Credo… Credimus

But if we walk in the light, as he also is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.  1 John 1:7

 “I believe… We believe…” Modern English language is densely rich, but one shortcoming rests in addressing a whole bunch of people.  We have no linguistic way of differentiating singular and plural “you”.  It wasn’t always this way. In English at the time of the King James Bible, “ye” was the second person plural pronoun (i.e.- not the performer previously known as Kanye West). As in, “prepare ye the way of the Lord”. To make that distinction today, English speakers need to resort to awkward work-rounds like “y’all” or “you guys”.

I’m not trying to inflict a grammar lesson; this linguistic deficit affects how we interpret the Bible and our approach to faith.  The majority of St. Paul’s epistles, for example, were addressed to congregations, to be communally received. We can easily misread passages where Koiné Greek expresses the collective you. Especially given our hyper-individualized evangelicalism, which embeds the assumption that the Apostle’s instructions were addressed to “Me”, “Mine”, or “I” rather than as pluralized instruction to a community.

The collapse of American community has been recounted in Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone”.  The disconnectedness of our society influences how evangelicals relate to one another. Or, to be more precise, how they don’t. The message of the gospel becomes a message “for me” personally. This branding of the idealized modern American Christian begins as the sale is closed, typified by the “I have decided to follow Jesus” style of proselytizing popularized by Billy Graham in his mass crusades. My religion is exclusively between me personally and Jesus.

Asking Jesus into your heart – just say the magic words, and now you’re totally free in Christ. What more is needed after that? The problem with retail grace is that Jesus did not say go and make Christians, but disciples who were to be baptized and taught. The magic words spoken in a crusade do a great job answering what I need to be saved from; what I am being saved to – not so much. John Stott comments: “We tend to proclaim individual salvation without moving on to the saved community.” Jesus didn’t tell people to accept him, but to follow him. And that needs to happen within the loving arms of a body of believers, whose practices embody the biblical story.

When Paul the Apostle speaks to the Galatian church about growing “… until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19), he wasn’t talking about weekly meet-ups for religious consumers, or feeding the fast food aggregate of “I”s. He meant a new identity lived out in community. It is where Christians (“we”, “us together”, “among”, “in common”…) put into practice the habits to live Christianly, to encourage each other in godliness, and invoke mutual obligations of care and concern. Worship is connection; brought together with God and each other. Bonhoeffer describes this in Life Together (Gemeinsames Leben). Other cultures have excellent words for this concept English can only vaguely approximate, like the Russian word Sobornost (Собо́рность) or the Greek Koinonia (κοινωνία).

Now, worshipping apart from the evangelical tradition, I’ve begun to think in terms of corporate spirituality, gaining a fuller perspective on life together. In worship we pray, “Our Father in heaven…”  We also profess our faith publically with the Nicene Creed, starting with “We believe (pisteuomen) in one God …” The “we” of the Creed’s opening statement is not only a recitation of doctrinal unity, it also implies obligation and responsibility to one’s neighbor. What is true for me applies to each member of my family of faith, standing together as the church.

Some time ago, the military came up with a recruiting slogan, “An Army of One”. “If you want to be an ‘Army of One’”, one critic noted, “you probably want to join the Hell’s Angels, not the U.S. Army.”  The same can be said for Christianity, where there is no single-person church. The plural use in Nicaea dates back to the early church, and given the post-modern primacy of the individual and its jettisoning of common identities, is especially relevant today for the self-centered “my faith” in isolation from the church, versus the allness of  “our faith” as corporate witness to the Living Word, re-enacting his presence among us in water, bread and wine, and being the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit moves.

We believe!

Too Big To Fail

“I think everyone should be upset about this and, again, Joe Biden is off the rails,” spouted Christian spite-witch Marjorie Taylor Greene. Biden should be impeached after the decision to forgive student loans, she huffed. Her outrage reflects the attitude of many evangelicals: “It seems outrageous to me that any President has the power or authority to cancel legal contracts with the stroke of a pen,” a representative commenter replied to a Christian Post article.

In contrast, evangelicals didn’t complain about the CARES Act PPP, the SBA-guaranteed small business loan program.. In fact, some 50% of churches with more than 200 members applied for a “loan”, with “evangelical leaders tied to President Donald Trump and megachurches tied to scandals pulling in some of the largest payouts”. COVID-19 was a financial bonanza for evangelicals. And they all knew it, replete with secret phone calls from the White House, being “walked through how to obtain emergency funding from the government. Participants in the calls prayed together and thanked officials for ‘blessing’ them with the opportunity to receive millions in taxpayer dollars, even without being tax-exempt or meeting requirements necessary for non-religious organizations.”

