All posts by Darris Brock

Darris Brock is an ordained minister in the Christian Church. He is a past professor at Johnson University (Johnson Bible College) and is an elder and worship minister at Lighthouse Christian Church.

Risen is Worthwhile

Going into the movie, Risen, I knew nothing about it other than having seen the trailer on the Internet. The trailer was unimpressive to me so the movie was a very pleasant surprise.

Without giving away too much, let me say that it is not your typical remake of the Jesus story. It is a creative thought project. The story is told from the perspective of a fictional Roman Tribune named Clavius, played well by Joseph Fiennes. Clavius is charged with assuring that Jesus is dead, securing the tomb, and then attempting to find the body of Jesus after the tomb is discovered to be empty.

Most of the movie is pure, imaginative fiction. Certainly there must have been some interest by the Roman authorities when Jesus’ body went missing. We have no idea how much they were concerned. The only information we are given is that the Jewish authorities paid the soldiers a bribe and said that they would protect them if the story ever got back to the governor, Pontius Pilate (Matthew 28:11-15). For the movie’s sake, Pilate does find out and launches a thorough search for the body. Clavius becomes the proverbial “fly on the wall” who gets to observe things from an outsider’s perspective.

If you are a biblical purist then the movie is not for you. Some points of contact with the Gospel story do exist. The end of the crucifixion story and some of the events around the burial are portrayed. Jesus’ post-resurrection visit to the upper room is touched upon as is his appearance in Galilee. There is a healing of a leper that takes place which is not narrated in any of the Gospel stories but serves the plot device well. Jesus’ ascension is also portrayed but not as it is described in either Luke 24:50-53 or Acts 1:9-11.

Another unrealistic aspect of the movie is the relationship of Clavius, who is a Gentile, to the Jews. Jews clearly thought of Gentiles as unclean and would avoid them. This is a situation that persists well into the early Jewish-Christian period. The book of Acts narrates how it ends at the household of Cornelius in chapter 10. Even after that we find that the issue persists or reoccurs, according to the writings of the Apostle Paul. For the purposes of the movie, that issue is set aside and the disciples have a full understanding that such distinctions no longer matter.

This movie is not a “preachy” movie. There is no overt call to sinners to repent. Instead it is an exploration of what might have been had such a character as Clavius existed.

Significant effort has been made here not to offer anything that might spoil the movie-going experience. If you want further discussion on the movie and what makes a good Christian movie then I encourage you to read this article by Ken Samples of Reasons to Believe.

Syrian Refugee Crisis

The Syrian refugee crisis has brought to light the difficult question concerning how Christians live as both citizens of the Kingdom of God and citizens of the United States of America. The way the issue is presented it seems that a series of false dichotomies has been constructed in an attempt to force an either/or decision between the two. The situation has been complicated by politics and the recent terrorist attacks, especially the one in Paris. American Christians have responsibilities to both citizenships. The two need not be mutually exclusive. An analysis of the roles belonging to both can illustrate that point.


The first role of any government is the protection of its people. This is true whether you look at the subject biblically or through the lens of the United States Constitution. The issue of illegal immigration and the Syrian refugees both bring to the forefront the question of the safety of the citizens. With illegals the issue is mostly street crime and drug running with the ever-present concern about potential terrorists entering without detection. The Syrian refugee issue is much more concerned about potentially allowing terrorists into the country or those who might become terrorists as the predominant body of Syrians is Muslim. Almost all terrorism in the Western world today is done by people professing Islam as their religion. There is no “close second” contender. Islam is clearly the religion where terrorism has found its natural and most prolific home. Furthermore, we know that most of the terrorists are young people, mostly men but also women. In fact, Canada has recently recognized that fact by banning young, single men from being resettled there. Families, women, children, and those over 50 are still eligible – and all this under Trudeau, the new Liberal prime minister.

Unlike the illegal immigration issue where people enter the country unchecked, the refugee issue is completely under the control of the government. Applicants must meet certain criteria to be considered a valid refugee. These include proof of persecution for religious or political beliefs, race, nationality, or one or more of a few other things listed in federal law. In the case of the Syrian population the only ones truly in distress are the Christians who suffer for their religion. All of the other Muslim factions from Syria have places they can go within the region to seek refuge with others of their same faction. This is not true of the Christian population, which is only about 10% of the Syrian population. They are frequently assaulted or killed by Muslims. In fact, they are underrepresented in the refugee camps because they fear going where the Muslims may well assault or kill them.

