Thursday, August 29, 2019

Lakeside Meditation

Recently I have gotten into the habit of waking up early and going to the lake to sit in the presence of God. It is not that God is absent from my living room or back porch, but I am more present to God at the lakeside. On those mornings when I awaken before dawn and cannot fall back asleep, I accept it as an invitation from the Spirit to sit by the lake.

I make a cup of tea and put it into a travel mug. Then I drive the two miles to the town beach before anyone else comes to take their morning swim or go on an early fishing expedition. I sit on a rock by the shore and let the stillness of the early morning sink into my soul.

It is a lazy man’s form of meditation, a spontaneous form of spiritual practice. No need to pay attention to my breathing, utter a centering prayer, or intentionally allow invasive thoughts pass through my consciousness. No spiritual discipline at all is necessary on such mornings. The lake does it all for me. I sit and watch the water, and the calmness of the lake’s surface produces a calmness in my soul.

One morning the water was warm and the air was cool, producing an airy mist that rolled over the surface of the bay. It was the perfect metaphor for human life. The ripples caused by fish plucking their breakfast from the surface was another message. The deep silence that moved over the face of the water was another. The clouds settling into the valleys of the mountains in the distance gave more teachings.

These were not ideas addressed to my mind, but “the Spirit speaking spiritual truths in spiritual words” as the apostle describes it. The psalmist describes it as “Deep speaks unto deep.” The presence of omnipresent God is revealed in my innermost being. The Divine within communes with the Divine without, and the mist of my individual identity rides the surface.

These are moments of full awareness. Time unfolds and reveals eternity beneath the surface. When I try to describe this to myself using Christian terminology, it adds nothing to it. In fact theologizing draws me away from Presence and into my mind. So I let the thoughts ripple across the surface, and I return to the quiet which is the heart of existence. This is my spiritual practice on these precious final summer days.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Duality of Politics

Recently I have been doing some reading on the age-old “problem of evil” and the theistic solution to it called theodicy. This is the attempt to comprehend how a good God can allow evil in this universe. For some strange reason it got me thinking about American politics.

Politics in America is divided between warring perspectives. People call them by different names (not all of them fit to print), but the two sides are typically referred to as liberals and conservatives, usually divided into Democrats and Republicans. Capitalism is championed by one side, socialism valued by the other. The Donald on one side and Bernie on the other. The more you tend toward one end of the spectrum, the more you see it as a battle between good and evil.

Each side of the political spectrum has its extremes – Proud Boys on the right, antifa on the left – as evidenced in the recent standoff in Portland, Oregon. Both see the other as evil, dangerous and anti-American. Fascism on one side. Communism on the other side. I could spend half the blog listing the pairs of opposites.

I find myself caught up in it, choosing one side (at least a moderate form of it) over the other, opting for what I see as the lesser of two evils. Even though I consider myself an Independent - neither Republican nor Democrat - I usually vote for one of the two major parties when I go into the voting booth. In the past I have sometimes chosen a “third party” candidate. But the stakes seem too high these days for me to opt for that alternative.  

As I play my role in this the battle between Right and Left in our country, part of me watches the drama of dueling dualities from a distance. This watcher is my “better angel,” my spiritual and true self, the image of God in me. I take a breath and see that the phenomenon of warring dualities is the never-ending pattern of history. It is human nature and will continue until humankind draws its last breath. It has always been this way and always will be. There is no earthly utopia on the horizon. History repeats itself with endless variations on the theme.

This is not pessimistic resignation or fatalism. It is the shape of reality. There can be no conservative without liberal; they need each other to exist. That is true politically and religiously. To be on the side of the good, one needs an enemy on the side of evil. To be right, others must be wrong. To be on the side of the angels means there must be demons. If we are on God’s side, there has to be a devil. Voltaire famously said that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. The same is true of the devil. The righteous need him.

How would we know we are good without evil to contrast ourselves with? How could we be right unless there are people who are wrong? Religiously speaking, how can we possess the truth unless there is falsehood? There can be no orthodoxy without heresy. This is the play of duality. It is alright to play the game as long as we realize that it is a game. Only when we mistake the game for Reality are we truly lost.

The True Believer is capable of true evil, as any online manifesto penned by a mass murderer will show you. Great evil has been done by those inspired by both religion and politics – or both. To quote Steven Weinberg’s oft-repeated statement: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil - that takes religion.” Substitute the word “politics” or "ideology" for religion, and the statement is equally true.