Joyce Meyer Ministries, was approved for a $5 million to $10 million loan; Robert Jeffress’ First Baptist Dallas, a loan between $2 million and $5 million; Willow Creek church, between $5 million and $10 million. Despite the intent of PPP to save jobs, the church decided instead to keep the money and cut 92 staff positions. James Dobson’s Family Institute was forgiven $668,549. Mike Bickel of IHOP got $2.5 million. The Crouch dynasty Trinity Broadcasting helped itself to $3.3 million. The American Family Association, a designated hate group, managed to pull $2 million. Steve Furtick wangled $3.6 million, even though his church ended 2019 with a cash surplus of $26 million. Jimmy Swaggart got $2.6 million. Even convicted felon Jim Bakker got into the act, receiving some $400K. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s all exposed – some 400 evangelical ministries and churches – and in the open on the Trinity Foundation website. What happens afterwards – what they do with the money – is locked behind IRS rules protecting churches from transparency in some very opaque finances.

Funny how all these good Christian folks, greedily sucking at the government tit, had no second thought about helping themselves to hard-earned public taxpayer money. And many of them ran some very impressive balance sheets. Along with stashed personal wealth galore. Like the late multi-millionaire and anti-vaccine televangelist Marcus Lamb’s Daystar Network, which took $3.9-million, and turned it around to buy him a multimillion corporate jet. It took an outcry generated by an investigative journalist for Lamb to cough the PPP funds back up. Not like they suffered to meet payroll like struggling mom-and-pop small businesses. Or, the black-owned businesses, which received a paltry 1.9% of loans.  The design was politically maneuvered as a set-up to reward loyal Trump soldiers for their godly obesisance.

And so we return to Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose own business had loans worth $183,504 forgiven. “At the stroke of the pen”, her government indebtedness was expunged. No hypocrisy there, nosiree bob. And these are shofar-blowing zealots for the Lord who adore the Old Testament, reveling in God’s command to murder all the gays.  Yet none of these ram’s horn blowing capitalists ever mention the Israelite Year of Jubilee, which came every 50th year, being a year full of releasing people from their debts, releasing all slaves, and returning property to who owned it (Leviticus 25:1-13).

The hypocrisy is palpable. It should outrage any American taxpayer. Especially a Christian, who disagrees with financially supporting a church or ministry “too big to fail” he/she otherwise shuns as heretical or sham. Meanwhile, thousands of former college students are struggling through an uneasy job market, inflation, and tuition loan repayments. One only needs point to the bait-and-switch Trump University, where “the billionaire had made enough money for himself. Now, he would put his famous brain to work for the little guy“. God cares for the little guy. For glutinous Trump and Taylor Greene, the little guy just gets in the way of the trough. Jesus instead says the little guy is too small to fail my love.

Let’s blow a shofar for student loan forgiveness! 

The (Not-So) Inerrant Bible

The antediluvian world intrigues me. For what the Bible says about it, but more for what it omits. The Bible is the word of God. I get that. Meanwhile, the universe God created is given short shrift in the beginnings of Genesis. We read where He created the heavens and the earth. He had a lot of creating to do, of which much is left unsaid.  Frankly, I’d like to know what was going on in the 400 billion Milky Way stars, with 1-to-10 trillion orbiting planets. Not to mention the 2 trillion galaxies within our observable Universe. We are only beginning to understand things out there. Planet earth is but a grain of sand on endless miles of beach. Taking the Bible purely as an astronomy text makes for a very frustrating read. Apart from but a few brush strokes on a broad canvas, the Bible is silent. Let’s just say, there’s little help for cosmologists there.

Literalists don’t look at that as a weak point. Theirs is the conversation-ending “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” The fact that there’s a lot that God didn’t say doesn’t deter literalists from presuming to know he meant. In The Lost World of Scripture, John Walton and Brent Sandy observe there’s a considerable “lostness” in how the Bible came into being. This is the literalist’s dilemma throughout the pre-flood account of Genesis. Christianity is great at reading between the lines; the most malleable religion of all. The materiality of the Biblical ante-diluvian world is as ineffable as Heaven, given that an epoch terminated by a cataclysmic worldwide flood defies outside scrutiny. Even God to have delivered all of that pre-history into Moses’ hands is not specifically stated in the Bible. Nor is it a sure thing that Moses even wrote the Pentateuch – which somehow doesn’t explain how he could write the account of his own death.

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?, asks the Psalmist. The Bible soon segues into what was revealed to human beings, using anthropomorphic language. God walked in the garden of Eden. (Gen. 3). “There’s no definitive proof, but the passage’s implication seems clear to me”, writes evangelical defender Randy Alcorn. Implication, surmise, presupposition, conjecture. Literalists twist themselves into logical pretzels reading into the Bible what isn’t there, or simply talk godly twaddle like Sunday School teachers to their 3rd grades. “Evangelicalism is not fundamentally an intellectual organism”, Peter Enns writes, “but an apologetic one”. This explains why evangelicals cannot be silent even where the Bible is silent.

