What Does It Mean To Be Prophetic, Part Four

message-from-god

About a week ago, the church I am pastor at voted to become an Open and Affirming congregation, meaning it openly welcomes LGBT persons into the life of the church.  I think it was a big step for the church.  It might help people who were thinking of visiting the church to take a second look.

But while I think it was a good thing and while I think it helped stressed God’s love for all, I don’t think it was a prophetic move.

Do I think we were trying to witness to the world our intent to be like Jesus and seek out those on the margins?  Yes.  But that doesn’t mean it’s prophetic.  It means we are trying to be faithful.

And therein lies a problem.  These days, if a pastor says something edgy on race or sexuality, or if a congregation is exhibiting “radical hospitality,” we somehow think this is prophetic.  But I wonder if at times this is a big misunderstanding.  Are we giving ourselves too much credit?

For one thing, most of the prophets of Israel were chosen by God.  And they were chosen by God to say hard things to people.  And the thing is, they usually aren’t happy that God chose them. Read the story of Elijah or Jeremiah and you find people who don’t really want to be doing this job. When Jonah (as in Jonah and the “Whale”) was so excited to be go a preach repentance to the people of Nineveh, that he ran- in the other direction.

Prophets were sometimes called to do odd things like the prophet Hosea who was called to marry a prostitute.

What I’m trying to get at is that the people who were called to be God’s prophets were not eager to be prophets.  They didn’t want to be picked.

The problem with modern Christians who want to see themselves as prophets is that they have taken the whole role of a prophet out of context.  Instead of trying to understand what the role of the prophet was in ancient Israel, people just plop it into modern America without a thought.

But that’s not all.  The prophet is then made to fit the person’s political ideology, so that the prophet strangely is saying all the things you would say regardless.

I think God still sends prophets.  But just because you believe #blacklivesmatter doesn’t make you a prophet, no matter how worthy the cause. Theologian David Watson reminds us that prophets probably didn’t have many friends on Facebook:

The prophetic life is not an easy one. In fact, it is likely to be quite difficult, even painful, because the prophet will inevitably conflict with a world that does not acknowledge the identity and demands of the one true God. Think of Elijah despairing in the wilderness. “He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors’” (1 Kings 19:4). Think of the sad fate of John the Baptist.  If you find your message lines up nicely with the values of secular culture, you’re probably not being prophetic.

I’m not a prophet.  I don’t think I’ve ever been prophetic.  And there is nothing wrong with that. What I am is a disciple (and a Disciple).  I try to follow God, to do justice and love mercy, but I’m not Amos with a laptop.

My job as pastor is not to be a prophet, but to be a disciple that helps make other disciples for Christ.  I will leave the prophet business to God, since God is the one that raises prophets anyway.

Read past posts in this series by going here.

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We’ve Got to Talk About Micah

This weekend will be an interesting one for me.

No, nothing really special is happening.  It’s just that this weekend I will be preaching from a passage that many progressive Christians take to heart: Micah 6:8 (Actually I’m going to preach on Micah 6:1-8).

You know the passage:

He has told you, human one, what is good and
        what the Lord requires from you:
            to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.

-Common English Bible

A lot of people who are into social justice issues love this passage and I can see why.  Micah 6:8 is probably one of the most well-known verses in Scripture.  It is used especially when talking about political and social issues.  More often than not, the verse is used to address the whole of our society.  It has been used when, for example there are planned cuts to a welfare program omicah68r for things such as the raising of the minimum wage.

But is this what that passage is all about?  Are we saying that God supports the Affordable Care Act or raising the minimum wage to $15/hour?

I’ve been thinking for a while that we are doing this wrong.

Progressives get on conservative for cherry-picking Bible verses to suit their worldview.  While I think that is a legitimate complaint, progressives don’t have clean hands on this either and Micah 6:8 is evidence number one.

People use this verse separated from the rest of the book of Micah.  It is taken out of any context and people unwittingly use it to support their own political agendas.  We forget that this passage was written to a society in Israel that had fallen away from God. Chapter 6 shows a God in pain, wondering why the people of Israel have gone their own way.  In verse 6 God is saying to the people that grand displays of piety are not what God is interested in.  God doesn’t need a large sacrifice.  What God wants is found in verse 8: God wants the people to act just, be kind and be humble.  God is calling the people of Israel to repent and follow God.  It’s difficult to use this passage to speak to 21st century American society, because that is not what it was intended for.

