We Don’t Have To Elect A Donkey for President (Never Trump/Never Clinton)

GK Chesterton once wrote, to the chagrin of those who demand a person’s political and religious views remain in the private sphere, this:

I never discuss anything except politics and religion. There is nothing else to discuss. Nothing of importance can be separated entirely from its social effect, which is politics, or from its ultimate value, which is religion.

As a tandem post to my last political piece, “Never Trump and Never Hillary (Letter To Those Stuck In Two Parties)”, I wanted to add a small political and religious addendum (which may grow).

Many well meaning conservative Christians have thrown in the political towel this election cycle. They admit the two major choices aren’t inspiring. They concede Trump has many character deficiencies as a candidate and is likely not as conservative as he lets on during his speech rallies. But all those glaring weaknesses matter little compared to this: He’s not Hillary Clinton at least (overtly pro choice progressive).

The fragile hope of these reluctant Trump supporters is that at bare minimum he seems open to the conservative view of things, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll appoint brilliant political minds around him to cover his deficiencies. Maybe even God will knock him off his high horse like Saul of Tarsus and he’ll grow to be an unlikely champion of Christian ideals (different post). Even if no personal epiphany occurs, look at Scripture they may say:

God used evil kings like Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1)

And Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 43:10).

I mean, shoot, God can use a donkey if he wants! (Numbers 22:28)”

The following is why I believe we can reject such fatalism in our current political climate.

As the American electorate we’re in a unique position the ancient Israelite citizens never were. Our constitutional republic affords us certain rights, one of the greatest is our ability to vote concerning our political leaders. At the birth of the US, the power was placed in the hands of individual people, “We the people” specifically, not an over-reaching central government leader.

Israel’s political climate was much different and typical for its time. As a monarchy Israel was given a king or a judge (1 Samuel 12:13). You don’t vote in a monarch you simply submit to it. God preferred to be the only King of Israel but reluctantly conceded the Israelite people’s impatient urging and gave them over to Saul (1 Samuel 8). Saul wasn’t voted in. World history shows kings in other nations gain their position by family lineage or outright violence but the greater populace has little to do with his position of presumed power. Kings are not voted in. In contrast, Americans, and hat tip to the collective genius of our constitutional forefathers, have an active role in voting in the most principled men and women of character we have available to us.

Never Trump and Never Hillary

I am a strong believer in God’s sovereignty in human affairs, even the current wonky political affairs that make my stomach churn (Daniel 2:21). He can and does use whomever he pleases for his glory.

But the fact that God used an unrighteous Babylonian King for his glory 2800 years ago is no reason for his people to clamor around modern day unrighteous Babylonian authoritarians. Ancient autocratic political structures limited the involvement of the masses to mere recipients of the given King’s graces. Modern democratic political forms seek (or at least should seek) to energize and empower the masses to actively participate in the process of electing their given leaders. Electing especially those leaders who would consider authoritarian power to be anathema to the founder’s ideal.

We have a litany of choices before us. Not one. Not two. But many.

And yes, God used a Donkey to speak on his behalf once. But 1. That is not the normative way he wants to get his message across, and 2. That is not license for us to vote Donkey’s into the highest office in the land.

To the donkey’s defense, he’d probably be less of a jackass than the limited choices now before us.

And it goes both ways.

To apply ancient Israel’s governance to the modern American model will lead to hermeneutic headaches.

If God can use evil Kings and donkeys, why care whether Trump or Clinton is elected? He can use either of them right? Such a view inevitably leads to an impotent fatalistic view of personal ethics. Christians should not be forced to make choices that sear their personal conscience just because one candidate is better at pandering to them than the other. The same could be said of every evil totalitarian this side of Nero. God can use them, right? So let’s just wait and see what happens. This logic is a slippery slope that will leave everyone paralytic and tumbling down a ravine of shrugging inaction.

I still plan on voting in the general election. As far as president, I’m still not sure who that will be. The Libertarian Party and apparently David French are becoming more viable options as I write this. Who knows, maybe I’ll even write in a literal donkey as my choice on election day.

God uses donkeys

Couldn’t be much worse than what we’ve produced thus far.

Bryan Daniels

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The Public Death of A Third Place Bible Drill Girl

I was probably ten years old.

A blond-haired bowl cut chunk of boy.