Indeed, evangelicalism has been afraid of intellectual honesty since the Scopes trial, which exposed the empty-headed, predetermined conclusions of their doctrinal beliefs. Like Ken Ham, where his concrete boat, The Good Ship Eisegesis, teaches there were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark. There is much to unlearn at his Kentucky religious theme park, where a little embellishment of the Biblical text might be necessary here and there to properly defend it. Temptation lurks in an apologetic that goes beyond the sacred page, seeking to control the text rather than submitting to it. God’s history is wild thing, which we profanize by domesticating it.

It’s easy to have these apologists drag you down into their “never contradicts itself” weeds, but the broad contours of literalism have been pretty well covered by Scopes. Suffice to it to say, that since then plenary inspiration has been a fundamentalist axe to grind against “liberal” Christians who see the Bible trustworthy so far as it is necessary for our salvation, and that it is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. Funny that two pillars of fundamentalism – Machen and Warfield – rejected literalism in favor of “theistic evolution.” It wasn’t until the first Cultural War first salvos fired by Harold Lindsell, and later sanctified (or embalmed) by the Chicago Statement, that it became a doctrinal hill to die on.

Gallup published a poll this week showing a declining proportion of the overall American population — now 20% — believes the Bible is literally true, word for word. (This is down from 49% in 2011). Half of evangelicals polled did not believe every word should be taken literally. Most evangelicals look to the Bible for answers – not questions. If evangelicals were the least bit self-aware, they might appreciate that NO ONE wants to adopt an anti-intellectual, anti-science and anti-educational faith that is so absurdly and proudly detached from reality. Personally, I can’t accept a faith – much less a supernatural faith – where I have to check my brain at the church door. And I find it distressing that, despite overweening confidence in knowing what the Bible clearly teaches, fewer and fewer evangelicals are able to articulate the essentials of faith in even an elementary way.

I recite the Nicene Creed each Sunday, believing God “spoke through the prophets.” I believe in the nearness of a personal God, under whose providence we have the Bible as the written history of salvation under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And that the Scriptures are sufficient in fulfilling their purpose and function. Just as God had intervened in time and space, He was making himself known by history in story and story in history – a narrative unity inextricably linked to form what might be called true myth. That is to say, the Bible is to be read more as the history of revelation, than the revelation of history. It is sacred history, which Walter Bruggemann observes “stands some distance from what modern people might call history”. In that regard, “history” in the Old Testament is backgrounded to the metanarrative of love relationship between living God and broken creation. The subject matter of the Bible is God as He deals with His creation. Its attention is on Divine doing; the history of the hidden God gradually lifting the curtain on himself for the redemption of a fallen world.

The Bible is the word of God. Once again, I get that. I completely believe in it; except in the ways I don’t.

I’ve Been So Wrong About The Rapture.

One of the most conspicuous End Times preachers was Jack Van Impe. For 30 years, he hosted an attention-grabbing television program, on which he translated disturbing headline news into a drip feed of conspiracy-tainted suspicions and fear. Van Impe had a commanding delivery, made even more compelling through a rapid fire recitation of Bible verses like he was a walking concordance. As a premillennial dispensationalist, Van Impe became known as a Prophet of Doom. But not for his end times-hooked listeners, eager to hear his reassurance that they will escape the cataclysmic end of the world by being raptured to Heaven.

Van Impe, who died in 2020, had plenty of company in the Darby/Scofield doomsday school of prophecy: Lindsay, LaHaye, Hagee, Dallas Seminary, and Moody Church to name a few. A cursory review of apocalyptic televangelist John Hagee’s popular titles is telling: The Battle for Jerusalem, Earth’s Final Moments, Attack on America, From Daniel to Doomsday. These folks have long had their fingers on the pulse of their evangelical audience, and most importantly, the monsters they’re told that hide under their beds at night. Since Van Impe’s death, the hurry-up Armageddon flames have been fanned even hotter with the Ukraine invasion. Evangelicals have a counterpart to the so-called “Doomsday Clock” – with a Rapture Index now up to “fasten your seat belts” level.

I am not a Tribber. Meanwhile, I chip away on a non-monetized blog, when I could be buying business jets and collect fat royalties from Simon & Schuster like Hagee, if I started peddling my own rapture porn novels. The Rapture pulp fiction oeuvre is one proven money-shaker I would like a slice of. Shoddy prose aside, these books essentially write themselves. Let me briefly outline the prophetic story line  behind my future-casting proposal:

March 2022, and the Ukraine “special operation” continues to bog down. Putin sacks some of his surviving generals and purges his security service of officials blamed for incompetence. Putin dismisses peace overtures and doubles down, and the war segues into bloody urban fighting either mitigated through Berlin-type city-busting, or Syria-style chemical or biological attacks. But the Biden administration has pinky-promised that Ukraine will not fall.

