Pastor’s Perspective – January 2020
2019 was a strange year. It was a time in which wealth and abundance increased, while sin and darkness also rose. It was a time of hoaxes and cover-ups, with our major political parties and news media conglomerates covering only the news and the stories that fit their previously considered agendas. There was no more news. No more facts. Only opinion and spin.
On one network you could watch as newly minted hero Jussie Smollett explained how he fought off two white supremacists while getting a Subway sandwich after midnight on the coldest day in recent memory, and then flip to another network that exposed the entire episode as a (not so) well-coordinated hoax. And that was just in January.
The news continued in this fashion for the remainder of the year, with story after story fitting the facts that the news consumers sought to discover. No one was changed by the truth and everyone did what was free to believe what was right in their own hearts.
With the facts rarely inconveniencing the American people, we were left with the chance to solidify our own biases and double down on our hatreds. This of course came in handy as Presidential and Congressional malfeasance dominated the end of the year news cycle. Neither side acquitted themselves with dignity and honor as each treated the other with contempt while claiming to be the victim of unprecedented malice. Sadly 2020 will begin as 2019 ended with a political narrative that is guided primarily by the assumptions that we have all carried with us for the past year.
In a season of self-assured accusations, the only thing that is incontrovertible and uncontested is that 2019 was a sad year for the American political and media system. Despite the dishonorable behaviors of our leadership, or perhaps because of it, the stock market continued to rise to unprecedented highs and there are more jobs then there are workers to fill them. Economically speaking we are living in the ‘years of plenty’ yet spiritually we are seeing harbingers of doom around every corner.
Maybe it was because the news was being told to us through a fun house mirror. Even Christian media got into the game as Evangelicals were polarized by the attitudes and actions of President Trump. Each side attempted to show their ethical bona fides by referring to the other opinions as dishonest, untrue and biased. Grace took a hit as the twitter behaviors of Presidents, dictators, and media moguls all seemed to overwhelm our ability to ignore vacuous words and forgive unpleasant comments.
The sad truth is that in 2019 no one held the ethical high ground. No one was able to see beyond their own opinions, and when the news agencies themselves failed to even report on the others side’s facts, then the divide between people of previously understood ‘good faith’ was helpless in their ability to rightly judge the motives and guilt of their leaders.
The winners of 2019 were the rich and the powerful. Nothing changed for them. LeBron James and President Trump may dislike each other, but both of them had banner years. And everyone in seats of power breathed a sigh of relief when serial statutory rapist Jeffery Epstein was found ‘hanged’ in his prison cell. Once again, the facts of the case were astonishing and the corruption surrounding the case was nakedly visible. The only disagreement that the media had surrounding the case was whether President Trump or the Clintons had the most to gain from Epstein’s death. The fact that anyone could pretend that they were on the righteous side was bewildering.
In the most nationally conflicted year in my memory, the saddest take away was that no one is winning. Furthermore, as we are currently travelling, no one will win.
Winning demands that we are honest about our flaws. That we review the things that caused us trouble. That we learn from our mistakes and adjust our trajectory based on the cold hard facts of our own actions. In order to prepare for the future, we must be willing to learn from the past. When neither side has shown the ability to honestly evaluate their own flaws, sin and deficits, then we are doomed to continue unchanged by our errors and doomed to repeat them.
So what do we do? The answer that you will receive from the media – political complex is that all of our problems can be solved in the 2020 election cycle. If we only vote for their party then our enemies will be vanquished and morning will dawn on America.
This, of course, is sophistry. It is also incredibly unbiblical. As opinionated as I am concerning politics, I do not believe that we can point to a direct line Biblical argument for HOW we should vote. This is not due to God’s reluctance to tell us what is true and righteous, but because there is no place in the scriptures where the people of God vote for a leader. In the book of Acts, when faced with choosing a replacement for Judas within the Twelve, the nascent Church “draws lots” instead of voting. It must be stated that they did not do this because they had no knowledge of voting, the Greeks and Romans had been voting in various forms of government for generations, yet they determined a member of their inner circle with the roll of the dice.
In fact, personal choice and the collective will of the people are not shown in a positive light in the scriptures. Whenever the people of God seek their own solutions to their political problems it only proves to accelerate their collapse. Consider the fallout from Israel’s demand for a King in Israel. After the long dysfunctional slide through the time of the Judges, the people of Israel are ruled by their very own Gandalf the Grey (also known as the prophet Samuel). Samuel travels the nation, solves problems, lead the people in times of conflict and acts as God’s personal spokesman. He is trusted and trustworthy, but his children are not as faithful as their father, and Israel is terrified by the possibility of their rule.
Israel makes a demand that God give them a King to rule over the nation. Samuel and God are equally offended by the request, but God relents and gives them what they want. Israel becomes like the surrounding nations; a nation ruled by the whims and wishes of a tyrannical sovereign. Their first King was right out of central casting; handsome, tall and dashing. A regular Disney prince come to life. King Saul was also thick as a brick and crazy as a Mad Hatter. We get what we ask for and what we deserve.
Even the best of the Kings are hopelessly corrupt, and famously even the great King David is both Impeached and removed from office as punishment for his sin against the foreign born husband of Bathsheba (who for her infidelity becomes the Queen Mother of Solomon). The pattern continues until one of David’s line steps to the forefront after a long season of oppression. The only worthy heir to the throne is rejected by the people and delivered into the hands of their oppressors. The crowd spoke and rejected the person and will of God. In an ironic twist it is Rome who acknowledges Jesus Christ as the King of the Jews when they crucified Him outside of the city of Jerusalem.
The crucified King is my King. I pray He is yours also. His name will never show up on a ballot (though many will claim to be His descendants and disciples) and we will surely continue to be governed by partisans and Presidents, yet Jesus can still reign in our lives. Talking heads will talk and Congressional leaders will show up on The Tonight Show, but they do not have the power. You hold the power. You can turn them off, vote them out, or simply ignore them in your daily walk. But whatever you do, do not despair about the state of our politics. Nor think for a moment that what we are experiencing is somehow unprecedented.
Remember that Paul never lived a day with a good and Godly King. Moses never had a Pharaoh that was on God’s side. The holiest of our predecessors lived and often died for Christ at the hands of this world’s leadership. The people of God have always been at their best when the government was at its worst. They faithfully endured and lifted high the banner of Jesus Christ. And so shall we.
2020 will be a good year. Not because of what our authorities accomplish, but because of what God does… in us. Be ready. Be hopeful. Show love and share Jesus.
Let’s make 2020 the year of our Lord.