We are all capable of self-deceit when it comes to politics and religion. We all are capable of evil when caught up in a righteous cause. The only way to ensure we are not ensnared by the dark side is to rise above the fray and transcend the play of opposites, if only for a moment.

Take a breath and look at our current political ruckus from a higher perspective. When we put a little breathing room between us and our beliefs, we see things more clearly. Even matters of life and death are seen as part of the dance of duality, a cosmic drama of opposites which never ends.

If we loosen our grip on ourselves often enough, we can glimpse the God “who is above all and through all and in all,” to quote the apostle Paul. Only from this perspective can we reenter the world to play our role in this earthly pageant with greater wisdom and integrity.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Rethinking Anti-Semitism

President Trump’s recent rhetoric and treatment of Muslim American congresswomen has me concerned. So has the rise of white supremacy and Christian nationalism in the United States, as well as the increase in anti-Semitic attacks in Europe and the United States.

The term “anti-Semitism” has always been used to describe anti-Jewish attitudes and behavior. Indeed that is how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it: “hatred of Jewish people.” But I remember from my seminary training that the Semitic peoples were originally much broader than the Jews.

The term Semite comes from the Biblical name Shem, one of the three sons of Noah who survived the Flood in the Book of Genesis. According to the story, all peoples on the earth are descended from three men – Shem, Ham, and Japheth - and their wives. From Shem came not only the Hebrews but all the peoples of the Ancient Near East that we now know as the Middle East. The Hebrews were just one branch of the family tree of Shem.

Modern dictionaries define “Semitic” in this wider context. Once again Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Semitic as “of, relating to, or constituting a subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic language family that includes Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, and Amharic.” It defines Semite as “a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs; (2) a descendant of these peoples; (3) a member of a modern people speaking a Semitic language.”

The term Semitic has always applied to a group broader than Jews. Yet the term anti-Semitism has been narrowly defined as applying exclusively to Jews. In this age of increasing ethnic violence, it is time to expand anti-Semitism to include hatred toward any Semitic peoples, including Arabs and Palestinians.

Insofar as anti-Semitism normally includes hatred of the Jewish religion and not just Jewish ethnicity, a broader definition of anti-Semitism would include prejudice against Arab religion as well as Arab people. Although not all Arabs are Muslims, the two often go together in bigots’ minds. Anti-Muslim prejudice is part of anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment.

However you want to define it, it is hate. Those who think they can love Israel by hating Palestinians are deluding themselves. The same is true of Muslims who hate Jews. We are one race – the human race. Of all nations Americans ought to know this, given our history and struggles for racial equality. Yet we still struggle.

In our country anti-Jewish bigotry is immediately called out for what it is. It is time for anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies to receive the same treatment. They should be labeled for what they really are: ethnic bigotry.

This idea may be difficult for many Americans to swallow, so entrenched is the Muslim stereotype after 9/11, the Iraq wars, and the endless war in Afghanistan. But in the end the hatred of any ethnic or religious group is just a form of racism, which divides people into imaginary “races” based on geography, language, religion and physical appearance.

Truth be told, when I studied in Israel for a semester I could not distinguish a Jew from an Arab if it wasn’t for distinctive clothing and language. They are physically indistinguishable to me. Modern genetic studies bear that out. Israeli Jews are related to their Middle Eastern neighbors.

The Bible confirms that we are all interrelated. In preaching to the Athenians, the apostle Paul said that God “has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Even the Flood story says that Canaan, the ancestor of the Canaanites (the indigenous peoples of the Holy Land) was the nephew of Shem and Japheth. We are all cousins.

Readers may not agree with my proposal to enlarge the scope of the term “anti-Semitism,” and that is alright. I don’t really expect the idea to progress beyond this blog post. Furthermore I don’t actually care what anti-Muslim prejudice is called, as long as it is identified as a problem. Call it Islamophobia. Call it anti-Arabism. Call it racism. Call it religious bigotry. Call it whatever you want. I call it unchristian behavior.

To hate Arabs for being Arab, Jews for being Jewish, Muslims for being Muslim, or Christians for being Christian, is nothing more than hatred. Jesus called us to love our neighbors and our enemies. As a practicing Christian, those of every faith and ethnic group are my brothers and sisters. To admit anything less is to fall short of the ethic of Jesus.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Greetings Earthlings!

