Fed Up With “Thoughts and Prayers”? I’m Glad!

Victor Chininin Buele

We develop these platitudes that mean nothing. Let’s be honest. We want to be nice or to comfort somebody, but we have no clue whatsoever about what we should say or do. It happens. We are fallen humans.

Every time a mass shooting has happened, I observe my friends growing more and more fed up with the standard “thoughts and prayer” response. You may assume that I would say that being fed up with that is wrong. I’m actually quite glad this is happening. But obviously, most likely this is not for the reasons you think. It is not wrong to see another mass shooting and say, “Hey, these ‘thoughts and prayers’ thing is a bill of goods.”

Thoughts. For many years now, Americans have lived this practical theology of wishful thinking, or the power of positive thinking. We have at the White House a representative of this. We’ve started to see the folly of this notion that we can wish things with our thinking. That if we speak positively into our life things will happen. That our words have power to create reality. You can see that because Trump says something is the largest inauguration crowd in history doesn’t change the fact that it wasn’t. We can’t change reality with our thoughts.  Three hundred million people thinking that massive shootings need to stop has not changed the reality that these things keep happening.  Thinking about something is not enough.

Prayers. This is a perfect storm. In our secularist society, it is intellectually suspect to think that God exists. Even if you do think that God exists, it is almost a necessary conclusion to think that he is useless and powerless or bad. Then, when this narrative comes back to the news cycle—people say that they pray, and the shootings keep happening—our suspicions appear to be confirmed. There is no God. Or prayers are useless. What a big effin’ waste of time.

—So, Mr. Theologian Aficionado, what are you trying to get at? That you also believe that God is puny? Are you ready to come to your senses and step into the light, forsaking your dogmatic infancy of believing in God at all?

Not at all.

I would instead ask you, “Can’t you see that we are getting closer and closer to the moment where prayer for national repentance is the only way forward?”

Allow me to explain myself.

There is another possible conclusion here. We are not thinking the right thoughts to prompt us to the right actions through righteous prayer. That would also explain why “thoughts and prayers” have not resulted in an end to mass shootings.

We think too highly of ourselves. An underlying assumption to all the discussion about mass shootings goes around the idea that if there were the right controls and legislation, shootings wouldn’t happen. Cain killed his brother with a very low tech weapon. It’s part of our fallen nature. Jesus said that it is not just murder that is sin, but that which is just as much murder as murder itself—anger. My “losing it” at a poor clerk who has to inform me that a flight has been cancelled is just as sinful as the grabbing of an automated weapon to murder her. Both are reprehensible in the sight of a holy God. We must, therefore, spend our lives working on ways to govern life in this fallen world as to preserve life knowing full well that no matter what degree of deterrents are put in place, we have murderous hearts inside of us. We quarrel and fight, and that in due time arises to murder.  Whether it’s flipping the middle finger at the guy who cut you off (perhaps by accident) or by pushing him off the bridge with your car. This does not mean that we should not pursue deterrents and that we should not have vigorous discussion about what deterrents have the potential to save the most lives. We just can’t leave the discussion at that, thinking that legislation can change the human heart.

We don’t really pray. When people say, “You are in my thoughts and prayers,” most likely they walk away and never pray for you. Why do I say that? Because I’m a judgmental jerk? Not entirely. Because I know my weakness. I have to have lists of things I’m praying for because otherwise I’ll forget about them. I’m a weak human with a weak mind. I need lots of reminders. My prayers are often derailed by the smallest distractions. And that’s for the stuff I’m aware I need to be praying for. I wasn’t praying for Broward County, Florida, yesterday, or the day before, or even when I was working in Ft. Lauderdale several years ago, or when I was driving around the county looking for a wheelchair for my grandmother. I’m not that good of a person. And I’m a finite person.

We have this “I’m in the doghouse, save me,” theology of prayer.  We pray when we are in trouble. We don’t seem to really be much for prayer when things are going well.  A few years ago, our van started shaking up to about 50 mph. I remember that I had never been more aware in my life about the wonder of God allowing such a machine to move one revolution of the tires. I remember the wonder of praying and giving thanks for every rotation of the tires. All of a sudden, every mile was filled with miracles. Were the miracles not there before? I was just foolish to suppress my acknowledgement of them and my thanksgiving for them. When my mechanic fixed it, it didn’t take long for things to go back to the way they were before. Soon enough I wasn’t thanking God for holding this thing together when performing miraculous trips down I-70. We must have a more expansive theology of prayer.

If we don’t get what we want, we conclude that prayer does not workWhat do you want? Do you want people to stop shooting others? I suspect yes. Have you given thanks for the family who welcomed this broken human being who held the gun in this incident? They welcomed this troubled young man after he lost even his mother. Have you considered praying for them? I can’t quite relate to the type of hurt they may be going through right now.  Do you want peace and harmony? Do you want safety? Do you want to be able to send your child to school and not feel like your treasure could be snatched away from you at any moment?

What do you want?

I want people to be convicted of their sin, to repent of it, and to turn to the Lord. We are all murderers, or do you presume to tell me that you have never sinned against anyone in your anger? I once had a terrible manager. This man was worse than the pointed-hair boss from Dilbert. My wife was in terrible pain, and he demanded that I be in his office immediately regardless of the difficult time we were going through. That day I had a clear choice. Would I look at this man and do what my flesh wanted? Would I murder this man in my heart and see my every subsequent day destroyed and tainted by my hatred and the grudges I was holding against him? Or would I pray for this man, as Jesus taught me to do? Would I pray for this man and bless him? Not just say a blessing upon him but actually bless him? Do my best work for him? Treat him with utmost respect? This changed my heart about him over time. I can look at him in the eye now and have no hatred of him. That was not ME, that was the work of God in me. Imagine the implications of national repentance! Imagine if our sad divisions do indeed cease. You are right about something, platitudes, empty thinking, and pretend prayers won’t get us there.  But prayers of repentance, prayers that push aside the sin that has eaten away so much good from our lives, families, homes, neighborhoods, schools, places of business, churches, cities, states…

I want people who seek God’s wisdom and guidance for all of life. What is God’s best for us to discern for how to best protect life this side of eternity? How do we genuinely care for those in the fringes? How do we care for those with depression and anxiety? How do we care for those who return from serving this nation with profound brokenness? How do we care for those struggling with mental illnesses? How do we care for the practical orphans raised in this culture of broken promises and broken families?

I want us to understand that there is a gospel that is more powerful than behavior modification.  If we seek to change our behavior, sooner or later we will crack, and our final lash will be worse than any of the little lashes.  Only the gospel has the power to arrest our mind, our soul, our heart, our lives, and to push us upward through the process.  Have you ever genuinely been in a true Christian community? If God has gifted you with that privilege you will know what I’m talking about.  There is a mingling of souls that could never come together apart from the Spirit of God rescuing them from their filth and binding them together into the image of Christ.

America, we can mourn together. We can grow together. We can understand one another. We can pray together. We can think together.

Think what you ask? “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

I’m glad you’re done with the platitude of “thoughts and prayers.”

Will you repent? Change has to start somewhere.  Let it start with you.

