Author Archives: rjalberta

TOPICS?

Thank you to all who have encouraged me to continue with the blog. I think like a preacher who is always asking what God’s people need to hear or might find profitable to their spirits. So…since we are drowning in blogs and books and news sites…who needs another one unless it is edifying? Help me out please? What topics might we address that we could examine from a Biblical point of view?
For example, I’m currently working on an article about this incredible wave of sexual predation we are hearing about. How can this be? Etc. If any or all of you would suggest topics you’ve been “wondering about” that would be appreciated.
Disclaimer: whatever I write is my best attempt to Glorify the Lord Jesus and suggest insights thru the lenses of Scripture. I understand…I really do…that most things are debatable and I try not to suggest that my thoughts are inerrant. These are just my views that I present.
Anyway…what’s on your minds as Christians that I might explore with you from a theological/Common-Sense/Christ-Centered point of view? Please advise?
Blessings! Pastor Alberta

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Shall I Proceed With This Blog?

Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017

I am profoundly thankful for my blog friends this  year.  And…I could use your help.

As of January 1, 2018 I will have retired from Cornerstone and I will have far more time to write.  Hence, I am considering a new blog thru which I can share a Biblical view of current events as I am led of the Lord.

BUT…perhaps I should simply continue to write on this site “Shakingoffthedust.com” ….hmmmm…….

Here is how you could help me make this decision: if you have received this note and if you would be interested in receiving articles produced on shakingoffthedust.com please send me a quick note.  Nothing complicated.  Even just a simple “I’m interested!”

I’ll post a few articles as well in the days ahead and see if there is much interest.  OK?  Everyone is busy I know!  So…let me say in advance  “Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

34 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

“Surviving as Aliens!”

“Reminder: We Are Aliens!”
1 Peter 2: 9-12
Dr. Richard J. Alberta
Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Brighton, Michigan 48114
June 4, 2017

Text: 1 Peter 2:9-12 (NIV) 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

“Aliens!” Have you ever been called an “alien?” Let’s begin on a sort of a lite note this morning. Here’s a question. Suppose you are listening in at your funeral service and people have stepped up to comment about you. What would you like them to say… about you? If you could choose just one word that you would like others to use…to describe yourself….what might you like to hear? That you were “kind”… “compassionate”… “helpful?” How about “trustworthy and honest?” Those are good choices. But notice, we may never hear someone say, “I’d like to be known as… ‘peculiar!’” And yet, here where Peter says in the NIV we are “a people belonging to God”… we have a construction that the old King James Version reads as follows: we are “a peculiar people.” That captures Peter’s thought very nicely. The idea that Christians are an unusual people who belong to God suggests that we are peculiar…and if we check that word… “peculiar” in a modern dictionary we find it to mean “weird, strange, queer, bizarre, funny, abnormal etc.”
So, according to the Word of God, if we are serious about Christ, and our primary identity is with Jesus, the world will see us as “weird, strange, queer, bizarre, etc.” In other words, as “alien” we are a “peculiar” people!

He called them “aliens!” Notice that Peter has taken it for granted that his readers understand they are aliens to the world. This was a given in the minds of the believers in the early church. They saw themselves as unusual people…different from most people. One could almost say they were and we are people whose “identities” were very pronounced and atypical. This is about identifying with Jesus…that is, being known as one who is a Jesus person. The same as having an identify as a Tigers fan or a lover of the theatre.
We all identify with something outside of ourselves. That’s why in the fall on Saturdays we see Spartan flags on some houses and Michigan flags on others. You see bumper stickers that say “Tigers!” or “Marines!” If you walk into a Meijer’s store in Wisconsin you’ll find a whole section devoted to the Green Bay Packers. Everyone identifies with something they like or love or admire. This reality is a part of life and is usually quite harmless. Spartan fans and Wolverine fans can tease and debate but usually no one becomes violent over their identities. A Spartan fan typically does not hate a Wolverine fan and, up until now, most Republicans and Democrats were not filled with hatred for the other. But…there is one identify that thru the ages has caused hatred and distain and often rejection. That is, being identified with Christ. Feeling like yes…an alien. Feeling like you’re wearing a Tigers cap at Yankee stadium. People might look at you funny. Because wearing a Jesus cap among unbelievers can really get you some stares. So, now and again we need this reminder: As Christians, we ARE aliens!

