“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
English Standard Version
(This post was co-authored by Ryan Knight and Evan Cole.)
Earlier this week I wrote a post titled ‘It’s Hour Come ‘Round At Last‘, wherein I chronicled my reaction to Good Tidings and Great Joy. The book was written by the former governor of my state, Sarah Palin, and is an example of the principles I now stand firmly against. Principles I once supported and believed in because I thought they were right. In the years following my deliverance from the sociocultural and political soup of Christian Fundamentalism, I have been repeatedly accused of being some sort of heretic. I have critics, including members of my own family, who think I am espousing a counterfeit gospel tainted with secular Humanism.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I am constantly accused of being a Liberal, (which I’m not), and before you make that next leap I’m not a Conservative either. To paraphrase Jesus, my political party is not of this world, and when I take certain positions it is due to my faith. Naturally, this brings me to my ongoing struggle with some of the messages promoted in Good Tidings and Great Joy. One of the things that really bothers me is Palin’s use of stereotypes. Namely, the use of characteristics that are supposed to be ‘traits’ or ‘behaviors’ personified by people who are Liberal. On the surface, like most false teachings, it looks harmless. In reality, it is deadly poison, and you can see its fruits in the modern church.
Heck, I can see them in my own life.
According to Palin if you drive an energy-efficient vehicle, wear Birkenstocks, observe a Vegan or Vegetarian diet, purchase eco-friendly and Fair Trade goods, listen to NPR, recycle, and refuse to play party to worldly gender roles and stereotypes – you are a Liberal. Common sense dictates that none of these things are indicative one way or another of a person being Liberal or Conservative. My husband Evan, (the other admin of BCF), drives my old pickup-truck which is a Dodge Dakota 4×4 with custom exhaust that makes the big ‘VROOM’ noise when you hit the gas. Typically, when people think of trucks with custom exhaust they think of some kid with a backwards baseball cap, and enough base to blow the doors off the crew cab. If a woman is behind the wheel the assumption is that the truck either belongs to her boyfriend, or she is a butch lesbian.
I kid you not.
Before you start e-mailing me, I have actually had people assume that my truck was either the property of my significant other, or they made certain conclusions about my sexuality – all because of the vehicle I was driving. There is a reason we have that old adage about the word ‘assume’, and when we buy into assumptions and stereotypes everyone suffers. In my case having to deal with well-meaning relatives who think that I must be a Liberal because I recycle, drive an energy-efficient car, listen to NPR, wear Birkenstocks, purchase Fair Trade and eco-friendly goods, and refuse to play party to worldly gender roles and stereotypes.
Plus, there’s that whole Vegan thing.
Never mind the fact that the positions I have taken come from my relationship with God, or issues with my health. Instead, the perception is that they stem from exposure to secular Humanism and Liberal philosophy. Accusations based on my adoption of characteristics that the world claims are indicative of [insert negative association here]. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, and this is why I am so troubled by Palin and her book. I know from first-hand experience the effect her teachings, (which is what they are), can have on less-discerning brothers and sisters who absorb them.
In reality, the question we should be asking is whether or not any of these things are against God and His holy Kingdom. Guess what? They’re not. When you get down to it the actions and practices themselves are neither Liberal nor Conservative, nor are they indicative of a believer or non-believer. A Christian can – if they so choose – recycle, wear Birkenstocks, listen to NPR, drive an energy-efficient car, purchase Fair Trade and eco-friendly goods, adopt a Vegan or Vegetarian diet, and so on because none of these things are contrary to God and Christ.
Not only that, Good Tidings and Great Joy is not representative of all Christians, or Conservatives for that matter. It might come as a surprise, but there are Conservatives who support renewable and sustainable energy sources. I wonder if Palin has ever heard of the Young Conservatives for Energy Reform? Probably not, but they are a group of Republican men and women who support a transition from fossil to alternative fuels. What about the Evangelical Environmental Network, or Trade As One which is a Christian organization that supports Fair Trade? Even better, what about the Christian Vegetarian Association*?
Yet, no one would know that from reading Good Tidings and Great Joy. Instead, they would come away with the perception that leads to the very issues I, and many other brothers and sisters are dealing with when worldly means are used to test the veracity of their faith. We are living in an age where, in between sowing seeds of division and strife, The Enemy is attempting to undermine the very foundation of Christianity itself, and yes – that does include the proliferation of false teachings in the church. Yet, instead of addressing the actual problem we’re doing what Evan calls the nail-board phenomenon which The Enemy thrives on.
There’s an old adage that if you get something right, you’ve ‘hit the nail on the head’. The problem is that Palin is hitting the board around the nail. Instead of focusing on the real issues like teachings that are obviously not Christian, something that really bothers me when I see how it turns people, we’re talking about Birkenstocks. According to the Bible, if you want to know if a person or teaching is legit, you look for the fruit it produces which is basically the effect it has on people and the world. It can be short or long-term, but the point is that is the test. Birkenstocks can’t do that.
