“The problems are all over there. Not in here.”

The title comes from a tweet by David French, regarding CRT (Critical Race Theory), racial injustice, etc, and in response to the guilty conviction of the policeman who killed George Floyd. I share Mr French’s assessment of white evangelicals. Personally I do have some reservations about the extreme left of the racial justice march, But I have More concern for the majority of white evangelicals who, through various subtle and not so subtle ways, swing way the other way… and shut their hearts and ears to the history and experiences of their African American brothers and sisters. And so the following thoughts have been burning in my heart for a long time…

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Why Doesn’t the Holy Spirit lead Christians to more unity these days…

Grizzled old man with flourishes coming out of his head

WELL… maybe it’s because we modernist christians now perceive that the holy spirit primarily speaks/reveals via our individual emotions/feelings/subjective thoughts; ie stuff flitting around in our heads, dreams, gut instincts, emotions… our subjectivity. Or that God speaks primarily through the individual’s inner life. (how American is that!) If that’s the case, no wonder we’re mired in the things that could be broadly characterized under disunity. When it’s “everyone hearing/doing what is right in their own ‘individualized, subjective senses'”…. No wonder you get these: fragmentation, instability, chaos, shallowness, transience and other church life ills.

Emotionalism, the illogical/irrational, the reactionary, or the, “I Feel God telling me…” or the, “I sensed in MY spirit…” All of these individualistic, subjective ways of receiving revelation/direction seem to fuel most of the in-fighting. I think a study of church history with this in mind, could be revealing. Is it possible that we often or sometimes replace the “Spirit” with our own human “senses” and inclinations, corresponding with our american culture’s emphasis on privatized, individualistic habits? Maybe if we thought more of the Holy Spirit working through things outside of our subjectivity – things like Bible scholarship, church history/Tradition, older, seasoned saints, healthy, transparent, accountable denominational structures… Then maybe there would be more unity? (I’m NOT speaking of conformity, but diverse, yet not so fragmented…)

What if we paraphrased a famous Biblical passage this way:
“But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you [the group of people] all things, and bring to your [group/church] remembrance all that I said unto you.”

Is there anything in that passage or in other passages like it, that suggest all of the Holy Spirit’s work has to flow out of the interior, subjective recesses of individuals? I wonder, maybe not…

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A completely different way to regard taxes

Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God.  Therefore he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same: for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause ye pay tribute also; for they are ministers of God’s service, attending continually upon this very thing. Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Romans 13:1-7

angry man cartoon sketch

“Man, I really hate God-ordained government!”

This passage reminds me of a perspective on government administration I adopted some time ago. When I hear people moaning about “big gov’mt” and taxes and regulations, etc, this is what goes through my mind in response. Maybe I should express it out loud someday, although it might be perceived as an attack on their values and identity as gov-hating “conservative” american christians… so I’ve kept this to myself. (Until this posting of course…) So here goes…

I’m glad our big gov taxes and regulates us. I’m glad they keep us selfish american sinners in check. Attitudes like this are often publicly expressed or offered as laugh-lines… ‘I don’t like people (gov) telling me what to do!..and all they (gov) ever do is annoy us hard working people!… and they (gov) can’t ever do anything right, especially handling MY money!…why if I could keep it, I’d use it so much better…’ This is the tone of 99% of the talk I hear from my co-religionists. We really, really hate the governments elected over us. When I hear this attitude I wonder what we american christians would be like, if big gov didn’t keep us in check?  What would we be trying to get away with, or how would we waste even more money on ourselves, than we already do?
I don’t know about you, but praise God for big government and just about everything it does! I’m glad they take a bunch of money away from us greedy, self-centered, self-righteous american christian. In fact, I’d be in favor of them taking more away (by rescinding our ‘religious’ org tax exemptions). Maybe it would dampen our insatiable appetite for building every bigger, self-pampering entertainment complexes we call “churches” or parachurch ‘ministries’ (exempting truly humanitarian endeavors of course) and steer us towards using our resources in more God-honoring ways!