Now…it seems to me that the question is simply this: how are we to live in a world where we are a bad fit? How are we to live in a world where if we live out our faith with passion and without apology, we may not be invited to the neighborhood cook out? Or, if we lived during Peter’s time we might be tossed into prison or burned alive. Actually, this is an easy time to be an alien where we live. In much of the world being a Christian today can cost you your job or your kids or your very life. Our persecutions are really quite soft in our society. But even so, in a society this vulgar that is bearing the fruit of fifty ears of wholesale humanism…where God has been pushed to the far margins of society….how shall we look at life as Christians in a post-Christian culture? In a culture that is undergoing what some theologians call “Paganization.” In a sense, we are like exiles living far from home…waiting for our eternal home face to face with God. We are a people like Abraham who:

Hebrews 11:10 (NIV) Was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

But until we get there, here are a few survival suggestions for us in our alien state from the text today:

FIRST: WE CHRISTIANS SHOULD ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT WE WERE CHOSEN TO GLORIFY GOD!

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Peter is taking the concept of Israel as God’s chosen people and extending it to those Jews and Gentiles who belong to Christ. As one who was ignorant of God and His kingdom, I was called to salvation years ago. I was called out of darkness and I was called into His marvelous light! And so were you! So, any distress or discomfort that I experience as an alien who does not fit into this world is quite tolerable! It is more than offset by the fact that God has included me…us…you in His family. So, when the Christian nurse is mocked in the nurse’s lounge for speaking up for the unborn or when the Christian lawyer is considered weird at the law firm because he does not defend gay marriage…when she or he is treated as an alien…as peculiar…she and he must take great comfort in this: FIRST: WE CHRISTIANS SHOULD ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT WE WERE CHOSEN TO GLORIFY GOD!

SECOND: AS ALIENS, WE ARE INVOLVED IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE! THE EVIL ONE WOULD LIKE TO WIN BACK OUR SOULS!

Peter writes:
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
We need to be careful! Living as aliens, we can still be drawn in by the flesh and its desires. I’ve often reminded new Christians that their sinful natures do not go away when their spirits are given new life. It’s almost as if our sinful natures speak up and say to our spirits “Hold on here! I’m only gonna’ live sixty or eighty years here in the flesh and I’m not about to become a monk!” Sinful desires do not totally go away after we are saved. Our spirits feel alienated in society but our flesh still likes what it sees. Therefore, if a man has a great struggle with lust he better be very careful what he watches or brings up on the iPad. If a man or woman struggles with spending they should stay out of malls. Surviving as an alien means being careful for our own sakes.

I know a Pastor who came out of alcoholism many years ago. He became a great servant of the Lord. But one night he was sitting in traffic and he looked over and saw the old bar he used to frequently years ago. And in a moment, all he wanted to do was park the car and go in there and sit at the bar and drink. And he knew if he even went in that day he would be ruined because alcoholism is a very patient disease and sin. It will come back years after you think it is gone. In fact, any sinful behavior is only arrested in the Christian not completely removed. He threw himself upon the Holy Spirit and begged to be delivered immediately and God be praised! The desire vanished but he heard the Holy Spirit tell him “Get out of here right now!” SECOND: AS ALIENS, WE ARE INVOLVED IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE! THE EVIL ONE WOULD LIKE TO WIN BACK OUR SOULS!

THIRD: AS ALIENS, WE ARE GIVEN THE PRIVILEGE OF BRINGING GLORY TO God THRU OUR LIVES!

