fear and prayer in cleveland: night three...

The most illuminating moment in last night's RNC 2016 extravaganza was when NY Times
columnist, David Brooks, asked Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council: what were the Christian values of character that Donald Trumps embodies that warranted evangelical Christian support? Perkins clearly wanted to dodge this verbal bullet - and tried to change the subject. But Brooks was animated and insistent. Eventually, after serious equivocation and fumbling, Perkins suggested that Trump's character celebrates Christian courage.  Then he quickly moved on to say that Trump has never been evangelical Christians first choice. That would have been Ted Cruz, the apocalyptic Pentecostal senator from Texas, who "blew up" last night's convention with his calculated refusal to endorse Trump.

Those with a sense of context may recall that Cruz entered the RNC with over 400 pledged delegates. He also continues to seethe over Trump's cruel and malicious defaming of both his father and spouse during the Republican primaries. So last night became an evening of pay back as Mr. Cruz exposed his vindictive and confusing theology to the nation while being Mr. Trump's convention guest. Clearly, Cruz does not believe that vengeance is mine saith the Lord (Deuteronomy 35:35 or Romans 12: 19) Rather, he holds fast to that mean-spirited and perverted understanding of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that claims Christ's Cross as a sword destined to bring honor only to the American flag rather than the lost, wounded and broken. Cruz has no grasp of St. Paul's wisdom that the Cross is foolishness because it hides the Lord's truth to those addicted to power and glory.


For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

But I digress:  the volatility of the Cruz double-cross warrants its own reflection. What claims my
attention today is the narrow sense of "God's will" among so-called evangelicals who have come to cherish the gospel of wealth, power and security rather than the testimony of Christ. No wonder Mr. Perkins was squirming as he wracked his conscience for a way to link the character of Christ with that of Donald Trump. It is slim pickin's - check out this list of 49 examples of Christian character as compiled by the Grace Online Library - Mr. Perkin's reply doesn't even show up.

Character Qualities
Alertness vs. Unawareness
Being aware of that which is taking place around me so I can have the right response to it (Mark 14:38)
Attentiveness vs. Unconcern
Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions (Hebrews 2:1)
Availability vs. Self-centeredness
Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am serving (Philippians 2:20–21)
Boldness vs. Fearfulness
Confidence that what I have to say or do is true and right and just in the sight of God (Acts 4:29)
Cautiousness vs. Rashness
Knowing how important right timing is in accomplishing right actions (Proverbs 19:2)
Compassion vs. Indifference
Investing whatever is necessary to heal the hurts of others (I John 3:17)
Contentment vs. Covetousness
Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness (I Timothy 6:8)
Creativity vs. Underachievement
Approaching a need, a task, an idea from a new perspective (Romans 12:2)
Decisiveness vs. Double-mindedness
The ability to finalize difficult decisions based on the will and ways of God (James 1:5)
Deference vs. Rudeness
Limiting my freedom in order not offend the tastes of those whom God has called me to serve (Romans 14:21)
Dependability vs. Inconsistency
Fulfilling what I consented to do even if it means unexpected sacrifice (Psalm 15:4)
Determination vs. Faintheartedness
Purposing to accomplish God’s goals in God’s time regardless of the opposition (II Timothy 4:7–8)
Dligence vs. Slothfulness
Visualizing each task as a special assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it (Colossians 3:23)
Discernment vs. Judgment
The God-given ability to understand why things happen (I Samuel 16:7)