Methodist pastor Allan Bevere has made this misuse of Micah and other prophetic verses the subject of many blog posts and one bookThis is what he had to say last year in response to a progressive Christian’s blog post:

If the religious right and the left want to get the target of their hermeneutic correct, they need to understand that the commands of Scripture in the Old Testament are, by and large, directed toward the people of God Israel, and in the New Testament it is the church. It is the people of God that is to embody the prophets’ concern for justice and the Torah’s concern for morality and purity. And it is by that biblically based way of life that the church engages in the politics of witness that it is God and not the nations who rules the world. The church by its example bears witness to the nations what God wants of them as well. The church by its witness is not a prop for the state, but its alternative. Once the nation becomes the primary hermeneutical target of Scripture, the primary community of faith becomes the state. The church is eclipsed in this world and so is the kingdom of God, and thus Christians will in the end functionally identify more with what it means to be progressive or conservative than with what it means to be the church.

So, this passage is not about getting universal health care any more than 2 Chronicles 7:14, a passage used by conservatives to justify their agendas.

If verses like Micah 6:8 have a purpose today, it is relating to the church- the inheritors of God’s covenant with the Israelites.  So, we aren’t using this to go against Republicans, it was meant for all of us in the pews and those in pulpit.

In America today, we are good at using Bible passages to justify are own views and condemn others.  It is another thing to really sit down and think about what this passage is saying and what it has to say to me and to the church.

Progressive Christians misuse of this passage has in many ways weakened us.  We have used it to justify our progressive politics and dress up God in left-leaning garb.  We end up worshipping the state (at least when it agrees with us) instead of worshipping God.

None of this means people shouldn’t be concerned about health care or war or what have you.  But we can’t just take a passage that was meant for a different people in a different time to justify our own agendas.  Because when we do that, we threaten our witness in the world.

God Is A Concept.

johnlennonWhen I was in journalism class in high school, I remember seeing a poster in the teacher’s classroom that caught my attention.  It was one of those posters that shows something like a big sky or the stars at night.  At the bottom of the poster were these words: “God Is A Concept.”

I really didn’t know what it meant.  I originally thought it was nice to talk about  God.  I remember talking to the teacher about it and while I can’t remember the words she said, the point was made that we didn’t have the same view of God.  God wasn’t as much of a person in her view, but an idea.

I thought about that as I read David Watson’s recent blog post.  Watson is a Methodist minister in charge of United Seminary in Ohio.  In this blog post he talks about the “starting point” for mainline churches and theologians.  The starting point or organizing principle is the nature of evil or more to the point our response to evil.  Watson writes:

Much mainline Christian theology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been a response to the problem of evil. For liberal Christian theologians of the mid-twentieth century, two world wars and the Holocaust made any strong notion of divine action unbelievable. Unlike evangelical cessationists, who believe that miracles ceased after the biblical period, liberal theologians, who were extremely influential in mainline Protestant schools of theology, simply held that these so-called “miracles” never took place. They were the product of an ancient worldview, one that modern people could no longer hold credible.

The result was that mainline Protestants ceased believing in any kind of divine action:

One result of this liberal theological position has been that mainline Protestants have by and large ceased to expect any significant type of divine action. If someone in our churches received a world of prophecy that he or she wished to share with the congregation, would we receive this as legitimate? Would we take the time to test the prophecy against scripture and discern its truthfulness within our ongoing life together? Would we let the person speak at all? Or, as another example, when we pray for healing, are we taking a shot in the dark when all other hope is lost, or do we pray with the expectation that God will show up? Another example may hit closer to home: when we receive the Eucharist, do we believe that we are changed in that moment, that we have really and truly received the spiritual presence of Christ into our bodies and that the work of sanctification is taking place within us?

For many mainline Protestants, God has essentially become a construct. God gives weight to our ethical claims, credence to our feelings about social justice. God is not, however, an agent who can directly and radically change the course of events in our lives.

God is a concept.  It’s funny, as much as I don’t want to believe this way, the fact is it has seeped into my way of thinking.  When you pray for a sick friend, you don’t pray believe healing just might happen, instead we pray for “spiritual healing.”  We don’t talk about any kind of afterlife and tell ourselves that we have to focus on this life more than the life to come.  But deep down, we really don’t believe there is a life to come.  We feel leery about the whole Jesus dying a bloody death at least as a way to bring salvation for the world.  We love to ask questions, which is a good thing, but behind our seeking is the feeling that all of this is not real, that it doesn’t really have any impact in changing us and our world.