In addition to such horror stories, the evidence from Europe of increased crime rates with the influx of Muslim refugees cannot be overlooked. Sweden has become the rape capital of Europe. Muslim migrants have increased crime in Germany by 65%. Even as I write there is a search going on in the capital city of the European Union, Brussels in Belgium, for Muslim terrorists who are supposedly involved in an “imminent” attack. We have learned from this that one area of the city known as Sint-Jans-Molenbeek is heavily Muslim and a serious problem for authorities to police. Such Muslim enclaves have already become problems in France and other places in Europe as well. As I pointed out in a previous article, the problem is that Islam and “freedom” are fundamentally at odds. Islam is a totalitarian religio-political system that seeks to impose Islam and Sharia Law on the whole world. It teaches Muslims that they should lie to non-believers, can rape them, steal from them, assault them, and commit other atrocities against them. It is anti-Semitic to the core (see “No Future for Jews in Europe“). Even if one was to recognize that some Muslims in the Western world reject this aspect of their religion, the fact is that many still adhere to it and those coming from third-world countries such as Syria still strongly adhere to it. This leads to an inevitable clash of cultures which makes such people poor candidates for assimilation into the first world. Worse still are surveys that indicate that almost a quarter of the Muslim Syrian refugees have some favorable opinion of ISIS. Such people are candidates for radicalization.

Another aspect of the Syrian refugee issue that is getting some airtime is the fact that we have little to no documentation on who these people actually are. It is not possible to do thorough vetting without information. This is one of the reasons that terrorists can, and we now know have, used the migration to move about Europe with fake documents. Additionally, with the US following UN rules for admitting refugees we find that Muslims are highly favored and Christians are not. Of more than 2,000 refugees admitted to the US only 53 have been Christian which is the safest of the demographic groups to admit.

Purely on the basis of safety, Syrian refugees are not good candidates to be brought to the US. The lack of documentation, the fact that the Muslims have other places to seek refuge, the fact that the form of Islam they practice is fundamentally incompatible with the US Constitution and Western concepts of religious freedom in general should rule most of them out. In fact, it would be best to contain the refugees in an area similar to that from which they came. It requires fewer cultural adjustments, fewer travel expenses, and the ultimate goal is to return them to their own country as soon as possible.

Let the Church Do Its Job

Christians are often conflicted because their compassionate side and their idealistic goal of converting Muslims to Christianity clash. Their allegiance to the mission effort may override their concept of national identity. After all, no true Christian should choose an earthly nation over the Kingdom of God if they are required to make such a choice. But the Syrian refugee crisis does not present such a choice.

Idealistic Christians think that by bringing Muslims into the country the church has the opportunity to convert them to Christianity. That train of thought is riddled with problems. First, it is not the job of the government to provide the church with candidates for proselytism. It is not anywhere in federal law nor in the history of US immigration. Second, it assumes that the “church” will attempt to do its job. Yet that is not entirely clear as refugees will be dispersed across the states with no assurance that they will be evangelized. Third, even if they are evangelized we have no clear idea how many will convert and how many will maintain their third-world form of Islamic beliefs and actions. Such people are the sources of cultural clashes and increased crime. It seems to be a much better policy to convert them before bringing them into the country because Christianity is tolerant of religious freedom, is not anti-Semitic, values human life, and respects the property of others regardless of their religion. Fourth, the expense of bringing a single refugee to the United States is approximately twelve times greater than caring for the same person in situ. The cost estimate is $64,000 compared to around $5,300. The responsible Christian who is taught to be fiscally responsible should ask: what is more cost effective? Clearly it is more cost effective to care for these people in their local areas. Nor does that preclude the church from doing its job. This is why the church sends missionaries and raises money for charity groups such as Samaritan’s Purse. The Christian should also ask which is more moral: feeding twelve refugees or relocating one refugee? Are we to leave the other eleven behind simply because we want to bring another one here in the hope that he will convert to Christianity? What if he doesn’t? Is that money considered a waste?

Political and Practical Issues

There are some very practical realities that keeping refugees in the region implies. One is that it will be harder if not impossible to evangelize the Muslims since many of the Islamic states would forbid it or sharply curtail it. But we were never going to have full access to all the Muslims anyway. The number that can be resettled here is small and select.

