Gary Swisher

Archive for the ‘Chrisitan Right’ Category

Is Christmas a Holiday Befitting Christ?

In Chrisitan Right, Christ, Christianity, Christmas, Flesh, Materialism, Sensualism on December 28, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Christians often express satisfaction that Christ is remembered by the world at least one day each year. But is it really possible for the world to do something that commemorates Christ? The world, in its ignorance, offers up a season that glitters and tantalizes its own sensual nature–largely in direct contrast to what Jesus truly embodied and taught. How did such an extravagant season ever come to symbolize Christ?

One may argue as to what Christmas should be, whether they think it is about Christ, helping our fellow-man or a pagan feast day. Yet each year Christmas proves that it truly belongs to the world, no matter how much goodwill is used for its window dressing. Who can argue that the Christmas season is anything but the most sensual and materialistic time of year for our society? It twists everything about Christ to reflect it’s own carnal nature. I recently saw a TV commercial in which this statement was made, “It is better to receive than to give.” Hmmm… what season is it again? Whose name are we attaching to it? This is the season by which the world measures commercial and financial success. It’s the time of year when we indulge ourselves in everything that feels good, tastes sweet and brings us pleasure and material increase.

At Christmas we go to great lengths to please our senses, adorning pine trees with shimmering ornaments and decorating our houses with colored lights. Stores are decked with the most enticing holiday displays and gifts are wrapped in beautiful colors, with bright foils and bows. And under every Christmas tree we pile up presents to satisfy our greatest material desires. I am not saying such things are blatantly wrong. But how exactly does this reflect Christ?

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Where is the glitter in this passage? Where are the wrappings and decorations? Where is the extravagance and indulgence of every desire? The true Christ is not popular with the people. He is not appealing in the way of Santa Claus. Christ is not about pleasing the flesh. But everything about Christmas appeals to the natural man and the nature of the world.

All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

As Christians we often overlook the materialism because Christmas is perceived as the season of giving, but in reality it is the season of gift exchanging. While a few people give to the poor in connection with Christmas, the majority spend hundreds or thousands on gadgets and gizmos for their own families, and fully expect gifts in return. The apex of the Christmas celebration for Christian and non-Christian alike is the morning when all the presents are unwrapped. With church programs out of the way, we’re free to move on to the good stuff. And after we have exchanged gifts with each other, we go back to the stores and exchange them again for what we really wanted.

What does any of this have to do with the nature and character of Christ? The kind of giving Jesus had in mind was not the merchandise that tends only to please the flesh. Jesus was born in a barn and laid in an animal’s trough. He had no place to lay his head and no worldly possessions. He spoke often of forsaking the world’s treasures and having riches toward God. He taught that we should not covet possessions and serve wealth, but Christmas fosters these very things. He taught us not to give feasts for people who have no means to return the favor; that giving is better than receiving. Giving is also better than exchanging, which is the true practice for most on Christmas. It is easy to give rich gifts to those in our family, or to friends who will give back to us in exchange. But true giving has no expectation of return.

Each year Christmas shoppers become mob-like, trampling and even attacking whoever comes between them and their Nike Air Jordans. Would they get up at 4:00 in the morning for some spiritual purpose? We stress about what to give to the man or woman who has everything. Why do we give more material goods to someone who already has more than they need? Is it because Christmas has much more to do with materialism? Some even buy Christmas gifts for themselves. In spite of getting what we want, our gadgets are isolating us from others and our endless entertainment is making us spiritually numb. Why do we keep investing our lives in things that distract us from what is important? Such is this holiday of Christmas.

The word “holiday” once had a far different meaning. It was contracted from the words “holy day.” If that were ever applicable to Christmas, it’s hardly the case anymore. The word “holy” means to set apart for a special, higher purpose. But Christmas is commonplace and full of every worldly craving. A true holy day is associated with things like fasting, rest and regaining perspective. But most of our society gorges itself at Christmas like no other time. There is nothing wrong with gathering and eating, but why is this season known for such overindulgence? Why do Christmas parties involve even more excessive drinking and wild behavior than normal?

What is it about this time of year that engenders such excess? Is Christ the root of it all? Why is pleasing our taste buds such an important part of observing Christ’s “holy day”? The weight gain associated with the holidays is an appropriate picture of what Christmas truly is–a feeding frenzy for our flesh. So much of Christmas is about acquiring things and pleasing the senses for our families and ourselves. It is the flesh, not the spirit that Christmas magnifies.

