Longing for Good News about Bad Shepherds

Watch out, you shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, declares the Lord. This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, proclaims about the shepherds who “tend to” my people: You are the ones who have scattered my flock and driven them away. You haven’t attended to their needs, so I will take revenge on you for the terrible things you have done to them, declares the Lord. I myself will gather the few remaining sheep from all the countries where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will place over them shepherds who care for them. Then they will no longer be afraid or dread harm, nor will any be missing, declares the Lord.

The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous descendant from David’s line, and he will rule as a wise king. He will do what is just and right in the land. During his lifetime, Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And his name will be The Lord Is Our Righteousness. Jeremiah 23:1-6, CEB

When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.

The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one.”

The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine and saying, “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “This is the king of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.” —Luke 23:33-43, CEB

It's Election Day +10, and it's almost Sabbath. Also, I'm slated to preach this week, and I'm wondering how.

I'll be up front, rather than leaving the reader to infer the obvious: I was disappointed with the results of the presidential election. Devastated, actually. Not that the candidate for whom I voted embodied all my hopes and wishes for a president (though she embodied many of them); but rather because, as so many have expressed, the outcome seemed to be a choosing of our worst as humans — either an outright affirmation of racism, sexism, xenophobia (you know the list), or a passive lack of concern in the face of other voting priorities.

So, as I approached my preaching assignment this week and read the assigned texts, I couldn’t help but laugh a little at the on-point lectionary selection. Jeremiah’s words about bad shepherds leapt off the page in one of those rare, “Of course the Bible speaks to contemporary life!” moments. Preaching from this text, it seemed, would be almost too easy. Let’s listen to the prophet again:

Watch out, you shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, declares the Lord. This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, proclaims about the shepherds who “tend to” my people: You are the ones who have scattered my flock and driven them away. You haven’t attended to their needs, so I will take revenge on you for the terrible things you have done to them, declares the Lord.

Ah, yes, a prophetic Thus-says-the-Lord pronouncement of woe on Bad Shepherds — the bad kings and bad priests, whose failure to do justice and love mercy (not to mention walk humbly) is the cause of the exilic scattering of the people of Israel.

Well, thanks be to God. I’ve got a list in my head of bad shepherds that I’d like to pronounce woe on this year. For a brief moment, I considered the possibility of reading this passage aloud a couple more times as a homily in itself and pronouncing, “enough said.”

But to stop at woeful finger-pointing (even if prophetically warranted) would not do justice to this carefully curated set of lectionary texts. We’ve come to the end of a church year, and before we begin again in the darkness of Advent expectation next week, we first pause at the majestic culmination of the lectionary, the week traditionally called “Christ the King” or “Reign of Christ.”

In this liturgical context, Jeremiah’s critique of bad shepherds is meant to point us ultimately to the capital-G Good Shepherd, and his enthronement as the just king who rules in righteousness, the fulfillment of messianic hopes, a shoot raised up for David’s sake, who will gather all those who have been scattered and exiled and excluded until now.

Hence, Jeremiah’s prophetic vision of a righteous Shepherd-King from David’s line is tied together with Zechariah’s song of salvation from Luke’s opening chapter, Paul’s poem of a Cosmic Christ, and finally a crucifixion scene from Luke’s Passion narrative.

Even if we’re only half listening, it’s hard to miss the lectionary’s editorializing: The enthronement of this hoped-for Good Shepherd-King happens . . . on a Roman cross, to the “King of the Jews.”

For those used to the rhythms of the Christian seasons, it is startling to find ourselves brought to a crucifixion scene in the middle of November.

But somehow, this particular November, I find myself feeling just a bit more empathy towards the followers of Jesus on that awful Friday. The one in whom they had hoped (even if cautiously or half-heartedly) has been utterly defeated. Everything they fear and despise as evil and oppressive has apparently won the day. Faith in a good future has taken a serious blow.

This November context for a cross scene comes nuanced differently for me than the Passion Week experience to which I have become accustomed. In this context, I arrive at this story near the end of 2016 with a heightened sense of frustration and anger towards bad shepherds, with waves of soul-crushing anxiety and hopelessness, with nagging suspicions that love, welcome, justice, compassion — those things so core to the Gospel as I understand it — that these, it seems, have been rejected and voted down repeatedly this year.