Refugees flee to the West because the countries of the European Union, Canada, and the United States have generous social welfare for them which is not available in the countries nearby Syria. The result is that they become an immediate and long-term drain on the working citizens of these first-world countries. It also adds to the unemployment problems of these countries. Some contend that such economic strain is part of an Islamic invasion of Europe which seeks to reshape the populations, make terrorism easier, and bring about more Islamic dominance. Those are valid concerns. Whether it is intentional or not, if the migrants stay it will have that effect on the continent (see “Sweden Overwhelmed“).

In the States there is great distrust of the Obama administration on all matters relating to Islam and immigration. The perception by the majority of people is that he has failed to effectively deal with ISIS, has made deals with the enemy in Iran, and failed to secure the border. There is a sense that he is trying to change the makeup of the country by importing or allowing into the country people who do not share its language or culture or its deep-seated commitment to religious freedom.  The response to this perception by the top Republican presidential candidates has been to suggest making safe zones in Syria for Christian refugees as well as the Muslim refugees. The present administration shows no movement in that direction at this time. It either lacks the political will or does not view resettlement as a problem.

As with Europe, it is a concern that the influx of immigrants or refugees is a political attempt to shift the culture away from its largely European heritage and to shift voting blocks toward Democrats, who get the majority of the vote of such immigrants. The recent discovery that the Obama administration has brought in 680,000 Arab immigrants over the past few years only bolsters such ideas.

In attempting to evaluate the political aspect of this situation, it is often wise to consider who supports the present plan. Clearly the American people are against it by a two-thirds majority. The Republican candidates for president are for a temporary halt to the program as well. Those who do support it are primarily found on the political left: the president, the Democrat candidates for president, and liberal champions like Michael Moore, who offered to pay to import and house refugees in his house. If the minority of the people support it and its champions are found in the liberal left, then it is simply a bad idea for the country.

The left is laying a poorly exegeted guilt trip on the Christian community with one of the false dichotomies: Christians must support the importation of refugees or else they are not living up to their Christian values. Clearly this is not the case. The political left is happy to invoke the concept of a Christian nation by merging the role of government with the role of the church in this case because it supports their goals. Any other time they would recoil at the idea that the government was supporting anything related to the church’s mission. This hypocrisy and the well-known hostility the left has toward God and Christianity in particular lends itself to the conclusion that the goals and motivations for the refugee relocation are less than genuine. In fact, it seems that this is social engineering of the Christian community by attempting to play upon the natural compassion and sense of charity built into Christian doctrine in order to garner support for a left-wing agenda.

Finally, there needs to be real concern for sustaining the Western world in which Christianity has flourished and through whose economic engine the world’s missionaries are predominantly funded. Killing off Western culture would be tantamount to killing the goose that laid the golden egg. As citizens of both the Kingdom of God and the United States, it is clearly good stewardship to maintain what we have been so blessed with and what has so blessed the rest of the world.

Higher Moral Ground

In my opinion, the higher moral ground clearly lies as follows: (1) protect the Christian refugees because they are being assaulted and killed by the Muslims because of their religion (2) keep the Muslims as near to Syria as possible (3) feed & evangelize them there until they can be returned to their homeland (4) preserve the Western cultures that have fostered the growth of Christianity and religious freedom (5) protect the citizens of the countries from unnecessary exposure to the third-world thug element of these refugees.


Muhammad’s Islam is the Problem

ISIS stands well in the tradition of Islam as it was conceived of and instituted by Muhammad then carried on by his successors. It was a violent, militaristic, oppressive, intolerant, and murderous religion from the beginning.

In the name of Islam, Muhammad committed a plethora of atrocities. He murdered caravan traders from his own hometown; he murdered Jews; he endorsed the rape of captured women and sold them into slavery; he assassinated his enemies or people who would insult him or Islam; he endorsed lying and deceit as a means to get what he wanted; he spread Islam by conquering cities and forcing them to convert or die. In fact, his successors over the next century after his death, conquered Christian territories all the way up to Tours in France where Charles Martel defeated them to stop the advance.

Muhammad ruled by terror. Petty crimes were punished by the amputation of hands and feet. Families were burned alive in their homes for missing prayer time. He was anti-Semitic and hostile to Christians. The list of his crimes against humanity parallels those of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, or other violent Islamist groups today. These are the intellectual heirs of Muhammad.

The Religion of Peace website keeps track of Islamist terrorist activity. Just since 9/11 of 2001 more than 27,295 terrorist attacks have been carried out. Islam has been at war with the civilized world from the beginning. Islam is at the heart of almost every war in the world today. In fact, Islam has been at war with itself since the death of Muhammad when the Sunni and Shia factions developed. Violence is its ongoing legacy.