Plus, how is dividing people bringing them into Christianity? The Bible has something to say about creating division, just look in Romans 16:17-18 (NIV) -
“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites,and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.”
If your goal is to try to get people to become Christians, you don’t attack them. Instead, you try to find some common ground, get to know them, build a relationship, and do it that way. Right now, Palin is being a splitter, breaking people up by playing to fears based on stereotypes. So far, it hasn’t fixed anything, and it hasn’t made people want to be Christians.
In essence, if you want to know whether or not a person is an actual Christian, look to the Bible, and not the world. You cannot tell if a person is a Christian based on their clothes, but you can based on their actions, and the fruits those actions bear out. If I were a Liberal reading Good Tidings and Great Joy, I wouldn’t feel like Palin had shared a life-altering truth leading to salvation. Instead, I would feel like I had just spent an hour reading every fear, assumption, and stereotype I had about mainstream Christians and Republicans. I would think, feel, and believe exactly what The Enemy wanted me to. Unaware that both sides are being played against each other, and using the exact same tactics. Satan uses humans he has taken captive to do his will on Earth, and per scripture that can include Christians who have bought into worldly doctrines -
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servantmust not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
All of these controversies currently at play in our sociopolitical and cultural arenas are simply red herrings, thrown out by The Enemy to distract both secular and religious society. Instead of focusing on real issues, we’re arguing over whether or not our President is a secret Muslim operative, instead of addressing the passage of the NDAA. In Wasilla, just fifty miles south of Anchorage, there are preachers telling their congregations that their salvation relies not on Jesus, but on which candidate they vote for in the booth. Never mind the fact that, once again, Alaska in in the top ten category for everything from alcoholism to suicide. This sort of nonsense is also why so many members of my generation are leaving the church, in droves.
The Barna group recently conducted a new study to identify the main reasons why young Christians are leaving the flock, and their answers covers nearly every red herring thrown out in Good Tidings and Great Joy. Modern telecommunications have taken humans from being local to global citizens. The internet granting access to new ideas and worldviews, ones that young Christians are ill-equipped to address due to fear-based, risk-averse, stifling experiences where the church has demonized everything outside of its walls.
In my case Birkenstocks and Veganism are a sign of the Devil.
In reality, my generation has come to the realization that our salvation doesn’t rely on wearing a certain type of shoe, or eating a special food. It relies on Jesus, and our relationship with Him. Not to mention the realization that if you want to elicit real change in the world, you have to do it the way Christ did. I don’t know if Mrs. Palin has noticed, but the world is getting worse, and the need for a mature church is greater than ever. People are thirsty for God, and the fact that they’re not finding Him through us Christians which means something is seriously wrong. Younger generations are leaving the church, fulfilling the various prophecies about the great falling away, because they share that thirst thanks to a situation akin to the one in 1 Corinthians 3:3 (ESV) -
“But I, brothers,could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”
We have an entire generation walking out the door, because they ‘desire pure spiritual milk’ in order to ‘grow into their salvation’ (1 Peter 2:2, ESV). Instead, they’re receiving the same tainted batch that their parents were fed upon, and are – rightfully – spitting it out. This creates a demand for a mature church that is woefully undermanned and unprepared. When young Christians describe their own religion as ‘shallow’, and lacking the deep and intimate relationship with God spoken of in scripture we need to pay attention. Both secular and religious society is searching for the God who bought a dead man back to life, the God where anything is possible, and is one upon whom they can lay down their burdens and find comfort. Sadly, I didn’t find Him in Good Tidings and Great Joy, and that is troubling. Our church and our planet is in dire straits right now, and we no longer have the luxury of indulging in petty quarrels that serve a larger and more sinister purpose.
We need to start hitting the nail, instead of the board.
*BCF does not agree with the position of Christian Vegetarian Association that all Christian should adopt a Vegetarian or Vegan diet. People have diverse nutritional needs, which require a variety of diets. If anything, the Bible indicates that fundamentally all humans should seek out a healthy diet that discourages diseases associated with poor nutrition. We base our position, as they do, on scripture, but BCF maintains that adopting a Vegan or Vegetarian diet is a matter of choice per human free-will. When we take away the ability to freely choose, we entertain Legalism and Religiosity, and enter into the trap of forcing our beliefs upon others – a trap non-Christian Vegans and Vegetarians fall into as well when they become militant. CVA is an excellent resource for Christian Vegans and Vegetarians. Whether or not all Christians should adopt said diet is, honestly, between said Christians and God – not an organization.