Are you trying to attack the Christian faith?
Not at all! I was raised in a Christian home , have made a profession of faith to follow Christ at a young age, and have served Him in good standing in Bible-believing churches my entire life, right up until today. In fact, the opportunity to further prioritize the primacy of my Christian calling in my life, at this time in recent years when I am blessed to not be distracted by a career, was the catalyst for me to tackle this controversial and misunderstood topic, with the intention being for the glory of God. The years since 2005, when I began my Future Quake volunteer radio ministry, right up through the many recent years of writing manuscripts on similar controversial spiritual and historical topics, have afforded me the enviable opportunity to test the merits of the principles of my evangelical faith, along with some of the Bible Belt cultural “baggage” picked up along the way, and to sift out “the bones.” With the goal being the pursuit of truth (and “The Way, the Truth and the Life”), it is an honest (however faulty) attempt to assess the features which further the Kingdom, and those cultural relics which impede it. I do feel a calling, much like the prophets, to often focus on the “downer” aspects of assessing our own culture of professing Christians, rather than seeking the faults of those outside the Church, or as Paul told the church at Corinth, “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do ye not judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth” (1 Cor. 5:12–13). However, when “the world” judges and critiques the church, even when rightly, they often seek to discredit it, and through it, its message and Founder (although many secretly wish to witness a true authentic faith they can believe in); conversely, my desire is that my fellow believers might seek to cling to the authentic and constructive message brought by our Lord, even when it proves challenging to all of us, and that the world can see the sweet and healing “good news” they so desperately need and often seek—all for the glory of the Lord. Lastly, I subscribe to the adage of “That which we do not critique, we worship”—that is, whatever is raised beyond the point of being critiqued (rather becoming the standard by which everything else is critiqued), is in essence making it an object of worship. I assert that only the Lord Jesus Christ deserves that unique status—not my nation, its political system, any political party, church denomination, or even pet doctrines deserve such recognition, rather being judged themselves by the Chief Cornerstone. As such, when I critique the most revered traditions and values of my religious heritage and even national culture, I consider that act itself an act of worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Is this book just an exercise in promoting liberal politics and religion?
I was raised in a blue-collar family in the Bible Belt, “Baptist town” of Louisville, in a family conservative in both its Christianity and politics (although my parents weren’t particularly politically active). I was raised in a religiously conservative Southern Baptist church, continued in conservative, Bible-centered churches, and attend and serve in one today. I subscribe to the Bible as authentic, accurate and authoritative and my primary means of rule and practice as led by the Holy Spirit. I further subscribe to the classic tenets of the orthodox Christian faith, centered on the finished work of Christ on the cross, to atone for my sins, to ransom my soul from the Devil and to reconcile me to God. I believe in the “born again,” elective experience of choosing to repent and to turn to following Jesus, believing both in His bodily resurrection and my future resurrection from the dead. I read, study and quote from the Bible regularly, and believe in a daily lifestyle of prayer, and faithful, continued service in the local, Bible-believing church, and sharing of my faith, to invite others to the “Master’s wedding supper.”
Regarding politics, I voted Republican as long as I have been voting as a high school graduate. My wife and I were regular viewers of Fox News, even appearing on camera outside the offices of their “Fox and Friends” morning program. However, after the 2004 election, I began to have significant misgivings about the justification used for the Iraq War, as I became more aware of the lies and misrepresentations it had been built upon, and the true long term agendas it served, as such information became more accessible. Furthermore, my process of focused analysis of the forces dictating our culture, including what could be described as its Religious Right aspect from which I hailed, was facilitated by my production of my Future Quake radio program I began in 2005. It enabled me to be exposed to new perspectives and data for which I had not been cognizant, including that from other Bible-believing Christians who raised credible questions and doubts, which initiated a lengthy process in my thinking and life to begin sorting out the essential and credible core elements of my faith, values and ethics from the baggage I had inherited. This ongoing process continued on in more depth as I transitioned from my radio program to my focused Christian book-writing pursuits in 2012.
As one example, one basic premise of the Bible teaching that changed my views in recent years, which I had easily skipped over (along with my church peers) within its pages but which becomes front and center in my new book writing, is the plain fact that both the God revealed in the Old Testament, and that revealed in His Son in the New, simply has a special love for the poor and the “stranger” (the immigrant from another land), giving them special honor and deference, and no amount of conservative fast-talking or rationalization can explain it away. In other words, when one is confused on an issue as to the mind of God, simply side with the poor, the stranger and anyone else who is vulnerable (the “widow and orphan”), and you are likely to fall on God’s side. Furthermore, many serious Christians today cannot acknowledge that their Lord explained that God Himself speaks of the “weightier matters of the law – judgment, mercy and faith” (Matt. 23:23), and that not all laws, commands or principles are created equal, and some take precedence over others. As opposed to simple rote compliance to a dogmatic set of commandments, like the “elementary” process of law-compliance like children (Gal. 4:3, 9, Heb. 6:1, ESV), we are to mature into the “mind of Christ” and thus “rightly judge,” with any judge routinely required to balance the conflicting rights and priorities of differing principles and parties, and determine the “higher rights” which dictate the ruling. We are further guided within scripture to be subject to further witnesses of God’s will in our lives even beyond the limited scenarios covered by the commands within the biblical record, that being the complementary guidance of the Holy Spirit, and even our own conscience (Romans 2:15, 9:1, 13:5, 1 Cor. 8:7, 10, 2 Cor. 1:12, 4:2, 5:11, 1 Tim. 1:5, 19, 3:9, Heb. 9:9, 14). If these acknowledgements make one a “liberal,” then so be it.
What makes you think you are so high-minded and holy to think you can criticize those who are some of the most beloved Christian leaders, much less our evangelical culture as a whole?
