Trumpism, Not Donald Trump: Part 3

For the last two weeks, I diverged off of the beat and path of my usual meanderings of this cracked up American life in order to talk about something that had been on my mind for some time now.   I had been desiring to first of all introduce the idea primarily as to why Christians showed up to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, but also speak to the fact that it has more to do with “Trumpism” and not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump.  I introduced that thought process in the blog entitled https://marknealprince.com/2019/07/18/trumpism-not-donald-trump-part-i/as well as last week’s post https://marknealprince.com/2019/07/23/trumpism-not-donald-trump-part-2/.  I left off last week beginning to unpack why Christians actually voted for the avant-garde Commander and Chief, speaking along the lines of understanding the difference between two kingdoms; the world and the church.  I’m going to pick back up where I left off as we plundered the narrative of the scriptures as a whole from the Old Testament, and this week I hope to zero in on how that progressive understanding also further shaped the sentiment of the New Testament writers.  Hopefully, as we progress a little further, we can at least get a better understanding as to how people who claim to be about love, care for the poor and needy and the alien and the stranger, can also be for their own country’s kingdom and values simultaneously.

An Understanding of Two Kingdoms(continued)

As we enter into the New Testament world with the introduction of Jesus on the scene, the consensus of “kingdom” and what it means to the Jews is still on the minds of everyone.  Mostly, that idea of kingdom is very wrong in that the majority of the people, as well as the disciples at first, still think prematurely of a Kingdom of power that will come and rightfully restore the Jewish people  to a renewed Davidic kingdom, finally free from their oppressors and a force of both good and strength for the world.  Others such as Simeon and Anna (Luke 2), who hang around and pray in the temple all day, know this is indeed not the case.  Ironically, as we fast forward to Jesus’ ascension at the birth of the early church (Acts 1) we still find many of the Lord’s followers asking basically, “Is this the time that you will establish your kingdom on earth”?  Jesus reply is both telling and frustrating to his hearers, as Jesus has been speaking about the kingdom to them for days and yet they still don’t get it.  He essentially lets them know that this time of which they speak is only for the Father to know, but for now His kingdom will enable them to receive power to be “witnesses” of a kingdom that will instead be one of a reordering of the heart.  And also, one that empowers those who heed its message to be a transformative “salt and light” in how they live their lives, show love and compassion to others, and who also speak kingdom truths regardless of the costs associated with doing so.

     Slow to Learn

It would take both Peter and Paul a little later on, as the New Testament was being penned and circulated, to help the early church broaden its view on this subject.  However, it was Jesus that first homed in on the differences of the two kingdoms people thought they knew something about; many of which had forgotten their very costly Old Testament lessons.  The first case we’re given for our instruction is when Jesus is taunted by the Pharisees in an effort to catch him in a trap, where they ask him whether or not it is lawful to give taxes to Caesar or not (Luke 22:19-26). And here it is that we have the statement that has no doubt changed the world that we exist in, and that is equally educational in this tale of two kingdoms, where Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”.  The clear idea here that Jesus wants to get through people’s heads first of all, is that the kingdom of power they envision now is not the one He has come to set up.  His synopsis for the crowd is that governments have a job to do in that they render law, order and protection; and as a result of that representation, taxes are due to them for that service they provide.  Likewise, Jesus is stating that the Kingdom of God is a different matter altogether, but that is also has things (time, tithes and talents) that it also will require of us, but that are to not to be confused with what Caesar is about.  But stay with me here.  Let’s fast forward now after Jesus has been arrested and taken to Pilate, where we witness another teachable moment to the inquiring minds who truly want to know that is put before us regarding this two-kingdom motif.  Pilate in essence asks who Jesus is and whether or not he is indeed King of the Jews.  Jesus’s reply is that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), and that if it were, His servants (like all worldly kingdoms) would be fighting forcefully to overthrow it, and because they are in fact not fighting, this explains that the kingdom He proclaims is not a worldly kingdom. Case in point: The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this world are two kingdoms with vastly different agendas and purposes.