Peter was really a terrific spiritual and psychological coach to these early Christians. He told them that as aliens they would be watched but because of that, even though they would be accused of weirdness…God would be glorified.
He said:
12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
In other words, even though we are not a good fit in our culture, we can live in such a way that people must respect us and must admit that God is a work in us. Perhaps even on Judgment Day itself. Look closely at this for a moment. In the New Living Translation, it reads:

1 Peter 2:12 (NLT) 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

I think Peter is saying that even though people regard is as aliens, some will see our Christ -centered lives and want to know God and will come to faith and be praising God on judgment Day! So, God can use His army of aliens to bring glory to Himself. If we persevere, non-Christians may actually come to admire and like us. I’ve always liked that scene in Fiddler on the Roof where Rectevia is talking about his new son-in-law whom he is trying to love. Finally, he says “Well…he’s a little crazy but I like him!” THIRD: AS ALIENS, WE ARE GIVEN THE PRIVILEGE OF BRINGING GLORY TO God THRU OUR LIVES!
These thoughts emerge from the text itself but let me share two other ideas in this message about survival as an alien in this society.

FOURTH: WE MUST HAVE SUPPORT FROM OTHER CHRISTIANS; THE TRUE CHURCH IS ACTUALLY AN ALIEN SUPPORT GROUP!

Every time I see an ad for some online church that says you do not need the church and you can worship and grow by yourself at home I cringe! Of course, the organized church is flawed and imperfect. But it is like Churchill said about democracy: “It is the worst form of government except for all the others!” The church is an imperfect entity. But the church is where we hear the Word of God and receive the sacraments and sit down next to someone who needs help or who provides help. Christianity was never meant to be a solitary activity. The writer to the Hebrews said this:
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

We aliens need each other! “Spur one another on” is literally the word for “paroxysm” meaning to stir something almost violently. You must reach into my life and work the paddle to stir me up to be more loving and seek to do good deeds. I must encourage you in all things Holy because we are facing the GREAT DAY! “The Day approaching” is Peter’s reference to the return of Jesus. God be praised! To survive as aliens…. FOURTH: WE MUST HAVE SUPPORT FROM OTHER CHRISTIANS; THE TRUE CHURCH IS ACTUALLY AN ALIEN SUPPORT GROUP!
Finally, here is a very practical word about how to look at life and how to live it while we are here on Planet Earth. We are very much like the exiles of Israel who had been carried off into foreign lands because they broke covenant with God. God still cared about them and wanted them to nonetheless try to enjoy their lives. So…

FIFTH: AS EXILES OR ALIENS OR PECULIAR  PEOPLE WHO BELONG TO CHRIST WE SHOULD STILL LIVE THIS LIFE TO ITS FULLEST!
Sometimes Christians feel as if they should not enjoy this life or try to be successful and achieve anything at all. Almost as if God is calling us to a complete state of misery while we are on this side of the Kingdom! But here is what God told his people who were carried into exile around 700 B.C. We read:
Jeremiah 29:4-7 (NIV) 4 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Even though we are exiles and peculiar people, we are to make the most of life right here. Build houses! Plant gardens! Marry and have families! Increase and care about the place where you are living. Pray for it because when things go well in that land things will go well for you too!

And all the while we must feed upon Christ who called his exiled and peculiar people to a frequent meal with a promised blessing. The Apostle Paul tells us:
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 (NIV) 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Growing up, I watched my father’s Italian immigrant family survive as aliens in a sense in an America culture that typically looked down on them or at least found them…odd…even peculiar. Looking back, I realize that one way they coped with that was by gathering together for a meal. All the immigrant communities did that and still do. That’s fascinating because that is exactly what Jesus instructed his flock to do. To gather for a meal in remembrance of himself. And so…as aliens…as peculiar people we are regularly called go to the Lord’s Supper. God be praised!

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Relieved and Puzzled-The Presidential Election of 2016

The election is over. God be Praised! Since the nomination of Donald Trump to be the Republican candidate, I have tried to say very little about my views. My credibility as a preaching Pastor was a concern to me since so many evangelical friends held opposite, and often combative, views. In fact, I cannot recall any issue when Bible-believing people with so much in common had such different positions on a candidate…or where so many spoke with such certainty and hubris as they critiqued one another.

I watched as many Christians were stunned and even angry that other evangelicals could support Trump. At one point, I grew disappointed at the high level of virtual contempt expressed by some towards others…crisscrossing a range of opinions and certainties that became mutually condescending.

