Election 2020: The Divided States of America – Character Counted Pt. 2

Bernie Diaz, Nov. 11, 2020

We’re one week removed from the presidential election of 2020 and I’ve come to some preliminary conclusions that bear attention to in the midst of the ensuing chaos that remains at the moment, in trying to ascertain who by God’s providence, who will be in leadership of our country from both the White House and Capitol Hill (with the Senate still up for grabs through January of the new year). 

Our nation – politically is at a standstill and societally is more divided than at any time in recent history – at least in more than a generation since the civil unrest and upheaval of the decade spanning from the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s (e.g. Vietnam, the first wave of the sexual revolution and race relations). That much seems clear to most people.

However, the political pundits seem to be missing the point or the big picture in my view, as to what divides us as they began their obligatory post-election analysis of what happened last week.

What we do know if anything at this moment, is with tens of thousands of outstanding mail-in ballots still waiting to be counted and confirmed (including a recount in GA), Joe Biden held a victory rally in Delaware last Saturday night claiming the title of president-elect, in a speech in which he ironically referenced Ecclesiastes 3 and proclaimed a national “time to heal.”

His speech came after the major news television networks declared – anointed him really, as the winner of Pennsylvania, Nevada, and the Electoral College vote.

Meanwhile, the incumbent in the oval office, President Trump, said, “The simple fact is this election is far from over,” in a statement on Saturday. This week his campaign and cadre of lawyers began filling lawsuits before the Supreme Court and elsewhere, protesting the results of the handful of battleground states which will have the greatest impact on the final count of electoral votes necessary to winning the presidency on the grounds of voter fraud or irregularities (i.e. late or manipulated ballots).

Indeed, the possibility of such irregularities reversing the media’s call of Biden as President does exist, though the possibility seems unlikely- as unlikely as when Democratic Challenger Al Gore, appealed his razor-thin loss to Republican George W. Bush in 2000 (remember the “hanging chads,” Floridians?), in which Bush’s election results prevailed.

Why Did the President-Elect ‘Apparently’ Prevail?

Early exit polls estimate that in a year of increased racial tensions, President Donald Trump surprisingly improved his standing among racial and ethnic minorities – winning my home state of Florida, due in large part to the Hispanic voter turnout in Miami, consisting of Cuba and Venezuelan-Americans fearing an onset of socialism in our country, under the helm of a Biden administration, though the current President-Elect still won the majority share of black, Latino, and other minority voters’ support.

Although Biden performed worse among voters of color overall than Hillary Clinton did in 2016, a strong turnout of African-Americans in key major cities such as Philadelphia, PA; Milwaukee, WI and Atlanta, GA may have put Biden over the top in those three key states.

All of this could seemingly point to a strict, black and white racial divide in deciding the presidency. I think that conclusion takes the wrong colors into account. I see red and blue rather than black or brown as the dividing lines in our nation.

In addition, I see two practical factors that may have tilted the results of this election despite questionable poll data which may emerge to the contrary- if you put any stock in media-driven polls, which failed again, miserably, in anticipating the winners of this election and their margins.

One factor was the record deluge of early and mail-in ballots which were cast, preceding election Tuesday, of which at least a two-thirds majority seems to have favored Biden.  A second contributing factor from the election which may have made the difference, is the likely possibility that ‘character still counts’ for a Presidential candidate.

Some analysts have already concluded in their post-mortem that many “shy” Trump voters did not disclose their voting preference prior to the election, skewing poll numbers due to possible concerns over being affiliated as endorsers of Trump’s questionable character and tongue – particularly among evangelical Christian voters who are to be concerned about such things.

One prominent pastor from the Midwest speaking on perhaps tens of thousands, said this past week, “I did not vote for Joe Biden, or for Hillary. I cannot vote for ‘the party of death.’ I am now an independent. My sympathies and convictions are closer to the GOP on issues, but I will not vote for ungodly, borderline racist, misogynistic, xenophobic candidates because they are GOP.”

There were assuredly many other thousands that voted for President Trump but remained, ‘in the closet’ about it- “shy”, as #NeverBiden voters. Trump’s character and communication methods – his messaging did little or nothing to gain their support of his person. Rather, they relied on his politics or policies, as we had posted prior to election day.

Similarly, there seemed to be little passionate support for Biden nationwide, among many Democratic voters, but rather a mass of fearful voters cast ballots – not only of the prospect of President Trump’s being re-elected, but of their party veering too far left to the radical and liberal agenda of its leadership in congressional races. As a more moderate Democrat on his way out of the Senate after losing last Tuesday, put it, “We’re not some demonic cult like we’re portrayed to be.”     

What marks the color divide of red (GOP) and blue (Democratic) states and voters is quite simply worldview. Ideological conservatives who tend to vote for Republican candidates – generally, on the most current and key issues of our day,  do not support ‘defunding the police’, packing the court and pursuing a new and extreme, environmental, Green New Deal. Whereas the ideological liberals or ‘progressives’ who tend to generally vote for Democratic candidates do.

As we noted in the platforms of the two major political parties of our country that one- represented in modern political terms by the color red, is pro-life, pro-traditional family, pro-liberty – as in religious and is pro-capitalist, while the other platform, represented by the color blue, is pro-abortion, pro-LGTBQ, pro-secularist and socialist leaning. It must be added, that the ever present centrist or purple minority may impact an election as well.

These political ideologies or positions are simple reflections of how people view reality or truth and the world they live in and would like to live in.

For instance, on the clear and unmistakable issue of abortion:

The red thinker and voter generally sees life as God and the scripture does, being sacred and dignified as a fellow image bearer from the point of conception to death (‘womb to tomb’) and worthy of the law’s acknowledgment and protection.

The blue thinker and voter- generally, sees life as utilitarian and subject to the whims and needs of those already born and the freedoms they already enjoy- mostly of a physical and sexual nature. Thus, which presidential candidate do you think most voters of those particular colors supported on election day?

Likewise, on the issue of local law enforcement and race, a red voter would emphasize the need for a Romans 13, biblical perspective of law and order in supporting police and policies which punish evil and protect the innocent (how imperfectly that may be administered).

Whereas a blue voter may deemphasize the above- even at the cost of public safety, in the emphasis of social justice, such as guaranteed racial outcomes of equality. I would argue that the ideologies of worldview, trump mere divisions of skin tone or ethnicity. President Trump’s inroads into certain minority groups in this election would seem to bear that out.

America remains divided more between red and blue in a culture war that does not seem to have an end in sight in our near future.

Interestingly enough, the cause may be due to the absence of the influence of Christianity in our nation, which once viewed as the moral glue that held this nation together since its inception.

America was more religiously diverse than most of us today might think in its infancy – denominationally, as well as between Deists, evangelicals and  Jews for that matter.  However, Americans of every worldview at that time in the wake of the revolution supported religious freedom and the idea of a creator God that was the source of and guaranteed their fundamental (“inalienable”) rights.

That theological worldview coupled with the correct view of mankind and his inherent sinfulness, saw that its citizenry could only remain free if it were virtuous – self-regulated or governed so a centralized government would not have to.

There was once a “civil spirituality” in our nation according to historians, or a set of common, religiously influenced American values which kept our states more ‘united’ than divided as it is today.

Therefore, I would argue that a true religious revival among God’s people (the church) may be just what this nation needs from preventing us- under God’s watchful hand, from falling from a culture war into civil war in 2021.

Election 2020: Captive Thoughts and Character Counted Pt. 1

Bernie Diaz, November 5, 2020

Could this week’s election results – or the conclusive lack thereof, have been more fitting in this year of uncertainty that has marked 2020?

As of the date of this post, America was still uncertain over who its President would be beginning with Inauguration Day in January of 2021.

While major news outlets pronounced Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden the winner in the states of Wisconsin and Michigan based upon post-election day estimates, his margin of victory remained razor-thin in the electoral college (towards the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the White House).

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s campaign challenged the results in both of those states plus Pennsylvania and Georgia – both of which are still counting mail and absentee votes now and perhaps through the end of the week. Par for this course, to use the golf analogy.

