Friday, August 22, 2008

Judges and Obama

After I got my Bible Background commentary for the Old Testament, I decided to try reading through these ancient books for the first time. I'm trying to understand all the verses, all the chapters, not just the familiar stories. It's a strange thing. The culture seems so different, the ways of the people so wacky. We don't live in the same world today. And yet, the nature of humans has not changed, we have not evolved into some greater beings. We still ooze jealousy and anger, we still think God would be wise to consider our input in His plans, we still want what we want, and we want it NOW! We live in the same world today.

I've made it to the end of Judges, which is a book full of inspiring stories that show how God will use imperfect people to draw nations to Him. There are stories that show how, when we are stepping out in obedience, we--with God--can accomplish impossible things. Think of Gideon and Samson. But the overall story of the book, I think, is that the people wanted a person to be their leader. they weren't satisfied with having God, the Creator of the Universe, as their leader. And I just keep wondering why?

It happens over and over in the book of Judges. The people do most of what God commands them to do, but not everything. They don't get rid of all the people in these lands as God instructed. And after a while, what do you know, they're worshiping God, the LORD, and saying with their mouths that He is the One true God, but they also just have a little statue for Baal in the backyard, just to sort of take advantage of the rain he might send, in case he's the real deal. And maybe a couple of little charms to give honor to Ishtar, the fertility goddess, you know, just for good luck. Not surprisingly, they find themselves in a pickle, get things really messed up, and then cry out to God. He raises a man or woman up to be a judge for them, they all remember that the LORD is indeed the One true God again, and they have peace in the land for 20, 40, or 50 years. That person dies, and before you know it, another generation of folks start to fudge a little with the other gods, make a mess of things again, and the cycle is repeated.

Is this so different from how we are today? I'm thinking not so much.

And, since I just finished Stephen Mansfield's book about Barack Obama's faith, I'm seeing a connection. I think of how millions of people have set their eyes on him as the great hope... Obama's big on a civil religion, one that will cover everyone's bases. What's the problem with that? His faith will "some allege, give people a watered-down religion of Americanism but insulate them from the raw but healing truth of revealed religion. In other words, it replaces traditional religion with a bland political religiosity that creates a mood without offering power. It is merely faith in faith rather than faith in God."(p.94)

Doesn't that kind of thinking sound familiar? Yikes. Are we being asked to find hope in that? Blech. A recurring statement in Judges is "the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes." Let us not grow too confident in our own eyes. Seems that just leads to big barrels of pickles.


Anonymous said...

I am choosing to vote for the candidate who represents the issues that are important to me. I am a Christian AND an American. I will not base my vote on the religious philosophy of any candidate. Don't you think your interpretation of Obama's faith is exactly what Jesus asked us to love thy neighbor as thyself?

Do you think I am a bad Christian if I don't care what the religious beliefs of our next president are?

--julie said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for reading and asking your questions.

I'm not sure what you mean by writing that my "interpretation of Obama's faith" is an example of loving neighbors. Are you referring to the "faith in faith" thing? Are you saying that's he's loving his neighbors by accepting lots of different beliefs and ideas, being open...? If that is what you're saying, I think my answer would be no, I don't think that's what Jesus asked us to do. Yes, we need to love, He told us to love even our enemies, but at the same time we need to share the Gospel--the Good News that Jesus is the ONE way.

Do I think you need to cast your vote based on this? No... I think it's good to be aware of what all that open-ness is, and how it can be dangerous.

I really don't know what kind of a Christian you are..."good" or "bad". And I don't think it's my place to make that judgement.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for not judging me. I agree that my judgement will be by God, not by man. I will ask more directly: Why is it important to you to understand a candidate's beliefs in order to vote/not vote for them? Why do you think there is a book about Obama's faith? Is there also a book about McCain's faith? Mr. Obama is running for president of the United States, not to be our religious leader. Is it impossible to separate the two (church and state) in your opinion?

Thank you again for your response. I hope you agree that this is a good discussion.

--julie said...

Hi again Anonymous,

I want to answer you directly... I don't care what you understand about anyone before you cast your vote. I am not interested in swaying other people to vote one way or another. I think that all Americans should know who, why, and what they're voting for. But do we? All of the information we get is spun. There's all kinds of gross, smarmy, secret, dirty things that go on in the political world. I kind of think they're all crooked.

I'm not sure why there is a book about Obama's faith. That would be a great question to ask the folks at Thomas Nelson publishing. I'll make a guess that it's because he's one of the first liberal politicians who has not gone to great lengths try to separate his faith from his work, that he's the one who has made an issue of his faith, so folks are digging into it. So I guess I'm saying he started it.

A quick look at Amazon shows that McCain has a book out called "Faith of My Fathers" which sounds like it does delve into his own faith.

And finally, I don't really know what I think about the separation of church and state. I think a person's faith is a major part of their character, and I think that a person in office takes their character into that office, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they are all crooked and by the time someone gets into office, there's no character left. who knows? Not really for me to judge, not something I could know about another person's heart. Maybe what scares me about Obama's "civil religion" is that it actually is NOT separating church and state; that it's a melding of the two that leeches the power out of both the church and the state.

