My Response to Apathy: Thoughts on the Capitol Riots and Christian Nationalism

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Over a week ago now, the Capitol was attacked by rioters. Watching Trump supporters almost literally walk straight into the Capitol gave me a multitude of emotions: shock, frustration, rage, hopelessness, discouragement. I saw an almost entirely white group of supporters moved to violence and ultimately, people would lose their lives. I saw rioters, many of which were carrying blue lives matter flags or gear, attack the police and be met with little resistance. I felt that the efforts of an almost entirely peaceful movement (BLM, over 90% peaceful protests) are continually met with violence while terrorism is being dealt with with no concern for the people inside the Capitol.

Is this patriotism? Or is this Christian nationalism charged by the inflammatory and false narrative that our democracy is compromised and the election was stolen? Maybe one of the most infuriating things I saw was the flag that read “Jesus Saves.” Where now, political idolatry and evangelicalism seem to be one in the same.

To clarify, I’m not pointing Evangelical Conservative Republicans to follow Democratic policies or vice versa. Nor am I declaring my allegiance with either side. No policy will fully do the work of the Kingdom and we have to realize that. Much of our division as a Church has come from the over reliance on world systems and our lack of reliance on what scripture says. I’ll go into this more later.

If I am honest though, I have been disappointed by the inaction in the Church. I am moved to tears by the American Church’s apathy towards the marginalized. Many in the American Church have turned to idolizing their religious freedom along with political figures who swear to protect it.

Unfortunately, the American Church has a history of this. In the 19th century, slave holders used the Bible and religious freedom to justify slavery. They quoted scripture like Genesis with the “curse of Ham” and verses like Ephesian 6:5 to show that God made black people to be slaves. Then, after the Civil War, politicians, pundits, and even preachers redeveloped a theology that “defended the reconstituted Southern racial order as divinely ordained.” “Separate, but equal” became not just a legal doctrine of constitutional law, but a God ordained statute.

The entanglements of racism and religious freedom have even been found in seminaries. Bob Jones Sr. was a fundamental evangelist who founded a college in 1926 in Panama City, Florida and they would eventually move to Greenville, South Carolina. This college would become known as Bob Jones University. When classes started in 1927, admission was only given to the members of the white race and this would persist until 1971. Even after allowing black students in the university, they didn’t allow interracial marriage. As stated by Jonathan Pait in 1998, a public relations spokesman for the university, “God has separated people for his own purposes. He has erected barriers between the nations, not only land and sea barriers, but also ethnic, cultural, and language barriers. God has made people different from one another and intends those differences to remain. Bob Jones University is opposed to intermarriage of the races because it breaks down the barriers God has established.”

While at the same time that there is spiritual unity in the body by Christ (Ephesians 4), division is apparent among the American Church. We are united spiritually, but separated structurally. I believe that people who fall into the trap of Christian nationalism think that by blindly following their party, they are defending God. That they are standing for truth, love, and righteousness as they break into the Capitol building and “preserve the democracy.” If anything, it seems as though conspiracies and lies have done more to twist truth in our democracy than many politicians ever could.

The unfortunate piece is some American Christians have fallen into the pattern of basing their prejudice toward others off lies, the media and poor exegesis. In the same way, some have launched themselves into a full social “wokeness” that is performative and ignores/degrades the people it is meant to help. My friends, fundamentally we are reading the Bible wrong and not fully expressing God’s love (1 John 4:12). Just as Charles Spurgeon said “Divisions in Churches never begin with those full of love to the Savior.” To use the words of Benjamin Watson “there can never be unity without justice.” Our own personal relationship with God is a result of justice served to Jesus in our place, taking on our sin and making peace with the Father.

Christians should not be tempted into the power of empires and politics, but called into the “saving, serving, sacrificial power of Christ.”

The Jesus of the Bible is not subservient to political parties and worldly power. Instead, He offers His Love which comes through us repenting, giving our lives to Him and loving Him. Christians should not be tempted into the power of empires and politics, but called into the “saving, serving, sacrificial power of Christ.” When our own allegiance to a world power ignores the disenfranchised and marginalized, we have crossed over from patriotism into idolatry. For example, many Christians rightly speak up against abortion (Proverbs 31:8-9). As we should, but we should also provide resources to women who feel, from their economic circumstance or emotional/mental instability, their only option to be aborting a life.

Have people in the Church been so focused on religious dedication that they’ve actually pulled further away from the Word of God? I would go so far as to say that the “fasting and praying” that many do to hear God’s voice is not accepted by Him. That people in the Church go to Church and sing worship songs while simultaneously ignoring the immigrant, the poor, and the oppressed.