She was probably 13 years old. I didn’t know her name. She didn’t know mine.

I sat in the back. Safe. Bored.

She stood on stage. Vulnerable. Nervous.

A Nice Public Flogging

It was a Sunday night church Bible Drill Competition. The sanctuary seemed uncharacteristically packed. Deacons, rubbernecks, parents, peers, everyone accounted for. Her competition was two boys.

The final three.

The first reference was called and the frenzied rustling of pages began. The first person to get there lunged forward and proudly recited it for the whole auditorium to hear. The next was called. And the next.

2 Chronicles 7:14!

Psalm 23:4!

James 5:16!

Ancient renderings from Nehemiah the adults in the audience had never heard. An interesting subplot was taking center stage. The two boys were running away with the competition. The poor girl fumbled her way through every challenge.

Not once.

Not once did she step forward.

Her older brother was sitting in the pew in front of me with a group of friends. His peers snickered as every squandered verse ran through her fingertips. At one point in hushed brotherly rage he whispered, “Shut Up!”

As the debacle unfolded her shoulders drooped. Defeat washed over her countenance. I could feel the white-hot embarrassment emanate off of her. She likely felt every eye from the faceless shadows peered at her; the spotlight on her ineptitude.

bible drill

At the time I didn’t know what to think; except how bad I felt for her. Now I think:

What a Stupid Petty Tradition

What did this competition teach that girl? That drive by knowledge of a reference and using the Bible as a silly sports ploy is what church is about? That the Christian life is namely about performance?

That night I learned I sure as heck wasn’t going to be a part of any such game. If I felt that much anguish from the back row I can’t imagine what she felt.

Children should be taught not to drill the word but to dwell in it (Colossians 3:16). If anything they should be led to handle what they hold with care and reverence, not rip through it as some recreational means to an end.

The Pharisees were the “Bible Drill” Champions of Ancient Israel. They flaunted their knowledge of the Law with brash eloquence. They wielded their Scripture swords like a drunk pirate, always lazily pointing outwards, never inwards to their own black heart.

Scripture was just a means to an end for them.

I’m informed by generally good scholarship that these teachers of law had the whole Pentateuch memorized by the time they were this girls age…thirteen. The only claim to memorization I had at that age was Blues Traveler’s mildly popular song “Hook”: “Suck it in, Suck it in, Suck it in, if you’re Rin Tin Tin or Anne Boleyn…..”

Pharisees and Bible drill

The Verse That Powns Pharisees

This all brings me to one of my favorite verses in the bible. It’s Jesus’s words to the Pharisees:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life;
it is these that testify about Me; (John 5:39)

From Genesis to Maps. Every Jot. Every tittle. Everything in Scripture points to Jesus Christ. The eviscerated goats on the altar. The weeping prophets. The immaculate temple. The lovesick king in Songs of Songs. The unlikely shepherd boy who slayed a giant for his people.

The Bible is a progressive unfolding of the person and work of Jesus. The Old Testament had veils and shadows, we have the substance: Christ! If we study the Bible and miss Him we miss everything. That’s why I shake my head when I see a preacher endeavor to open the word, open his mouth and a few quaint stories, funny jokes, principles only, and practical vignettes come out.

People don’t need a little humor and new laws, they need Jesus. Period.

The grace He freely gives will both humble the proud Pharisee, and lift up the perplexed Bible drill loser.

I don’t know where that girl is today. She may not even remember that night as vividly as I do.

I do know this:

She won’t have to find Jesus in a fit of staged performance anxiety.

The Jesus the Bible testifies of can find her just fine. Right where she is. He already won the only victory that matters in her life.

Bible drills be damned.

What “unique” traditions did your childhood stream have growing up?

Bryan Daniels

Hug, Don’t Hate, The Pharisees In Your Life

There are some modern groups in which it is still politically correct to hate. For instance:

Westboro Baptist Church.

Dallas Cowboys.

The Kardashians.

Nickelback.

In Christian culture there is one biblical group in particular that gets our self-righteous blood boiling more than any other:

The Pharisees

They were the most religious, prestigious and openly critical Jewish sect towards Christ’s brief public ministry. They wielded their knowledge of the Law like a battle-axe. They held people captive and enslaved under the crushing weight of the meticulous ceremonial law. They would hold immaculate banquets to honor their own religious devotion before Israel’s upper crust, while locking out the broken, poor and unclean from their sight.

