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Crisis of faith

How can Christians prevent political passion from turning to unholy furor?

Crisis of faith

Trump supporters gather outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. (John Minchillo/AP)

On the morning after the Capitol Hill riots, preacher Jeremiah Johnson posted a public apology on his namesake ministry’s website: “I would like to repent for inaccurately prophesying that Donald Trump would win a second term as the President of the United States.”

A month before the 2020 elections, Johnson said he had a dream with three parts: Amy Coney Barrett would be confirmed to the Supreme Court, the Los Angeles Dodgers would capture the World Series, and Donald Trump would win the White House. When the first two events happened, Johnson thought the third seemed certain. 

But on the day after Christmas—12 days after the Electoral College confirmed President Joe Biden’s victory—Johnson told his 324,000 Facebook followers that he might soon retract his prophecy.

A follower replied: “Hold fast … God waits till his people stand at the shores of the sea before he parts them … too many prophecies are of one mind … that God will expose the wicked and Trump will prevail to God’s glory.”

On Jan. 7, the day after Congress certified that Biden prevailed—and after a mob of rioters stormed the Capitol in protest—Johnson posted an apology for being wrong about Trump. He rejected the notion that Trump didn’t win because people didn’t pray enough. And he refused to say Trump actually did win but the election was stolen: “I want to go on record: I was wrong, I am deeply sorry, and I ask for your forgiveness.”

Johnson says the response was brutal. 

In an update on Jan. 10, he wrote: “Over the last 72 hours, I have received multiple death threats and thousands upon thousands of emails from Christians saying the nastiest and most vulgar things I have ever heard toward my family and ministry. … I truthfully never realized how absolutely triggered and ballistic thousands and thousands of saints get about Donald Trump. It’s terrifying. It’s full of idolatry.” 

Meanwhile, the nation still reeled from terrifying scenes at the Capitol that included mobs beating a police officer outside. Inside the rotunda, photos showed a pair of men wearing military-style fatigues. On one arm, a patch affixed read, “Armor of God.” 

Plenty of Christians voted for Trump without idolizing him, and the majority didn’t riot. But the religious fervor—and sometimes furor—surrounding Trump’s defeat raises questions for evangelicals across the theological spectrum: How can Christians promote good policy without losing gospel perspective? How can we remind ourselves—and others—that politics is important, but not ultimate? 

Johnson, who still insists modern-day prophecies are legitimate despite the massive error regarding Trump, says he’s asking himself, “Have I traded the prophetic spirit for the political spirit?”

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Trump supporters pray and assemble near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG for the spirit outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to go from raucous to riotous, even as Christian symbols and language popped up in the crowd.

Earlier in the day, thousands attended a rally where Trump told the crowd that the radical left is “ruthless, and it’s time that somebody did something about it.” A chunk of those crowds streamed to the Capitol after the rally, though Trump didn’t follow them. A February impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate will center on whether Trump incited mobs to the mayhem that afternoon. 

The images near the Capitol were jarring: One group constructed a makeshift noose in clear sight of the Capitol building. On the National Mall, another man leaned into a giant wooden cross, apparently praying. One photo showed a demonstrator hoisting two giant flags, one reading, “Make America Godly Again,” and the other showing a doctored image of Trump brandishing a machine gun.

The crowds forcing their way into the Capitol were jarring too: Some people snapped selfies, but others beat on the House doors where congressmen and reporters took cover before evacuating to secure rooms. A bare-chested devotee of the QAnon conspiracy theory bellowed from behind his face paint and horned, fur hat. Another man toted a Confederate flag through the halls. 

Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Trump supporters pray and assemble near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Leo Kelly seemed surprised he wound up on the Senate floor shortly after Secret Service rushed Vice President Mike Pence from the room. In an interview with LifeSite News, the Cedar Rapids man said he walked to the Capitol after the Trump rally. He was disillusioned by the outcome of the election, and says he thought: “None of my institutions are working. What am I supposed to do?” 

On the floor of the evacuated Senate, he watched a group pray behind the speaker’s desk, and said they “consecrated it to Jesus. … That to me was the ultimate statement of where we are in this movement.” A reporter’s video from the Senate floor shows a group of rioters purporting to pray after an expletive-laden romp through the room: “Jesus Christ, we invoke Your name.”

Joshua Black of Leeds, Ala., said he wanted to make a similar prayer, according to investigators. Authorities said Black acknowledged posting YouTube videos of himself from the Senate floor. An affidavit quoted Black as saying in one of the videos: “I wanted to get inside the building so I could plead the blood of Jesus over it. That was my goal.”

Leo Guthrie Jr., of Cape May, N.J., also cited religious motivations. Guthrie said he didn’t enter the Capitol building, but authorities arrested him for breaking through a police barrier outside. He told a local news station he thought the people who went into the Capitol were wrong, but said, “This was about revival, it wasn’t about threats.” 

Law enforcement used Leo Kelly’s online interview in a statement of facts about the incident, and the FBI arrested him on charges that included knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority. Officials filed similar charges against Black.

In the online video, Kelly said he didn’t cause damage, but he felt conflicted. He said in some ways it felt wrong to “violate someone else’s space.” “God will judge us for what we did,” he said. “I’m redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. There’s no judgment that stands against me—perhaps I did something wrong. ... What are Americans supposed to do?”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the accused rioters using Christian language have roots in local churches, but the answer to Kelly’s question isn’t complicated: Praying for elected leaders is Biblical, and peaceful protests are lawful. But invading the seat of government as part of a spontaneous mob is antithetical to Scripture. 

Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) lamented the mixing of Christian notions with a brute grab for political power. “The sight of ‘Jesus Saves’ and ‘God Bless America’ signs by those violently storming the Capitol is about more than inconsistency,” Moore wrote. “It is about a picture of Jesus Christ and of His gospel that is satanic.”

That’s not because the Bible doesn’t allow patriotism. In an interview, Moore said he wasn’t calling on Christians to stop serving their country or advocating for policy or participating in politics: “But if our country becomes ultimate, then we’re really not able to be patriots, because our country can’t deliver on being a god.”

Lev Radin/Sipa USA via AP

Rioters trying to enter the Capitol building clash with police. (Lev Radin/Sipa USA via AP)

THE VAST MAJORITY of Christians don’t riot at government buildings, but devotion to politics does grow intense. That’s not a new phenomenon, but it was particularly pronounced after Biden declared victory and Trump declared fraud in the November elections. 

At a “Jericho March” in December, Christian author and radio host Eric Metaxas emceed an event for Christians to pray for Trump to prevail. Controversial radio host Alex Jones offered a theological twist: “This is the beginning of the great revival before the Antichrist comes! Revelation is fulfilled!” He added: “I don’t know who’s going to be in the White House in 38 days, but I do know Joe Biden is a globalist, and Joe Biden will be removed one way or another!” 

The crowd roared.

“They’ve undermined the faith of believers, and they’ve made it more difficult for Christians to share the gospel going forward.”

Paula White, a Florida-based charismatic preacher and a chief evangelical adviser to Trump, held a prayer service the day after the election, attempting to declare victory for the incumbent. White called on angels from Africa and South America to intervene. She spoke in tongues. She chanted: “I hear a sound of an abundance of rain, I hear a sound of victory.” 

The video went viral, provoking scores of parodies and online skewering. White grew noticeably quiet about allegations of election fraud and didn’t persist in bolstering Trump’s claims that the contest was stolen. 

Neither did Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas and a fervent Trump supporter and evangelical adviser. (At a “Celebrate Freedom” rally in 2017, the choir from Jeffress’ church sang an anthem dubbed “Make America Great Again.”) Jeffress didn’t disavow Trump after the election, but he also didn’t show up at rallies to protest the outcome. 

Other Christian leaders did persist: On Jan. 4—three weeks after the Electoral College confirmed Biden’s victory—televangelist Pat Robertson told his audience: “I believe something dramatic is going to happen before Congress votes on those electors. Something very dramatic that will change the outcome of that vote.” 

The dramatic riot two days later didn’t change the outcome of the vote.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah Johnson wasn’t the only self-proclaimed prophet apologizing for his predictions. In Northern California, Kris Vallotton of the charismatic Bethel Church—home to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and the widely popular Bethel Music—apologized in November for predicting a Trump win. 

After followers questioned Vallotton, he removed the post. When Vallotton reposted the apology on Jan. 9, a follower replied: “The Red Sea didn’t part until the Egyptians were right on top of them. It isn’t January 20 yet.” 

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on Jan. 20.

Johnson, Vallotton, and other self-identified prophets contended their errors about Trump didn’t make them false prophets. But Vallotton admitted: “It’s obviously humiliating. … This is the beginning of me cleaning up my mess.”

It’s not clear what that cleaning up of the mess entails, but Holly Pivec, co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?—a book about Christians claiming to be modern-day prophets—says the failed prophecies surrounding Trump brought “shame” to the Church: “They hurt its witness to the watching world, they’ve undermined the faith of believers, and they’ve made it more difficult for Christians to share the gospel going forward.”

Pivec thinks theology unmoored from the clear teaching of Scripture also makes followers vulnerable to the kind of conspiracy theories that have proliferated in movements like the QAnon fantasy. 

That’s not just a problem in one theological branch. Russell Moore at the Southern Baptist Convention’s ERLC said the No. 1 question he’s been getting from pastors is “how to deal with these social-media-generated conspiracy theories and cultish ideas—and trying to differentiate between ideas that are just flaky, and ideas that are truly dangerous.”

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A man prays during the siege. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

IN SOME QUARTERS, fervency about politics stems from fear of the alternative. 

Some Christians look at a changing national landscape and perceive legitimate threats on important issues. 

Andrew Walker, a professor of Christian ethics and apologetics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says Christians should confront erroneous theology while also upholding faithful Christian teaching.

“Instrumentalizing religion for the sake of political power is indeed wrong,” Walker wrote in a column for Public Discourse. “Where theological systems or historians assert that Christianity is divinely fused with American destiny, correction is warranted.”

But Walker says it’s also unfair to use the faulty theology of some to characterize the beliefs of all Christians—or to banish Christian thinking from the public square: “The solution to bad examples of Christian political theology is not to reduce all modern examples of Christian statecraft to simplistic, self-serving narratives.”

Evangelicals disappointed in Trump’s loss should look for ways to work with the Biden administration, particularly on bipartisan issues like criminal justice reform and international religious freedom. On issues where disagreement is inevitable, it’s helpful to emphasize how policy that reflects Biblical teaching promotes the common good, not just self-interest.

