Is Barack Obama the Antichrist?

ANTICHRIST

 

No.

 

He is not.

 

This is one of those conversations I wish we didn’t even need to be having. Yet here we are. I can’t believe the amount of hatred I’ve seen directed against President Obama. And yes, I’ve seen many accuse him of being the Antichrist.

But he’s not. In fact, the Bible barely makes mention of any single person being a mega-villain, end of the world, apocalyptic Antichrist. There is one paragraph in 2 Thessalonians that refers to the “man of lawlessness” but it is vague in typical apocalyptic style and is not even close to a description of President Obama.

For the most part, the supervillain antichrist is the stuff of Christian fiction (that means it’s made up out of a writer’s imagination as opposed to non-fiction which is literature that is true, like history, biography, science, etc.). It’s not even good Christian fiction at that. It gives us this image of Nicolae, a super-evil dude who is the epitome of all things evil who ushers in the end of the world and the eventual reign of Christ.

Fiction.

Not real.

The Bible does talk more about antichrist, but probably not in the way you think:

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:18, 22)

John did not consider there to be a single cataclysmic figure, but established that many who oppose Christ are already in the world. Rather than a personal villain, John sees the antichrist as anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (Anointed One or Messiah). If that’s our criteria for antichrist then John was right – many antichrists have come. And I’m sure many more will come. John continues:

Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (1 John 4:3)

We don’t have to wait for the antichrist to come. It’s not some far-off distant event. John said nearly 2000 years ago that the spirit was already in the world. Stop waiting for that apocalyptic, Hollywood villain.

Now as to Mr. Obama specifically – he has publically declared that he is a Christian, a believer in Jesus. If he is not denying that Jesus is Christ then Mr. Obama cannot be the antichrist. It seems like pretty clear logic to me.

So what is our beef with Mr. Obama? It seems that we’ve taken our political animosity and clothed it in religious terms and ideas. We’re not happy with how he runs the government. We’re not content with his direction and vision for the future. So we take our political unrest and couch it in apocalyptic language. This is detrimental on several levels:

1. It does not allow for genuine political discourse. Any time someone uses the God-card it immediately shuts down conversation. I knew a guy one time who told me that God told him that he was supposed to leave our college and move to the northwest. What can you say to that? “No, God didn’t tell you that.” The God-card is a conversation ender. It’s used by angry, political Christians. Instead, let’s actually talk about ideas and policies. Let’s use our words to express why we are upset about the vision and direction of the government. Then let’s use our citizenship to affect change through our voting.

2. It perpetuates bad theology. The Bible barely talks about a single antichrist villain. In all the text of Scripture this mega-villain of the apocalypse isn’t a major theme. A professor of mine once drilled into me this idea:

When the Bible speaks strongly, we speak strongly. When the Bible speaks quietly, we speak quietly. When the Bible is silent, you had better shut your mouth!

The idea that there is one big baddie who is the binary opposite to Jesus is bad theology. There is no power that is equal to God. The idea of polar opposites is dualism. It’s not Christian faith. Instead of looking for one person to usher in the end of the world, let’s focus on living kingdom lives here and now. Jesus preached, “Change your way of thinking, for the kingdom of heaven is here and now.”

3. It damages Christian credibility in this world. How can people take us seriously if we’re running off at the mouth putting spiritual villain labels on any politician we don’t like?
We have to take Mr. Obama at his word when he says that he is a Christian. Who are we to disagree? We don’t know his heart or his relationship with God. Stop using faith as a catapult for your political ammo.

Is Barack Obama the antichrist.

No. He is not.

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A Xian Response to Gay Marriage

Image courtesy of kangshutters / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of kangshutters / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The other day I was contacted by a woman who had some pretty heavy questions regarding the LGBT lifestyle (her questions were all brought on by the Supreme Court’s decisions last year…). She had a question about an appropriate response and felt like and “outsider” because she didn’t feel contempt for the gay community or have a strong desire to convert them to heterosexuals. The following is the letter I wrote her back. I understand that you may differ in your take, but this is coming through my lenses on how I see the world and how I read the Bible – which I believe should set the standard for actions and belief.

From my reading the Bible is pretty clear that God’s design is that sex be restricted to one man and one woman who are married to each other. Do people break God’s design? ALL THE TIME! You are right that God’s design is also for marriage to be a life-long commitment without divorce, yet that happens as well. We live in a broken world in which people act in broken ways.