     The Pillars of the Faith Guide Us Onward

From here, gleaning from the pen of the two most famous apostles who laid down what the church was to believe and practice in these matters was both Peter and Paul.  And ironically, both in fact took these same things to mean a clear distinction between the two kingdoms, both positively and negatively.  Negatively in the sense that we are to be separate in terms of our values from the world’s, and rather to instead of conforming ourselves to them, be transformed by reorienting our minds to thinking Godly (Rom. 12:1,2).  Positively, in the sense that we are compelled to pray for all people, including our rulers and those in authority. Timothy in fact tells us this, under the tutelage of his mentor Paul, by admonishing us that we are to do this so that we might have the possibility of having quiet and peaceable lives, even in the midst of an ungodly society (I Tim. 2:2). Peter in fact tells us in I Peter. 2:13-17 this very thing as well where he writes:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (ESV)

And for those who might be inclined to think he said this because they had such a well-mannered Emperor in office that everyone simply adored, we need to be reminded that Nero was his name-O!  And far from “liking” Christians as a people, history tells us that he did however appreciate their usefulness for lighting up his gardens at night, and the very pillars that gave us these instructions were both “given the ax” under his reign!  And yet Paul nonetheless correspondingly tell us this in Romans 13:1-7:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore, one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (ESV)

     A New Understanding

And it is here that we begin to see the formulation of the church’s two kingdom variances.   And through the teaching of the scriptures, the church begins to understand that though they are to speak boldly as to the truth they have been commissioned with, they are likewise; where it does not conflict with thwarting the preaching of the gospel, to be the best of citizens.  They do so by cooperating with the worldly kingdom in the good that it does and the order that it provides, and which is indeed sovereignly set up by God to enact justice for their specific kingdom of which they are residents.  Conversely, this does not mean that all kingdoms are good, and in fact many throughout history have wreaked havoc on their constituents in the most brutal of ways.  In this case, the early church always used its influence to speak in the right way to power, trying to change the things they saw as grave injustices, even at great cost to themselves.  Some such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, went so far as to join a band of Christian brothers to assassinate Adolph Hitler, however unsuccessfully.  And yet even Paul in Acts 22, uses his own rights as a citizen of Rome that he was indeed born into to stop the powers that be from treating him like and dog and beating him unjustly.  The term “wise as serpents, and gentle as doves” is pregnant with meaning in order to discern the right approach in our day to day lives here, however it will always be done so with both pluses and minuses along the way.

Selah

Stay tuned for Part 4

 

Trumpism, Not Donald Trump: Part 2

Last week, I wrote a piece entitled: Trumpism, Not Donald Trump: Part 1 https://marknealprince.com/2019/07/18/trumpism-not-donald-trump-part-i/.  In that piece I spoke briefly about my normal apprehension in writing posts that are political in nature.  I’ll urge you to read that piece first if you missed it, and simply jump right in to what may take another post or two to complete.  However, just to have some cohesion to what I began to introduce, I opened my thoughts on the matter with an explanation of the danger of putting all “deplorables” and “Dregs of Society” in the same basket.  Afterwards, I also wanted to talk a bit more about giving genuine inquirers several reasons why “so-called” Christians voted for Donald Trump, or what I like to call Trumpism instead.  My first reason was due to the fact that it was a reaction to what they and others like them believe is a now full-scale attack on what made the West great, which I gave some very brief thoughts on.  The second one is this:

An Understanding of Two Kingdoms

 By saying two kingdoms, what I simply mean is that the vast majority of Christians, I believe rightly understand the difference between the Kingdom that is of God, and the one that is of this world.  In fact, they understand it properly only from mining the whole of scripture to do so. As a result, one emerges with a clear and glaring difference between what the church is supposed to do and teach, and what the government is to be about; and how they differ.

     The Anomaly That is America

It is of course no secret then in saying that, as we discuss America, we rightly understand that we are somewhat of an anomaly in the world as a true Republic.  A Republic in which all citizens (red, yellow, black, white, Christian, non-Christian, etc.) are protected by law in being able to both speak freely, and more importantly; in being given the great privilege of the right to vote.  And of course it should be no surprise to anyone, that regardless of the country’s now militant desire to eradicate religion from public life altogether, it is virtually impossible (even for those who want to rid us of it) to exercise our free speech and cast our vote without also bringing our worldview to bear on the decisions that we make.  To deny that this is the case, or that it should not be the example at all times is not only preposterous, but a clear denial what has always been—which applies to both sinner and saint among us.  Equally worth noting, is that to live in stark opposition to what we say we believe, no matter who we are, is to in fact believe nothing at all.