Whatever the outcome, Moore says how Christians approach political engagement is key: “We have to be engaging in policy as people who know that our very survival as a church is not dependent upon whether we succeed or fail in civic initiatives.” He compares it to the posture of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in exile: “We’re asking God for help in this scenario. But even if not—we’ll trust Him. And we’ll be obedient to Him.”

Jamie Dean

Jamie Dean

Jamie is national editor of WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and previously worked for the Charlotte World. Jamie has covered politics, disasters, religion, and more for WORLD. She resides in Charlotte, N.C. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

Comments

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  • My Two Cents
    Posted: Thu, 01/28/2021 04:54 pm

    I'm glad Jeremiah Johnson owned up to his error. Prophesying and making a prediction are two entirely different things. Scripture has some harsh consequences for a false prophet. It also has a test for prophecy and dire warnings to believers not to fall for false teaching. Why a so-called minister would use his or her position to "prophesy" who will win the Super Bowl is beyond me, but I also don't understand the name it claim it crowd who applied their whacky theology to the 2020 presidential election. 

  • HANNAH.
    Posted: Mon, 02/01/2021 06:51 pm

    Meanwhile, here’s an example of political passion turned into holy action to defend the cause of “the orphan and widow” (exploited children and women). I recommend scrolling down and then turning on the closed captioning at about 15:45 in the video for the inspiring message of Ms. Sophie Otiende.

  • AlanE
    Posted: Thu, 01/28/2021 05:01 pm

    Repenting in the wake failed prophesies would be a good call. I admit, though, to not understanding a theology that still calls a person a prophet after he has missed the mark. It seems that modern "prophesy" carves out a lot of room for error that would have been understood much differently in another day. Nor do I see how "retraction" quite covers the problem. That, and I'm also struggling with how the Dodgers winning the World Series might rise to the level of prophesy. Somehow, of all the things God might want us to learn through the mouth of a prophet, I find it difficult to create room for the Dodgers winning the Series on that list.

    It seems Johnson is asking some of the right questions on the other side of this episode. I pray he continues down that path without swerving. It's not at all clear, however, that he's joined by many of the people who ought to be joining him.

    It is a puzzling world in many respects.

  • TEAME
    Posted: Fri, 01/29/2021 09:45 am

      "...our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." 

    "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

    God never promised to deliver us from all our troubles, but to be with us in the furnace.  We must look to Him alone for our peace.

    Thank you for acknowledging that "...invading the seat of government as part of a spontaneous mob is antithetical to Scripture."  May we return to our first love.

  • DF
    Posted: Fri, 01/29/2021 09:54 am

    The involvement of Christians in the Jan 6 riot illustrates the danger of conflating Christ's kingdom with America's. As Jesus had to restore a man's ear after his disciples pursued the wrong tactics in the garden, He will have to restore the harm done by his follower's presence at the capitol. As Stanley Haurwas has reminded us frequently, ours is a peacable kingdom, and while America's founding values correspond in many ways to Christian values, they are not the same. It is also unfortunate that the candidate representing the best values-supporting policies was such a poor example of Christian values himself with his incendiary rhetoric and narcissistic, bullying personality. Finally, the last thing we need are self-proclaimed so-called "prophets" who play to the hopes and fears of believers to build their own kingdoms through the donations of the desperate. The scriptures are sufficient to deal with our times without any "special revelation" through the dreams of preachers looking for the way to fame and fortune. Let's stick with the gospel, and pray and advocate for the "peace of the city" in which we dwell. Politics are not religion, a political leader is not the messiah, and civil resistance is not insurrection. Even fraudulent elections give no justification for violence. 

  • DakotaLutheran
    Posted: Fri, 01/29/2021 11:05 am

    I think that a Christian response is more complicated than most have indicated. I understand and appreciate the attitude exemplified by Christ: "My kingdom is not of this world." And many of us take up this stance which places us at arms length from the politics of power. 

    But we must also recognize that there is long standing Christian tradition that takes up this struggle tooth and claw, the Crusades being but one example of holy war. The Old Testament, which we inherit, clearly illustrates this battle for and with God. 

    We today have inherited a democratic tradition, one that likely influences our attitudes towards political and social struggle, engendering a more mild and peaceful resistance, even co-existence. I understand that, but neither will I exclude the possibility that God in Christ would have us speak and act otherwise. 

    Clearly, this is a subtle and uncertain Word, but there are clear indications that our peaceable ways are not the  only ways. He did not come to bring peace among men and women, but with God. There are, then, dangers on all sides: what is idolatry and what faithfulness may often be uncertain, doubt the constant companion for those who pursue Him. Were it not for the Blood of Forgiveness, all would be lost. 

  • RC
    Posted: Fri, 01/29/2021 12:07 pm

    My prophase is that Christian leaders will continue making false prophases, which will discredit the faith and their ministries.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Fri, 01/29/2021 01:17 pm

    Jamie takes an example of a few (many of them charismatics, some with tendencies to prophecy with emotional zeal without much thought) which leads us down a wrong direction politically. As Biden pushes fascism we need to stand and confront it or else our Christian voice to speak on any matter - political or the gospel - will be removed from the public square. The idea that we should just get along with Biden and not hurt our “Christian witness” is crazy. Certainly, politics isn’t everything but just letting our country go over the cliff silencing our Christian witness is not good either. We need to stand and fight back politically!