The creation stories found in the opening chapters of Genesis are among the most famous accounts in the Bible. Christians fight over whether to take the stories literally or figuratively. I am more interested in what they mean. As I read the creation story found in the second chapter of Genesis, I find an important spiritual truth: we are earthlings!

That may not seem like a new revelation to most people, but it is more revolutionary than you may imagine. In everyday speech we talk about our origins very differently. We talk about coming into this world at birth and departing this world at death, as if we were from someplace else. We inherited this way of thinking from Greek philosophy and the later books of the New Testament, which were not written by Jesus’ apostles but by a later generation of Christians deeply influenced by Greek dualism.

The First Letter to Timothy says, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can take nothing out of it.” In his second letter this same author says of his forthcoming death, “the time of my departure is at hand.” The Letter to the Hebrews says we are “foreigners and strangers on earth.” The First Letter of Peter calls us “aliens and sojourners.”

If we see ourselves as aliens, it should come as no surprise that we are “alienated” from the earth. The way we treat the earth reflects our attitude. This earth is seen as something disposable that we will leave behind one day. It will be eventually destroyed by God in eschatological fire and replaced with a newer model, so it doesn’t matter very much how we treat it. Jesus is coming soon to take us to heaven, so to hell with the earth!

But the Hebraic biblical stories in Genesis present a more holistic view of our origins. We are not aliens temporarily residing on earth. Genesis says we came from the earth, and we have been given a divine responsibility to care for the earth. The Creator is pictured as a potter who forms humans from the clay of Eden and breathes life into us.

In fact the Hebrew word for “human,” as well as the proper name of the first human, Adam, is the masculine form of the word for earth. Adam emerged from adamah. Etymologically and physically humans are earthlings. God makes that clear later in the story: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

We are literally earthlings, birthed from the womb of the earth. Every molecule of us is earth. We were earth before we were born. We will be earth after our death. We are earth now. We are not strangers to this planet. We are not spiritual beings who fell to earth. We are the earth, related to every other life form on earth. As the earth we are 4.5 billion years old! All of a sudden I am feeling very old.

The first creation story in the Bible (which is actually the second creation story chronologically; Genesis 1 was written centuries after Genesis 2) adds another dimension to human origins. It says that earthlings were created “in the image of God.” Theologians have argued for millennia over what that phase means. But it seems clear that it has something to do with the spiritual dimension of our existence.

I think it most likely refers to consciousness. In particular the type of self-consciousness which seems to be unique to humans – at least on this planet. We are the earth conscious of itself, and that consciousness is our divine connection. 

Now consider the fact that earth was born from the universe, which is 13.7 billion years old. Every element on earth – which includes every element in our bodies - was forged in the interior of stars, which exploded their contents into space to form galaxies, solar systems, planets, and eventually life. We are made of the universe. We are not only earthlings, we are universelings. We are the universe conscious of itself.

But most people do not live from that reality. Instead we convince ourselves that we are separate entities. We view ourselves as mortal creatures, little islands of temporary consciousness imprisoned in bags of flesh and skin, which will one day die. If we hold to a religious tradition, then we vary the narrative somewhat.

In the West we see ourselves as souls who sojourn for a few years on earth until we return to our true home in heaven. As the old hymn says, “This world is not my home. I'm just a passing through.” If we ascribe to an Eastern religion, we are spiritual beings reincarnated on earth again and again until we realize it is all illusion and are set free from the bonds of material existence.

But the biblical Creation stories – backed up by science – tell a different story. This earth and this universe are home. We do not come into it or leave it. We are it. We are earthlings and universelings. We are the universe conscious of itself, and that universal consciousness is divine. The spiritual life is the quest to realize and live our true nature in everyday awareness. This is who we are. This is the Kingdom of God. Welcome home, earthlings.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Finding Trump in My Mirror

Last Sunday I preached at a small seasonal chapel, attended mostly by summer folk. I chose as my text the primary message of Jesus in the gospels: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” It was a basic three point sermon. I even threw in a little knowledge of Greek and Hebrew to reassure my listeners that I had done my homework.

After the service a man thanked me for my message. He remarked how he was tired of hearing preachers talk about politics and social issues, and it was good to hear a sermon about spiritual things. I am also tired of all the politics, violence and hate.