I heard from people who pointed out that Mr. Trump had been married three times and had been an open blasphemer. I was reminded that his policy positions on abortion and gay marriage and other things have vacillated to the point where perhaps he cannot be trusted. His record of earthy comments and open improprieties was unparalleled. How could any self-respecting evangelical vote for such a man? Ought not that Christian voter be ashamed? And what of their witness to those who need Christ? (That last concern stuck me as really quite irrational. Somehow I doubt very much if my unbelieving neighbors would come to Christ if I denounced Trump.) In short, the incoming fire from other believers was often uppity and disrespectful. It amounted to: How could an evangelical support Trump in view of his obvious depravities? Could any of us really vote for him?

I did. And I did so with a clear conscience. Now, for any who might be interested, I will say why. Be assured that I found Mr. Trump’s obnoxious and unwholesome (read dirty) remarks to be totally repulsive. And I made no arguments for nominating him as the model father or husband or citizen. I got it. But I voted for him as any pragmatist would.

I wondered how so many evangelical friends could be so incredibly judgmental. With respect for these folks whom I love…I wondered if they had spent adequate time lately in the Word of God? The fact is that God often used and uses very flawed people to do His will; I am one. Abram showed the traits of an untrusting serial liar repeatedly, yet God used him to lead Israel. David was practically a sexual predator and clearly a murderer yet the Bible says he was a man whose “heart was devoted to God” (1 Kings 15:3). Saul became Paul after he brutalized many of the early Christians. The list is lengthy of imperfect people used by God. Almost as if He delights in deploying the weak and sometimes wicked for his own purposes and often converting them!

I also wondered if many evangelicals would do well to consider the real world in which we live. A season reading the biographies of past presidents will open one’s eyes to how few of them were men who would be welcome as members in our churches. The fact is that if we Christians want good governance, which has moral implications of its own, we sometimes have to separate our moral preferences from the practical reality that not many of these candidates would qualify as elders in our midst.

I was called a pragmatist…one who puts the practical over the idealistic. Guilty as charged. I felt we needed a president with some leadership skills. Using my vote for an unelectable third party was entirely unacceptable to me.

It struck me as something one does to feel better but is totally pointless. But…that leads me to my second point. I said I was puzzled. HERE IS WHY I AM RELIEVED AT MR. TRUMP’S VICTORY. All of my reasons, in my view, occupy high moral ground and were sufficient for my conscience to vote for him.  Why am I relieved?

I am relieved that his presidency will mean less babies will have their heads crushed and their arms torn off and their skin burned away because of judicial appointments he will make. His opponent actually argued for partial-birth abortion openly in a debate! That is a moral issue.

I am relieved because he will give much needed support to our nation’s law enforcement. Men and women who risk their lives every hour being treated with contempt. That is a moral issue.

I am relieved because he will re-build our military so that it will be prepared, when necessary, to protect our nation and other nations if the cause is just. And that will include a proper level of respect and care for the relatives of Abram…God’s ancient ethnic people Israel. That is a moral issue.

I am relieved that he will embrace economic policies that might bring America back from the brink of real-time economic collapse that will leave millions unable to live decently. That is a moral issue.

I am relieved that he will propose solutions to inner city decay and infrastructural ruin thru real economic opportunities. I am relieved that our nation will no longer be managed by an administration that has actually made living in America worse for the poor in the last decade. That is especially true for minorities and those whose economic mobility has remained beyond minimal. That is a moral issue.

I am relieved that he will generate changes to a health care plan that was conceived in deceit, passed thru partisan bullying and that is collapsing visibly as it goes forward. That is a moral issue.

In short, I was willing to vote with an eye to policies not piety. It would be nice to have both. Perhaps someday we can. But at this point, I am reminding any Christian in whose life I have influence…that by the power of the Holy Spirit people can change. What we should be doing is praying daily for Mr. Trump and his house to truly come to the Living Christ! And I rather suspect that God will use him in days ahead to join with others and give this nation some much-needed management.

Do others around the world wonder how we could elect such a man whom they have heard speak with such careless buffoonery? Sure. But… I suggest that they get the boards out of their own eyes before they say much more. And we Christians might do well to remember that God is the great change-agent and is full of redemptive surprises. Indeed, the Apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit said this:

1 Corinthians 1:27 (NIV) 27  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

I think this election and its result suggest that God the Holy Spirit is up to something in our midst. Let’s pray He is Glorified in it!

