You know, around January 1 everybody put out a “Year in Review” blog or Facebook post or something out there in the social media ether discussing 2016. I certainly have my thoughts on 2016, but didn’t want to get washed over by the plethora of writings I’m sure hit the airwaves that day.
Now that we are 11 days into the new year, I figured now is as good a time as any to give my thoughts on 2016, but I wanted to come at it from the perspective of what I learned or felt was revealed to me through the dramatic ups and downs of 2016.
A QUICK WORD ON REVELATION: Having a revelation of something doesn’t necessarily mean that it is new knowledge, but rather it can also mean that something that was previously known experiences a greater level of clarity or heightened understanding. So some of the things I discuss below may have already been known to me (or you), but through the events of 2016 it became clearer to me or I gained a better understanding of it.
A fair warning…this post is probably longer than my norm. So be prepared.
And, without further ado….2016: A Series of Unfortunate Revelations:
1) DEATH COMES FOR US ALL
How many celebrities died this year? Like a million?
Ok, maybe not a million, but it certainly seemed like every week another celebrity (or several celebrities) passed away. Everyone from David Bowie to Princes Leia. It was a tumultuous year for celebrity deaths. Memes and tweets galore showered us with reminders and updates as to who passed away that day or week. We were constantly barraged with the reminder that celebrity deaths come in three’s. Except in 2016, it seemed to come in larger groups than that.
But that isn’t what I learned from these deaths.
What I learned has a far greater impact than that. What I learned is that death comes for us all and that wealth, fame, and access to the greatest doctors in the world will not provide a shield against the grim reaper.
Death comes for us all.
Fortunately, death doesn’t have to be the end of it. In fact, for believers, death can become a new beginning. Why? Because we have a hope that when this mortal flesh passes away, that we will take up residence in an immortal body that will spend eternity with God Almighty!
Death does not have to be the end all be all.
So with each celebrity passing, it should serve as a reminder to us as believers that we have nothing to fear in death. However, it should also be a reminder that there are many who have everything to fear about death because they have no hope for eternity. They have rejected God. They have spent their entire life spitting in the face of God. So every death becomes a reminder to them of the hopelessness they have, and a reminder to the Church that she isn’t done with her great commission to make disciples of all nations…to spread the good news…to lead people to the everlasting Father and to a place of joy and hope for an eternity where there is no more death or fear.
Every death becomes a reminder to them of the hopelessness they have, and a reminder to the Church that she isn’t done with her great commission to make disciples of all nations…to spread the good news…to lead people to the everlasting Father and to a place of joy and hope for an eternity where there is no more death or fear.
Death even comes for political parties.
I kid you not.
2016 marked the beginning of the death of the Republican and Democrat parties. YAY!
2016 marked the death of the old guard’s credibility and integrity in the church to speak into political social matters. Not so yay. It is sad to think of the wonderful things these men/women engaged in during their lifetime only to hurt their credibility and integrity with seriously flawed ideology in the public square.
And while certainly sad and historic, I think these deaths are giving rise to quality candidates becoming more recognized and noticed. I think this is giving rise to quality organizations such as the Bonhoeffer Institute which will provide quality biblical commentary and challenges regarding precepts for dealing with the social and political sphere as Christians in a post-Christian world. And we are beginning to see the church remnant begin to rise and take its place in the current history of our nation and become the voice of biblical reason.
Which leads me to my second revelation:
2) BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES USE FEAR TO DRIVE THEIR CONSTITUENT BASE
I would be remiss to not say that I’ve known this for a while, but I suppose it just didn’t really sink into my thick skull quite as eloquently and poignantly as it did in 2016.
I don’t care if you’re a liberal, a conservative, or an independent. It is very likely that your candidate used fear to sway your vote away from their competition and toward them.
Liberals told their constituents that conservatives want to take their rights to healthcare, marriage, happiness, income, etc…and then conservatives and independents told their constituents the VERY SAME THING only with a conservative or independent angle to it.
