An open letter to the church at America

Dear Church,

Fake Christians and Fake Christianity! That’s what they’re saying about you. Imagine that? Oh, you’ll likely just dismiss this as the name calling of those evil liberals, but this cry comes from the inside, from Christians who want no part of what you claim is the real faith. These people view with righteous skepticism your willingness to support a political party whose highest priority is the wealthy. If you aren’t fabulously rich, then you, like the rest of us, are sucking hind titty with this administration when it comes to your wants and needs. The counterculture nature of Christianity has always been towards the poor and the afflicted and against the rich, and yet, here we are in a real crisis over the state of our country.

You got your so-called Conservative Supreme Court, but the price for that is that history will tag you forever as fake Christians. Why? You are an affront to those who live simple lives in just trying to make the best of what they have and raise their children in the fear of the Lord. This is what happens when you mix politics with religion and why we have a First Amendment. It is by affiliation – the unrighteous yoking of yourselves and those who seek their reward at the expense of others. This is not Christianity, and it’s time we all came to agreement on that.

Christianity Today (or is it Fake Christianity Today) published a piece last week (The Current Storm and the Evangelical Response) by our old friend Ed Stetzer, who tried to justify all this in the name of the faith. Ed used a statement by Howard Dean on MSNBC as a springboard.

(Dean) gave his take on the state of the current GOP, saying it has “the same meaning as evangelical Christianity with young people, intolerance, bigotry and a lack of respect, not just for women but for anybody who is not on their team.” Stetzer chose to base his entire argument on the belief that this doesn’t describe all of the people or groups he knows. He called the statement by Dean “incomplete and unfair.” He’s able to indict those Christians who behave in this manner, but concludes that it’s really just a big misunderstanding.

No one can deny that the reputation of evangelical Christianity has been significantly diminished as a result of some pursing (sic) the acquisition of power and influence and blurring the lines of faith and politics.

But this does not, and cannot, change the facts: thousands of years of evidence have pointed to the true mission of those who claim to follow Jesus Christ—we seek to live humble lives of faithful service so that Jesus will be lifted high.

Howard Dean isn’t the first—nor will he be the last—to criticize evangelicals. We need to hear their critiques. But, we also need to respond in a such a way that others exclaim, “So that is what it means to be a Christian!”

And they, in turn, will turn to Christ as well.

To the church at America, if you don’t like the generalizations of Howard Dean, first remove your own generalizations about those who oppose you politically. Then, we might be able to have a discussion. Nobody is going to buy your arguments as long as your behavior represents the extreme. What’s needed is repentance, not justification for the unjustifiable. In your zeal to be models for everybody else, you’ve actually become that which you despise, the fat cats who take their ease among the refuse that’s left behind, including the poor, the sick, the afflicted, the refugees and their children, the unemployed, the strugglers and the stragglers, the lost and alone, and the people of the world who don’t have even a breath of what we possess.

Salvation promised sometime in the future is a cheap substitute for our lack of concern in the present.

Your servant,

Terry

The web is its own culture

This month is the 15th anniversary of the first Bloggercon, a conference for new media pioneers to advance the cause of blogging, which nobody else seemed to understand. The event was conceived and organized by Dave Winer, a man I certainly hope history will record as one of the key early players – if not THE key player – in the development of the paradigm shift in media:

    • That everyone with a web connection can be a media company.
    • That the cost of making media had been effectively reduced to zero.
    • That the web views hierarchies as inefficient and routed around them.
    • That the birth of so-called “citizen’s media” was a response to a lack of trust in the pros since Watergate.
    • That the web is a culture unto itself and must be given its due as such.
    • That this networking of people would become a cultural swing point similar to what Gutenberg had brought about with moveable type in the 15th Century.
    • That the blogging format was the proper way to communicate information via the web.

    There was always a profound sense of the future at Bloggercon and all subsequent gatherings, because the people who attended were pioneers and innovators. We talked a lot about where this was all going, and honestly, there’s no contemporary replacement for what was accomplished, because there are too many people today vying for self-centered inclusion in the web’s inner circle. Oh, there were plenty of big egos at Bloggercon; it’s just that they were all able to work together for the common good. There would be no podcasting today were it not for Bloggercon.