  • BF
    Posted: Sat, 01/30/2021 11:30 am

    The Fox's Book of Christian Martyrs preserves the stories of millions of faithful brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate sacrifice for Christ. If we devote ourselves to fighting those opposed to Christ, at what point do we lay down our arms and die for Christ? How are we to evangelize those whom we so violently oppose?

    Peter tells us we are "aliens and strangers" (NIV). Christ says that His kingdom is not of this world. As a Christian, we should oppose injustice that's directed towards the weak, but it so often looks like we're fighting for an earthly kingdom instead. 

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Sun, 01/31/2021 08:22 pm

    Response to BF:

    If we want to be martyrs, why don’t we go to an ISIS outpost and let them work their evil?  I had a friend from Eritrea who told the story about the Russian’s who were invading his land. All the devout Christians ran to the Church for protection, where the attackers lit the church on fire. My friend heard the cries of his family and friends and was forever tormented by it. He didn’t go to the church but hid away and lived. I told him that he did the right thing by playing smart and hiding away! Did not Paul use wisdom and was lowered along the wall in a basket to flee from people seeking his life? Did not David act as though he was crazy to get away from his attackers? We can play all spiritual about being martyrs and failing to fight the cultural war, but that is wickedness for we are commanded to confront ideas that are contrary to the gospel.

     “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:5

    The political climate does impact our ability to spread the gospel so Paul asked believers to pray that we have leaders who enable us to lead quiet lives.

    “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Tim. 2:1-4

    At the time Paul wrote this, all a Christian could do was to pray for the leaders because they had no voice in the political process. Our founding fathers gave us a voice by allowing voting and participation in our political process so we have a responsibility to wisely use that voice to further God’s Kingdom. The church that exists in the world now at this time is part of that kingdom, though the kingdom is fundamentally spiritual in nature, it does impact this world’s kingdoms.  

     BF: "If we devote ourselves to fighting those opposed to Christ, at what point do we lay down our arms and die for Christ?”

    Why did Paul allow himself to be lowered in the basket (Acts 9:20-25)? Could he not give himself up and be a martyr?  Why didn’t he do that? Because, fighting for Christ meant preaching the truth that had transformed his life - a vision of Christ. He went on preaching against idolatry and politically he raised the ire of those who made idols, for their businesses were being hurt. They chased him out of several cities!

    As Christians, we fight the cultural war where evil people try to destroy the remnants of Christianity from our culture, where we try to preserve them and expand on them. We stand up for religious liberties which allows us to preach our faith. We stand up for the standards and principles found in the Bible such as supporting life. We stand against laws that will destroy the peace of the church (e.g. hate speech laws that will cause fines, close our businesses, shut down our churches, cause us to lose our children, or send us to jail). We stand against anarchy of BLM, AntiFa and other radical groups that seek to dismantle society. Much more could be said here but you get my point. Fighting the cultural war is everything about promoting the peace and prosperity of the church!  It is about voting for the best possible candidate who has a viable chance to be elected even though he is much less than perfect. It is about standing up to the radical atheists who seek to steal our children from our churches. It is fighting the battle of our faith, bringing the gospel to our country and the world!

  • not silent
    Posted: Tue, 02/02/2021 11:21 am

    I don't think Christians become martyrs because they "want to," Cyborg. I think it's that they care more about what GOD wanted than about their own lives and they trust God to work through their lives whether they live OR they die.  To use your example, of course it would be foolish to go to an ISIS camp simply to seek martyrdom for the heck of it!  But what if someone were clearly CALLED BY GOD to go to an ISIS camp and share the gospel?  Should they do it, even if it might mean martyrdom?  Or should they use human wisdom and say no?  

    Please understand this: I can't imagine how traumatic the events in Eritrea must have been for your friend, and I am certainly not saying or implying that they did anything wrong. I don't even know if it was God's will for all those people to die in that church, though I suspect that there wouldn't have been enough hiding places for all of them and that one reason your friend escaped was because the killers were occupied with killling the group as a whole in a big, horrible display instead of having to search every possible hiding place and killing them all one by one. It also seems to me that, If nothing else, the fact that your friend surived means that there was a witness to a horrible atrocity. However, I don't know for sure.  The main point I'm trying to make is that it is unfair and unwise to take a terrible and traumatic situation like that and pick and choose between the reactions of the terrified and traumatized individuals who were there, then to use ONE of them as a guide about how all Christians should act in every circumstance.   

    You also used the example of Paul being lowered from a wall in a basket and of David pretending to be crazy.  First of all, those examples and the example with your friend look more to me like hiding/escaping than like "fighting."  Second, to be fair, David did plenty of actual fighting; but Paul's "fighting" was through prayer and sharing the gospel.  You have acknowledged the difference between physical combat (i.e., killing other people) and spiritual warfare.  The fact that God has used both in different circumstances does not make them the same.      

    Furthermore, David chose NOT to fight when it was not God's will (i.e., when he chose not to kill Saul in 1 Samuel 24 and when he chose not to fight against Nabal in 1 Samuel 25).So here is yet another option besides fighting and martyrdom: having mercy and leaving room for God's judgment.  I also think it's inaccurate to say that early Christians had no legal recourse or voice in the political process other than to pray.  In fact, Paul DID have some rights as a citizen of Rome and he used them when he could (i.e., Acts 16 and Acts 22 when he was beaten and in Acts 25 when he appealed to Caesar). Paul certainly fought for the gospel, but he was still beaten, stoned, imprisoned and ultimately martyred.  