Our country has been wading in a sea of uncertainty over the state of our nation, its future and this election campaign all year long, which we hoped might be over by now. Uncertainty for many has reigned over:

The Coronavirus: which may be rearing its ugly head again, in a recent uptick of cases nationwide, as many “experts” expected in the midst of the winter flu season. Will the powers that be (subordinate to God as they are) look to further lock down or quarantine most communities, if not the country again as Western Europe is doing, in the hopes of eliminating any possibility whatsoever that anyone might contract the COVID-19 virus?

The economy: unemployment claims are trending down – slightly of late, but businesses continue to suffer with many having shut down in the wake of the pandemic’s policies and impact.

The state of race and civil unrest: recent post-election protests (e.g. Portland- which was actually announced in advance) featuring the obligatory round of looting, burning and ransacking of property in the name of social justice and tolerance, may have broken a period of relative calm before another storm.

What Me Worry?

If I were a secularist, or a basic, run of the mil, unbeliever living in the United States, I frankly wouldn’t have a clue as to how to think about, much less deal with all of the uncertainty surrounding our society right now. It would seem to be random and not make much sense at all, as to why it was all happening this way and this year. If I were an atheist, I would be worried.

Worry, or fear- anxiety, over current circumstances are part and parcel with living a life of a godless worldview or philosophy of life (‘captive thoughts’). Being a deist- one who believes in a deity that is nonetheless distant at best, or absent and unconcerned about the affairs of man at worst, should bring no comfort or consolation at all.

However, the Christian conscience – the biblically grounded thoughts of a disciple of Jesus that are held, “captive to Christ,” can make some sense of 2020 – without having all of God’s rationale available, because of knowing who God is and how that knowledge has and continues to manifest itself in our world.

That captive thought, spoke to the theme of the message I preached in my church last Sunday on election eve, “The Sovereignty of God.. Over the Nations.”  I argued in that sermon that Christians should not worry about the results of this election or anything else and are in fact, commanded not to (Matt. 6:25-34), because of God’s sovereignty.

Frankly I reminded my church that the sovereignty of God is one of my favorite doctrines in all the Bible as well as one of my favorite attributes of his, simply because that reality brings certainty and comfort- confidence to Christians in a world that feels uncertain and uncomfortable.

What does it mean that God is sovereign?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word or talk about a ‘sovereign?’ A king perhaps? A king is the absolute ruler of a kingdom in  earthly terms. Jesus Christ is known in scripture as the ‘king of kings and lord of lords.’ A Lord is also a master and that means an absolute authority.

With God, the concept of sovereignty goes even further than an earthly king. The sovereignty of God refers to the fact that God is in complete control of the universe, being the King over chaos in this world.

His sovereign lordship essentially means that He has the power, wisdom and both the freedom and the right to do anything He wants – including the ordination and control of particular governments over world history- all of them, including the outcome of the 2020 presidential election- whenever we finally catch up to his providential will and purpose and figure out who the President will be (Psa. 135:6).

The Old Testament prophet Daniel realized that truth when praising both God’s sovereign will and providence (the circumstantial outworking of his will) in interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s first of two dreams during Israel’s Babylonian captivity about 2,600 years ago, when he wrote: He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings (Dan. 2:21a).

That tremendously thought-provoking text, means that God not only  controls the course of all human history, but that he literally removes and sets up kingdoms- changes administrations and the rulers of all nations of all times and places. Indeed, God is behind the scenes and controls the scenes he is behind.

Therefore, we can conclude that Donald Trump is currently in the White House and that he or Joe Biden may occupy it anew in the new year, precisely because God put one of them there.

In fact biblically, we can affirm the same for every national government institution in history, from the Pharaoh in Egypt, to Alexander the Great, to Barrack Obama, Bill Clinton, Fidel Castro, Adolf Hitler, Karl Marx and everyone before or since (Ro. 13:1). God saw fit to have them all in power in one way or another, as we understand that he can take them out and preserve or keep them in power at any time and for as long as he wishes.

For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations (Psa. 22:28, ESV).

But if the above is true- and it is, then the implication must be that man has no vote- no say so in the election of government leaders right? Not quite. Human responsibility comes along side God’s sovereignty as the Lord’s  means to his ends, whether we’re talking about voting in an election, praying for something or someone or believing in Christ by faith. God has given us all a role to play- we exercise our will in day to day life, including the privilege and responsibility to vote, within the confines of God’s sovereign plans and what theologians call his providence. Ultimately, God is the decisive cause of our 2020 Presidential election (Job 12:23).

That providence – in other words, God’s gracious oversight of the world:  

1.  Upholds all things.

2.  Governs all events (Pro. 21:1).

3.  Directs everything to its appointed end.

4.  Does this all the time and in every circumstance.

5.  Does it always for his own glory and the good of his children.

Alas, are Christians to feel somehow intimidated by, or lacking somehow in influence over the events of our world today? Quite the contrary. Christians should feel confident that their lives, work and ministry is “not in vain” but under God’s gracious, merciful and watchful eye and held in his hands.

Also, we must remind ourselves that our King is not up for election, that our faith and kingdom is global, not primarily national or local and that politics—while important—is not ultimate.

But as to the election results to come- whenever that will be, the perfect government on earth is coming regardless, when its King – Jesus Christ, comes back to rule and reign over it with us. So Christian – no worries. If the candidate who is to be sworn in as our next President is immoral or ungodly in character or competency, remember that God is able to use even the most wicked of leaders to accomplish his good, eternal plan.

I for one, am not worried over the final results- as controversial or contrived as they may be, because my thoughts are captive to Christ with comfort and confidence, knowing God has pre-ordained the result, using his people, common grace and his providence to accomplish his good will and purpose.

In part two of this post, I hope to give you a biblical, post-election analysis of this election, speaking to the way that character and the captive thoughts of Americans played a role in the result.

Final Election 2020 Primer: the vote – Character, Competency and Conscience

Bernie Diaz, October 27, 2020

It took eleven different presidential elections over the course of a generation in my lifetime for me to finally cast an early vote as I did this week at a local library. Rarely have I seen lines this long at the ballot box and felt such an eerily quiet, if not ominous buzz among a crowd of voters who were casting this most consequential of votes.

This year’s election is so consequential because it not only demonstrates so well the political, cultural and ideological divide which exists in our country, but it also may well determine the societal direction of this nation for years to come.

I qualified the above statement with, “may” by the way, because the results of this election have already been preordained and will be providentially ordained or ordered by… God as of election night, November 3rd, as I will be preaching to my church congregation this coming Lord’s day (The Sovereignty of God, “Over the Nations”).

If God is sovereign- and he is, holding absolute rule and reign over all of his creation, including ultimately the acts and decisions of his own image bearers (Pro. 16:33; 20:21), Christians need not worry or become anxious over the results of this upcoming election. Tuesday night’s result will be precisely what God decreed to happen for this nation, by his own good will and pleasure, which ultimately and thankfully, will be for his glory and the good of his people.

So why vote? Because we understand that human responsibility complements God’s sovereignty and is the means he has ordered by which much of his will is carried out. American Christians have been given a privilege and a responsibility it may be argued, to cast a vote. Thus, the question remains should a Christian vote for the Presidential incumbent ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, or the challenger’s pair from the Democratic Party, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris?

The issues that we would normally consider in how we arrive at such a decision can be rather lengthy and complicated- particularly this year, to the extent that they must be prayerfully deliberated over with much wisdom (e.g. management of the Coronavirus, the economy, ‘racism and social justice’, foreign affairs, health care, climate, et.al). Many of these issues may be debated- lovingly, and graciously among believers as to applications and biblical positions, since they are not all explicitly delineated in the scriptures.

However, Christian voters must be reminded that where the scripture is clear- in the application of the Bible’s precepts, principles and practices to today’s politics, then our vote must be clear. I have argued in this series of posts that the Bible- even affirmed by our nation’s Judeo-Christian influenced founders, have made clear three essential issues of policy that should form the basis of our voting priorities: life, liberty and the ‘love of neighbor’, which are echoed in America’s foundational and Declarative principles of, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Life

There was a time in the 1990’s when a Democratic President of the United States (Clinton) actually wanted abortion to be: “safe, legal and rare.” Today, Biden and the Democratic party’s position might rephrase that as abortion being, ‘common and available at any time and for any reason.’ Whereas, in contrast, President Trump and the GOP platform might suggest that abortion once again become ‘illegal and unthinkable.’

