26 April 2015

The Church in the Democratic Context

Guatemala's Arbenz tried to work in genuinely democratic terms. He brought about sweeping changes, geared toward the wishes of the people and yet also attempted to maintain an open society.

The open society is subject to infiltration and manipulation and that's exactly what happened. As agents of the US Establishment, the Dulles Brothers worked to overthrow him.

Castro and Guevara realized that if they were going to hold on to power after ousting Batista then they would have to forego the open society. It was the only way they could maintain security.

Likewise Turkey's Erdogan came to power riding a populist wave. He gave voice to rural Turkey and the class of fairly conservative (but not Islamist) people moving from the countryside and village into the cities and not liking the secular culture they discovered. They wanted to promote traditional values and the family.

And yet Erdogan was forced to contend with the Deep State, the forces behind the scenes, especially in the US-connected military that have worked to shape Turkey and if necessary topple its government.

And so in order to maintain power and the vision of the people which he championed he has been compelled to move toward authoritarian frameworks. Was this the plan all along? It's hard to say but sometimes I think people come into power and realize a startling truth that rulers dare not whisper...

Democracy doesn't work. It's largely a sham.

For years in the United States people have talked about how democracy demands an educated voting block or else it won't work. That's very true and yet I don't think people realize just how true that is. And yet, I still think it's largely a pipe dream. People are easily manipulated and all too often act and react based on emotion. To weigh self-interest vs. the needs of society is a complex ethical tangle that everyone will weigh and consider in a different and ultimately subjective manners.

Also in order to avoid the tyranny of the 51% the democracy must be secured by laws and safeguards, principles which protect the 49%. And yet this doesn't always work very well either.

For Christians this is especially problematic because when the Social Contract declares X or Y as something to be constitutionally secured that we think is sinful... where does that leave us?

The New Testament tells us to pay our taxes, and that was written in a context of tax revenues being utilized to fund war, conquest and paganism. And yet because God ordains the powers that be and some government, even if bad, is God's means of restraint and better than no government at all... then we're told to pay them.

The sinful use is on them. They will answer for it.

Because our weapons are not carnal I don't believe it's our task to petition, file lawsuits, promote rebellion or take up arms. We don't advance the Kingdom by ganging together, getting 'our' people into power and beating down the other side.

We bear witness and speak out. Not political speech. We speak prophetically. That will certainly upset people but we'll have a greater voice if they don't think that we're speaking in terms of legislating and utilizing the force of government to implement our ideas through coercive means.

To be honest at this point given the history of Christianity in the American experience I'm not sure what can be done. We have to emphasize the delineation between who we are and the Church at large.

Primarily we instruct the people in the Church. If we lose the antithesis within the Church then within a generation or so it will all collapse. The world will enter and take over. We're already in the late stages of this and we've seen it before. Look at New England, Holland, South Africa, not to mention Imperial and Weimar Germany, and that which came after. Sweeping generalizations to be sure, but you either see it or you don't.

Believers have to be taught and made to understand that we are exiles and strangers. We are not Americans. Whether we're American, Chinese, Russian, Italian or Angolan it doesn't matter. We are Christians living in Babylon. We live in America and pay our taxes etc... but we're not on board with the American project. We just want it to work to an extent that we can live our lives, worship and through the Word of God build the Kingdom. We will be second-class citizens and we will suffer. That's our calling. We don't want to be beaten and jailed, but we already know the world will hate us and we will not succeed in their system.

The world-affirming theology which reigns in the Church is a sure formula for apostasy. The implications of Christ's words regarding God and mammon have not been worked out and in fact the prevalent theological systems are unable to understand his words for in doing so their systems would collapse.

With regard to homosexual marriage and all the issues which surround it we need to be firm and resolute in our voice. We need to teach people within the Church that homosexuality is sinful. The separation of gender from physicality does not represent a possible reality but is the result of sinful thinking. The core issues here also touch on a very sensitive subject: the Church's wholesale embrace of psychology.

We need not be afraid to speak against homosexuality in public but at this point because of the context and the damage done by the Christian Right, any time we do so it will  be perceived as political.

Are we willing to suffer?

I don't think the Church is. All I hear is talk of lawsuits, legal rollback and a growing voice of militia-type militancy.

Let's start with a kind of low-level suffering, social ostracization. Let's start with being obedient to Christ even if that means a rejection of the system and being able to flourish within it. Are we willing to be poor in the land of plenty in order to maintain our integrity and be obedient to our Lord? Remember in this system being poor is a moral issue. It means there's something wrong with you, you are 'flawed' or deficient in some way. The idea of integrity having consequences doesn't really enter mainstream thought. It's pretty foreign to most people. Typical of the world they call white-black and black-white. I would argue integrity in this society will in most cases lead to poverty while they would say integrity almost universally leads to prosperity.

What's the take of the mainstream Church on this point? That is of course a rhetorical question.

If we realize the land of plenty is really a land of theft, pillage and murder then that ought to shape how we interact with it and whether we even worry about living up to its standards. It certainly casts the whole question of 'rights' in a rather absurd light.