This leads us to a very important passage in Isaiah portraying God’s heart and His justice. Isaiah 58:6-9 says ““Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness”.

‬‬This whole passage reveals the true motives of these Israelites: their fast is only to appear Holy while actually ignoring God’s commands. Fasting draws us closer to God and lets a fleshly need be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. The word used in verse 8 is aruwkah (healing) which literally means wholeness. By Christ Jesus we are united, but as the Body of Christ, we haven’t loved each other like we are. We don’t bear each other’s burdens like we should (Galatians 6:2). Instead, it’s easier to attach ourselves to a side and conspiracies than to actually listen to our brother/sister struggling. The pains of hate, and racism have not just been enabled by the American Church, but they’ve been perpetrated by it. I contend that for too long the people of the church have “fasted” to God, but have ignored seeking His Heart. Some earnestly seek God, but at the same time fight and quarrel with members of the body who call for active faith.

Wholeness is found in abiding in the heart of God. His heart is with those who are weak and we are called to serve them.

You will never be made whole by ignoring the oppressed, the poor, the hungry, the slave, or the marginalized. Wholeness is found in abiding in the love of God (John 15:10-11). His heart is with those who are weak and we are called to serve them. God’s blessings (peace, restoration, fullness) come forth in our obedience to His call for us to act in tzedeqah, or primary justice which outpours from our relationship with God and makes right all relationships in our world.

God continually, without ceasing, guides us as we pour out ourselves for the marginalized. As we seek to pour ourselves out for others something amazing happens: God fills us (Matthew 5:6). The reward for giving, loving, and showing mercy to our neighbor is not a political victory, but is wholeness. In verse 9 it says that if we take away “the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness” God will make our “gloom be as the noonday” and makes us like a “spring of water.” This is the fast that these Republicans of the Church should seek as well as Democrats: To love their neighbors and come to a deeper understanding of the heart of God. Did Jesus identify with the powerful, or did He choose to be counted with the weak?

I write as I myself am guilty of apathy. I find myself trying to ignore all the darkness in the world and just focus on my own walk. Racism, slavery, poverty, and abuse of power are still rampant even in a post-Christian culture. The thing is God continually points me back to being a light in darkness and putting His love in me into action. We can’t be apathetic to those in need. “When we reject apathy, we make room for something else. We align ourselves with the life-giving mission of Christ. We pair our unique passions with the work God is already doing through His Church.”(Kelli B. Trujillo)

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Freely

There is something so sweet about gifts. When we receive them, we feel loved, appreciated, and seen. When we give them, we feel a sense of satisfaction as we share our love not just in words, but in actions. The person receiving the gift may never reciprocate the same type of love and they can even reject the gift. That is the beauty of gifts though: they are free both ways. Neither side has to give or receive the gift. It is done freely.

Reading through Romans 3:21-24 there is a transition from the judgement that comes through sin to the justification that comes through grace. The standard of Holiness is shown through the law. The law is not meant to be a burden, but rather to reveal our sinfulness and need for God (Romans 3:20).

Despite the holiness of the law, the law itself can not justify us and brings us into righteousness. In Psalms 14, David writes that “there is no one who does good, not even one.” The Psalm shows us that we don’t seek the Lord by ourselves. By our very nature, we reject the Lord and turn the other direction. God seeks after us because we ourselves won’t without His help.

God is loving, but He is also just. Psalm 7:11 reveals to us that God is just and angry at us because of sin. Sin itself destroys and defiles the good God has made in the world. It turns our hearts away from the perfect purposes of God. In Leviticus, God dwells literally in the middle of the Israelite community. As sin enters in the community, it will also reach and defile the temple of God.

Israelites are still sinful, just as we are, so they need a covering or atonement for their sins. This covering came through sacrifices, which were meant to be a symbol of life and death from righteousness and sin (Bible Project). It also was shown to be a substitute for their impurities. God is Holy and without fault. By that standard, anyone who breaks away from righteousness because of sin is disqualified from the blessings that come from the Lord.

Thankfully, God is not only just, but He is also loving. God in His grace gave the Israelites a way to continue to enter into His presence and atone for their sins. Now, God in His grace gives us the opportunity to literally carry His presence and live in relationship with Him (1 Corinth 6:19). How is this possible? Romans 3:23-24 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

There are three themes in salvation: justification, redemption, and atonement. David Guzik says in his commentary of Romans, “Justification solves the problem of man’s guilt before a righteous Judge. Redemption solves the problem of man’s slavery to sin, the world, and the devil. Propitiation solves the problem of offending our Creator.”

Looking specifically at justification, it is a legal term that shows the demands of justice have been satisfied therefore, there is no basis for condemnation. Romans 3:20 shows us that “by the works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight.” Essentially, being a good person is not enough for us to make it into Heaven.