This week’s Senate confirmation of Amy Comey Barrett as the newest justice of the Supreme Court, might just make the later possible by reversing the court’s Roe v. Wade decision of nearly 50 years ago, in the near future.

Unsurprisingly, our country remains divided on the life and death issue of this age, having been born and bred under the influence of Roe, with a majority of Americans favoring some restrictions on abortion, but supporting Roe as a general rule according to national polls. Regardless, born-again Christians are to think and therefore vote according to biblically based convictions about abortion, rather than compromising those convictions to political expediency and the pop-culture’s embrace of the sexual revolution.

Make no mistake about it, that moral revolution – supported by the radically liberal, political agenda of today’s Democratic Party, embraces the unlimited right to abortion- the intentional taking of innocent life and liberty  without limitation, even to the point of the delivery of the pre-born child.

Thus, we’ve already laid out the candidates’ position and their party’s platform on these three fundamental issues in this election primer series, beginning with life, of which the Bible is unambiguously clear on, being pro-life from womb to tomb.  

While some high-profile evangelicals of late, have ironically self-identified as ‘pro-life’ supporters of former Vice-President Biden, focusing on other issues and means to reduce abortion in this country, they have failed to join the vast majority of the evangelical church and her mandate to publicly call abortion the “greatest moral evil of our times” – which it is, and for the initiatives of any and all policies which may reduce the number of murders among the pre-born, who cannot speak for themselves (Pro. 31:8).

Inexorably, this issue and it’s potential for conflict, has led to the question, “Can you be pro-abortion and Christian?” The short and technical question would be yes, in that abortion is not a litmus test for salvation and a repentant sinner being justified by faith alone in Christ alone. However, it could be a litmus test as to the sanctification and level of a Christian’s biblically based wisdom, knowledge and discernment, being that God’s will and word is as clear as it is on this issue.

To ignore or willfully brush aside abortion as the moral issue which most closely and clearly reflects the heart of God and his role for government – which is to restrain and punish evil and to protect and promote that which God says is good (Ro. 13:2-4, 8-10), is to stand idly by the shedding of the most innocent blood among us (Lev. 18:21; Eze. 22:3-4).

Therefore, it may be said that the professing Christian who may be ambivalent to, or supporting pro-abortion as well as anti-family and anti-religious liberty policies and politicians, are morally blind and in desperate need of discipleship – ASAP, on the true disciples relationship to government – before Tuesday even.

Liberty and Love of Neighbor

I include both of these issues together here in summary, in the interest of space and redundancy, in that the biblical position is clear enough on both. First, in insisting that Christians support religious liberty as a policy issue, in order to maintain the freedom to congregate and worship God corporately, as well as to preach the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost – personally and publicly and to be able to work and live out their convictions of faith, as this government’s own constitution has guaranteed.

Second, the ‘love of neighbor,’ which encompass the justice and greatest good for the greatest number of people, which again begins with their opportunity to have life and to enjoy liberty.

Those two issues are intertwined with the enforcement of laws and policies which promote God’s design for family and for law and order. Therefore, were the factors of character and competency equal, the biblically informed, evangelical vote for President would seem to be abundantly clear – at least to me. However…

Character and Competency

Some pro-life, family and freedom Christians and leaders, including pastors as well-read and respected as John Piper, have been struggling with their conscience in voting for the re-election of President Trump, infamously known as perhaps the most arrogant, divisive and egotistical president of at least modern times, possessing a well-documented past and present record of sins, to the extent of again calling into question of whether or not his character makes him unworthy of the Christian vote, as it did in 2016.

Whereas, I cannot and will not condemn the conscience of a brother and sister in Christ who cannot vote in this election on the grounds of conscience, I would appeal to their conscience to reconsider each candidates’ competency- the ability to do the job in the Oval Office as well as the content of their policies, as the greater measure of being worthy of their vote.

Both Trump and Biden are sinners whose spiritual condition is unknown to us all, personal professions of faith notwithstanding. They both therefore deserve the prayers of God’s people for their salvation (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

But Piper among others who are abstaining from a vote this year, have drawn a moral equivalency of the President’s ungodly attitude, rhetoric or speech (guilty as charged) among other “respectable sins” as author Jerry Bridges called them, to the morally heinous sins of murder of the unborn and the oppression of the rights of the religious and the law-abiding. This just will not do in my theological view of scripture.

While yes, all sin is wrong and rebellious before the eyes of our holy and perfectly righteous God – equally deserving of condemnation, not all sins are equally condemned nor “hated” by God (Pro. 6:16-19). Indeed, the Bible seems to imply that there are different levels of punishment or torment in hell, indicating that the judgment will indeed be experienced differently for different people (Ja. 3:1; Rev. 20:11-15).

Therefore, I would argue that although ‘character still counts’, competency will count most, when the character of a candidate is questionable or cannot be all we would like it to be in a perfect world. A candidates character may be overridden by the overwhelming content of their political platform – their ability to do the greatest good for the greatest number of American people.

In 2020, I have come to understand that the policies of the presidential candidate I have already voted for, will have shed the greatest amount of salt and light on this country than the persona of the one running for the highest office in the land.

We are voting for the President – not Pastor, of the United States of America. As a fellow pastor in my community texted a group of us from an unknown source, “A vote is not a valentine. You aren’t confessing your love for the candidate. It’s a chess move for the world you want to live in.” In my view, my vote was for the kind of world best reflected by God’s will- from his word. I can’t go anywhere else in good conscience in order to vote.  

Election 2020 Primer: Love Your Neighbor…

Bernie Diaz, October 21, 2020

One of the things I love most about America’s founding is the simple, but amazingly profound truth and the perpetual relevance of its greatest values, found in the Declaration of Independence’s oft-quoted and too-oft neglected second paragraph:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..

Three items stick out to me from that text which make my voting that much easier when I cast my ballot in the upcoming presidential election for this country: (1) the truths and American values therein, are self-evident, having been given to us by God (“endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”).

These rights did not originate by man nor are they intended to be taken by man- including elected officials; (2) the basic human rights listed are not complicated to understand. They are not lengthy either. The big three are: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” which the latter being predicated upon the notion of justice; (3) the security of these rights to be protected by our government, are by “consent of the” who? The “governed” or the people.

That’s where our part as the governed kicks in with our vote, electing those officials and authorities that are best suited to secure these rights for us. That means we are not only choosing an imperfect presidential candidate, but as I have argued in our Election 2020 Primer series of ‘Captive Thoughts’, we are choosing a platform of policies that the candidate and his political party represent.

The idea then for the Christian voter as I see it, is to best marry the candidate and his party’s platform to the biblical view of that platform, beginning with this country’s declarative principles above.

Therefore, having already posted a biblically grounded and justified worldview for the first two of these three issues (life and liberty), I now move to the third, the ‘Love of Neighbor’ which is manifest in doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people by God’s standards, which means undergirding the critical institutions of family and law for a society.

I build my case for the love of neighbor primarily reflected in family and law, on the fact that God started it all there. He built a foundation for civilized society with the first three institutions of his creation: marriage (Gen. 2), family and then government as the means of administering justice (Gen. 4, 9).

If our government structures and election priorities get these issues right, there should be more liberty and wisdom going forward on the issues that follow, including the economy, the Coronavirus, civil and racial unrest, the environment, etc.  

Love of Family

When God created the world, it was “good” pre-fall, when he brought one man and one woman together in marriage for a lifetime to perpetuate ‘a Godly seed’ of worshippers for all time. That’s the divine design.

Post-fall (Gen.3), the institutions of marriage and family remain as the gold standard of life in community along with the church belonging to his son, and he additionally gave mankind the law – moral and civil initially, as a means of not only demonstrating his own holiness, character and attributes, but as a means of meeting out justice for all in a world that would be troubled by sin and injustice (Ro. 13:1-7).

Thus, for civilization to survive and thrive – the United States in our context, family and law must reign supreme and supported by our ‘love of neighbor.’ That means supporting public policy that harmonizes God’s plan for the world found in scripture. That further means that marriage remain hetero and not homosexual, legalized “same-sex marriage” notwithstanding.