Love Is The Only Way: The Death of Storytelling in the Twenty-First Century

Victor Chininin Buele

My wife and I were invited to a screening of Paul, Apostle of Christ.  I walked away from the movie deeply saddened. There are a ton of thoughts I have about the movie, but the one that is most important is the death of storytelling in the twenty-first century.  With The Fate of the Furious and Toy Story 4 and every possible franchise coming to a similar predicament, I find myself more and more frustrated by movies.  We have lost storytelling.

I would not recommend the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ at all.  It fails to tell the story.  I understand that you have to build screenplays and more “robust” stories to keep an audience’s attention.  I understand that there are 10,000 details that are not present in the pages of scripture.  We don’t know what clothes Paul wore, we don’t know the physical details of the jail where he was, we don’t really know Aquilla and Priscilla.  Pictures were not included.

So, there is a lot of room for the imagination.  And that’s fine.  And understood.  My commentary does not come from that.  Creativity must be exercised when trying to bring a story from the page to the big screen.

My commentary relates to bad storytelling.

What we do know is that Paul died preaching the gospel he once opposed.  Paul died proclaiming the Messiah he had once persecuted.  He died because he believed that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to become a man, to live a perfect life, to die a brutal death, to rise three days later, and to be raised up in glory.  He died because he proclaimed his witness of this message throughout the Ancient World.  He died because his Spirit-given boldness could not be silenced.  He died with a certainty that he had finished the race.  He died without fear of not being accepted by Christ.

The Paul portrayed in this movie was not the man I have admired, respected, hated at times, been instructed by, been convicted by.  The Paul portrayed in this movie was not the Paul that wrote the words that were put at times in the mouth of the actor.  The Paul of this movie dispensed wishy-washy Oprah advice to a suffering people.  The words of the Paul of this movie (or the lack of words) brought about division, anxiety, fear, and death, rather than the comfort and peace that the words of Paul in Scripture bring to us even today.

**SPOILER**
Paul is in prison in the movie, and the Roman prefect in charge of the prison has a daughter.  This girl is dying.  The prefect obeys all the rituals to the gods and goddesses to ensure his girl would live.  He is having marital problems because his wife blames him for their girl’s illness saying he is angering the gods by being a little lenient with Paul and Luke (who in this movie sneaked in the prison to write the Acts of the Apostles from Paul’s stories).  As anyone could predict, eventually the illness gets so bad that the prefect calls for Luke.  Luke comes and the girl is healed.  All the Christians end up praying for the girl.  The girl goes from being dead to being radiant.  So, this gets Paul some time alone with the prefect under the sun.  The Paul of the Bible would have been gracious, humble, and bold to proclaim the gospel to this prefect.  Acts 26 comes to mind and his defense portrayed there before King Agrippa.  The Paul of this movie gave a somewhat decent metaphor about water that I predict will be used in many sermons in the years to come.  Then he said a couple of platitudes.  A sentence of comedy relief.  He said, “I’m not trying to convince you.”  The whole theater laughed.  I don’t think Paul would have laughed at that.  In verse 28, Agrippa asks Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul responds in verse 29, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am–except for these chains.”  Paul was most definitely trying to convince Agrippa.

Sure, you can argue that you don’t want to alienate people who want to watch the movie for entertainment purposes.  You can argue that you are building a bridge.  You can argue a lot of things.  But make up a story for that.  Put the words you want in the mouth of a police officer or a football player or a firefighter.  If you are going to take the life of a man from the pages of Scripture whose life is a manifestation of human weakness magnifying the power of God, tell the story.  Add your art.  Add your music.  Add extra-scriptural details.  But don’t change the character of the man.

Summarizing the theology of Paul as “Love is the only way” falls far short.  While I was thankful for the glimpses of the tragic persecution our forefathers faced and for the reminder of the blood that was spilled to guard the treasure that we now get to buy and carry and read and share freely, the portrayal of Christians as belligerent, vengeful, and defeated left me pondering the consequences of storytelling like this.  People who have never read the Bible and people who may never read the Bible and people who read the Bible can take bits and pieces of this and strengthen what they want to hear instead of sound doctrine.  That would have grieved Paul gravely.  Yes, the story arc of Luke having to overcome the temptation to not seek to heal the daughter of the prefect, even as many brothers and sisters were being thrown to the beasts at the Coliseum, is an important one.  The triumph of love over hate.  The triumph of love over abuse and violence.

But the movie never defined the source of this Love.  Yes, there is 1 Corinthians 13.  But that Love, that Love needs to be defined.  We can’t leave it to the imagination or to whatever feels right to us in the moment

The movie was left with these empty pockets for you to fill in with whatever makes it work for you.  I was really confused to hear pastors speak of the prefect’s conversion.  The prefect never proclaimed Christ as Lord.  He stood by as Paul was killed.  We saw a bit of a happy ending in this life for the prefect and his family, but we weren’t told anything.

They had Paul speak parts of his epistles as he would move through the movie.

We keep doing violence to storytelling when we take our view of the world and our feelings and our agenda into stories from the past.  We need to let stories be the stories they are.  We don’t get to rewrite history.  The subject of the married life of Aquila and Priscilla as portrayed in the picture is highly anachronistic and Scripturally suspect. That can be a conversation for another time.

The biggest disappointment of this movie was that the gospel was never proclaimed.  There is not a letter of Paul that does not proclaim the gospel.  This was clearly a case of bad storytelling.

It was so strange to walk into a movie theater and see you’re being (1) manipulated (constant repetition of “Love is the only way”), and (2) treated as a gullible demographic.  Because actor x is in a movie you all went crazy about years ago, we are sure you’re going to love this movie.  Because it barely touches upon the Bible, we are certain you are all going to come in and hand over your money, bring your friends and all.  People were clapping in the end.  People laughed at the comedy relief thrown sporadically.  People left ready to bring their churches in to watch this.  It’s been released right before Easter so I’m sure many will think this is the next big thing that will bring the world to the gospel.

But when we step back, we find that the most wonderful story, the one that our souls long for, and the only story that makes sense of our existence was never mentioned.

The trailer mentioned this, but it wasn’t in the movie:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15–17 ESV)

Revisiting Presuppositions Always Pays Off

Victor Chininin Buele

Before moving on to the second installment on the series about secularism as religion, we need to pause and revisit my presuppositions.  We often ignore how much we fill in the gaps.  Honest dialog requires careful examination.  After all, the underlying implication of the first installment was that there are gaps, and that these gaps are filled with faith.

A dear friend was gracious to me to comment the following:

A good start to what will surely be a valiant effort. However, you make a huge presupposition that people that don’t believe have an answer for creation. I know that I don’t know how the universe was created. I can read theories and evidentiary points to attempt to draw a conclusion supported by the evidence, but you are absolutely correct that there are gaps in the scientific explanations. Further, it seems that the more evidence we find, the more questions it raises. Human knowledge is like a balloon inside a box; the volume of the balloon represents what we know, the inner layer of latex is where that knowledge is pointing, the outer layer of latex is what we understand as unknown, but the rest of the volume of the box is the unknown. As we add air to the balloon by increasing our collective knowledge, we have more that points to what we don’t know, but what we know that we don’t know also grows. Now, I have no idea if we as a species can ever know everything, but I don’t presuppose to have an answer to anything that I don’t know. This, in my opinion, is the challenge to your stance.