Ancient Jewish religious culture was married to the political establishment. Pharisees weren’t just the religious elite. They were the social elite. Political elite. Educational elite.

Jesus definitely had hard words for this particular religious opponent: They were called bleached tombs housing rotting corpses on one occasion (Matthew 23:27); on another, he accused their mothers of shagging the devil (John 8:44).

Everyone ELSE is a Pharisee

Some modern Christian groups commonly get compared to those ancient hypocrites: The red faced Fundamentalist who shuns sex, drugs and rock & roll. The Theological nitpicks and watchdogs, who commonly accuse other Christian groups of heresy. Any pastor who may say any word of exhortation on the matter of homosexuality, abortion, or anything deemed a political issue.

We love to hate on the Pharisees. And we love to ascribe that title to every other group but the one we happen to identify with. It may sound like this:

“Sure, grace is for tax collectors, prostitutes, gang bangers, drug addicts, etc….But don’t get me started on that old fart deacon who gave my wife an ugly look when she raised her hands during worship…I can’t stand that guy!”

Do we really think we’re gonna reach that crazy dude with the megaphone, who is thumping nothing but the law to deaf masses, by shouting “SHUT UP!” out our window as we screech by in our car?

Modern pharisees need grace as much as the anguished teenager considering an abortion.

I know this because they are human. And we all happen to be in the same sinking ship by nature (Romans 3:23).

Hugs Not Drugs….Or Hate

I also know this: The apostle formerly known as Saul was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). And a dang good one. Before Christ knocked him off his donkey, Paul was notorious for his ability to hunt down men and women of “The Way” and see to it they were murdered for their faith (Acts 7:54-60). The blood of the saints was all over his hands, and he was quite proud of it (Acts 22:4)

A Pharisee of Pharisees
Paul, a “Pharisee of Pharisees” murdered Christians

Think:

The next modern-day apostle Paul may, at the moment, be murdering Christians in Sudan.

Maybe more shocking to you:

The next modern-day apostle Paul may, at the moment, be the church deacon you’re cursing underneath your breath.

If we have any reservations over those statements it is because we don’t believe in invincible grace. One thing is for sure: The only force that changes the heart of a murderous or judgmental Pharisee, is the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Next time you’re shocked by their critical spirit and blind religious hubris: stop, take some deep breaths, smile and say something like:

“Is there anything I can pray for you about?”

“You wanna go for coffee some time?”

“Tell me your story.”

or even, God willing:

“Can I give you a hug?”

If God’s kindness brought Pharisees like us to repentance (Romans 2:4), you never know what similar grace will do to the hearts of those bound in legalism now.

Stop the hate. Try a hug instead.

What are some ways you could express greater grace towards the “Pharisees” in your circle?

Bryan Daniels

Everyone (even Ray Lewis) Is A Theologian. Every One.

Theology is your friend, not your enemy, no matter who you are. Before our whitey tighties get in a postmodern wad over that hear me out:

Theology Isn’t Only For E-Hard Basement Dwelling Theologians

With the advent of church-theory driven seeker sensitivism and a competing rise of Neo-Calvinist hard-rationalism on the other end, the word “theology” has become a word with negative connotations attached to it.

The tragic assumption for many is this: Theology is only for people with mere head knowledge of Scripture (a book), but no heart knowledge of Jesus (or the Father, or the Holy Spirit). The common retort against serious systematic study of the Bible is usually along the lines of:

“God doesn’t live in a book!” or

“The pharisees were theologians too,” or

“God is about a relationship (or insert “love” or “people” here) not all this theology and doctrinal stuff.”

While each of those statements contains some relevant truth in them, they all mischaracterize the nature and function of theology in the average Christian life.

Far from being only for the over educated old white dude with Andy Rooney-ish eyebrows and a permanent scowl: Theology is for everyone; and, in the end, everyone is a theologian.

Andy Rooney is a theologian
If you stare into them, you will have tarantula nightmares…

The word theology comes from two Greek words – “theos,” which means “God,” and “logos,” which means “words.” The simplest definition of theology, then, is “God words” or words about God. Whenever someone speaks of God or the characteristics of God, he or she is speaking theologically and doing theology.

