Christian Evangelicals, the NFL, and Roseanne Barr

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In another time these three might not even be mention together, but they are in a very ironic way. I find the irony disgusting at worst and tragic at best because the Church gets hurt in instances like these. So, what are the issues? How is it ironic? What is the solution?

Protesting During the Anthem Was Never About the Flag.

As a veteran of the Iraq war with the United States Marine Corps, I love my country, and I love my flag. I always have and I always will. That said, objectivity is critical here. In 2016 Collin Kaepernick began protesting during the national anthem by taking a knee. When asked to expand on his protest on August 28, 2016, Kaepernick stated,

 ….I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I       have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom; they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances, where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought, have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.

As seen in the quote, Kaepernick notes his connection and affinity for those in the military. His protest and the many that followed were merely about the apparent police brutality towards African-American males.

In response, the President of the United States, Donald Trump redirected the protest from police treatment of African American males to the issue of denigrating the flag by not standing, suggesting that those who don’t stand should be fire. Furthermore, this past week the NFL passed a rule requiring all players to stand for the anthem or face fines. In my observations since Kaepernick’s protest, the president’s response, and the NFL rule most Christians stand on the side of the president and the NFL.

Christian Evangelicals Support for Roseanne Barr

 On Tuesday, ABC cancelled its hit reboot of Roseanne, (which made its debut in 1988 and was reintroduced to households across the country this past March), after tweeting racist remarks about Valerie Jarrett, former President Obama’s senior advisor. In response, many Christian evangelicals shouted from the rooftops how unfair it was to cancel Roseanne in light of Barr merely applying the first amendment. Some even joined in on the “Stand with Roseanne” movement currently making its rounds on Twitter and Facebook.

The Irony

I find it ironic that Christian evangelicals would rally around Roseanne Barr for any particular reason given the overall disdain for the show in the 80’s and 90’s. Roseanne, in its first go-around, was arguably the most progressive sitcom in television history at the time. It promoted such things as abortion and gay marriage. Even in the reboot, the first episode featured a cross-dressing boy. With all this in mind, why would the conservative, Christian evangelical community support Roseanne Barr? Some may say that they don’t agree with her political stances, but she shouldn’t be taken off the air for exercising her first amendment (although in my opinion, it was a heinous act) right, no matter how grotesque it might seem. Some may say that is why the first amendment is there, not so we can talk about the weather, but to make controversial statements.

If that is the case, then wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to NFL players who protest during the national anthem? It seems to me, that if the Christian community is going to get behind a progressive-liberal like Roseanne Barr and her right to free speech without being penalized, why support the penalization of NFL players for expressing their first amendment right to peacefully protest? In my opinion,  this is merely a matter of cherry picking regarding the topic of free speech. If someone protests during the national anthem then it means they aren’t a patriot, they don’t love America, and they should be punished. If someone makes a racist tweet about a former Obama advisor (a political nemesis) and gets fired for it, why, then someone should pay for burning up the constitution!

The Problem

The problem in all of this is not only the double talk from Christian evangelicals but the fact that for too long the Church has been wedded to politics in hopes of cleaning up the culture.  For the Christian right, it has married itself to a political party which for far too long has promised them a conservative Christian utopia and delivered little. The Church, since the formation of the Moral Majority in the 1980’s is quickly becoming the political minority because of instances like the ones described here. In the long run, the overall mission of the Church, making disciples (Mt. 28:16) will be even more difficult than it already is because the secular culture will be unable to distinguish between the mission of the Church and the purpose of the political entities she’s wed too.

The Solution

Be the Church of the Bible rather than the Church of the Beltway. Yes, participate in politics: vote, run for office, peacefully protest, become a judge, a congressional aide, run for president. But we can do all of that while being objective in our analysis of both parties. One way to do that is to be consistent in the application of the constitution. If Barr shouldn’t be penalized for her tweet, the NFL players shouldn’t be punished for their peaceful protest.

The goal of the Church is to fill people far from God with life in Christ. Jesus gave us the command to go and make disciples, not wed ourselves to the government. For example, Thessalonica was a political hub of the Roman empire, and Paul wrote two letters to the Christians residing in the city. If you read the letters carefully, you’ll notice Paul never mentions the necessity of Christians dominating the government to clean up the culture, but rather the centrality of Christ to clean up self. Therefore, as Christ takes hold of the human being, it is noticed and inquired by those in the culture who will either accept, ask more questions, or reject it. We, the Church should return to this model. The sooner, the better. And while we’re at it, if we’re going to reference the Constitute, let’s be consistent.