When God says no, he means ‘Don’t hurt yourselves’ and his law condemning the homosexual lifestyle and inclinations as abnormal, dangerous and sinful (Gen. 19:1–13; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Ro. 1:26–27; 1 Cor. 6:9), seek to protect the body and soul of his image-bearers, as we from a heart of love seek to do the same.

We can love our homosexual neighbors in several ways, including servant evangelism and boldly voting for political candidates and platforms that seek their best, affirming the biblical doctrines of sexuality, marriage and family, which protect children and our future generations as well, even against the tide of our current sexual revolution.

The 2020 Democratic Party Platform – On LGBTQ Issues (Family)

  • Supports ban on “conversion therapy” practices (code for voluntary counseling – including Christian gospel based for those seeking change).
  • Supports this year’s Supreme Court ruling and legislation which includes LGTBQ identifying citizens as part of the 1964 Civil Rights equality law, prohibiting job “discrimination,” thus equating sexual preference and conduct with the immutable characteristic of ethnicity (race).
  • Presidential candidate Joe Bidden supports reversing President Trump’s executive orders regulating transgender policy (i.e. bathrooms, sports teams, medical insurance).

Biden in response to the concerns of a mother of an eight-yr. old transgender “daughter” during last week’s televised Town Hall, said, “I will flat out just change the law. Every — eliminate those executive orders, number one…. The idea that an 8-year-old child or a 10-year-old child decides, you know – ‘I decided I want to be transgender.’ That’s what I think I’d like to be.”

The former Vice-President, actually thinks the loving thing to do is to fight for the right of an eight-year-old boy to be encouraged to identify as a girl – because he and his mother want to, even to paraphrase WORLD magazine, “in the face of the most basic, indisputable, scientifically-verifiable, essential, for-the-continuation-of-the-human-race-indispensable facts of our existence — that we are created either male or female, which affects our entire embodied existence down to every cell of the body.”

The 2020 Republican Party Platform on LGTBQ Issues (Family)

  • Supports traditional marriage and family, based on one man and one woman. “Every child deserves a married mom and dad, and our laws and government regulations should actively promote married family life as the basis of a stable and prosperous society.”
  • Supports the removal of marriage penalties from the tax code and public assistance programs restructuring the tax code to increase adoptions and support families who adopt.

Christians must bear witness to the truth – including with their ballot, that God’s design for male and female is still good and that true flourishing can only take place when people embrace their God-given identity and design, in support of the family.

Love of Law

The Bible tells us that the most loving thing the civil law can do, is to punish evil, protect and promote that which God has deemed as good.

That is government’s primary responsibility, whether it be militarily or by local law enforcement, to be the last line of defense against tyranny, anarchy and chaos. Interestingly enough, the Democratic Party of the United States has been supportive of local and state policies which have done the opposite this year – subtly promoting civil unrest, rioting and the looting of public and personal property in the name of politically motivated, race-based protesting, while calling for police defunding.

New York City by the way, being among the first to jump on that bandwagon, has already found defunding of the NYPD to be an obvious boon to criminals and pose a danger to law-abiding citizens. How loving is that?

There can be no doubt that the love of neighbor should be reflected in social justice from how we look at life from womb to tomb. While we acknowledge racism or ethno-centricity as a real thing – always has been and always will be on this side of glory, as brought out in the wake of this summer’s police-related shooting incidents involving African-Americans, it is as we’ve previously posted, a ‘sin not a skin’ issue per se, meaning government cannot legislate away hate, as it wishes it could.

However, while the Christian voter can reject the false narrative of the cultural Marxist inspired, Critical Race Theory and intersectionality, they cannot ignore discrimination and bigotry where it exists, and can expect that the candidate they vote for would treat every life, regardless of color or race, with equal importance in their public policy initiatives, as created in God’s image.

Disciples of Christ should uphold platforms and policies which treat all Americans with basic justice, equality and dignity (Lev.24:22; Deut. 24:17-22), as part of a consistent pro-life worldview. Such a view affirms like the Good Samaritan, a multi-ethnic love of neighbor which allows every citizen to ‘pursue happiness’ in the purest sense.

Whereas Christians – citizens of two kingdoms which oppose one another often times, may differ as to the best course of political action on other secondary issues such as; education, the environment, guns, taxes and the economy – all which scripture speaks to, they can at least can begin their voting deliberations on which party’s person, platform and policies best align with God’s revealed word and his kingdom platform.

Interestingly enough, in a time long, long ago, this nation’s foundation (Declaration of Independence) looked like it was built upon God’s, beginning with Life, Liberty and the Love of Neighbor.

In our final Election 2020 Primer post, I’ll offer voter recommendations and guidelines as you prepare to cast your vote!

Election 2020 Primer: Give us Liberty or….

Bernie Diaz, October 14, 2020

If America is known for anything at all – characteristically as a nation both here and abroad, it is freedom. We are known traditionally as the, “Land of the Free.”

We love our freedom. In a speech to the English Parliament in late-1774, England’s King George had denounced the “daring spirit of resistance and disobedience to the law” of the American rebels which seemed to be spreading like wildfire across the continent in response to Britain’s economic pressures on the colonies. Amid those mounting tensions – in another time of civil and social unrest, the Second Virginia Convention convened to discuss their strategy in negotiating with the Crown.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both there, as were five of the six other Virginians who would later sign the Declaration of Independence. Prominent among those statesmen was Patrick Henry, an avowed Christian and a well-respected lawyer.

It was then and there in the midst of a debate over whether or not to engage in an eventual war of independence from the U.K., that Henry according to the historical account, held his wrists together as though they were chained and raised them toward the heavens, grabbed an ivory letter opener mimicking a knife blow to the heart and shouted, “Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty— or give me death!”

That quote helped energize the fight for freedom and to preserve it –  arguably one of the most fundamental of human rights, which would become among the most cherished of common values of the United States. As a result, for Christians looking to cast a vote for the Presidency of this country on the first Tuesday of November, freedom – religious liberty as guaranteed by this nation’s first amendment to its constitution’s Bill of Rights, has emerged front and center as an election issue to be seriously considered by the evangelical voter. 

I argue in fact that religious freedom is one of the three most critical issues that disciples of Jesus Christ should prioritize in comparing the candidates and platforms of the two political parties vying for the White House: Life, Liberty and the Love of Neighbor.

Some may find it surprising that so many Christian leaders and Christ followers are concerned right now about preserving this constitutional right to the freedom of speech and the free exercise of one’s religious beliefs in light of the historic commitment to this right that has transcended political party lines for so long.

For instance, in 1998, Democratic President Bill Clinton said, “The right to worship according to one’s own conscience is essential to our dignity as human beings.” Republican President George W. Bush agreed in 2008 and in 2012, President Barack Obama declared that religious liberty was a  “universal human right.” Just last year, the incumbent President Donald Trump added, “The right to religious freedom is innate to the dignity of every human person and is foundational to the pursuit of truth.”

However, those words have seemingly lost their impact since the sexual revolution began to take place in our nation more than a generation ago and has continued to roll on (LGTBQ) ever since, having rendered such presidential comments as archaic, referring to a time long, long ago in light of more recent news and events on everything from Coronavirus regulations to sexuality:

  • Discriminatory COVID-19 government orders and mitigation regulations on both local and state levels have unfairly targeted houses of worship who are banned from congregating in states like California and Nevada, forcing churches to ‘forsake the assembling of themselves’ while allowing freer access for gambling casinos, liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries and city street protests of every kind.
  • The state of New York told the Syracuse-based Christian adoption agency, New Hope Family Services, it had to place children with same-sex couples or not place them at all. But a federal court stepped in last week, ruling the agency could continue to operate according to its Biblical beliefs, for now.
  • Former local Kentucky clerk Kim Davis spent five days in jail in 2015 for declining to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to her Christian beliefs. The couples ultimately received their licenses but sued Davis anyway for unspecified damages. A federal appeals court just ruled the lawsuit could move forward, and the Supreme Court on Monday rejected Davis’ appeal.

What do cases like this and others that have threatened the religious liberty of other citizens of faith in America (i.e. wedding bakers, photographers, bed and breakfast owners and florists) have in common? One, their religious convictions and livelihoods have been held hostage by non-elected judicial ‘legislators’ and two, sexual freedom looks to have usurped religious freedom. How did this happen?

