Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Entanglement Agenda

Part 6: Jesus Untangled Series

Christians in the first three hundred years of the faith were not tempted to become entangled with politics or to advance the Gospel by passing laws. Some say it’s because the Roman empire was so pagan and evil that no Christian would want to participate in it. But really it was no more evil than any other worldly empire. And historically there were many Roman soldiers and political officials who actually DID convert to the faith. In fact, this happened often enough that several early Christian teachers created a policy for how to respond to this trend.

As Hippolytus of Rome says: "A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God." (from "Readings in World Christian History", pp. 17-22)

And as Origen explains: “It is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but so that they may reserve themselves for a more divine and more necessary service in the Church of God – the salvation of men. And this service is at once necessary and right." (from "Origen Against Celus")

So, the early church certainly had the opportunity to take full advantage of a growing number of political converts in positions of power throughout the Roman Empire. Why not capitalize on that? Why not infiltrate the military command and turn the sword away from the throats of their martyred brothers and sisters?

Why? Because they saw clearly that political entanglement was a snare and a distraction from their main mission. Furthermore, they were unwavering in their devotion to Jesus and to His Kingdom. They stayed the course. They kept the faith.

If the early church understood who they were and what their mission was so clearly, why do Christians today find it so impossible to imagine following Jesus apart from political affiliation?

As Ross Rohde’s excellent article revealed, the Religious Right aligned itself with the Republican party to help elect Ronald Reagan. That started a snowball effect that we are still suffering from today where millions of American Christians can now no longer imagine Christianity without Conservative Republicanism.

As Ross put it, the American Church was ensnared much as a pimp grooms a new prostitute – seeking the girl who is pretty but not the center of attention. By manipulating her need to be noticed, and valued, the pimp can exploit her and get her to believe that if she keeps doing what the pimp asks her to do, “one day” she will realize her dreams.

But it’s all a lie.

However, that’s not where the pimping of American Christianity really began. As Princeton historian Kevin Kruse details in his new book, “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America,” our country’s religious prostitution began in the 1950’s.

Kruse explains how business leaders plotted to link Christianity, Republican politics, and libertarian economics tightly together. Why? To help drive a wave of public piety and create a feeling of solidarity between Christians and Corporations who might both see “Big Government” as a common enemy.

This is where our national motto, “In God We Trust” (1956), and a new line in the Pledge of Allegiance was added: “One nation under God” (1954) came from.  

And the goal was simple: to entangle Christianity with Republican politics in order to benefit big business.

As Kruse explains: “The reason they [corporations] start making this argument about freedom under God is that it’s a much more effective way to push back against the regulatory state and the labor unions. It’s no longer businessmen making the case for businesses. It’s ministers.”

And why Christian ministers? Because they were better at propaganda. “They’re very effective at making this argument that a state that restricts capitalism will inevitably restrict Christianity. They link economic restrictions with religious restrictions. It requires a bit of a leap of faith, but it’s one that they effectively sell,” says Kruse.

Other historians agree, including Kim Phillips-Fein whose book "Invisible Hands" also documents this unholy alliance between 1950's Corporations and the Christian Church. 

Both Phillips-Fein and Kruse credit a pastor by the name of Reverend Fifield - whose large Los Angeles congregation was made up mostly of millionaires - as one of the most effective ministers in the Capitalistic Christian movement. “Fifield disregards all of Christ’s warnings about the dangers of wealth,” says Kruse. “He completely disregards the injunction to look out for one another. To love your neighbor, to be your brother’s keeper. He discards all of those messages. It becomes a faith of individualism.”

In order to make it all work, the teachings of Jesus had to be downplayed. The Sermon on the Mount needed to be moth-balled in favor of more sermons about individual faith, civic duty, and paying taxes. Christianity began to slowly mirror the ideals of Capitalism, and soon enough Jesus was re-branded as the poster boy for the American Dream. 

Another minister, James Ingebretsen, President of a group known as Spiritual Mobilization (itself created by Revered Fifield to further this same cause) also admitted: “Fighting the forces that wanted to abolish the free enterprise system was my mission, not promoting Christ.”