The endless scenes of violence on the evening news, as well as the self-righteous rants by politicians, trouble my soul. The recent mass shootings of innocent people by cowards with assault weapons horrify me. So does the cowardice of career politicians who won’t stand up to the NRA. The tweets of Trump repulse me. The suffering of Latin American refugees escaping oppression, only to be mistreated in our country, breaks my heart.

I am only experiencing these things secondhand through the media! Imagine the suffering of the victims and their loved ones – those who have been killed, wounded, caged and vilified. It must be too much for them to bear – especially the children involved.

When I am emotionally and spiritually wounded by the evil and suffering in the world, I go to Jesus, who knew a thing or two about evil and suffering. That is what the Cross is all about. I enter into prayer and meditation, going unarmed into the heart of Jesus. For me prayer is not an escape from reality. It is my attempt to go deeper into reality.

I go into prayer to experience the mind of God. That is something Scripture says we can do. It says that we have the mind of Christ; it instructs us to put on Christ. In Christian meditation I put my hand into the wounded side of Christ, like the apostle Thomas. I see things more clearly when I look through the compassionate eyes of Jesus.

In the spacious presence of God, I find wholeness. I view the universe more clearly. The problems of suffering, evil and injustice in the world are not solved. But they are put in perspective. Then I can address the pain and anger in my own soul.

I rediscover that what I hate the most in others – whether that is racism, xenophobia, arrogance, hardheartedness, ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, hypocrisy, the list goes on – can also be found in my own heart. I am not innocent. I am part of the problem.

I am what I hate. That is why I hate it so much. As anyone who has outgrown biblical literalism knows, the devil does not reside in hell but in the dark recesses of our own soul. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

When I look at myself, I see Trump in the mirror. (Boy, I need to find a better barber!) I hear in my words echoes of the rhetoric that I despise. The evils outside are also within. That is why they bother me so much. That is why I oppose them so much. My righteous crusade is partly an attempt to purify my own soul.

When we believe that we are righteous and our enemies are evil – that is when we are in the most spiritual danger. That is spiritual blindness. That is what true believers of both the Right and the Left think. Beware righteous indignation. When we are convinced we are right, we are capable of thinking, saying and doing all sorts of evil in the name of righteousness.

That is the danger of the Trump Personality Cult (formerly known as the Republican Party) as well as the Democratic Party. When Democrats self-righteously vilify Trump, they are doing the same thing that Trump does to his enemies. Both major parties are so filled with self-righteousness that they cannot see the evil in their own souls.

So I took a break from politics and social crises last Sunday to get back to the Center. In my sermon I focused on the Kingdom of God, and proclaimed, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” It was a message I needed to hear, which is why I preached it. As every preacher knows, every sermon (blog, tweet, Facebook post, etc.) is preached primarily to ourselves.

I will continue to oppose bigotry and violence just as vigorously, but I will do it with the awareness that my opponents are my neighbors. They are not demons but children of God, and I am called by Christ to love them as myself. For they are the same as I. That is why Jesus taught us to love our enemies. It is the process by which we are redeemed.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Critiquing the Left

In my previous blog “Dark Agenda” I reviewed David Horowitz’s book “Dark Agenda: The War to Destroy Christian America.” I was not gentle in my critique. In response, one reader made the observation that I always criticize the Right and never the Left. It is a fair point, and it has been made before. Although I should clarify that it is not the Right but the Religious Right that is my concern. My interest is the role of religion in public life and politics.

At the present time I see the Religious Right and Christian Nationalism as in the ascendancy and therefore of most concern. The Religious Left can’t seem to get its act together, and therefore I do not see them as much of a threat.

There is no Religious Left movement in America with the political clout to elect a Leftist version of Donald Trump to the White House. Some might say that Barack Obama was that type of figure, and Trump is a grassroots reaction to him. Perhaps. What about now?  

I have not heard of any Marianne Williamson rallies where the crowds chant “Lock him up! Lock him up!” I have not heard Pete Buttigieg boast in a campaign speech that he could murder a person in public in the middle of South Bend, Indiana, and his supporters would still vote for him.

That is why I have not spoken against the Religious Left. It is not that I necessarily agree with them; I speak to where I see the danger. As I see it, the danger to America today is coming from the Religious Right and Christian Nationalism.

