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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

If you pray against Obama, consider Matthew 22...

I reported last April about the seething rage that a lot of "conservative Christians" were already venting against Barack Obama. And speaking of which, over the past few days I've heard even more thoughtless fury out of Ron Baity's WPIP... but there's gonna be more about stuff like that coming in the next few days, so I'll hold my piece 'til then. Well unfortunately, my guess then that this rancor would "get worse"... is rapidly coming to pass now that Obama is officially the President of the United States of America.

I could comment on any number of items pertaining to this. But for now I'm going to direct my thoughts toward what one prominent "Christian writer" is suggesting, because in the past several hours I've seen his very hypocritical gesture spread like wildfire across the Intertubes. Joseph Farah, founder of WorldNetDaily, is actively encouraging Christians in America to pray that Obama will "fail".

As much as I disagreed, even admit to have disliked the man, I did include George W. Bush in my prayers for the past eight years, for all the good that it did. When 9/11 happened, I held him up in prayer along with everyone else involved in the tragedy one way or another. 'Course, since then I've realized that it's a futile gesture to pray for God to grant wisdom to those who adamantly refuse to acknowledge that they require such wisdom... but that didn't stop me from doing it anyway. Just as I pray that the American people as a whole might seek that wisdom needed to govern ourselves. Just as I will also keep Obama in my prayers.

So let me tell you why Farah's stance is horribly wrong. Why it flies in the face of the teaching of Christ Himself. And that if the Christians of this land do harbor such bitterness in their hearts, then they do so at the peril of the America that they claim loyalty toward.

It's regarding what is chronicled in the Book of Matthew, chapter 22... and it has nothing at all to do with what most people think when they read this passage.

Matthew 22:15-22 tells us that...

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

That's one of the most quoted - and among the least fully understood - passages out of the entire Bible. It's been used to justify quite a lot of things over the years, from an overzealous desire to separate all things spiritual from anything pertaining to government, to the obscene notion that Christians must somehow "shut up" and let the state roll over them without apology.

But none of that has anything to do with the point that Jesus was brilliantly making to those trying to trap Him.

In Palestine of the time of Christ, there was nothing more hated among the people than how their country had come under the yoke of the Roman Empire. Pompey annexed the land for Rome in 63 B.C. and then a few years later the puppet government of the Herods began. Israel's dream of a Messiah came in the form of a military leader who would vanquish the Romans and return the country to the heirs of Abraham...

...but the people of Israel would have never lost their land to begin with if they had stayed a people faithful to God, instead of putting their faith in worldly politics and their own military might. It was a brief but bitter civil war between the Hasmonean rivals Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II that so weakened Israel as a nation, that after a century of independence there was practically nothing to stop Pompey and his boys from taking over.

Had the people of Israel not fallen for the lusts of political power, they would have most likely had solidarity enough as a nation to stave off Roman rule.

That is the harsh lesson that Jesus was teaching. He reminded the Pharisees - who shared much of the blame for the civil war - that it was their own fault that they had chosen to "render unto Caesar", and sought the institutions of this world, rather than put God first in all things.

As we know well, the lesson was lost on the Pharisees. And it so incensed them that they all the more sought to destroy Jesus.

And so it is, that what this passage (the same story is also shared in Mark 12 and Luke 20) is telling me as it applies to our own day...

...is that the same Christians who are bitter and angry about how they have "lost power" in America really have no one to blame but themselves.

And it also tells me that they aren't going to win anything by trying to "over-compensate".

It was wrong for the Christians of this land, in the name of God, to seek after political power. It is still wrong. And I believe that it is more than accurate to say that after all this time, we should realize that God has not blessed our efforts. The Republican Party is not the anointed vessel of the Lord, George W. Bush was not divinely appointed to be President (to believe so invalidates the concept of free will) and so-called "Christian leaders" like James Dobson and Pat Robertson stand revealed as wanting nothing more than to "sit at the king's table".

In none of this have I seen it recommended at all that perhaps what this country needs, if there is to be an America to pass on to our posterity, is for those who most loudly boast of following Christ, to surrender their lust for power, to cast themselves down in humility and penitence, and sit among the proverbial ashes and finally, at last, and for real, turn their hearts to God!

But that is not what I am seeing Joseph Farah and other "Christian authorities" telling us to do. What they have in mind, is the furthest thing there can possibly be from coming humbly before the Lord, and asking Him not only for forgiveness for seeking after our own hearts but also for the sin of pursuing the folly of our own "understanding".

The "conservative Christians" of America are the ones who have the least excuse to complain about whatever they believe might have happened to this country. They looked to the idols of worldly affluence for their deliverance... and God only played fair by handing them over to their lusts.

Hey, He's done it before. He didn't want Israel to want a king either, but when they clamored for one He instructed Samuel to accede to the will of the people.

But as we also know from that particular tale, sometimes God has a way of taking our own iniquity, and making it work to give Him all glory and praise.

Those who claim to follow Christ in this land, might have just such an opportunity before them...

...that is, if they want it. If they are willing to do what is necessary.

Well... are we?


Anonymous said...

Good word, Chris. And Johnny Robertson thinks you don't have the theological chops to engage him in debate?

I would also , as further proof of a believer's responsibility to pray for those in authority, offer 1 Timothy 2:1-2, which reads:

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."

Anonymous said...

LOL..the very fact that you believe its futile to pray to God speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

Where did Chris say it was "futile to pray to God"? He said he'd been praying for W for the past eight years, even if he disagreed with him.

Is this Johnny Robertson, taking a potshot?

Lee Shelton said...

When it comes to our representatives in Washington, I look to Matthew 5:44: "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Anonymous said...

Farah will never see beyond the left/right dichotomy of politics. He believes that the Republicans, despite the worst eight year track record ever amassed, would still be 'better' (whatever that may mean) than Obama. I'm no fan of Obama, but the idiocy being spouted at WnD these days is incredible.

Anonymous said...

," since then I've realized that it's a futile gesture to pray for God "...says it all

Chris Knight said...

You can certainly pray to God and ask Him to encourage others to have a change of heart... but ultimately, it IS up to those others to choose on their own whether they will change or not.

It cannot be any other way. God gives us free will: to choose to follow Him or to choose against Him, as well as with everything else.

That is why I believe that it is foolish to ask God to intervene with elections. He cannot intervene like that.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous should try reading the entire sentence he only quotes part of. Of course, people like this read whatever they want into something anyway.