    This is what I'm saying, as clearly as I can say it: there is no benefit in martyrdom just for the heck of it, and sometimes it's appropriate for Christians to fight; but we should always, always, always be guided by God and HIS will. There are examples in the Bible of believers fighting, examples of them dying as martyrs, examples where they escaped and lived another day, and examples where they had mercy and let God enact his own judgment; and I'm those aren't all possible responses.  Presenting our present circumstances as a false dichotomy involving one choice between "fighting" or "being martyrs" is inaccurate.  We must be willing to let GOD lead in all things instead of relying on our own wisdom.  

  • not silent
    Posted: Fri, 01/29/2021 01:30 pm

    I think some of these problems come from the human tendency to try to fit things together so that we can better understand our world.  Doing that is helpful and necessary in many situations, but I think sometimes our desire for things to "fit" and "make sense" causes us to assume we know more than we do or to try to force things to "fit" when they really don't instead of admitting we need more information and having the drive to seek it and/or the patience to wait for it.    

    If the past few years have taught me anything, it's that we as humans don't know as much as we think we do and don't have nearly as much control over life, the world, or events as we think we do.  That is very scary if I dwell on the fact that something terrible could happen and that I may be powerless to stop it, but it's freeing when I realize that God is GOOD and he IS in control.  I love the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.    

    It all makes sense from God's perspective, but we don't know "all."  I hope I am always curious and ready to learn whatever God may teach me; but, just as there were things I didn't understand as a child, there will be things I will learn in heaven that I don't understand now. I had to rely on imperfect adults as a child, but I can rely on a perfect God NOW.  

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Sat, 01/30/2021 01:35 am

    Hi Not Silent, certainly we don't "know all" but should we sit back and lazily let life go by when wicked people are trying to subjugate us? Isn't this a form of sloth where we don't try to understand the political landscape so we end up supporting the very people who would destroy the Christian voice? 

  • not silent
    Posted: Sat, 01/30/2021 11:26 am

    Cyborg, I think it's pretty obvious that we should not "sit back and let life lazily go by" in ANY CIRCUMSTANCES of the Christian life. The Bible is pretty clear that sloth is not a good thing, regardless of the situation. I was warning against taking the WRONG action based on human nature and a feeling that we "must do something" because of frightening circumstances.

    I'm sure you are familiar with this story about King Saul:

    1 Samuel 13:5-14  "The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore.  They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven.  When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid among caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns.  Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.  

    Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul's men began to scatter.  So he said, 'Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.'  And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived; and Saul went to greet him.

    'What have you done?,' asked Samuel.  

    Saul replied, 'When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, I thought, "Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal and I have not sought the LORD's favor." So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.'

    'You have done a foolish thing,' Samuel said.  'You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the command of the LORD your God.'"  

    This story REALLY used to bother me because I could understand why Saul got nervous and how he justified going ahead and making the offering.  I.e., a large army was threatening his nation, his people were terrified, and his own men were beginning to desert him while he waited for Samuel; and Samuel had not come when he said he would come!  Saul probably thought he was doing God's will when he made the offering, the soldiers who were with him were probably glad he was FINALLY taking action, and circumstances seemed to indicate he was doing the right thing; but God viewed the actions as disobedient.  Sometimes the hardest part of doing God's will is waiting for him to reveal it instead of taking matters into our own hands.       

     Throughout my life, God has done many amazing things; but the most amazing ones happened at the very last minute, when I was most hard pressed and after I had waited and waited for him to do something. The times when I got impatient and took matters into my own hands did not turn out so well.  My comment was not intended to promote laziness or sloth and I think you know it. My comment was intended to urge caution and discernment which would involve MORE work and MORE diligence in seeking God's will..  

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Mon, 02/01/2021 05:02 am

    Not Silent, I guess I am responding to the notion that we who would object to the anti-Trumpers and believe the election was stolen are somehow spiritual neophytes, intellectual hillbillies, scared reactionaries, or theological misfits. It is condescending and fails to capture the true dynamics. In some way, I find it an excuse for not supporting a president who really was fighting for our Christian cause. Now we have to pay the piper with a radical president who is bent on destroying us on so many dimensions! Jamie doesn't seem to get it and speaks religious platitudes. 

    "I was warning against taking the WRONG action based on human nature and a feeling that we 'must do something' because of frightening circumstances."