To set our minds on the flesh leads to death, but to set our minds on the Spirit leads to life and peace.

While Christians may hold Christmas as holy, 90% of their energies perfectly reflect the mindset of the world. Any common person in our society will set up a tree, bake cookies, shop, decorate, listen to Christmas carols, wrap presents, spend time with family and perhaps even give to the needy. A Christian does all of the same, but also attends a Christmas Eve service and implores everyone to keep Christ in Christmas.

And just why should we mix Christ with everything that is contrary to his nature? Nothing in scripture upholds the world’s approach to honoring Christ. You would think reindeer and gift exchanges were found in scripture, with all the pleas to make Christmas about Christ. Christians should wake up from their sugar-plum-fairy dreams and realize just how far off-the-mark this holiday season is from the things that honor Christ. Rather than putting Christ in Christmas, Christ should be set apart from the world’s most glorious day. Why do we insist that the world continue to confuse and mix him with it’s own values and desires? The world cherishes Christmas as much as Christians, but not because of Christ.

As children, the first thing we learn about Christmas is a lie. But the lies don’t end when we discover there is no jolly man delivering toys around the world. Those who defend Christmas as a day that honors Christ betray the extent to which they are held under its delusion. The world itself is enmity with Christ and it demonstrates it most graphically in the season affixed with his name.

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Earthquakes! How Long Do We Have?

In Chrisitan Right, Christianity, Dispensationalism, Eschatology, evangelical, Prophecy, Theology on August 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm

How long, that is, until the prophetic date-setters and doomsayers begin heralding the end of time? The U.S. has seen two notable quakes in one day. What’s worse, one of them rocked the U.S. capitol, and now Hurricane Irene may up the ante. Some will say this is an alarming sign. Forget the fact that devastating quakes hit third world countries and kill thousands almost every year. If it happens in the U.S., then it’s a sign. People in California are having a good laugh at all the fuss on the news–not unlike Northerners who scoff when a southern state becomes crippled by an inch of snow!

Some in the dispensational vein say that the frequency of earthquakes means the end is near. If you search the internet you can find seismic evidence supporting the idea that earthquakes are increasing in our time. This seems to ignore the fact that in modern times, seismic measurements have also increased, dramatically. The data from centuries past would obviously pale in comparison. Alarmists on the right say earthquakes signal the end. Alarmists on the left say it’s the global warming. Was Katrina caused by carbon emissions, immorality, or both?

It really doesn’t matter whether earthquakes or hurricanes are increasing—as eschatology goes (the study of end-time prophecy)–since those who point to these trends are misapplying Matthew 24 and its companion passages.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:16…
Then let those in Judea flee into the mountains.

If this were an end-of-the-world prophecy, why did Christ refer to those in Judea and the need of its inhabitants to flee to the mountains? He spoke of destruction that only involved those in Judea—not the U.S. or the rest of the world. But what of the time frame?

But pray that your flight is not in the winter, nor on the Sabbath day. (v.20)

How is it that he refers to the Sabbath day which (for the most part) is not observed in the Christianized world? These statements indicate his application is to ancient Judea. However, the following verse can hardly be ignored.

Truly I say to you, In no way will this generation pass away until all these things have occurred. (v. 34) 

Christians at the time of Christ witnessed the end of the age—the Mosaic age. If your translation says this was the end of the world, it makes a poor translation of the Greek aeon. The Romans came and destroyed the temple and put an end to its sacrifices and rituals.That was an ending unlike any they had seen before.  The Christians saw the warning signs and fled to the mountains of Pella. They saw the moon turn to blood, in symbolic form, as Peter affirmed in Acts 2.

Earthquakes, wars and famines have been common occurrences throughout history and in numerous parts of the world. This should help us realize that Christ was speaking about a very narrow time frame and a very localized situation. There are clues all over Matthew 24 that indicate the context Jesus spoke of, and its nearness.

Many Christians are inclined to a hope in a religion of escapism. Not unlike the Jews of Jesus’ time, they are looking for God to overthrow worldly powers and establish a government system on earth. But the means of escape have been provided. As Christ said, his kingdom does not come by observation.