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Christ-like/Jesus-shaped… instead of fundamentalist

angry fundamentalist in blue shirtA few days ago I listened to the latest podcast episode put out by Phil Vischer and Skye Jethani (formerly the Phil Vischer Podcast) The subject was a “breaking news” episode dicussing the recent editorial by Christianity Today’s Mark Galli, entitled “Trump Should Be Removed from Office”. During the podcast, Phil went on a lengthy monologue on the history of fundamentalism and neo-evangelicalism and the similarities and differences. He listed numerous characteristics of american fundamentalism such as:

  • “building walls, lots of walls to say, ‘you’re out – we’re in’ “
  • “tendency to declare war […] quite often on our neighbors” (yes, even Billy Graham is our enemy…)
  • “a deep resentment of mainstream media and mainstream culture”
  • “abandonment of culture…” let the world burn mentality…
  • “obsession with eschatology” especially premillenial dispensationalism, the Rapture, Israel, temple and land reclaiming/rebuilding and ambiguity about war or even supporting war for cynical, self-serving reasons.
  • “a deep mistrust of modern science”… everything’s black or white, binary thinking… you either have to believe all of the one or all of the other.
  • not universal but in some cases you will find echoes of racism still in fundamentalism”… (being that the bastion of fundamentalism has from day one been the South and its overtly christian/church support of slavery and later Jim Crow and then segregation and/or fighting against the Civil Rights movement.) 

I highly recommend listening to this whole episode: So many interesting points. Lot’s of material one can look up and read about to learn more or just confirm the historicity of it. Found it interesting when they mention fundamentalists being the first adopters and users of mass media means like TV and radio, which is why their good ol boy religion got spread throughout the country, including my upbringing! (Also quite ironic considering how anti-science, anti-modern, fundamentalists were in most other areas…)

Although this isn’t the first time I’ve heard or read about american protestant fundamentalism, I was reminded again of my own childhood and faith journey (explored in this post), which was very fundamentalist. It also reminded me again of why I’m glad to be free of that type of Christianity and why I don’t want to be known as or be part of any iterations of this kind of christian fundamentalism…  The posture, the attitudes and the way fundamentalists deal with the world around them seems so out of step with how Jesus walked this earth and interacted with people, even people who didn’t like Him. Jesus, says, “be not afraid… love your neighbor… do good to them who… “, yet so many american fundamentalists, many in the trumpist camp or who claim to be evangelicals in surveys, walk in fear and anger, resentment and revenge, and it’s a big detriment to the Gospel of Jesus and has turned many people, especially the young away from Jesus and real Christianity. I hope & pray that they find true freedom in Jesus and that we can all together, follow Him, and lay down our fears, angers and idols. This country would be such a better place if we could do that!

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Why I’m not a charismatic…

One of the reasons I began writing/blogging again, is because some fringey charismatic/word-faith/speak it-claim-it teaching was taught at my church recently. My previous post was also inspired by this occurrence. In the weeks that followed, I did a lot of reading and listening to Bible teachers who have studied this global “renewal” movement, and so here I provide some resources which have given me a better understanding of this religious movement and its theology.

Video: Teachings and Personal Testimony

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Saved from seeking subjective, spectacular religious experiences & having to feel good all the time…

andrew zook profile imageWell, it’s been years since I posted anything to this blog… but some life circumstances have encouraged me to start writing again, about various things. This post has actually been in development for years already, but I began to polish it up again to post here. I hope you enjoy this and find it encouraging. I welcome your in-person questions or questions in the comments below.

I was a firstborn and grew up in a large family in this area with amish/mennonite background.  When I thought about writing this in the first place, I considered my family life, and everything that came with being the oldest and trying to maintain what was, I believe now, favored status, while also trying to be peacemaker between various warring factions. But the focus of this piece will be some aspects of my spiritual journey… Continue reading

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Spiritual things

dualismOnly in the past 5-10 years have I come to an awareness of the gnostic dualism that permeated all of the different stripes of evangelicalism that I grow up in –  from the revivalist Beachy-Amish strain to the contemporary, liberalized Mennonite strain I find myself in now. What is this gnostic dualism? It’s a tendency to mark off things as “spiritual” and everything else as “less spiritual” or “not-spiritual” because, well they’re not “spiritual” (as defined by teachers/preachers). It teaches that ‘spirit’ is the part that God is most interested in, or that it’s the only channel where God/man connect. It teaches that ‘spirit’ is at the top of a hierarchy and everything else is lesser. It often implies that individualized, subjective feelings/emotions/thoughts are the path to God. It teaches that if you get the ‘spirit’ part right, then the outward stuff, like good works, community, unity with believers, etc will follow… Continue reading

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Palestine/Israel: Tears and Blood

red-heart1Many hearts around the world, including mine, break and sigh under the cloud of violent news coming from Palestine/Israel. Interceding and beseeching God seems to be the only thing to do anymore. The supposed “neutral” arbiters seem more impotent than a dead weed. As a bystander, I’ll won’t offer much in the way of solutions either, but I would offer these thoughts and suggestions.