Two Supreme Court decisions within the last fifty years really redefined the American concept of liberty, prioritizing the freedoms of sexuality over the right for one to not only hold to their religious convictions but to also live in accordance with those convictions.

In 1973’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision, the right to abortion – a procedure usually performed to justify sexual irresponsibility, became the new law of the land in creating an unprecedented freedom to do away with the freedom and right to life of another vulnerable and innocent human being. The Obergefell decision of 2015, created a new and unprecedented version of marriage, legalizing and thus legitimizing in the eyes of the law, same-sex marriage, an abomination before God.

Little wonder why the current Supreme Court nomination hearings of Amy Comey Barrett now taking place in Washington have taken on such weight. The threat is real enough to have lead current Supreme Court justices  Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to publish a statement arguing that the Obergefell case’s mandate that all states recognize same-sex marriage, is “found nowhere in the text” of the Constitution and threatens “the religious liberty of the many Americans who believe that marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman.”

Despite assurances from the political left that religious freedom would be maintained in American life in the wake of Obergefell, Judge Thomas countered that Obergefell is highly flawed and marginalizes those who do not believe in same-sex marriage.

Even to the extent that in reference to the decision rejecting the appeal of marriage license clerk, Kim Davis, Thomas said Obergefell forced Davis to choose “between her religious beliefs and her job.”

Religious Freedom Matters

The battle lines have been drawn between both sides of this constitutional and gospel issue. Former Vice-President and Presidential candidate Joe Biden supports a Democratic Party platform which on the one hand claims to be, “an advocate for religious freedom throughout the world,” while on the other hand, opposes “broad religious exemptions to allow businesses, medical providers, social service agencies, and others to discriminate.”

In other words, the Democratic party platform’s position on religious liberty “opposes” religious conscious organizations and institutions from actually being Christian in belief and practice, because they will not follow in lock-step allegiance to the moral and sexual revolution. Yes, the classic and biblical Christian doctrine of sexuality and sin is branded as “discrimination” by this particular party.

Whereas, the Republican Party platform paralleling President Trump’s policy positions, “Supports the right of America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, according to their faith.” Among other party planks on the religious freedom question, the GOP platform:  

Supports the First Amendment Defense Act, that would bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman: “This Act would protect the non-profit tax status of faith-based adoption agencies, the accreditation of religious educational institutions, the grants and contracts of faith-based charities and small businesses, and the licensing of religious professions..”

Though religious liberty is not explicitly referred to in the scriptures, the principal is implicitly found throughout the Bible, seen in the use of persuasion rather than coercion as the means of drawing followers to Christ (Lu. 18:18-25) and illustrated by the apostle Paul’s appeal before Agrippa in Rome, when the Jews persecuted him for his unpopular gospel preaching (Acts 26:1-11).

The key application of the above is that religious liberty allows for Christians to not only worship God as he wills corporately and freely, but to preach the life-saving truth of the gospel freely and to live, work and play freely- according to the Christian’s Bible-informed conscience.

So without being politically partisan or biased- Christians should be neither per se, born-again believers I believe, have been given the privilege and responsibility to vote as a wise steward of that vote that God has allowed in this country, which may enable his gospel and kingdom to flourish and permeate society as salt and light is meant to do (Matt. 5:13-16).

A vote for religious liberty therefore, is a vote for the kingdom and cause of Jesus Christ to be expressed and proclaimed, including on all of the issues most clear and dear to the Lord our God. Next week’s post: Election 2020 Primer: Looking at the Platforms- Love of Neighbor.

Election 2020 Primer: Looking at the Platforms

Bernie Diaz, October 6th, 2020

In my most recent post (Election 2020 Primer: Voting and What to Look For), I argued that on occasion a biblically minded voter may be forced to look past the character or conduct of a particular candidate as the primary qualification for an elected office, and instead focus on their platform- or more likely, their political party’s platform of policies or programs as the best indicator of a candidates philosophy of governing.

At any given moment in time, one candidate’s position on an important election or governmental issue may morph into another for any number of reasons. The possibility of such a move was highlighted this past weekend when the world almost stopped- upon the news that President Donald Trump was diagnosed with the Coronavirus.

Though the President seemed to be on the road to recovery after having received some fairly aggressive treatment, he has had to alter his workload and travel on his re-election campaign trail with only three weeks remaining before election day.

All of this points to prospective evangelical voters needing to prayerfully do their homework as to where the candidates- or where their respective parties stand on the issues in comparison to the Bible’s positions and teaching on such issues.

Keeping in mind that the scriptures do not specifically address every significant issue of our modern times in detail, or that neither major party (Republican or Democrat) or candidates platform perfectly expresses the mind and heart of God on all the issues, a voter must do the best with what they have to work with.

One social media pundit put it well in a traveling analogy, posting: “Voting isn’t marriage. It’s public transport. You’re not waiting for “the one.” You’re getting on the bus. And if there isn’t one going exactly to your destination (read biblical preference), you don’t just stay home and sulk. You take the one that’s going to be closest to where you want to go.”

There is much wisdom in that comment, as one candidate may have a more biblically sound or influenced position on some moral and military issues, but may not reflect the revealed will and word of God as to dealing with poverty, social justice or even COVID-19 policy. It is a mixed bag of politics that we deal with. However, I find that where the Bible is most clear- particularly on the institutions and issues that God has clearly ordained for government, the scriptures are more than beneficial – they are essential– in helping us to vote biblically on election day.

Thinking in the most broad of categories, I would prioritize the Christian vote in three of those buckets: Life, liberty and the love of neighbor, which are biblically rooted and the first two of which are noteworthy as inalienable rights, coming from God to man in our nation’s founding, Declaration of Independence.

There were some rather interesting and relevant results of what were the top election issues going into the evangelical voter’s decision, according to a new Lifeway Research Poll, of which most surprising perhaps, were the ‘Personal character’ factor, ranking sixth at just 8% followed by the ‘Ability to address racial injustice.’

What ranked highest was a candidate’s perceived ability to improve the economy and then the ability to slow the spread of COVID-19, which are not only interrelated to one another, but the proposed solutions in dealing with both of them differ greatly from President Trump’s platform to the Democratic party’s challenger, Joe Biden. Moreover, both issues also pose a greater challenge of biblical discernment to voters as to what the clearest biblical path may be to take on them.

What is most clear are the revealed will and word of God’s positions on the critically important issues of abortion and the protection of religious freedom (life and liberty) which ranked third and fourth- even above national security for most likely evangelical voters.

Life

The distinction between both parties platform position on abortion could not be clearer, which is where we’ll begin this portion of our election primer in terms of the issues. What is ultimately most important then, is each platform’s juxtaposition to the word of God.

God speaks clearly as to the sanctity of every human life he has created through the biological process – from womb to tomb, as the unborn are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psa. 139:13-14).  There is inherent dignity and humanity in every preborn life as evidenced by Jehovah’s word to his prophet Jeremiah at the time of his ordination to ministry, “Before I formed you in your mother’s wombI chose you.Before you were born I set you apart….” Indeed, God by his sovereign authority orders life.

Why is it wrong then to abort a child? Because: (1) You Shall not kill (murder, Exo. 20:13) (2) You shall not play God. As Job told us (Job 1:21), God is God and we are not and to take innocent life in a premeditated, cold-blooded or calculated way is to play God, which is idolatrous and disobedient. God ordains governments to protect innocent life (Ro. 13), not take it, regardless of whether or not a particular government or society has legalized and legitimized abortion.

In our culture of death, brought largely upon our land by the Roe v. Wade pro-abortion Supreme Court decision of more than a generation ago, 60 plus million preborn children have been killed in our country and infanticide– the death of already born babies who have survived botched abortion attempts, is now a ‘right’ to be defended by one particular political party’s agenda.

The 2020 Democratic Party Platform – On Abortion

  • Opposes all federal and state laws that prohibit or restrict abortion.
  • Supports restoring taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.
  • Supports the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion services.

Interestingly enough, Joe Biden’s Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, a California Senator, earlier this year voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, which would have protected unborn babies from abortion procedures after the point at which they can feel pain (20 weeks).

Harris also voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would have required doctors present during a failed abortion — an abortion that results in the birth of a living infant — to provide the same level of care that would be offered to any other baby at the same stage of development. Make no mistake about it. The Democratic party is the political party of death, with respect to the life and liberty of the unborn.