Image source: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=washington+dc+ruins&num=10&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=gY1&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1024&bih=547&tbm=isch&tbnid=86_rPQeiPDEiAM:&imgrefurl=http://www.anunews.net/blog/%3Fcat%3D85&docid=0cXWMtL_hepR4M&w=314&h=191&ei=IadWTs-GLcylsQKY59ykDA&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=291&sqi=2&page=1&tbnh=124&tbnw=187&start=0&ndsp=12&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0&tx=24&ty=47

Ballot-Box Christianity

In Chrisitan Right, Christianity, evangelical, sectarian on August 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I wrote a few months ago of how strongly I disagree with the notion that God is a Republican and the United States is his kingdom on earth. The Christian Right seems to have married faith to politics and made being a Republican a prerequisite for the Christian life. Christians on the left often bemoan this tendency and rightly so. But could there a bit of hypocrisy involved when these same Christians proceed to line Jesus up with their party instead? If it is misguided to spout conservative politics from a Christian platform it’s just as misguided to answer the “What would Jesus do?” question with an endorsement for the Democratic Party.

A blogger I have enjoyed reading in the past, because of his non-institutional stance, apparently thinks you can better follow Christ if you lean toward the left, as he recently posted a tirade on the Tea Party. The writer positioned them just as the popular media do, painting this grass-roots movement as mean and hateful bigots. He then proceeded to rip them on numerous points from a “WWJD” perspective. It doesn’t seem right to use such broad-brushed and uninformed mischaracterizations. Conservatives don’t have horns, capes and pointy tails—at least not all.

It is easier to accept the worst impressions about a group and write them off, but wholesale rejections are often ill-informed. If you watch mainstream media you likely have a much skewed perspective as to what the Tea Party stands for. If you listen to political leaders on the left, you probably think they are terrorists. Fair disclosure; I am not in the Tea Party but I support their basic premise. An honest look at the matter should reveal that the Tea Party stands for fiscal responsibility and accountability of governmental leaders to the citizens who elect them. That’s a big tent, which can range from people whose main interest is selfish profiteering to those who simply hope for a fair shake and honest representation in government. The Tea Party is sounding the alarm on a government that is spiraling out of control and putting an entire nation on a path toward certain economic ruin.

Am I putting my hope in an earthly kingdom? I truly hope not. I think we can act responsibly in regard to our nation without giving in to worldliness and its escalating materialism. In my view, it is appropriate to see this as stewardship of the things God places in our hands. Having concern for the state of our nation seems no different from taking care of one’s family or any other moral responsibility. We cross the line when we become nationalistic or view our citizenship as an earthly endeavor. But whether one thinks the United States is God’s country or the Great Satan, I don’t know how we can turn a blind eye to dysfunction in any aspect of society, let alone our federal government. Dysfunctional government is wrong and will only become lethal to the people it is meant to serve.

The dysfunction of our government has become painfully obvious most recently. I’ll avoid the specific issue of the debt ceiling debate, since either side can argue that the others’ are at fault. To me the greater dysfunction is that we have allowed our debt to reach such an astronomic level. Both parties can take the blame. Does it even make sense to establish a debt ceiling since it is routinely elevated to accommodate more and more debt? Debt is a very destructive thing, and debt on the scale we see now has the potential to devastate the lives of our children’s children. A child born today owes $176,000 to Uncle Sam before he or she even has a Social Security number. Our children will be forced to live under enormous debt due to such fiscal irresponsibility. And it won’t just be the rich kids who lose out.

Our current obligations for entitlement programs are completely unsustainable, and will probably be our undoing. Our government borrows 43 cents for every dollar it spends. Does the U.S. government deserve a AAA credit rating? If credit companies looked at our national debt and obligations the way they look at consumers applying for credit, the U.S. government would have no credit at all. Vladimir Putin is right in saying the U.S. is a parasite on the world economy. The richest country in the world is running up a tab of trillions to pay for entitlements that its own citizens cannot afford. So we continue to borrow from other nations and put world markets on edge. Only 50% of our citizens pay taxes, the rest are receiving government assistance. We have become a nation of entitlement addicts.

I have a neighbor on public assistance whose able-bodied grandson (now in his twenties) lives with her, rent-free. She has encouraged him to go out and find work but he sees no reason to. His words to her… “Why should I go out and get a job when I have what I need without working?” He prefers to sit around and while his days away with, seemingly, no purpose in life. I overheard him say how Obama’s election would provide more handouts and a better deal for him. Remarkably, since Obama’s election, even the outlook for African-Americans has declined. Since the beginning of 2009 the disparity between black unemployment and white unemployment figures has steadily risen. What’s more, legitimate charities are being penalized by the loss of tax incentives for their funding. There is no logic behind this but to increase reliance on government and undermine the role of charities.