In that sense we’re all messed up, loved by a gracious God in spite of ourselves. There are probably several reasons why the church focuses so much intensity and anger towards the LGBT community, but that is our error. We are called to love people no matter what their personal sin is. Some drink to excess – yet the Bible says that drunkenness is a sin. We love them still. The Bible says not to divorce, but Christians do. We love them still.

I believe that God designed male and female to be compatible. Same-sex sexuality goes against the natural order. But let’s differentiate between sexual behavior and sexual inclination/attraction. I do know people who have same-sex attraction as a result of life circumstances (bad parenting situation, sexual abuse, etc.). There is also a cultural push to see same-sex friendships as gay because we are uncomfortable with the idea of a deep friendship between two men. I have heard some people interpreting the intimate friendship between David and Jonathan in the Bible as being a homosexual relation. While they were closer than brothers there is no indication that they were gay. But we are often uncomfortable with same-sex intimacy. How can you experience intimacy with someone of the same sex unless it is sexual? This is more of a Western point of view than an Eastern one. My wife, who has a degree in missions and has traveled quite a bit in southeast Asia, tells me that it’s not uncommon in foreign countries to see two men walking down the street holding hands as a sign of camaraderie and intimacy, even though they are both happily married to women.

Even still, some people claim same-sex attraction with no childhood trauma. I am not a scientist, so I will not deny that it may be possible that there is a same-sex attraction born in some people. To my understanding this has not been proven. But even if it were proven, I believe that God’s Word remains unchanged about same-sex behavior and that God loves them no matter what (if our behavior determined God’s love we’d ALL be in trouble).

To the person who claims attraction I would differentiate between attraction and sexual activity. Some see this as a cop out, but I believe it to be a valid way of maintaining a sense of truth to oneself and to God’s design. Just because you might find yourself attracted to the same sex does not mean you have to act upon it. Humanity has a marvelous capacity to exercise self-control if we want to – sadly, much of our society laughs at the idea of self-control (and not just in regards to our sexuality, but to every other area of life).

At the end of the day you are right that God calls us to love and embrace all people regardless of their choices. People go against God’s design all the time – we love them anyway. Ultimately God is judge and we are not. As a pastor I will tell people what I believe God’s design is. It’s up to them and God as to whether or not they act on it. I still love them no matter what they choose.

And I do believe that, at the end of time, there will be people in heaven that will surprise us – and people in hell that we never expected to be there!

To my readers, please feel free to engage in discussion, but we will do so with decency and kindness, even when we disagree with each other.

How Bad Can I Be and Still Be a Xian?

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We are masters at justifying our behavior. If we REALLY want something then we will find a way to convince our brains and our hearts that it is okay to do it. Those of us who are really slick and have a little bit of the Bible tucked away in our heads will bring up Scripture to justify our behavior.

The Apostle Paul once heard a report from the church in the city of Corinth that blew his mind. It seems that one of the church members had an affair with his father’s wife. The church was so proud of their liberty and freedom and openness. Paul was not proud. Instead, he wrote:

Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? (1 Corinthians 5:2)

I would guess that a good many of us have never tried to get frisky with our step mothers, there are other areas in our lives where we do what we want to do even when we know we shouldn’t be doing it.

Someone once talked to me about the two types of Xians: law-driven people and grace-driven people. When it comes to justifying our behavior we all suddenly turn into grace-driven Xians, promoting God’s grace above all else.

“God’s grace covers all.”

Paul had to fight this mentality from the church in Rome. His response:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big believer in God’s grace. If God were not gracious with us we’d all be toast. But we must walk that line between receiving grace and abusing grace.

Grace does not give us carte blanche to sin and willfully make unrighteous decisions. Grace does offer to catch us when we fall. Grace helps us get back on track. But as we grow in our faith and in our relationship with God, our new life should pull us away from the old behavior into a new way of doing things. It’s spiritual maturity. Paul continues:

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires….For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)

Remember when you fell in love for the first time? Most of us will go through a lot in order to change ourselves so that we can be the perfect partner for the one we love (many young people foolishly pretend to be something other than what they really are, and that will blow up later). The point is this – grace isn’t about abusing the freedom God has given us. It’s not a get out of jail free card to continue making evil choices. Grace should be drawing us in a closer relationship with God to the point where we WANT to be different.

It’s not about “How bad can I be and still be a Xian?”

It’s about “How much do I love Jesus, and what am I willing to do to belong to him?”

