Monday, August 01, 2016

Does God Want America To Be Great Again?

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Gary L. Bauer

Rev. Chris Gilmore, a Church of the Nazarene pastor with a degree in Psychology from MidAmerica Nazarene University, seems to suggest God doesn't care whether America becomes great again or not.

He says, "I'm not convinced God is hoping we elect the proper candidate so he [God] can finally get to work in our country."

He is convinced, apparently, of this: "I imagine we will find we have spent a lot of time and money and energy and yard signs on a greatness that is at best temporary and at worst idolatry."

Does God care about America's future? And this election? If so, why?

To the benefit of doubt, perhaps the pastor is merely trying to emphasize the importance of the spiritual over that of the temporal.

However, the far Left Huffington Post had a reaction similar to my own when they decided to publish his article.

Huff Post obviously saw it as an opportunity to plant the seeds of doubt in the minds of Conservatives and evangelical Christians as to whether it is even godly to be responsibly involved in the elective process in our country---even questioning whether God really cares about such things.

The Huff Post's response was to publish and feature it because it plays to their own agenda of suppressing the enthusiasm of Conservatives and evangelicals and benefits the efforts to advance secular progressivism in our country.

I'm commenting on the pastor's remarks because I believe they are, to a degree, misleading and based on a number of false assumptions.

I don't know his motives.

Pastor Gilmore begins with, "Recently, I received an email stating that if Christians don't support Donald Trump for president, we can 'kiss our country goodbye'. It said something to the effect of 'Sure he isn't all that decent, but if that's what it takes for our economy to be strong, our borders to be secure, and our nation to be great, then so be it'."

He says the "email got me thinking."

Well, his article got me thinking as well.

I don't know Pastor Chris Gilmore, but I carefully read his words. Several times.

While I don't know him, I do know many who are members of Nazarene churches---James Dobson is a Nazarene and no one puts more importance on Christians being involved in the election process then he does---and has for the past 40 years.

The take-a-way from this article for the causal reader is a strong suggestion that God really isn't interested in elections and such things because they are temporal---and God's focus is on the eternal.

The thread throughout his article, which was undoubtedly read by millions of Americans, is that America cannot be economically, culturally and nationally blessed and spiritually right before God simultaneously .

It's either, or.

Pastor Gilmore's message is nuanced.

Half of what he says is true. Our focus is, and must be eternal. We must never compromise our faith, our beliefs or our values for the political process---or the election of any particular politician "no matter what."

Gilmore says, "I'm not saying that God wants to see America destroyed, but I'm wondering if we make some false assumptions when we think God wants us rich and safe or whatever other things people mean when they say they want America to be great again."

He then makes a series of assumptions of his own---assumptions that I believe are very incorrect.

He says, "Set aside the fact that many of us will disagree on what actually makes our country great and consider why we think God wants us wealthy, secure and politically free. Jesus was none of the above. Nor were His first disciples or the early church or many Christians around the world today."

This is true. But is our mission to achieve bondage over freedom, poverty over prosperity and national collapse over national security as a badge of spirituality?

Can we not be both free and spiritual? Can we as a nation or individuals not have wealth while having the heart of a servant?

We may also remind ourselves that the Lord rode on the back of a donkey, or simply walked as His means of transportation. He never used radio, television or social media to share His message---and He wore a robe.

Should anything beyond this be discounted as not spiritual?

At what point does prosperity, freedom and national security become non spiritual and idolatry?

Clearly it's when we turn our focus away from the Kingdom of God and seek only the kingdom of man.

Pastor Gilmore says being a servant is true greatness.

Amen. Absolutely.

Then he writes: "But we have little time for that sort of greatness. 'Be A Servant' isn't an attractive campaign slogan. Not when we have elections to win and businesses to boycott and borders to secure. Jesus says his kingdom is not of this world, but we would say our kingdom certainly is and well, all that loving and forgiving stuff works in the church, but this is the real world."

"So we declare our allegiance," he writes. "We choose earthly greatness and power and success and security over the cross. We justify our lack of loving our neighbors because we have to protect our version of the American dream."

The pastor says, "I'm not anti-American. I'm not an anarchist. I plan to vote in the coming election. I'm just not going to assume that God's deepest desire for us is something as fleeting as prosperity or political freedom. I'm not convinced God is hoping we elect the proper candidate so he can finally get to work in our country."

The pastor presents a false choice.

Dr. George O. Wood is the head of the 67-million member (worldwide) Assemblies of God denomination.

They are not known for political activism, rather they are known worldwide for their emphasis on evangelism.

However, in his July letter to hundreds of thousands of ministers and pastors titled, "The Battle for Religious Liberty," he began with this: "I feel compelled to write you this most unusual pastoral letter. I do it out of deep concern and I ask you to hear my heart."

I strongly encourage you to read his pastoral letter.

He warns pastors that "we are on the precipice of losing critical religious liberty protections in our country."

He says, "The secularists in our society seek to redefine the First Amendment protection of the 'free exercise of religion' to a mere right of worship."

He explains, as we have done both in this column and on our live daily radio program, that the subtle change from "free exercise of religion" to a mere "right to worship" fundamentally undermines the very purpose of America's founding.

Religious freedom.

Dr. Wood is calling for those pastors he leads and those congregations they serve, to pray, saying there may be some who are cynical about a call to pray, but we know the Lord hears the prayers of His people, asking people to take to heart II Chronicles 7:14.

He is calling on all to "engage." He says, "Use whatever means possible to exert your influence on our culture and political system." And he says, "Be informed as a voter" and have contact with elected officials and those running for office.

He says, "Of course being engaged requires being informed; helping those who worship in our churches every week to understand the nature of the challenges we face..."

Continuing, he calls for pastors and the people they serve to "Watch your spirit," "Do Good," Keep Doing the Main Things," remember "Our Battle Is Spiritual" and "Rejoice" because "Nothing happening has caught the Lord by surprise."

Is this not a more appropriate and effective way to address the perilous times in which we live?

Look at the picture at the top of this article. Forget the election for 2 minutes. What if Mike Pence, a truly godly man, leads Donald Trump to a mature relationship with the Lord?

What if God uses these unusual times, with an unusual cast of characters, to do His work in unusual ways?

What if God is not finished with a nation that currently sends more Christian missionaries to more parts of the world than any country in the history of the world?

What if God wants to bless America once again so we, as the people of this nation, can give more to help those in need in our needy world than any nation has ever done in the history of the human race?

What if God wills to hear our prayers and forgive us and heal our land because a large remnant of people are "not" given to "the love of money" but understand to whom much is given, much is required, and they rise every morning with the intent to be a blessing---to help expand the preaching of the gospel, the healing of the broken---and to help inform and inspire the church of the risen Christ?

The message to biblical believers for our time is more clearly found in the message of Dr. Wood, than that of Dr. Gilmore.

May I quote this verse one more time?

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."

Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be informed. Be Inspired. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.