Yes, the Democratic party has gone so far as to sanction the killing of babies today that are being born or have been born in some cases (partial-birth abortion), which is nothing less than infanticide. Many of these infants are fully-formed, awake and alive, as the body is extracted from the mother except the head, which is then punctured by a pair of scissors. This is barbaric and God is and will make those in authority over such legislation, pay for it on judgment day. That tragedy occurs hundreds if not several thousand times a year. In contrast to that platform…

The 2020 Republican Party Platform – On Abortion

  • Supports the sanctity of human life and affirms that the “unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.”
  • Supports a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.
  • Opposes taxpayer funding of abortion. Calls for a permanent ban on federal funding and subsidies for abortion and health-care plans that include abortion coverage.
  • Supports a ban on human cloning for research or reproduction, and a ban on the creation of, or experimentation on, human embryos for research.

Is God and his word pro-life or pro-abortion? You better believe pro-life. There is no debating the Bible’s position on this issue and which current party platform best reflects it. Therefore, Christians are mandated to speak the truth in love (Eph. 5:11) and do what they can- including with their vote, to rescue- protect the unborn!

Pro. 24:11 Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.

Pro. 31:8 Open your mouthon behalf of those unable to speak,for the legal rights of all the dying.

If life itself is precious to God and should be to man, and if liberty itself begins with life, there can be no greater or more fundamental an issue for a presidential voter to consider than abortion, as the bully pulpit of a president and his Supreme Court justice appointments speak volumes.

May social justice in America –such a prevalent topic of discussion today, be reflected in justice from a government towards its most vulnerable and innocent victims first- the unborn. Next post: Election 2020 Primer: Looking at the Platforms- Liberty.

Election 2020 Primer: Voting and What to Look For

Bernie Diaz, September 30, 2020

We’re six weeks away from the 2020 Presidential election- truly a momentous one for Americans, having somehow endured the grueling ninety minutes of the first of three debates between the candidates; the Republican incumbent, President Donald Trump and the Democratic Party’s candidate, former Senator and Vice-President Joe Biden.

With COVID-19, racial and civil unrest and economic uncertainty still abounding in what has been a year of social upheaval, the stakes of this election are arguably greater than they were even in 2016, when Trump – a successful if not iconic businessman, celebrity and political novice, pulled  off a historic upset in defeating his Democratic opponent Hilary Clinton, herself a former Senator and First Lady in winning the White House.

The Supreme Court vacancy now available due to the passing of jurist Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has upped the stakes that much more since her possible successor, Amy Comey Barrett, a conservative and Catholic federal judge and mother of seven, has been nominated by President Trump to replace RBG, a legend of sorts among most liberals which has upset the elites and much of the electorate on the left to no end. That development may indeed impact voter turnout on Super Tuesday.

Last night’s presidential debate may have only clouded the issue for some undecided voters while partisans likely remain entrenched in support of their candidate.

In spite of the shouting match that posed as a debate this week, my aim over the next several posts leading to the election on November 3rd, will be an attempt to share ‘my thoughts held captive to Christ’, in the hopes that wisdom and sanity may be imparted to you and yours, in a way that will help you to better think biblically in the final days of the campaign, including whether or not you will vote and how.

To Vote or Not to Vote? That is the question

The right to vote as we posted in the last election cycle, was not a biblical option for citizens of the Roman Empire in the time of Christ and is not a topic explicitly dealt with in scripture.

Therefore, a Christian holding to both the sufficiency and authority of scripture (a topic upon which I preached at my church last Sunday) should refrain from being overly dogmatic or judgmental towards those who choose to vote or not to vote.

However, because the Bible is sufficient and necessary, it is not silent as to how one may arrive at a decision as to whether to vote, before even deciding on which candidate to vote for. Where the scriptures do not provide a black and white command or imperative – positive or negative on such a question, a grey issue like this one may be clarified and converted to black and white for each individual Christian, by conviction of their own conscience in obedience to the wisdom found in God’s word.  

While it is true that a Christian is not obligated to vote, as there is no scriptural command or admonition to do so, I would argue there would be much wisdom in doing so. The Lord has given disciples of Jesus Christ the clear command to be a ‘good steward’ or manager of all he has blessed us with and that would seem to include the right, if not the responsibility to vote.

Although a responsibility is not necessarily an obligation, American voters have the opportunity if not the responsibility to influence their governments’ administration of the Romans 13 mandate ordained by God, to protect a society by punishing evil and promoting what is good. They do not “bear the sword in vain” and thus, unlike much of the world (e.g. Cuba, China), citizens of the United States are afforded the freedom to make a great political impact on their future, by casting a vote for a particular party platform and candidate in the hopes it will better protect the citizenry.

Voting in my view is not a ‘must’ but a ‘can do’ and a ‘should do’, meaning a privilege as well as a responsibility which should be exercised if we truly want to comprehensively love our neighbor (Gal. 6:10), since government holds such sway in the lives of our neighbors. And if you don’t vote, then please save the complaints about what ifs and why did the outcome result in this or that.

I learned in a certain presidential election – oh, twenty years ago, that an election can be swung or decided by virtually a single vote or “hanging chads,” as was the case in Florida, when that outcome was decided by a mere 700 votes or so in my state.

Avoiding politics and silencing the Christian voice heard at the ballot box has proved to be a detriment to a nation as evidenced by the historic examples of the mainline German church bowing to Hitler’s Germany and the American church failing to unify in denouncing 19th century slavery and mid- 20th century Jim Crow laws.

Person or Platform?

What makes our decision more difficult than in prior generations, can be the problem of finding a worthy enough candidate to vote for.

What is a Christian to do, when he or she must choose to vote for a candidate whose character is questionable at best and whose conduct is sinful if not rebellious towards the biblical standards we hold to?

Furthermore, how do you vote when neither candidate of our currently exclusive, two-party system approaches a moral or biblical standard of behavior that we can be comfortable with, regardless of their faith profession?

This was a similar dilemma which evangelical Christian voters faced in the last presidential election, in the choice between Donald Trump, who admittedly had committed more than a bit of fornication and adultery in his life, to say little of his acerbic if not crude rhetoric, and Hillary Clinton, who was investigated on more than one ethical scandal in her career as an elected official.

That contentious election brought us the conflict between the #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary voters. This year, character does not seem to be as big an issue as it has been in the past. Despite new allegations of prior personal income tax evasion, President Trump’s first term in office has assuaged many fears among biblically minded voters. Though Senator Biden’s past cannot be classified as ‘squeaky clean’ either (i.e. past sexual harassment rumors and his involvement in his son’s business dealings), the character of the person running for office has now seemed to take a back seat to the politics or platform of policies of the person.

If you think that we’re voting for a ‘Commander in Chief’, rather than a Pastor in chief as President, a vote for a less than ideal candidate in character, would make some sense.

But make no mistake, God’s word speaks often to the grace and benefits of a virtuous “king” or leader for a nation (Pro. 10:9a; 14:34; 16:12; 25:5).

Indeed, a Presidential candidate of a biblically sound character would be optimal, but an optimal choice is not always available in a world of decisions we have to make on what is often, ‘good, better or best.’

If you were looking for signs of presidential dignity, decorum and character in debate number one to help guide your vote, you learned that you’ll need to look elsewhere, as voters over American history have had to do on occasion in the past (e.g. Lincoln-Douglas debates).

Remember that God has sovereignly used more than one non-kingdom, national leader or authority to advance his kingdom over redemptive history (Gen. 41:37-57; Dan. 2:46-49; Ezra 1:1-4 and Est. 6; 8).

Therefore, the best option for a Christian voter in this upcoming election, may be to consider the following criteria as most beneficial for the kingdom and this country:

  • Competency (is the candidate intellectually, physically and emotionally capable of doing the job?)
  • Content (which policy platform of the candidate and their party best represents the moral and political values consistent with the Bible?)
  • Character (is the candidate trustworthy enough to place a confident vote for?)

Though the priority of qualifications may vary from one voter to the next, the truly independent and non-partisan, Christian voter may have to accept a ‘lesser of evils’ as the best available option and prayerfully ponder which of the myriad issues we face today must be prioritized in order to vote biblically.