Islam is a religio-political system not simply a religion. Its goal is to supplant all other forms of government and to force Sharia law onto every population. This puts it at odds with Western societies where freedom of religion has become a right. Yet this aspect seems to be largely unknown or unacknowledged by Westerners. The tendency is to appeal to “peaceful” Muslims in these Western societies and ignore those who are violent or support violence. Some news is made when a terror cell is discovered and its members arrested but such cases do not seem to have long-lasting effect on the public consciousness. Muslims are trying to get Sharia law imposed in the United States in defiance of the Constitution. Court cases have multiplied in recent years and some states have moved to ban Sharia outright.

In every fundamental way, Islam is the anti-Christian version of a religion. Jesus never endorsed forced conversions or warfare as a means of spreading the gospel. He never endorsed a particular system of government. He condemned all the types of sins that Muhammad committed. Rather than murder those who insult you, Jesus taught people to pray for those who insult you and persecute you for your Christian faith. Jesus taught love for the personal enemy. His followers taught respect for just government authority; living at peace with those around you; compassion for the poor and downtrodden; respect for the sanctity of human life. Christian leaders did not kill each other in quests for power and order of succession after Jesus’ time on earth.

Islam is the problem, when it is practiced as it was founded. Thankfully, at least some Muslims choose to reject or ignore this history and attempt to practice a peaceful form of the religion. Unfortunately, it is difficult to fully trust even peaceful Muslims since individuals can be radicalized without others being aware of it. While young men are usually the targets of such radicalization, even women have been increasingly radicalized. The female suicide bomber in France was not a radical as little as six months before her death yesterday, according to her family. Wherever Islam is practiced there is the potential for radicalization. There are also real concerns about allowing large communities of Muslims to grow, as has become evident in Europe recently. In a CBN report from 2014 we learned that there are certain areas of France that police cannot effectively patrol and that assaults against native, white, non-Muslim French people by Muslims are a problem. Such facts do not instill confidence in the peaceful coexistence of Islam and religious freedom. Until Islam can divorce itself from Sharia and rely upon the law of the given country in which it resides, its adherents will rightly be suspect. It will take a long-term and fundamental reformation of Islam before it will be safe for the Western world.

Ashley Madison Hacked

Some people had their eyes opened when the Ashley Madison files were released this week. The adultery site made some news when it came online a few years back. A few months ago it was in the news when it was hacked but it was not a household name. Some of my female Facebook friends and their female friends were stunned and disgusted when they read about the site in one of my posts. They simply couldn’t understand how people can do such things. Let me explain.

Sexual Revolution

There is no question that the Internet has opened up more doors of opportunity for sexual deviancy to a broader number of people than at any time previously in human history. But the Internet is not the problem. It is a symptom of the problem. The biggest problem has been the separation of sex from sacredness.

During the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair revelation period, the Clinton defenders championed a line, “It’s only sex.” They downplayed the Clinton affair by downplaying the significance of sexual relations. We were told that “everybody lies about sex”. For them, that is probably true. They are children of the sexual revolution.

Restraints Removed

Some major restraints were removed from society and that has led to a more lax sexual ethic among people. One of those was the legalization and popularization of birth control pills for women. Up to that point, women were always at significant risk for pregnancy. That was a strong deterrent. Birth control pills allowed women a flexibility that they had never had before. This led to the “free love” movement of the 1960s and 70s where women were encouraged and empowered to have multiple sexual partners without the commitment of marriage. This was the era of the hippie movement, casual drug use, and of women’s liberation – which encouraged women to live the way that the men were perceived to live. A woman could do anything a man could do – even sleep around or not commit to a relationship. Relationships were free to focus on sex not children. Marriage was not really necessary. Cohabitation began to rise.

Sex education began to be taught in schools. While this seems to be a necessary part of human education, it empowered teenagers in larger numbers than in the past. The surrounding culture became increasingly sexualized with television, movies, and music. At the same time there was a rebellion toward religious values of the past. Marriage, monogamy, and fidelity were treated as the ways of the old people. They were not cool and hip for youngsters who were plugged into the current cultural trends. In the early days of Hollywood, sexual misconduct was hidden by the studios so as not to damage the marketability of the stars. But during this time period the excesses of sex, drugs, and rock and roll put a lot of young pop icons on the side of the cultural rebellion. Naturally, many of their fans followed suit.