    So what’s happened 15-years downstream? The efforts of those early gatherings have been absorbed by the whole, and the vision of those days continues outside the mainstream, which continues to insist that the web is merely an add-on to our status quo. How unfortunate, for absent eyes to see, a whole generation is missing the innovations being made by mostly younger people who don’t view the web the same way as their parents. Let me give you a couple of examples.

    I’m not sure exactly how it began, but I’m a member of Bachelor Nation, that devoted group of fans who’ve crossed over into the darkness of reality dating television, specifically ABC’s The Bachelor. Even though I know it’s heavily edited to fit an ongoing producer narrative, I find that it fills a sort of mindlessness cleansing for me during exposure. The magnetism of this show is hot, young people vying for attention of a suitor, but it’s the backstory available to fans today that sheds a new light on what’s shone to the television audience.

    And, because I’m in the middle of it, I follow a guy in Dallas named Steve Carbone, known to backstory fans as the evil “Reality Steve,” who has a habit of spoiling the weekly episodes long before they air. Reality Steve provides the play-by-play of the creation and execution that is the narrative, and in so doing, not only “spoils” the programs (every one) but also reveals the story beneath the story, which, trust me, is far more interesting than the show itself. This knowledge, in fact, makes watching the program a different experience, because it teaches us all to think like producers.

    In this light, there’s an important media lesson in The Bachelor, a revelation, if you will, of one way the culture is adapting favorably to the digital age. You need eyes-to-see in order to engage, however, and this is always the problem for people trying to analyze currents as they relate to this new age. Enter the podcaster, the vlogger, the blogger, the social media influencer, and beyond. “Social media influencer” is a real job for a lot of real people who are simply responding to one of the means by which people are making a decent living while supporting themselves. And, I’m certain there will be those who’ll say that there’s really nothing new here, but vast companies are now doing business with people who have a significant following on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and so forth. Granted, it’s the old reach-frequency game, but the money is not going to traditional media players. Reality Steve has a podcast as do a great many others in Bachelor Nation.

    The program’s recruiting of nice-looking young people for the show has also shifted greatly in the wake of the above. Whereas earlier cast members of the program all joined with the ultimate purpose being to find love, today’s applicants have another purpose in mind when signing up to be contestants – it’s a great way to increase one’s influence in social media, which means there’s now significant income available to people who make the cast, and this has changed the nature of the program. “Is she here for him, or is she just interested in the fame?” This used to be a viable question with The Bachelor, but not anymore, for all contestants now get a shot at making significant money simply by being on the program.

    The simple truth is this: the web has evolved distribution of media (and most importantly, advertising), and this was one of the things we knew was happening back in those Bloggercon days.

    If you pay attention to how families use Facebook, you’ll notice another phenomenon occurring that has evolved to a business, and that is social media photography. Several times a year, each of the families in my daughter’s circle post professional photos of family members in addition to pictures they take themselves. Whether celebrating a season, a significant event, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, or just a spontaneous idea, these people want to look their best for what is becoming a book of life for participants. They want to look their best as they keep up with each other for bragging rights on who posts the best photos. This is spawning a whole new industry, one that uses the very technologies we were innovating at Bloggercon.

    One day, resorts will offer a similar service designed specifically to be made a part of the customer’s own media distribution, and documenting our lives will become an even more important part of our use of social media. This discovery is being made over and over again by the people who take full advantage of the distribution patterns provided by social media. Those gathered a Bloggercon knew that what the web does best is connect people, but mainstreamers can only bring themselves to use it as an extension of their old, brand-oriented value propositions.

    The web isn’t just another add-on to Western Culture; it’s a culture unto itself, and this is what Dave and the others we were all trying to say those 15-years ago.

Shock & Awe with Kavanaugh

EDITOR’S NOTE: We apologize for the headline. We couldn’t stop ourselves.

Now that Justice Kavanaugh is seated, let’s review and prognosticate.

We have learned without a shred of doubt that the U.S. Supreme Court is a political institution. This is astonishing to me, for one of the pronounced qualifications for Christian conservative Judges is that they be “strict constitutionalists” when it comes to interpreting law. That means the Supreme Court ought never make decisions based on anything other than the Constitution, and yet, here we have our “majority conservative” justices, which means that we ought to be able to predict with certainty how they will vote. In my experience, this is a very slippery slope, but we shall see.