I come to these texts longing for a word of good news, but to be honest, also with some faltering reservations; for if this Christian cross-story offers only a passive, submissive, even spiritualized acquiescence to the bad shepherds, I fear I may find myself even further discouraged, perhaps even turning to look elsewhere for good news.

Likely, it is due to this internal unease that I notice within this Gospel scene itself a sort of crossroads on display. Luke’s two convicts on either side of Jesus seem to embody two possible responses to this Jesus story.

Importantly, the words from these two convicts are framed as responses to Jesus’ key moment on the cross, his offer of forgiveness for his enemies. “Father, forgive them; for they don’t know what they are doing.” This prayer is Jesus’ manifesto — the forgiveness of sins, which signals the restoration of the basileia, the kingdom of peace.

The first convict follows the leaders, the Roman soldiers, and the inscription above the cross, employing mockery and derision in response. “Are you not the Messiah, the Christ? Save yourself — and us!”

Social science lenses help us hear this ironic mocking as the culmination of what has been going on since Jesus’ arrest: the attempt by the powerful to dismantle Jesus’ status or public honor. As one whom the people revered, Jesus’ outsized status was a source of grave concern for the authorities who feared the people, and this honor status needed to be knocked down — thus the mock trial, the beating, and the making fun.

Such a turn to ironic derision, or its modern cousin sarcasm, is the response we might call cynicism.

“This story you’re selling, Jesus, is too good to be true. You must have an angle somewhere. All this forgiveness is just for show, to attract attention — or maybe it’s just pathetic weakness, because you have no other option.”

“Corruption always wins. Power, self-interest, appealing to people’s worst — that’s what actually works. Leave the peace and love stuff to the naive and the weak.”

Cynicism. It’s a bit dark, sure, but it is also safe. You can’t be disappointed when expectations are so low. In the end, I’d rather be the one who gets to say, “I told you so.”

The other convict is the one usually held up as hero, the one who gets it. However, if we listen closely, we may be surprised at the precise content of his faith. “This man,” he counters, “has done nothing wrong.”

Far from a pious assent to Jesus’ “sinless” moral perfection, this statement is a real-word insistence that Jesus’ execution is unjust for the simple reason that Jesus has not acted criminally. Jesus is an innocent victim of an unholy collusion of temple and empire.

“But that’s just the point!” I hear the cynical convict in my head responding. The system is rigged, the world is broken, people can’t be trusted, and “hope” is naive.

Still, the convicted convict persists: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

How many times have we heard this statement framed in terms of a deathbed conversion, the paradigmatic reminder that it’s never too late to accept Jesus as one’s savior?

But I don’t hear anything in this exchange that suggests the man is expressing faith in Jesus. Rather, I hear this as a Jewish convict doubling down on his faith in the God of Israel.

In resistance to the hopeless cynicism that the cross elicits, this second man sees an unjust execution of the Innocent One, yes; but his response is stubbornly — faithfully — to insist that God will not let this violent injustice, this moral catastrophe, have the last word. No, the God of Israel, the God of History will yet make this right.

In fact, it is through this very Innocent One, the convict dares to hope, that God will usher in the Basileia, the Reign of Peace and Justice/Righteousness. So remember me, Jesus, in that kingdom.

Two dying men see the same things: a startling act of forgiveness and a violent, unjust cross. For one, this is the dismantling of meaning and the only response left is cynicism; for the other, this is the moment to double down on hope in a good God who will not let all this go unredeemed and unresolved.

I’m not sure what makes the difference. And there are lots of days where the cynicism makes more sense to me.

But deep down, I know my soul longs for the hopeful response, the faithful response.

Deep down, I want the steady trust that led Martin Luther King, Jr., to insist that while “the arc of the moral universe is long, it [surely] bends toward justice.”

Deep down, I need Jesus’ assurance that the Kingdom of God is indeed like a mustard seed, which begins as the tiniest of seeds but grows to be a tree in which the birds can come to rest.

To be sure, longing for hope is not an action plan, not an agenda — and there is so much to be done, to be acted upon, in the world to resist injustice and hate and abuse of power, to join God in gathering the scattered, the exiled, the hopeless.

But this agenda of God, I believe, is built on a foundation of hope — a steady, faithful longing for the kingdom of God.