The rest of this month’s posts will be dedicated to dissecting those issues and each candidate’s party platform and position on them.

Election 2020- God, Government and RBG

Bernie Diaz, September 24, 2020

Part of my intention in posting a recent two-part post for this blog, Reclaiming America, was to biblically ground a political worldview for the upcoming presidential election in November. Looking at government as God does has never been more needed in my lifetime than now.

As per the objective of sharing my captive thoughts to Christ with you in this space, I’d like to begin having my readers think through this 2020 election, with a view to ‘render to Caesar’ (government) what is his, and to Christ what is his – both under the Lord’s dominion, with the emphasis of those initial posts exhorting Christians to focus their attention on reviving and reclaiming the church – it’s theological fidelity, before concentrating on reviving a nation of 330 million plus citizens, which is neither our mandate or mission, nor is it within our means to do so.

However, in the interests of rendering to Caesar our proper vote from a Christian perspective, we must be informed with and be engaged in our political process, for as long as we have the right to do so.

If there weren’t enough political hot potatoes to handle already, in forging a biblical worldview of our country (e.g. COVID-19, racial and civil unrest, the economy) it’s government and the two candidates vying for the White House, news came forth late last week that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the diminutive firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon, died from complications of pancreatic cancer.

Ordinarily, a death of one of the high court’s justices would not spur as much anxiety, political analysis and speculation as Ginsburg’s has this past week, but then again, she was no ordinary justice. 

Ginsburg, a former attorney who argued cases on behalf of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) before the Supreme Court on a half-dozen occasions, was an architect of the fight for women’s rights in the 1970s, before serving 27 years on the nation’s highest court, becoming perhaps its most prominent member.

Having been by her own admission a rather radical, leftist and liberal activist, in and out of her chair, her death has already set in motion what promises to be a tumultuous and critically important political battle over who will succeed her, thrusting this Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.

Ginsburg’s death will have profound consequences for the court and the country. Inside the court, not only is the leader of the liberal wing gone, but with the court about to open a new term, the chief justice no longer holds the controlling vote in closely contested,’5-4’ type cases such as abortion and family law, impacted by the sexual revolution and religious freedom.

The implications of Ginsburg’s vacancy on the high court are massive, affirming the rationale for why a majority of evangelicals elected Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016. It is the President who exercises the given authority to appoint Supreme Court and federal court justices in our country.

The President has practically only two options to choose from in making these federal appointments, both having to do with one’s interpretation of government’s role and this nation’s constitution itself. Will he appoint a justice who understood that our constitution was meant to be interpreted by the author’s original intent, which was for it to be an objective and time transcendent document of law and values (‘originalist’ view)? Or, a justice who believes that the constitution and it’s Bill of Rights is a subjective, evolving document, meant to be interpreted by following the prevailing winds of an American culture and court at any given time?

That is the ideological divide that marks the court. Either government is about the separation of powers and authority as the founders intended, between the executive (White House), legislative (congress) and the judicial (SCOTUS), or it is not. One branch of government was never intended to usurp the authority of the other, as the Supreme Court has over the last several decades, with its controversial decisions on cases and matters of faith, family and freedom.

The legislative body of government ordained by God and elected ‘by the people for the people,’ never made law legalizing abortion or ‘same-sex marriage.’

Rather, it was the judicial body that made those laws in essence by their slim majority decisions in both 1973 (Roe v. Wade) and 2015 (Obergefell) respectively, among a host of others.

 What is God’s Role for Government?

Government is one of the three institutions which God created to anchor and order mankind, along with marriage and the church, as revealed in scripture. That same scripture being all ‘sufficient and necessary,’ is what reveals God’s purpose for government (Ro. 13:1-8).

After calling for Christians to reasonably submit to the governing authorities God has placed over us (Ro. 13:1-2) and dutifully doing so in paying taxes (vv. 5-7), sandwiched in between those passages are two very clear, New Testament verses which lay out the nature and greatest priority of a government:

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer (Ro. 13:3-4, ESV).

In other and more simple terms, government is mandated by God to administer law and order to a given society, American and otherwise. Those who profess Christ and are supporting the more violent and unlawful protesting taking place in this country should pay particular attention to this.

The government does not “bear the sword in vain”, or for nothing, meaning a firm response to violence and anarchy, including the call to execute capital punishment today, as ordained to be a swift and most severe form of punishment and deterrent to cold-blooded and premeditated murder that aims to limit evil and promote good and godly behavior, while upholding the sanctity of innocent life, from womb to tomb.  

Commenting on this doctrine, the reformer John Calvin wrote, “.. The Lord has designed in this way to provide for the tranquillity of the good, and to restrain the waywardness of the wicked; by which two things the safety of mankind is secured: for except the furyof the wicked be resisted, and the innocent be protected from their violence, all things would come to an entire confusion.”

It is that scriptural worldview which informed so many of the reformers and founding fathers of this nation, including it’s first President, George Washington who said of Government’s power and authority to keep law and order, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

That quote affirmed the apostle Paul’s inspired admonition from Romans 13 for citizens to heed government’s primary purpose of keeping law and order, “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval..”  

In conclusion of this thought, ‘captive to Christ’, may we begin our consideration of casting a vote on November third, by reconciling the law of love for individual Christians with God’s purpose for law, order and government- affirmed by this nation’s foundational documents in mind and with a certain Supreme Court vacancy up for grabs.

Let’s pray that we may see the good that results from applying the principles of God’s word and the horror that results from rejecting them, as we at the very least, seek to keep out of office those who attempt to explicitly oppose God’s authority. This is where election worldview starts.

Reclaiming America For Christ- Pt.2 How About the Church?

Bernie Diaz, September 16, 2020

In part one of this post, I argued that the idea of ‘Reclaiming America for Christ’ as a politically based agenda for the church is not one that can be biblically justified, as appealing as that idea may sound to patriotic ears.

We all want a better America and we could sure use a more moral and just America in our days of civil unrest, COVID-19 craziness and economic uncertainty right now, yet God’s people should know that we are to do his work, his way and civil revival nor revolution are his ways – particularly by political means.

Therefore, although Christians have by God’s grace the freedom if not the responsibility to vote and vote well, the church itself must be ‘reclaimed’ or return to its Lord and Savior- at least theologically, by getting on the same page biblically, before it becomes more preoccupied with our upcoming presidential election than it already is, according to the just released, biennial Lifeway and Ligonier survey on the State of Theology for 2020. 

Perhaps the biggest change in this theological survey of Americans and confessing evangelicals in comparison to 2016, is the finding that evangelicals are half as likely to believe that Christians should be silent on political issues than they were in the prior election cycle. Action on social media right now would seem to affirm this finding, that professing believers are becoming more politically passionate and engaged than in 2016, but at what cost?

Are Christians becoming more politically literate and energized while becoming less so – biblically and theologically? The State of Theology’s survey results are mixed on that question. Among the good news from evangelicals is their doctrine and near unanimous beliefs about God:

  • God is a perfect being (97%)
  • God is a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (96%)
  • God cares about our day-to-day decisions (87%)

What is not so good according to the survey results, was the uncertainty among evangelicals in their doctrine about the persons and nature of the Trinity, beginning with Jesus Christ, where a disappointingly high number still believe the heresy of Arianism, which teaches that Jesus is not God but rather his greatest ‘creation.’

Two-thirds (65%) affirmed the statement that “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” Moreover, in a question that was new to the survey this year, a sizable minority (30%) of those with evangelical beliefs do not believe that Jesus is God but instead think he is simply a “great teacher.” Frankly, a rejection of the doctrine of the deity or divinity of Jesus, could disqualify one from even claiming to be a Christian, evangelical or otherwise.

As to the Holy Spirit, nearly half (46%) of professing believers say the Spirit is a “force” rather than a person. And almost 2 in 10 believe the Spirit can tell them to do something which is forbidden in the Bible. Both of those assertions are contradictions in themselves with respect to the biblical and evangelical faith and betray a lack of scriptural understanding.

What is an Evangelical?

You’ll note I have not and will not cite the stats or make any analysis of mainstream attitudes of theology among Americans as a nation, from the survey, since we should assume non-confessing believers will have limited if any correct understanding or theology about God and his gospel anyway. They are what they are and are in need of the gospel.