Yes, conservatives have achieved their vaunted “conservative court,” although we’ve not really asked ourselves what that means to the judges. The old saying is waiting, “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.” One has to wonder, too, how the savvy press will respond. Are they moving forward with expectations about how the court will behave, or are they willing to take a wait-and-see approach? It’s all about the narrative with these reporters, and my guess is that there’s a quiet competition underway to see who can first spot evidence of this “conservative court.”

Let me emphasize here that the Christian Right in this country has been fighting the Roe v Wade straw man for so long that few remember what it was like before that law was enacted. Abortion is among the top, most-consistent fundraising keys for big ministries, because the “evil” of abortion has always made it easy for a certain group to open up their wallets. Electing this “conservative court” has been part and parcel of the fight against abortion. It is so foundational to the fundraising success of said ministries that one is left to wonder how they will deal with this. That’s what I would be watching, if I was active with the press today.

Predicting what comes next is actually pretty easy, if you’re familiar with the inner-workings of these ministries. There are two likely paths of action for these zealous believers, the first using the same screed that the “pro-lifers” used.

    PREMISE:

  • Abortion is sin
  • God hates sin (but He LOVES the sinner)
  • The cause of this scourge has been the sexual sin that is rampant in our culture
  • God expects us to wage war against sin
  • We’re willing, but we need your help to fight on your behalf

One might even say that a whole social movement has grown up alongside this premise, and now that the scent of victory is in the air due to the Kavanaugh confirmation, the energy behind it is likely to wane. Nothing kills social movements like the believed approach of the finish line. The movement will disappear unless those behind it can find a way to institutionalize the anger and its subsequent attachment to revenue giving.

Meanwhile, the church needs another straw man with which to stir things up and motivate giving, so it’s pretty easy to predict what comes next, and that will be an all-out effort on capping sexual deviance and “the liberal sex practices” foisted upon us and our children (and especially, our grandchildren) by the pornographers, the escorts, the adult entertainers, Hollywood, the media, and those damned evil liberals. After all, wasn’t it this that led to the unwanted babies that abortion has slaughtered?

The irony of this particular President leading the charge is even more pronounced, but it won’t make a difference.

The second logical effort on the part of these evangelicals is Israel.

    PREMISE

  • God loves Israel
  • God’s plan for the salvation of man includes the end times described and exegeted by the church
  • This plan includes the return of Jesus Christ TO JERUSALEM.
  • It’s the duty of believers to unilaterally support all efforts of Zionists, including driving Palestinians out of their homeland and the designation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
  • The Bible warns those who would oppose Israel in any way, so Israel can do no wrong.
  • 1948 was a true miracle demonstrative of God’s restorative grace
  • We need to do what we can to support Israel, and that includes you through supporting us, because we’re a part of the plan.

And so, these Christians will go hard after support for Netanyahu and his cronies who force illegal methods into maintaining their narrative that Jews are a persecuted people and that God miraculously gave “the promised land” back to the Jews in 1948. At this point, it doesn’t matter whether this is true or not; it is the perceived truth made known to the world through the political propaganda of the hard right. Atrocities, like forcing apartheid on Palestinians, are dismissed as collateral damage in God’s plan to put Israel back into the Middle East. Look at what’s happened in just two years under Mr. Trump’s leadership:

  1. We’ve moved our embassy to Jerusalem, to land given to the Palestinians during the original regional conflict. The Israeli’s don’t care.
  2. Settlements have expanded at a rate far above previous administrations. During the Obama Presidency, the State Department regularly criticized expansion but no more.
  3. The U.S. has cut off all aid to Palestinian groups who used it to care for the sick, injured, and starving Palestinians. By doing this, President Trump has declared to the world that his form of peace negotiations is through the subjugation of the Palestinian people. This is going to get worse, the farther downstream we drift on the path to setting up Israel as dictatorial rulers of the entire region.

Mark my words, the Middle East is going to boil as a result. In Biblical prophecy, these right-wing fanatics believe, Iran, Turkey and Russia will come against Israel, which will jump-start Armageddon. The Christians see nothing wrong in doing whatever they can to urge this forward. After all, maybe WE are supposed to be the agents that God uses to usher in the 1,000-year reign of Christ. Could be, right?

So get ready for a really HOT summer in 2019, for people who believe they’re doing God’s will are an immovable force, and the world is a much more dangerous place today than it was just a week ago. Personally, I’m shocked and awed.

May God have mercy on us.