As Watson notes, God and Jesus or the idea of God and Jesus gives weight to our beliefs in social justice and inclusion, but God in no way makes a difference in our lives.

Watson notes that the result is that many mainline churches aren’t exciting places.  More to the point, Watson says what is missing in so many of our churches and in the lives of those who sit in its pews is…joy.

The thing is, if you believe in a God that “woke me up this morning, started me on my way” then you are going to be joyful even when times aren’t so good.

About a month ago, I went to the funeral of member of the congregation.  The service was held at the senior living facility where he had spent the last five years of his life.  I only met this man a few times, but he was the most joyous 102-year-old I ever met.  I wish I had a chance to get to know him better.  During the service in the chapel, the Episcopal priest noted that this man saw his Christian life as joyful.  The priest was surprised to hear this.  As I thought about her reaction more and more, I was a bit surprised at her response.  Even I’ve read Paul’s letter to the Phillipians which is a letter of joy even in the darkest times.  How could a pastor NOT know about the joy that the Christian life brings?

Like David Watson, I don’t want to minimize the role of evil in our lives and in the world.  Mainline Protestants do well in pointing out that life can be hard.  We can do well in saying that all is not right with the world.  There is evil out there.  There are men knocking their wives unconscious.  There are parents discipling their children to the point of severe injuries on the child’s body.  There are police who are so scared they use full force on black men and boys.  There are priests who abuse their office and inflict unspeakable crimes on children.  Yes, there is evil.  But God is also present.  God hasn’t given up on creation.  God has already overcome the world.  THAT should bring people joy; a joy that endures even in the midst of suffering.

I’m not leaving the mainline church.  I couldn’t go back to my evangelical beginnings even if I wanted to.  I bear no ill will to my evangelical sisters and brothers, it’s just that my views have changed.  But even though I am not in that camp anymore, there is much to learn from my former home, one of which is to believe in God that is present and alive, one that is most definitely not a concept.

I think it’s way past time for some sort of revivial in liberal Christianity.  We need to pray and believe that God is active in our churches, in our lives and in the world.

I believe it’s in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that someone says “Aslan is on the move.”  Aslan, the God-figure in the novel is making himself known again in the land of Narnia.

“Aslan is on the move.”  It’s time we believe that again.

 

Repost: We Can’t Be Friends

First off, welcome to all the new visitors who saw my post on Freshly Pressed. Below is a post from last year. 

It was about 20 years ago, that I attended a large Baptist church in Washington, DC. The church was an odd mix, or at least it would be odd today. Evangelicals and liberals were somehow able to worship together, along side a healthy dose of members from Latin America and Asia.

The church decided at some point to hire a pastor to the join the good-sized multi-pastor staff. The person chosen was a woman with great pastoral care skills. At the time, there was a bit of controversy because she was pro-gay and some of the evangelicals in the church weren’t crazy about that.

I was at a meeting where a member of the congregation stood up. She was one of the evangelical members of the congregation and she had what could be considered a “traditional” understanding on homosexuality, but she spoke in favor of calling the pastor. You see, the pastor had been involved with congregation for a few years and the two had gotten to know each other. “We don’t agree,” I recall this woman saying when talking about the issue they didn’t see eye-to-eye on. But this woman was a good friend and she saw her as the right person for the job.

What’s so interesting about this story is that I don’t think it could happen today. Churches like the one in DC really don’t exist anymore. Evangelicals and liberals have sorted themselves into different churches and don’t really know each other. Which only makes it easier to highlight differences and demonize each other.

When it comes to the issue of gay rights the two camps talk past each other, having very different objectives that the other side just doesn’t get.

For liberals, this is about equality. Framed by the story of the civil rights movement, they see any attempt to block same-sex marriage or gay clergy as akin to denying African Americans the right to vote.

For evangelicals, this is about conscience. They feel they must be faithful to what they believe the Bible is telling them when it comes to sexual morality. They see any approval of gay sex as going against God’s commands.

These differences were there 20 years ago, but I think there might have also been more opportunity to come together and meet the other. Our self-selected society allows us to basically pick our friends instead of trying to build bridges with those who might be different.

Why am I telling this story? I don’t really know, except that maybe I would like us to find ways were we can learn to disagree without being so disagreeable.

