When truth is lost error grows exponentially in many different directions. We are watching the consequences of the loss of truth playing out in our nation. As a result, powerful people and businesses compete to control information as if it is a commodity of consumerism.
Information alone does not create knowledge – that requires wisdom to take accurate information of real facts and produce knowledge of what is true. Careful investigations take time, discipline, dedication, and integrity. Instant tweets, pictures, and videos from a variety of vantage points all dumped into social media do not produce knowledge. It takes more work to arrive at truth. We would do well to remember that when combing through all the instant information looking to make sense of it.
I understand in a world where we do not trust the professional journalists and investigators that we would want to look for alternative sources of information. But sometimes those who try to fill in the gap are simply not equipped to handle the burden of suddenly becoming an expert in investigative research and reporting.
In these trying times it is imperative to practice patience, pausing before believing the latest meme claiming to have the real truth which fits neatly on a digital square. What is true would fill more than a book and still we would have unanswered questions. We can have partial information instantly, but truth takes time. Knowledge requires patience.
Another loss of truth is in theology. There is a great deal of reactionary theology going on today. We witness the ugly results of one theological extreme and we pull hard the other way to avoid being like the ones we critique only to fall into the ditch on the other side. Case in point, I hear people react to extremism in support of the President with a denouncing of what gets termed “Christian nationalism” or “white nationalism.” As I have written before, at length, nationalism has no color. However, the very concept of nationhood comes from Judeo-Protestant theology. We cannot eschew nationalism without embracing a non-biblical theology destructive to modern nations.
Now we can critique what love of country looks like. We can critique making politics religious. We can critique the way we engage in disagreement. We can critique polarization, demonization, frantic frenzies, lack of character, political ideologies, errant political worldviews, corruption, conspiracy theories, etc. Both Trumpism and Anti-Trumpism requires critique. Republican politics and Democratic politics have many errors to examine. But we ought not to replace error with error, but with truth.
Our polarization looks like two groups warring against each other as they both grow farther and farther away from what is true, which positions them into ideological factions. These factions result in extremist groups on both sides. The goal is not to move to the middle of two warring ideas, but to move closer to truth. As each side stops reacting to false narratives, but instead moves closer to what is true, we will find we have moved closer to each other.
I think what many of us are having great trouble witnessing is politics oozing with religious fervor and language. We are seeing an almost crusade-like religious frenzy playing out in the Church in full view of the world. We are watching the world trying to shut it down. We are seeing progressive ideology gaining more ground and conservative ideology becoming more extreme in response. Battle lines are drawn, and we are not sure we will not witness a civil war that is more than an ideological war before things cool off. I worry that some want that outcome.
I listen to those believers who think all that matters revolves around politics and who is President of The United States. I also listen to those believers who think the best thing we could have going forward is a liberal President and liberal policies. Lastly, I hear those believers who critique both sides with a clarion call that all that matters is Jesus and our personal walk with Him. I am not in any of these categories while still being most at home in the conservative evangelical prophetic crowd.
Sacred / Secular Worldview Split
But, if I may, I think what is happening is that we have a sacred / secular split in our worldview. Setting politics aside for just a moment, most of us look at life and place it in two buckets. First, we have the sacred bucket which is where we put what we believe God cares about. In that bucket is church, Bible, devotions, prayer, ministry, feeding the poor, maybe some supernatural ministry, family, and being more like Jesus. Then we have another bucket we call secular. In that bucket we place our job, entertainment, vacations, business, government, health care, city, nation, etc. When we seek discipleship at all it is usually only for first bucket things as the second bucket is secular.
Sacred / Secular Worldview – Work
But then we make some exceptions. We hear that God cares about our work. Instead of erasing the secular sacred line, we pull work over into the sacred bucket. Now we look at work as a mission field. We can get people saved at work. We can start a lunch-time Bible Study. Maybe we ask our co-workers for what we can pray for them about. Perhaps we have our own business and our work mattering to God means we add a fish to our work truck, or we pray with our customers. All of these are good things, but not the fullness of what it means for God to care about our work. What we have done is move work into a new bucket and see it religiously as mattering to God. What we have not done is to stop thinking that there are two buckets.