Christian Islamophobia’s Grip on the Middle East

In what has to be the single most disgusting false witness ever published, Christianity Today – that bastion of truth for white evangelicals founded by none other than Billy Graham – asks “Can Christians Trust Muslim Hospitality?” People, let me be honest here: this article is straight from the pit of hell and is not fit for human consumption. It twists lies and half-truths and out-of-context “teachings” to argue the dangerous and tired old madness that Islam is the greatest evil in the world. It makes me sick, and to the church I say, “Shame on you.”

We walk around parroting the damning lies of political propaganda never once stopping to question whether these lies might just be a little too convenient to be true. The narrative that Israel is the shining beacon of light to the region is so out of touch with what’s taking place on the ground as to make sanity seem the enemy. You can choose for yourself what’s real and what’s not, but for crying out loud, at least do the bare minimum of research for yourself and not just repeat what you’ve heard in church.

Let’s set the stage. This article claims, among other things, that Islam has an “alleged permission to lie” and goes on to actually urge caution in all dealings with Muslims. The piece quotes Tharwat Wahba, professor of mission at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (note: It’s a Christian institution):

“Accept kindness and friendship, but be alert and awake. Don’t be naïve. Some have agendas.”

Come on, man! You mean Christians don’t have agendas?

Christianity Today “Middle East correspondent” Jayson Casper is absolutely spinning in his own spinning when he makes the following false statements:

…some Christians today are comfortable delving into the conscience of everyday, ordinary Muslims, finding deception at every turn.

…Muslims are permitted by their faith to lie if it will advance the cause of their religion.

…in much anti-Muslim discourse, taqiyya has been redefined into a religious obligation for Muslims to lie to non-Muslims not simply for survival…but to serve the expansionist agenda of their religious community.

…an anti-Muslim website draws attention to several references which seem to imply a license to lie.

Seriously? I mean, let me ask again, seriously? Where do I start with this utter nonsense? Firstly, taqqiya isn’t in Islam at all; it’s a part of the Shia religion, which is a far different animal. The West insists the Shia represent Islam, because their extremism makes for a better foil than the actual religion, but the differences between this small sect of fundamentalists and the religion as a whole can be profound. When arguing religion, it always helps to have your facts straight. Correspondent Casper surely knows where to turn to find “experts” who’ll validate the absurdities of his predisposition, and what good Christian would doubt a Middle Eastern “Christian” expert anyway, right?

There is MUCH at stake in proselytizing these falsehoods, for Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, largely because at its essence, the faith speaks to the poor and disenfranchised. Christianity – especially as its defined today – most certainly does not. It is now the great defender of the rich and, of course, the Republican Party tenets that favor the rich. As such, the war underway between Christians and Muslims is for the souls of that great mass of have-nots globally, and in this battle, Islam is surely winning. It’s a war not only for souls but for resources, and little do the Christians realize how their sliding numbers are impacting the movement of global resources. America, especially now with Donald Trump, is seen worldwide as an oppressive tyranny of lust and greed that cares little for anyone other than themselves. And it is seen as such, in very large measure, due to its dominant religion – Christianity – supporting such a culture.

Just last week, Donald Trump ended America’s fiscal support for the oppressed Palestinians. While Pat Robertson claimed that we’re “sticking our fingers in the eyes of God” over cross-dressers reading to children in a library, yanking the rug out from underneath people who are being systematically destroyed is the real rejection of God in the West. After forcing the UN to discontinue aid, we’ve now completely bowed out of any direct help to the oppressed, and we WILL pay the price.

This is just part of the reason this article in Christianity Today is so damning for the church. By dehumanizing Muslims, the magazine is giving its stamp on the process of eliminating them altogether, because they stand in the way of the global dominance of Americans, which is surely not that for which Jesus suffered and died.

“Serve Allah, and do not join any partners with Him. Do good to parents, relatives, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near and neighbours who are strangers, the friend by your side as well as the traveller, and what your right hands possess. Allah does not love the arrogant and proud ones.” (Qur’an 4:36)

(Psst: And let me repeat that Allah is the Arab word for “God.” Do you think God cares what language is used to worship Him? How will you deal with that?)

Beware of God’s judgment, O Church

Who am I to speak about God’s judgment? In my pride, do I think I’m better than others? Is that it? Do I actually believe that God has spoken to me? Who the heck am I? “How dare you speak to us that way? Shall we list your sins and transgressions? What qualifies you?”