As the crisis of divorce peaked in the late 70s and teen pregnancy in the late 80s we have seen something of a cooling effect for this unrestrained sexuality movement. However, that does not mean that the effects do not still linger on.

It used to be that cohabitation was both a sin and a public shame. Much of that shame has been washed away from it because the element of sin has been removed or demoted in the minds of people. Out-of-wedlock pregnancy was a serious black mark on your name. It demonstrated a gross moral failing. It was so shameful that parents might ship their daughter off to live elsewhere until the baby was born and then place the baby up for adoption without the community at large knowing about the situation. This was a means of protecting the daughter’s reputation if not the boy’s as well. Another option was to have the couple marry in order to “make things right”. Today the out-of-wedlock birthrate among blacks is at 70% and among whites at 40%. These numbers have more than doubled in the last 25 years. Clearly, young people over the last few decades have not felt the shame in the same way as previous generations. They are empowered by the pop stars who live this way and comforted by friends in their communities who are just like them. These are not heavily church-going people and so the element of sin has been demoted for them. There is not fear of God and no understanding as to why marriage is important.

The sexual revolution has separated sex from the sacredness of marriage and the purpose of child-rearing. It has made sex a recreational activity with little or no moral stigma attached to it for the younger generations. “It’s only sex”, as the Clinton defenders would say. Indeed, for them it is nothing more than a physical stimulation to a physical end. That generation of the sexual revolution could not allow itself to care about the immorality of what they were doing. They ignored the psychological, physical, and social damage that their actions brought upon them. They refused to listen to the counsel of their elders and ministers who advised them against it.

The systems that were put in place: sex education, movies, television, and music have become increasingly sexualized. They are taught that all sexual expression is good, even homosexuality, and now they’re told that homosexuals can even marry! This tells people that there is no difference between the sexes in an even more extreme way than women’s liberation did. Religion is still a devalued commodity and, by statement and implication, considered to be irrelevant to those pushing the sexual revolution ideas today.

What do you expect?

So is it any wonder that a site like Ashley Madison can rise up in such a climate? Josh Duggar will take a lot of heat for his infidelity because he was a moral crusader who fell. He will be held to a higher level of scrutiny than others guilty of the same sins. This is because the community of faith still remember shame and disgrace and calls adultery sin. It doesn’t mean others won’t suffer public humiliation, family strife, financial loss, and divorce.

These are the things that monogamy, fidelity, and faith bring to the human condition. People who are serious about their faith, respectful of their spouse, and value their children, reputation, and jobs do not engage in such behavior. A spouse does not worry. Children are not exposed to marital strife. The expense and emotional turmoil of divorce is not an issue. Life is comparatively more peaceful and happy. These are the things that God desires for His people.

My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
turn your ear to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.

–Proverbs 5:1-6

The women on my Facebook page are shocked because infidelity is not on their minds. Women, on the whole, are interested in committed relationships. Men are much more likely to be stepping out, even though most do not. The anonymity that these people thought they were buying surely bolstered their confidence that they could get away with it. Whether it was money, power, or ego that drove them to these affairs the one thing that did not drive them was a fear of God. Until people reconnect God with their sexual ethics, we cannot expect a significant change in human behavior. Recognizing the sacredness of the sexual bond is central to human happiness and well being and to the benefit of society as a whole. God knows. He set things up.

The Christian Citizen

One of the complaints leveled at those of us who dare to address social issues and still identify as Christians involves the distinction of the church from the state. The typical expression of this thought is twofold. The first is that the church depends too much on the state and government structure for its success. When the government fails, then the church is seen to have failed. Its members are grieved and dissatisfied The second area of complaint is that the church is not different enough from the world to stand out. The melding of the church with social-political causes is thought to dilute the power of the church as the wholly-other entity that it should be. Were this not done, so the argument goes, then the church would have more drawing power because it would be the proverbial shining city on a hill that draws all men to it. Rather than criticizing and engaging the world around it, the church should be open and loving to those who are in the world. After all, the complaint goes, the church is not called to judge the world; it is called to judge itself. The world is expected to be a place of corruption and evil. The church should be a place of purity and holiness.

Both of these criticisms are overly simplistic.