Discretion vs. Simplemindedness
The ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes which could result in undesirable consequences (Proverbs 22:3)
Endurance vs. Giving up
The inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish God’s best (Galatians 6:9)
Enthusiasm vs. Apathy
Expressing with my soul the joy of my spirit (I Thessalonians 5:16,19)
Faith vs. Presumption
Visualizing what God intends to do in a given situation and acting in harmony with it (Hebrews 11:1)
Flexibility vs. Resistance
Not setting my affections on ideas or plans which could be changed by God or others (Colossians 3:2)
Forgiveness vs. Rejection
Clearing the record of those who have wronged me and allowing God to love them through me (Ephesians 4:32)
Generosity vs. Stinginess
Realizing that all I have belongs to God and using it for His purposes (II Corinthians 9:6)
Gentleness vs. Harshness
Showing personal care and concern in meeting the need of others (I Thessalonians 2:7)
Gratefulness vs. Unthankfulness
Making known to God and others in what ways they have benefited my life (I Corinthians 4:7)
Hospitality vs. Loneliness
Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual refreshment with those whom God brings into my life (Hebrews 13:2)
Humility vs. Pride
Recognizing that it is actually God and others who are responsible for the achievements in my life (James 4:6)
Initiative vs. Unresponsiveness
Recognizing and doing what needs to be done before I am asked to do it (Romans 12:21)
Joyfulness vs. Self-pity
The spontaneous enthusiasm of my spirit when my soul is in fellowship with the Lord (Psalm 16:11)
Justice vs. Fairness
Personal responsibility to God’s unchanging laws (Micah 6:8)
Love vs. Selfishness
Giving to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward (I Corinthians 13:3)
Loyalty vs. Unfaithfulness
Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to God and to those whom He has called me to serve (John 15:13)
Meekness vs. Anger
Yielding my personal rights and expectations to God (Psalm 62:5)
Obedience vs. Willfulness
Freedom to be creative under the protection of divinely appointed authority (II Corinthians 10:5)
Orderliness vs. Disorganization
Preparing myself and my surroundings so I will achieve the greatest efficiency (I Corinthians 14:40)
Patience vs. Restlessness
Accepting a difficult situation from God without giving Him a deadline to remove it (Romans 5:3–4)
Persuasiveness vs. Contentiousness
Guiding vital truths around another’s mental roadblocks (II Timothy 2:24)
Punctuality vs. Tardiness
Showing high esteem for other people and their time (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Resourcefulness vs. Wastefulness
Wise use of that which others would normally overlook or discard (Luke 16:10)
Responsibility vs. Unreliability
Knowing and doing what both God and others are expecting from me (Romans 14:12)
Reverence vs. Disrespect
Awareness of how God is working through the people and events in my life to produce the character of Christ in me (Proverbs 23:17–18)
Security vs. Anxiety
Structuring my life around that which is eternal and cannot be destroyed or taken away (John 6:27)
Self-Control vs. Self-indulgence
Instant obedience to the initial promptings of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:24–25)
Sensitivity vs. Callousness
Exercising my senses so I can perceive the true spirit and emotions of those around me (Romans 12:15)
Sincerity vs. Hypocrisy
Eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives (I Peter 1:22)
Thoroughness vs. Incompleteness
Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected (Proverbs 18:15)
Thriftiness vs. Extravagance
Not letting myself or others spend that which is not necessary (Luke 16:11)
Tolerance vs. Prejudice
Acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity (Philippians 2:2)
Truthfulness vs. Deception
Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts (Ephesians 4:25)
Virtue vs. Impurity
The moral excellence and purity of spirit that radiate from my life as I obey God’s Word (II Peter 1:3)
Wisdom vs. Natural Inclinations
Seeing and responding to life’s situations from God’s frame of reference (Proverbs 9:10)


Another conservative Christian, Chris Gilmore, is equally challenging to both the so-called Religious Right and the reductionist religion Mr. Trump articulates in his Huffington Post article: "What If God DOESN'T Want America Great Again?"  (check it out @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-if-god-doesnt-want-to-make-america-great-again_us_578b037be4b0e7c873504a05)

Have we become so attached to our stuff that we are certain God wants us to keep it? Have we become so accustomed to having a vote that we assume that’s how God orders the world? Are we so desperate for security that we are willing to compromise our most basic values to acheive it? And so opposed to our enemies that we are confident God hates them as much as we do? If so, we are misguided. These things do not line up with the Gospels where I learn of a Jesus who says to welcome the stranger, forgive extravagantly, give radically, and do not resist an evil person (and love them instead). A Jesus who erases cultural and political and religious divisions. Jesus who flat out says, “Whoever wants to be great needs to become a servant of everybody else.” But we have little time for that sort of greatness. “Be A Servant” isn’t an attractive campaign slogan.


Years ago the once Religious Right claimed that American liberal Christians had abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ for the idol of political correctness. That still takes place from time to time and it would be disingenuous to argue otherwise. But at the core of being PC is not idolatry or even tolerance. It is  compassion. As Krista Tippett writes in Becoming Wise, many of us settled for the word tolerance 50 years ago but it was too small a word for the tasks of our generation We need tenderness and sacrificial love. We need truth telling and hope in the midst of hatred. We need a vision of God's love that is greater  than the bottom line of the daily stock market updates or the ugly, half-baked and ill-informed stream of consciousness theological ramblings of a bully who can barely complete a full sentence.

Now is not the time to be timid - never cruel, but not shy about the mystery of the Cross either - so please don't give Trump, Perkins, Gingrich or Ingraham a pass on their rants. Call them out when they try to wrap the Cross in the flag. Call them out when they claim support of LGBTQ rights while actually opposing them for decades. Call them out for claiming to be pro-life only when that life is in the womb. Call them out for trying to paint Mr. Trump's character with that of the servant Christ. Call them out for crying peace, peace when many of their policies are out for blood. 

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