I certainly am aware that I am saddled with numerous struggles in the flesh and other sins and shortcomings, and many more of which I am not aware but many around me can see quite clearly, and some that only God knows. I also know that in times past, when I have gotten on my “high horse” and railed against some great sin of others, oftentimes I have had to “eat my words” and later confess my own ignorance on a topic on which I spoke, or my own hypocrisy; in fact, I sometimes joke that my Bible “life verse” should be the words of Job in Job 42:3: “I have uttered what I did not understand” (Job 42:3, NKJV). Therefore, it would be much less stressful to merely keep my head down and out of the fray, or maybe focus on “feel good” and inspiring pronouncements (for which there is a time and place), like many of the spectacularly successful (and wealthy) “positive message” TV preachers, who don’t confront, divide or make anyone uncomfortable or have to sort things out. However, the prophets (as well as Peter, James, John and Paul) would have liked to have had such a non-confrontational assignment as well. As such, their earthly rewards were such that they “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented,” and “wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth,” but whom heaven decreed that they were those “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:37–38, KJV). I am sure John the Baptist might have preferred not to condemn the Religious Right leaders of his day, forcing him to live in the wilderness in poverty and obscurity, nor condemning the political head of his religious people (a case where he truly “lost his head”). I assert that I am only trying to emulate the approach of Jesus Himself, who was very accommodating and deferential to those outside His religious circle, such as the Roman centurion or the Samaritan woman (or even the figurative “Good Samaritan”), but saved His biting criticism for the leaders within His own religious tradition, for which He had a right to expect a higher accountability, just as I do with my own. All men and women have blind spots and shortcomings, including religious leaders, and many temptations beset them, but with their leadership come great responsibility, so that they do not provide a “stumbling block” to the sheep and spiritually weak. It might be said to be commendable or prudent for one to give empathy to a religious leader who succumbs to a moment of temporary fleshly weakness (including their cooperation with restoration, although assignment again to the very position that gave them the temptations to which they originally succumbed is another matter). However, those who use their power and spiritual influence over others for their own personal enrichment, or otherwise demonstrate knowing corruption and exploitation of their influence, is a matter for which I do not apologize for exposing, for the sake of the integrity of the Gospel message, and to protect weak brethren who might fall away (and often do) after witnessing or being victim to such hypocrisy, or the outside world who experiences yet another stumbling block to their consideration of the sincerity of the Gospel message. Most of the “world” knows of these matters long before the church members know or acknowledge it, so “covering up” such matters only expresses a wider net of corruption and accommodation than could otherwise be remedied with a quick if painful disclosure and remediation.
In any case, we should not gloat when we see public Christian “celebrities” exposed and embarrassingly fall, out of some subconscious form of envy or salacious malice; rather, we should solemnly reflect on the sins in our own personal lives that, if exposed, would bring heartbreak and shame not only to ourselves, but also to our loved ones. In other words, such public displays of judgment should cause us to be “scared straight,” and to be grateful for yet not tempting the longsuffering hand of God to take painful acts of correction in our own personal lives, and see today as the “day of salvation” to deal with our personal sins, while there is still time.
If you have issue with some of these Christian leaders, why don’t you follow the biblical mandates of Matthew 18:15-17 and settle the matter with them privately, followed by a few brethren if necessary, rather than airing out all our “dirty laundry” out amongst the already-mocking “heathen”? What is your real agenda, anyway?
This point has been made to other Christian writers and commentators in years past, when they critiqued others as to what they thought was their faulty theology, or more so when they pointed out aspects of corruption, compromise or deception of the public, particularly when the target was a beloved Christian celebrity and national figure. Sometimes these accusations came from “left field,” and are due to personal “bad blood” between the accused and accuser, sometimes stemming back to perceived slights or betrayals decades ago. A classic case of such occurred in the mid-1980s when televangelist Marvin Gorman apparently gained revenge on fellow televangelist Jimmy Swaggart for exposing his affair and ending his ministry by having his sons photograph Swaggart evidently meeting with a prostitute and confronting him outside the motel, with Gorman’s offer to keep quiet if Swaggart would help him get denominationally reinstated, such offer being ignored until Gorman forwarded their investigation of Swaggart to their church denomination, which was made public (all according to biographers and those connected to the incident). Sometimes it’s due to less spectacular incidents of rivalries or internal denominational or church politics. However, in many cases it does not involve any personal feuds or agendas.