I profoundly appreciate the honesty, candor, and the intelligence of this response.  We must take a moment to be thankful that we can still begin to voice our opinions with an affirmation of the good we see in others.  What a blessing this friend has been to me.  I thank my friend for affirming my efforts.  This examination wouldn’t be happening if he had not taken the time to further the discussion.  In that way, this is different than a book.  I love books, but there is something about riding this wave of iterations in epistemology that are open to us via the dynamic nature of the internet today.

Do People That Don’t Believe Have an Answer for Creation?

“I know that I don’t know how the universe was created.”  This level of honesty is worthy of admiration and imitation.  I must apologize for only addressing at first the ends of the spectrum.  The point of the original article was that I believe that God created the world while many of my humanist/atheist/agnostic/secularist friends believe the world started at the Big Bang and we are the result of Darwinian evolution and Chance.  A couple of friends rightly followed up with comments about what I call the line between science and scientism. A Christian who ignores science needs to go back to read the Bible because Adam was a scientist given the serious task of taxonomy by his Creator (Gen. 2:19).  Adam could have only gotten so far by digging holes with bare hands.  Understanding how the world works and how it can be used to guide us to human flourishing (even as we groan the consequences of the Fall) is a scientific effort (Gen. 1:28).  A Christian can not, by definition, be against science.

But a Christian is also by definition against scientism.  What do I mean by this made up word? I mean the blind faith of the cult of Science as god.  That science has the ultimat answers and is the maximum authority over all things.  While my friend must forgive me for implying that he has an answer for creation (that was painting with broad strokes), there are many fellow human beings out there who ascribe to Science the same attributes of “godness” or deity that are God’s by right.  There is such a dogmatic dualism out there in our world where God and Science are pitted against each other.  My initial point was to show through that sharp contrast that both groups do the same thing–they fill the gaps by faith with something.

After we revisit this fundamental presupposition, though, we still walk away with creation (or the uncertainty of creation as it may be) as a fundamental piece of every person’s worldview.  However we see this, it will have massive impacts to how we see all of life.

Yes, There are Gaps.

This is another area of great excitement to me as I read my friend’s response.  We must be intellectually honest.  Again, I have spent many nights talking with friends who overlook the gaps in their positions.  My point was that when we do that, we take “godness” upon ourselves.  We decide what makes a cogent argument.  We decide what is a gap or not.  Cognitive dissonance is in the air.  We become god.

The More Evidence We Find, The More Questions It Raises

Ultimately, as we fulfill our God-given task to study more and more of the world that was given to us, we have questions.  We face the limits of our finitude. We are not God.  And we can’t explain everything.  We learn something, and it opens another Pandora’s box.  We have to go revisit what we thought was true, we have to go rethink everything.  The Copernican Revolution wouldn’t be a revolution if it didn’t require to shift wrong thinking into right thinking.  We are humans.  When we admit we can be wrong, we are walking towards humility.  When we act as god, pride gets the upper hand.  Hurt is left in the trail.  We hurt those we love.

Epistemology – Is it Possible? Or Is It Just Hot Air?

We keep talking about God in 2018.  Whether you oppose Him and spend your time making arguments for His nonexistence, or whether you proclaim with your mouth and actions that you ignore such a stupid idea, or whether you bow down and worship Him, or whether you say it’s all a Big Elephant and that you are perfectly happy worshiping the trunk while I worship a leg, we keep finding ourselves by our nature still talking about God.  Natural revelation necessitates that we realize that we are not all that there is here.  We are creative beings, not creator beings.  That is, we cannot make something come out of nothing (ex nihilo).  We are always taking something that already exists and we make it something else.

And that’s where epistemology becomes a fascinating point.  Can we know anything?  Can we know everything?  We most definitely can not know everything.  We can, however, know.

What is the Bible but a finite revelation of the Infinite God for finite creatures.  It is a spectacular text that has the writing of the Creator all over it, and if that’s something we would want to discuss, there are just some fascinating things we could talk about (like Reading the Bible in 3D for example).  The point for now is this–both Christianity and science are founded upon the fact of knowability.  We can know.  We must start there.  We don’t have an Ultra HD 4K movie in the pages of the Bible about the Infinite God.  There are gaps.  The only starting point of the first post was to get us started in seeing that this is not something that is exclusively a “religious issue of the Christians,” but that all humans have this tension in epistemology.  We can know, but we can’t know everything.  And thus, every argument is eventually a circular argument (and I would say even to the disagreement of many readers, that every argument takes us to God).  God is the reason for the circularity.  “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).

What Do I Do With the Gap?

That’s a great question. We must deal with the gap somehow.  And that’s what we have mislabeled as religion and have called as the opium of the infirm fueling the sense of superiority.  It’s not that some less sophisticated, or less evolved, creatures need to feel better and make up stuff.  We all deal with the gap.  We are all religious.  Deeply religious.

A friend, wiser than I, has said (edited for brevity):

We still need “seers” — the culture nearly reveres science. So that the definitive answer to any argument is, “Scientists say…” So what’s going on with that? What is a scientist? A person with tools that help them see things that cannot be seen. We trust what science says because we trust that they see what we cannot.
“I also could speak as you do, if you were in my place; I could join words together against you and shake my head at you” (Job 16:4).

At the end of the day, you can walk away unpersuaded.  You can walk away certainly persuaded that Christianity is nonsense.  That’s a great place to start.  But how we fill the gap has massive impacts to how you live your life.  We see this in our daily life now.  People fill the gap with empty promises from a compulsive liar who tapes his ties.  People fill the gap with the promise of freedom from gurus that will happily collect our cash but will not deliver the relief, peace, and comfort that our anxious, fearful hearts long for.

I’m profoundly thankful for this request to examine my presuppositions.  I hope it helps us advance the dialog.  Yes, we can know God.  It may seem like a book full of nonsense at first, and especially since the efforts of many are keeping hungry souls from it.  No, we cannot know everything.  Yes, we can know.  Our hearts cry out for truth.  We see it every day–the lies we’ve been fed that there is no truth keep going down the drain.  They told us that morality was relative.  Well, Donald has had a way to show us that when things get really bad, there is no relativism in morality.  They told us that we are fundamentally good and that we excel at all what we do, and we turn around and find that our heroes are no better than us–rampant sexual depravity and oppression of the weak.  I also “don’t presuppose,” like my friend, “to have an answer to anything that I don’t know.”

And because of that, he is in not far from the path to the humility shown in Philippians 2.

I fail to see the challenge in his comment.  There is no challenge.  An apology for painting with broad strokes, yes.  But no challenge.

Thank you for your grace.

The Religion of Secularism: Towards a Better Understanding of Ourselves

Victor Chininin Buele

One of the most common assumptions behind nearly every argument being made today is the idea that secularism is free of religion and that its arguments are rational (if not the definition of true rational thought) and thus devoid of metaphysical assumptions and blind spots.

Allow me to illustrate: If a person says that abortion on demand should not be permitted, that is immediately considered a religious and metaphysical argument in our public square. If a person says that a woman has a fundamental right to choose abortion on demand, that is not considered to be a religious argument.  It is accepted even in the academic world to be a rational argument.

Since a rational argument is clearly considered to be superior to a religious argument in our public square, this assumption ought to be carefully considered and probed.

I don’t write this to argue.  I write it because I want everyone to have joy.

My thesis is that all arguments are religious: that everyone has an authoritative, divine, inspired source for right and wrong; that everyone is a theologian; that everyone worships; and that everyone believes a gospel that he is passionate to proclaim to a lost world in desperate need for light.