How about Christian photographers and cake makers get out of the wedding business? It seems like a good time to do so. This is regardless of the fact that the whole wedding industry is pretty sick and decadent, without Biblical warrant and I have to say is a rather dubious way to make a living. At least it's not something I believe can be done with a great deal of integrity and certainly does nothing to contribute to the world. It largely just feeds the narcissism and consumerism of our day and when put in a Christian context quickly strays into extra-scriptural ritual and sacrilegious practice. The modern 'Christian' take on weddings is still rooted in Catholicism and has little if nothing to do with Scripture.

Hardly a popular take or sentiment, it ought to be weighed and considered. I'm not calling for a legalistic pronouncement on issues like this but I am disturbed that no one ever stops and questions the premise of the idea. It's simply socially normative and is thus assumed.

I would like to see these challenges result in a wholesale awakening, a recasting and reconsideration of these types of questions. Individuals will have to decide. It's beyond the ability or authority of the Church to make definitive proclamations in precise areas that are not clear, but the Church sure isn't doing anything to challenge people in these areas.

World-affirming theology insists that we as Christians have to bear witness in every sphere and capture it. The idea of abandoning segments of society is deemed defeatist and heretical.

I would argue that a good portion if not most jobs, occupations and careers are already closed to Christians. They are either prima facie unethical, or participate in the vision of the system we oppose, or make demands of us that we (if we're being faithful) cannot comply with.

To add a couple more jobs to the list isn't really a big deal nor is it something we should be surprised by. I'm more surprised at how well the Church just gets along with the world. That's because for the most part the Western Church is the world.

If Revelation 13 is applicable to today and I believe it is and can make a case for it, the implications are interesting to say the least. What does it say about the Church in the world? I'm not talking about the hyper-literalistic reading of Dispensationalism with its visions of barcodes and microchips. I'm speaking of the Mark as the opposite of God's Mark. We are marked as in Ezekiel's vision or to put it differently we 'mark' his Word on our thoughts and actions, our heads and hands. The world, the realm under control of Satan bears his mark. The Mark of the Beast is the symbol of the lost of the world who are devotees of the world system and its various idolatries. We are surrounded by people bearing the mark. It's not some superstitious trick that sends us straight to hell. It is the essence of what it means to be lost. In this world they will flourish. We will be on the margins, barely surviving and at times all but cast out of the mainstream. Is this not the case for Christians in the Middle Ages? Of course I'm not speaking of the Church of Christendom. Like the unfaithful bride of Revelation 17 she did rather well and by implication would also flourish in the parallel vision of Revelation 13. The True and Faithful Church is a rejected and suffering Church.

Should it be the case today? Think about it.

Democracy is a flawed and un-Christian system but it's better than some of the alternatives. It affords the Social Pluralism the Church needs to flourish. The Church has not taken advantage of this but has instead signed on with the American Babylon creating an impossible labyrinth of theological concepts, historical interpretations and ethics that have all but utterly destroyed the Church in this country.

Unlike David Barton I trace the American story, it's religious and historical context and the way its history and society developed and I see it as a place where Christians could live but I also see it as Satan's Masterpiece.

It's been showing its true colours for a very long time... for those who have had eyes to see it.

Perhaps even the blind are beginning to feel the heat and see it for what it really is.

Devolved Democracy leads to Authoritarianism. If it's 'secured' by checks and balances then in time the majority and mainstream will feel the pressure. The majority must give up some power and influence to compensate for the minority and keep the system working. If it's unsecured the majority 'mob' will take over, requiring a strong hand to rule or due to external threats and manipulations a strong hand will have to rule in order to protect the social vision.

Ultimately it's a failure as are all man-made systems. Some Christians are realizing this. Others still insist on weaving together a theological narrative that combines Christianity and Democracy.

Just look at the rest of the world and see what happens. Read history. Read Roman history. That's where we are headed. It will either collapse or more likely transform into something else. The process might be quite ugly.

The Church can focus on the political and later military fight. In doing so it ceases to be the Church and becomes yet another hydra head lifting up its horn, a beast garnering power.

Or it can get busy and start trying to build the Church. America thinks of itself as a Christian nation and yet anyone trying to live and think in Biblical terms will quickly feel like it almost non-existent. We're surrounded by Churches but how many even approach the teaching of Scripture or even care?

Some will be offended at this and posit there are many sound churches in their area. I hope they're right but instead I am more inclined to think their response indicates they are part of the problem.

There are some good churches left. I'm not suggesting the Church has been wiped out, but even in those good churches there are deep problems and the future doesn't look good. The seeker-type churches are packed full of people but it's not going to last. It's a fad that's already reaching its limits.

The positive that comes with social pressure and breakdown is that the Church will become more manifest. It just might be a bit smaller than many imagined. The worldly church, the compromised church will grow more extreme and bring down fire on itself, not for the gospel but because it tried to take the reins of the Babylon-beast.

This is the church we're told repeatedly to come out from and to have nothing to do with it.

Pray for the Church and pray for the peace of Babylon. Appreciate democracy but don't buy into or those who try to Christianize its frameworks.