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Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Let’s (NOT) Make Christianity the Law of the Land

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.” Daniel 7:26

There is a group — I don’t know if it’s small or large, but it’s fairly vociferous — which insists the reason our nation (the United States) is tanking, is because we no longer have prayer in schools.

And we have removed the Ten Commandments from public places.

Field of Dreams inspirational original oil painting of meadow rural landscape with wildflowers by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art

This land is your land, this land is my land, and in it we are meant to live free. Christianity by decree is just as limiting as the promotion of paganism. Field of Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art.

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And now, our Supreme Court has legalized homosexual and lesbian marriage.

But, the good news is, we still have In God We Trust on our money. (What an interesting place to put a reference about God.)

In short, according to this group, which as far as I can tell consists of a number of decent, ingenuous, guileless people who are easily swayed by a smaller, more powerful media and celebrity Christian cabal that foments anxiety, fear, anger, and helplessness, we as a nation are doomed to eventual destruction because we do not trust and honor God the way ancient Israel, with which we associate ourselves, did.

A Stiff-Necked People

Let’s pass by ancient Israel for now, and whether or not they ever, for any meaningful length of time, trusted, honored, revered, and followed God (the book of Judges is an unambiguous commentary on this, although Exodus 15:22 — 17:7 initiates the unflattering image of faith by a “stiff-necked people”), and let’s look at the United States — which promotes itself as a “Christian Nation.”

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Is the answer, as some politicos aver, a return to godliness under a conservative, Republican administration (for some reason, the terms are interchangeable with “Christian”) that will undo everything the present one has done? (This might be a good time to note that the present administration, in addition to creating a flurry of personalized executive orders, has built upon and strengthened policies set up and created in the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that.)

In short, the answer, according to this voice, is that we legislate worship (along the lines of, “If you build it, they will come”) and unless and until we do so, we are doomed to destruction.

Legislating a Belief in God

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It sounds logical, and worshiping God by governmental edict is nothing new. The decree in the verse introducing this essay, from the book of Daniel, was uttered by King Darius, the Medean/Persian ruler who overthrew Belshazzar, the last king of the Babylonians, in the 6th century B.C.

Darius established this ordinance after Daniel survived the lion’s den, where this faithful, non-stiff-necked Hebrew had been condemned after violating an earlier executive order, by this same ancient president.

Interestingly, some 65 years before, in the prior and partisan administration of Nebuchadnezzar, this governmental decree had already been made, after yet another violation of an executive order which resulted in the tossing of Shadrach, Meschac, and Abednego into the fiery furnace:

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“Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble.” (Daniel 3:29)

Enforcement like that would put teeth into a law reinstating prayer in schools.

It sure worked for the Babylonians, didn’t it?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I remind Christians that our first, foremost, and primary allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, not any nation of man. This is one of the reasons why Christians are persecuted, you know.

Posts complementing this one are

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A Rainbow of Silence — Why Christians May Not Want to Speak

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven . . . a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7

To put it mildly, Ecclesiastes is one of the less cheerful books of the Bible. Purportedly written by Solomon, this short book chronicles the author’s efforts to experience every good thing in life — wine, food, women, clothing, luxury accommodations — with the resulting conclusion that they are all meaningless.

Light in the Forest inspirational original oil painting of two women with candles in Celtic forest by Steve Henderson licensed home wall art decor at Framed Canvas Art, Amazon.com, and iCanvas

God’s voice is quiet, and we hear it most effectively when we are silent ourselves. Light in the Forest, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, licensed wall art home decor at iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, and Amazon.

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Without God, that is — although this message is well padded beneath the sepulchral ambiance of the work. (Personally, I recoil from a person of privilege expressing boredom and despair over elements of life that most humans only dream about, but I get it: this is someone who got it all, plunged into it all, and recognized it wasn’t enough. Which is more than can be said for the attitude of today’s elite.)

