Politics and Believers

Gods-Politics

I suspect that many of my blog’s followers may take issue with today’s post as it addresses what has become a hot button or sensitive area for some.  I apologize in advance if it is not as well received as my usual post, but I do not apologize for my observations and subsequent response.  It is something that continues to leave a black mark on our faith and we are all guilty to some extent from parishioner to clergy.

With each passing election I am finding that I am becoming more and more apolitical.  For any who have known me long that may come as a bit of a shock.  I was once a grand-stander for all things conservative and a graduate of the Rush Limbaugh school of The Way Things Ought To Be.  I, like many others truly believed that political activism was a Christian duty and obligation to the point of casting shadows on those who refused to vote.  I believed that “true” Christians could only vote one way, and if they didn’t, their faith should be scrutinized.  I could not have been more wrong.

Social media seems to have given many people a voice and platform, and a select few would have you think they have a Master’s Degree in Political Science.  Seems everyone is an expert with a false sense of boldness that comes from the safety and protection of sitting behind a computer screen.  But what troubles me so deeply isn’t necessarily the blind allegiance believers have to a party or the unsubstantiated political memes they share on their timelines without any due diligence; it’s the level of disdain they so easily display with anyone who votes differently than they do.  I’ve posted on it before, I’ve observed it repeatedly, and it only seems to be getting worse.  There is a division in the church that goes right down political party lines.  It is always the elephant in the room, even after an election is over and the results are tallied. It is shameful, hurtful and an embarrassment to the body of Christ that nothing stirs up more heated public exchanges than a good old-fashioned debate about politics.

And yet with each election a new level of boldness is displayed for the unchurched to behold.  And this is perhaps what is most disheartening and so hard to swallow-there is a clear and distinct correlation between political party alliances and the racial division in our country in that the more politically divided we become, the more racially divided we become.  There is wholly nothing Christian about our response and approach to politics, and I am calling out our Christian leaders above all.  Through my social media connections I am privy to many clergy timelines and their postings.  Both sides are equal contributors to the walls of partisanship we see today, left and right, black and white.  I see white leaders using hurtful labels to describe those who vote differently, and even a few supporting or at least tolerating the notion of supremacy or nationalism through their implications or silence.  I see black leaders who allow heavily biased responses on their threads against anyone or anything white.  I even saw just this week that one of my famous black leader friends suggested that blacks should be preparing for a civil war.  What was once at least closely held and private biases have now become bold fodder for the world to witness as we cast stones back and forth over walls we created that have become increasingly higher and thicker.  I hate what politics has become and what it has made us.

And since I am on a roll I’ll take it all the way.  Shame on you on both sides of the aisle who have the balls to suggest that God is in your political camp!  Trump was elected because he was God’s choice; the Dems took back the house because God was displeased so he turned the tables-PLEASE STOP!  How little of us to humanize God to the degree of assigning God the label of Republican or Democrat!  The true glory of God, which no human could ever fully be exposed to, is not nor will ever be subjected to partisanship among his children.  My God is not red or blue. If your god is, you need to step back and reexamine your god.  The visceral, the labels, the allegations we throw back and forth over politics is man-made, not God ordained.  Any Christian leader who uses God to implore parishioners to vote a certain way, or uses God as some holy endorser of the current administration, is guilty of blasphemy in my opinion.

Last week Jewish worshippers were gunned down in their own temple by someone filled with hate.  Just this week 12 very young people lost their lives at the hand of someone equally hateful and bitter.  This week in Las Vegas three youths beat down a 78 year-old man just to take his car.  Everyday in America people are gunned down because of the evil of out-of-control hatred, and we who are “mature” have the gall to ask what has become of today’s youth, while at the same time holding in our hands a stone to throw at the next person who differs from us.  We have become hypocrites by using God to invoke hate and division in a partisan system we created that has nothing to do with God or anything he would deem holy.  Our enemy and the enemies of God are on vacation because we are fulfilling their agendas without them, and any allegiance I had to any party has been squashed by my refusal to be party to a system of division that is anything but civil.

My God is on both sides of any border wall; my God reigns over both halls of congress; my God has mercy on both the innocent lives snuffed out before birth and those sitting in prison for murder; my God is not defined by race or nationalism; my God has compassion on all, even those who refuse to believe in his existence.  Christianity is guilty of humanizing God and decreasing him to fit neatly into boxes we store at our convenience.  The humanity of God has been greatly perverted while his omnipotence has been diminished to fit our molds of what we think he should be. And this is never more evident than in Christian political circles.  God is every color-he is every race- he is neither party-he doesn’t sow discord but promotes harmony, not fear or hate but love and acceptance.  He hurts over the senseless loss of life, over the racially charged environment we created, over the walls of separation in his church over who should be our civil governors as if they wield somehow more power and authority than our true supreme and eternal leader who can never be voted in or out of office.  Once I understood that through ten presidencies and administrations going back to Kennedy God always took care of me, that my life didn’t change because of which side held control of the House or Senate, that Christ died for both sides and all those in countries who don’t know the privilege of electing their own representation, I dropped my colors and my allegiances.  Yes, I still maintain certain convictions, but I take it as a personal challenge to do what I can in my circle without holding disdain for those who feel and vote differently.

