The Temple

There is No Santa Claus, A Political Cautionary

(I wrote a post last week on Proposition 8 that I had intended to be part of a discussion on the place of the church in politics, not to make a political statement or endorse a position or proposition.  This is the same sort of post)

When our kids were little we read books to them.  All kinds of books about all kinds of things.  Many of those books were story books, works of fiction designed to captivate their imagination.  My wife is a Christmas fiend and our house is transformed into a Christmas display every Christmas.  The decorations used and the stories told were not only “religious” in nature, but we also used many non-religious, or not so blatantly religious symbols at Christmas, including the story and image of Santa Claus.

We never told our children that Santa Claus was “real”.  We always talked about the possible origin of the Santa Claus story, and we never perpetuated the idea that Santa was the one who brought presents on Christmas morning.  Now maybe that is because we have never lived in a home with a fireplace, but more to the point, we never got into the habit of teaching myth as truth.  We felt that was an important parenting philosophy, especially as it pertained to the teaching of our children the truths of the gospel.  We wanted to be a trustworthy source of information and truth, and we didn’t want to be seen from our children’s point of view as manipulative.  When it came time for them to grapple with the parts of the gospel that were “unique”, ie. miracles in the Bible, but more importantly, the resurrection, we didn’t want our children to have confusion about our trustworthiness as proclaimers of the message.  We believe the resurrection is actually true.  If we lied to our children about Santa Claus, maybe they would conclude that we were lying about the resurrection.

Now on a scale of 1-10, our passion about the Santa Claus issue was relatively low.  We didn’t browbeat our friends who played this silly game with their kids (we mocked them), but we did challenge them.  We had friends who taught their kids that Santa was real.  When they encountered our kids it was sometimes a problem and we would hear:  “Don’t ruin it for our kids, tell your kids not to tell them…”  Well, we never told our children to lie about it either, so there were some uncomfortable moments.

So, what does this have to do with the church and politics?

My impression of politics as a 30 year veteran of the voting process is this:  Political rhetoric is rarely straightforward.  I won’t go so far as to say that politicians are liars, but many of you would.  Do they always lie?  No.  Do they always communicate the truth in a straightforward manner?  No.

It is not a simple matter to understand politicians. Let’s be kind, they don’t always lie, but they most always “spin.”  However you describe it, political rhetoric always needs to be “interpreted” and I have a hard time taking their message at face value. Most of their claims need to be “verified.”  That is a non-partisan observation.  It goes both ways.

For example:  Obama says McCain wants to tax health care benefits (true) and it will amount to the largest tax increase in recent history (not so true when taken with McCain’s proposal to give an increased tax credit).  Palin says she oversaw 20% of the nations gas and oil reserves as the governor of Alaska (the figure is closer to 15% and her oversight needs to be clarified, what does that mean?).  This kind of political “fudging” is what we all have come to expect from politicians, there is a mitigated integrity to their language. (This is the point I was making in the earlier post as I pointed out the way the language in the video put out by AFA reflected politcal rhetoric and was therefore open to question).

This becomes a problem for everyone who joins the political process.  We regularly hear “new” candidates tacitly acknowledge the reality of my observation as they promise to be different.  Because of this churches and pastors cannot afford to “affiliate” with the process. It is inherently flawed, and taints the whole message:  if you lied to us about Santa Claus, can we really trust the rest of your message.  Our primary message is our most important message and cannot be subsumed under a political campaign no matter how “worthy.”  The church cannot afford to have “mitigated” integrity as stewards of the manifold grace of God.

I am not advocating a passive position.  Power and influence can be exerted in ways other than becoming a political action group, and we weaken our voice when we “align” with one party over another.  When we become partisan, we lose our “otherness” in the argument.  If the message of the church on abortion gets mixed up as a “Republican” position, it is watered down for many who do not align with “Republicans” and dismissed not on the merit of the position, rather it is dismissed as a political opinion that is open to discussion and disagreement. (A good case can be made that this has already occured and our challenge is now how do we redeem our message from the mire of political plankhood?)

Are we not interested in influencing Democrats? Independents?  Libertarians?  Homosexuals?  We should be and  we cannot if we are a “Republican” church.  All we can do is seek political power and hope legislation and judicial appointments go our way, and then enforce our way.  I for one, do not trust that system to be the vehicle for our message.  If you do, I want to know why…


September 29, 2008 Posted by | Politics, Politics and Religion | , , | 4 Comments

Teaching Videos Available…

If you were not aware and were interested, you can download video of all of our teaching sessions at Nuevo Community

Included in the downloads are the full sermon series on Luke, Hebrews from chapter 4 on, our most recent series on the Holy Spirit entitled “The Promise of the Father” and our present series on Doctrine.

“The Faith” (our Wedenesday Night Class offerings) is also included:  Systematic Theology; New Testament Survey,  Hermeneutics (How to Study the Bible).

Let us know if you use and enjoy these resources.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, Sermons, Theological | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is the Gospel?

Greg Gilbert on the 9Marks blog has written three posts on the definition of the gospel.