But I concede I might be mistaken. That is why I read books that disagree with my perspective - like Horowitz’s “Dark Agenda.” Such books shake me up and force me to look at things from a different perspective. I recommend the practice.

Having said that, I would be glad to critique a book written by the Religious Left. I promise to be as honest and uncompromising as if I were critiquing a book from the Religious Right. But I need your help in finding the right book. It should be a recent book written by a member of the Left – preferably the Christian Left - something comparable to Horowitz’s book but from the opposite perspective.

So I am asking my readers to give me suggestions. Remember it has to be written from a liberal perspective and critical of the Right’s agenda for America. Preferably a book as polemical in tone as Horowitz’s book. I look forward to hearing your suggestions.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Dark Agenda

Last week my wife and I took two of our grandchildren to New Balance to buy some new shoes for the upcoming school year. On the way home we stopped at a bookstore. While they browsed Harry Potter books and Legos, (both of which we ended up buying) I perused the bestseller table. On that table was a book entitled “Dark Agenda” by David Horowitz. The book’s subtitle is: “The War to Destroy Christian America.” That caught my attention.

I confess I did not know anything about Horowitz, but a quick examination of the dustjacket and contents made it clear that he was an arch-conservative. An endorsement on the cover by former Arkansas governor, Baptist pastor, and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said: “Most Compelling Defense of Christianity.” So I assumed that Horowitz was part of what is called the Religious Right or Christian Nationalism.

I do not normally buy books that are so polemical. But ever since Donald Trump was elected president with 81% support from evangelicals, I have been struggling to understand the mindset of the Religious Right. I thought this book might help. So I bought the book. (Although I could not justify the nearly $30 hardback price, so I went home and bought the ebook online.)

It is inconceivable to me that devout, conservative Christians could support such an uncouth and irreligious man. These are people I have known all my adult life. They are friends, family members, colleagues and fellow pastors. Morality used to be important to evangelicals in a political candidate and leader – especially sexual morality. So was truthfulness, integrity, civility and respect for others.

All of a sudden these Christians seemed to have abandoned their moral and spiritual principles to support a political leader. It almost seemed like they were under a spell. Jesus’ words about false messiahs came to mind. Jesus warned that in the end times such figures would arise and “deceive, if possible, even the elect.” To be honest this transformation of devout Christians into political ideologues was scary.

In order to understand the mindset of religious Trumpers, I bought the book and finished it in a few days. Early in the book I was surprised to learn that Horowitz is not part of the Religious Right, at least not the religious part. He calls himself an agnostic, yet rails against atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. His parents were members of the American Communist Party and strong supporters of Joseph Stalin, yet he reserves his harshest criticism for Marxists.

Throughout the book I sensed a deep sense of inner anguish and self-hatred which was being redirected toward others. Hatred for his atheist leanings and his previous Marxist beliefs, as well as his Jewish and Russian heritage. His mother's family emigrated from Russia in the 19th century, and his father's family left Russia in the early 20th century during a time of anti-Jewish pogroms. I found myself doing armchair psychoanalysis of the author.

Anyway, for whatever psychological and political reasons, he now hates liberals and Democrats, which he repeatedly labels as anti-American and anti-Christian. He actually links them to Lucifer (!) and to every atrocity he can think of. He runs through the common conservative talking points – prayer in school, abortion, homosexuality, and Obamacare – but strangely omits support for Israel, except a passing reference to Obama’s unfulfilled campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Some additional psychoanalysis is needed there.

He has special scorn for the Supreme Court of the United States which he calls “eight lifetime political appointees, elected by no one and accountable to no one.” Talking about the failed nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, he writes, “For twenty-five years, ever since the 1962 decision on school prayer, the Supreme Court had been the all-powerful lever that a radical minority had used to impose its will on the majority. That judicial lever had radically reinterpreted and twisted the Constitution to fit the leftist agenda.” He writes “The secular left had discovered an all-powerful instrument – the Supreme Court – with which it could impose its radical, anti-Christian agenda on an unwilling nation.”

It made me very uncomfortable to hear one of the three branches of the federal government established by our constitution demonized. The Court was established by the founding fathers as a necessary balance to the danger of “tyranny of the majority” and the protection of the rights of minorities without economic and political power. I think it has done its job well over the years.