This well-funded crusade to entangle the Christian faith with Republican Conservatism gained momentum in the 1970's and 1980's as evangelical leaders like Robertson and Falwell took the wheel. As Phillips-Fein notes in her book, one of the leading fund raisers for this movement, Richard Viguerie, affirmed that the next real major area of growth for the conservative ideology and philosophy is among evangelical people.”

And what was the result? As Kruse explains: “[This movement] had been launched to roll back the New Deal and instead it helps inspire a new sort of religious nationalism.”

Which is where we are today.

And my question for you is, "Did it work?" 

Have you bought their propaganda? Is your faith now entangled with Conservative Republican values? Are you, even now, still unable to separate your faith in Jesus with your political ideology?

I must confess that I was a victim of this propaganda. I was raised in a Republican home. I voted in every election since I was legally able to vote and I always voted "straight ticket" Republican. 

I listened to Rush Limbaugh. I read his books. I watched the Republican National Convention every election year on television. 

I cheered for my Republican President, and I griped and complained about those Liberal Democrats who were ruining our nation and threatening to bring down the wrath of God upon us.

But it was - and it is - all a lie. 

It's manipulation. Pure and simple.

We are all the victims of a well-funded, decades-long campaign to twist our faith into an easy to control voting block.

This is why it is so imperative for us to open our eyes, throw off the chains and return to Jesus – and Jesus alone – as our Lord and King.

I encourage you to read these verses with new eyes:

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..” (Hebrews 12:1)

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (2 Tim. 2:4)

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him..” (Philippians 3:7-9)

Maybe it's time for us to take out our garbage? Maybe it's time for us to finally and completely untangle ourselves from anything and everything that hinders us from following Jesus - and Jesus alone.

Here's an idea: Sit down tonight with your bible. Open up to the Gospel of Matthew. Find the Sermon on the Mount. Read it slowly. Listen to Jesus with a new heart. 

If I could, I would like to challenge you to crucify your Nationalism; crucify your Political affiliation; put to death anything that exalts itself against the Lordship of Jesus.

I challenge you to follow Jesus totally untangled from this world.


“They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for ‘people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.’ If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (2 Peter 2:19-20)


Part 1: "Jesus Untangled"

Part 2: "Who Are We?"

Read the Salon article about Kruse’s book here:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ross Rohde: How American Evangelicalism Has Been Exploited

NOTE: This guest post by Ross Rohde (author of Viral Jesus) is Part 5 in our "Jesus Untangled" series:

I have noticed, frankly, that most American Evangelicals have become so taken with the philosophy of right wing politics and American nationalism that they don't realize they've become compromised as Christians.

In my opinion the Republican party has prostituted the American Evangelical church. They own us and our thinking. We end up holding values that are counter to the values of Jesus because they've got us thinking along their paradigms rather than us evaluating everything according to the stated values of Jesus and the example of His life. The attached video shows that process in painful detail with a number of interviews from Evangelicals who were part of the process. The following is a synopsis of what happened.

We Evangelicals began to compromise ourselves because in the early 1980's the Republican Party told us we were important to them. In fact, it was Ronald Reagan who groomed the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell and Francis Schaeffer over the issue of abortion. They told us they would work towards overturning Roe vs. Wade. It's been 43 years since Row vs. Wade. How faithful have they been in fulfilling their promise? Now the same issue is happening with the anti-homosexual political agenda. Pay attention. That is losing them votes now, and they are turning against it as fast as they can; all the while still pretending to be on our side. That's grooming.

I'm going to say something harsh here, but I think it is true. In my opinion the Republican Party is treating the Evangelical church like a pimp treats a girl he has groomed. First he tells her he wants to be her boyfriend and he's in love with her. He pays attention to her and complements here. Then over time he tells her if she loves him she'll "help him" i.e. violate her morals in the name of the "relationship." Eventually he gets her to the point that she does anything he says, and thinks whatever he tells her to think, but she gets nothing out of the relationship other than her own violated morality. All the while she is thinking he's in love with her, becoming so deluded that she thinks he's protecting her.

That's were we are now with the Republican party. We do what they tell us. We think what they tell us to think, even when it is clearly the opposite of what Jesus said. But we actually get nothing out of the relationship but them telling us they love us, "Now, go violate your morals again, think what I tell you and not according to what Jesus said. Jesus really didn't say that. Or he didn't actually mean that. Now it's different. Just think what I tell you to think."