In my own case, as a “small potato” of no religious leadership position or clout, such prominent religious leaders I mention in my writings would not give me the time of day (as I can attest from my own experiences), and furthermore, I do not think those Bible verses apply in any shape or manner to my scenario anyway. This is not a case of a “trespass between a brother and me” (v. 15), and in fact it is not addressed to me at all as a personal matter. It is rather a clear case of false doctrine or corrupt practice, and such circumstances were addressed publicly by the apostles, and even Christ addressed it in the letters to the churches, because the damage had impact on not just an individual but also the masses inside the church, as well as the “Gentiles” outside the church (because word gets around eventually, even in those days, whether the church admits to it or not), and had to be addressed as such. These are not the case of private and discreet moral failings, which can be remediated privately to protect the victim and promote restoration (as Joseph tried to do when he mistakenly but understandably thought his betrothed Mary had such a failing that resulted in her unplanned pregnancy); even when such efforts are made to minimize the impacts in a local church or ministry, the sudden (even if temporary) absence of a leader, or other aberrant behavior, usually send tongues wagging, and discretion is often a lost cause. At that point, religious leaders risk the appearance of excusing or intentionally concealing some widespread corruption or conducting a cover-up operation, even if their motives are sincere, and often such unknowns lead people to assume circumstances that are far more severe than reality. As I note in my book, in the letters Jesus wrote to the seven churches, His main concerns were the corruption and false doctrines within each church, just like when He rebuked the Jewish leaders during His ministry, and not some external threats to the Church itself. When Paul addressed the church at Corinth, as I discussed to a greater extent in my book Two Masters and Two Gospels, Volume 1, he explained that the church had to deal with immorality and not excuse it or exploit it to show their piety in contrast, because not only had it become blatantly obvious to church members, but it even disturbed the “pagans” outside the church, and caused a bad reputation to come onto the latter. Thus, Paul recommended that the offending and conspicuously and intentionally defiant brother be publicly ostracized for however long it took him to repent, as a hopeful catalyst for the brother to get set straight and then restored (and not destroyed, if at all possible), to serve as a lesson to church members that intentional rebellious sin is not to be tolerated (and to do so would imperil them as well eventually). The other intention of Paul was to preserve the integrity and respect for the Church in the outer community, and the Gospel message it proclaimed, since its primary role was not to defend its own ranks, but to be “salt and light” and to undergird its Great Commission aim to “rescue the perishing” by means of its offering of the full forgiveness, restoration of intimate fellowship with God and eternal life, a purposeful earthly calling and loving fellowship and support from other believers, and a transparency and consistent defense of the truth, honesty and integrity in a world where it is hard to find.
In like fashion, the issues I address with well-known Christian leaders do not directly involve me, or a private matter between us. I am not a rival of theirs, and their success does not in any way impede mine. I do not have any major underwriting of powerful or wealthy figures whose attacks on these others would serve their interests as well, and I will never be in a position, even as a cog within a powerful institution, to struggle with these figures as peers. I do have to be careful that such criticism is not derived from any sense of my envy of them and their “success” of wealth, fame or respect, or resentment of such if I deem our relative fortunes as unfair, and I can only try to repeatedly remind myself of such a possibility, search my heart and regularly address it in prayer, to attempt to prevent such, or repent of it when it does. As it turns out, the corruption I point out of these prominent Christian leaders in my books is already well-known by those outside the church, not only by means of the ample reporting from respected sources that I cite (which few Christians take effort to read), and further evidenced when I speak to such people outside the church, whose cynicism (often to their own lament, I might add) is somewhat justified by their knowledge of such, or provides them a convenient excuse to avoid the lifestyle decisions of surrendering to the will of their Creator. Alternatively, the well-meaning Christians I know are often the only ones to be ignorant of such corruption, particularly since they are too lazy or paranoid to read even prominent investigative journalism or books, and have conveniently accepted the excuse that it is all “fake news,” just like a brainwashed cult member. Being the “last to know,” when such failings are exposed they feel the need to “defend their clan” and circle the wagons to defend one who professes themselves to be a Christian (regardless of their actions), in defiance of overwhelming evidence, even though such tribalism is not defended anywhere in the New Testament, rather than wisely cautioning that all sides and evidence should be considered and weighed, and “heard out” before drawing conclusions. In most cases, the most damning evidence is derived directly from the statements and videos of the offending leaders themselves, who in their hubris feel unaccountable and above such critique, often surrounded by opportunistic “yes men” whose own ambitions preclude them being wise (and sometimes rebuking) council. When fellow Christian feign ignorance, dismiss its significance or simply deny such misdeeds that are commonly known outside the church (even attacking both secular and Christian whistleblowers), they sabotage the integrity of the Gospel the world needs so desperately. Of course, those (including sincere Christians like myself) who point out such commonly-known willful corruption and greed (at least to those outside the church), as opposed to temporary “besetting sins” that bring shame and repentance upon exposure, are “not without sin” and have their own hang-ups. However, if “sinlessness” of the whistle-blower was the required standard for raising concerns that are already known, there would be no means for acknowledgement of any troubles, with the constructive intention to remedy them to restore the offender if they are willing, and seek forgiveness from worldly observers who have a right to expect more for them, and for them to observe us Christians hold fast to a higher standard ourselves if we are going to “preach at” outsiders as a requirement of integrity for us and the Gospel we preach. This thankless role (as opposed to the inspirational, uplifting message to which some are given (and others exploit) which is well-received (and often lucrative to the deliverer)) not only grieves the sincere Christian who feels called to give it, but also should cause them to routinely “smite their own chest” like the publican who asked God to “be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Your content and tone in your book seems like a real “downer,” always seeing a “glass half empty” and gloomy assessment of American Christianity. We need more upbeat, inspirational expressions of faith, which unites and not divides. Do you personally have any type of joyous faith and spirit, or are you one of those dour, humorless judgmental Christians that always see the skies falling all the time?