  • I believe God’s heart is with those suffering on both sides of this conflict. Those who stand unscathed in the places of power and command and privilege are most likely far from His favor as they rain down death and destruction knowing they’ll continue to be “safe”.
  • Please, please read and study the stories of both sides. But especially to us who have grown up in the american evangelical radio/bookstore bubble, please read the story of the Palestinians. I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us have heard the Israeli side, many times and from many angles. That’s only half the story. Please know the other side too. (And that’s not a recommendation to read Hamas or some other terrorist group’s rhetoric. Read the Palestinian story – there is a difference)
  • Try, even if it’s just for theoretical/thought-experiment purposes, to separate this conflict from the “biblical prophesy” stuff that’s energized us american evangelicals for so long. Look at the context and history through other glasses besides the “book-of-Revelations” one and see how that effects your perspective. Remember, the pre-millennial dispensationalist “Left Behind” eschatology is a very recent innovation/interpretation (early 1900’s). It is not the only logical, viable interpretation and therefore it (and its uniquely Western bias, and its emphasis on the modern state of Israel could be wrong; way wrong. I’m also pretty sure adherence to it (mainstream evangelical eschatology) is not necessary for the salvation of one’s soul… so take a second look at the situation, through some other glasses.  Read some early church father’s or Reformer’s take on Revelations… God may show you something new.
  • Tune out the partisan politicians and TV news and websites, especially those who dogmatically shout for only one side or the other. At the least, hold what they say lightly and don’t swallow it whole. Be a Berean and search them out a little. Vet their rhetoric. And hold it up to the Light of Jesus’ teaching and example. If your eschatology/end-times ideas make you look or sound like a bloodthirsty heathen, then your eschatology/end-times ideas MIGHT be far from the way of Jesus!

Finally, pray and study and listen. May Jesus’ peace and hope come to Palestine/Israel sooner, rather than later. It will be a huge step towards God’s restoration of earth and humanity.

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Simplistic thinking + Our fallen nature = Destruction

karlMarxIf you took note of the books I’m currently reading (Listed in the GoodReads widget to the right, under the header), one of those books was the Communist Manifesto. This may cause some consternation among some of you. If you stick with me past this paragraph, you may be surprised. Here’s a bit that came out of my reading of the Communist Manifesto.

First and foremost, it’s large on generalities and short on complex details or thoughtful solutions to complex problems. It tries to build a case for one simple solution to an incredibly complex situation. That situation was the industrial revolution that began rocking the West in the mid 1800’s and into the 1900’s. Continue reading

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Going the second mile for liberals, gays, Muslims, atheists, gun-haters, feminists, animal rightists etc.

woodsRoad_1I love the circles of mainly christian/evangelical, middle to upper middle class friends, family, work and acquaintances in which God has placed me. These spheres have multiple up-sides. Familiarity, less relational stress, religious/spiritual rapport and encouragement are just a few. But there’s a downside…

Especially vexing at times is how we in this clique tend to talk about those who are outside of this comfy ghetto. In our conversations and by extension, in our attitude, people who are liberals/Democrats, gays, Muslims, atheists, urbanites, environmentalists, gun-control advocates, mainline christians, animal rightists, feminists, or secular academia are generally feared, reviled or dismissed. Our chit-chat often mocks these people. We love jokes that make fun of these kinds of people. We imagine their thoughts and actions are ever plotting to persecute and destroy us. We celebrate their downfalls. We talk as if we know and understand their minds and intentions very well, but we rarely actually quote them (let alone sit down with them and hear their side). We repeat what we’ve heard media/religious ‘experts’ write or say about them, which is always how awful they are. We easily slip into exaggerating their faults and beliefs. We make them into unreconcilable monsters who deserve our scorn and who deserve retaliations via media, preaching/teaching, education, lawsuits, politicking or other end-justifies-the-means worldly machinations short of real violence against them. Continue reading

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