Civility is all the talk in our political culture, mostly because it seems like we have less and less of it. We have made it a civic value, but I want to lift up the fact that it should also be a moral and biblical value. We have to learn ways to respect and honor one another; not papering over our differences, but finding ways to still care for each other even when we disagree. Evangelical church planter Tim Keller said it best a year ago:

AMANPOUR: You talk about polarization between left and right. It does seem to be extreme, at the moment, in the United States politically, socially. Is there any hope that that can change, do you think?

KELLER: It will start if we stop demonizing each other. I — my — my — my elderly mother once said that up until about 15 years ago, if you voted for a different person for president and the person you voted against became president, you still considered him your president. He said — she said 15 years ago, that changed, that if you voted against that guy and he became president, you actually act as if he’s illegitimate. And I’m not sure that is a big social and cultural difference. We — and it really means the other side isn’t really just wrong, they’re kind of evil. And that’s pretty bad.

MANPOUR: I have to say that many would say the church plays into this highly acrimonious debate — public debate, not all church, but certainly some parts of the church. What should the church be doing different?
KELLER: At the very least, we should be creating individuals who know how to talk civilly. The gospel should create people who say, I’m loved by God but I’m — I’m a sinner. So there — there should be a certain humility and graciousness about the way in which you talk to everybody. As an institution, most of the churches have lost a lot of credibility. So I think my job is to create individuals who can participate in civil discourse.

AMANPOUR: You’re saying institutionally, the church has lost credibility?

KELLER: The mainline church identified with liberal politics, the Evangelicals have identified, at least they’re identified in people’s minds, with conservative politics. The Catholic Church has had the sex scandals. And so institutionally, each church has lost credibility. So I think it’s our job as individual congregations to care for the poor, to produce civil — people who speak civilly, to just serve our neighborhoods and serve people and be careful about speaking ex-cathedra, you know, about these great political positions on issues.

I would disagree with Keller in that I do think the church has a right to speak out on issues and there are some issues where we have to be clear where we stand. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try to look at our sister and brothers as if they are evil. We can find ways to be civil in maybe in some way speak to people about what church is all about.

What a witness that would be.

Now That We’ve Won (Maybe)…

526563_10151536092120549_414515262_nThis week’s drama over the issue of same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court has been nothing short of historic.  American society is at a point that I thought wouldn’t come for several years, if not decades.  Same sex marriage might be legal in most of the nation in a few short years. Here in Minnesota, it might be that by the end of the year we might have the right for gay couples to marry.  It means that I can have my relationship with my partner Daniel, recognized by the state and therby able to receive benefits that heterosexual couples have enjoyed for a very long time. There’s been a sense of celebration among my friends, as we see places like Facebook ablaze in the red equal signs with people showing support for same sex marriage.

But there has also been a darker side.  I’ve seen friends kind of using this moment to make fun and belittle those who have opposed same sex marriage.  Of course, when you are on the winning side, especially in the culture wars, it’s very easy to start “spiking the ball;” enjoying the tables turning.

But before we pop another bottle of champagne, those of us who all ourseleves Christians need to make sure we are offering love and grace to our opponents instead of spite.

On Good Friday, we see Jesus on the cross  surrounded by soldiers and religious leaders laughing and taunting Jesus.  It is a total hatefest.  Now, Jesus had every right to ask God to send down angels and put this obscene display to a fitting end.  But Jesus didn’t seek revenge.  Instead, he said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

It’s pretty common in the gay community to not always be so gracious to our enemies.  After all, we see them as the equivalent of modern day segregationists, and why should anyone treat them with kindness?

And let’s be honest, there are a lot of gay folks who were hurt by people who called themseleves Christians.  Those hurts take a long time to heal, if ever.  You can’t blame folks if they don’t feel charitable to people who may have hurt them.

As Christians, gay or straight, we are called to love our enemies.  I am to love those who might still think being gay is a sin, or who might disapprove of same sex marriage.  I know I’m right about this issue, but it is also equally important in my view to be loving as well.

And this all matters because people are watching us.  They are wanting to see how we act.  If go around calling everyone a bigot because they don’t see things our way, we will be seen as a poor witness.