But if you read nothing more in Ecclesiastes than 3:1-8, it’s worth the effort. For the auditory learner, The Byrds’ 1962 musical rendition of the work — Turn, Turn, Turn — captures the essence, since it’s pretty much a word for word adaptation, but ironically, leaves out half of verse seven, quoted above: “A time to be silent and a time to speak.”

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A Cacophony of Voices

Because that’s what today’s essay is about, during a time when many, many people — from all sides of the rainbow — are speaking, most notably about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision (seriously, was it a surprise to anybody?) to legalize homosexual and lesbian marriage. The end result is not communication, but chaos.

Quite predictably, emotions and words run hot on both sides, and the most woeful thing about it all, for people who want to live free, is that these emotions and words mean nothing when it comes to creating policy within a nation that is supposed to be run by the people, and for the people. Words, logic, debate, argument, even vociferous shouting: there’s nothing wrong with these — but there is everything wrong in a land where such debate is not necessary, because the decisions to be made are in the grasping hands of a few.

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And those few — as they have in authoritarian regimes throughout history, like Rome, when Jesus lived — have made, and continue to make, those decisions.

Christians Do Things Differently

But back to being silent, or speaking: whether or not one, as a Christian, agrees with the Supreme Court’s decree, staying silent, for a moment, might not be a bad thing.

We all know the arguments, for both sides, and when we utter them, we join in a fray of shouting where logic, reason, perception, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, and true tolerance do not exist. Christianity, quite unfortunately by its overtly political nature of late, never comes out on top in these areas.

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So perhaps we could take a break, not speaking or writing the obvious things weighted down by appropriately selected Scripture, and use this next week to simply be silent, asking God — not each other — how we should proceed, and live, in the times that we do.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity.

Posts complementing this one are

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Submission to Authority — and the Gag Reflex

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17)

On Facebook, which is as good a source of national news as any, I ran across a post lambasting our present president for doing what all presidents do, which is, in effect, not fulfilling the promises they made to secure election in the first place.

Authority

There are a lot of people, and institutions, who will gladly dictate our very thoughts, if we allow them. Graphic by Carolyn Henderson.

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And while this is a bipartisan predilection not unique to the United States, the difference about living in a “free” country as opposed to one which more openly admits its control issues, is that we, as citizens, are theoretically able to critique our leaders — who, also theoretically, are supposed to be working “for” and “under” us.

Freedom of speech and all that.

But freedom — political, social, religious, financial — is such a truly powerful force, one capable of releasing people from servitude to evil, that it needs to be parsed, controlled, defined, and limited. And those who demand the most control are those who stand to benefit best by limiting the freedom of others; after all, the less money you and I have, the more someone else gets, and hoards.

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(If God had allowed the Hebrews, when collecting manna in the desert, to hold some back, how long do you think it would have taken before there was a shortage of a resource that was sufficient to meet the needs of all?)

So, back to this Facebook post: despite this being a theoretically democratic country in which ordinary citizens are expected to get involved and hold leaders (both elected and self-imposed) accountable for their actions and promises, the Voice of Contemporary, Subservient-to-Authority Christianity was heard in the posted comment:

“Thou Shalt Not Think”

“This is a Christian forum. And as Christians, we are commanded to pray for our leaders, not criticize them.”

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Submission, accountability, obedience, deference, and subjection — for all that these traits are preached as virtues to the Christian community, one would think that

1) We live, like the early Christians did, under a political and financial regime that looks like ancient Rome

and

2) The chain of man-made authority is so holy and sanctioned by God, that we are unable to reach Him without going through the potentate immediately above us, whether that be the husband who controls the wife, the manager who oversees the employee, the policeman who exerts dominion over the citizen, the master who owns the slave, or the church elder board, working under a commercially savvy mega-pastor, that crafts policy — parochial and personal — to shape the church goers’ spiritual lives.