However, the survey’s results are most meaningful when considering the identity of evangelical Christians, a term which traces its roots to a few centuries back, but began to take hold as a label in describing many Christians in the U.S. around the early 20th century to the present.

‘Social gospel’ and other liberal leaning Christians tend to shy away today from the evangelical label, believing as many secularists and politicos do, that evangelical Christian is code for, ‘ A Republican,’ who talks about God a lot in the United States. That stereotype has unfortunately infiltrated much of our county’s discourse over the last generation of time, due to the apparent allegiance or marriage that has taken place between the GOP and politically and often biblically conservative Christians (i.e. ‘The Moral Majority’ and the ‘Religious Right’).

Political partisanship aside, evangelicals are typically characterized by whether one strongly agrees with each of the following four statements for the purposes of discussion:

The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe (Sola Scriptura– Scripture Alone).

It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin (Sola Gratia – Grace Alone).  

–  Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation (Solus Cristos – Christ Alone).

Interestingly enough, one could say that the above evangelical beliefs are doctrines which parallel at least three of the five sola’s of the Protestant reformation.  

So, what does theology and doctrine have to do with “Reclaiming America?” The answer to that question has more to do with the reformation sola of God’s glory alone (Soli Deo Gloria), than simply casting a vote at the ballot box.

God is most glorified by kingdom citizens who understand that their true “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20) and therefore, are ‘strangers on earth,’ as the apostle Peter’s first letter to the early churches implies, echoing the calling of Israel’s remnant to live as exiles while in Babylonian captivity.

Or to put it another way, we belong to God, not to any political party. It was in Babylon where God’s chosen people were commanded to be theologically and doctrinally pure, to plant themselves in a community, congregate as a people, live godly lives and pray for and seek the ‘welfare of the city’ where they had been sent (Jer. 29:4-9).

Yes, Christians as American citizens of the ‘City of Man’ (non-believers, pagans) as Augustine would put it, should seek the welfare of and justice for their country and communities. Participation in politics is a part of that- it is just not primary to the Lord’s kingdom advance in the U.S.A.

By majoring in the majors, meaning proper theology and doctrine in contrast to some of the State of Theology survey results above, disciples of Christ should be better informed and therefore wiser when they vote.

Voting in God’s will – ‘WWJVT’ (Who Would Jesus Vote For), will best serve this nation and will best be accomplished when true ‘evangelicals’ best and most consistently know their Lord, Savior, God and scriptures.

Let’s get Christian noses in Bibles and in the fellowship of God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated and Spirit-filled churches, doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way, before we worry about who and what we vote for on election day.  

Reclaiming America For Christ?

Bernie Diaz, September 9, 2020

Back in the mid 90’s a powerful and influential church ministry based out of South Florida, hosted a conference for Christians, which was covered quite closely by the local and secular news media at the time, entitled, Reclaiming America for Christ. The title for the conference alone, must have sent shivers up their spine.  

As a member of the Christian media community and a card-carrying member of the Christian Coalition (remember Pat Robertson anyone?) back then, I was a fired-up, politically astute Christian, studying American History via the influence of David Barton’s WallBuilders ministry and I was ready to attend the conference, interview Christian leaders and charge hell on earth (made up exclusively of Democrats and liberals of course- LOL!) with a squirt gun until… I began to think about something.

I began to think some time thereafter and question myself, if God was truly interested in having his church ‘reclaim America?’ Is that the Christian’s end-game? Understanding the counter-cultural nature of God’s kingdom on earth and the “narrow gate” by which true believers must pass through in order to enter it (Lu. 13:23-30), I began to wonder if God’s revealed will and world was for the church to be in the business of reviving a nation’s society and culture at any time or place, leaving it in its largely unredeemed state, little more than a relatively peaceful, prideful, flag-waving country of self-righteous, modern-day Pharisees?

Perhaps the call on that church to ‘reclaim America’ had more to do with its post-millennial eschatology (end times study), which strives to make a people or nation ready to receive the return of King Jesus as its Lord of planet earth. Or for others, it might have been the preservation of America’s founding roots, history (now under much scrutiny) and Judeo-Christian culture. Perhaps it was all of the above and more.

Regardless, my study of scripture and observation of the church and state of America over the last generation, has revealed a dichotomy that few evangelicals have paused to consider. That being that our Christianity and the advance of the cause and kingdom of Christ and his church, may come in conflict with and far supersedes America’s present and future.

Let’s think about it. Aside from God’s choice and preservation of the remnant of a nation (Israel) to be a lighthouse of his law and covenants to the world, the Bible gives us no specific preference or partisanship for one country’s future over another. He has blessed the U.S. greatly of course and some more than others, that sought to fear him or acknowledge his presence and propagate the justice found in his word and nature, but yet he has allowed his people – even called them to live as virtual ‘strangers on earth’ everywhere (1 Peter), as exiles (see Babylon in Jer. 29) and foreigners whose real citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).

Think about it. We have more in common with our brother or sister in Zambia, than our unbelieving friend and neighbor here, who happens to share our political persuasion.

Can a Dead Nation Revive Itself?

In light of our country’s current season of COVID-19, civil and racial unrest and economic uncertainty, many well-intended Americans and even more evangelically minded Christians have been calling and praying for a national revival, for God to reclaim America for Christ even. That sounds great at first glance, but can revival come to a nation that is in large part, spiritually dead (Ro. 3:10-23, Eph. 2:1-2)? If so, what are we praying for?

If one looks at the ‘Great Awakenings’ that have occurred in America – most notably of the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the church which began to revive and thrive in disciples made, matured and multiplied, beginning in pockets of smaller, repentant and prayerful circles of believers.

Revival existed by way of  Christians showing and sharing Christ, newly empowered by the Holy Spirit and energized by gospel oriented, hard-hitting and truth-telling preachers (e.g. Edwards and Whitefield) in such a way as to be used of God to rouse larger portions of a sleeping giant of a nation. Those revivals were wonderful, they glorified God and brought thousands more into the kingdom, justified and revived by a repentant faith given to them by their Lord and Savior (2 Tim. 2:25-26), but the objective was not primarily to revive the culture and status of the nation itself.

True biblically based revivals are unmanufactured. They are extraordinary movements of the spirit of God, manifest in extraordinary ways among his people, redeeming more of his people.

They are not intended to merely reflect a nation that may resemble the name of Christ culturally, while remaining by and large, dead, deaf, dumb and blind to his true value and majesty.   

But rather, revival in the church of Jesus Christ is meant to point the millions of unredeemed citizens in a nation to the only person and source of redemption which may be found, where there is life – now and forevermore (Jo. 14:6; Acts 4:12).

In other words, a godly country can only reflect a godly or righteous people, which can only happen and last, if manifested by a people that have been born-again, and declared righteous (justified) by their holy and righteous God. Anything else, will be a politically driven and temporal season of moralism at best, and Phariseeism at worse.

There will be a time where God’s kingdom on earth, a future, Edenic world, reclaimed and ruled by Christ will come and in which every knee will bow and tongue will confess Jesus as Lord (Phil. 2). The entire world will be reclaimed and enjoyed in my view, for a historic and literal 1,000 year reign (Dan. 7:13-14; Rev. 20). I can’t wait for that time to come and every living Christian today should feel the same in anxious anticipation of it. That is the believer’s hope of glory in the second coming of King Jesus.

How Now Shall We Reclaim Christ?

How now shall we revive America? God commands us to pray for common grace, saving grace and peace to come to our land and for its leadership (1 Tim. 2:1-4) as we humbly submit to its authority (Ro. 13:1-7; Ti. 3:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:13-17) whenever possible.

So, let’s ‘render to Caesar’ what is his – including a Biblically informed vote from law-abiding and tax-paying Christian citizens. But let’s not be under any illusions that the upcoming election will produce nationwide revival in and of itself, or that a neo-messiah will occupy the White House. Ultimately, before and as Christ comes back, things will get worse before they get better (Matt. 24:9,12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Rev. 19:11-16).  

Revival and restoration will come to whatever remains of the United States when Jesus is good and ready to move his rightful throne from heaven to earth. Until then, God’s people should be the church and let the state be the state. How does the church begin to do that? We’ll look at the state of the church before we concern ourselves with the state itself in our next post.