All our stories are a flavor of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. And all arguments are circular–they do and must reference the higher authority ruling our thinking.

I keep finding that in many conversations, my challenges to this prevalent assumption keep causing unbelief to my beloved atheist, humanist, agnostic, secular friends.  When I say or infer that they are just as religious as I am, my statement is often considered to be nonsensical.

“I don’t believe in God, I believe in Science” is Esqueleto’s response to Nacho’s call to baptism in the highly sophisticated film Nacho Libre.  Since one post would never get us close to reaching our goal, this will be a series of posts where we discuss:

  • The Christian and Secular Account of Creation
  • The Christian and Secular Concept of Sin
  • The Christian and Secular View of Redemption
  • The Christian and Secular Gospel of Restoration
  • The Christian and Secular Understanding of Choice
  • The Christian and Secular Call to Repentance
  • The Christian and Secular Desire for Reconciliation
  • The Christian and Secular Future

Allow me to explain myself.

In arguing that secularism is a religion, my goal is very simple.  Allow me to quote from An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, Virginia, 1777:

That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,

And,

And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them: […] that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.

I believe it is essential that you understand that you are a worshiper, not only because that will be miles closer to a place of understanding your need for Jesus (which is my ultimate goal), but in a selfish way (for you), it will help you to actually get on the path towards becoming the rational person you are already convinced that you are.

For both of us, it will help us to truly enjoy, celebrate, and practice religious freedom as we finally stop snubbing each other’s arguments and engage in serious, truly equal discussion in the public square for the good of all rather than just for seeking our own interests.

I choose to be transparent.  I want you to see Jesus. But that shouldn’t keep you from reading on. Please, don’t let it keep you from reading on.  And I welcome all the discussion necessary to refine the arguments brought forth.  Do not write me off as being “unworthy [of] the public confidence.”

Creation

I am often mocked for believing that God created the World in six days and rested on the seventh day.  I am often mocked for believing what the Bible tells me.  I have read countless books on every position on creation: biblical and unbiblical, old earth and young earth, scientific-sounding and propaganda-sounding. My point in bringing this up is this: I believe that God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) created the world and all that is in it ex nihilo (out of nothing).  I believe that because of the testimony of the Bible (and we can write another post about why the Bible is a trustworthy text), the testimony of natural revelation, and because of the conviction given to me by the Holy Spirit.  Faith and reason intersected.  Biological evidence and metaphysics.  Scientific observation and theological rigor.  This is not a position I have just swallowed whole without an ounce of thinking.  If you have questions about how a Christian could believe this, I would invite you to consider the work of Dr. Vern Poythress, a mathematician and a theologian with degrees from California Institute of Technology, Harvard, Westminster, the University of Cambridge and others.  I would recommend to you specifically (all free to download): Redeeming Science and Chance and the Sovereignty of God. Both of these works do a far better job than I ever will showing the serious, rigorous academic work of a scholar.

You can totally disagree with what I have said in the previous paragraph.  That’s the whole point of this.  But I don’t want you to walk away thinking that your creation story is superior to mine on the grounds of being the only explanation that is completely rational and admissible in the public square.  It is not.  There are gaps.  I can write about that some other time, and Dr. Stephen Meyer does a far better job than I ever will addressing the Cambrian explosion in his work Darwin’s Doubt.  I have considered these gaps seriously.  I am a thinker and a scientist.  Every Christian is called to good science.  We are to be good stewards and rulers of a beautiful world.  There are things for which a purely naturalistic evolutionary perspective cannot account.  Often the answer is, “Not yet.”  And that’s fine.  You can have that opinion.  You can bank on technology.  But let’s be honest and call it what it is, “By faith you choose to believe.” You are placing your faith in natural evolution or a subset of scientific principles that are cataloged under the word “evolution.”  While many of my friends are distinguished scientists, what I find most frustrating is the number of evolution-defenders who have not even read Darwin’s work themselves. Ultimately I don’t want anyone to parrot what others say.  The same feeling you have when you feel that I’m parroting whatever I’ve been told by “religious leaders” I feel when you parrot whatever you’ve been told.

I want us to move beyond indoctrination.  We both believe an account of how the world came to be.  We believe so by faith.  We hold the canon of the works that prove our point to be sacred and unquestionable.  We look past the gaps in faith.

And this is just the start of our worldview.  Everything hinges upon that.

Ora et Labora

Victor Chininin Buele

It’s Monday.

I know I had a very difficult time getting into the office today.  Work awaited.

But that Outlook calendar unmercifully showed a 7:45 meeting.  There was no way out.

It’s time to work.

We often struggle with the “case of the Mondays” showing that we get our theology of work more from Office Space than we do from the Word.

There is one way we can proactively change our attitude towards work.  Pray. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

If we allow a pursuit of God’s presence to drive our approach to work, it will radically change everything.  It no longer is a 7:45 meeting on Monday morning that you dread, but it becomes an opportunity to pray for all the people in that conference call.  It becomes an opportunity to ask meaningful questions about their lives, their hopes, their dreams.  It becomes an opportunity to get to know people better so that we can intercede for them and ask the Lord to develop bridges and relationships towards the privilege of sharing the gospel with them.

Pursuing a greater awareness of God’s presence in our work is one way we come out of dark oppression, like the man in Mark 5.  We have been freed, so we now get the joy of obeying the Lord Jesus in His command to ““Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

It will no longer be a repetitive task.  A sandwich will be infused with prayers for God to show His wonderful power, grace, love, and salvation to a customer.  Every pickle, every burger, every slice of cheese can be infused with a prayer.  We will no longer look like better servants to our customers, but we will be better servants of our Lord, genuinely caring for His glory and renown.

It will no longer be about debugging boring code.  Every line is an opportunity to make things right, to better image a Wonderful Creator.

It will no longer be about answering emails or phone calls.  Every interaction will be an opportunity to bring before the Lord real issues, real problems, real emergencies.  And every interaction will be a challenge to us to lift up our requests to our Good Father and wait. And watch Him deliver better than we dare to ask or imagine.

There can never be a case of the Mondays when we are about our Father’s business.

Let us work and pray.  Let us pray for the Lord to captivate our vocational passion for a passion for His glory and the beauty of His mission to us.  Until every tongue confesses. And then forevermore.

Judging Donald Trump

Victor Chininin Buele

I love you, dear reader, too much to just sit by and watch.

President Trump allegedly said a very nasty thing about human beings from Africa and Haiti, perhaps others. My family has connections to work kingdom work there, and needless to say, we love the people of the African continent and the people of Haiti very much.

I have been noticing a trend in social media.
1. President allegedly says or does something obviously wrong, immoral, racist, or at the very least, questionable and demeaning of the office of the President of the United States.
2. Public outrage follows.
3. Those who didn’t vote for him and some who did (because I care about labels and caricatures, and I don’t want to say “liberals”) would turn on “the others” and require a retraction of some sort or a comment. An acknowledgment of “I told you so” is required.

There is another trend I addressed in here after the famous Access Hollywood tapes episode.
1. I do x. I like x. I feel x. I <whatever> X
2. x is anything that was a common moral standard in the overall culture but no longer is
3. Person a looked at me funny, or disagreed with me, or perhaps indeed sinned against me, I turn around and say, “Jesus said, ‘Judge not!”