In the first part he raises two questions:

Those two questions are these:

  1. What is the gospel? In other words, what is the message a person must believe to be saved? And
  2. What is the gospel? In other words, what is the whole good news of Christianity?

I would encourage the reading of all three posts:

What is the Gospel? Part 1

What is the Gospel? Part 2

What is the Gospel? Part 3

This would be good reading for anyone involved in helping ministries:  Helping the poor, feeding the homeless, graffiti abatement team, Men’s New Commandment Ministry to Widows…anyone on our External Focus Team.  Good works are an expression of the gospel, and it should be made explicit.

(Rudy, this may be good to hand out and talk about at our next breakfast with the Men’s Ministry?)

ht: Between Two Worlds

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Christianity, Theological | , , | Leave a comment

On the Lighter Side…Jesus is My Friend

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Silly Stuff, Worship | Leave a comment

More on Proposition 8

Check out this opinion piece from the LA Times about Proposition 8 found on the Protect Marriage Website.  David Blankenhorn is a liberal democrat who is in favor of Prop. 8.  Interesting.

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Politics, Politics and Religion | , , , | 2 Comments

The Palin Predicament

Andreas Kostenberger at Biblical Foundations responds to  David Gushee’s post in USA Today on Palin as the potential VP, and potential President of the US.

Read both articles, beginning with the Gushee article, followed by Kostenberger.

Is there a contradiction for Christians who believe women should not exercise authority over a man in the church context exerting authority in the highest office in the land?

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Politics and Religion | , , | 8 Comments

Proposition 8 & The Church

I do not intend this post to be an endorsement for or against Proposition 8 rather to raise some issues as to how the church involves itself in issues like the one surrounding Proposition 8.

The Proposition

Proposition 8 is an initiative on the 2008 California General Election Ballot.  If passed it would force an amendment to the California Constitution to include the statement “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

“Prop. 8 is About Preserving Marriage; It’s Not an Attack on the Gay Lifestyle. Proposition 8 doesn’t take away any rights or benefits from gays or lesbians in domestic partnerships.  Under California law, “domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections and benefits” as married spouses. (Family Code §297.5.) There are no exceptions. Proposition 8 will not change this.” (This is from “Protect Marriage – Yes on 8” Campaign)

The Position

There is a great deal of heat surrounding the proposition and the Constitutional amendment.  I just watched a half hour video mailed to the church free of charge from AFA (You can watch the video at American Family Association) calling on churches to inform their congregations to register and to vote for Proposition 8.  The video was full of clips from homosexual “marriages” performed in courthouses soon after the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 22 (passed in 2000 by California voters) was unconstitutional and opened the door for gay marriage in California.  It also made it clear that it was the duty of every pastor to get the word out to their congregations to register to vote and to vote yes on Proposition 8.

The Problem

The problems raised by the amendment and the PR campaign are numerous and regardless of your position, conversation on the process is a must. Political rhetoric has its own rules and agendas. When the church gets pulled into the “silly season” Continue reading

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Culture - Values, Ethics, Politics, Politics and Religion, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 55 Comments

Kristof on Obama

Interesting opinion piece in the NY Times by Nicholas Kristof about the political race and Barack Obama.

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Politics, Politics and Religion | , , | 5 Comments

Signage Evangelism

This sign has remarkably been up on a “prime” corner in my town for at least two months.  I am not sure I totally understand the message.

We have a sense of urgency:  LAST CALL!

That is a catchy opening.  I am sure that most people reading were given the appropriate sense of urgency that drove them to consider the remaining message.


Here we have that “hip” texting abbreviation.  Saves space and maybe some printing costs???  Double check that spelling, or another attempt at hip?

Then there is the critical closing:  WHO IS JESUS TO U?

Can anyone tell me the purpose of these kinds of attempts at evangelism?  I just don’t understand.  Even more, I find them offensive.  It is belittling to the gospel to trivialize the method we use  to proclaim the gospel.  Here we have the most critical message of history next to “Yard Sale this weekend”.  This is really a step down from my other favorite gospel medium:  bumper stickers.

So now we attach verses and fish to advertisements in the yellow pages and on telephone poles.  Here the call is to Christians, please, no unbelievers need respond.  Only Christians would be worthy to rent a room, and we wouldn’t want our evangelism to extend beyond signage.  Living with unbelievers is a threat to our holiness, so please don’t apply – just read our signs.

All of this was made famous by a guy named Rollen Stewart who used to hold up signs that simply read John 3:16 at sporting events while dressed like a clown with multi-colored hair.

This is not evangelism.  This is self-serving self promotion.  You know people like this, they just want to be on stage and would use anything to achieve that place, even the pretense of preaching the gospel.

When we do this we place the message of the cross next to “Go Chargers”, equating our allegiance to Christ with an allegiance to a sports team.  Could there be any quicker way to trivialize the gospel?

This methodology has also crept into our churches who are turning to gimmicks to draw crowds and subsequently to entertain the crowds once they are attracted.

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Christianity, Culture - Values | , , | 5 Comments

Hillsong – Your Name High

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized, Worship | , , | 1 Comment