Scripture compels us to reason together. Scripture tells us a house divided will not stand. Scripture tells us to test all teaching, views, opinions, against his Word.  Scripture tells us to love and pray for those who hate us.  Scripture warns us of the penalties for sowing discord among believers.  Scripture tells us as believers our true and eternal citizenship  is not of this world or its systems.  I am by nature a man full of issues and by no means perfect, even in my faith.  But I see well enough to recognize the role I played for so many years in contributing to the numerous walls that divide us.  In as much as it’s in my power to do so, I prefer to spend what little influence I have in promoting healing and unity.  If that requires being apolitical for the sake of harmony, I’m all in.

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Sex Trafficking-the Ugly Truth We Need to Know

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This post will be difficult-difficult to write without tears and surely difficult to read without compassion and conviction. The sex trafficking and exploitation of young children and teens in our country is a harsh and relevant reality. The numbers are staggering, the stories heart breaking and the victims often unheard. It is easier for us to turn a blind eye to the crisis or throw a buck or two in the direction of organizations on the front line of this war than to take the time to ponder the dark facts and undeniable truths associated with the sexual exploitation of child-sex for profit. The best of bloggers can not come up with the right vernacular to adequately describe the horrors these kids face on a daily basis. But we can no longer turn the other way.  We can’t choose the safer arguments of worship styles, denominational differences or Biblical prosperity theology and ignore the victims of these heinous crimes, those which our Savior eluded to in his description of “true” religion. We need to endure the pain of knowledge and the sting of disclosure so we can respond with compassion and tearful prayers for the rescue of these precious souls.

A good friend of mine, Mike Bartel, and his wife operate an organization called F.R.E.E. InternationalFind, Rescue, Embrace, Empower.  This week he and his team are in Phoenix working in conjunction with the local F.B.I. to locate and recover young girls who have been reported missing and are expected to be “working” the Super Bowl. The miraculous and yet tragic truth is each year many of those they fear will be on hand are indeed found and rescued. F.R.E.E. actively engages the local High Schools by educating them on the issue through Say Something assemblies.  Their street teams are working the surrounding areas and hotel districts handing out cards with missing girls pictures on the front and their bios on the back, hoping someone will recognize them. I have worked with F.R.E.E international and wholeheartedly endorse their work and their efforts. They are one of several organizations who have seriously taken up the call and subsequent challenges of finding these kids and making a difference in their lives through their rescue and their restoration.

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The stats above need no explanation. Upwards of 300,000 young people and kids are sexually exploited each year for profit, just in the U.S.  It is 2nd only to drug trafficking in illegal profits, a whopping $32,000,000,000.00 industry-yes, that’s billions. The average age of girls forced into prostitution slavery is 14, and they have been rescued through sting operations at the age of just five years old! Imagine for just a minute that this isn’t some impoverished girl taken from a run down city park on the wrong side of the tracks, but this is your daughter or granddaughter, your flesh and blood, kidnapped on her way to school or church. The tendency is to believe these girls and this issue is a foreign crisis, choosing to ignore that this is happening in our backyards, under our noses to parents and grandparents we may actually know or worship with each week. Cities where children are routinely kidnapped and put into sexploitation include Miami, Las Vegas, L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, Dallas and others.  If you think your children are safe, you are deceived.

So why am I writing this article now?  There is a big game coming up this weekend.  Major sporting events are proven to be hubs for the trafficking of minors.  Read this excerpt from an article put out by Global Centurian regarding the Super Bowl:

From scantily clad cheerleaders to groupies to VIP parties, sex and sports are linked in contemporary society.   With no wives or girlfriends in sight, the adrenaline and alcohol fueled fans has the potential to create a concentrated demand for commercial sex. Unfortunately, this demand is sometimes being met by trafficked persons. Some of these victims will be underage — as young as 11 — who have been trafficked into prostitution, as well as other young women who have become ensnared in sexual servitude for a variety of reasons. A case in point: earlier this year in Florida, a number of arrests were made on charges of sex trafficking. In one case a Hawaiian man was caught trafficking an 11 year old child. As more cases are uncovered, the correlation between commercial sex trafficking and major sporting events is being documented.”

It is estimated that solicitations for sex will be equal to the number of tickets sold for the game, with many involving under aged children. Many of these kids have been kidnapped and forced into prostitution against their wills. Many were kicked out of their homes or ran away and left homeless with no resources to rely on but the offering of their bodies just to be able to eat.  Some ran away and were befriended by those who at first provided them with basic needs and then guilted them into paying back the “kindness” shown by working the streets. Don’t be naive enough to believe they have chosen this lifestyle, at least not initially.  Do many remain after being forced into it?  With no family support, with no formal education, many with no high school diploma or G.E.D. and having known no other life, the sad answer is yes. They are slaves to their condition as much as anyone can be.  The thought of one of my granddaughters existing in this manner tears at every fiber within me and should tear at you as well if you have a heart. Books could be written describing the facts, the statistics, the horror stories of those fortunate enough to be rescued, and sadly the staggering number of our kids taken from our country and solicited abroad never to be seen or heard from again. Our hearts cry out, God have mercy!

So now that we are aware of the evils of this industry from both the supply and demand side, let’s choose to be active in aiding and supporting the efforts to find our kids and restore them to normalcy through rescue and empowerment campaigns, through donations of time and money, and through keeping them in our daily prayers.  If you want to be involved, find an organization in your city where you can volunteer.  If you know of none, let me recommend F.R.E.E. International.  You can find them at

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http://www.freeinternational.org

God, help us to be aware and active and diligent in aiding the children you love so much.  May the things that tear at your heart tear at ours as well and spur us to activism in your name.