Putin has warned of “consequences as you have never before experienced in your history” if NATO becomes more involved. Russia has already raised the level of their version of DEFCON. This raises the potential for a nuclear duel (triggered accidentally or otherwise), although some analysts conjecture World War III may have already started. Regardless, both sides are digging in for a protracted war. For the servile Russian political machine, nothing is off the table. The Russian “message is not just about Ukraine,” a political scientist in Lithuania stated. Putin has already threatened Sweden and Finland. The Baltic states are wondering, are we next? Moldova feels threatened, as well. One Duma member demands the return of Alaska. Another suggests launching a nuclear missile at the U.S. to ‘send a message’. Another famous dispensationalist, Pat Robertson, is waving the American nuclear flag. “Well, if you do that, we’re going to escalate…We have the firepower to wipe out every Russia city.”

Robertson was once again waxing prophetic about the end-times. This time drawing a dark line connecting Putin (The King of the North) and his Ukraine invasion as fulfilling specific end times prophecies.  “He went into the Ukraine, but that wasn’t his goal. His goal was to move against Israel, ultimately”.

All this bravado and bluster is great material for my book. But detonating nuclear bombs across Eurasia and North America would yield a half-billion dead. That would make my book a very short one, indeed. Better that I stretch the pre-Trib Rapture eschatology out a little bit. All wars end at some point. Let’s assume a stalemated war continues through 2024, when Donald Trump is once again elected President. He’s prided himself on enjoying collegial relations with Vladimir Putin. In this scenario, Trump campaigns on negotiating a peace treaty. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said peace talks between Ukraine and Russia should be held in Jerusalem. It’s a holy city revered by both Trump and Putin – both have prayed at the Wailing Wall.

A third Holy Temple “will play a key role at the end of days.” For some time now, an Israeli council of Jewish rabbis – a modern-day Sanhedrin – has appealed to Trump and Putin to join forces in the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. “I don’t want to build a (Third) Temple in one or two years, I want to build it now,” declares the leader of a right-wing party growing in popularity. If he were still alive, John Walvoord would agree. He repeated a popular urban legend that “500 railroad carloads of stone from Bedford, Indiana, are already en route to Israel” to erect the Temple.

The Holy Temple will be the earthly dwelling place for the Shekhinah, the Divine Presence of God. “For Orthodox Jews committed to reestablishing the Temple, both the present problems of the world and the problems faced by the Jewish people will be solved only by rebuilding of the Temple. This is in total alignment with the pre-Tribulation period that figures prominently in dispensational eschatology:

“The Third Temple will be built before the Antichrist comes to power and takes control of Europe and the surrounding Mediterranean nations. Satan will spiritually defile the Holy Place of the rebuilt Temple by directing his Antichrist to violate the Holy of Holies at the beginning of the last three and a half years of the Tribulation. The False Prophet, the Antichrist’s partner, will then demand that the Antichrist be worshiped as “god” in the rebuilt Temple.”[i]

Trump has been hailed as a King Cyrus figure, enabling the Jewish diaspora to return to Jerusalem.  As with Cyrus, Trump is the Lord’s shepherd to lay the foundations of the Temple. “The Jewish people in Israel love him… like he’s the King of Israel. … he is the second coming of God.”  Trump may revel in his power as God’s man, but is clueless about his prophetic destiny in the unfolding of these last days. “Let its foundations be laid.”’ – Ezra 6:3.

On the other hand, Putin also has supernatural help. He assumed the mantel of emissary of God to restore the unity of Russian civilization with Russian ethnicity, language and traditional spirituality. To the Russian Orthodox church, Putin is “the chosen one” leading the “self-purification of society”.  “God is inside Vladimir Putin,” according to Russian Orthodox activist Dmitry Tsorionov. “Vladimir Putin becomes a living temple.” As the leader of the Third Rome, Putin has the messianic destiny to reign over Christendom from Moscow and throughout the world.

Trump and Putin: “By the way”, Donald Trump Jr. mentioned, “my father had a great relationship with Putin.”  The President was smitten with his Russian counterpart, who “said nice things” about him. And then there is Trump’s son-in-law and confidante, Jared Kushner (an observant Jew). Many have tried to broker the Peace of Jerusalem to no avail. But Kushner made progress in shifting the tectonic plates. Could he be the False Prophet of Revelation 13?

The Anti-Jesus will sign a seven-year covenant with Israel. But it seems we currently have two Messiah/Anti-Christs. [ii] I can use the template from the Book of Daniel to write one man of lawlessness out of the script: “The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time”.  It’s problematic, however, whether either of these two anti-heroes could represent the protagonist of a novel based on good versus evil. I’m leaning towards Mr. I-Alone-Can-Fix-It Trump.

So far, I have my story’s skeleton. I have my character archetypes – careful to disguise the real persons to avoid legal action taken as potentially libelous. Sinclair Lewis’ Buzz” Windrip could do as a good template. A narrative is in place, with the Antichrist and the False Prophet already having appeared on the world stage.

All these years, Van Impe has been preaching a certain truth. It took Trump to make it revelation. It will take me to write the book.  


[i] Grant R. Jeffrey, The New Temple and the Second Coming,  (New York: Penguin, 2009), p. 8.