I would encourage you to go back and watch the speeches from the 2016 election campaigns of all parties…and their stumpers…
On second thought…don’t do that to yourself. That may only cause you to pull your hair out and become stressed all over again. But…if you find yourself struck with curiosity, take a serious look at their speeches. It will amaze you how much fear dominated the landscape from every candidate and media outlet out there.
Even in 2008 when Obama was preaching “hope and change” during his campaign, the type of “hope and change” he talked about was predicated on the idea of fear.
Let’s be honest, fear makes for a great selling point.
Want to sell a car?
Convince a would-be buyer that their current car is going to crap out on them VERY soon (just look at how old it is) and leave them stranded on the side of the road.
Want to make sure someone gets a vaccine?
Convince them that if their children skip a vaccine they could potentially open the door for the next black plague and be responsible for killing off all of their friends.
Want someone to come over to your side politically?
Convince people that the “other side” wants to take everything from them. It’s a sure winner. That’s not to say that some of those things may not be true, but when fear becomes the focus of politics, we all lose.
H. L. Mencken put it this way:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed–and hence clamorous to be led to safety–by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
Which leads me to my third revelation:
3) AMERICA IS NOT THE CITY ON THE HILL SHE ONCE MAY HAVE BEEN
Contrary to popular belief, America is not “great”. America is not that “shining city on a hill” that John Winthrop once declared over the Massachusetts Bay colony. America is not honorable, or God-fearing, or freedom-loving, or free from racism, or any number of other things that we want to think about ourselves.
Look, I get it, we want to think the best of our country. This is where we live. This is OUR nation. This place represents OUR values. This is OUR way of life. But the fact of the matter is, we no longer live up to the many wonderful things that were once declared about our nation.
Does a great nation oppress its people by imposing politically correct nonsense on its people via legislation in order to avoid hurting another’s feelings?
Does a “shining city on a hill” become a beacon of morality by changing the definition of marriage, legalizing the murder of the unborn, and persecuting the Church through legal prosecution of it’s individual members specifically because of their beliefs?
Does an honorable nation sink it’s citizens into TRILLIONS of dollars of debt simply because it refuses to establish a balanced budget and become better stewards of the tax dollars in their care?
Does a God-fearing nation do everything it can to remove God from the public sphere?
Does a freedom-loving nation limit the freedom of conscience, religion, education, and parenting from those who wish to live in accordance with the Word of God?
Does a nation free of racism continue to kill each other specifically because of their skin color? Or physically and verbally abuse one another specifically because of their skin color? Or think that simply changing the laws will mend hundreds of years of racial hate and enslavement?
What evidence do we have as a people to really suggest that America is a great nation much less a good nation?
As a US Citizen, I want the best for my country. But I cannot in good conscience sit in denial of the very real situation we have found ourselves in. And unfortunately 2016 merely placed a magnifying glass on the issue, and we STILL deny it by calling ourselves “great” and “freedom-loving” and whatever else comes to mind.
This is a sad revelation of the state of affairs for our nation. And we have a lot of work ahead of us if we are going to find ourselves back in the good favor of God once more.
The Bible gives us clear direction as to how to resolve this problem, if we’ll follow it:
2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV: if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
I actually go more into this in another blog I wrote HERE.
Which leads me now to my fourth revelation:
4) WHAT THE “OTHER SIDE” DOES IS NOT OK, EXCEPT WHEN “MY SIDE” DOES IT
Hypocrisy became the mainstay of both liberal and conservative politics. And worse yet, it gained a new foothold in the American Church as I watched Christians from both sides decrying the hypocrisy of the “other sides” candidate or political party all the while defending the actions and words of “their candidate” or political party when he/she/they did or said the EXACT SAME THING as the “other side”!
Are you kidding me?
If it’s not OK for the other side to do it, why then is it suddenly OK if your side does it?
If it’s wrong it’s wrong no matter who does it, am I right?
Or has the church bought into the false idea of relative truth?
Apparently, I’m not right. At least according to my naysayers. Apparently wrong is only in the eye of the political party. If it gets the votes you need AND accomplishes your goal of ousting the current political party from power, then you do what you gotta do. Apparently, the end DOES justify the means.