    Wisdom would tell us to fight back when people are stealing elections and when the enemy seeks to subjugate us by using Big Tech to censoring us, using the liberal MSM to propagandize us, using government to jail us, pretending a small rioting mob is a grand insurrection, targeting Trump supporters by publishing their names and going after them (I have had this happen to me), arresting conservative journalists for what they write, and taking away our freedom of speech and religious rights. When Goliath defied God, David didn't offer to be the martyr but he fought Goliath courageously. In the same way we fight the political battle, not physically killing people, but in a metaphorical sense seeking to restrain the evil and to promote the good. If you don't like this example, then I would point to Jesus when he sent his disciples out the second time, where he commanded them to bring swords. The taking of the sword meant more than being armed to protect from enemies, though it included that, but it meant to be prepared for the difficulties they would face as they brought the gospel. Some theologians find the reference to being armed offensive and try to twist scripture to say it doesn't say this, but they are wrong, though the full meaning is much larger and includes all aspects of being prepared.  Included in this is facing the political battle where the world will try to shut down the Christian voice but we must fight to keep it open so we can evangelize and "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you' (Matt. 28:20). As Paul taught against idolatry, which caused a political outcry against him, Paul did not cease to proclaim the truth, even if it led to the message being shut down and he had to move to another location (Acts 19:23-41). We in turn fight the political battle where oftentimes the gospel message is found offensive and people want to shut us down. Here I don't want to conflate all our political battle as "the gospel", for our political battle is much larger, but still we need to fight our societies beliefs and values which are in direct conflict with scripture. 
    We are not reacting out of fear or doing something just to do something, but we are being faithful witnesses to the truth. We see the enemies of God move and we are prepared to engage and counter them in the political and intellectual battles. This is what Christians should do! 

  • not silent
    Posted: Mon, 02/01/2021 02:03 pm

    For Cyborg, I respect your views and appreciate your passion and your willingness to engage with people on these forums. And I consider you my fellow soldier for the gospel. But it's frustrating when you make unwarranted assumptions about my motives and beliefs, when you keep creating false dichotomies, and when you attack people like me who are not your enemies.  

    I'm going to be very clear about what I mean.  I said you made "unwarranted assumptions about my motives and beliefs" because said you were responding to the notion that people who believed the election was stolen were "spiritual neophytes, intellectual hillbillies, scared reactionaries, or theological misfits."  Frankly, the article said nothing of the kind; I said nothing of the kind, and I saw nothing of the kind in any of the other comments.  Those are YOUR words used to describe YOURSELF.

    For the record, I don't think you view yourself that way; I think you are using a straw man argument. And I'll gladly burn it down right now.  I do NOT think you are any of those things.  I DO disagree with you about a number of issues; but I can disagree with someone very strongly while still respecting their worth, their intellect, their ability to make their own decisions, and their status as my brother or sister in Christ.  

    Second, this is what I mean by a "false dichotomy": I can tell you from personal experience that the fact that someone did not vote for Mr. Trump does not mean that person is "part of the left," that they believe everything in the "MSM," or that they supported Mr. Biden! I did not vote for either Mr. Trump OR Mr. Biden. I don't consider myself "part of the left" or "part of the right" because I've seen good and bad on BOTH SIDES. It may be that one side is "better," but it's not helpful to me to view it that way. Since I don't want to support ANYTHING that is bad, regardless of which "side" it's on, I look at each of the issues individually and seek God's will about them. It's an ongoing process that takes a LOT of work and a LOT of prayer, and I don't do enough of either; but I'm trying. Also, quite frankly, I don't believe everything I read from ANY media source. 

    Third, I am pro life and have volunteered for the largest pro life group in the US. I have also commented many times about the evil of abortion.   It is VERY unfair to blame me and others like me for policies that are enacted by a president we have no control over and didn't vote for.  We are not your enemies, Cyborg. Why are you shooting us?

    Deciding who to support this past election may not have been hard for you, Cyborg; but it was for me and a lot of other people.  Although I did not vote for Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump, I DO understand why others did.  It took a lot of work, but I found a candidate with views I could support-not just on religious freedom but on most other issues. You are free to disagree (you would be in good company since most people apparently disagree) but I have to vote my conscience even if I know the candidate isn't going to win.  I guess I can't help thinking that some of these unlikely candidates might actually get elected fi enough people voted for them!    

    Also, for the record, I am very concerned about policies that may restrict religious freedom; but this isn't the first time I've been concerned.  I was actually THREATENED with prison and had my job threatened for sharing the gospel years ago.  But here's the thing: the president at the time was not a democrat-it was Ronald Reagan!  

    The world is always going to oppose us. The Bible is full of examples of people who fought against evil and oppression AND full of examples of people who turned the other cheek and became martyrs. It's a false dichotomy to say that we should ALWAYS fight or we should ALWAYS turn the other cheek. I have anxiety about the future, of course; but I am praying for God to show me how to live in these times.  I may wind up fighting, or I may wind up being martyred. I honestly don't know how it will turn out.  But I want to make SURE that what happens is God's will and not mine.  If I'm going to fight and die on some hill, I want to make sure it's the RIGHT hill and the right enemy. 

      

       

  • HANNAH.
    Posted: Mon, 02/01/2021 07:40 pm

    Cyborg3, you are an eloquent warrior and defender of the truth. At the same time, this statement (and the following argument) troubles me: “I would point to Jesus when he sent his disciples out the second time, where he commanded them to bring swords.” Do not misquote Scripture to buttress your argument. 

    Matthew (Ch. 10) and Mark (Ch. 6) report one instance of Jesus sending out disciples. Luke (Ch. 9 and Ch.10) reports two instances of Jesus sending out disciples. Jesus says nothing about a sword. 