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

 

24 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

“Bearing witness-Fall 2016”

“Bearing Witness…Fall 2016”

First-Be a “Prayer Bear” (Sept. 29, 2016)

Awhile back I read a surprising article about bears. Even when they are not hibernating they like to hide away. They are rather private even introverted creatures at times. If they were “image-bearers” of God (that’s corny but I could not resist) they would be perfectly suited to be prayer warriors. “Prayer bears?” Enough on the bear theme but here is the point:

Our plan this fall is to invite everyone on our streets or in our complexes or wherever to join us at Cornerstone on November 20th. for a special evening of Thanksgiving called “Celebrating Jesus!” But honestly? That’s pretty nervy. I can think of thirty reasons why our neighbors might just disregard such an invitation…especially if we ask them to visit our homes first!

So…what would be a “force multiplier” for our efforts before we send out the invitations? Thirty days of prayer for each neighbor by name! Specifically. We dare not think that people will just respond because our words are polite or inviting. No. We want to ask God to soften the hearts of those we invite. We must pray believing that the Holy Spirit is at work in some of these people. We must believe that God wants to save souls and that He is working His list…and like good local missionaries we must believe that He is waiting to hear us say “Send me! I’ll invite them!”

Do we remember what Jesus  did before he chose the twelve disciples? He spent the night in prayer! We read: 

Luke 6:12-16 (NIV) 12  One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14  Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15  Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16  Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. 

God told Jesus whom to choose including the one who would betray him! So, let us proceed saying to the Lord “Please….work in the lives of my neighbors and chose the ones that you are calling and have made ready at this time. I will invite them awaiting your miraculous work in their hearts!”

More on this in the days ahead. Let’s be sure we are praying daily so that we can send out our invitations November 1 and wait expectantly for results. Blessings! Pastor Alberta

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

“Is Abortion a Sin?”

“Is Abortion a Sin?”

A Response to Chaplain Norris Burkes as published in syndication, June, 2016 

During one of his campaigns, President Lincoln was asked about slavery. He was aware of the strong feelings on all sides. He knew that no matter how he responded someone would be alienated and offended. But he was also aware of the need to confront this great question of right and wrong. His reply? “If slavery is not wrong then nothing is wrong.” His point, of course, was that depriving human beings of their freedom and basic human rights must be morally wicked… but if it is not wrong then how can anything ever be called wrong? I believe he would say today “If abortion is not wrong then nothing is wrong.” Depriving an innocent living human being of their right to life must be wrong if anything is wrong. To be more precise: it must be sinful. That which falls short of God’s righteous requirements is sin. Yet, in a recent column, Chaplain Norris Burkes refused to give sound Biblical guidance to a young woman who came to him for counsel with the question “Is abortion a sin?”

My sense is that Norris Burkes is a caring and decent man and that he meant well. But his response to the young woman asking about abortion was morally scandalous and indicative of a God-shaped vacuum in his theology. That is my view.

In thirty eight years of ministry, I have counselled dozens of women facing challenging pregnancies. Unplanned and unanticipated. Very stressful. Sometimes they have come alone to seek guidance. Sometimes with the child’s father. But always with a measure of anxiety because God has hardwired mothers to protect their children. They come because they know that abortion is sinful-that it cannot please God who creates all life. It does not help to avoid the hard truth when they ask “Is abortion a sin?” Yes. It is always a sin to take innocent life. The Fifth Commandment condemns murder.

Chaplain Norris explains the anxious mother’s dilemma this way: “She wanted to go to school. She wanted to date without having a baby in tow. She couldn’t handle the perceived embarrassment to her family.” He then says that no matter what she decided “nothing would separate her from the love of God.” Yes, God is gracious but the preceding justifications for having her child put to death were tragic. Will this gentleman really suggest to God on Judgment Day that the young woman’s personal plans and family concerns justified crushing a child’s skull or ripping off its arms or burning off its skin? It is clergy like this that make Heaven shutter. Such people are not helpful to young women who will, in their souls, regret the choice they made for the rest of their lives.

