Tag Archives: faith and politics

My Favorite Verse

I was recently asked about my favorite verse of Scripture.  I decided to go with my favorite verse(s) from the words of Jesus. The following video was produced for a Birnham Woods sermon series called “Bookmarks”.

As Christ followers, have you considered what it really means to be known by our love? Do you have a favorite verse of Scripture that has shaped your life and thinking for the Kingdom? Share your thoughts.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Why I Do Not Support or Oppose Gay Marriage

A few weeks ago I posted Support Us or You’re a Bigot? here at the blog. I received a steady wave of feedback. It was mostly civil. I learned this much, if you want to boost your blog traffic just express your views on homosexuality or gay marriage.

The primary point of Support Us or You’re a Bigot? was to voice my concerns over the name-calling and the vitriol that is so common when we allow extremists to set the stage of any debate. It’s wrong, unfair, and dishonest. A person can disagree with “gay marriage” and still love their gay neighbor, just as they do their Muslim, Wiccan, and white supremacist neighbor. I’m pleased to say that my post resonated with gay folks I know who also don’t approve of the way both progressives and fundamentalists have handled the debate.

Let me be clear. I don’t support or oppose gay marriage. And for good reason. It is for me a conviction rooted in Christ and his ability to creatively navigate cultural situations and contexts for the sake of the Kingdom.

I wonder if you have recognized that we can’t hear a third way of dealing with this in the culture because the matter is truly unlike most issues involving civil rights. It’s not a race issue, it’s a moral issue. And some folks are legitimately concerned that if “gay marriage” is sanctioned (based on the feelings one person has for another), then what is to stop polygamy, or something even more detestable? Are you going to deny their “rights” too?

You can’t easily brush this question aside if you’re an honest, thinking person. Why should “rights” stop with gay couples? It shouldn’t according to the logic of the LGBT folks and supporters I’ve heard. But what sort of world would we be inviting? It’s a question for the church and the state.

There you have it, folks—one more reminder why politics, and the rules it must operate by, will never be able to bring the full measure of peace, freedom, and justice we long for in the world. You have to draw the line somewhere, but it will require that we reach beyond utilitarian logic itself to a divine, transcending order in the universe.

Something, oddly enough, even America’s deist founders understood.

No pragmatic politics or ethics will do. Without moral boundaries given from above, i.e. built into creation and divinely revealed, we must make it up as we go. “Do what thou wilt” shall be the whole of the law.

In case you missed it, I’ve been upfront that I don’t believe homosexuality (or even faithful “monogamous” homosexual relationships) is God’s best for humanity. And I believe this should be lovingly addressed in the church, right after we address the problem of divorce and adultery among heterosexuals. So, I believe it’s at this point an “in-house” issue.

The real problem I see here is what happens to the issue when it enters the ambiguous, complex, and nasty realm of politics. As an Anabaptist thinker and practitioner, this is where I bow out with a purpose.

While I don’t believe in a complete, unilateral withdrawal from politics, I’m convinced that a political response from evangelicals is not helpful at this point. All of this is happening because the church has failed to display the beauty of the covenant relationship between a man and woman, and because of her unwillingness to love neighbor and enemy alike.

In other words, the acceptance of homosexuality and a “gay identity” in our culture is symptomatic of a much bigger problem.

The way I see it the church’s engagement with politics should (on most occasions) be a creative indirect engagement with the state.

Our faithfulness to Christ in community, seen by the way we conduct ourselves in the church, is the primary means by which we persuade the State to conform to the Kingdom.

Every day that goes by (in this so-called “democracy”) makes it more difficult to maintain our witness for Christ and also involve ourselves with the business and conundrums of the state.

It’s just unfortunate to me that most evangelicals never question the methods of politics. Jesus distanced himself from worldly kingdom power and taught his followers to do the same. He refused to enter into pointless, hot-button debates by choosing sides. And that’s why I have chosen neither to support or oppose what’s going on within politics on this issue.

With that being said, because of the nature of this debate, I do think that this whole thing wouldn’t be such an uproar if the state would deal only with civil unions, and leave “marriage” to the local church.

The church should concern herself with the church and let the state do what the state’s gonna do at this point. 53 percent of Americans are in favor of gay marriage, including many Christians. I suspect that number will continue to rise. It’s the world we now live in folks. Entering into the political debate is doing more harm than good for the Gospel of Christ.

