Tuesday, May 20, 2014

#DangerDays: A Guest Post From Jason Huffman

My dear Twitter friend and brother-from-another-mother Jason Huffman is back with another great guest post. I suggest you strap in and hang on. Just treading this post is dangerous!  

I’ve been enjoying my friend Carl’s series of posts hashtagged #DangerDays as he and others have shared stories about trusting God in the face of adversity. Lately it seems that we as a people, American Christians that is, are all living in #DangerDays.

In America, we are proud of our God and our religious freedom. When I was growing up, the three most spiritual days of the year were Christmas, Easter, and July 4th. Ok, so I am exaggerating a little, but not much. Sitting under the banner of the old red, white, and blue, I could be thankful that I lived in a country where I had religious freedom to worship how and where I wanted. After all, I was endowed by my Creator with certain inalienable rights…right? The Spirit of God had been personally ushered into my zip code when the Republic of Texas was annexed into the United States in 1845, thus giving me and other Texans those Creator-endowed inalienable rights. It’s a pretty swanky set-up if you ask me. It is good to live in a Christian country where our buildings, our pledge, and even our money acknowledges a higher power, even if they leave the specifics of who that higher power is up to us.

We are not the first “Christian society”. The first attempt at a Christian society came with the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, who subsequently decided he would make Christianity the official religion of Rome. It was from this political maneuver that we got the Nicaene Creed and the Roman Catholic Church became the institution it was (pretty much the only church around) for the next 1100 years or so…not too shabby for one guy. At that time Christianity was an understood cultural norm and remained so up through the Reformation and even later into the colonization of America. After that, our colonies broke from British rule and established their own government on Christian principles continuing this tradition of a Christian society-what many of us call “Christendom”. (For a great read on living in a post-Christendom culture, I recommend “Resident Aliens” by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon.) America remained a fairly Christian culture until somewhere in the mid twentieth century when attending church on Sundays was no longer an expected practice. Stores and restaurants began to open on Sunday. Little league sports and other programs began having practices, games, and meetings on Sundays. And church was no longer the center of our lives, but only a part.

But the greatest “threat” to our faith wasn’t Sunday ball games, or the lifting of Blue Laws. In the late twentieth century there was some discussion of making our country more inclusive. Rumors spread that certain courts wanted to take “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Ten Commandments being posted on a courthouse was considered to be potentially offensive to those who may not believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. High schools were reprimanded for having prayers before football games and “moments of silence” became the norm. Some schools decided they could pray as long as they did not end with “in Jesus name” while others gave the powers that be a piece of their mind by advertising and publicizing the public prayer as an act of defiance to the godless government. And thus, American Christians found themselves living in #DangerDays. Just like the children of Israel who had been captured and carried off to Babylon, we were prisoners in our own land. We hung our harps on the poplars as our captors chided us saying, “Sing us a song of Zion”. But how could we sing the Lord’s songs in this strange, foreign, godless land where our religious freedom had gone from freedom of religion to freedom “from” religion? It really was depressing. Not only was somebody was going  to take “God” out of the pledge of allegiance but to top it all off, there was an increase in violence, drugs, abuse, divorce, cycles of poverty, suicide, and all sorts of other crime. How could this be?

Well, I want to bring you some encouragement. On the surface, it looks like as soon as we got more open-minded about the wording of some of our sacred documents and about the role of prayer in our schools, all this other bad stuff began happening. But I want to submit to you an alternative view. Maybe “taking God out of the USA” was a symptom of the problem, not the cause. But the timeline is pretty close, right? As soon as the government lost its affinity for the divine, all this other junk started happening. But what about this? What if the spirit of God was here before our government made it a thing? Before the first explorers and the first colonists came attempting to establish a Christian society, what if God was here? And what if the spirit of God is still here regardless of what happens in our government? I mean seriously. To know what sin is and the capacity our human hearts have for evil and to know the strong bonds of abuse, poverty, addiction, and violence in our culture, are we seriously na├»ve enough to believe that if some suits in Washington fall on their knees and seek God’s face, sign some papers making it cool to pray in public, that our godless culture is automatically going to become a Christian nation again? I hate to be doom and gloom, but I don’t think so.

We need to quit letting Washington DC have access to the shut-off valve to the movement on God in the USA. Some legislators make some motions. So what? The ACLU comes down on a school for praying or a courthouse for having a nativity scene? Big deal. THE GOVERNMENT AND OTHER MAN MADE ORGANIZATIONS ARE NOT BIGGER THAN GOD! Do you want to know what is more powerful that the US government? Do you want to know what’s stronger than any suit-clad government lobby group? Do you want to know what is stronger than the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence? Get ready for it…..The church! How do you like them apples? The church has been around since about 30AD- about 1984 years-yet we let the decisions of a 238 year old government dictate what we think and believe about God!

Folks, we are living in #DangerDays. The enemy is alive and well in America. There are cycles of sin and oppression that exist and we truly are living in a foreign land. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Sin, oppression and violence didn’t get in through Washington DC. It wasn’t some elected officials that left the door open, exposing our country to godlessness. Likewise, God didn’t come in through Washington, either. God didn’t wait until 1776 to show up in the good ol’ USA. He was here before, and will continue to be here until his return. As believers, we need to quit letting the government determine what we think, believe, and understand about God and keep doing what Jesus called us to do by being his witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (that’s us). Let government be government. What is God doing in your community that isn’t posted on a building or spoken over a PA at a sporting event? Where is God at work? What are you and others doing to break cycles of violence and oppression besides getting upset that there is no prayer over the intercom each morning at your son’s middle school? As we live in #DangerDays, it’s up to us to be the church, not the government.

Editor's Note: I don't usually comment on a guest post before I publish it, but...AMEN & AMEN!!!

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