And some days, especially these November days, choosing such a hopeful longing may be victory enough.

Vaughn Nelson is Pastor for Discipleship and Nurture at the La Sierra University Church in Riverside, California.

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com / constantin jurcut

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7765

Could you perhaps give those who voted for Trump the same pass as you give yourself, ("Not that the candidate for whom I voted embodied all my hopes and wishes…)? No, they endorsed outright racism, sexism, xenophobia etc. Maybe some gentle understanding would be appropriate.

Some see Obama as a “Bad Shepherd” who only upheld the laws he wished to, did an end run around congress, and ignored many others. And to say that there was not a smidgen of corruption at the IRS when the head took the 5th, does overstate the situation, don’t you think?

What surprises me is that you are so unsympathetic to the other side, who you describe as pure evil. I think the role of a pastor is to be inclusive, yet you take one side, and to the extreme. Is that really viewing the thing honestly? Both candidates had terrible flaws. But about half the country saw it just the opposite of you. Can you fathom that they might have good, rather than evil motives for doing so? And the media has been so biased and blind to any good qualities of the man that they lost all credibility. You have been influenced by them as well.

And comparing Hillary’s loss to the crucifixion?

Your thinking of Jesus victory, and there response of the thieves was a beautiful insight.

But your associating all of this with the election was a step to far. It is not near so black and white as you think.

When our religion is so enmeshed with your politics to say such as this, you have a problem. When you can’t give your fellow citizens who disagree with you, perhaps even some church members, the benefit of he doubt and label them supporters of the antichrist, you have crossed a line that shows you have entered the same realm. I don’t tell devout Catholics such things! How dare you do so?

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Yes! THIS is Christ The King Sunday!
And our reading is God the Creator on the Cross being tortured by the humans that God the Creator came to save, and God the Creator is dying – very near death.
All are mocking him with loud voices. A small few are voiceless, chocked with grief.
Then out of the noise comes this weak, bleating voice – Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.
Someone, who is a very bad sinner. Maybe even killed a Roman. SEES the Risen Jesus. The ONLY ONE who SEES the Risen Christ.
What he doesnt understand that Jesus Christ at that moment in time, IS ON His Throne. Has come to His Kingdom. He is destroying Death AND Hell. And Jesus can swear by Himself that this Sinner is now perfect, and eligible for Kingdom admittance.
Remember, the 2 disciples wanted to be on His Right and Left when He came into His kingdom. but He said The Father was choosing who would be. Yes, both men were with him when on His wooden Throne. Something the dialogue DOES NOT TELL US. Did the other Sinner find courage to ALSO ask to be “remembered”??? We don’t know. But he was able to watch Jesus die. Heard the Centurian say, Surely this was a Son of God. Could have believed. Perhaps both be in the Kingdom.
Yes. it is Christ the King Sunday. Next week begins ADVENT. We prepare to MEET the King. Prepare for His Coming the next 4 weeks.
Will we BE READY for His Coming on December 24? And will we WELCOME Him, not as Baby Jesus, but as KING JESUS. As did the shepherds, the Magi from a “heathen” country.
Can we hear the words of Jesus to us, to me – Today [yes Today] you will be with me in Paradise!"
BOTH Sinners were TRULY with Jesus in Paradise – the Creator’s Kingdom – that day!!!
—Luke23:33-43.
the other readings for today are – Jeremiah 23:1-6; Colossians 1:11-20 "making peace through the blood of his cross, and thereby reconciling to himself every thing on earth and in heaven."
The Psalm for the day is the Song of Zacharias – Luke 1:68-79 [compare various translations]. Commonly called Canticle 4, Canticle 16 [is on Google].

The BAD Shepherds. Do the actions of the Sea Beast, the Land Beast, the Scarlet Woman on the Red Beast of Revelation ALL represent Bad Shepherds. The Religio-Political powers of the Sea and Land Beasts and the Commercial-Political powers of the woman on the red beast?
Exhibiting multiple forms of Idolatry [one is greed], injustice. Guilty of sins against God, people, the earth. Engaging in all sorts of corporate corruption of covenantal obligations. Evil is inherently self-destructive. And divine judgment many times is through human agents, and specifically unrighteous ones. The existence of this evil invariably invites others to participate in its destruction.
God’s people are called to overthrow these Empires by resisting in non-violent faithful living.
This is why the shout goes out-- COME OUT!!