I got into a brief exchange the other day with a guy on Facebook over Christians and Trump. I made the statement that God is judging the church, which set him off with the attitude mentioned above. So let’s deconstruct this just a bit.

Christians, especially those of the white evangelical sort, embrace of form of speaking that’s lovingly referred to as “the language of Zion.” Trust me, if you know any of these folks, you know what I’m talking about. It’s like a secret handshake, and if you use it, a form of immediate trust is given. If you don’t use it, however, you’re immediately considered an outsider and a target for condescension. I can speak the language when necessary, but my default is to keep it to myself. However, the statement that God is judging the church is written in the language of Zion. What this man suggested, therefore, was that I must be haughtily assuming the role of prophet in making a statement about God’s judgment. Oh boy.

Firstly, as prophets go, I can’t possibly claim that status. For one, I’m a nothing and a nobody, but it’s also my belief that only others can bestow such a title on those sensitive to the presence of God. The prophets of old didn’t walk around glowing or surrounded by a heavenly host crying “Holy.” They didn’t drag behind them great throngs of worshippers as an entourage. They were often dirt poor but always had sustenance, because the power of their words was substantial and what they predicted came to pass. Naturally, then, people would give them things, food and possessions. In the language of Zion, “God took care of them.” So, if I’m somehow assuming the role of prophet in my pronouncement of judgment on the church, then we’ll just have wait and see what happens downstream, right? I claim nothing except the ability to read what I view as obvious signs among us.

Secondly, modern prophets aren’t always a part of any religion. Don’t have to be. I consider Bob Dylan to be a contemporary prophet, and I know he had a conversion experience once, but he represents – although not well – the trappings of the world. Modern prophets are found in the arts community, for only they have the sensitivity to hear “the voice of God.” That, by the way, is another use of the language of Zion, for connecting to the creator spirit doesn’t require the forms of holiness that those who speak it demand of “their” prophets.

It doesn’t take a genius or a special connection with life to see what’s going on today, and it always – ALWAYS – begins with the wellbeing of the poor and the afflicted. It’s simply impossible to miss or dismiss the constant references to this through both the old and new testaments. God’s true character is revealed in His equal love for all. Israel’s Abrahamic economy was built entirely around the idea that no one needs to be poor. And yet, in our culture, the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening every year. The middle class is gone, and all that’s left are those who have and those who don’t.

Do I need to go through The Book and point out what’s written about dealing with strangers, foreigners, or visitors? And yet, these commands are set aside each time someone complains about immigrants. Are these instructions written for those who don’t believe? No, so how can I possibly be criticized for saying that God is judging the church? And, the cultural “sins” against which they pray and involve themselves politically are of little interest to God compared to His command to love Him and our neighbors.

None of this is the responsibility of those outside the church, for only those who “know” the commandments can be guilty of violating them. So, if God is judging behavior in the culture, that judgment is for the church, because these “transgressions” are only considered so by the church. Therefore, judgment, the good book says, “begins at the house of God.” And for Christians especially, the kinds of “sins” they complain about aren’t any of their business anyway. What part of “neighbor as yourself” is found in the hatred expressed over the last several years towards those “neighbors” in the soiling of our precious country? Until we – perhaps for the first time as a people – start doing what God/Life wants, I will never cease in my view that “God is judging the church.” Here’s an example:

My old boss Pat Robertson went ballistic on the air the other day over the idea of cross dressers reading stories to children at a local library as a part of the “Drag Queen Story Hour” program. Pay attention to not only what he says but to the absolute disgust with which he says it. When this kind of stuff is expressed to a large audience, it moves the thinking of that audience to matters that are political, petty, and therefore trivial to Life itself. It makes people mad and inspires them to DO SOMETHING, which is exactly the core mission of the one shouting the complaint.

“This next story should shock the daylights out of you and you ought to do something about it,” Robertson vented. “It’s an outrage. Little teeny children as young as two years-old being exposed (to) cross-dressers, homosexuals who dress up as women and are called so-called drag queens … They’re men acting like women—and they used to, out in San Fransciso, used to call them ‘he-shes’—and they’re reading books to children.”

“You’d better get outraged about this,” he added.