Finally, what if she had come asking a similar question about a one month old baby outside of the womb? Inconvenient? An impediment to dating? To education? Family comfort level? Would he counsel her to put the child to death? Of course not. So, for this man a sin against God and the child is not a sin if the location of the killing is inside of the womb? The young woman needs to hear that God requires a Holy choice…and that help is available to help her make that right choice. And I would say to this gentleman: “Count on it Chaplain: it’s a sin!”

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

“Lincoln, Grant, Trump and the Evangelical Voter”

“Lincoln, Grant, Trump and the Evangelical Voter”

Dr. Richard J. Alberta

June 11, 2016

 

The late Historian Shelby Foote used to tell an amusing story about President Lincoln. As he watched victory in the Civil War seeming to slip away in the summer before the election of 1864, a trusted cabinet member came to him with a concern. He warned the President that rumors of Grant’s excessive drinking had become everyday fare among the troops. Lincoln’s response? “Find out what brand he drinks and send a case of it to all of my other Generals! I need this man! He fights!”

Would Mr. Lincoln have preferred his most effective General to be a pious man? Sure. A man known for his prayer life and frequent references to repentance like the estimable General Lee? Of course. It would have been nice if Grant could both fight and embrace piety. Certainly! Yet…Grant was not like Lee who was known to have his “quiet time” mumbling his prayers on horseback as he led his troops. Or calling for clean language and moral propriety among his troops because he was a follower of Christ. That was Lee. Even as he led his army in defense of the hideous abuse of other human beings who were born black in West Africa. Even as their families were torn apart, their women abused and their life spans reduced to barely two decades, Lee defended the south. But he was pious and frequently penitent. Interesting.

What are we who are evangelical to think of the pious who display unrighteousness? And what are we to think of the impious that do the right thing? And are we kidding ourselves if we demand deep spiritual DNA in our leaders? Are we looking for solid moral footing from men and women with feet of clay?

As an evangelical Pastor, I interact regularly with evangelicals who are voting for Donald Trump. And some who find the very idea unthinkable! I am not saying I am or I am not at this point. Because the Trump candidacy is so polarizing, I may never reveal my choice. But I think I know what is going on in many evangelical minds. Thus…a few well-intentioned, non-combative…hopefully beneficent thoughts on this blog!

In a sense, perhaps evangelicals have simply become more realistic. Perhaps without knowing it, they are respecting what theologians call “Common Grace.” For those unfamiliar with that term, a brief review: “Special Grace” means that gift from God that enables a Christian to believe in Christ and be born of the Holy Spirit. It takes a special merciful and totally undeserved act of God to show a person the truth of the Gospel and give him or her the faith that leads to eternal life. In contrast, “Common Grace” is the gifting of God to all people that enables them to develop talents and skills that are good for the society and pleasing to God. Hence, the policeman on the corner may be a hardened atheist but an excellent cop! Or, a general may be known for steroidal impiety but be a remarkable tactician! The best dentist in town may have no fear of God but in pain I might turn to him or her without hesitation.

When Lincoln overlooked Grant’s drinking, he did not endorse it or find it amusing. But he saw in Grant a man who could win in battle. My sense is that many evangelicals see in Trump a man who can fight. Right or wrong, they are quite willing to overlook his rhetorical road rage, his irascibility, and smart remarks about other people and all of the rest. Why? Because at this point in America with a twenty trillion dollar debt load and Isis looming and the Supreme Court pending, evangelicals are frightened. Yes… evangelicals would like a management type in the White House who was also born of the Holy Spirit and a complete gentleman. I get that. Me too. But, absent those traits, they can live with someone more earthy and, at times, arrogant if he can get the job done. “If he can fight,” Lincoln might say.

That evangelicals are willing to accept Mr. Trump seems puzzling to many people. Their question seems to be “How can people who say they are Bible-believing and devoted followers of Christ…possibly vote for a man who insists he has never prayed for forgiveness despite his record of moral migetry? This man shows no familiarity with simple humility and repentance!”