That is, of course, unless you actually care about integrity.
That is, of course, unless you actually care about what the Bible has to say with regards to what we should be looking for in a civil leader. (Exodus 18:21 or Deuteronomy 1:13 anyone?)
That is, of course, unless you actually think words matter.
What a sad state of affairs is the American Political process?
Even more grievous to me is the role the Church has played to perpetuate this corruption.
I don’t know how many people called me a liberal or suggested I didn’t care about my children’s future or came up with some other lame and unfounded argument…simply because I dared to call out “our sides” hypocrisy. And simply because I dared to say that the Bible actually had something to say about our political approach as believers.
Folks, I’m not just talking about non-believers who did this to me. I’m talking about believers. Pastors. Evangelists. Devout church members. You name it. I got it from all spectrums of the believing world.
What a sad state of affairs in the American Church when Christians attack other Christians for using the BIBLE as a foundation for their life’s decisions. Or attack Christians for, gasp, desiring to see accountability and righteousness being lived out in the candidates that we want to see lead our nation.
Which leads me to my fifth and final revelation:
5) THE AMERICAN CHURCH HAS A GREATER FEAR OF MAN THAN THEY DO OF GOD
I saved this one for last because I believe this to be the most grievous and most hard-hitting revelation I experienced in 2016. One that will stick out in my mind for years as a pivotal moment in US Church history.
In 2016 it became sadly apparent that even the greatest of spiritual warriors in the American Church have a greater fear of man than they do of God.
We watched as evangelical leaders like Wayne Grudem, Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, James Dobson, and many MANY more completely twist scripture in order to provide some sort of messed up biblical support their choice to let fear and pragmatism choose for them how they will respond in this election. Or as a pastor friend of mine (Cary Gordon) refers to it…they engaged in situational ethics. Or as my pastor calls it…situational theology.
I watched as many spiritual leaders in my own life not only came out in support of a candidate that is the antithesis of everything we stand for and a representation of everything we are against but also very literally tried to quiet me, my pastor, and anyone else from influencing people with the biblical truth of choosing civil leadership.
I spoke with many older men who I deeply respect and value for their wisdom, who have been engaged in the political process for numbers of years as well as being deeply engaged in the spiritual affairs of the church as believers, and they all agreed…they had never seen anything like this in all their life. They had never seen the Church, especially church leadership (who should know better) make such loud and bold proclamations in favor of such a person…and do everything they could to shut people down who disagreed with their unbiblical perspective.
These actions revealed to everyone in our nation exactly who the American Church fears. And unfortunately, it’s not God.
I’ve written extensively on this blog site about this problem. So I won’t go any further than that. You can certainly read my many statements on the matter HERE.
That said, my main point here is simply that the American Church does not fear God. Not only our words, but our actions demonstrated this profoundly. We demonstrated very loudly and clearly for the whole world to see that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders scares us far more than the God of the universe. That we fear the one who can kill the body but cannot condemn the soul rather than the one who can kill the body AND condemn the soul.
Worse yet, post-election, I’ve watched the likes of Franklin Graham and many many others who I have long respected come out in defense of their actions, and even go so far as to suggest that God allowed this to happen (which I agree to this point) in order to spare America and give her a second chance (this point I cannot agree with).
If you want to know why I disagree with this assertion, please go back to my third revelation above and see my very brief list of grievances against America as a nation and why this simply isn’t the case. This is by no means an exhaustive list either.
So as you can see, 2016 revealed a lot to us as a people. But, 2016 doesn’t have to be marred by a series of unfortunate revelations. That is if we are willing to look those revelations in the face and admit these things were revealed and be willing to humbly address them.
That really is my heart’s desire. It really is.
Unfortunately, even as of yesterday, too many are still in denial of these things to their own detriment. I pray daily that America will awaken. That the Church in America will awaken. Perhaps God has indeed given us a second chance, in the form of judgment, to force the impurities to the surface so we can face them head on.
Here’s to hoping and praying that 2017 will be the year God turns the hearts of American’s back to him and revelation breaks out from sea to shining sea.