Those who listened to my Future Quake radio show over the years already know that my true nature is to be fun-loving, and even goofy and silly much of the time, and trying not to take myself too seriously. However, they also know that when it is time to tackle spiritual issues that are “high stakes” and particularly impactful to others and the vulnerable, no one will find a more serious person, and these topics are often what I cover in my books, the strenuous efforts to produce such leading me to focus on issues that I feel an imperative to address by such exhaustive means. I would occasionally tackle a topic on the show that was somewhat fun, although it usually had some spiritual, intellectual or even sociological/pop culture lesson or insight, to be worth the effort and time of the guest, myself and the listener. My personal friends, of whom I have been blessed with many, know that my goofy and silly “button” gets “stuck” at times, and is probably too much for them, but that is actually my true nature, and not the stern, dour Puritanical nature that might come across in the books. Even my own household with my wife is playful and childlike (sometimes just childish), to a point that would cause eye-rolls in many who wouldn’t understand. Having been raised in a “Bible Belt,” evangelical, Southern Baptist culture my whole life, I see many cultural spiritual elements that could be seen as solemn and sacred by many (and folks like Baptists and other evangelicals pride themselves on having no liturgy or rituals, but in reality have their own unofficial, biblically-murky ones that they vigorously defend), but as I grow older and even settle in to a slightly different evangelical culture, I can look back and detect the irony and humor in some of those cultural relics, and even see the absurdity of some of such views and practices, particularly when they can be stumbling blocks for outsiders or give undue guilt to those raised in it, even though in many cases it is harmless, and for which I still have a certain sentimentality. For example, I will still shed a tear when a see an “old school” altar call given by a country preacher at the end of a sermon during the singing of the fifteenth verse of “Just as I Am” from the hymnbook, and see the “sinner” rise from the pew and come to the altar, giving their life in surrender and tears, just like I saw countless times in my upbringing. I also admit that I possess a taste for what folk would call “dark humor,” or what our British friends would call “gallows humor,” which I think I inherited from both sides of my family, as we siblings would try to break up our father with “gross” but harmless subject matter, or intensive needling of someone seated at the table. Many a time have my extended family (including my father in his upbringing) been comforted by passers-by during serious times at the hospital or funeral home, when our tears were from simply laughing uncontrollably from a joke one of us had just told. My dark (and some would say tasteless or inappropriate at times) humor that would instinctively note the irony or absurdity of an otherwise serious spiritual moment, in a sincere attempt to keep melodramatic circumstances that are common in “revival style” evangelical expressions in context and perspective, often would rub serious-minded radio listeners the wrong way, soliciting some tongue-lashing emails from folks who didn’t understand. This instinct comes out in lesser fashion in my book writing, which will likely cause folk unfamiliar with me to have similar consternation with me, but alternatively many long-time friends who know me from the radio and interviews expect such perspectives from me, because most know it is the “true me” and even find it endearing, and helps us all laugh at ourselves, which is what we all need to do at times. I can’t help it—it’s just who I am, but I have good intentions, and I want people to know that with my friends, I try to be uplifting and fun. However, when comes to serious matters, both physical and spiritual, when a vulnerable soul is suffering, ripe for exploitation, anxious or in peril, one won’t find a more serious person than myself.
I am not a Christian, or at least not of the fundamentalist type, and am interested in knowing about what you’ve found regarding the history of corruption of the Religious Right crowd, more specifically areas you suggest you might have uncovered that reveals their hang-ups. However, I don’t want to be “preached to” and get down into the doctrinal “weeds” and in petty inter-Christian theological spats, and I suspect (or have observed) that you spend a lot of time talking about Bible guidance and matters (including in your interview emphases), in addition to historical and sociological facts that are my interest. I am okay with people of faith who happen to “part of the solution” to real social problems along with the rest of us, whether we be secularists or non-Christian people of faith, but I am not interested in all the “Jesus talk” along with all these good points and interesting facts. Why do you have to “muddy the waters” and divide people by bringing up religion, and Jesus in particular, so much in the midst of all these important matters of mutual concern, and if I read your book, will it become so tiresome and frustrating that I am likely to toss it?
First of all, let me say that I am flattered that you would take your time to consider my musings, be they from my radio show or interviews, my book writings or articles, or any other venue. It reveals that you are quite an open-minded and sincere person to even consider a person whose religious convictions you might find dubious, yet still consider whether they might contribute ideas, perspectives or data that you might find constructive. I find it even more convicting that you might be more concerned by integrity, decency, morality, honesty, and taking care of your brothers and sisters in need, even though you might not have any consideration of any afterlife or a creator to whom you would otherwise be held accountable within it, and take effort to pursue such convictions simply because it is the “right thing to do,” whereas many Christians who do believe in such ultimate accountability lamentably seem often to have less concern for such important matters, which calls into question the degree of their own real belief in such a reckoning.
It is true that I “carry on” quite a bit in my books on the spiritual duties of Christians specifically as to their responsibilities to “go the extra mile” and to be expected to set a superior example of sacrifice and concern for others, and use their own scriptures which they claim, in “sola scriptura” fashion, to be the sole authoritative reference of their behavior and attitudes. Such a source may not be of direct relevance to you, but I believe that you have the right to hold Christians you know to be accountable to it, and it’s best you know what those passages are and what they say, because maybe they will be shamed to listen to people like you more than people like me (and don’t let them call you any kind of “hypocrite”—you did not sign up to any of those Kingdom values like they profess to do, although even Paul acknowledged that when the “Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves” (Romans 2:14)). Having said that, I ask for your patience and oblige me and my fellow Christians as we work out our “dirty laundry” in overdue fashion in my books, and I might suggest that you might be refreshed by the intended humble tone and respectful attitude toward others that I intend to rightfully express, and it might give you a glimmer of hope that the “religious zealots” might have at least some in their midst that are not going to be catalysts of harm and disaster to everyone else—particularly when they would try adhering to the “founder” of their faith and beliefs, Jesus of Nazareth. His words are particularly apt for you to consider in my books when I quote Him, as opposed to what you hear religious people say or insinuate He said or taught, because many people who sit in church evidently do not let His plain teachings sink into their minds and hearts, rather saving that place for what they hear in Christian media, talk radio and cable news—which is the main premise of Volume 1 of my Two Masters and Two Gospels book series. When I see people confronted with what Jesus really said and taught, I find almost no one, no matter how far from classic Christian belief they are, really have any major problems with it, if they are generally moral and care about their neighbors, and are not so consumed with selfishness or intentional spiteful rebellion against God that they do not wish general good; it just seems to me that us Christians tend to muck up His teachings so much.