 

In Him,
Dean Meadows

 

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Recapturing the Value of the Kingdom

Matthew 13 is all about parables. Parables are common stories used to communicate a spiritual point (at least this is how Jesus used them). Jesus used this line of communication to impact the people around him on a consistent basis. He met people where they were so the message of the gospel could change who they were. As I’ve been studying and meditating on the parables of Jesus, Matthew 13:44 probably impacts me the most. Jesus states,

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Such a small verse, but it demonstrates the weight and the importance of God’s kingdom.

First, it states that the kingdom of God is a treasure. Kingdom’s have always been measured by their expanse and the richness they produce. During the time of Jesus, there was no greater kingdom than Rome. There was also the Jewish nation of Israel, which his audience longed for a return to prominence. It was during this timeframe, for the Jews, seeking the messiah meant looking for the warlord king who would return Israel to her gloried days; a return to the prosperous and influential time of King David. I find this to be interesting because as much animosity existed between the Jews and Pagans of the first century they had one thing in common: They both believed in the physicalness of kingdoms. Such an attitude is also mimicked by the powers of the nations around the world today. Everyone jockeys for position in the global game of chess believing and hoping that they are the rightful heirs to a position of unmatched power, economy, and influence.

Second, notice what Jesus states about the kingdom in Matthew 13:44 it is hidden. What!? This seems like an oxymoron for no “true” kingdom is hidden. Kingdoms are big, expansive, and expensive. They demonstrate the might and will of the nation-state. So why is this kingdom, this Jesus kingdom, hidden? The kingdom is hidden because of all the extracurriculars that encompass us and distract us. Think of all the kingdoms we obsess over in our daily lives: twitter followers; tweets; Instagram followers; the accumulation of Facebook friends; popularity at school; making more money; doing more stuff; politics; celebrity; sports; etc., When we seek to please the superficial kings of the worldly kingdoms, the true kingdom will be hidden.

Third, the kingdom can be found! Deeper than the superficial wants and fleshly desires which the world offers as a pseudo kingdom, is the kingdom. In this parable, the person here finds it and from overflowing joy, sells everything that he has in order to purchases the field. Did you catch that? He sold everything, he gave up everything out of the overflow of knowing he had found the treasure! He didn’t give up half o a quarter. He gave up all!

But why? Why all? Because the man understood that the value of the treasure in comparison to what he owned. The point that Jesus is seeking to make with his audience is that the true kingdom, the one not defined by flags, statues, monuments, might, force, political power, economic strength,  is more valuable than anything this world has to offer. Thus, the person who finds the kingdom of Jesus and understands its value, will not just trade or sell all they have, but do so from the position of exceeding joy. Notice what Paul writes in Philippians 1:21-24 and 3:8,

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ for that is far better but to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account…..Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…

Hard pressed between life and death? Counting all things as rubbish? suffering the loss of everything? Yep. Paul understands the value of the kingdom…the treasure of knowing Christ.

Think of what that means for Christians: In knowing Jesus, we experience the full weight and value of God’s kingdom because we have an intimate, inseparable, relationship with the King. Just as Romans 8 states, that in knowing him there is no judge who can sentence us, no one to condemn us, and nothing that can separate us from God’s love. In this treasure known as Jesus, God has given us all things, because he purchases us with his Son. It also means we may have to give up the kingdoms of politics, position, and power. It means we willingly give up our lives. It means, that possessions of life have no weight or sway because they aren’t king. We give those up joyfully, in light of what is found in Christ.

Think of what families would look like if such a treasure was the anchor of the household. How would communities and schools be shaped by people who truly understood and lived for the Kingdom? How freeing would it be to rid ourselves of trying to appeal and live up to the ever-fluctuating whims and expectations of the superficial kingdoms of the world., Oh what peace there would be knowing that the treasure is also the King who is fixed, immovable, and gracious.

My prayer is that we would consider the value of the treasure and live for the King and for his Kingdom.

Stop the Shootings by Starting Conversations

Wednesday, we all watched in horror as another high school mass shooting took place. Seventeen innocent human beings were gunned down. What was their crime? They simply attended school.