Edit. Frank–
Ellen’s “God sits Enthroned” speech can be found in more than just one place in her writings.
I learned that one in 11th grade Bible Class at Laurelbrook. One of many we had to memorize.
This is a Classic statement.

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While I appreciate the growing course of voices expressing disappointment at the election results. Where were the pastoral voices leading up to the election? Christ said, “…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s" in which he argued that Christian’s are to participate in civil society. Under the cruel dictatorship of Rome that meant impotently paying taxes and living as model citizens. Today we live in a participatory democracy where our voice matters leading up to an election, on the day we vote, and working to support or oppose after the election. So where were the words of powerful opposition before the election?

Also…

There is no pass for those who voted for Donald. Not in the Christian Faith. There is no “gentle understanding.” Setting aside his abusive rhetoric and personal moral failings, Donald’s public policy positions (as sketchy as they are) represent the antichrist (one who denies Christ & His values) perhaps more clearly than any other person that has run for elected office in our lifetime.

He has proposed mass deportation, profiling people based solely on their race, militarizing the police force, promoting deep financial cuts and eliminating the social safety net (health education, & social welfare), shutting down protections against the environment, and further deepening the wealth divide by tax policies benefiting the uber-wealthy and penalizing the poor.

We no longer live from the perspective of primitive Judaism, where racism and yes, ethic cleansing, were tools to keep Israel pure. We live post the life, death, death and resurrection of Christ and Christ’s entire ministry was opposition to the evil that was at the foundation of Donald’s campaign. Donald’s thinking has no place in the value system that Christ taught. According to Luke’s gospel the Values of Christ include the following:

  1. Focus on assurance and that redemption was a completed action not a future reward.
  2. Universality, recognition of Gentiles as well as Jews in God’s plan
  3. Myopic focus, care and compassion for the poor and oppressed
  4. Elevate the status and concern for the role of women
  5. Foster community and stress on the family circle (Jesus’ activity included men, women and children)
  6. Focus on the present tense Kingdom of God and the obligation of Citizenship and the requirement to live out the first 5 values

Every single one of these values was repudiated by Donald. And Donald lost the popular vote and his hatred was repudiated the majority of voters in this country. So please, for those who voted for Donald, dissuade my thinking. Help me understand how the words, life, and most importantly public policy positions of Donald fit into the kingdom values?

addendum.

Please do not get me wrong @elmer_cupino, I have said elsewhere very clearly that the SDA church holds many institutional policies that defy the values of Christ I listed above. However, you cannot hide behind the church or say “it’s a convoluted world we live in.” That simply lets you and I as individuals off the hook. Christ was clear in his ministry. We are to embrace the kingdom here and now.

I can list very clearly the public policy positions of Hillary Clinton (who won the popular vote) that align with the gospel. I can start with her proposals to preserve the social covenants of healthcare, social security, and poverty alleviation programs. I can clearly articulate her plans for building rural communities, promoting market-based green energy solutions, and investing in education. Can you name specific public policies of Donald that are aligned with Christian Values?

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But apparently it’s OK to vote for a candidate who misappropriated public funds while in office, and in an attempt to cover this up, risked national security by storing thousands of emails on a private server that was not secure. I’m not an American, but if I was, I would definitely have seen Trump as the lesser of two evils. And yes, I’m a Christian.

When a pastor such as Vaughn Nelson writes an Op Ed such as this, it represents a misuse of the pastoral office and a disturbing blurring of the lines between church and state.

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When we get a better explanation of “how the words, life and most importantly public policy positions” of the GC, regarding what is happening in the SID, then perhaps we can draw comparisons between Donald’s and GC to help us understand what would “fit into the kingdom values.” That is if the gag rule per @Victor “The Presidents are under instruction to say nothing, for fear of attempted litigation” were to be lifted.

Peter, it’s a convoluted world we live in.

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And why should we not be very concerned? History repeats itself, but I fear some people (for some reason) don’t look at the “big picture” and thus don’t see that. I don’t expect that we will ever have an candidate for head of state who lives up to all aspects of Christlikeness (NOTE: I did not say “Christian”.) But I have deep concern for this:

  1. Muslims were threatened. But Adventist Christians looked the other way because they aren’t Muslims and Muslims aren’t Christians.