Sure seems that way. However, if humility and regular penitence are required for the Oval Office, one must wonder how to look at many of America’s past leaders…some of them quite effective. Shall we dismiss TR because of his bombastic and, at times, cruel tongue especially towards his political enemies? The great TR who referred to native Africans as “ape-like naked savages” and native Americans as evil nine out of ten times? Was TR ever penitent? Not much evidence of tears trickling down Mt. Rushmore. Yet…many say he was a pretty good president.

Historians can’t find any contrition in the life of Andrew Jackson either. A President who wanted to Christianize the savage native Americans but whose views may have paved the way for the “Trail of Tears.” No, not much evidence of repentance there. Or FDR whose long running affair with a secretary broke his wife’s heart. No indication of contrition. Then of course everyone’s favorite General Eisenhower who’s well known romance with his personal driver left his good wife humiliated? No repentance at least publicly. How about JFK whose many ladies in waiting included skinny dipping secretaries in the White House pool while his wife walked the hallways? To say nothing of Bill and Hillary who, up to this point, have not exactly beaten a path to the confessional. The former president going so far as to insist to interviewer Mike Wallace that he had “nothing to be ashamed of!” A popular president who embodied Jeremiah’s charge against ancient Israel “You have forgotten how to blush!” (Jeremiah 6:15) Indeed, Mr. Clinton managed to demonstrate feet of clay and a wagging finger as he stared into the camera. Repentance? Hardly. Yet each of these people had strengths and brought some leadership to America.

Is it possible that racism and peccadillos have been often the norm and not the exception? Maybe evangelicals are coming to grips with the real picture and setting aside some ideals in pursuit of effective governance? True…some suggest that evangelicals who called for Clinton’s resignation are now hypocrites if they accept Trump’s bad behaviors. Possibly. That would require further argumentation to demonstrate that the two sets of moral lapses are equivalent. After all, Clinton was the president when he sinned. If Trump is elected and falls into the same wickedness then the word impeachment will no doubt surface again.   But the irony is almost amusing that Bill Clinton so lowered the bar regarding expected presidential morality that evangelicals may have found a new tolerance for decadence!

 

A further irony is that Clinton’s supporters insisted that his personal life had nothing to do with his suitability for office. But now many of them join evangelicals demanding a “penitence litmus test” suggesting that no self-respecting voter with any religious or moral scruples could vote for such a man as Trump. This is really quite confusing! Why? Because despite all of the high level moral preening by those who despise Trump, Clinton is still held in high regard. Why? Because he did do some very good things as president. So….if evangelicals are inclined (some of them) to overlook Mr. Trump’s personal short comings, they are in good company vis-à-vis the rest of the electorate.

 

Thus far, Mr. Trump has not contacted me for advice. But allow me to speculate on what I would suggest if he did so. First, I would advise Mr. Trump to knock off the crude and off-putting remarks. Such talk is boorish and really quite obnoxious. I’d tell him to be more careful with words and explain his views with greater nuance. And to be smarter with questions designed to leave him with a label. Did you really mean that no Mexican could ever be a good and competent judge because he or she is of Mexican origins? Or…did you mean that a particular judge has ruled against you with such bias that you are wondering if his devotion to his heritage has impeded his objectivity? Why not refer to former Attorney General Gonzales, himself of Hispanic origin, who has said your question was “legitimate?” And why not point out that your views on killing the unborn have changed and Hillary’s views have not; they’ve hardened further with palpable disregard for unborn life?

Finally, as a born-again Pastor I would encourage Mr. Trump to pursue the Lord Jesus Christ with far greater passion than the Presidency. But whatever happens, evangelicals are growing in their understanding that we are not electing a prayer warrior or a Priest or a Pastor or Rabbi. But an executive. And evangelicals are anxious. Because they know that this is where we raise our kids and this is where we rely on the police and this is where we pay our taxes. And this is a country on the brink of fiscal implosion. And Isis is right there. Or maybe even right here! And the evangelicals I speak with sense that we desperately need some real presidential management for a change. My guess is that many of them will roll their eyes on Election Day and give Trump their vote. Why? Because when it comes to many of their issues…”he fights.”

(Friends of this blog…your corrections regarding spelling, grammar and typos are more than welcome! I am my own editor! J)

 

13 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized