Violent Silence: The Church and Social Injustice

Let’s not beat around the bush: I’m trying to be part of a church youth ministry that will talk about the hard stuff and be confused about it together, and I hate that I feel like I’m in the minority of church leadership in the U.S. when it comes to wanting to engage hard topics from the stage. (pardon my cynicism)

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like many of my friends grew up in youth ministries that were more concerned with their students having fun than they were about their students knowing how the Gospel gives full hope in the midst of what was going on in the culture around them. Many of my friends were sheltered from the realities of racism, sexism, abortion, sex trafficking, porn, and homosexuality by glaring into bright lights and big production and games on games on games; OR they were taught to ignore it by doing yet another book study with their vastly homogenous friend group.

(I don’t blame them, just so we’re clear. They were just doing what those before them had done. They didn’t know any different. I don’t think it was malicious, but that doesn’t change the reality of the current situation.)

I don’t think that’s all bad. I don’t think middle schoolers need to be as caught up on all the politics that adults have to deal with on a daily basis. That would be a detestable thing to do to students — to strip away their emotional adolescence. However, I think it’s yet another social injustice to force our students into ignorance and to send them off into adulthood having no earthly idea what the world around them looks like.

(Let’s be honest, if my parents hadn’t been straight up with me about the culture in which we live, I think when I got to college, I would’ve given a rude finger and some harsh words to church-people for living in augmented reality and never stepping out of their prim-and-proper Christian bubble.)

But there lies the challenge: how do you protect the emotional innocence of students while still equipping them and sending them into the culture?

Grace. Grace and patience. And I’m bad at those things.

Personally, I think in such a black-and-white manner and my natural expectation for people is to get concepts objectively and be able to think critically about them immediately. But that’s not even how most people work, much less middle schoolers and high schoolers. So it takes being able to take a deep breath and chip away slowly at pre-conceived notions. It takes chronic honesty and a willingness to not know the answers. It takes a willingness to hurt when their hearts begin to hurt for someone who faces injustice. It takes a whole lot of patience and it takes a whole lot of empathy.

We are talking about the Sanctity of Human Life in youth this week, and specifically in that conversation is a dialogue on abortion. My hope for our students is not that they would learn all the stats and have a cold, hard opinion on the policies and legislation that our country has on the matter.

My hope is so much more for our students!

I want them have a deeper valuation of all human life.

When they hear their friends quoting our president about other cultures, I want our students to know that all humans have inherent value apart from their economic states.

When their friends devalue movements such as Black Lives Matter, I want our students to confidently know that Black lives DO matter, because our African-American brothers and sisters are also made in the image of God.

When they hear arguments back and forth about whether it’s okay to kill an unborn baby, I want our students to think about the inherent value of that unborn child and for their hearts to break that it would even be a question to kill the child. Because contrary to what the Left thinks, the child has more value than any human could attribute.

But I don’t want another generation that is baby rights vs. momma rights. I want their hearts to shatter at the injustices that have been done to women for centuries. I want them to raise their voices for the voices of unheard women. I want them to value, protect, and fight on the front lines for women. Because contrary to what Right thinks, the momma has more value than any human could ever attribute.

Jesus valued the economically impoverished (the “shithole countries” if you will) by first inviting the shepherds to his birth scene before anyone else in Luke 2.

Jesus valued the invalids who couldn’t perform and make themselves look all prettied up and perfect before they came to him by healing the paralyzed man in Mark 2.

Jesus valued women by protecting the woman caught in adultery in John 8 (who, for you classic conservatives out there, had “already made her choice” to sleep with the man), and by raising the little girl back to life in Mark 5, and by letting the women be the first to see him after he raised himself from the dead in Mark 16.

Jesus valued other cultures by going out of his way and giving up his time and emotional energy to sit and converse with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

Jesus values sinners. He valued us before the world began when the Father chose us in Christ to be set holy and blameless before him (Ephesians 1). He valued us when we were DEAD IN OUR SIN, unable to perform and earn the right to be valued (Ephesians 2).

We like to play this game of valuation as if we are all a bunch of estimators for a contractor. But the valuation of human life is not up to us! Our value is solely in the fact that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1-2). Humans never lose their value because they did nothing to earn it in the first place.

You are loved and you are valued.

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An American Poem of Hope

I woke up this morning and felt like being creative. So I formulated some thoughts on today’s election and decided to put them in a poem. My hope isn’t found in who sits in the White House in January. My hope is in the King of kings that was in full control over Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Xerxes, Caesar, James, and is still in full control over world leaders today. So, my hope gets to be unwavering and I hope that your hope does too.


 

It’s not about you and it’s not about me.

It’s not about the “system” to which we cling.

It’s not about the firsts that are on the brink.

It’s not up to us anyway.

It’s not about the red, about the black, white, or blue.

It’s not about the information we’re fed on the news.

It’s not about the Millennials, Gen X, or Baby Boom.

It’s not about us and it never has been.

We’ve lived for so long thinking we call the shots;

that the elected representatives are the ultimate crux.

We think we are gods and that God should serve us

and keep us so safe and secure how we want.

This illusion of power of which we’re convinced

has never been real, we’re just wrong once again.

We’ve put all our faith in some liars and cheats

and forget that the King’s in control of all things.

The King’s still on His throne and is over all things.

 

In Whom Do We Trust? (Part III)

One of the more dense focal points of the argument against an originally Christian United States is that there was a severe wanting of true Biblical Christianity; a wanting which started during the founding of America. This is especially pervasive as they moved past the founding and into the Second Great Awakening. Fea describes the Second Great Awakening as so:

Humans were no longer…waiting passively for a sovereign and distant God who…offered select individuals the gift of eternal life. Instead, ordinary American citizens took an active role in their own salvation…the new theology empowered individuals to decide their own religious fate by accepting or rejecting the gospel message.[1]

In this philosophy and theology, Americans became their own saviors. They were in charge of saving themselves; whether or not God wanted to save them did not matter. The problem here is that this was not and is not Christianity; this is moralism. The implicit idea of this theology is that humans can be good enough to determine if they may enter heaven or not. In other words, this theology is centered on the idea of self-salvation.

The Second Great Awakening was a force driven by its teachers and preachers. Many of these “Christian” teachers, such as Theodore Dwight Woosley[2], proclaimed that the majority of Americans believed in Jesus Christ and the Gospel. This pervasive assumption led to evangelists such as Billy Sunday that would take the assumption even further and say, “Christianity and Patriotism are synonymous terms…”[3]. This absurd assumption projected Christianity onto Americans and inspired a self-fulfilling prophecy across the nation. This notion encouraged Americans to think, “I love this country; therefore, I am a Christian. God bless America!”

This is just not how Biblical Christianity functions; this is American nationalism. Mercy Otis Warren was another teacher who did not fight for Biblical Christianity but rather fought for this sense of nationalism. She is quoted as saying “religious and moral character of Americans yet stands on a higher grade of excellence and purity than that of most of other nations.”[4] There was an implicit sense of arrogance in the fact that the people Ms. Warren knew were better than the people she had heard about in other nations. A true Christian would see Romans 3:23[5] and acknowledge the equal depravity of all mankind. The practicing Biblical Christian was the exception in this revival, not the rule.

If the United States was founded and purposed in Christianity, then America would look vastly different than it did and does. If the founders of the United States intended for the nation to be attached to a specific religion, then they all would have had at least moderately uniform thought processes on that matter. The part of America that gives people hope – domestically and internationally – is that basic American tenet of freedom and the ability to believe what one wants to believe without ridicule and persecution. The United States was not founded and purposed in any specific religion; rather, it was founded and purposed in freedom – all encompassing freedom.

[1] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 5

[2] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 26

[3] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 32

[4] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 9

[5] The Bible in the book of Romans chapter 3 verse 23

In Whom Do We Trust? (Part II)

It is important to note that a moderate number of the founders of the United States were not Biblical Christians; if they even considered themselves Christians at all. As was previously discussed regarding John Adams and the Treaty of Tripoli, Adams believed the government of the United States to not at all be founded on the Christian religion[1]. He was also a Unitarian and disbelieved the Trinity, an important aspect of the Christian faith. Unitarianism is also part of the universalism movement, which teaches universal salvation to all who believe in any god they so choose. In other words, no matter which god or religion to which you ascribe, everyone will end up in the same place. Thomas Jefferson also did not believe in Scripture as written; so, he decided to write his own bible removing content at his own will and discretion. Jefferson also wrote, in a letter to John Adams in April of 1823,

The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.[2]

Furthermore, because of Jefferson’s manifested beliefs in this letter, one may conclude that Jefferson thought of Christianity as tomfoolery at best. If two of the first three democratically elected leaders were so clearly not Christian, then it is, at best, ill reasoning to assume the nation to be explicitly founded upon the Christian religion.

Another aspect of the debate is the discussion of national mottos; such as, “In God We Trust” – imprinted on coins and Treasury notes – and “…one nation, under God…” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In regards to “In God We Trust”, this was not imprinted on money until 1861[3] and was only done for political appeasement of the National Reform Association, not out of true belief on behalf of Congress or President Lincoln. The NRA brought before the president an entire amendment to the preamble of the Constitution that would explicitly make the United States a Christian nation. This was too great a favor to ask, so the politicians compromised with the committee and put “In God We Trust” on United States coins. A few presidents after that, namely Teddy Roosevelt[4], attempted to remove the motto from money, but every attempt was failed on grounds of tradion. In regards to “…one nation, under God…”, this phrase was added to the pledge in the middle of the twentieth century by President Eisenhower[5]; this was not, by any means, and original phrase, contrary to popular belief.

 

[1] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 4

[2] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers

[3] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 23

[4] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

[5] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

In Whom Do We Trust? (Part I)

My junior year of college, I decided to take a class called “History of Religion in America Pre-Civil War”. It’s a mouthful, I know; but it was fascinating! We got to learn about Native American religions and the Church of England and Catholicism and German religions and everything the French and Spanish brought over and we also got to learn about Puritanism amongst many other things.

My favorite part of this class; however, was not any of the lecture material. It was one of the papers we had to write. The paper tackled the question of whether or not America was founded and intended as a Christian nation. Growing up in the church and in a Christian school with Christian parents, I always just assumed as much.

This is going to be a three part blog series that contains my answer to the question and my research behind it. Obviously, since this was just a final paper and not a thesis or dissertation, limited (yet, still adequate) research was done. I have changed some of the wording and sentence structure to make the flow a little smoother for a blog rather than a formal paper, but all the content will remain! I hope this series is informative and I honestly wouldn’t mind if it ruffled some of your feathers, too. Friction is a good thing!

 


 

 

For centuries, one of the most extensive and impassioned North American debates has been the question of whether the United States was founded and purposed in Christianity. Many forget the original American tenet was freedom. Even though it came out of religious oppression in England, the immigrants nonetheless migrated not primarily to spread Christianity; they migrated to practice that which they desired. The United States was not founded as a Christian nation. The founders had no intention of the nation being solely Christian, and even those that did want established religion did not, in regularity, practice true Biblical Christianity. This notion is commonly disregarded.

There are numerous documents and even founding fathers themselves that may uphold this idea. For example, Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli – a document partially created by President John Adams – asserted,

“the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”[1].

Fea added that the treaty was “signed by John Adams and ratified unanimously by the Senate” [2]. The fact that is the most important in this case is that the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty unanimously. This means that every member concurred with Article 11 and agreed that neither the country nor the government, in any sense, was founded on the Christian religion. This agreement is so vital to the case because during Adams’ presidency, the U.S. still clang tightly to its founders, as they were still the explicit leaders of the new nation. This is one instance that proves that the founders had no intention of creating a Christian nation.

Another document that corroborates the intention of the founders is the Declaration of Independence. In this document, Thomas Jefferson – the author and co-contributor of the content – states that

“governments…[derive] their powers from the consent of the governed”[3].

One of the points that Schweitzer makes in his article is to “note that the power of the government is derived not from any god, but from the people”[4]. Many consider the United States to have begun with this important document; moreover, if this founding document gave the power of the government to the consent of the governed and not to any particular god or religion, then the United States is not bound by or to any religious code or conduct constructed by any known or unknown deity or holy scripture from any religion at all.

The final document that supports this claim of the intention of the founders is the United States Constitution. The Constitution made it clear – in Article III of the Bill of Rights – that there would be no official or established religion in America[5]. The simple fact that the two documents by which the government and citizens of the United States function on a daily basis both deny any national power or authority to any religious deity, god, or religion affirms the argument against the intention of a Christian nation on behalf of the founders.

[1] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 4

[2] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 4

[3] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

[4] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

[5] The Bill of Rights