[ii] Daniel 11:27

Ukraine: The Unholy Holy War

Ever since Cain sulked off to form his city, humans have found refuge in building empires. Like hammers always looking for the next nail, empires thrive on exerting power over others. Walter Brueggemann notes that empires have insatiable appetites, intrinsically unable to restrain themselves. The United States is such a totalizing empire. So also is Russia. Translated, Ukraine means “borderland”. And that barbed wire frontier is where these antagonistic empires have squared off.

Most American Christians do not know much about Ukraine, other than it is somewhere between Washington and Moscow..  Estimates indicate some 190,000 combat troops50% of Russia’s offensive capability – is poised at Ukraine’s border. The U.S. government believes invasion is imminent. Facing fierce resistance, it would be a bloody and difficult war, creating an enormous surge of refugees, with devastating socio-economic shock across the European continent and beyond. Those who could not leave Ukraine would face a puppet government imposing harsh conditions, mass arrests and reprisals – not to mention an open sore of mass hunger and displacement. Even a “successful” war wouldn’t cease evil; peace at the barrel of a gun just changes the form evil takes.

How Russia acts – and how the West then reacts – remains an open question: one of the pitfalls of recording contemporary history. Facts constantly evolve; with Russia now annexing Donbass and Luhansk regardless of Ukrainian sovereignty. A number of political observers have insisted that “we need to be clearly on the side of the West.” But how should American evangelicals react?

One avenue – taken by Richard Land – is military deterrence. Land construes the Bible Americanly, believing in a strong U.S. military as a central article of evangelical faith. America is militarily strong and morally right; there are no limits to reordering the world that our God-ordained greatness could not bring about. A neo-con hawk, Land advocates “to arm the frontline states from the Baltic to the Black Sea to make it very painful and costly for the Russians to use military force.” This militaristic view is shared by those many evangelicals who, in the words of Walter Brueggemann, “read the Bible with the United States cast in the role of God’s chosen people and carrier of God’s will for freedom in the world.” “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are,” George H.W. Bush once declared. The U.S. in this view, convinced of its own righteousness, is like a church where its foreign missionaries carry guns.

A contrary position held by many evangelicals is, simply put, to leave Russia to its own devices. “Russia did not and does not want to be part of the decadent liberal system”, one evangelical writer declares. He maintains that Post-Christian America is in no position to be the moral judge of the world by imposing “the ‘universal values’ of democracy, human rights, and liberty” upon nations like Greater Russia that don’t want them. In this thinking, Ukraine shouldn’t exist, because Biden’s “woke” America is so corrupted that it is no longer worthy of respect. Another goes so far as to say that if Russia conquered Europe, it would be an improvement. It’s a dystopian view that implies some conflict thousands of miles away is irrelevant to the U.S., which by now should have learned its lessons about policing the world. Yet more than that; it feeds into Dominionist ideologues who proclaim “we’re gonna rule and reign through President Trump and under the lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Doubtless the most visible adherent of this latter view is Trump-admiring Franklin Graham, who sees the rapid decline in American Christianity primarily caused by the ‘progressives’ repudiating God as the source of moral guidance. Putin believes Ukrainians and Russians are “one people”, saved through the Russian Orthodox Church. The Church under Kirill – a convenient spiritual ally for the Kremlin – has accused the West of imposing secular values on Russia. Graham has made several “non-political” trips to Moscow, meeting both with Putin and Orthodox prelates, and came away asserting that “many Americans wished that someone like Putin could be their president.”

“Putin,” writes David Brooks, “has redefined global conservatism and made himself its global leader.” But by far Putin’s biggest admirer is Donald Trump, who “cannot stop praising him”. “This is genius,‘ Trump declared after Putin helped himself to more of Ukraine. Together, they are “new breed of autocrats… people who aren’t interested in treaties and documents, people who only respect hard power.” Like President Trump’s Putin envy, evangelical culture is all about the pursuit of temporal power, awash with alpha males wielding supremacy over their mini-hierarchies. For evangelical diplomats, Mike Pompeo, former Secretary of State under Trump (and likely GOP candidate to take Trump’s old job in 2024) is the genuine article. He offered his admiration for Putin’s savvy in tearing off another piece of Ukraine. “He knows how to use power.”

Again, we should ask, is this how American evangelicals should react? This blog will be exploring that question in the posts to follow.

Ukraine’s Sorrow and Evangelical Guilt

[Note: This post is written as Russia is poised to invade Ukraine. By the time you read it, it may well have already happened].

Putin is ready to launch a blitzkrieg war to crush Ukraine. Like most wars, it will produce nothing of benefit, but inflict death and misery to countless thousands. Could this have been avoided?  Not by American evangelicals. They helped cause it.

Let’s start here in the U.S., where evangelicals overwhelmingly supported a despotic President who flaunted the rule of law and attempted a coup. A man who tried to bribe Ukraine into helping him lie to influence  the 2016. A man who tried to dissolve NATO admired Putin. Both men clever enough to say whatever evangelicals want to hear.