So I want to spend a moment not typing again that word which the President allegedly used, but because I love you, I want to help you see what is happening.

You are starting to understand that Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t judge,” in Matthew 7. Don’t waste it.

We all know the cycle. And this is, in the interest of clarity, not a defense of Donald Trump.

I am an immigrant. And a Christian. My Lord was an immigrant. If the President said this, it is obviously morally wrong and heartbreaking. The cycle is the same–our friends at CNN look like they are about to have a heart attack in the air, Trump writes a non-denying denial on Twitter, talking heads talk some more, and by the end of the day something even more outrageous happens. Back to square one.

You were created in the image of God. God is a judge. So are we.
God has shown to reveal Himself to us, in part, as His Law. This Law teaches the way things should go, but it also proves itself ultimately impossible to fulfill on our own. That’s why the charges of the stereotypical hypocrite Christian and the pedophile priest stick. Because we are sinners. Rotten sinners.
We are all lawyers. We put in these very complicated cases to defend our actions even when no one is asking for an explanation. We also out in these very complicated cases to justify the goodness of our actions even as we feel ultimately dissatisfied with the explanations. Five bullet points to prove I’m right. A straw man argument on the other side I can easily defeat.

So, you and I have been judging Donald Trump.

Let’s let that take its full weight.

Matthew 7
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.
2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV)

This text is about YOU. You are not to judge until you judge yourself rightly. You judge, and with the same judgment stick you will be measured.

I proved just yesterday to be no better than Donald Trump. Before I can look at the speck in his eye, I must do all I can to remove the gigantic log in my own eye. If that poor lady at the airport counter had a public display of my sinful rage for being inconvenienced…

Have you removed the log in your eye?

Until you do, don’t judge.
Go remove it.
Then, please, judge. We need you to judge. I saw this sign that said our freedom was in peril, and we must do all we can to protect it. I couldn’t agree more. I want you to have eternal joy, and for that I write.

But you can’t remove it on your own, and for that you need Jesus. The real thing. Not the made up one that you sketch from the GOP’s current platform or from that bad experience you had with a someone who called himself a Christian.

You may notice I have used the word allegedly. There is a chance that Trump didn’t say it. A slim one I think, but a chance nonetheless.

Why do we spend all this time judging Donald Trump about an allegation but not spend the time killing the filth in our own hearts first? We will then, rightly reconciled with God and neighbor, to be of much greater impact to the kingdom and the world.

There is somebody, somewhere you feel the same way about as what this comment is portrayed to say. Repent of it. Turn to Jesus and live.

Therefore, all my responses to whatever Trump says or does will always be the same:
You have judged.
Have you judged rightly?
Is all well with your soul?
OK! Now, brother or sister, let’s act and pray about the president’s actions.

Trust me, something changes when you finally see this rightly: you are just as Donald Trump is. He is just a caricature of our national sins. And Jesus is better than somebody who drops in to agree with you.

Donald Trump and the Salvation of the World

Victor Chininin Buele

This is not a pro-Trump article. I’m not a fan. This is not a “Trump is our Savior” article either.

I cannot properly describe 2017. It has been an emotional rollercoaster. To put it mildly.

But I can describe my excitement at seeing the world move forward in a number of very important and massive ways. A simple perusal of a year-end magazine retelling the headlines could, in your eyes, prove this excitement quite wrong. But bear with me.

Relative arguments are not so relative after all. For years, we have been indoctrinated and indoctrinating the world on the “fact” that there is no truth. Well, except the truth that there is no truth, if you follow that rabbit hole down its crazy path. For years, we have been saying that there is no normative standard of what is right and wrong. And then, Donald Trump comes into the picture and shows us all to have never been relativists at all. I have heard no one say credibly, “Donald Trump is right for them.” “Donald Trump’s actions are acceptable to him.” “Donald Trump’s ideas are true to them.” All arguments have been absolute.  The headlines speak loud and clear.

This is an apple, not a banana.  CNN has spent a significant amount of air time assuring us that facts matter. Thank you. Sincerely. I’ve been trying to do that for years. Facts matter. They have an ad that shows us an apple on the screen and tells us the ways people will try to persuade us that it is in reality a banana. (They even say banana in a very Trumpesque voice). Yet they’ll turn and righty honor as the Hero of the Year a wonderful person who works with those with Down syndrome.  The first line in CNN’s story? “‘My children are not broken,’ Amy Wright insists.” This is straight from the CNN site even as they in parallel radically voice opposition to legislation protecting the unborn with Down syndrome. Thanks to Donald Trump, people are now all of a sudden concerned about fact checking, even though they can’t quite always see their own redefinitions of facts.

We worship sex. It took an incredible amount of filth for people to start taking sexual abuse seriously. When a society makes sex its idol and defines the core of a human being’s identity the way sexuality is practiced, the metaphysical power of the sexual union is vilified and when that is lost, as it has in 21st century America, the beauty, wonder, and blessing of sex is tragically lost.  Thank you, Mr. President, for clearly highlighting to the world that the powerful have always abused the weak. So-called locker room talk included. Jesus said that all lewd locker room talk is adultery and worse even if it didn’t become physical abuse. I may be paraphrasing.

We seem to care about life after all.  We are now seeing the practical effects of Roe v. Wade. For decades now we have cheapened human life, and we have sold congressional seats, senate seats, even the presidency, to normalize, magnify, and exalt our national act of human sacrifice to the god of sex. If we are saying every day that a little girl is not a human being at all, why are we surprised when a grown woman is treated as a disposable artifact of personal use by the rich and powerful? We daily condone and affirm the less famous Matt Lauers who drop off their former objects of pleasure with a few hundred bucks to “get it taken care of.”

The love of money is the root of all evil.  We have seen a lot–cabinet secretaries abusing their power by using taxpayer money for what looked like extravagant trips, millions of taxpayer dollars used to secure the Winter White House and pay rent at Trump Tower for the Secret Service.  But if you are honest, aren’t you thankful that it’s at least clear now that money is indeed the root of all evil? The love of money is the appropriate label for things like not being transparent when it comes to taxes, the stretching of US law to maximize profit, the giving of what appears to many to be tax breaks only to the rich while eventually betraying the poor. It’s greed. The thing you hate in Trump is greed. And you hate it because you see its seedlings inside your own heart. Secretly perhaps you long to hear Trump say to you, “You all just got a lot richer.”

Humility wins every time.  Aren’t you a little Donald Trump as well?  Perhaps more cleaned up and respectable in the eyes of others. But don’t you see in you the same things you hate in him?  After all, in part that’s what got him elected. Don’t you love to “one up” people at parties? Don’t you embellish stories? Don’t you #humblebrag your life every time it’s possible? Don’t you loudly boast of your accomplishments to others? I’m convinced that the reason Trump’s ego and pride hit you so hard in the gut is because you know deep inside that you long for the humility of Jesus. And this is as far from that as you have ever imagined.

Bid Thou Our Sad Divisions Cease. For years, I have been on the receiving and the giving end of inequality. I became a US citizen just this year after a long story that included 15 days as an official undocumented immigrant thanks to the laziness of a lawyer and a very overwhelmed government system. I have been humiliated in interviews where I was assumed guilty of immigration fraud even though I have followed the law at every step of the way. I have also seen a generation of white Americans struggle with my mere presence and apparent success in this land. It hasn’t been pretty. But because of that ridiculous idea of the big, big wall, we at least are talking about it now. We weren’t before. For years, politicians hid the immigration challenges because it was politically and economically advantageous to ignore the problem. The dreamers didn’t become an issue during the Obama administration. This was brewing for a while. And we refused to listen. We are guilty, too.

