Thursday, May 17, 2012

Before We Demand That Apology

It’s been about two weeks and half since President Obama came out with his conviction regarding homosexual marriage and the firestorm continues. Most of the responses fell along predictable lines and there’s little doubt that the debate will continue right up through November’s presidential election. Of particular concern is the response and position of the ‘black’ church to the president. Will church going blacks stick with him even though they may disagree on so fundamental an issue, or will they in righteous defiance declare that the word of God is clear, it cannot be changed and thus Mr. President while we appreciate your historic accomplishment we just cannot in good conscience cast our vote for you a second time? It was already a long forgone conclusion that most white evangelicals were not going to vote for President Obama even if he had stated his unequivocal support for marriage between a man and women.

What’s of interest is how this may be the first time in a very long while that the traditional black bible believing church and the white evangelical church see a political issue eye to eye. How wonderful might it be to see these two groups who claim to believe in the same Lord, sing many of the same songs, hold to the same moral convictions finally walking arm in arm (metaphorically of course) to the polls to cast a vote for the moral values upon which America was founded. Except for one small problem.

In our rush to decry this latest attack on God, country, traditional family values and marriage we’ve forgotten that we were the first to twist the Scriptures and tribablize the living God to feed the lust of our idolatry. While we may vehemently disagree with President Obama’s stand on this issue and recoil at his (and others) use of Scripture to inform that stand, it is the bible-believing Christian church that just may have provided the foundational thinking that led to his conviction.

From its very beginning, the evangelical church in America twisted, misused and disregarded Scripture to suit our wants and pursue our own selfish agenda. For example, the incident between Noah and his grandson Canaan recorded in Genesis 9 was used to justify the perpetual enslavement of Africans for the benefit of those who enslaved them and others who profited from it. This was the case made by Prof. Robert L. Dabney D.D. in his publication A Defense of Virginia (and through Her of the South (1867). It is a weighty thing to look another human being in the eye, a man created in the image of God and for whom Christ shed His blood to redeem and tell him that the reason the enslaver can use his labor, have sex with his wife and sell his children is because God made him to be a slave. But that’s exactly what the church did when we told ourselves, those enslaved and the country that the American form of perpetual, ethnically based slavery was God’s express will and thus any argument or attempt to say otherwise or end the system was an act against the living God.

Had it ended with slavery the church might have been able to repent and investigate how we let our idolatry overrule God’s word so that it wouldn’t happen again.  But it did not. Nearly one hundred years later the evangelical church that authoritatively declared that the American system of ethnically based, perpetual slavery was the unquestioned will of the living God with equal authority and conviction told ourselves, the nation and the world that strict segregation along ethnic lines which included prohibitions against inter-racial marriage was also the will of God, taught in Scripture and thus must be obeyed. Once again the church prized our own well being and privilege ahead of the truth of God’s word. And once again our decision had disastrous consequences for our witness. Having sided with the culture against the living God the evangelical church was bound to practice what they preached by refusing membership to black people which extended to barring them from participating in the Lord’s Supper. This was a striking and I must say frightening violation of Paul’s teaching on communion recorded in 1 Cor. 11. Here Paul addresses and rebukes those who fostered divisions in the church and used our sacred communion meal to do so! Once again the church followed the lead of an ungodly culture, told them it was perfectly in line with God’s will and exchanged God’s clear truth to worship the cultural idol of white supremacy.

And the beat as they say goes on. The same black church that we’re told must now rise to reject President Obama for the sake of the biblical truth about marriage has for at least a couple of decades bowed, embraced and promoted the idol of prosperity, greatness, comfort and ease all in Jesus name and all because God commands us to do so in His word. The examples of this kind of twisted theology and brazen idolatry are so numerous that I’m sure you can think of many yourselves. How can we with a straight face and clear conscience demand an apology and retraction from President Obama when for years we’ve peddled a blatant lie and will stand before God’s people this Lord’s Day to emphatically declare that the gospel we preach is a gospel of prosperity in the Name of our Lord who said ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NIV).

What ought we to do then? Perhaps we should begin with repentance for how we’ve misused Scripture to further the goals of our own idolatry and thus laid an example for those who seek to do the same. Whether we like it or not, there is no substantive difference between the homosexual who is certain that his sexual orientation is God’s will to that of the segregationist who was equally convinced that God’s will mandated forbidding blacks to join communion, to that of the prosperity pastor who with the same confidence declares that it is God’s express will that all of His people enjoy material prosperity.

Until and unless the church unwraps the American flag from our identity and mission and rejects the heresy of prosperity theology the world will continue to view us not as a people standing up for an objective truth that is foundational to our society but simply repeating the sins of our fathers for the sake of our own well-being.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance


  1. Sounds like we need to get the log out of our own eye before trying to remove the speck from the culture's eye. Great, great article.

  2. Pastor Lance:

    I found this article because a dear friend of ours posted it on her FaceBook page... I certainly appreciate the appeal to Humility that the article seems to suggest, but I have to take issue with several things you wrote:

    1. What "historic accomplishment" on the part of mr. obama were you referring to? His ethnicity? Are you drawing attention to "the first black president" thing? While I agree that this is significant, if that president turns out to be the utter RUIN of this country (a track millions of Americans believe obama is clearly on), then the historical significance of his ethnicity becomes almost irrelevant, don't you think? Does anyone care what Race the skipper of the Titanic was?

