What follows is a statement that I read to my church yesterday (January 10, 2021):
There have been two incidents in the past week that are deeply disturbing to me. Given the events at the Capital Building on Wednesday, which I will address in a moment, you may have forgotten about the first one. But as the pastor of this church, I think it is important that I respond to both of these incidents as a part of my shepherding role among you.
Last Sunday, during the opening prayer of the 117th Congress, Representative Emanuel Cleaver from Missouri, who is also an ordained United Methodist Minister, concluded his prayer like this, and I quote, “We ask it in the name of the monotheistic god, Brahma, and God known by many names by many different faiths, Amen and Awoman.” I have two objections to the conclusion of this prayer. First, I object to the syncretism of this prayer. To include my God, Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the assumption I make when Cleaver says “monotheistic god,” since he is an ordained United Methodist clergyman, alongside Brahma, one of thirty-three million Hindu gods, and alongside an untold number of gods known by different faiths is an affront to the Christian faith. I would encourage Representative Cleaver to read the prophets. What he will find is that the nation of Israel incurred Yahweh’s judgement, the razing of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile, as a result of exactly this kind of unfaithfulness. I would not argue that the United States is a Christian nation, but I would argue that we invite the wrath of God when Christian clergy in our country engage in this kind of behavior.
I also object to concluding the prayer with the phrase, “Amen and Awoman.” This would be funny if it weren’t so sad and an indicator of something much more insidious. “Amen” is a Hebrew word, transliterated directly to Latin and English, that means “verily, certainty, or truth.” Amen has absolutely nothing to do with biological sex or gender. The laughable/sad part of this incident is that this man was/is apparently ignorant of this fact. But I can’t believe that he did not know this fact. It is completely unfathomable to me that as a Christian clergyman he was unaware, so I can’t help thinking that something else is happening here. Rather, this prayer seems to be a part of the House of Representatives attempt to purge gendered language from that chamber of Congress. All of this is supported by an unbiblical philosophy known as Critical Theory. I will have more to say on this in the coming weeks and months. Suffice it to say now that Critical theory and all its derivatives—Post-colonial Theory, Queer Theory, Gender theory, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality—all seek to undermine a biblical worldview. We must be aware of these philosophies because they have a ring of biblical justice to them, but, in fact, are opposed to it.
The bigger news story of the week is the siege of the Capital Building by anarchists. I have a lot I would like to say, but wisdom is on the side of limiting my remarks to just a few.
My initial thought was that our democracy was imploding before our very eyes. But when I saw our elected officials return to their work, and when I did not hear about any further or more widespread acts of sedition, I began to realize that our democracy is functioning exactly as it should. I believe that democracy is durable and self-correcting. That is why we have a presidential election every four years and other elections more frequently. Elections are designed, in part, to prevent any extreme political views from maintaining too much power for too long a period of time. So, I am hopeful that my friends to the left and the right of me will be more committed to the principles of democracy than to their political ideology. And because I believe that this is what the vast majority of people on the political left and right want, whatever other political or ideological commitments they may have, I have hope for this country.
I am not primarily concerned with whether or not you are a Democrat or a Republican. My primary concern is that, if you call yourself a Christian, you represent Christ well. I have seen some good examples this week, but I have also seen some very bad examples. So, I want to remind you that the Golden Rule still applies in 21st century America. Matthew 7:12, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Colossians 3:12 & 14 still applies in 21st century America, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Both our interpersonal and online interactions ought to be governed by these two biblical principles.
Despite the events of the past week, I am hopeful for two reasons. Number one, I am confident that the people of God will rise up and represent Him well. I am confident that the members of CFBC, and Christians across our country, will recognize that our first loyalty is not to party or country, but to the kingdom of God and the One who rules it.
I am confident because regardless of what happens in our country, we who believe in Christ are citizens of another kingdom. And the God who created and sustains the universe will sustain His Church, just as he has in the past, through the rise and fall of any nation.
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