We can’t keep riding on borrowed capital forever.  Of course I am not a proponent of the “America is a Christian nation” theology, but a significant bit of our public law and practice did originate with natural law and Christian theology (what has been called Judeo-Christian values) — in the embodiment of the joy of Christians by the power of the Holy Spirit into cultural artifacts, widespread blessing, lasting institutions, and orderly structures.  The appointment of insanity into such institutions and the ways that these systems have been tricked and abused has been another way in which President Trump has shown to us that the day of reckoning is going to come soon.  These cultural artifacts and governmental structures can’t really exist without the joy of Christ actually being present behind them.  If you don’t believe it, just wait until the victories that you think you have won are turned on you one day.  The oppressed always have a great temptation to become the oppressors of tomorrow.

So, we have much to be thankful for in this age of disarray.  Economically it may result in a massive success, “so much winning,” or it can be the biggest disaster yet, compounding our already dire and declining economy and society with crazy decisions and legislation. If the CBO estimates are right (which they often aren’t), we are in for quite a ride in 2018.  It could be worse than the estimates assume. It could be better.

Sure, the man Donald Trump is quite something.

But aren’t you as well?

The main question is, will you turn? Will you turn away from your sin and trust in Christ? Will you be in him? Will you receive the one who humbled himself to enter this earth to save you?

Surrender.  The best is yet to come.

Cristo Ya Viene

Victor Chininin Buele

Yo crecí respirando política. Me fascina. No soy un politólogo profesional ni doctor en ciencias políticas. Pero algo muy profundo y nostálgico me sobrecoge cuando recuerdo esas notas re-si-si-si-do-si-la de las cuñas de la Izquierda Democrática.  Aprendí a leer muy temprano y los amigos de campaña de mi papá no creían que yo podía leer las pancartas y lo que los periódicos decían acerca de Rodrigo, nuestro amigo, el pueblo está contigo.

La verdad es que para un niño de menos de cinco años recorriendo las polvorientas carreteras de la vieja república en buses con alto olor a diesel o batallando contra el mareo en carros prestados a los amigos de mi papá, una cosa era muy clara: una vez que Rodrigo gane, nuestra vida cambiará.

Todos somos políticos.  O como yo prefiero decirlo, todos somos teólogos.

Mi padre es un político excelente, nunca ve el lado negativo de la vida y es un trabajador incansable.  Yo honestamente creo que él puede hacer ganar a cualquiera, aunque no tenga ninguna experiencia, y algunitos cuyos nombres el honor no permite que comparta en público lo saben muy bien.  No es una broma decir que mi esposa y mi madre tienen terror a las palabras Chininín Presidente porque ellas saben muy bien que mi padre lo puede hacer una realidad y que el linchamiento mediático estaría listo contra este vendepatrias, gringo wannabe, pastor cristiano, y eso solamente para empezar.  Quién sabe qué se inventarían para no dejar trabajar.

Rodrigo.  Rodrigo no hizo nada por nosotros.  Excepto permitir una de las vergüenzas y desilusiones más grandes de mi niñez.  Una revisión de Diario El Siglo de aquellos tiempos les puede decir a qué me refiero. La verdad es que como muchos de quienes trabajan más duro en las campañas probablemente los del grupo de los dirigentes nunca pusieron el nombre de mi papi en las famosas ternas.  Rodrigo quizá nunca supo quién era mi padre.  Pues si él en verdad hubiera conocido al hombre… Pero la verdad es que aunque supiera quien fue, nosotros nunca íbamos a comprar nada.

Esa es la patria del pasado.  Pero también la de hoy.

Es por esto que nunca he protestado contra la Revolución Ciudadana de Rafael Correa a pesar de tener serias y profundas divergencias con su ideología y política.  No lo he hecho por tener miedo sino porque solamente Correa con su personalidad fuerte pudo hacer muchas de las cosas que los cobardes del pasado no pudieron.  Mi coronel Gutiérrez también fue un Cristo para mi país.  Tal como Rodrigo lo fue para mi.  Yo pensé que un hombre recto, un militar, sin ninguna experiencia política en la podredumbre de aquel socialcristianismo fingido podría darnos esperanza.  Pero lo que muchos no dicen es que más allá de los memes que hacen de él, Lucio verdaderamente intentó gobernar sin la partidocracia.  Pero se dio cuenta que sus tentáculos eran tan poderosos que solamente León podía dar las órdenes para que se abrieran.

La verdad es, Ecuador es ingobernable sin los tentáculos de la partidocracia.

Pero el Mashi lo hizo.

Y ese es su lugar en la historia ecuatoriana.  Me saco el sombrero.  Batalló contra la ineficiencia, la falta de desarrollo, las trabas a todo, la burocracia, la partidocracia, la oligarquía.

Pero, como su hasta-hace-poco fiel compañero de batalla dijo un día, no pudo ganar el corazón de los ecuatorianos.  No pudo cambiar nuestra manera de ser.

El Mashi ya viene ha sido el tono de las últimas semanas.

Ha vuelto el Mashi.

Lo siento profundamente por su familia.  Lo siento profundamente por su salud y su felicidad.  Rafael Correa no vuelve a Ecuador como el Cristo en Domingo de Ramos.  Rafael Correa vuelve a Ecuador a enfrentar un monstruo.  Y a enfrentarse a sí mismo.

Para nosotros, la gentecita común y corriente, no es fácil discernir quién nos está mintiendo:

Puede ser que Vidrio sea Glas, un hábil corrupto, mentiroso y ladrón que utiliza el legado de Rafael Correa para manipular a las masas haciéndonos creer que es inocente.  Un hombre que utilizó los sectores estratégicos para estratégicamente llenar sus bolsillos.

O

Puede ser que Glas sea en verdad un hombre de cultura intachable, un caballero, el único en la historia que ha enfrentado a la justicia con confianza fiel en la veracidad y la honestidad.  Un hombre que sirvió a su patria y manejó los sectores estratégicos para darle la espalda a la vieja república.

Puede ser que Lenín sea el más vil traidor, doble cara, el Caballo de Troya de León que aun gobierna desde la tumba.  Puede ser que Lenín sea ese Judas que besó y traicionó a su señor a cambio de unas miserables monedas que no tienen valor eterno.  Puede ser que él no se haya dado cuenta que es el próximo Lucio, quien no se dio cuenta que para los de la partidocracia el presidente no es más que el papel higiénico con el cual deshechan sus desperdicios.

O

Puede ser que Lenín sea el más valeroso soldado contra la corrupción que ama profundamente al país y que no quiere que seamos borregos siguiendo ciegamente a un concepto mítico de una revolución que parece ha hecho todo a medias y al apuro.

Pero la verdad es que un pobre don nadie como yo nunca sabrá la verdad.