  2. Then Mexicans were threatened. But non-immigrant Adventists looked the other way if they weren’t Mexicans, forgetting that ALL of us come from immigrant families. (My great-grandparents immigrated from a country so despised by most Americans that my father would not even admit our origin.)

  3. Then those despised LGBTs (“homosexual”) were threatened. But some Adventists looked the other way because they just knew this was the judgment of God on those unrepentant sinners, anyway.

  4. Then Mormons were threatened. But some Adventists looked the other way because they believed that Mormons really aren’t Christians.

  5. Oh! Then Adventists were threatened just as we were warned we would be 100+ years ago. But Adventists had been so smugly blinded by their strange abhorrence of the candidate who lost the Electoral vote, that, amazingly, they never saw this coming.

Then we got to heaven and were shocked to see Muslims, gays, Mormons, etc. there, too. And some from the Spectrum blog were in shock and almost left, questioning God how He could have allowed this. We had forgotten that Christ died for ALL and we had been commanded not to judge, but to love.

I’ve never been so inclined to believe in all the 57 years since I was baptized as a child that the final chapters of this earth were beginning than I am now! God, cure our blindness and prejudice. God forgive us for our lack of compassion for those who are not like us.

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[quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:12467”]
If you respond to this article, please:
… demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them;
[/quote]

Just wondering if the editor’s warning applies to the articles themselves; or are they allowed to trash, right at the outset, those who disagree with the author’s point of view?

(Am I allowed to say?) I am appalled at the sentiments and innuendos displayed in this article.

Am I allowed to say) I have a different list of deplorable in my head? Those responsible for lying to the families of the Benghazi victims as their flag-draped bodies were carried off the plane; those officials that allowed a convicted felon to roam the street of San Fransisco, free to kill again (Kate Steinle) - for starters.

(Am I allowed to say) I find the above statements offensive.

In closing: I’m sorry this November didn’t bring the “Reign of God” into your life Mr. Nelson. Perhaps in another four years. Thankfully, my God’s kingdom won’t be ushered in by a political election.

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What are you so upset for?

Paul did not permit himself to be disturbed by Roman politics. Did he? What was his answer to Roman slavery that allowed sexual abuse of women and children and took away human rights of millions? Roman armies trampled the world, killing all opposition, imposing Roman and Greek ways on every society.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God.” (Rom 13:1) Paul would say, “don’t worry about the election of a new Roman Emperor, whoever is chosen God has permitted it. Leave it all in God’s hands.”

Daniel reminded the Babylonian King that God “changes the times and epochs [the length of a kings reign], He removes kings [President Obama is out] and establishes kings [chose Trump over Clinton].” (Dan 2:21). It as simple as that.

“Above the distractions of this earth God sits enthroned; all things are open to his divine survey and from his great and calm eternity He orders that which His providence sees best.” (EGW, MH 417) According to EGW the election results was what “His providence sees best.”

frank_merendinoFrankmer7

I agree with you on “participatory democracy,” is our privilege.

Yet I ask what past societies refused to give in to “racism or bigotry?” Moses taught that “one of illegitimate birth” had to wait 10 generations to enter the assembly of the Lord (Dt. 23:2). I wonder how they kept count. An Edomite required 3 generations (Dt. 23:8). God created a favored family status in Aaron’s descents, as most fit to approach Him. When God made Israel as his favored chosen people above other nations, rampant racism would be the accepted outcome. Therefore, I question why you think these issues, in this election, would be “a rejection of God’s will and providence?”

Racism is an issue in our society, at this time, we care deeply about. I do also. Yet I am reminded that in early America, most religious and political leaders tolerated inequity toward Native Americans, woman and African slaves—unabashedly. I just don’t think we should be so certain to bring “God’s will” into these issues. In our culture we see equality as God’s will, absolutely. Yet however, most past societies, pagan and Christian, civil and religious—did not. Do you think that God will condemn them for that? How much does culture influence our political and religious values?

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From a prescient political satirist nearly 100 years ago illustrates that there’s nothing new under the sun.

“As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.” H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Evenin Sun, July 26, 1920.

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The painfully obvious reason Christians voted for Trump (that liberals just don’t understand) https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/the-painfully-simple-reason-christians-voted-for-donald-trump-that-liberals?utm_source=facebook
Any replies will be in the Lounge.