Let’s talk about American evangelicals, whose media constantly barfs out anti-American (and particularly anti-Biden) desinformatsiya. They have become a quasi-religious lobby group who have dismissed Democrats as “just another word for godless”, and who look to enforcing “One Nation Under Their God”.  Whose Dominionist totalism sees no room for democracy – either in America under Biden or in Ukraine joining the godless EU. Whose dispensationalism relishes human suffering because it verifies their nihilistic theology.

Let’s talk about their leaders, like Franklin Graham, having come away from personal audiences with Putin having nothing but praise for his anti-gay and anti-abortion policies, widely reported by Russian propaganda outlets. Not to mention having met several times with Vyacheslav Volodin, sanctioned Putin aide and architect of his takeover of Crimea “to strengthen relationships between the Christians in our countries”. And smoozing with Russian Orthodox spiritual leaders, each bemoaning the “ever-declining moral values in western societies”, and agreeing to joint “defense of traditional morality”.  All this cordiality despite the fact that Putin is repressing Russian evangelicals.

Or, Larry Jacobs of the World Congress of Families, who spoke for many evangelicals by declaring, “the Russians might be the Christian saviors of the world”.  We shouldn’t forget wholehearted welcome of Mariia Butina, an FSB honeypot who attended the National Prayer Breakfast at the invitation of influential evangelicals. “The value system of Southern Christians and the value system of Russians are very much in line,” one connected lawyer mentioned.

Franklin Graham’s latest biblical worldview effort has been to support the Canadian truck blockages. “The issue is FREEDOM, the freedom to make our own choices”, he declares. But what about Ukraine’s freedom? Nary a word, and silence likewise across evangelical media. Not even any wan “hearts and prayers” being pronounced. A queue of Western politicians flying to Russia in a desperate sue for peace, but Franklin Graham hasn’t booked a ticket. And he hasn’t pushed for a trucker’s protest in Moscow, either.

Influential evangelicals like Sen. Josh Hawley thinks it wrong to expand the West’s “liberal order” around the world. Meaning – parroting the views of Tovarich Carlson – there is no reason why the U.S. should help Ukraine defend its territorial integrity.

Ukraine is ripe for the picking, and evangelicals have already picked the side they want to win. They’ve helped make the bed the rest of us will be forced to lie in. Evangelical guilt for Ukraine’s downfall – may God intervene – will be great. Lord have mercy on us all…

My Jesus, My Gun, My Liability.

         While a slim majority of Americans favor tighter gun control, evangelicals form a super-majority of those opposed to stricter gun control laws. Despite 30,000 Americans being killed by gunshot wounds every year – a rate of some 80 people per day. Guns are ubiquitous and gun sales are skyrocketing. Almost half of evangelical Christians own them. Evangelicals are on the front lines to change the legal system to protect the unborn. But they resist legislation to reign-in the equally appalling murder of the post-born. It’s also true that evangelicals like Franklin Graham decry the “sin-sickened” state of America, while lobbying to make it easier for the same morally unfit people to use these weapons.

         We don’t have a gun problem, Mike Huckabee contends, since sin has gotten so bad “we really shouldn’t act so surprised when all hell breaks loose.” Huckabee’s point is made through a gun company which offers a kid-size assault rifle it proudly says “looks, feels, and operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun”.  Normalizing that kid/assault rifle relationship makes a mockery of the 20 dead six and seven years at Sandy Hook. I suppose praising that depraved life-destroying power is the brilliance behind marketing a kid-sized super-soaker that “Keeps the wow factor with the kids.”

         What he doesn’t admit, the immorality extends to evangelicals like God, Guns, and Grits Huckabee– who takes “a clear and decisive stand for principled issues”, yet sermonizes without accepting any responsibility for the suffering guns cause. Evangelicals have detached themselves from the grim consequences of military hardware designed with the sole purpose of killing multiple human beings. In fact, weak restrictions on gun ownership have become an evangelical article of faith. “You can’t be a Christian if you don’t own a gun,” a parachurch honcho preached to an enthusiastic Texas church.

         Gun manufacturing and gun ownership will never be abolished, but there are rational approaches to regulation that balance responsible gun ownership and public well-being. Americans pay for all sorts of liability insurance to protect them from harm caused through their property. Homeowners, renters, automobile, and toys like boats and motorcycles. Owners of these goods are pooled together based on relative risk.

         If neither Jesus or the government can provide meaningful answers to gun violence, perhaps we should look elsewhere. The only rational approach that seems open to Christians truly troubled by never-ending gun carnage is to encourage market-based solutions to eliminate its free-riding effect on society.  Nothing succeeds better than a good old American knee in the economic balls. I’m suggesting a firearm owner’s liability insurance requirement; a risk-based economic price to be paid like there is for driving a car.