When work matters to God it is not because work should be in the first bucket to be handled from a place of religious thinking. Instead, it is that there are no buckets. There is no line. Work is a part of life and Jesus matters to all of life. Truth matters to all that we do. The Bible is not a book for church, but a book for life. It is not basic instructions before leaving earth – it is true revelation for life on earth lived from heaven. We do life God’s way at work when we apply truth to work for innovation, creativity, quality, craftsmanship, excellence, doing it with joy and gratitude before the Lord. We do not need to make work religious for it to matter to God. It is part of life.
When we live life divided between these two buckets, we encounter all sorts of problems we were not meant to experience. Work is not secular nor religious – it is simply life lived out in a community, in a city, a nation. It is part of life to which truth applies.
Sacred / Secular Worldview – Politics
Now to return to politics. I think we (evangelical conservatives) are putting politics into the first bucket. We are making political thought religious to the extent that those who disagree are on the side of the Devil. We are making the President a religious icon instead of a political leader. We are making what happens in America now eschatological. We are using highly religious language and attitudes to express political ideas. There are diabolical worldviews at work in our world. But there is a difference between politics as part of life and politics as a religious exercise. For more on how politics is spiritual and theological but not religious read this article.
The liberal Christians among us are putting politics into the second bucket. They see it as secular and therefore biblical truth does not apply to government (at least not in the same way that conservatives apply it) and the idea of nations is replaced with ideology for globalism borrowing from the secular utopian ideals. Younger conservative Christians who have grown tired of the religious fervor over these issues have gravitated to more liberal answers because the secular bucket without the religious angst appeals to them.
Conservative Christians know that God’s truth applies to government, to America’s heritage, and the importance of the Christian worldview to America but we argue these things from the first bucket. In so doing we are losing the ideological battle and the hearts and minds of the younger generations because they find the religious political perspective disturbing, outdated, and offensive.
The third group I mentioned leaves politics in the secular bucket and is content with it remaining there untouched and forgotten for all that matters is the first bucket work because that is all that matters to Jesus. I am thankful we have this group that reminds us to remember Jesus in the middle of all this. Some spokespersons from this group have made great critiques on some of the troubles of our times reminding us to remember Jesus and Christlikeness. They have not been treated well in response, which underscores their point. I am grateful for their commentary. However, if we leave politics in the secular bucket and consider government just something the world is to be concerned about, we will continue to be the ones being discipled by the world.
It should be the other way around. We should be the ones discipling the world in all of life because we are ourselves discipled in all of life and living it in a way that brings glory to God everywhere we go and in all that we do. If we do not get this right, we will continue to see the decay grow inside and outside the church.
Removing the Split
The truth is that there are no buckets. There is no sacred / secular divide. We are harming ourselves and those who are looking on when we operate on either side of the divide. One group tends to want to gain control of the public square and use the government to make American life more Christian – more God honoring (first bucket people). The other group wants to see the government enact more secular worldview ideas to make life easier on Americans and help solve poverty and race problems through government action (second bucket people). The third group wants us to forget about all of this on both sides and love Jesus, love people, and seek and save the lost (politics is second bucket – but all that matters is first bucket).
Reforming a Nation
What does it look like without sacred / secular buckets? It looks like truth setting people, institutions, and nations free. It looks like a long patient road of discipling in truth generation to generation in all spheres of society including government (reformation). It looks like regaining our nation because it has been set free from the lies that bind it and the darkness that keeps it captive. It is having hope for our nation again. Instead of controlling, dominating, and playing the power game, we are discipling in truth and allowing that truth to do its work dispelling the darkness. We are educating. We are loving people. We are listening. We are operating in self-control, long-suffering, joy, hope, peace, humility, goodness, and love. We are the light of the world and we show up in every area of society – not to dominate – but to disciple.
The most amazing part of what I am sharing with you is that reforming America, restoring her health as a nation, does not depend upon a Presidential Administration. Politics is downstream from culture. We have a lot of work to do before politics begins to resemble a new culture in America – a Christianized, instead of a paganized, culture. We do not want culture to follow politics, we want politics to follow culture – which is formed by the people – which means we need to disciple the people and the institutions in our nation – to change the culture that politics emulates.
There is a way to turn this nation around, but the way we have been watching play out from all groups – is not the way. Jesus is the way forward. His truth applies to all of life. He is the answer to every single problem we are facing when His way is applied directly to heal the problem in real time and space. We cannot leave Him and His ways out of life reducing Him to a religious leader. He is Lord of all, and His truth matters to all of life with no exceptions.
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