As to my reason for reading the book, it was not until the final chapter that I gained some insight into why evangelical Christians support Trump. In a section entitled “Why the Religious Right Embraced Trump” he writes:

“To the left, the support Trump received from the religious right remained an insoluble mystery. He was thrice married, not particularly religious, and often vulgar and carrying some unsavory sexual baggage. He had supported abortions and gay marriage in the past. Yet evangelicals and Catholics cheered him at rallies, proudly wore Make America Great Again! hats, and pulled the lever for him at the polls. The reason liberals didn’t understand the religionists was because they had contempt for them, regarding them as bigoted and stupid. But anyone concerned about the half century of aggression that religious communities had suffered at the hands of the left could understand. Anyone who identified with the fight that conservatives waged in defense of religious liberty could understand. And anyone sympathetic to the unapologetic patriotism of religious people could understand why they were solidly for Trump, despite his flaws.”

So that explains it. Leftist aggression, patriotism and religious liberty are the reasons evangelicals support Trump. But to me (I consider myself a moderate, neither Democrat nor Republican) the Left seems no more aggressive than the Right, and liberals seem as patriotic as conservatives.  That leaves religious liberty, which is a value that I cherish highly as a Baptist. I have never felt like my religious liberty was under attack, so I went back through the book to review his case for a “war on Christian America.”

I could not see religious liberty as a defining factor in any of the social issues he discusses. A timely debate of the subject in the Wall Street Journal last weekend (“Is American Religious Liberty in Peril?” Wall Street Journal, July 27-28) helped me understand the issue better. But I still see the “culture wars” more as disagreement between political factions than an attack on religious liberty.

The Religious Right assumes that strenuous disagreement on social issues is an attack on religion. It is not. Liberal opposition to conservative positions on political, social and economic issues is not an attack on the Christian faith.

Furthermore the issues dear to the heart of the Religious Right are not found in Scripture, which evangelicals consider to be authoritative. There is no mention of abortion in the Bible. No mention of support for the modern state of Israel; in fact the biblical prophets were the harshest critics of ancient Israel, often prophesying its doom because of its mistreatment of the poor and its unfaithfulness to God. There is no mention of capitalism, prayer in public schools, or healthcare in the Bible.

There is a lot of talk about sexuality in the Bible, although little mention of homosexuality. Gleaning a modern Christian sexual ethic from Scripture is problematic. Polygamy was accepted as ethical in the Old Testament, as was sex slavery (such slaves were called concubines). All of the biblical patriarchs had concubines, as did the beloved kings David and Solomon. Establishing a sexual ethic from scripture is very difficult and must be done carefully. If you cherry-pick verses to condemn homosexuality, you better be careful what else you approve – or condemn - by the same method of biblical interpretation.

If sexual ethics were really the issue, evangelicals would be much more concerned with outlawing adultery, heterosexual fornication and divorce – which were explicitly condemned by Jesus (unlike homosexual sex) and much more widespread in American society. Evangelicals’ sexual ethic, like that of most Americans, has evolved … except when it comes to LGBTQ persons.

When it comes to support for Trump, Horowitz’s Dark Agenda helped me to see what I was missing. I had assumed that evangelical Christians were acting and voting from Christian values. But Horowitz makes it clear that the Religious Right has chosen the Right over Religion; they have chosen a social agenda over spiritual values. That is why Horowitz supports them; he is not religious, but he is fiercely Right. All that matters to either of them is the advancement of the conservative social agenda.

It does not matter to evangelicals what Trump says or does, as long as he makes good on his promise to advance their social agenda. The social gospel trumps (pun intended) the spiritual or moral gospel. During his 2016 presidential campaign Trump famously boasted that he could murder someone in public in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and his supporters would still vote for him. I fear he is correct. If he could take one life with impunity, why not more? As Dylan sang, “And how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?” I fear too many.

For evangelicals the end justifies the means, and the means to their end is President Trump. Evangelicals have set aside their Christian values in order to promote their social agenda.  As Horowitz approvingly quotes Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, as saying: “My support for Trump has never been based upon shared values; it is based upon shared concerns.”

Personally I am not willing to compromise my Christian values. It easily leads to the compromise of basic human rights and essential human values. My loyalty is to Christ before country. Jesus is my Lord, not Trump … or any political messiah. Once again the words of Jesus come to mind. “For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” (Matthew 24:24-25) Dark agenda, indeed.