Who are the bad shepherds? Politicians?

Check out how KJV,NKJV,21st Century KJV translates it…PASTORS !
Shepherds lead & feed. Politicians oppress & collect taxes.
Compare how much fussing Jesus did to the Pharisees, scribes & Sadducees compared to Caesar & Pilate.
When Jesus mentioned being the good shepherd in John 10…see what the previous context was in the end of John 9…Pharisees…
Do a quick bible word search on “shepherd” .
The SDA denomination name/doctrine implies that 99% of the pastors/shepherds in Christianity have their sheep grazing in the weeds.
Who did Paul fuss with more? Messiah rejecting Jewish leaders or Roman rulers?

"Self government won’t work without self-discipline"
Love fulfills the law.

Clergy influence the internal motivations. Rulers/cops influence using external approaches.
Crime & clergy connection = Trickle Down immorality

Did the election result in an article of eisegesis?

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Paul did not live in a participatory democracy, thus did not have any option but passivity in the face of social injustice. With such a wooden adherence to his counsel, would MLK and the civil rights movement’s passive resistance to racism and bigotry, and social institutions and laws reflecting such, be considered a rejection of God’s will and providence? After all, Paul counseled slaves to be content in their status and position.

Which brings us to God’s will in this election. God gave human beings freedom of choice. Through that freedom, American citizens chose Donald Trump as POTUS. Do you believe that God was the one who manipulated or somehow controlled the choices of people to elect Trump? Do you believe that God wanted him to win over Clinton? If God did control the outcome in such a way, then what does this say about the reality of human choice, and God’s respect for it?

Is it possible that God steps back and allows people to make decisions on their own, without his control, and then lets us deal with the consequences? Romans 1:18-32 can give that impression, when Paul, speaking of the sinful condition of the Gentile world, continually says that God gave them up to their own will. Maybe God does that with our politics as well, especially considering how dirty it gets.

To chalk all of this up to God’s ordering and control, short shrifts our very real human responsibility, both before and after the election. We are the ones who make the choice, and it is our responsibility to inform ourselves beforehand to choose as wisely as possible, and to stand up, when needed, to oppose injustice whenever and wherever we encounter it…whoever won the contest. That is the privilege and demand of a participatory democracy, and our role as citizens and Christians in it, as far as I can see.

Thanks…

Frank

@Frank Peacham…

I would see people moving against God’s will if they are voting for a platform of ethnic supremacy, because the arc of biblical revelation peaks with Jesus Christ, not Moses, and not Israel as an ethnic chosen people. And Jesus was all about breaking down the walls of prejudice and exclusion. We see this in the way he treated women, Samaritans, Gentiles, the disenfranchised, and the outcast. Paul says that in Christ, “…there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but all are one in him.” Elsewhere he states that Jesus broke down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile. This was written by a former religious/ethnic bigot and terrorist who did a 180 on race relations, because of his encounter with Jesus. Since the NT clearly shows that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of who God is and what he is like, then it is reasonable to conclude that God himself stands against all expressions of bigotry, prejudice, and racism.

With that said, I’m not saying that Trump cornered the market on campaign stances or personal behaviors that are diametrically opposed to Christianity. There was enough of that to go around.

But, that wasn’t even my main point. I question the idea that God controls the outcome of elections in a participatory democracy such as our own, and that we should passively accept the outcome and actions of elected leaders, simply because it was God’s will for them to gain power. To apply Paul’s writings in that way to our situation, when he lived under a virtual divine despot, is to use them in a very wooden manner. It would invalidate the idea that God truly gives people freedom of choice. We choose in an election, but God was the one who manipulated the result all along? How about the idea that God is hands off, and lets us choose and then deal with the consequences of that choice? Romans 1 and its idea that God gave humanity up to their own will, can give support to this idea. Politics is just as dirty as anything one can include in Paul’s description in 1:18f, of who and what God released to its own course in human behavior.

A view of God as the all controlling deity of authority and societal institutions, can also call into question the validity of movements such as the civil rights movement, that non-violently resisted unjust laws and authority. After all, Paul said that slaves should be content in their place. Is that what we would say today, in 21st century America? If not, why not?

Thanks…

Frank