         We all depend on our insurance policies to keep us out of the poorhouse. If for example, a tree on our property drops onto the neighbor’s roof, or our teenage son backs into a Porsche in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot. We live by the rules of a free market economy, and have signed onto its risks and benefits. Vehicle liability insurance covers a risk-taking activity which can potentially result in grievous bodily harm. Very few evangelicals would dream of getting behind the wheel without it.

         Insurance companies subsidize the loss, not taxpayers. Nothing in the Second Amendment precludes the right to bear arms from being conditioned by market factors and similar risk distribution. Until now, there has been no risk-based economic price to be paid like there is for driving a car.

         That’s why I applaud the San Jose’s move to oblige gun owners in the city to carry liability insurance. Gun-humpers are already screaming like someone poked a needle in their eye. It may never make it through the courts. At least it serves as a prototype the rest of the nation should emulate. Maybe not yet for evangelicals. At least until their sincerest “hearts and prayers” reach the moral bottom, they repent and work to heal this wound instead of making it worse.

Evangelical Sin, Not So Private and Personal.

You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes. You take away my blessing from their children forever. – Micah 2:9

“The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it.” John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.

Dave Ramsey is a so-called Christian financial planner, who mixes in a few Bible verses with his garden variety advice. Thousands have paid to attend his seminars, where he presides like a fundamentalist preacher, folksy delivery and self-assured scolding included. It’s made him a multi-millionaire many times over. His empire includes Ramsey Solutions, his signature for-profit company – featured as a“2020 Best Workplaces” – plus various investment spin-offs and 501(c) (3) non-profits. 

What is less well-known is that Ramsey Solutions also functions as church. In order to be hired, applicants undergo an extensive process – including a spousal interview. The employees attend a mandatory chapel/pep talk each week. Their work day is scrutinized and their private lives snooped upon to see if they are truly living righteously 24/7. Some allege it leads to a dictatorial culture of suspicion and gossip. Discovered secret sinners get shown the door. Dave can run his company any way he wants, as he often reminds the entire world. I don’t care about his spiritual rule over employees; his business culture is not the point of this post.

Trending lately have been comments he made on his radio show, that if his tenants are displaced because he raised the rent to meet market price, it does not make him a bad Christian. “I did not displace the person out of that house if they can no longer afford it. The marketplace did. The economy did… I didn’t cause any of that,” he challenged.

Who caused that, the renter? No, the renter is a victim. The landlord is a victim. We’re all victims. Ramsey points the accusing finger at a marketplace that demands it. This admission is a significant departure from evangelical insistence on individual sin as the cause of all evil.

For the cold-heartedness of his advice, Ramsey got a mild spanking from Christian Post. Another critic tweeted, “He benefits from the unjust weights and measures that cause housing prices and rent go up faster than wages. He wouldn’t change that if he could, because he values his wealth over his soul.”

Wealth has an amazing power to deceive us. In his Powers Trilogy, theologian Walter Wink emphasized that both individually and collectively, we are vulnerable and exploitable by structural evils – the whole Kosmos that lies in the power of the Evil One. The domination systems, to which we give imperceiving obeisance, make up our culture and society. Individualistic evangelical theology that only recognizes sin only in terms of personal behaviour is inadequate to explain how our souls are manipulated by the faceless, supernatural power structures (Ephesians 6:12) that surround us.

Thus, as a godly landlord, I can’t be personally blamed for a universally accepted economic system which compels me to pursue my own interests, even if it puts people out on the street. In fact, no single individual is guilty. We are all guilty of individual responsibility for corporate sin. As Jürgen Moltmann observed, “anyone who exists in these structures becomes sin’s accomplice, even if he wants only what is good.”[i] The domination system of mammon is participatory; no one is excluded. It entraps even “good” people into valuing money more than people.  Particularly those having the power to impact the lives of others because of their authority or position.  Ramsey’s comment reflects our complicity in the mammon system such that we cannot recognize our idolatry for what it is. Jesus calls us to a domination-free blessed community where, contrary to Cain’s impertinent reply, we together are our brother’s keeper.


[i] Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001, pp. 139-40.

A MAGA-Defiant Military

Kevin Stitt is Governor of Oklahoma. He attends an Assemblies of God church in Tulsa. “Under vaccines, I believe in choice,” Stitt stated. This is a governor who named a state highway after Trump, blamed President Biden for a Chick-Fil-A sauce shortage, and who tested positive for COVID. “I was pretty shocked that I was the first governor to get it,” he said. A bigger shock was that the state was recording over 1000 new infections per day. Oklahoma rates in the top 6 States for death rates from coronavirus, and ranks 39th in terms of population fully vaccinated.

If one realizes that Gov. Stitt is not only a politician, but also the Commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, it’s not hard to understand that the Guard is at once a military element and a political animal.  And Stitt is using his authority to stick it to the libs.

The Pentagon has issued direct orders for all service members to be fully vaccinated. Active duty members have largely complied. Those hold-outs refusing are subject to punishment, out of which a number have been involuntarily discharged. The Pentagon’s orders applied to National Guard members as well, with only 40% of Oklahoma’s Army Guard vaccinated.