I think it might be different (allowing the church to speak out on the issue) if she had been faithfully following Jesus in the first place. But how can we speak up when we’ve made a bloody mess of the institution of marriage ourselves. We’ve failed to protect marriage and our gay neighbor made in God’s image, therefore we’ve lost the right to speak.

Speaking from a political platform only perpetuates the problem—-as well as thinking that buying Chic-Fil-A in an organized boycott-retaliation helps the cause of Christ and communicates love for our neighbor. We must stop allowing the world to shape us into its mold, and give up on the American “let’s-police-the-world” approach to issues that concern us.

This hostile and down-right belligerent defense is nothing more than sanctified bullying and coercion done in Jesus’ name. And we’re reaping the consequences for it all in our now “post-Christian” society.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Support ReKnew

As many of you know, I did a Q&A with Pastor Greg Boyd about his ministry and upcoming books back in November 2012. I have followed Greg for a few years now (2006?). His theology has influenced me on multiple levels. I have often found his work to confirm much of my own study.

If I’m being gleefully honest… Greg has brought about a paradigm shift in my understanding of the nature of God in Christ, the complexities of the universe, and the beauty of the Kingdom of God.

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to Skype with Greg. We talked for an hour about our lives and how they have converged in pursuit of the Kingdom. I told him of my desire to plant a church in Texas that appreciates real theological inquiry and engenders creative mission.

The sort of thing he is leading at Woodland Hills in St. Paul.

BTW: In case you’re wondering, I’ve been in conversation with friends and in serious prayer about how to move forward. We’ve been in Houston for almost six years, but we have been considering the possibility of making a move and doing something new in Austin—where the culture and environment is much different than our own.

I appreciate your continued prayers as we seek the Lord.

As I told Greg, I feel that my place is in leading a church sometime in the near future. But not just another evangelical church. I’m not sure where that will be or what it will look like yet, but in the meantime I’m believing that… as I’ve said to my friends… God is doing stuff.

And I believe God is doing stuff through ReKnew. I’m excited about the work these guys are doing!

Here’s what Greg posted at his blog a couple weeks back:

We are living at a very important, and very exciting, juncture of history. The old religion of Christendom that has been identified with “Christianity” the last 1600 years is dying, and out of its ruins is arising a new tribe of kingdom revolutionaries. All around the globe people are getting the revelation that the kingdom is all about a God a looks like Jesus transforming a people to look like JesusReKnew was launched six months ago to serve as a catalyst for this revolution and to help mobilize this revolution. If you are among those who want to be part of this new movement that God is raising up, I ask you to please give me 9 minutes of your time to listen to the vision I cast in this talk and to prayerfully consider how God might call you to join us in this important endeavor.

I’m committed to Greg’s vision because I believe in his ministry and the tremendous resource that ReKnew will become in the days ahead. If you’re looking for something worthwhile to invest in this year, please consider supporting ReKnew in the coming Kingdom revolution.

Viva La Revolution!

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Q&A with Pastor Greg Boyd, Part I

Greg Boyd received his Ph. D. from Princeton Theological Seminary (1988), his M.Div. from Yale Divinity School (1982) and his B.A. from the University of Minnesota (1979). He was a professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University (St. Paul, MN).

In 1992, Greg co-founded Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical fellowship in St. Paul. He is also president of ReKnew.org. Greg is a pastor, theologian, and author of more than a dozen academic and popular books.

Some of his books include, Letters From a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about ChristianityThe Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus TraditionIs God to Blame?: Moving Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Evil, and the best-selling book The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church, which led to a New York Times front-page article and several television interviews.

In 2010, Greg was listed as one of the twenty most influential Christian scholars alive today. He continues to challenge evangelicals with his theological ideas and Kingdom vision. His work is an inspiration to those evangelicals that believe a revolution is needed in the church.

Greg is a pioneering Christian intellectual and church practitioner. He is helping to bridge the gaps between the church & academy, faith & reason, theology & science, as well as confession & mission.

I asked Greg if he would be willing to share his Kingdom vision with my readers. He was gracious enough to answer some of my questions about his ministry at Woodland Hills and talk about his upcoming books.