Oprah Is a Theologian

That means this: Whenever anyone opens their mouth and makes any statement about God they are making a theological statement: Rick Warren, Snooki, Oprah, and Joel Osteen all have a personal theology that they share every time they speak or write about anything pertaining to God or godliness.

There is no escaping this no matter what group, denomination (or non), or philosophical worldview you ascribe to.

The maniac with a megaphone, the politician pimping God for a vote, the pimply faced emo kid using His name as a curse word. Yes, theologians every last one of them.

Ray Lewis, the theologian and super scary beast man, said last week after the Ravens beat the Brady Bunch, “No weapon formed against this team shall prosper…” That, my friends, is a theological statement…albeit a twisted out of context one.

Ray Lewis is a theologian
Great football player. Bad Theologian. Please don’t tell him I said that…Please.

Even if a person despises the formal Christian education culture or any doctrinal debate, yet they speak words about God, Christ, Holy Spirit or Scripture in general, they have assumed the position of theologian. An unbelieving atheist, in a twisted way, has a theology and can function as a theologian.

The question is not whether we are theologians (ones who speak words about God), the question is whether we are theologians that are committed to carefully speaking the true words of God. If we are committed to truly know God, love people, and be in right relationship with Him, then we better be committed to knowing and sharing His word as faithfully as we can (2 Timothy 2:15).

For the sake of God’s holy name and rep, we all should be the best theologians we can be.

Also, for the sake of the Holy Spirit we better be the best theologians we can be. If the Holy Spirit wrote a book for us (He did!), we are not being “Spirit led” by building strange fires apart from it (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Theology Is For The Mind AND Heart

Theology helps fuel the mind with God’s own thoughts about Himself, and warms the heart with a passion for Him and others (admittedly I’ve jacked that sentiment from Piper). When we begin to cherish (heart) what we know (head) about Him, we are becoming good theologians (and disciples). Those who are satisfied in knowing little of God may well be satisfied in cherishing little of God.

Let’s not construct barriers Christ never mandated; We are called to love God with all our “heart” and all our “mind.” It is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). Those who would separate the two are creating a false dichotomy. A passion for Scripture context, church history, and ancient languages may very well be the evidence of a heart aflame for God’s glory.

Some may quip, “Well, I am just about Jesus and experiencing God.” So is the true theologian. Completely immersing oneself into the mind expanding, soul stirring, heart igniting words of Jesus is a primary way of being all about Christ while experiencing Him.

What About That Mean Turd E-Theologian?

Granted, some hyper critical theological nitpicks can create irreparable damage in a church body or a Facebook status. But when a person sets his theological sights on everyone but himself on a weekly basis that reveals more about his heart than it does about serious biblical studies. A spirit of division and criticism is unwarranted and unbiblical..

But what do we make of the Bible drill champion “theologian” who has no heart of love, no fruit of the Spirit, shares no gospel and is lost as a ball in high weeds? This person is not an indictment on theological studies any more than Nickelback is an indictment on Rock and Roll.

Sometimes we swing the judgment pendulum so far the other way we altogether forget Pharisees need grace too. Give it to them until they are changed from the inside out.

But let me say to some of my precious “young, restless, and Reformed” audience: a true study of God should make a person the most humble, loving, giving, servant to all men. If your theological study takes you inward into an endless spiral of introspection and selfishness, let me be clear:

You’re doing it wrong.

And to everyone else: Theology is not the culprit. Theology is your friend. At least for this side of the eternity, until the veil is finally taken away, and we see and know Him face to face (1 Cor 13:12).

What say you my fellow theologians?

and

Please share.

Bryan Daniels

Big Blog News: “Chief of the Least” is Moving

In a month or so, “chiefofleast.com” will move to “http://www.chiefoftheleast.com/.” The name is virtually the same, but the significance is I will be going from a Wordpress.com hosted site to a self hosted site (WordPress.org). My next post will cover why I’m making the switch, but for now I want to reveal my major reservation in doing this.

WordPress.com does an excellent job of connecting fellow bloggers within the WordPress.com community. The WordPress reader, tag surfing, like button, and easy follow tabs are all great features. With a self hosted blog I have none of those easy mechanisms that foster an e-community. As a result I will be losing an overwhelming majority of my blog followers.