The Cultural Milieu

The so-called culture wars are the most interesting and relevant thing to write about. They are current events and hot topics. Church members buzz about them. Pastors are quizzed about them. Minds can be shaped and formed around them. They are impossible to dodge. Should we even want to dodge them? They offer natural teaching opportunities. The two biggest, abortion and homosexuality, are two issues where there is clarity provided from Scripture. A pastor would be irresponsible not to plainly state that both are against the will of God. At that point, whether the pastor wants to or not, he has been placed on a political “side” of the issue.  We do not have the option of extracting ourselves from the cultural milieu into which we were born.

When you survey this site’s content you’ll see a good deal on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Several of these articles were delivered as sermons and others as talks during Bible study sessions. These intersect both the secular and religious aspects of American society. Our members read that the Bible condemns homosexuality and the culture around them wants to condone homosexuality. This is a legitimate concern. The outcome affects both the Christian citizen in his civil life as well as in his religious life. What should the church’s response be? Some want to withdraw; to separate from the political realm.

Rome v. Washington

One of the distinctions that such critics seem to fail to make is in recognizing that we do not live in the Roman empire. They will appeal to biblical models that seem to steer clear of any interaction with Roman civil government. They will note that Jesus did not spend his time trying to change Roman law. Neither did Paul.  At the same time, they will ignore the fact that by addressing Jewish leaders and critiquing them on their religious practices that Jesus and Paul were directly assaulting the ruling Jewish government. Israel was a theocratic state as far as its local government was concerned. Striking out at the Pharisees and Sadducees was political discourse. Confronting the Sanhedrin, the supreme governing body for Jews, was a direct assault on the government. Religion and government were tightly intertwined in Israel.

Confronting Jewish authorities could get you killed. Ultimately, it was the Jewish leadership that persuaded the Romans to crucify Jesus. Before that, John the Baptist was beheaded because he confronted Herod Antipas over a legal matter of divorce. John told Herod that it was not “lawful” for him to have Herodias as a wife since she was divorced from his half-brother, Herod Philip.  (Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9 cf. Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21). The danger was real. Paul himself was very nearly killed by Jewish leaders on more than one occasion.

As Jews, the average person had even less standing in the eyes of Roman officials. The Jews were a conquered people and subjects of the Roman empire. Very few were citizens and so did not receive the same treatment as Roman citizens. Jesus himself ran afoul of the Roman government in that Herod Antipas wanted to kill him. Jesus’ reply was an insult and an affront to Herod. He said, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal’” (Luke 13:32). Herod was called a fox, which was an unclean animal according to Jewish dietary laws. Herod tried to play the part of a pious Jew, but the divorce mentioned above, his ties to the Roman government, and the fact that he had John the Baptist beheaded were just some of his sins. Jesus is defying Antipas’ authority, insulting his Jewish side, and challenging him to “come and get me” which Herod does not do.

These observations are made simply to point out that there was not an absence of conflict with the Jewish and Roman civil authorities. Religion was often the subject of these interactions.

Missions from God

Direct political confrontations with Rome were not likely to end well, as the tale of John the Baptist tells us. The Roman government was not interested in “bottom up” reform. They maintained peace through force. This speaks to a second problem with models of Jesus and Paul as non-political reformers.

Jesus stated that he had a mission from God to “preach good news to the poor” and that he was sent to the “lost sheep of Israel” as his primary mission field. Jesus’ ministry was not one of governmental reform. He wasn’t participating in a democratic republic where citizens could advocate for change. In fact, it was rather important to his ministry that he not be heavily involved in Roman political matters. His famous saying, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” was a way of avoiding taking sides in a political trap set for him. Had Jesus been highly confrontational with Rome, he would have been arrested and probably executed in short order. This would have interfered with his personal mission of preaching, which was a necessary part of fulfilling his concept of Messiah.

Similarly, Paul had no interest in reforming the Roman government. Some say it is because Paul thought that the end was so near at hand that such reforms would have been a waste of time. That is probably true, but the authoritarian nature of the Roman government probably had even more to do with it. Paul did use his influence within the churches to advocate for freeing slaves and improving the lot of women, but had he made a public campaign of this he would certainly have been arrested. Slavery was such a huge and vital part of the Roman system that anything remotely resembling condoning a “slave revolt” would surely have gotten Paul executed much earlier than he was. Paul had a vision for his mission work and that was to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. A direct, frontal assault on Roman government was a sure way to end that mission quickly. So advocating for Roman political reform did not fit within the primary missions of either Jesus or Paul. In fact, it would be anachronistic to try to compare their political realities with our political realities.