So, I have to confess that I feel compelled to oftentimes speak about what Jesus had to say on certain topics, or other virtuous people who think like Him, because that is the primary motive that keeps me “keepin’ on” with the strenuous tasks of researching, writing and processing these manuscripts, and talking in the media with everyone who will have me—it certainly isn’t for the money, I can assure you. I am ashamed to admit that if I wasn’t already shamed by Christ’s loving and sacrificial nature and teaching, I selfishly probably wouldn’t take much effort to look out for the less fortunate or care about them, and probably would rather pursue my own interests and agenda; I am glad and respect that you do so without such prodding. I also candidly admit that I really do believe that one day after this life I will be held accountable to how I spent my time in helping the less fortunate and confused, perplexed and enslaved (mentally and physically), with real consequences, even if my eternal residence is not in jeopardy; I particularly fear that with so many blessings I have been privy to in my life, such as health, good parents, good spiritual instruction and role models, and material blessings and provisions made available, and blessings of my labors, that His reminder that “to whom much has been given, much shall be expected” soberly warns me that I have much to be expected of me, and little time to address it in the waning days of my life that remain. There is no other motivation that I feel that justifies all of my devotion and effort in these pursuits, to the degree in which I attempt them, and I am not inclined to “de-spiritualize” the projects to which I apply my limited and transient resources, although I reserve the right to do fictional projects or parables that might serve as “doorways” to my deeper convictions and objectives, if such approaches are prudent in the coming days. Again, I salute all my fellow citizens who try to make the world a better place without needing such motivations, but I do encourage good people like themselves to reconsider the long-term aspects of their fate after this life, when a consciousness that no one seems to rationally explain that was created merely by new organization cell division and growth, and accordingly has no explanation as to why it should cease to be when such cell propagation ends at death, and the possibility that our consciousnesses may be in greater contact with the Source that fashioned it to begin with.
So, for my non-Christian friends, I ask you to tolerate my style and “hang with me,” and keep an eye out for information in my writings and talk that might intrigue you, even in the “religious stuff,” and in any case I hope to always show you the respect you deserve and not be condescending or patronize you, for that is my real hope and intention in my heart.
I have heard you in interviews on shows, appearances at conferences, and even interviews on your old radio show, and noticed that you have appeared on stage with people having non-Christian views, and even forbidden behaviors such as attempts to commune with spirit powers. Even on your show, you have had on such people, and did not strongly rebuke them with biblical admonitions, and were kind to them. However, you not only strongly rebuke those who do such as yourself in your writing, but also condemn other Christian leaders who have associations with such folk, and who quote the tenets of such people. Aren’t you a hypocrite for doing such (and in condemning others who do so), and pose a danger by your apparent “endorsement” of these forbidden pursuits?
Actually, such criticism goes way back to the days of Jesus, when religious observers and leaders accused Him of “eating with sinners,” like prostitutes and tax collectors. Paul instructed church members in Corinth to not associate with fellow church members who are “a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater,” etc. (1 Cor. 5:11), but “Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world” (v. 10, NKJV). Jesus even passed through the lands of the Samaritans, whom those of His religious community viewed as apostates of the true faith, and even when these people were skeptical of Him and His motives (like the “Woman at the Well”), He still chose to seek to minister to their needs.
It is fair to posit the accusation that I have, and will continue to point out when prominent Christian figures appear to endorse or promote those we would consider to be possessing clearly aberrant spiritual views, such as those who specifically demean and publicly renounce Jesus, like the Orthodox Jewish rabbis who are invited to preach from American Christian pulpits, or those who promote the communication and guidance from other spirits, as I will show some prominent conservative Christian leaders have done in Volume 3 of my Two Masters and Two Gospels book series. When they have merely appeared on a non-Christian stage of a specific public issue that features both Christians and non-Christians, I have tried to limit my criticism to when prominent Christians have chosen to endorse specific anti-Christian doctrines which could be harmful.
The Future Quake radio show that I produced from 2005 to 2012 was not originally designed to be specifically an exclusively Christian doctrine-teaching program, and more generally a show that discussed future societal trends, with both secular and religious implications, and was founded on a secular, non-religious radio station. In fact, after three years the topics of shows began to be so overwhelmingly religious in tone that management made some overtures about concerns as to the show’s orientation (although, I should clarify that the most troublesome guests for them were hard-right, anti-immigrant or secessionist guests for which I hosted to merely find out what they were about and the social significance of their movements, but upon reflection I believe they were right in that I did not take a more skeptical tone with them), and as a result the show was only revived and sustained as a more explicitly-Christian radio station carried the show for its additional years.
