Friday, August 28, 2015

The Kingdom of God & The St. Louis Cardinals

I’m a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan. This means, for as long as I can remember, I have rooted for the greatest sports franchise in the history of the universe. That’s why my son gifted me with a plaque which reads: Every Day I Thank God for Making Me a CARDS FAN.

Now, being a lifelong Redbirds devotee also means something else. For as long as I can remember I have been despised and hated by an entire tribe of people known as Cubs fans—a perennially disappointed, yet fiercely proud, folk.

Naturally over these many years I have gleefully responded in like kind. I simply cannot pass a Cubs bumper sticker without reflexively rolling my eyes or see a kid in Cubbie gear without knowing deep down: This grubby little twerp doesn’t stand a chance(I blame the parents. Sometimes grandparents.)

But have you ever wondered why we have fan-based rivalries?

While such allegiances are certainly not formed on the bases of reason or logic, they are entirely natural. That is, humans are instinctively tribal. Thus, so-called “in” and “out” groups are unavoidable.

Sports alliances (to most of us) are all in good fun—but not so with other in/out groups. Think of the animosity between Black, Brown, and White; the vitriol between Democrats and Republicans; the hatred between religious groups, etc. etc…

The in/out groups in America are innumerable.

I wonder if the things which divide us rival the things which unite us. Are we coming apart at the seams? Many believe the fracturing is by design. Some of it certainly seems orchestrated, doesn’t it?

Even so, is there a cure for our brokenness? I believe there is.

Jesus, in my estimation, is the only sufficient integration point for our fractured humanity. He alone transcends the fragmentation. In Him we find the capacity for wholeness and holiness. There is hope and healing and unity within His kingdom.

The spiritual unity we find in the kingdom of Jesus is greater than the ethnic, economic, political, and religious disunity we find in the kingdoms of man.

But we have to live it. We have to model it. We have to show a disarrayed world another Way—a Way which recognizes our differences but harbors no hostilities because of them (the Way of unity, not uniformity). 

Can we do it? I think so. I worship with Cubs fans every week and we hardly ever fight. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

God's A Statist?

A Facebook acquaintance, with a penchant for conflating libertarianism with atheism and anarchy, opined:

Rarely does a Libertarian identify government as "the ministry of God to thee for good." Rather, they make government their enemy.

While it is false that libertarians “make government their enemy,” it is true that Romans 13:4 speaks of God and government. Paul says that the civil magistrate is “God’s minister to you for good.” But what does this mean?

Is this a universal truth—no exceptions? Does the Bible actually teach that all governments are God’s servants for the well-being of those they rule? I think not.

Consider the administration of a king named Manasseh.

Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the LORD spoke by His servants the prophets saying, “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations . . . I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle (2Kings 21:9-12).

This is hardly a ringing endorsement for Manasseh’s government. Sadly, he is far from the exception. “And he [the king] did evil in the sight of the LORD” is a recurring theme of Israel’s and Judah’s kings. These were in no sense “ministers of God to you for good.” Rather, such governments are evil and they bring disaster upon their subjects.

It’s also quite difficult to understand how the beastly government of Revelation 13 is God’s minister for good.

It was granted to him [the beast] to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation (v.7).

And what of Hitler…Stalin…Frank Underwood?

No. The Bible is much too honest and nuanced to endorse a simplistic “all government is good” slogan. The Statist prayer: “Government is good, Government is great” is nowhere in sacred scripture.

Because all government is obviously not good, I favor government with limited powers. 
That government is best which governs least,
because its people discipline themselves.
~attributed to Thomas Jefferson