“If you read the Bible, there were a couple of cities where they actually, the men tried to have sex with angels who were then as male figures and God destroyed those cities,” Robertson said following the segment. “The crime was called, subsequent to that, it was called sodomy. This whole thing is just an outrage. It’s an affront in the eyes of God and I think that’s what we’re trying to do is stick our fingers in God’s eyes and say, ‘Okay Lord, you thought you were making people men and women … but we’re going to fix it so that we’re going to confuse the sexes, we’re going to confuse everything that you’re doing and then, if we have offspring as a result of our sexual activity out of marriage, we’re going to kill the offspring and we’ll stick our fingers in your eye to show you who’s boss.’”

“The United States of America is on very slippery ground,” he warned. “How is (God) going to bless America if we put our finger in his eyes repeatedly? And that’s what we’re doing. It’s not just some library that is going to be in trouble, it’s the whole population when God brings judgment.”

Folks, God IS bringing judgment. Right now. Today. On the church, the very people Pat Robertson represents atop the pedestal of his own righteousness. God is not going to “bring judgment” against the United State, because, honestly, what does He have to do with it anyway? America isn’t God’s church. Never has been; never will be. God doesn’t judge outsiders; He judges those who profess allegiance to Him. Think of it this way. If the church was actually doing its job, do you really think we would have all these social issues that dominate our lives and the lives of our friends and neighbors? As long as we embrace a gospel of self that emphasizes what’s good for us, our families, our friends, and our neighborhoods, we will always find fault with those who seem a threat to our comfort. This is the sad state of the Christianity practiced by “the church” under judgment. Is that you? Think carefully and prayerfully, for there’s more at stake for you than you might imagine.

Moreover – and this is what’s truly galling – the Bible does NOT say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah over homosexuality. Ezekiel wrote that God destroyed Sodom for its self-comfort and lack of concern for the poor and needy, exactly as we have become today. Ezekiel 16:49-50:

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (NIV)

As I wrote in my book about my time with Pat Robertson, he’s a politician who happens to be a minister, not the other way around. As such, politics flows through every fiber of his being, and we see that reflected above. Pat’s audience is filled with grandparents. So is his donor base. Anything that appears to threaten the wellbeing of children is therefore a serious hot button to pursue. And what better straw man at which to point than homosexuals. It’s no coincidence that one of the things people can do with the outrage he describes is to give to CBN or maybe Republicans. In this sense, everything that comes out of his mouth is designed to tweak the consciences of those who support the work of CBN. In 1984, we raised $248 million in contributions by following this formula, and as long as the name Robertson is what makes the CBN ministry tick, viewers will be manipulated in this way.

I genuinely feel sorry for those who are caught up in this unawares, because they will not be held blameless in the midst of God’s judgment. Support Donald Trump, therefore, at your own peril, for we are playing the harlot with the oppressors, and God is nowhere near any of it.

Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

The “We Know Better” Bubble

“I know better than you” is a mother’s claim that ends many an argument with her 5-year old, but it becomes problematic when used among adults to obtain a position of authority absent evidence. It’s a tool that political and cultural manipulators also use to get their way, citing some unknowable form of knowledge to claim victory in a debate. It’s never all that obvious, however, for it can be hidden from the view of spectators while communicated directly to followers who’ve been led to believe that they’re in on the secret.

This is not necessarily the case with Christians and Christianity, for who doesn’t like to claim a little insight that the other guy doesn’t possess? It can be omnipresent, however, in arguments involving the church, like whether or not church attendance is a prerequisite for righteous living. In a recent essay in Christianity Today, Megan Hill adapted her work from the book Identity Theft: Reclaiming the Truth of our Identity in Christ in a piece that cites “Four Lies That Keep Us from Church.”

Though the world would tell us that church is an option, an irrelevance, or a human invention—a group of people who thought it would be a good idea to get together since they share the same beliefs and spiritual practices—we know better. The body is established by Christ, protected and nourished by him, and governed by him.

A great many Christians live in this “we know better” bubble, which is afforded them by separation from the enemy they know as “the world.” The bubble is a truly remarkable place in that “we know better” governs absolutely, and it’s one of the key reasons we have Donald Trump as our President. Those who live in the bubble have their own rules – both written and unwritten – their own language, their own worship, the Bible to support every expression of faith, self-restriction of the senses, and “fruit of the spirit” to validate their presence “in” Christ. But the most politically significant trait of the bubble is that “we know better” means a willingness – perhaps even a need – to deny logic and rationality in the name of claiming a higher authority.