Throughout the history of the show, Future Quake cultivated a unique reputation as a “safe zone” for listeners, particularly Christians, to encounter sometimes-“taboo” topics, from a host of whom they were assured as to my foundations—in fact, that was a common compliment I received from listeners to the show. Although the overwhelming majority of the guests were Christian in orientation—even though often forwarding minority and misunderstood views that listeners were able to hear about objectively—we did feature an occasional non-Christian guest. Why? Because they were viewed as someone who was a subject-matter expert on a topic that would be of interest and educational for all listeners, Christian or not. A rare set of guests might even have views that might be considered rival worldviews to the most common Christian variety, but most commonly because their information would be of interest to Bible students, particularly those interested in Bible prophecy and current events. This information would prove valuable whether the listener agreed with the worldview of the guest or not, and could alert them to views that were now influential, or clarify misunderstandings “from the horse’s mouth.” In those interviews, I truly tried to treat them as guests, with a modicum of respect, even when I asked probing questions that were often more understood as to their rationale by the listeners than the guests themselves (the one time I recollect asking a more pointed question that irked a guest was a prominent conservative Christian media leader who admitted his nonchalance over the government’s admission of the existence of innocent individuals at Guantanamo Bay that they had no intention of releasing). Almost all of the tens of thousands of listeners “got” what we were doing with Future Quake, and were grateful for access to information they could not obtain in objective fashion elsewhere and the intelligent, adult tone that was pursued, however from time to time there were a handful of listeners, mostly older Christians from a more traditional culture, who might become confused or uncertain as to our agenda. As I tried valiantly to answer every email sent to me then (taking often 8-10 hours a day—crazy time), even with multiple responses and emails from the same folk, I usually was able to explain the “method to the madness” and the orthodoxy of my faith, and the spiritually-wholesome yet truthful nature of my agenda. This risk was particularly troublesome since the show almost exclusively focused on controversial topics, and would intentionally explore a minority view, like my blog, The Two Spies Report—in essence, “asking for it.” Furthermore, I have spoken at venues that sometimes had Christian views that I sharply opposed, and sometimes more extreme cases, such as when by a serendipitous set of circumstances I was able to give a talk at a United Nations-affiliated conference on religion and spirituality (populated with a near-uniform community of spirit channelers and mediums, excepting myself), and in that experience I gave a bold Christian defense that warned of spirit communication, the directness of which surprises me even today, and facilitated an impromptu debate on the stage of my assertion of the supremacy of Jesus Christ over other gods and spirits. Although most of my old show listeners fully endorse my Christian commitment and the nature of the style of discourse the show exhibited, new readers of my books might not be familiar with that material, nor myself and my reputation. If they do their “due diligence” and seek out my legacy of views (while giving me space to have grown in maturity over the years, which my online archive of radio shows would attest), including my radio show archives, I could foresee how those unfamiliar with me or my values would take a glance at those shows, in a vacuum, and maybe be concerned about one or two of those guests, such as those who talk about possible interactions that some viewed as extraterrestrial but with spiritual messages (a topic I do not emphasize at the time, I might add), and the fact that I gave them a forum for discussion. Accordingly, I grudgingly decided to add a disclaimer at the top of the archive of show audio files on the Future Quake website, rather than merely removing those shows, including those on topics I have merely “outgrown,” or found over time would not provide constructive fruit for most or be worthy of their time. I decided after some contemplation that it would be better not to send the erroneous message that I was deceptively trying to “cover my tracks” and erase my history by deleting those shows of marginal merit in hindsight, even though it reveals that I had to mature even as a grown Christian, hopefully like the rest of us. I hope this disclaimer puts the new reader or listener into the proper frame of mind, and places these very unique radio programs (which I was surprised to learn over the years many people listened to the assembly of roughly 300 multi-hour shows in their entirety, even years after I left the air, and found them spiritually edifying when considered in total) in a far better understood and accurate context.
In conclusion, while I admit that I have “rubbed shoulders” with those who have views, Christian or non-Christian, that I do not endorse nor share their beliefs in whole or part, my motives were to be “salt and light” in any forum in which I was allowed to speak, both to the listeners and the other speakers, and heaven forbid, not “sell out” on Jesus, the Gospel or any teachings of the Kingdom of Heaven. I typically do it with respect, kindness and consideration of others, trying to be wise and discerning, yet not always gravitating to the worst opinions of others that the Internet rumor mill creates, rather judging them by their own words and general spirit. I encourage Christians to “grow up” and interact with such of those outside our cloistered ranks, which requires a maturity spiritually as well as “horse sense,” and when one risks reaching out and in compassion. Sometimes we’ll get “burned” in our naivete, or exploited, but if we do it in love and for heavenly aims, I think God will forgive us for our well-intentioned shortcomings. My bigger challenge in these recent years is to not be unfairly harsh on other Christian leaders I write about that do the same, and try my best to be fair, and sift out when they are similarly trying to positively influence others, versus revealing their own hidden agendas by their clear words and teachings, taken in concert with their associations. When I am overly-critical and unfair, I trust that not only the Holy Spirit, but also my loyal mature listeners and readers will point this out to me as well (sometimes gently, sometimes not so much). All in all, the bold and cutting edge Christian life, living out the Great Commission with gusto, will automatically be filled with risk, as Paul and others before us have experienced.
Do you hold the view that the Feds under the power of the Constitution to take from people in order to give from others, such as in “public assistance”?
To first answer you directly, let me say that I believe that the government has such a privilege, and even mandate, to “provide for the general welfare,” as per the Constitution. It regularly does so to provide for a common defense, build interstate highways, make sure Wall Street sharks are not committing fraud to consumers (at least they’re supposed it) when other safeguards are not practical, sometimes to take from some to give to others when they determine stealing has occurred or other crimes, inspect meat so we are all not poisoned, and the like. Pure libertarians would argue that the government does not even have the right to give veterans health care or other benefits from funds taxed coercively, but I disagree with them (governments already draft people coercively at times to force them to kill, but few Christians have problems with that). Every citizen should have a proportional right to decide how these decisions are made, and whether it comprises the “general welfare,” and we will never get a unanimous vote on such matters, so at least some will be “coerced”. These rights of government have existed since the dawn of recorded history, even in the most libertarian societies. It can also be argued that the “general welfare” is also relevant when prudent government assistance is provided, not only to address the negative position of a nation’s moral standing in the world and its moral force and credibility and its ramifications, but at least the ability to avoid a far more dangerous revolution of a desperate, starved people with nothing to lose, as has often happened in recorded history, not even counting the moral imperative that is held by a wide swath of people of different ideologies far beyond the Christian ethic. What I am more interested in is beyond the legal requirements, to what we feel are the obligations of government as Christians, and what is a universal value and ethic that embraces most moral people of good will, and how we came to be so repulsed about the assistance to the less fortunate by that means.