    It is at the Last Supper (Luke 22:35-38) that Jesus instructs His disciples and mentions a sword – to fulfill Scripture that Jesus would be “counted among the transgressors.” At Jesus’ arrest (Matthew 26: 50-54, Mark 14:46-49, Luke 22:49-53, and John 18:4-11), Jesus addressed the drawing of a sword. Again, He links such action to fulfilling Scripture about Himself.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Tue, 02/02/2021 08:50 pm

     

    Hi Hannah, thanks for your kind words. You are gracious and speak a lot of wisdom too. I do have a question for you. How exactly does the sword relate to the prophecy? I would say the sword has no relationship with the prophecy. He was only predicting His death and the significance was that before while he trained his disciples (both 12 and later 70) he sent them out without money or protection. Now that Jesus was leaving them, he did send them out taking money, protection and supplies. In other words, they were to go out trusting God but using wisdom in preparation. Part of that included, taking precautions in safety and being armed. So yes, Jesus would support the Second Amendment which some Christians don’t want to hear. Matthew Henry’s commentary does support this view, though he doesn’t say anything about the Second Amendment. I don’t believe I have twisted scripture in any way. If I misunderstand your perspective, please clarify.

  • HANNAH.
    Posted: Wed, 02/03/2021 01:35 pm

    Cyborg3, I quote Scripture, not a commentary.

    It is at the Last Supper (Luke 22:35-38) that Jesus instructs His disciples and mentions a sword – to fulfill Scripture that Jesus would be “counted among the transgressors.” The Scripture that Jesus fulfills is Isaiah 53:12.

    At Jesus’ arrest (Matthew 26: 50-54, Mark 14:46-49, Luke 22:49-53, and John 18:4-11), Jesus addressed the drawing of a sword. Again, He links such action to fulfilling Scripture about Himself. The Scripture that Jesus fulfills is Zechariah 13:7.

    I'm done commenting on this, having done due diligence in studying God's Word.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Fri, 02/05/2021 03:48 pm

    Hannah,

    I would not be dismissive of a good Bible commentary, for godly men and women write them who have studied the Bible much more thoroughly than we have.  The writers are not infallible, but they often have great insight into scripture drawing connections that we don’t see. Sometimes they may get it wrong, but a majority of the time they get it correct, assuming you have a good commentary. 

    Luke 22:36-38

    36 Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. 37 For I say to you that this which is written must still be [e]accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”

    38 So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”

    And He said to them, “It is enough.”

    Jesus says, “But now” in verse 36 meaning a transition is occurring, where in the past Jesus sent them out without money bag, supplies, and protection - their training period. But now they are to go out with planning taking money, supplies and protection. It is at a time when Jesus’ ministry is over: 1) the fulfillment of prophecy is at hand where Jesus would suffer the death of a criminal (“and he was numbered with the transgressors”); 2) and His end was near (“For the things concerning Me have an end.”). This prophecy is not looking back to the sword but is looking at the time period it is - Jesus was about to die and leave them and their training is over. The purpose of the training was to have them exercise their faith and not rely on their wisdom, their planning, their supplies or their sword. But this new phase after the death of Jesus, they are to use both earthly wisdom and planning, coupled with faith, though not trusting in earthly things. The sword too represented the difficulties they would face, for just as Jesus would suffer death by humiliation on the cross, so His disciples would face great tribulation and death in their latter years.”

    The prophecy is from Is. 53:12 which looks ahead to Jesus’s death with the robbers.

    Now you reference several passages  (Matthew 26: 50-54, Mark 14:46-49, Luke 22:49-53, and John 18:4-11) when Jesus is arrested and Peter cuts the ear off the servant of the high priest, but Jesus heals him. Jesus rebuked Petter for his improper use of the sword, for the purpose of God’s coming was to die. Could not Jesus call a legion of angels down if He wanted to? The second prophecy reference refers to Peter’s attempt at circumventing God’s plan.

    Matt. 26:54 

    “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

    If Peter prevented Jesus’s death then all the prophecy about Jesus coming and saving mankind would be proved null and void.

    Also it says in Matt. 26:56 

    “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

    We have to be careful what the “all of this” refers to. Can we take the word “sword” and arbitrarily connect it to any prophecy with the word “sword” in it like the Zechariah 13:7 passage? 

    7 “Awake, sword, against my shepherd,

        against the man who is close to me!”

        declares the Lord Almighty.

    “Strike the shepherd,

        and the sheep will be scattered,

        and I will turn my hand against the little ones.

    The sword here represents the punishment that Jesus would experience to redeem God’s elect from hell. Jesus is the Father’s son being close to God. After Jesus’s death the sheep are scattered and we see this later too in the great dispersion. Now even if you could make a connection to this verse (which I don't see), it still doesn’t take away from the commentary that I provide on the Luke 22:36-38 passage. It still applies.

  • Steve SoCal
    Posted: Sat, 01/30/2021 06:00 pm

    Excellent article on one of the most important questions of our day!  Thank you, Jamie.  I thought this quote was great: “But if our country becomes ultimate, then we’re really not able to be patriots, because our country can’t deliver on being a god.”  May God help us to truly love our neighbors of all persuasions, reject fear- or hate-filled narratives, and keep grounded in the Bible, God's written word.

  • RL
    Posted: Wed, 02/03/2021 11:23 am

    I really enjoyed this article.  Well balanced and thoughtful.  