Thomas Paine, the 18th Century philosopher and pamphleteer, whose writing bolstered the American Revolution, noted this phenomenon in his series, The American Crisis, and it’s as apropos today as it was when it was written:

“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”

This is why attempts to reach the occupants of the “we know better” bubble about the Trump Presidency produces such a vociferous and strident defense that includes a comparison to the ancient Babylonian king Cyrus, who though corrupt and an unbeliever, permitted the Jews in captivity to return to Jerusalem. God used him, the bubble thinking goes, to give favor to the Jews regardless of his status as a reprobate. And, in this theorem, nothing of Donald Trump’s behavior matters; it’s all about the favor he’s showing to white evangelicals. Such is the fruit of “we know better.”

But the biggest concern we all should have with the “we know better” bubble is the ease with which ulterior motives (usually of a self-serving nature) can be used to guide and manipulate the people who fully trust the bubble. The real and artificial podiums found within speak (down) to the masses with an authority that insists it’s alright – sometimes even necessary – to deny common sense.

We used this every day at The 700 Club when I was the show’s producer in the years leading up to Pat Robertson’s run for President in 1988. The revival ushered in by the Televangelists in the early 80s was in part due to this bubble, for when we acted as though God Himself was blessing us, it was a powerful draw for new members. We’d just come out of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the failure that was Jimmy Carter. People were hungry for something meaningful, and Reagan and the Televangelists provided it. What nobody knew at the time was that this attraction was based on the self-centered desires of the masses. It’s so easy to switch the Bible into a self-help manual, and that’s what we did. Pat Robertson was an aristocratic politician first and a minister of the gospel second, and it was just a matter of time before the GOP altogether was shifted to the far right under his puppetry. We set and prioritized the agenda for the right. Pat always knew and expressed that “Christians” could be turned into a valuable voting block, largely through manipulating the “we know better” bubble.

And, we were really, really good at it. The greatest communications accomplishment of the Twentieth Century was to get Christians to vote against their own best interests and in favor of the rich and prosperous. We painted them as of the same ilk; told them that God wanted them blessed and prospered; taught that they could save themselves and their families by voting Republican; and showed them a path that ran right through giving to the ministry of CBN. This web of desirable outcomes was compliments of the “we know better” bubble. Just listen to us and learn God’s ways, we postured. The world may hate you for it – personally, professionally, and politically – but fret not, for God is with you. “They” think they know it all, but we know better.

In debate parlance, “we know better” is an unacceptable and weak response designed to thwart an opponent’s argument. It’s an appeal to tradition or faith in order to shut down the adversary’s narrative. It’s a response that’s really not a response, similar to a street argument that ends with the flummoxed loser’s comeback of, “Well, oh yeah?”

Of a truth, the church and the study of theology, through the process of exegesis, relies on certain conclusions within the sphere of “we know better,” so it’s not that the concept is inherently evil. When institutions of mankind run into difficult questions, they’re often met with a variant of “we know better,” so the idea is fairly mainstream in the West. But, I’m speaking of those Christians who use the bubble for selfish gain, and such a heresy can only be judged from within. This is why I’ve been saying for years that God isn’t judging the world today; He’s judging believers and the institution that represents them. And, it’s really not very pretty.

Those Christians who rely on the bubble to defend their political beliefs and their Christianity will never be convinced otherwise by an opponent from outside the bubble, for that would be a fundamental denial of the bubble’s purpose. It’s the perfect manipulator’s tool. To those on the outside: “Well, they’re of the world, so their eyes are deliberately blinded. After all, God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” To those who call themselves Christians but don’t abide by the rules of the bubble: “Well, they’re not true Christians. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, and we are to run from them.” These are actual responses, so the futility of arguing directly is obvious.

However, there are some within the bubble who are quietly expressing their concern, and it’s to those that we must offer our encouragement, for they are the only ones with the chops to make a difference from the inside. I can only hope that they will be emboldened by reading this and the work of others who rail against manipulation of the bubble.

It’s a heady thing to think of yourself as among “the elect,” the promise from the pulpit that fuels the “we know better” bubble. The only way to arrive at this conclusion, however, is to deny the red words of the New Testament, and that, I believe, is to also deny the very essence of the gospel.

You may think otherwise, but I know better.