Pero yo si sé esto:

  • Somos traidores.  De los más viles.  ¿O acaso ninguno de ustedes no le ha traicionado a su pana de toda la vida para ganarse a la chica o el puestito?
  • Rafael Correa no es Cristo.  Rafael ha vuelto.  Debemos orar por él, por su familia, por su protección, por su salud, por su libertad, por su vida.  Pero Cristo ya viene.
  • Por más que Rafael haya transformado al Ecuador, él no es el Mesías.  No podemos confundir a un hombre que ha dado todo por nuestra nación por Aquél que dio todo para que una persona tan corrupta como yo, un traidor tan vil y mentiroso como yo pueda tener vida eterna.
  • Todos somos corruptos.  Hacemos lo que no debemos.  No hacemos lo que debemos.  Todos somos ladrones y mentirosos.  ¿O no se han comido un pedacito de algo que no es suyo o no se han llevado algo que era de alguien más?
  • El juicio a Jorge Glas debe hacernos temblar de miedo.  Si Glas ha sido honesto su futuro es brillante por toda la eternidad.  Pero si no, su juicio nos recuerda que el día ya viene cuando Cristo como justo juez nos mostrará nuestra culpabilidad, no solamente la de esos.

Y solamente la justicia de Cristo, su santidad y honestidad prevalecerán.  No hay nada, absolutamente nada que pueda justificarnos.  Puentes, carreteras, sectores estratégicos, honestidad, obediencia a la justicia, sacrificios económicos, familia, lucha contra la corrupción.  Nada de eso servirá.

Correa nos ha recordado desde aquél lugarcito en Bélgica que “todo lo desleal y mediocre será efímero” y en eso él tiene toda la razón.  Sea quien sea que sea el mentiroso en este juego de política, Dios es juez y Él no se puede comprar.

Mientras tanto, Él protege a nuestro país y a nuestras almas.

Y nos llama.

“Ven”

Ven. traidor, ven a Mi y ten vida.
Ven, mentiroso, ven a Mi y ten vida.
Ven, ladrón, ven a Mi y ten vida.
Ven, asesino, ven a Mi y ten vida.
Ven, adúltero, ven a Mi y ten vida.
Ven, corrupto, ven a Mi y ten vida.

Porque sabemos que en ese momento en el que la pantalla está apagada, las luces están apagadas, los de la fiesta del barrio ya se durmieron, y los gallos aun no cantan… sabemos que nosotros somos el peor ejemplo de esas cosas.  Necesitamos salvación.

Y la verdad es:

¡Cristo ya viene!

You’re Gonna Hear Me Roar: A Plea for a Hymnody to Open Eyes

Victor Chininin Buele

Every Sunday morning, I scan through the local radio stations on my way to church.  Sometimes, it’s oldies that catch me; sometimes it’s our Mexican radio station; other times it’s NPR; most often it’s random stuff, even boy bands from the 90’s.  If you know me at all, you would know I have a bit of an aversion for the Christian radio stations and you would also know why and why I’m trying to actually listen to them from time to time.  Suffice it to say that part of it is because I often need only two or three chords to realize I am listening to the Christian radio station.  And yes, it’s stereotypical, and it paints with a very broad brush the efforts of Christian men and women throughout the world to reach the world, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.  That will be for another time.

Last Sunday morning, a song came up twice:

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am the champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!

I realized why I was so attracted to the song.  This was a hymn.  A very religious song.  A song very much like the ones I was driving to go play to lead the congregation of the saints to sing.  This post is not about or against feminism or women’s rights or anything remotely close to that.  That may be another time.

And immediately my heart broke.  I could picture a girl, driving away on a Sunday morning, getting on the same interstate on which I was driving.  But she would be leaving a strange bed, perhaps not even a decent bed, broken and betrayed, once again empty and without the affirmation and the affection she craved for the night before.  Or the months before.

I could picture a girl, desperate and afraid, ashamed of what’s to come.  I could picture another girl, determined to make it to the top and fully persuaded that she was making the right choice.  I could picture them both on a different day driving to our local Planed Parenthood.

I could picture these girls listening to this song.  I could see this song’s power to pump them up, to affirm their choices, to transcend their circumstances, and to tell them that they are the roaring champion.

We are all broken.

I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

This is the line.  It’s not the hook.  This is the line.

Where were we, Christian musicians?
Where were we, when this poor broken woman was led to realize that she stood for nothing and fell for everything?
Where were we, that we were not able to minister to this poor woman, pushed to the breaking point?
Where were we, to give aid to this woman, held down for a long time?
Where were we, that we missed the moment when she was brought to her knees and realized she’s had enough, enough of the nonsense?
Where were we, to tell her a different story?  Don’t we know the true Champion?
Where were we, to point her to the Maker of the thunder?  To the Avenger and Protector of the tired and broken?
Where were we, to point her to true freedom that transcends floating like a butterfly because of the stripes of a Savior who died so that she wouldn’t have to deal with the heartache and pain of attempting to be her own hero?
Where were we, like C. S. Lewis, to give her the story of the Roaring Lion?

The Lord Jesus spoke to Paul, and we have the account of that in Acts 26:12-ff.  Pay close attention to verses 17-18.  Jim Wilson makes the point in his excellent book Taking Men Alive: Evangelism on the Front Lines that Jesus told Paul that he must do three things: 1) open their eyes, 2) turn them from darkness to light, and 3) turn them from the power of Satan to God.   He gives the analogy of a dark room where a person is with her eyes closed.  She cannot see.  What happens if you turn the light on? Nothing! Because “light does not cause sight.”  What if she opens her eyes while the light is still off?  “Open eyes do not cause sight, either.”  “When we have our eyes closed, we naturally want darkness.  But if we are in a dark room with our eyes wide open, we long for light.  Closed eyes want darkness.  Open eyes want light.  Open eyes are hungry for light” (p.13, ff)

Why are we not writing a hymnody to open eyes?

Listen, there is a ton of explicitly Christian music for us to use on a Sunday morning service.  Too much, perhaps.  Only a fraction of the songs that are produced today will endure the test of time.  Just because we have a guitar or a piano and thirty minutes on a Saturday, that doesn’t create the next In Christ Alone.  What are we using our talent and resources to produce?

Don’t you see?  Katy Perry would not make a dime unless there were broken women who opened their eyes in a dark room.  They are hungry for light.  And instead of Light they are given cheap fireworks that will last only but a second and will not even give that good of a bang.

The opportunity is there, will we be content writing average or even below-average songs that will do nothing but pad our ego?  Most likely, you are not Beethoven, Stuart Townend, Bob Kauflin, Mozart, or Taylor Swift or her cowriters.  But know this, the opportunity is there, and we are missing the jeep to take us on the safari to see the Great Lion, who as that wise man once said, isn’t safe, but He is good.  “He is the King, I tell you.”

Let’s Face It. We Are All Afraid.

Victor Chininin Buele

Let’s face it.  We are all afraid.
Scared.
Terrified.
To different degrees.  In different ways.  About different things.
Will we be forever afraid?  Will we let people profit from our fears–economically or politically?

The honorable senator from Vermont and hero of many in our United States just subjected a nominee to a deputy government office to a religious test.  And I feel the weight of what just happened.  And I believe that the reaction that is expected of someone like me is absolute silence.  Either that or conversion.

It can cost too much–trashing my reputation, the loss of employment, unnecessary disagreements, misunderstandings, hurt feelings.

But I fear this one the most: That people won’t actually think about what just happened because emotions and overgeneralizations satisfy our pre-existing bias.  Please don’t stop reading.  You can call me whatever name you want by the end of this article.  I welcome that.  But our love for our neighbors demands that we be serious about this.  I am your neighbor.  I may be your friend.  And I write because I love you.