I Love Being White!!!

blazing saddles klan 2

Hooray, I’m White! I wish all of you could be white, too. It’s pretty awesome. I don’t randomly get pulled over by the police when I’m driving. I have a fairly easy time making my way through airport security checkpoints. I get left alone by clerks when I’m shopping and perusing. Heck – I can even wander aimlessly and still not be eyeballed by nosy employees. I’m fairly certain that everyone would choose to be a white guy like me if they knew how many perks and benefits I get.

Yes, being a clean-cut white male is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life…

I hope you are intelligent enough to know that I’m being facetious. As Boromir might say:

Boromir on Racism
Yet we cannot deny that there is unfair treatment towards people of different ethnic groups and different skin tones. Racism is a problem that we will be combating for a long time.

I recently came upon a picture on Facebook that talked about fairness to the gist of: If Black people have Black Pride, why is it wrong for us to have White Pride? The basic sentiment was that these people thought it was unfair for Blacks to have scholarship funds, Pride, and everything else yet it would be racist and politically incorrect to have any of these things for Whites.

The basic flaw with their position is that, as I mentioned earlier, it’s already pretty great being White. Most of American society is geared towards me. Movies, Television, College…and on and on. Heck, when this nation was founded people like me were considered 5/5 of a human. I’m whole! Yay, me!

Not so much for minorities. Most of American society has not been geared towards real equality. When only 3/5 of the Black population was counted for purposes of government representation our founding fathers (you know, those great Christian men who birthed this great Christian nation) created an inherent inequality.

In order to maintain any kind of community cohesion, there has been a necessity for Blacks to pursue avenues like the NAACP, UNCF, and the like. These organizations strive to see Black individuals validated. I have never had to fight for validity – I’m White.

In a perfect world it would not matter what anyone looked like. Jesus was commended for his authenticity and his ability to be real no matter who he was talking to. One time the Pharisees complimented him and said:

“We know you are true and that it doesn’t matter to you who anyone is, for you don’t look at men’s faces.” (Mark 12:14)

We do that – we see who we’re talking to before we act. Not Jesus – he was real no matter who was standing before him. That ought to be our goal. In the meantime, why do we have a problem with organizations that seek to give people a sense of validity?

Those who were complaining were saying, “If we can’t do it then you shouldn’t be able to either.” This is a worldly perspective on fairness and justice. It’s the law of reciprocity. Jesus tries to move us beyond that. If someone insults us by slapping our face – turn the other cheek. If someone imposes on us and forces us to go one mile, choose to go two. If someone asks to borrow from you, don’t be stingy but give generously.

We have a choice – we can perpetuate racist animosity or we can choose to join the cause to seek validation for ALL ethnic groups. So there are groups that exist to help minorities – the Church (and the Christians of the Church) should support such causes. Rather than begrudge people a stepstool, why not help people who are not as fortunate as I am to have picked a White family to be born into? 😛

Many kids in church grow up singing:

Red and Yellow, Black and White – they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

So should we….

So…What Exactly Are You?

So this week a friend send me this video to watch. I was laughing so hard I nearly died laughing. Seriously, it was pretty bad. Fortunately my wife was able to revive me. Then I watched it again.

Have at it:

While it’s incredibly funny, the video highlights an all-too-true reality:

We judge people based on external qualities and then form opinions based on those judgments.

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh boy – here we go again. Another post on race.”

Well…yes.

While some deny it or try to trivialize it, the truth is that this is a common experience in the world. As husband to a mixed-race woman I’ve been there and have heard people ask:

“So…what are you?”

“Where are you from originally?”

Here’s a true story – Years ago we were interviewing for a church position. We had sent in a resume, photograph, sermon sample, etc. The search committee called me to conduct a phone interview. Over the phone one of the deacons asked, “What ethnicity is your wife?”

My response? “Um, why does it matter?”

We did not end up going to that church.

Our problem is that, in these questions we pretend that we’re not racist. But we are. If we weren’t racist why would we even need to ask the question?

I know, know. You’re just curious. You just want information.

Baloney. That’s the kind of question you ask when you have a real relationship with and you end up having a conversation about family trees. It’s not something you ask someone superficially.

The Apostle Paul tried to address the way we view each other and the ways those views play out in behavior. He said that there is no class distinction in Christianity. There is not race distinction in Christianity. There is no gender distinction in Christianity. In Jesus the playing field is leveled.

We are no longer this or that. We simply are.

When you ask a person what he is and where he comes from you are taking away his ability simply to be. That’s not Christian. Well, I suppose it too often IS Christian.

But it’s not supposed to be…