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Love, from Paris, inspirational original oil painting of vogue woman in paris france with eiffel tower by Steve Henderson

Confident, outspoken, secure, thoughtful — there’s something engaging about a person who knows where she’s going and is comfortable in her shoes. Love, from Paris, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

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Indeed, more than one self-imposed, national Christian “leader” and seminar speaker has made a comfortable living instructing other Christians to not argue with what they are told, and to hold Romans 13 (“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities . . . “) and Hebrews 13:17 (“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority“) as the principal passages of Scripture around which all of Jesus’s teaching, and ministry, revolve.

But the thing about Bible verses, and the Bible itself, actually, is that they’re not meant to be a means to control others, so much as they are to teach us about God. And since God is big, powerful, complex, and awesome, in addition to being merciful, loving, gracious, and forgiving, pulling a couple verses out of context and forcing people to bow under them, subservient and passive, is to basically rip out the four gospels and toss them in the wood stove.

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Love, First

In other words, when we read the Bible, if the unconditional love of God for His children is not always at the forefront of our mind, we are in real danger of extracting a verse here and a verse there, and using them to dictate people’s behavior.

Which is precisely what has happened within the contemporary, establishment, sitting-in-the-pews Christian community:

So accustomed is this group to being seen as sheep, that members do not ask who is their shepherd, and too readily follow human teaching in this area, accepting that, as Christians — even Christians who live in a “free” country — they are to obey, and obey, and obey, and that to question, or assert one’s rights, is wrong.

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Wives must listen to husbands, and husbands bow to the males above them — the deacons to the elders, the elders to the pastor, the pastor to the regional director, the regional director to the national president, the national president to . . . whom? God, apparently. It’s a long, serpentine road to our Father.

Political, Military Christianity

Even more intriguing is that politics are so intertwined within spirituality: people in uniform are accorded more honor than those in t-shirts, magnates with money are accepted as blessed, Republicans and conservatives are synonymous to Christianity, Ronald Reagan is a patron saint.

But none of this has anything to do with Jesus, who interacted with the lowly more than he did the stately, interfacing with each as a human being who was born and would eventually die (isn’t that comforting? Death is one area where we are all equal, and even the rich and powerful must experience it). Jesus saw that the denarius — with its image of Caesar on the front — was a man-made product that wasn’t particularly impressive to God. Give it to the people who covet it, He effectively said, and don’t let it control you.

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And when He talked about submission, true submission, it was in reference to His own, for He came down not to do His own will but that of His Father (John 6:38), and we, as God’s children, are to do the same. And despite false teachings that will never go away because they result in a passively obedient populace, Jesus did not set up a ladder of authority with the bulk of us on the bottom rung. He is our Eldest brother, and we are members of a family who are all loved by the same Father.

“I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage people to stop allowing others — and frequently paying them to do so! —  to do the thinking for them.

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Posts complementing this one are

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Cucumbers, Jesus, and Deception

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost — also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” (Numbers 11:5)

The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are perplexing concepts, and depending upon with whom you speak, they are either two different things, or the same one. They also represent something that will happen in the future, after we die (think, conventional evangelical teaching), or exist here and now. Regarding the latter, how good it looks down here depends upon how hard we work to make it that way (which, frankly, is not particularly encouraging).

Produce from Deer Pond Gardens

In a dry desert, with only manna to eat, the Hebrew people were tempted to remember the wonderful produce in Egypt, but not the cost of acquiring it and eating it. Photo credit Deer Pond Gardens and Steve Henderson Fine Art.

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And of course, the logical course is usually in the middle:

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks,” Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:23. In other words, it’s happening now, but is not completely fulfilled: a little bit of both, left side/right side/meet in the middle.

“Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom,” Jesus says in Matthew 16:28, a verse that’s difficult, when we pay attention to the actual words, to ascribe wholly to the future.

Republican Christians

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And yet, within many conventional, evangelical, Republican circles, where my spiritual life spun aimlessly around for far too long, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are primarily in the future, after we die. This being so, it would be logical to ask (that is, if one has not yet been trained out of asking questions): if it’s all in the future, and there’s nothing to experience now, why not just die and get it over with?