  • JOHN B STONE DMIN
    Posted: Wed, 02/03/2021 05:26 pm

    Thank you for your balanced review of the mess on Jan. 6; but the mixed multitudes, as you note, had all kinds of people-and not all were Trump supporters of course. As a Christian, I harken back to the Rev. John Witherspoon's involvement in the politics of his day. Witherspoon was the only clergy to sign the Declaration of Indepence. As you know, a future President, James Madison, was a student at Princeton where Witherspoon taught. We learn much on the checks and balances from that school's Presbyterian philosophy of total depravity and the utter need for checks and balances in public rule, yes, see the Federalist Papers on this topic. But now, The courts legislate, the executive branch legislates and the national legislature adjudicates and adjudicates very badly, even illegally some might argue.  Something's wrong.

    So, now what?  Jesus is still on the Throne; and Lord's Prayer, "thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven" has more meaning than ever, and to me, prayer is the first line of defense, or attack, if you will. Add the Psalms which are still a lifeline to God Almighty against the tides of misrule and executive actions wherein, for example, thousands are losing their livlihoods by executive order.  

      PS  I am 73. I have never seen a more dangerous time in my lifetime in this country; though I wonder if the Great Depression and WWII may have been far more dangerous. Apropos, I have been interested in American politics since I was 16, William F. Buckly then was my hero.  I wonder what his comments on our current confusion would be? 

  • MW
    Posted: Mon, 02/08/2021 10:55 am

    I find it very offensive to say Christians that support Trump and love our country are insurrectionists. Were the democrats that conspired with other countries to steal the election called insurrectionists? Were the members of Congress who, after seeing the final piece of evidence about Italy's involvement in the fraud, and still voted to certify the results, insurecctionists? Were the Antifa folks who arrived at the rally in several bus loads dressed up as Trump supporters and led the storming of the Captiol insurrectionists? Were the Capitol Police who moved the barriers and directed them in insurrectionists? According to World Magazine, they are not, but Christians like me are. I have supported this magazine for  over 4 years now because I feel like if you want more Christian news reporting, you have to support it financially. I overlooked the bias against Trump, but this is completely out of line. I have cancelled my subscription.

    I also find it very offensive that the author calls all prophets who foresaw a Trump victory false prophets. There are still a remenant of them left who haven't retracted and apologized, and are still standing firm in what God told them. Just because it didn't happen by the date we would have all liked, doesn't mean it will never happen. I am still standing in faith with prophets like Hank Kunneman, Robin Bullock, Kat Kerr, and Kent Christmas. Their bold faith in the face of persecution (mostly by other Christians like this World author) is an inspiration to me and helps me stay in peace. This one-sided article also shows World's bias against spirit-filled Christians. Denominational Christians that reject the Holy Spirit and the His gifts just don't understand all that the Christian life could be or what it is to know without a doubt you have heard from God. From reading the comments over the years, I get the feeling most readers of this magazine are of that type so I know I will get a lot of negative comments from this post, but I feel it is important to speak up on this matter.

  • not silent
    Posted: Fri, 02/12/2021 12:04 pm

    For MW, you are entitled to your feelings, of course.  However, I am not sure World Magazine meant to say or imply that ALL people who support Mr. Trump and love this country are insurrectioninsts.  I think they were referring to very specific beliefs and actions by a certain subset of people who support Mr. Trump. The reason I think that is because the article itself says this: "Plenty of Christians voted for Trump without idolizing him, and the majority didn't riot."

    (I am curious about exactly what you mean by "Christians like me."  I.e., Why do you feel that World magazine considers you, personally, an "Insurrectionist.")  

    I was not "offended" by your comment, but I found your claim that World has a bias against Spirit-filled Christians rather ironic since the message I received from your comment was that Christians like ME who view the very specific prophecies regarding a Trump victory as "false" are those who "reject the Holy Spirit and His gifts" and who "just don't understand all that the Christian life could be or what it is to know without a doubt you have heard from God."   (Please note: I can only express what I HEARD from your comment.  I can't read your mind or know your intent.  Thus, I would welcome clarification if I misunderstood.)

    I can't speak for World or its writers, but I am going to be very clear about my own position.  First of all, I do NOT reject the Holy Spirit and His gifts. I realize there have been and may still be Christians and churches who deny that gifts like prophecy, tongues, healing, etc are still given to believers; but I'M NOT ONE OF THEM.  I actually used to belong to a church like that; and I would sit there biting my tongue because God had given me one of the gifts they were denying!  The Bible urges believers to use discernment, and some people believe the Holy Spirit gives a special gift of discernment to some believers.  So I would submit that one can fully acknowledge gifts of prophecy, tongues, healing, etc but recognize the need to use discernment about them.  

    I ALSO know what it is to know without a doubt that I have heard from God. (I have seen miraculoous answered prayers and have even had visions.) But I would consider it quite a stretch to claim that I "understand all that the Christian life could be." Even Paul the Apostle said: "For now we see in  mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."  (1 Corinthians 13:12)  If even Paul didn't know everything, I should be willing to learn and grow in my faith.  There have been a lot of times when intelligent, Spirit filled believers disagreed with me; but it didn't automatically mean one of us was "less spiritual."  We each have our own walk with God and we need to keep seeking his guidance.         

    I am not your enemy, MW. I am a believer and I'm seeking God's will just as you are. Can we agree to join together in asking GOD to show us why there seems to be such a discrepancy in the way believers in this country see his will and how to go forward from here?  

  • Jason Woodard
    Posted: Tue, 02/09/2021 03:53 pm

    Excellent article Jamie - great work thats much needed.