A few years ago, I shared a blog post about an elderly man I encountered at church.  He and I didn’t see eye to eye on being gay.  I shared what happened one day between the two of us:

I had just graduated from seminary and was doing my CPE at a local nursing home. I was still involved at the church where I was an intern and was asked to serve on the church board. It came to a vote and I was voted in nearly unanimously. I say nearly because one person voted against me. I knew who it was and so did many others. It was an elderly member of the church. He had some idea I was gay and many people assumed that was why he voted against me. After the meeting concluded, he asked me to come with him into another room. He explained that he prayed and studied the scripture on the issue of homosexuality, but his conscience was not swayed in favor. As he said this, he began to cry.

I was and still am touched by this guesture. He did have to speak to me to explain his actions, but he did. He might not approve of who I sleep with, but he did treat me with respect. This wasn’t simply about being right for him, but about being loving.

Yeah, I know that his actions were hurtful. Yes, it would have been nice had he voted in favor. But I could respect his decsion even if it was wrong, because he valued me enough to respect me.

That experience told me that even though some people might not approve of me, they are also human beings and need to be treated with love, not judgement.

People are watching to see what gay Christians will do.  Can we show love to our enemies?  Can we allow for grace to breakthrough?

This might be the biggest test for gay Christians in America.  Will we pass the test?

Silence of the Drones

Michael Kruse has a good post that deals with my long quest to find out what is truly prophetic and what is just a poser.  Here’s a taste:

The Christian Left (or progressives) hold themselves up as the antidote to this unholy alliance between the church and state. They are prophetic. Unlike conservatives who were in the tank for Bush and the Republican Party, they stand unflinchingly for justice. Addressing the issue of torture is a good example.

The Bush administration used “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding. This was torture and torture is never justified, we were told. No amount of oversight, no amount of justification can EVER justify torture. Not only is torture not Christian but it violates commonly agreed upon ethics in the community of nations. There are no exceptions. Add to this Guantanamo Bay and holding prisoners without due process. Bush is not a Christian because no Christian would engage in torture. Bush and his administration are war criminals. Bush should have been impeached but even today he should be brought up on charges of war crimes. The church must take a prophetic stand against injustice. Five and six years ago I can remember a relentless stream of social media posts and conversations by my progressive sisters and brothers in the faith along these lines.

Now fast forward a few years and see where we are now. President Obama’s team has not been using “enhanced interrogation techniques” (as far as we know). They simply send in drones to, not torture, but kill anyone they suspect might be a threat, apparently while occasionally killing innocent bystanders. We are learning now that apparently these clandestine acts could be targeting Americans abroad who are suspected of terrorist activity. And, oh yes, last I checked, we are now in Obama’s second administration and Guantanamo Bay is still open with no foreseeable end. Where are the prophetic voices today? Cue the soundtrack with crickets chirping.

Read the whole thing. It’s a good take on what is prophetic and what is social hostility wrapped in prophetic clothes.

Some Thoughts on Politics, Partisanship and Christian Witness

As the GOP end their convention in Tampa and the Democrats get ready to gear up in Charlotte next week, I have a few thoughts about Christians and politics:

We really take ourselves way to seriously.  There was a time in my life when I happened to be far more vocal on where I lean politically. I still have a political blog,, but I don’t blog there as much as I used to. Politics is still important and needed, but I tend to think it is not the main thing in life- serving God is. We may make too much about political life in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but I do think there was something to the fact that politicos would debate the issues of the day with conviction and then meet over a drink or have dinner with someone of the opposing party. Maybe they knew that politics wasn’t the end-all and be-all; maybe they knew that how we treated each other was more important than having the correct belief. I think today we have made politics so serious that we really can’t laugh anymore. Everything is a do-or-die issue. Instead of breaking bread together, we stay in our ideological silos only talking to like-minded folks and deeming the other side as evil. Politics has become the rule by which we determine who is good and who is bad.

Pastors (and other church leaders) should watch what they say. I’ve been amazed at the venom coming from my fellow pastors this week. No doubt, there will be the same kind of invectives spewed by conservative pastors, but since I don’t live in that world anymore, I focus on what I see within Mainline Protestantism. Yes, pastors can and should share their opinions on the issues of the day.  I’m not arguing that we never say anything that is political, but I am worried about how mean spirited we are to those who are not of the same political party.  In this case, I saw a lot of pastors and other church leaders who are Democrats say some pretty nasty things about Republicans.  Many of those pastor might be patting themselves on the back for their “prophetic” words.  But there are two problems here.  First, bad mouthing someone from another political party is not necessarily prophetic.  Sometimes Christians, liberal and conservative, fool themselves into think what they are saying is line with the prophets of old, when in reality it’s basically a partisan jab.

