structures that govern millions. The outcome is oppression and impoverishment—in a word, injustice,” they declared.

“Finally,” they concluded, “if you insist on blind obedience, then you must also insist that officers of the justice system obey the Constitution, which protects the right of all to equal protection under the law. Yet (numerous) reports confirm unconscious racial biases in policing, booking, sentencing and in return, racially disparate outcomes within our broken justice system.” The letter ended by quoting James B. Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation: “First, all of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty. At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.”

For this article, two nationally recognized religious leaders, an often-quoted authority in policing and a nationally regarded civil rights attorney, were asked to comment on Graham’s post. They are: C. Garnett Henning, a retired bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Dr. Norman S. Johnson, Sr., a former executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC/LA), Diop Kamau, the founder of, which represents victims, most lacking for their defense and Philip J. Kaplan, who practices law in California and Louisiana.

Graham’s post, said the bishop, “showed no Christian humility. Instead, his simplistic response to the historic and contemporary killing of Black and Latino youth sounds too much like ‘slaves be obedient to your masters’—to which he adds, ‘whether they are right or wrong.’ In offering his solution to the many senseless killings, he ignores the many who obeyed, but were killed anyway.”

Johnson said Graham’s post ” does not reflect reality or historical awareness, but a lack of socio-political thinking of how the words of clergy, particularly someone with the name Graham, challenges or confirms the views of conservative Christians.

“Graham’s use of Hebrews 37 is curious,” Johnson noted. “The text refers to ‘those who watch over your souls. Police officers are clearly not ministers or prophets who watch over our souls. That he would even imply that the function of law enforcement is to watch over our souls is unconscionable, if that is the Scripture he is referring to.”

For nearly two weeks, repeated attempts to reach Graham for comment for this article were unsuccessful.

Attorney Kaplan, in searching to identify the underlying causes of police abuse and violence, said, “in the same way that we now can’t question the reality of climate change, we really can’t question whether there is discord between many police departments and the communities they serve. The real question is, why is that? I don’t pretend to be a sociologist, yet I believe we must not see this as an isolated issue, I believe this reflects a deeper social problem.”

“You can’t deny that there is a divide, a rift. It’s a deeper issue that needs to be examined, said Kaplan, who has represented police officers as well as victims of police abuse.

“There are lots of really good police officers who would never think of abusing anyone and really good police officers who have chosen to be silent, for reasons I can understand,” he said.

“I believe in good policing, have represented officers in excessive force situations and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in representing them in all sorts of situations, so I know something about what they do and what their jobs entail,” he said. Moreover, Kaplan said, “there ought to be more scrutiny of command staff and chiefs of police.”

“I have a lot of empathy for rank and file officers; they’re taking directions, or lack of direction, from the command staff. The debate ought to include scrutiny of police departments, command staff and chiefs of police. If any discussion leaves them out and just focuses on rank and file officers–patrol officers, then we’re missing something very important,” Kaplan cautioned.

Kamau, an expert investigator and highly decorated undercover officer, focused on Graham’s apparent lack of due diligence before posting his opinion.

Graham, said Kamau, “cited no evidence that grossly discriminatory enforcement patterns are tied to the behavior patterns of the Black and Latino communities they serve. Unfortunately, Kamau added, “there is a lack of evidence to demonstrate that large numbers of whites are treated similarly on displaying similar behaviors.”

When Graham “can find a population of Whites who are similarly mistreated by police, he might have a point. There is no evidence, however, that Whites, in large numbers, risk similar misconduct and abuse in similar encounters and circumstances,” Kamau said.

If Graham “were to analyze payouts by major cities to settle police misconduct lawsuits since 1985, he would see that the victims were not compensated for an alleged lack of cooperation. In fact, just the opposite was the case,” Kamau said.

Indeed, Kamau continued, “African Americans, especially men, cooperate with police officers more than most people, yet are often harmed by the use of very draconian measures. In employing ‘stop and frisk’–it shouldn’t be be called ‘stop and frisk,’ instead, it ought to be called, ‘stop and humiliate’–far too many officers attempt to strip Black men of their dignity.”