I think it's time to go back to our Bridegroom. I think the most appropriate book of the Bible right now for the American Evangelical Church is Hosea. And, before you go there, I'm not suggesting that the Democratic party, or the Libertarians or European socialism is the answer. 

Am I angry at the Republican Party? Absolutely I am, because they have prostituted the Bride of Christ. But does that mean I think some other political party will help us? NO! They'd love to prostitute us too. We need to go back to Jesus. And we need to be very careful we don't evaluate any moral, value or action based on anything other than Jesus' values and example. We need to quit thinking through the Republican and nationalism paradigms. Because if we do, all we are showing is we've been compromised.

Here is a link that shows the political grooming in painful detail, along with interviews from Evangelicals who were part of the process and saw it all first hand.

 by Ross Rohde


Part 1: "Jesus Untangled"
Part 2: "Who Are We?"

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Still Embracing Constantine?

I have a little more grace for Christians who are still part of the Traditional Church when it comes to mixing politics and faith. I mean, they already accept the Constantinian model of Church with its hierarchy and professional clergy, so it’s not a mystery to me why they also embrace the idea of a Church that is aligned with the State.

But when Christians in the Organic (or House) Church movement affirm an entangled Christianity, I have to wonder what’s really going on?

Historically, the Christian church viewed the State as an adversary – at best as a necessary evil – and something that was to be “called out” from, not something to be embraced or to become entangled with.

Paul affirmed that the State served a purpose – to wield the sword and maintain civil authority – but that the Church served a higher purpose – to carry the cross and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. (See Romans 13)

The early Christian church took all of that to heart. From the earliest writings of the Apostles, through the Second and Third centuries, the Church resisted military involvement and refused engagement at the political level – even requiring new disciples to the faith who already served in public office to resign or be turned away at the Lord’s Table and disqualified from Baptism.

Of course, all of that changed when the Emperor Constantine allegedly converted to Christianity. But the form of Christianity that Constantine offered the Church was one that was fused with the State.

In exchange for a place of honor and acceptability within the public square, the Christian Church sold Her birthright and bowed her knees to the State.

Ironically enough, the Church compromised Her values so that the sword would no longer come against Her –and yet once Constantine and the Empire become entangled with the Church there were even more Christians put to death than ever before. Only now, sadly, it would be the Church Herself who would imprison and torture and put to death any Christian that opposed Her – or the State.

When the Anabaptists stood up and defied the State Church – even the Reformed State Church of Calvin and Luther – they were arrested, beaten, tortured, and put to death for seeking to turn back the clock to a time when the Church wasn’t aligned with the State.

Because of all this, Christians who today embrace the Organic or House Church model should automatically understand the importance of untangling their faith from their politics. If they truly understand that the Church went off the rails by aligning Herself with Constantine, then it shouldn’t be too hard to see that any Christian who maintains political entanglements is still enslaved to that Constantinian form of Church.

Yet this is not the case. Perhaps part of the problem is that Christians who have left the Traditional Church are still carrying some of the baggage they brought with them from the Constantinian form of Church? Maybe they have yet to fully grasp all that the Constantinian model stands for?

I do know that many within the House Church movement do not automatically reject Constantine’s Sword, for example. They still hold fast to a form of Christianity that embraces violence rather than returning to the words of Jesus for instruction on how to respond to those who want to harm us. They haven’t yet understood the power of Christ that is at work in our weakness or fully trusted in the transformational power of the love of Christ to disarm our enemies.

So, many House Church practitioners only disavow the Hierarchy model that Constantine introduced into the Church, but do not yet feel comfortable letting go of the Church/State political entanglements that he infused at the same time.

Until we completely turn away from every perversion of the Christian faith that Constantine introduced into the Church, we will never be completely free to experience the Koinonia of the Ekklesia, and we’ll never be empowered to really “Be the Church” that Jesus designed in the first place.

Part 4 in the "Jesus Untangled" series

Part 1: "Jesus Untangled"
Part 2: "Who Are We?"

A Message To ISIS: From The People of The Cross.