The second problem is kind of related to this age of social media.  Because we tend to have friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter who share the same viewpoints we do, it’s easy to say something snarky that will impress your like-minded group.  But what if others are looking at your social media page?  What if someone hears you say something partisan and feels they can’t come to your church?  And what about the fact that there are people who go to your church that don’t share the same views you do? Will they feel welcomed?  Will they be less willing to trust you and maybe less willing to trust God?

There is nothing sinful in being a Democrat or a Republican. The minute we start deciding holiness based not on God’s love through Jesus, but on having a “D” or an “R” next to our name is when we distort what it means to be a Christian, and it ultimately hurts the church as a whole.

Fellow Disciple Doug Skinner shares this passage from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Studies in the Sermon on the Mount and then adds a few words of his own:

 The primary task of the church is to evangelize and to preach the Gospel.                   

 …If the Christian Church today spends most of her time in denouncing communism (remember it was the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when he wrote), then it seems to me that the main result will be that communists will not be likely to listen to the preaching of the Gospel (insert “Republicans” or “Democrats” depending on your political judgments where he referenced “Communists”). If the church is always denouncing one particular section of society, she is shutting the evangelistic door upon that section.  If we take the New Testament view of these matters then we must believe that the communist has a soul to be saved in exactly the same way as everybody else.  It is my business as a preacher of the Gospel and a representative of the Church to evangelize all kinds and conditions and classes of men and women.  The moment the Church begins to intervene in these political, social and economic matters, therefore, she is hampering and hindering herself in her God-appointed task of evangelism …Let the individual play his or her part  as a citizen, and belong to any political party that he or she may choose.  That is something for the individual to decide.  The Church is not concerned as a Church about these things.  Our business is to preach the Gospel and to bring the message of salvation to all.  And, thank God, Communists (and Republicans, and Democrats) can be converted and can be saved.  The Church is to be concerned about sin in all its manifestations, and sin can be as terrible in a capitalist as in a communist (or in a Republican as in a Democrat); it can be as terrible in a rich man as in a poor man; it can manifest itself in all classes and in all types and in all groups. (135)

 Of course, this entire argument turns on the presupposition that, “the primary task of the church is to evangelize and to preach the Gospel.”  And this, in my opinion, is the real crisis in the church today.  There is simply no need for the church “to evangelize and preach the Gospel” if Jesus Christ is not the Savior and the world does not need saving, and these are the very convictions of historic Christianity that are most directly challenged by the pervasive pluralism and relativism of our day.  Pluralism reduces Jesus Christ to one spiritual teacher among many, not the only name under heaven by which people can be saved (Acts 4:12).  And relativism levels the moral playing field leaving us without clarity about what’s right and what’s wrong, replacing our need for forgiveness with an appeal for more understanding.  And this is where I see pluralism and relativism delivering the church today – the reduction of Jesus Christ to one of the plenary speakers at the Parliament of Religions and the replacement of the Gospel’s message of salvation to a motivational appeal for nice people to be nicer.

It’s my observation that when the church gets out of the salvation business, she invariably finds work in the humanitarian field.   When we quit trying to “fit souls for heaven,” then it is only natural for us to turn our attention to trying to make things better for bodies on earth.  Now, I’m not suggesting here, even for a moment, that Biblical Christianity does not have a humanitarian impulse or that the physical well-being of human beings in this life is not a concern of the Gospel.  What I am saying is that the abandonment of the church’s spiritual mission by Progressive Christians in order to double down on the church’s social mission is as much a distortion of Christianity as the neglect of the church’s social mission by Traditional Christians in their concentration on the church’s spiritual mission alone.

Which leads me to my third observation:
We need to be more heavenly-minded. Like Skinner, I don’t think there anything wrong assisting the least of these. Social justice is an important part of our Christian Witness. But I think a problem with Progressive Christians especially is that we have made social justice virtually the only thing in Christian living. When that happens, it comes as no surprise that the lines between witness and partisan politics become blurred. We start to see candidates less as politicians for a political party than as someone who is on a godly mission.

Like Skinner, I am going to vote this November and I will vote on issues that I think are important in creating a just society. But at the end of the day, whether President Obama gets re-elected or Governor Romney wins, what really matters is not who gets elected as much as how we are living as followers of Christ. When we forget that, we hurt our witness to the world.