The Republican party is not alone in failing to deliver on its own principles. For those on the left, government is seen as a means to social justice. I don’t doubt that many supporters of the Democratic Party sincerely desire to help the less-privileged, oppressed and down-trodden. But the policies that actually get enacted are ultimately harming those they intend to help. Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty close to fifty years ago, yet the welfare state has only perpetuated the problems of the poor. Social justice is not being accomplished by entitlement programs. Consequently, economic ruin has become the greater threat for all. Here is where we have to be willing to see the inherent corruption of all human institutions.

When we condition people to rely on someone or something else to constantly meet their needs it sets them up for failure. It gives them a fish for a day and never any more than that. It creates co-dependency between the people and the agencies that serve them. When advising people on career changes, I have heard stories about social service agencies that foster such a culture of dependency. An agency’s funding is based upon how large a population it serves, so anyone employed there who truly tries to get people to be more self-sufficient becomes frustrated by an  agenda to keep them in the system.

One more life example. When I was growing up there was a woman in our church who, prior to her conversion, had two children out-of-wedlock. She seemed to have reformed her ways but after a few years she became pregnant again, still unmarried. It came to light that this pregnancy was no accident but a strategic move on her part. By having another child she got a bigger welfare check and increased her expense-to-income ratio. The system taught her that bringing on more dependents increases profitability. The sad part is that many children grow up without fathers because of such incentives.

Competing for the Christian “endorsement” in public politics is wrong. No party deserves it because human institutions are inherently corrupt, whether they are greedy corporations or greedy government institutions. Both are apt to hoard power and money  and exploit the masses. There can never be a wholly Christ-like party because Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. Religious hypocrisy may be the outcome for anyone who brings Christianity into the political arena. It seems unavoidable. My vote is not for the most seemingly Christian candidate. Appearances certainly deceive and every role model will disappoint.  Neither do I make religious hypocrisy my standard for voting ‘no.”

We can’t create a Christian society through the ballot box. When Christians use the name of Christ to support their politics, or to condemn the politics of others, they profane His name. Amazingly Christians end up dividing along the very same party lines as the rest of the world, and look no different. We should conduct our debates without dragging His name through the mud. We need to look honestly at each candidate’s merits and shortcomings, debate the issues fairly and support the leaders whose policies benefit the common good—even in spite of their apparent religious hypocrisy. We can do this from a Christian perspective, as salt and light, without trying to put Jesus on our political platform, or putting other Christians on public trial–to our own shame.

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benmcleod/17518034/

Glossing Over Paganism

In Chrisitan Right, Christianity, evangelical on January 29, 2011 at 4:07 am

The History Channel’s “Decoded” series has been rather intriguing I admit, but I’ve wondered if, perhaps, they have their own secret agenda. I’ve watched the better part of four installments of this series, which have addressed hidden symbols in the statue of Liberty, Masonic influence in U.S. government and what happened to the real John Wilkes Booth. Most recently I watched an episode on the Bohemian Grove, a secret retreat of the rich and powerful.

The Decoded team always seems eager to lift the curtain on hidden secrets within American institutions, but I get a feeling they are only entertaining these radical ideas in order to appear to be objective investigators. There seems to be a pattern of glossing over some of the more alarming aspects of their investigations. First, they bait the viewer by raising suspicions of conspiracy and intrigue. But through their investigative process (which seems quite staged) they land on conclusions which rebut the most serious suspicions. By the end of the program they appear to have taken us down a conspiracy theory trail only to debunk the myths and relieve any major concerns. Conspiracy theories aside, there have been some major loose ends left dangling after the team has finished vetting their sources.

My lingering suspicions are not about the points that seem to be based on conjecture, but about facts that are easily verified. One example comes from the episode on the Statue of Liberty. Our famous Lady Liberty has numerous occurrences of number patterns seeming to link it, and its architects, to Free Masonry. The statue itself also has a stark resemblance to some ancient pagan goddesses.

This text appears in the program description on the History Channel website:

“…America’s most powerful icon of freedom might actually be loaded with secret symbols put there by a sinister group bent on world domination. They investigate claims that the Illuminati, a secret European society loosely affiliated with the freemasons, turned every inch of the statue into a coded message, from the torch Liberty holds high, to the rays emanating from the crown, even to the precise height of the statue itself.

The Illuminati became the point of contention in this episode, and a bit of a straw man argument. When the connection between the Illuminati and Lady Liberty was shot down, the Decoded team decided to give her a pass on all the evidence that point to her pagan roots as well.