The Q&A will come in three parts. Enjoy!
___________________________________________________________________

Hey Greg, thank you for taking time out to talk about your ministry at Woodland Hills, and to give us a sneak peak of your two upcoming books.

I must say that I’ve been personally impacted by the work you’re doing in the church today, and I think many evangelicals need to hear and understand your vision for the Kingdom of God.

I recently featured your book The Myth of a Christian Nation in a blog series of five books offering a new Vision for 21st Century Evangelicalism. Your 2004 sermon series The Cross & the Sword was the foundation for this book.

What is the core message you set forth in your sermons and in your book? 

Greg Boyd: Thanks for the invitation to dialogue, David. I appreciate your passion for the Kingdom and your desire to see Evangelicalism freed from its cultural imprisonment.

Well, the core message of my sermon series and book is simply that the Kingdom of God is not merely the best version of the kingdoms of this world. It’s a Kingdom that is “not of this world,” as Jesus said (Jn 18:36).

As the incarnation of God, Jesus perfectly modeled what it looks like for God to reign over a person’s life. So you can always tell where the Kingdom is present, because it always looks like Jesus.

Individuals and groups under the reign of God manifest the kind of humble, self-sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated in his life, and especially in his death, when he freely offered himself up on behalf of the very people who crucified him, praying for their forgiveness with his last breath.

To the extent that individuals and groups lovingly sacrifice for others the way Jesus did, the Kingdom is present. To the extent that they don’t, it’s not. It’s really that simple.

Obviously, no nation, government and political party has ever looked anything like this. Indeed, given the power-dynamics of our fallen world, I don’t believe any nation, government or political party ever COULD look like this. And this is why we should never identify any nation, government or political party as being the kingdom of God, or even as a means of bringing about the Kingdom of God.

It’s also why we should never think any nation, government or political party is more “Christian” than another.

The Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated is altogether unique, and I believe that everything hangs upon God’s people keeping it unique, set apart, or “holy.”  The minute we start associating the Kingdom with nations, governments or politics, we water it down and compromise its distinctive beauty.

It’s my conviction that the job of Kingdom people is to live a Jesus-looking life that CONTRASTS with the world and thereby offers people who have open hearts an ALTERNATIVE to all the kingdoms of this world.

How has Woodland Hills Church changed as a result of this message? 

Greg Boyd: It seems to me that Woodland Hills turned a corner when I first preached the “Cross and the Sword” series.

While we lost around a thousand people as a result of this series, it helped us acquire a sharper vision of the Jesus-looking Kingdom we are called to be citizens and ambassadors of.

We’ve thus grown increasingly aware of how thoroughly American Christianity has been co-opted by American culture and how radically different the Kingdom is from what most Americans identify as the “Church.” Along the same lines…

we’ve come to a greater realization of how challenging it is to make authentic disciples out of American church attenders. 

This has in turn motivated us to explore strategies to help people wake up to the way they’ve been conditioned by things such as the individualism, consumerism, materialism, hedonism and triumphalism of American culture.

And its motivated us to put in place courses to walk people through this process and eventually get them plugged into missional Kingdom communities in which they worship, minister and share life with others in meaningful ways.

I’d also add that over the last five years Woodland Hills has increasingly come to see itself as a resource center for individuals and groups around the world who are waking up to this distinctive vision of the Kingdom.

So what would you say to those who are worried about the outcome of the presidential election?

Greg Boyd: I’d simply encourage them to place their trust where their trust ought to be: in JESUS. He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all Lords, and his Kingdom will last forever and ever!

Presidents, political parties, governments and nations come and go, but Jesus “is the same, yesterday, today and forever.”

While we should expect pagans to think that the future of the world is in their hands — this is why they seize whatever power they can to try to control how things unfold — children of God are called to place their trust completely in him and to aspire to be faithful to his call.

We are called to crucify ourselves, which means we are to die to living out of our own self-interest, and instead seek only to love, serve, and bless all people, including our enemies.

So long as we think it is UP TO US to fix the world, we can never love and bless those who oppose us.

Only when we realize that we are called to be faithful in living a Jesus-looking life while leaving all outcomes to God can love our enemies and refrain from violence the way Jesus commanded us to (Lk 6:27-35).

Q&A with Pastor Greg Boyd, Part II

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


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