If you hit the “follow” tab to subscribe to me on this site you will no longer be “following” me at the new site. Pretty soon, that will mean no more “Chief of the Least” for you.

Tragic news I know (especially for me I assure you). Some of you I’ve only had the pleasure of knowing a few weeks…..*a single tear drop falls down my cheek*

But the solution to this is simple.

Click the link to the new site —–>(http://www.chiefoftheleast.com/) and follow by entering your email of choice and hitting the “Subscribe” button on the sidebar.

The new blog is updated and running (and very similar to this one), and I do have a few exciting bells and whistles I’ll be adding to it the next few weeks.

If at all possible, I don’t want to lose any of you guys and gals. Not because you’ll miss any blessing by re-following, but because I’ll miss out on the overwhelming encouragement and blessing you have been to me.

So in order to confirm I’m not making the worst mistake in my blogging life, won’t you just mosey on over to the new blog and subscribe so we can stay BFF?

Thanks a bunch.

Peace and grace to you and yours.

Bryan Daniels

PS

I ain’t too proud to beg….

Martin Luther King Jr. And The Voices We Snuffed Out

kingphoto

Sanctity of Life Sunday is followed by Martin Luther King Jr Monday.

Martin Luther King Jr Monday is followed by Roe V. Wade’s 40th anniversary on Tuesday.

To me, the timing of those three successive days seems eerily prophetic.

I don’t presume to know what Dr. King’s view would be in the modern-day debate.

I do know my heart breaks for the souls involved in the above tragedy. For the babies. For the women. For the doctor. Especially for him. A granite heart that has committed slow suicide with a million tiny compromises has found itself charged with murder.

This may sound hollow coming from a middle class white dude who wasn’t even alive during the Civil Rights era: What struck me most about the above video was what one black gentleman said as his group peacefully protested outside of the Philadelphia clinic of horrors:

“Everything that was gained during the Civil Rights movement doesn’t mean a thing to a dead black baby.”

I can’t help but see the racial overtones in the abortion movement’s history. Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood’s founder, was firmly committed to the pseudoscience of negative eugenics (the same “science” the Nazis used in Germany). She found abortion to be a necessary instrument to contain the growing class of societal “undesirables.” It’s no coincidence Sanger started her movement in the South where she had a wealth of young uneducated poor black women she could easily “educate.”

Unfortunately, Sanger’s racist vision for America has worked better than she ever could have dreamed.

Germany’s racial holocaust ended with World War II. America’s racial holocaust carries on shrouded neatly under the guise of health care.

In New York city 40 % of pregnancies end in abortion. An overwhelming majority of those are African-American babies. According to the CDC, black women are three times more likely to get an abortion than white women. Most shocking: the leading cause of death in the African-American Community since 1973 is not heart disease, cancer, or violent crimes: It’s abortion. Most abortion providers like Planned Parenthood have abandoned rural areas and created a lucrative business by setting up shop in the poorest minority-dominated urban neighborhoods.

I believe without apology: A baby in a mother’s womb deserves as much protection as a baby in a mother’s arms.

But I am also aware that a political shift will not happen until the culture shifts, and the culture will not shift until hearts are shifted by the grace of God towards King Jesus and His Kingdom.

That’s my prayer.

That God supernaturally transforms hearts of mothers and fathers to protect and cherish the precious life they have created. That the thought of an abortion would become anathema to renewed urban minds; and as a result, abortion clinics would close down en masse due to lack of business. That it would get done in such a way no man or political party gets the glory, but only the Father of life who makes dead men and women live.

May another Martin Luther King Jr. rise up in this generation to speak the truth in love to this justice issue. May God’s word to us not be:

 “I sent many prophets, and you killed them all before they could speak one word.”

Bryan Daniels

Jesus Transforms, Not Flowers

“At many Reformed churches, the particulars of Reformed theology overshadow the cross. The assumption seems to be that if you can master the particulars of TULIP, and are devoted to 1, 2, and 3 John (John Calvin, John Piper, and John MacArthur), then you are spiritually acceptable and everything will be right in your life. Right doctrine is essential, but no “doctrinal flower” can transform your heart. Only the beauty of Jesus transforms the heart.” (JD Greear, Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary)

This Reformed minded dude says, “Amen!” to that!

Bryan Daniels