     Failure to Legislate a Religion

However, since blogs are to be “short and sweet”, I want to explain briefly what I mean by the difference of which I speak in these two kingdoms.  For instance, if we (speaking of Christians here) take an honest look at the entirety of scripture as I said earlier, we understand this distinction all too well.  This is after all why true thinking Christians do not wish for a theocracy as some might think, like many of our Muslim friends, due to the fact that a full legislation of morality or a religion is a failed experiment time and time again in the kingdom of this world.  For it underestimates that it is indeed the law that gives sin in us the opportunity to further enslave us, thus stoking our “middle finger’s” defiance towards it, as well as our continual failure to meet its holy demands (Romans 7:8-25). For indeed it is the letter that kills, but only the Spirit that gives new life a fighting chance to actually desire from the heart to do the right thing (2 Cor. 3:2).

     The Kingdom of God on Earth Begins to Crumble

 But back to the division of kingdoms.  We begin to see this dichotomy most clearly in the life of Samuel (I Sam. 8) where he is rightly upset that the Israelites have rejected God as their King, yet who instead desire a human king like the rest of the nations “to judge for them” and to “fight their battles”.  Samuel is of course taken aback by this and inquires of the Lord about it, at which point the Lord simply says for him to go back and let them know what they are getting into.  In other words, he wants them to understand that having a King and a Kingdom will require their sons and daughters, money, land, and taxes–as well as their full devotion to his and his kingdom’s service.  He concludes by reminding them that the byproduct of this wish fulfillment of theirs, is that a people called by God to be free moral agents, will in fact be enslaved to their King instead.  This is of course the history of most of the world until the radical idea and experiment of self-government was introduced by our founders.  Of course one would think that once they heard this, they would relinquish their naïve request, and ask God to put the crown on instead. Nothing happening.  The people replied to Samuel that this slavery stuff actually sounded pretty good and cried out nonetheless, “Give us a King”. As Samuel then reports back to God, the creator lets him know to go ahead and give them what they wish for. The Kingdom of God is not yet to be ushered in.  In other words, God sovereignly allows it, and the rest is in the annals of history.

     Still Giving It a College Try

As a result of this track record, also like other nations, they were continually enslaved to both good and bad Kings, all the while over and over claiming to want to put God somehow back on the throne (Judges).  Afterwards, as Kings were commissioned to at least stand in proxy for God as administrators of righteousness for the public good, everyone from wicked Saul to righteous David, and from the virtuous reforms of Josiah to the decadence of Ahab and Jezebel, each failed abysmally.  The irony in all of this is that even the most righteous King David, who it was said was a “man after God’s own heart”, during his reign of office, cut down a man in cold blood on the battlefield in order to cover up his romp in the sack with his wife while he was out fighting for his country.  This is of course not to rule out all the good that was done in the Davidic kingdom, nor is it the purpose of this blog to go all the way down memory lane of the good, bad and ugly of Israel’s leadership.  However, suffice is to say that God himself begins to separate the idea of permanent shalom and his righteous kingdom this side of eternity, even while calling his remnant of good men to continually speak out and fight for what is right to have its place in a continually rebellious, idolatrous and degenerate culture.  In fact, even during Israel’s deportation under mostly oppressive Kings who initially raped, pillaged and enslaved their people, the remnant of God’s people were still asked to buy, sell and trade and seek the welfare of their particular city as they assimilated in a foreign land that was not their own.  And in fact, even under such oppressive Kingdoms, two Kings (Cyrus and Artaxerxes) actually gave their blessing and funding both to rebuild the holy temple and also to build a wall.  And without going into a much longer discourse on the Old Testament’s obvious teachings around the distinction of the two kingdoms that God is historically fleshing out before us, as well as the fact that both his chosen men and men of the world are often in place both for good and for ill, God in fact also uses even men who eat their steak well done with ketchup in order to accomplish His purposes in the world.  In fact, as a Christian, to not believe so is to either be asleep at the biblical wheel, or to not give a rat’s ass as to what we find behind it.

Selah

Stay tuned for Part 3