But of course we won’t do that, literally, since that would add yet another sin to the bag we sling across people’s backs, but the result is that too many Christians live as if there were nothing to do in this world but argue with people about the next one, and the entire Chapter 13 in Matthew is wasted because we don’t have to worry about understanding any of that stuff yet.

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Nor do we have to obsess too much about the poor, meek, mourning, hungry or persecuted people in the Beatitudes of Matthew Chapter 5, because they’ll eventually die and make it to the Kingdom of Heaven, where everything will be perfect. As one person put it, many Christians live a watered down version of Gnosticism.

Citizens of the Kingdom of God

Whatever the Kingdom of God and Heaven is, it’s fairly clear that Jesus is a prominent citizen of the place, and as children in the household of His and our Father, we, too, belong to this kingdom: now, and through eternity. Also reasonable to infer is that the Kingdom of God does not operate on the same basis as the kingdom of man (Matthew 6:19-21), this latter encompassing all the nations and rulers of the world (whether or not they announce themselves, as some are prone to do in the United States, as a “Christian Nation).

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Lilac Festival inspirational original oil painting of little girl in dress by flower bush in garden by Steve Henderson licensed home decor wall art at Framed Canvas Art and amazon.com

This is an example of what a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven looks like — success there is not defined by the tailored cut of one’s business suit. Lilac Festival, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed home wall art decor at Amazon and Framed Canvas Art.

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Satan himself defined the opposite of the Kingdom of God when he led Christ “up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.’ “ (Luke 4:6)

Corporations, governments, universities, media, religious organizations, financial institutions: if it looks man made, it probably is. And while this is not to say that these places are run by Satanists, it is to say that, when man runs something — outside of God — he does it with a healthy dose of deceit, deception, duplicity, and a cunning approach to marketing in which the truth is not necessarily the most important piece of information we promote. As a culture, we in the United States are so accustomed to the acceptability of manipulating people into buying what they don’t want or need, that we can’t see any other way of doing things.

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But there is another way — outside of the kingdoms of men — and it is in the Kingdom of God, where those of us who call God Father live, and we are called to the extremely difficult task of separating cultural norms (the kingdom of man) from spiritual truth (the Kingdom of God).

Corporate Christianity Has Nothing to Do with Jesus

In short: the Kingdom of God and Heaven looks diametrically different from the kingdom of man, and never the twain shall meet.

Living as a member of the Kingdom of God while straddling the kingdom of man is akin to the Hebrew people, brought out by God from slavery in Egypt, who longed to be back at the pyramids, because there were cucumbers there. (Numbers 11:5) It’s simply impossible to be in two separate geographical locations at the same time, and while to exchange freedom (with boring old manna) for slavery (and cucumbers) is foolish, this did not stop the Hebrews from discounting one as they hearkened after the illusions of the other.

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So do we do, when we try to reconcile the path to “success” by using man made means — Attitude! Say the right words! A little lie won’t hurt ya — with Jesus’s frustrating message of seeking Him first. It is little wonder that too many Christian businesses and establishments, not to mention individuals who call themselves Christians, are visually indistinguishable from their secular counterparts. They all do the same thing, except one tosses the name “Jesus” around.

It’s not as simple as not swearing, or wearing skirts below the knees (for women), or listening to “Christian” “worship” music. If it were, then what the legalists propound would be the best hope we have.

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It’s deep, complex, and difficult — because it means acting with compassion, grace, mercy and trust as opposed to following Dale Carnegie’s advice in How to Win Friends and Influence People. That book, along with all its modern copycats — both “Christian” and secular — functions as the Bible for many.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where my eyes are increasingly open to the vast array of deception that makes up our everyday life. If it were a dust, we’d be covered in it.

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"I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel." Daniel 7:26 There is a group -- I don't know if it's small or large, but it's fairly vociferous -- which insists the reason our nation (the ...

posted 1:02:55pm Jul. 03, 2015 | read full post »

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"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven . . . a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak." Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 To put it mildly, Ecclesiastes is one of the less cheerful ...

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"If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost -- also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic." (Numbers 11:5) The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are perplexing concepts, and depending upon ...

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