The times, they are a changing

The New Testament came forth from the first-century world in which it was written. Its concerns and processes are not the same as they are in western democratic republics. In the authoritarian structure of the Roman empire, the vast majority of the population did not get to vote or influence public policy. In the democratic republic that is the United States, the citizens are all invited to vote and to critique government policies. We even encourage “grassroots” movements, which are inherently bottom-up movements. It would seem to be in the best interest of the citizenry for Christians to participate and influence policy.

Among the things that critics tend to overlook is that God is a supporter of good government. The nation of Israel was founded to be a just and fair society unlike any other in the Ancient Near East at the time. But even outside of Israel we find that God is interested in the affairs of government. He predicted to Abraham that his descendants would be in slavery for 400 years. Then he said, “But I will punish the nation that they serve as slaves” (Genesis 15:14). In fact, even in Genesis 9, after the flood, God gives Noah a civil ordinance: “whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed”. This was a law given to protect human life. All one needs to do is look at the prophets to see many critiques of corrupt government. God clearly has a fair form of government in mind for humanity.

One of the great advantages of the United States is that it has built into it an anti-theocratic policy. Unlike the European governments from which its earliest colonists fled, there is not an established state religion. The founders looked at history and saw wars of religion between Protestant and Catholic rulers; they looked at the Roman empire and its official sanctioning of religion and thought better of it. Because of this insight, Christians in America do not want to establish a theocracy. They do see the value of shared Christian principles – do not steal, do not murder, do not bear false witness – as do others of non-Christian religions. These are tried-and-true principles of good civil government. Even in the latest round of battles over same-sex marriage, Christians were not trying to defend a uniquely Christian concept of marriage. It was the same concept held historically throughout human history, across denominations, and across religions.

The complaint, however, is that somehow the church has been corrupted by involvement in the political process. The argument is that the church should be so “other” in contrast to the society as to make the rest of the world want to look into this “church” thing. This seems to be a withdrawal from the world. It is a form of isolationism that is naive and idealistic at best. It abandons citizenship in the country to those who would have the least interest in upholding the principles of religious liberty and would work in the opposite interests of the citizens and the church. It also seems fairly obvious that by taking a stand against or for a public policy position that the church is declaring itself starkly different from the world. It would take a rather unthinking person to not recognize such distinctions.

Some things about human behavior are obvious. One of those is that people rally better behind leadership than they do if left to their own individual fortitude. The church is clearly the place for spiritual leadership and such leadership, at times, must conflict with the civil government or political waves seeking to influence the government. In such cases, it seems only proper for the church leadership to promote the use of citizenship as a means to guiding the country in more godly directions than it might otherwise choose. This brings up a second aspect of human nature: the lust for power. People who are driven by greed, notoriety, or other unsavory desires are always on the watch for opportunities. Evil loves a vacuum. Although we are ostensibly a Christian county demographically and our leaders are overwhelmingly Christian, we all recognize that graft and corruption exist and are an ever-present problem in politics. Should Christians withdraw from that battlefront then the evil forces win by default.

The Forces of Good

So far I’ve never found a limit on where God hates evil. He hates it government, in the church, in the business, in the household, and in the private life. We can see that the objections surrounding Jesus and Paul are not good ones to argue for withdrawal from the world. It is true that the government cannot be a replacement for the church. The church must never be identified with the government. Historically, that has been problematic and led to corruption within the church. But Christians are right to be upset when their government does the wrong thing. They are right to advocate for change or redress in such matters. It is simply who we are as Americans in the 21st century. In fact, it would be irresponsible to not use your citizenship rights as a means for good. Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9-10 “Let us not become weary in dong good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” It seems that trying to limit the damage that the behemoth of government can do is a good cause that benefits “all people.” As Americans we have even a greater responsibility. We are the wealthiest nation in the world and we exude more political and religious power than any other. To allow that blessing to be squandered away would be poor stewardship. It behooves us for our own sake and for the sake of those around the world whom we support to try to maintain a decent country.

Paul used the Roman government to his advantage every time he had a chance. It saved his life several times and his Roman citizenship provided for fair trials before Roman officials. I can’t help but think that he would use every means at his disposal to spread the word today. It also seems quite reasonable that he would be interested in a stable, peaceful and reasonably God-respecting government that was fair to its citizens. After all, he was beheaded by a crazed dictator named Nero in a political scheme to blame Christians for the burning of Rome.