I just reviewed a book that you could read and draw your own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

So...what about John McCain?? I wonder how many bloggers written similar articles about Obama because they were divinely inspired, and how many wrote articles like this about Obama because of the color of his skin. No such talk was mentioned about McCain nor about any other candidate that was white. Ronald Reagan?? Yeah, people did say that he was the antichrist only because each part of his name, Ronald Wilson Reagan, contained 6 letters, and we saw how much destruction, murder, mayhem, and prosecution of God's people he cause..not much. If this article, or whatever you want to call it, is divinely inspired cool. But it seems to me that it is inspired by a political based book, not the bible. If this article was biblically inspired i would think that it would not go against scripture. You failed to mention chapters 4 and 5 in the book of Judges, in which the chapters discuss a man by the name of Barak, and only good things are mentioned about him. I'm not saying that it's a direct relation to Obama or that those chapters are talking about him; i'm sure their are scriptures that mention both of us in the bible. But i would think that if someone wrote a article that is based on scripture that they would use the entire text and not just verses of warning. This article seems to be bitterly and hatefully inspired and it breaks my heart as a servant of the true and living God to see someone use part of God's word, and just like an media outlet, use it to voice their own opinion. God's word is true, John 17:17, and it's not about how we feel or think about it, it says what it says. For years slave owners use scripture to brutally rape, beat, and belittle a peopel, while calling themselves christians and over looking the teachings of Love. So, i guess they only read one verse in the bible but skipped the Gospels, the book of Act, Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, you get the point. Please don't make the same mistake. I'm sure you read some guys book about Obama and feel that you understand him, but let me ask you a question, do you read God's word in order to understand God or do you read a new york times best seller? I think you would read God's word to understand God, it makes sense. Obama has books out, 2 actually. Don't get swept away in the world wind of hatred that's going on, shcool children are being sent home for mentioning the election, even suspended from school, and a woman was killed while trying to register voters; is that what God stands for, the same God whose son told us to love our neighbors as ourselves? Can you honestly look that woman's family in the eyes and tell them that their love one is not here because of the president elect? I would rather blame the people that resulted to those actions. People were drugged from pickup trucks in texas, and police officers in new yorker city fired 80 rounds at unarmed innocent men, but Bush wasn't blamed and should not be. It's the people, we need to change and understand it is one thing to know what God said and where he said it, but it is another thing to actually do it. People are now force with the desicion to either hold on to discrimination and bigotry or embrace brotherhood, equality and love. Chose wisely.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about?
There was not a single critical word written about Obama in the post!

The post was referring to the entire book of Judges not one verse, but one verse was mentioned because it was representative of the mistakes made by the Israelites over and over.

I think you are agreeing with Julie's point that people get "swept up" thinking they are following God, but actually only following part of what he says!
You (and I) don't even know who she voted for, but you are assuming she is a "hate filled McCain voter" because she is a white evangelical christian! It is you who is angry and judgmental.

Anonymous said...

No assumption was made regarding who voted for who or the type of faith one practices. No where in the post does it say any of those things that you are speaking of. Julie's post mentioned the book of judges and a book she read about Obama's faith, but there was no mention of a equally balanced book about McCain. Therefore, the post seemed a little one sided to me. We had more than one choice of president. Now if her post was pointing out how people flock to Obama's message of change fine, but it also was referring to his "faith in faith" belief, but a book, not written by Obama, said that. My post suggested that we look and investigate for ourselves both sides. I never called Julie a "hate filled" McCain supporter. Nor did i say any thing about whom i support. Also it is in the book of Samuel when Israel is granted its' first earthly King (Saul). And honestly i'm not angry, nothing in my post was threatening. I think people should be able to discuss without placing blame and making assumptions about others. And honestly the part about me assuming she is a "hate filled McCain voter because she is a white evangelical christian" is a little offensive to me, just i have no idean what type of faith she practices. Are you saying that white evangelical christians are hate filled McCain voters? I do not think that is true and i'm not accusing you of saying that but you did write that in your post.

--julie said...

HI there to all of the anonymous commenters:

I read and reviewed Stephen Mansfield's book about Obama's faith because I was given the opportunity to do so by the publisher. It was not an "anti-Obama" book, nor was it political. I recommend you read it, before you make judgements.

I'm curious what brings you to this post, now, 2 and a half months after it was written? If you take the time to check out my blog, you'll see I don't post about political issues because these kind of "discussions" or arguments, or whatever you want to call them are not something I'm interested in. The purpose of my blog is to share the ways I see God's activity in my life. You don't have to make assumptions about my's written about all over this blog!

Coincidentally, (if you believe in coincidences, which I don't) I was reading the Old Testament this summer, and was working thru the book of Judges at the same time that the book about Obama arrived in my mailbox.

I wrote a post about how I saw some connections. That's all. It's nothing more. I didn't happen to get a book BY Obama, or a book about McCain.... So I didn't write about those.

I don't believe that my original post, or any comments after it are "bitterly or hatefully inspired"... mostly because I am not feeling hateful or bitter about our President-elect. I kind of wonder, did you really read what I wrote?

The gist of it was that I do think the Bible clearly warns us not to look to people, men or women, to guide us in every way. And it shows us what foolishness it is to be unsatisfied with the leadership of God, the Creator of the Universe.