    2. If this truly IS the first time -- in a long while -- that "the traditional black bible believing church and the white evangelical church see a political issue eye to eye", then we do indeed have a real problem: On topics where the Scriptures are very very clear, it would seem ONE of these two groups has not been carrying their Faith into their Politics: I struggle to see, for example, how a Bible-believing Christian (who shares God's deep love for all Life, most especially Human Life) can vote for a politician so deeply committed to Abortion, to the taking of Human Life. We could cover a long list of topics -- from unjust and oppressive Tax policies, to Biblical guidelines on Work, to homosexuality, to abusive Federal power structures, and many more -- but these two groups OUGHT to see "eye to eye" much, much more often on political issues (and politicians) IF in fact they are BOTH committed to Bible-based living and thinking.

    3. The biggest problem I had with the post, however, had to do with the broad generalities that paint everyone with the same Guilt brush. The plain fact is, there have been Christians ABUSING what it means to be a Christian, and twisting the Bible to suit their Political/Social views, and their Lifestyle choices, ever since the children of Israel roamed the planet; this latest issue of "same-sex" marriage bears that out again. But there is no need for the broad, wide-net approach that condemns everyone equally; no need, as they say, to toss out the baby with the bathwater. Humble, wise, and (admittedly) few-in-number Christians have also been around since the beginning, quietly working to present the TRUTH amidst all the babble (even inside the Church)... This is why Solomon pleaded with his son (Proverbs 2) to seek Wisdom as if it was hidden treasure: Because it's not obvious to most people! It has to be sought out, prayed over, and hunted down, and only those whose hearts are truly broken and humble before God will ever find it...

    Have there been "Fools for Christ" (and not in a good way) over the centuries? YES, and they exist today; they will ALWAYS exist. I've said for a long time that there are going to be HUGE surprises on Judgement Day; God, in the end, will make His Truth plain to all, and those who, for example, abuse Scripture to justify Racism will, for the first time perhaps, have their eyes opened.

    Indeed, Jesus Himself warned, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." -- Mathew 7:21...

    So we're not ALL guilty of this Foolishness; but the appeal to Humility, in the end, is certainly a universal one; we need to hear it often.

  3. Hi Greg, thanks for reading the article and for your response. Yes, I was referring to the fact that President Obama was the first elected black president of this country and that was a historic accomplishment. Whether or not he turns out to be the ruin of the country remains to be seen. There are some who believe that President Bush did much damage to the country and in time it may turn out that he was responsible for doing a much worse job than President Obama. But beyond that Greg the root issue isn't the supremacy or even survival of this country but the validity of the witness of the gospel. Christians are charged with the promotion and preservation of the gospel, not the continued supremacy of the a temporary country.

    Re: your struggle with those who voted for President Obama. Unfortunately, our brothers and sisters who care so deeply about the issue of abortion just haven't made the case why having a pro-life president is so important. Thus many wonder why President Bush didn't do more to work toward overturning Roe v. Wade. When I've posed that question to some the sarcastic reply is that he was just the president, not a king. And yet these same people question the faith of those who voted for President Obama. At the same time many including myself wonder why religious conservatives for whom the issue of abortion weighs so heavily didn't challenge President Bush more on this and why they so eagerly lined up to vote for a man (Sen. McCain) who stated directly that it was not his intention to overturn Roe V. Wade but to give it back to the states to decide. It just seems that conservatives keep telling us to vote 'pro-life' without ever charting a clear course as to the political solution to this issue. Beyond that many black including myself wonder where was this concern for life during the multiple decades when black men were lynched at will by white mobs with virtual impunity.

    As far as my use of the Guilt Brush the reality is Greg that my examples did highlight the prevailing point of view of most evangelicals of that time. The fact that there were exceptions highlights that truth. Yet the exceptions were just that exceptions. I don't know where you live or how old you are but it's likely that the older evangelical churches in your area probably had a policy that either forbade black from becoming members or placed some kind of restrictions on their membership. However, once more the Scripture sets the precedent that God's people in the present identify with and express repentance for the sins committed in the past even if we weren't around (see Neh. 1 and Dan. 9). One reason we do this is to remind ourselves that we too can fall into the same sin patterns as previous generations and so must be ever watchful.
    Thanks again for your response and the Lord's blessing on your week.

  4. I really appreciate this thoughtful post. Thanks for writing about a difficult issue - I'm middle age and from the south, and I remember as a child being in church with folks who were openly racist, and didn't seem to feel any tension between their religious and social views. As you note, often they used their religion as a way to justify and maintain those beliefs. For me, that was part of reason for leaving the church as a young man. I see a similar kind of argument in Greg's post above, in that he appears to argue that the bible has something on-point to say about current US tax rates for example; and is pretty explicit that his understanding of the scripture happens to be the (only) correct understanding. And for myself, I am one of those people you talked about who find many of the Church's positions on homosexuality self-serving and hypocritical. But I think your post, while expressing a view very different than mine on the issue, advances mutual respect and understanding, and that must be a good thing for all God's children.

  5. Let me say simply I do not agree with this article posted by Pastor Lewis. The logic of it leads to the conclusion that since there is hypocrisy and has been hypocrisy we cannot call evil evil. Thus no one should presume to keep preaching. I believe in every generation, and with each ruler, and in each given circumstance where evil is practiced, excused, or endorsed men and women of God need to speak against evil, indeed to hate evil, while loving people, if the truly love God. Randy

  6. thanks for your response Pastor Nabors. My intention was not that the church cannot and should not speak out on things which are evil, but that we must do so with humility and as much as we can, deal with the evil that we ourselves perpetuate through our own misuse of Scripture. Moreover, it is self-serving of us to persistently cherry pick which issues we speak against and which we leave alone. For example, I for one have yet to read or hear evangelicals speak against the evil of greed with the same force and passion we levy against homosexuality. However, I'm pretty sure that Scripture at least speaks as much on that topic as it does homosexuality if not more. Thus I have to agree with Billy May that our pronouncements smack of self-service and a bit of hypocrisy.
    Of course there is much more to say about this issue, but that may have to wait for another post.