You and I both know we have benefited in many respects from our acquaintance with libertarian ideas. I now refer to it as the “libertarian garden,” and we all found some real “flowers” of concepts in its midst. Amongst those are the principles of the rights of free association and self-determination, and most importantly (in my view), the essential of non-coercion, all of which such “flowers” I have still kept and cherish, and it would do all Christians good to value these, as I feel they are biblically-supported. However, as I often say, I am now of a frame of mind that everything in our lives, principles and values, including those basically good and generally noble, must be critiqued honestly as a Christian (the best we can), for I believe that “that which we don’t critique, we worship,” and that is a position that I believe only Christ deserves, as the “cornerstone” that is beyond further critique, and rather the standard for all other things, even good ones. I find this process to be particularly painful when regarding things I have cherished, at least for myself, but Jesus has a right to expect it from us. Having said that, I have stated that while I found legitimate “flowers” in the libertarian “garden” and still cling to them, as a follower of Jesus and as I dug deeper, I also found many “weeds,” including an Ayn Rand-admitted hyper-selfishness and disregard for others that could well be described as a Luciferian-consistent self-deification in terms of disregarding the needs of others, as she professed not only her atheism as essential to her ideology, and she and her organization philosophers officially tell the public that they must reject Jesus and His Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule and “turning the other cheek,” stating that plainly in Fox News as well as elsewhere, as I document in Volume 2 of my book series, I believe. On the other hand, later in Volume 1 I show that many of the other founding fathers of American libertarianism veered towards New Age Gnosticism, and disregarded things like the Atonement. I want to make clear that these facts do not diminish the value of the “flowers” I cited before that I think we can use to enrich our Christian understanding, but we Christians should incorporate truths and wisdom large and smaller into an ever-larger cosmic and eternal “worlds-view” that acknowledges even vaster truth of this reality and God’s nature and His goals, values and motives, and the roles of other entities in this drama played out in the universe and our destiny, while still not coercing others beyond a general, unavoidable level that is universal to men and respectful to them, and not dependent upon a particular spiritual worldview, as I will now explain.
We all have our ideological blind spots (particularly me), and while libertarian ideals have elevated my understanding in many areas, they also have their own dark side. I would assert that libertarianism is a sometimes well-meaning (depending upon the practitioner) pure yet utopian ideology, that is often good to instruct one into some wisdom, but more difficult in world history to pragmatically practice. I think these limitations are based upon two fundamental oversights, beyond the sometime Christian conflicts with it, that being the their overlooking of the role that (a) the work and sacrifices of others and their neighbors and predecessors that has led to the lifestyle that they feel that have earned independently by their own works, and (b) how their lifestyles are not just merely independent “self-expression” and “freedom” that does not impact others, but often does impede on the rights and well-being of their neighbors (i. e., insisting on their “rights” to drive gas-guzzling and polluting cars, or dirty factories that pollute their neighbor’s air, ground or water, or consume limited resources (and maybe even affect the climate or their productivity of their neighbor’s crops) that are then deprived to their neighbor, which is a particularly culpable state here in the materially-blessed West). They often cling to the principle, not really borne out by honest logic or history, that a man can be an “island” unto himself, not rather being blessed by the works of others nor taking advantage of anyone else (even unintentionally), and subject to the unearned blessings of health, a reasonably financially and socially secure family with good values in which to be raised, being born into a culture in which there are economic and even political opportunities, healthy role models, and an abundance of material goods, educational opportunities and advancement, clean water and food, and even physical security. We Christians should in particular be ashamed to think that we did not receive some things we did not deserve from others, God or maybe just good fortunes, in addition to our hard work, and that we are entitled to all of its provisions while we see those with lesser fortunes strive with difficulty.
Another myth that I feel libertarians often fall for is that we can truly live in a fully non-coercive world, free of all its forms while it does serve as an ideal in many respects, and that all men operate in hermetically-sealed environments and rise and fall solely on their own merits, with the fate of those who falter being their own problem, not ours. In reality (at least in my emerging understanding), we are borne into a coercive world, and our question is how we respond to it. We cannot flee the innate coercions of threats to our health by disease organisms, even wild animals who seek us for food, environmental threats to our well being (such as sun exposure, extreme weather, droughts, etc.), and particularly other people who may be stronger, smarter and more ruthless, and even have strength in numbers, who can threaten our access and needs for food, shelter and security. This is the “jungle” and obeys the “law of the jungle,” where only the strong survive until overcome by the yet stronger, who stays as “king of the hill” as long as possible as the survivors dwindle further and further. This environment still exists in the modern, sophisticated eras that are libertarian ideals, like Dicken’s London in the era of Ebenezer Scrooge and Oliver Twist, with a small elite circle of the most ruthless, and streets full of street urchin kids and turberculosis-ridden workers in squalor; in America the ideal would be the similar condition in our era of the Gilded Age and robber barons, under the same conditions of the common folk (with the average life expectancy in America in 1900 being 35), until Social Gospel-styled Christians waded into these hell-holes to minister to these pitiful people, and fight for their rights for health and worker safety that their own pitiful economic state could not do for them.
Libertarians cling to the myth that a regulation-free “jungle” marketplace will lead to a Golden Age of all people prospering, and in places like America the poorest have had some modest improvements in certain eras, but mostly due to an abundance of natural resources and lack of war on our soil for the most part and internal minimal interruptions to our peaceful operations (except for the Civil War, obviously), as opposed to being attributed to any libertarian ideals. In reality, their era of libertarian ideals have ruled in America until some time in the 20th century when it began to be challenged, and yet data shows that with minimal to no regulation of the capitalistic marketplace by (hopefully) defenders of the less powerful, and wealth is aggressively accelerating in the redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthiest, to soon reach crisis levels that will likely cause a French Revolution of our own, from a desperate people, because our own aristocrats don’t wish to share the wealth. That is the real “redistribution of wealth” that the hard data has shown us has occurred, with government collusion from the politicians the wealth class has bought, via “welfare” in the form of lucrative government contracts with high profits and salaries allowed, business credits and deductions achieved by lobbyists, profits from the war machine, etc., all of which dwarfs the pittance provided to the elderly, blind, disabled (mentally and physically), and even those in the bondage of substance abuse, while the same wealth class invests a large sum (but small portion of their largesse) in public relations and “think tanks” and paid media to convince us that the poor are our real enemies and trying to steal our wealth by “redistributing income” to them.