The beauty in verse 24 is found in the word freely. Freely used in Greek is dorean meaning truly free and not just “cheap.” This means there is nothing in us that is worthy of being justified. All the reasons lie in God’s grace, that He would freely send Jesus to die for us, acting as a sacrifice by taking on the penalty of our sins, so that we could have eternal life and peace with Him. Now we are not counted unholy, but holy and not wicked, but righteous. Not because of our actions or anything, but because God loves us enough to give the gift of life. Freely God gives to us salvation and freely we can receive it.

God All Around Us

Look up. The clouds move ever so slowly and the waters of the sky stand still. The cloud and skies come together in a beautiful symphony of colors and shapes: blue, yellow, purple, small, large and wide. The Sun shines down mighty beams of light that blind even the strongest of eyes. Look closely. Every color comes together, meets, and stops at a specific point. They collide and transform into a magnificent design that no human mind could imagine on its own. Darkness comes. The stars, light years away, still fill the night sky with compelling, but eloquent light.

Staring at the eternity that exists in our universe, you can’t help thinking about your own significance. Eternity is in each of our hearts and our heart evokes us to seek the meaning of our life. “Within the vastness of the universe, where do I find my purpose?” The heavens and skies in their glory draw us closer to our purpose. Our purpose that is found in the Creator of this masterpiece which is our world. 

I have found myself at times struggling to understand the mysteries of God. I struggle with His will and how ultimately it will all come together for good. My thought is does every man have an opportunity to know Jesus and ultimately receive eternal life by believing on Christ? Many atheist and Christian thinkers alike have struggled with this question as in “If God is so loving and just, then what about those living in places where they won’t hear the Gospel? People die without hearing about Jesus or within their country, Christianity itself is outlawed. How will these people be saved?”

David constantly throughout Psalm 19 writes poetically of the glory of God revealed in nature. 

Verse 1 and 2 say “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” 

He beautifully declares that the attributes and characteristics of nature characterize the wisdom, knowledge, glory, and sovereignty of God. 

Verse three and four go on to say “They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.” (Psalm 19:3-4) The Hebrew word used for “voice” is qav. This means a measuring line. Essentially, the skies do not literally speak to us by sound or voice, but the workmanship of God is revealed by lines and shapes that go across the sky and earth.

Without speaking or saying one word, their “words” go out to the ends of the earth and declare the existence of a Creator. 

Each line and each detail purposeful and intentional. The sky itself is held together by God that in Him and through Him the world has form. 

Colossians 1:17 says “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” 

The craftsmanship of God can also be found in each one of us as well. Evil is easy to find in our world today which leads to some either blaming God or claiming that evil existing in our world proves there is no God.

My friends this is not so! How do we even define what evil is? From where do we reference what is evil and good? It’s like asking the question how do we know that a straight line is not a curved line? Each person (whether they want to admit it or not) inherently follows moral objective law that narrows their behavior separating their actions evil from good. The existence of evil doesn’t point us away from God, but rather further proves the existence of a law-giver. Our design and nature point us towards the reality of a Creator. Without His Natural law placed in us, the lines of good and evil would blur and exist to us in similarity.

Without a law, all things fall apart. For example, some argue that not as many miracles happen in this day and age. It’s easy to find ourselves looking for miracles when our culture is looking for a sign that God exists. God, though, does not want us to look for “signs”, but to know the sign of Jonah which is that Jesus came to Earth, died becoming the propitiation for our sins, and rose again on the third day freeing us from sin and death. Within that promise lies where we place our hope.

Besides, miracles exist all around us! When we go for a drive in our car, how are we sure that the car will not start flying into the air? When we walk to the park, how can we be so sure the earth won’t open up and swallow us whole? How are we so sure that most of the time, the world will hold itself together? It’s because we have an understanding that the world is held in place. We know that the laws of nature won’t be broken to where things fall into chaos. 

Like a carpenter putting together a table, the workmanship is held together because of the intentional design. And why? Because the intentional design is held together by the creator.

The Lord in His intentions, by His love, grace, and wisdom, is faithful to reveal Himself to those who seek Him even if they seek Him without knowing what it is they are truly seeking after. God knows we all are seeking wholeness because He created us that way. He placed eternity in the hearts of us all (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He seeks us out so we can have a true love relationship with Him. Then, in coming into relationship with Him, we abide in His infinite love and our joy is made complete (John 15:9-11). 

He reveals Himself through Jesus, but also He wishes that each of us would just look up and then, look closely. He reveals Himself also by the skies and heavens above us. So not only so we would only know the masterpiece that is our universe, but also that we will know the Master who has pieced us together beautifully.