Not long after, the debates started raging online and on TV over what we, as a country should do regarding the systemic issue of mass shootings in America.

As a father of two, preacher, having served in the United States Marine with a deployment to Iraq, and friend of those who attended Virginia Tech during the 2007 school shooting, I reflect on the events that have taken place over the last 20 years and think to myself, “What in the world is going on?” “Why is nothing being done?”

While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I think we can start the process and reach common ground.

First, there is no fail-safe answer to this problem and we all need to come to grips with it. Evil exists, it always has, and it always will. Evil will always find a way to exact itself in a gruesome, deplorable manner. However, too often this is trotted out as a means to do nothing. It is the default position of those who would prefer no modification to the current gun laws.

“Guns don’t kill people, bad people with guns kill people.” “Evil has always existed and will find a way to kill.” Even if these answers are true, why does that mean we shouldn’t modify gun laws in America? What if, in every instance of evil, outside of times where guns are used, we ran that same logical algorithm?

What if after 9/11, we heard “Well, evil is evil, and it will always find a way to kill people.” “Planes don’t kill people, bad people flying planes kills people so we’re not changing out security measures.” What If our president, secretary of defense, or any member of Congress used that line of reasoning in the wake of America’s worst attack on our homeland since Pearl Harbor?

We would be greatly disturbed if our security measures stayed the same. So why is (year after year, high school shooting after high school shooting) this line of logic accepted? It shouldn’t be. Sure evil exists, sure incidents like these may still happen no matter what laws are enforced, but that gives us no moral ground for maintaining the status quo.

Second, It seems clear that a large number, if not the majority of mass-shootings are carried out by those with mental health issues. Unfortunately, it is only after they commit horrific actions this information is either completely known about or reported. If this country is going to solve the issue of mass-causality shootings, the mental health crisis must be pushed to the forefront and made a budgetary priority at the federal and state level.

While I disagree with the former president on just about every issue, he was wise to place a mental health modification regarding access to guns. However, this modification was rolled back by the current administration. But why? I have yet to hear or read a viable explanation for this roll back.

Furthermore, looking at the larger context of American life, In just about every aspect of life, there are qualifications which are needed to operate potentially deadly items. No one can walk into a hospital and start operating on a patient; get on a runway and start flying a plane; or drive a car. Even in the car scenario there are rules and regulations that dictate the capacity of how fast the car can go. Why don’t they make cars that can go 500 mph? For the protection of the other people around the driver. Why isn’t this at least a consideration for the type of weapons which are sold here in the United States?

This leads to my third point: Modification to the gun laws does not mean the stripping away of the Second Amendment. No one would win a court case if they walked into a movie theater and yelled “FIRE!” and as a result was sued by people who were injured. They simply couldn’t stand before the judge and say, “What is wrong judge? I was just expressing my First Amendment right!”

I like the Second Amendment, fought to protect the Second Amendment, actually, all the amendments in the Constitution of the United States. I don’t have a problem with selling AR-15s, AK-47s, SKS, or M14s but what about tinkering with slight modifications which will minimize the max damage they are able to inflict on the general population.

For instance, what about abolishing burst mode for all semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15? What about reducing the max capacity for a magazine in half, from 30 to 15 rounds? Eliminating bump stocks? This enables the avid gun consumer to enjoy the thrill of owning and operating their dream gun, but drastically reduces its maximum effectiveness in comparison to its military counterpart.

The only other viable options I see would to hire veterans who have cleared a psychological evaluation to guard the schools around the country, should the school district request it or train staff members who desire the training and equip them to handle these threats.

Thus, in every educational budget at the state and federal level, the teachers who desire this training should be paid a significant stipend by the state as designated marksman. They would be required to pass yearly evaluations like any other security force and states could use independent contractors who meet their needs.

In closing, as preacher here in town, my heart goes out to families and friends of those in Florida. May God grant you the peace that surpasses all understanding. Evil can only flourish here when good people decide to do nothing or are so bent toward a single ideology, that the ideology is more important than the overriding problem.

My fear is that this epidemic doesn’t hurt our moral conscious enough for real change to be enacted. While I don’t claim to have all the answers, we need to start having serious, civil dialogue about the nature of this problem before it is our own children in Gaston County who become sites on the TV, answers to trivia questions, and just another mass shooting statistic. It is time to hold Congress, as well as our own state and federal representatives accountable. I’d personally love to have a conversation with Congressman Patrick McHenry on whether or not he is willing to entertain slight modifications to the gun laws and being the process of minimizing this epidemic.