A very similar situation occurred when the team investigated the Bohemian Grove in Northern California, where it’s long been suspected that powerful private sector and government leaders in the highest positions broker deals and influence the policies of our nation. At the conclusion of this episode, the team decided that it was the right of a private club to hold private meetings, although Brad Meltzer, the show’s host, objected, saying national decisions and policies should not be made in an exclusionary way.

But once again, what they all glossed over is the most bizarre aspect of this annual retreat. It seems well documented, through photographs, literature and video, that the Bohemians engage in a paganish ritual involving the burning of a human form, a child-like doll, on an altar before a towering owl-shaped figure. The ritual ceremony comes complete with priests and pyrotechnics. Interesting point: the horned owl is similar in form to the Canaanite god, Moloch, who was also treated to child sacrifices. Scary… Oddly, none of the Decoded investigators made a big deal about the reference to human sacrifice or a colossal horned owl.

The pagan symbols that adorn the architecture of our government buildings, along with the secret societies and practices that span American history is very unsettling. In my view, that alone, is the story. Whether Lady Liberty is the result of a secret conspiracy, an overt pagan symbol meant to offend Christianity or just a remnant of the pagan culture that reaches into the ancient past, we should sit up and take notice. No matter how you slice it, Satan has marked his territory.

Yet, many Christians come just short of worshiping the USA as God’s holy land. To hear some speak of the birth of our nation you would think it was the immaculate conception. It’s not that I don’t see God’s grace shed on us, but we should be very careful we don’t take on the same attitude of the ancient nation of Israel who claimed God’s favor, based solely on their nationality.

We can make the best of the benefits of this country as sojourners in America, and thank God for our blessings without creating an unholy union between Christ’s church and a worldly kingdom. Yes, we should vote, pay Caesar his due and act as good stewards of this exceptional opportunity, but we should never give our faith the task of providing a political platform to moralize or proselytize, or use governmental power as the vehicle to Christianize. For this reason I would like to get as far away from the Christian Right as possible, even if by coincidence I might frequently vote in accord with them.

Yes, pray for leaders, expose darkness and hope the good elements in our land prevail against evil. But let’s not be surprised or act so naive when a worldly nation, founded in a mixture of Christian precepts and pagan influences shows its dark, deceitful and ugly nature in the policies values and Godless behavior that is just the nature of this world.

Patriotism is not requisite to faith in Christ. The United States is not the Promised Land. It is an earthly kingdom, a world system, every bit as much as Babylon the Great. Our participation in God’s kingdom is no more tied to the United States than it was tied to the pagan Roman Empire of the first century.

© 2011 Gary Swisher. All Rights Reserved

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Being Right Misses the Mark

In Chrisitan Right, Christianity on January 25, 2011 at 3:29 am

Last week Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama put his foot in his mouth by publically proclaiming that non-Christians were not his brothers and sisters. I understand that he later apologized. However, to me, this is an all too familiar habit many Christians have of getting the facts right and totally missing the spirit of the matter.

I would assume there are many Christians in America who would give a hearty “Amen!” to the governor’s statement, regardless of its appropriateness for a public address. Technically, he is correct that those who belong to Christ have become related as kin, and those outside of Christ do not share that same relation. That, in and of itself, is not likely to offend anyone who is not a Christian. I would assume Governor Bentley’s critics are not upset to find they have no spiritual relation to him. In fact, they are probably relieved.

Evangelicals often seem to take the stance of trying to get the world to fall in line. While much of this is done from a posture of love in reaching out to a lost world, I think the subconscious source of statements like these is a spirit of legalistic judgmentalism. As if to say, wouldn’t the world be a better place if they would just listen to truths we can share with them. But, so long as they don’t, well… too bad. They aren’t with us and we need to let ’em know! Tell it like it is. That way we’ve done our part.

Is it any wonder Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery? He seemed to have a real complex. Yes, it was true that God had chosen him for a special purpose. His brothers were indeed to bow to his rulership in the future. So why did he have to let everyone know about his special revelation? Joseph may even have avoided a lot of hardship on his way to the Egyptian throne if he would have just treasured these things in his heart and kept them to himself. Then, of course, we would not have been given a key foreshadowing of the betrayal of Christ and his accession to the Father. So God works all things according to his purpose.

When we speak and act according to our own designs we are simply manifesting our carnal nature, no matter how good our intentions or how true our doctrine. That is not the spirit of Christ which binds us to one another as his body. The wrong spirit negates the truth. Being right misses the mark.

© 2011 Gary Swisher. All Rights Reserved