The problem is, the Pentagon does not command state National Guards, unless/until directed by the President. In ordinary drill status, Guardsmen take orders from their Governor. Through his commanding general, Stitt issued a directive countermanding the military vaccination orders. As if to solidly his showdown with Washington, he directed his attorney general to sue the Biden administration to halt its COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Stitt was technically on solid legal ground. But in making MAGA points by his stunt, he seriously let his Guard members down. Refusers were essentially locked out of a State system which depended on Federal resources. To name only a few necessities: military schools needed to qualify in their jobs, Federal subsidies added to their pay, the award of Federal medals, and Federal recognition of their promotions. On a unit level, Federal assets on loan to the Guard, such as airplanes, tanks and weapons could be withdrawn. Making this a partisan point against Biden policy has a tremendous organizational downside.

I fully support the authority of the Governor under the constitution and Title 32 to govern his forces in Oklahoma,” the newly-appointed Adjutant General Thomas Mancino stated. (His predecessor, a vaccine proponent, was abruptly relieved of command. It may well be that he stood up for his troops’ well-being and got the chop). His more compliant replacement, Brigadier General Mancino, now finds his second star in limbo due to State intransigence. In one way or another, the quarrel will resolve itself in the Pentagon’s favor.

“It’s the fault of the elected officials,” one researcher said. “They are politicizing members of the military; this is almost unprecedented.”  The standoff has serious implications for good order and discipline, where one component thumbs its nose at the rest of the military. It harkens back to 1997, when the Secretary of Defense ordered the troops to receive an anthrax immunization to protect them from chemical weapons threats upon deployment. While the vaccine remained experimental, some 2 million U.S. military personnel received it. Some – including a number of National Guard personnel – nopted out, either by resigning or bearing harsh consequences for disobeying a direct order. There was no Christian MAGA Right to lobby for them then. Billy Graham was silent on the matter.

It is curious, then, that anti-vax became an evangelical cause; it never was so until it became an ideological marker of Trumpism.. A generation later, and with Christian nationalism in full tilt, Graham’s son took time off from saving souls to help rescue these poor soldiers from a diabolical Biden. Franklin wrote: “Oklahoma’s Attorney General John O’Connor is suing the Biden Administration over their Covid-19 vaccine mandate for the military and federal employees, saying that it “does not reflect the Land of the Free.” I must say that I agree with him… . The pandemic has given power-hungry government officials the opportunity to overreach into our lives—and they will just want more and more control.”

Someone should ask Franklin Graham how a “woke” military mandate to vaccinate against Covid-19 is any more tyrannical than requiring some 16 other inoculations to protect the troops and defend the American people. When I entered the service, my left arm felt like a pin cushion – but it was needed to be world-wide deployable. Especially ask Graham why, given the US death toll from Covid-19 has passed 800,000, with more than 200,000 of those deaths occurring after vaccines became available. A number of military members have lost their lives – the majority in the Reserves or National Guard. Graham has never served in the military, much less having been told by anybody what to do. It’s a different ballgame in the military; you do as your superior orders. Jesus encountered this, “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.” (Matthew 8:9)

Perhaps evangelicals like Graham and Stitt fight this vaccine mandate as the devil trying to attack true Christians. If so, we have met the enemy and they are us.

How the Corinthians Would Handle Sexual Sin Today

Biblical archaeologists have uncovered a valuable and unique early church manuscript – the church replying to Paul’s letters addressed to the Corinthians:

From: First Church of Corinth

To: Paul, Missionary and Evangelist

Dearest Paul,

We are eternally grateful for your work in founding this church, and thank you for the letters you have sent to encourage us in the faith. We have reviewed them carefully to best to incorporate your recommendations into our program of excellence here at First Church of Corinth.

You allude to an instance of incestuous behaviour being permitted in the church. As senior pastor, I and the elders conducted an internal investigation into the matter. The facts are somewhat different than you set out. The young man in question comes from a prominent family upon whom our church depends financially. We determine that he, like Lot, was seduced and manipulated into sexually immorality by feminine trickery. Having been deceived into sin by an aggressively licentious woman, we quickly restored him into full fellowship. As for this shameless woman, you will be happy to note that we have severed relations and obtained a restraining order against her.

Clearly, you did not have all the facts at your disposal, and the discrepancy is not entirely your fault. Some disgruntled former members have been spreading malicious rumours with the intent of destroying the unity of our body. Many member “concerns” are simply unfounded, and since long ago, we have required our members to sign binding confidentiality agreements to protect our reputation from damaging or disparaging gossip. We are suing these contentious individuals to prevent any disclosures under their contractual obligations.

In the future, direct your communications only to me as senior pastor. I, as owner of the Vision and my select leadership team will fine-tune your letters and pass them on to the congregation as deemed appropriate. As you sail along to other mission fields, be assured that this ship will see its mission fully realized under my leadership and control.

Senior Pastor/CEO