Silence does two things: (1) silence concedes the point, i.e., that religious tests are valid, and (2) that a Christian can’t and shouldn’t share the good news of Jesus’s gospel, something that is to be heralded — the best news we can give anyone.  News requires an open mouth.  Not a closed one.

Let’s clear the cloud before we begin.  This whole idea of the president’s travel ban has most of us in this country concerned.  These executive orders can certainly be interpreted as a ban that excludes people who are Muslims in a disproportionate way to others.  I can’t obviously comment on whether that is the intent of it or not, since my name is not Donald J. Trump, but we wouldn’t be talking about that if it didn’t quack like a duck.  The argument made in the public square and in the courts has been a simple one–no person should be subjected to a religious test to enter these United States.

Exactly.  And I affirm that.

Stepping into somebody else’s world always demands at minimum a momentary suspension of belief in our ruling assumptions.  I know it’s scary.  And we can’t always do it wholeheartedly.  It’s scary to go down the thinking path of people you disagree with. It’s a running joke that people may not really be able to tell what I believe in by looking at my library because there are just as many works on what I believe as on what I don’t believe.  It is just good epistemology to know both sides of a story.  It is good reasoning not to fight only with straw opponents but to truly get to know your neighbor and their thinking.  It’s all part of that Golden Rule that people like to quote, secularist or not.

The nominee had written something that the distinguished senator did not like.  That should be totally fine.  This country affords its citizens free speech.

It is also perfectly fine for the senator to disagree with that statement.  The senator has the right to think his own mind.

Tolerance means they both get to sit in the same room in Congress.  Both of them get to serve the people of these United States.  One asking questions and the other trying to answer them.  That’s a beautiful thing.  I love that about our country.  Don’t you?

But that’s where the wheels came off the bus.  It seemed like the only valid answer that the senator would accept is, “I don’t know what I was thinking, senator, I must have been insane.  I recant that statement.  Nobody stands condemned.  Ever.  Anywhere.  Let’s scrap the word condemnation from the dictionary.”  Perhaps that’s too much. But you get the point.

Here is the thing.  I believe what this man believes.

And I love Muslims.  A LOT.  Words fail me to describe the depth of my affections to you.

It is certainly possible, regardless of what you may have been told, to love a Muslim and to believe that their theology is deficient.  To love a Muslim and agonize with every fiber of your being for them to come to know Jesus and finally know love and peace.  Forever.  Joy everlasting.

And let’s face it.  You may believe my theology is deficient.  The senator most definitely believes my theology is deficient.

God has made my life cross paths with a very lovable Muslim.  He is so intelligent and creative, brilliant, hard-working, lovable and loving, generous and compassionate, the kind of guy you would want to be your next door neighbor.  When he was in the hospital, people traveled from afar and many, many people stormed that hospital with manifestations of affection and care.  When I come visit, he overflows the table with abundant generosity of delicious foods.  He loves my children.  My children love him and really enjoy when he plays with them and holds them.  No matter how fast I think I am in order to pay the check for our food, it is always paid for by the time I get to it.  I love this man.  My family loves this man.  We earnestly desire God’s best for him.  I love that he is a man of conviction, even though I disagree with the contents of such a conviction.  He is a man that stands for something.  I not only respect that but thank God every day for making our paths cross.  This is NOT Islamophobia.

The fact that I need to justify myself should speak volumes of the horrible cultural climate we have all created today.

I was highly amazed by the degree of respect and composure and submission shown by the nominee when facing the senator’s questions.  His last attempt to answer the question went like this, “Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals.”  He was not allowed to finish.  I think he was trying to make the following argument before he was interrupted:

All individuals are made in the image of God
As bearers of the image of God, ALL people are worthy of dignity and respect
REGARDLESS of whether you are a secularist, a Muslim, a Christian
Christians love and respect ALL individuals regardless of their beliefs
Yet, Christians agonize for their neighbors who don’t believe in Jesus

Because if we are right, our neighbors are perishing.  Every day closer and closer to eternal condemnation.

You may not like that, but we would do anything to keep you from facing that future. Love demands we do the most loving thing for you.  To share with you the gift of eternal joy.

Even the notable atheist and gifted man Penn Jillette says, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” as he refuses to hear this himself.  But he acknowledges that for a Christian not to share the message is inconsistent with the storyline of Christianity.

Christianity is exclusive.  There is only one way to God through Jesus Christ.  Period.

So is Islam.  There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is God’s prophet.

So is Secularism.  If you don’t think the way the senator likes, then in the words of the respectable senator, you are not respectful of others, or worse, you are “really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”

Those are all exclusive beliefs.  

But only one thing can break the barrier–true love.

Christianity is all about love.  You may have been told otherwise by proponents of modern-day ideologies.  God is a Trinitarian being–in perfect community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from before all time until now and on to eternity.  A perfect fellowship of loving beings who are Love that overflows in the creation of all things.

The Christian, as I have argued in other places, will always, as an overflow of this Trinitarian love, both welcome the Muslim neighbor and be called to go to the Muslim world.  We do have the only news that will bring everlasting joy to them after all.  And this is a scary thing to do.  But it is done out of love.  A Christian does not fear a Muslim.

America is all supposed to be about tolerance and respect.  Neighbors living together for the common good.  Not shoving their beliefs down each other’s throats.  A Christian can’t convert anyone.  We don’t seek the “Godification” of the U.S. legal code.  We can’t make anyone listen. Christianity is not arrogant.  But it is exclusive.  And that is not a contradiction.

You think I’m wrong.  Great! Let’s talk about it.
I think you are wrong.  Let me grill you a steak.  We don’t even have to talk about it.
When somebody you love dies, I will be by your side.
When somebody uses a vehicle to run over our neighbors going to work, I will stand by your side.
As you face the consequences of your actions, I will bring you encouragement.
As you see me lose my livelihood for standing up for others, I pray you are there with me.
As others try to force me to believe in things I don’t, I pray you speak up for me.
As I stand for the life of the unborn, even if you hate what I do, I pray you understand my love for those children and their mothers.

We are all worshipers: the senator, the nominee, my Muslim friend, and I.

We all live in these United States of America.

I shouldn’t be afraid to be a Christian.
You shouldn’t be afraid to be a Muslim.
You shouldn’t be afraid of being a secularist.

Nobody should be afraid of punishment, violence, or retaliation in these United States for being a Christian, a Muslim, or a secularist.

We are all worshipers.  And since we worship contradicting gods, we must all be intellectually honest and sincere in understanding that disagreement will exist. Disagreement is not, however, an excuse for punishing others, being violent towards them, or for being disrespectful to others.  We are not God.  And the federal government is not God either.

Please stop believing the lie that I hate you, that I’m afraid of you, and that I don’t have the right to share good news with you.  You don’t have to hear.  You may even tell me not to speak to you.  That’s all good.  We are free.

People have died for us to be free.  We must be free to persuade others.  Or not.  We must be free to have our beliefs challenged.  Constructive criticism demands this high form of respect that has always been a part of America.

Let’s not throw it all in the trash requiring Muslims to jump through a religious test to come into this country and asking Christians to recant their faith to be appointed to a sub-cabinet position in our beloved capital.

“With liberty and justice for all.”  So help us, God.