As I discuss in my book, God both recognizes and took actions against the inevitable concentration of wealth in the hands of the richest in unregulated capitalistic markets, which is otherwise inevitable. When he set up the ideal government, He made it part of the coercive Mosaic Law – a command, not a suggestion – that people leave the produce of the land for the poor and immigrants one year out of seven – in essence, a 15 percent tax just for the poor, in addition to the ten percent for religious/spiritual affairs – which presumably would be enforced by their “rulers” or government, with no worthiness “litmus test” for the poor or undocumented immigrant passing by, as well as the Jubilee Year, which we would see today as an agregious “redistribution of wealth,” but was really a “restoration of wealth” to the people, to keep it from eventually imploding, which unregulated capitalism will inevitably produce by those with economic power in the marketplace and over the workforce. As I say in my book, God also says repeatedly through the prophets that God will primarily judge the nation (and nations) for the exploiting the poor in the marketplace with “dishonest weights and measures” and other exploitation of the common man like the “Stalls of Annas” or the “den of thieves” at the Temple, exploiting the poor in the courts as the rich buy their protection there and raid the wealth of others, and the failure of the “rulers” to protect the well-being of the poor, widows, orphans and the “stranger” immigrants, and given equal rights, for Israel “once were strangers in Egypt.” God even says He will judge the “sons of God” appointed over the Gentile nations (including our own) for not looking out for the poor, weak, vulnerable and widows in Psalm 82. God further says He sent Israel to captivity in Babylon not primarily for idol worship (other than of themselves), but because they did not honor the Sabbath Years and Jubilees (which was also supposed to forgive all debts), because they were so greedy, according to Jeremiah. Since we live in a participative democracy, with our elected officials serving as our proxies, the biblical commands to “rulers” to do these things now rests squarely on our shoulders. In other wirds, when Cain asks God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, the libertarian says “No,” while the Father and the Son says, “Yes.” I talk about all this in my book, but I didn’t know if you hadn’t gotten through those sections yet.
I further add that from the time people began to populate the earth, men began to force themselves coercively on others, because of their greater numbers, strength, weapons or ruthlessness. Government was formed as a collective of the people to stop this exploitation. Whether it was a posse, town council, elders or whatever, it was intended to restrain the coercive power of the lawless, and the only way to stop them was to give the power of coercion to the government to arrest their power. Now, the major power of exploitation is by the ownership of money (capital) and its control of negotiations with the working man (who has to feed his family soon and has little negotiating leverage) in wages (the fairness of God demands in scripture), the controls of the marketplace, and the courts (and now the media). The common people have no say over what the corporation does – it answers only to the whims of the shareholders (and in reality, the board members), and has no morality, whereas our elected officials are to be accountable to us at the ballot box to protect our interests.
The real enemy is not government, but corrupt government, and it is our responsibility as our own “rulers” to enforce its integrity. And we must be careful not to resist God when God clearly tells us to share some of the wealth He gave us, even by our own hard work, with the poor, sick, elderly or scared “stranger immigrant”, because in truth He gave us our health and blessed us with where we were born and the fruit of our hands, no matter how hard we worked, and He has decreed it, and expected rulers to enforce it. We should be glad He gave us a government to fight the forces of the Great City Babylon with regulations in marketplace, as He told Israel to have, and environmental regulations He established in the Mosaic Law, to let the land “rest” and stay fertile for future generations, and for us to fight the government corruption that will happen in the fallen world, until Jesus comes to run it with full integrity. It would be nice if our Christian charity would meet the needs of the needy without the use of government “rulers” as God previously decreed, but we can see that millennia of Christian domination and wealth did not eliminate poverty or destitution, and it has only grown, so we cannot count on the guilty consciences of people (particularly Christian ones) on Christmas Eve to meet the massive needs for food, housing, health care and such that keeps getting worse. Particularly, we cannot listen the the Great City Babylon wealth classes to tell us that their resister who is supposed to stand in their way, the government, is inherently evil, or that coerced help for the poor and helpless is wrong – it is what makes us “civilization”, the level thereof defined by how we treat our most vulnerable and weak, otherwise we live in the libertarian, Darwinistic, every-man-for-himself “jungle” – a nightmare world without mercy or justice, which becomes particularly important when we are inevitably the “weak”. As I said to a Christian friend who said I worried too much about the “Weak,” that there are two world views – the libertarian, Darwinistic focus on the “ninety and nine” herd, where each member thinks itself strong and self-sufficient (at least for today), and doesn’t mind losing the stragglers in the herd, or that of Jesus Christ, who leaves the ninety-and-nine to go find and rescue the weak straggler, who otherwise does not contribute to society – a state that at some time will be every one of us. This does not preclude sensible and reasonable standards to screen out cheaters or exploiters of assistance, which I fully support so as to not dishearten workers who are called to help, but the presence of a small number of cheaters even then does not absolve us of the God-mandated duty to help the poor, widow (or single parent), immigrant “stranger”, physically or mentally impaired, or any other form of bondage. Some Christians have told me that this understanding I have expressed here has been very liberating for them, to be free to be compassionate about those less fortunate than them, and seek to be the champions of the desperate who are counting on us.