17 August 2016

the Lion has roared

The Lion has roared —
who will not fear?
Amos 3:8

It has become a foil in the game of modern politics to suddenly ask a self-proclaimed Christian candidate about their 'favorite' verse of scripture. These answers are then replayed, combed over, and analyzed to find every pause or discrepancy imaginable. Incredibly, this approach works a good percentage of the time, even though everyone in the room knew that such a question was coming. And, after all, how hard is it to keep something like John 3:16 at the ready — actually, probably something slightly more nuanced to demonstrate intimacy with the text, but basic enough to have wide-appeal and to not become confused over the actual ignorance of the text. Nevertheless, this practice goes on, mostly because Americans have allowed the Christian faith to become a rather benign political tool, aimed more at scoring points at the ballot box than transforming lives for the kingdom of God.

In my lifetime alone there has been such a ridiculous handling of religious beliefs in the realm of politics: some candidates run as committed believers and are ridiculed for wanting to govern out of their core convictions; other candidates score points for going to church but never appearing strange-enough as to pray or believe scripture. In some cases, we want to expose the oddities of those who stand in nuanced religious tradition; for others, it is all about hiding the radicalism of their beliefs. There is no pattern here that does not reek of double-standards. And it continues forward because there is a public that still falls for it – every time.

By allowing faith to become a weapon of political warfare the American church has diminished the effectiveness of the gospel. When we draped the flag over the Bible we obscured its message; we have allowed our culture to become darkened by covering up the message of light.

And we are still playing games with scripture and belief. The same foils are being played out in an effort to determine who is can win "Most Christian Candidate" in this race. Those who work so hard to defend whether or not their chosen runner is able to speak intelligently about scripture do so while ignoring behavioral-patterns that are so wrong, Christian belief isn't even necessary to identify such as evil. (Now, based upon that description, you cannot presently tell if I am speaking of him or her. And that should speak volumes on its own!)

So, with all of this in the air I notice that political candidates don't take the opportunity to share their scriptural beliefs from certain areas of the Bible. The prophetic literature from Israel, for example, is widely ignored by those seeking office. This is somewhat calculated, no doubt (as is the whole campaign), for there would be questions about whether this person actually accepts prophetic speech as possible. And then there is the language of morality that pervades the message, though I am not entirely certain why it is easier to dismiss Jesus' teachings than the prophets, though it happens. But perhaps the biggest reason is that the prophetic literature is straightforward in reminding all the nations of the world who the real Sovereign is. And I think that most of those seeking political power in our nation today simply do not want to hear that.

But again, it is the people who enable such behavior in a culture such as ours. And we continue to play games with our faith, so long as it requires little cost or commitment from us. We want to do whatever we want to do, and find the quickest and easiest path to our own comfortable lifestyles. So, we choose the candidate that is best at destroying the opposition, believe that they are a Christian because they say so (that other candidate says so, but is lying!), and wait for the blessings of government to fall upon us. Repeat this every two–four years.

It is not working.

Our ongoing dismissal of God's Word, even among most American evangelical churches, has brought our culture to the brink of ruin. There are many who will agree that there are widespread problems that we face as a nation, though the majority of these will still look to the corrupt powers of today to find the solution to those corrupt powers. Until we look to the Creator of heaven and earth we will not find the peace and salvation and life that we need. But this must be a commitment with the whole of our lives – walking away from the powers of this world and embrace the power of God's love.

The prophet Amos is a confrontation brought about by Almighty God, for his people had abandoned his ways and had decided that they knew what was best for themselves. However, what they saw as being good God sees as being evil, and he was on the move. Amos 3:4 asks, "Does a lion roar in the thicket when it has no prey? Does it growl in its den when it has caught nothing?" The answer to this comes in 3:8: The lion has roared — who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken — who can but prophesy?

In the same way I believe that Almighty God looks down upon our feeble attempts to govern ourselves, and our despicable behavior that turns his eternal Word into an impotent political instrument. And I believe he is done with the game. What we are witnessing in our culture — a society that is quickly losing its ability to tell its right hand from its left — is the coming to fruition of our choices to walk without God. The houses and the high places, the luxury and the liturgy, is all crashing down because we lost sight of him who stands at the center of it all (Amos 3:14–15).

It wasn't about whether the people of God could create impressive worship and sacrifice, just like it isn't about how good we can make ourselves appear to be devoted disciples. It is all about the work we carry out as we demonstrate our commitment. Unfortunately, the church will continue to be overtaken by these games, so long as we focus on winning the political battles (by any means necessary, no doubt) over the message of the gospel. God's word through Amos demonstrates that what he deems as good for his people "is of little significance within the national set of values (3:10)" (Carroll R., 190). The same remains true for us.

So, if the Lion has roared, will we be terrified?

Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.

But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Amos 5:23–24

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