Dean Meadows is the preacher at the Gastonia Church of Christ, blogger, and co-founder of Apologia Institute. If you desire to contact Dean about this article please email him at djmeadows87@gmail.com

The Future of the Church Doesn’t Belong to the Church Building.

In a little over a month, I’ll turn 31. I’ve lived for three decades, and while that might not seem like a long time to some of you who are reading this blog, it is to me. I’ve lived long enough to see the rise of the internet; I can remember the first smartphone, I starred in shock at the T.V. on September 11, 2001, and was deployed to Iraq in 2006. I’ve been alive since Reagan was president and I’ve seen the cultural shift in America move to post-Christian. For we genuinely don’t know what to make of the current affairs within our country or around the world. Even more so, we aren’t sure what the future holds. Maybe the biggest question all of us ask (or should ask) is, “What will the Church look like in 30 years?”

This is a question of most concern. For, as we look at poll after poll we see that the younger generations are becoming less and less religious. With that, the rise of non-believers is increasing. Thus, I propose, to know what the Church will look like in 30 years, God’s people need to answer two central questions: What has been going on internally that has contributed to the dechristianizing of America? What has to happen to stop it? I understand that self-reflection is always severe because it is so much easier to blame others for the problems we face. We know what the culture promotes, endorses, and allows. Certainly these impact the current state of affairs within the Church. But I’m not writing to serve up red meat, I’m not going to say “win the culture war, and the church wins.” Internally, we have our issues to sort out if we want to impact the culture the way the early disciples did.

And that is the problem: we’re not concerned about multiplication we’re too worried about the church building. I firmly believe that God wants us to gather with the saints on Sunday at whatever designated times have been set in place. I’m not discounting or encouraging Christians to skip this precious time. Yet, when contrasting the ministry of Jesus to his counterparts the Pharisees and Saduccees, there is a glaring difference. The Pharisees believed being in the right physical place meant that the spiritual relationship was automatically intact, which wasn’t the truth. I fear this is where, in general, the Church finds itself in the 21st century.  How many events, functions, or church programs are centered around the building? I mention all of this because, what has developed in the lives of so many,  is that if they merely show up to a specific place (the church building), voila! The Christian life is being lived!

 What does it profit a congregation if they build a $1 million dollar building but lose the community? What does it profit the church if we center all we do around the building to the neglect of practicality? It doesn’t seem like any good can come from either of those scenarios? Furthermore, the only example similar to that in the Bible is a group who were opposite Jesus. Matthew 28:16ff is the cornerstone of the survival of the Church, and yet, the passage notes “Therefore go…” not “Hey stay.” I fear many have the “field of dreams” mindset, “build it and they will come.”

The future of the church belongs to the community builders. Here is where I’ll probably get some emails/comments, but I think it is the truth: I disagree with just about every doctrine of the mainline denominations, however, they get community right. Here in Charlotte, NC the biggest church around is Elevation Church. I’m not a fan of the preaching nor am I a fan of the personality cult that seems to come with it but the reason it is so big isn’t just because there is a band, rock concert, and entertainment. They build community and impact the community well. Why? Because they aren’t concerned about the building. Their campuses are in theatres, old mall space, warehouses, they rent out school auditoriums, they meet in homes, small groups, and in addition to the natural community service they partake in, they dedicate one whole week to serving the greater Charlotte area, they call it “Love Week.” They connect to the community because they build community within and impact those on the outside, hoping to draw them to their family.

We may disagree strongly with what goes on inside their buildings on Sunday morning, but no one can deny what they do for the people in Charlotte. What if the urgency was placed on building community and impacting the community rather than “temple” upkeep? Will you volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center? Work the local soup kitchen? Speak to those at the local gym or YMCA? Fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ outside of Wednesday and Sunday?

Do you want to change the country? Let us look inward first, build community and impact the communities around us. If the only annual service project we partake in is a workday at the Church building, we’re a glorified temple maintenance crew and a shell of the early church. See the future doesn’t belong to the Church building it belongs to the community builders. And that is the most significant difference between the Pharisees and Jesus followers; religion and Christianity. Religion brings us to a place, Christianity brings us to a person and compels us to impact the lives of people. The future of the Church doesn’t belong to the church building but community builders.