Friday, August 14, 2009

health care reform and angry emails...

I’ve been putting this off, but I feel a need to respond to the emails some Christians are forwarding regarding H.R.3200: the Health Care Reform Bill bandied about in Washington. It’s not so much the merit or weakness of the bill itself that concerns me (that’s a blog for another time) as much as the tone of the emails and the paranoia expressed. What put it over the top was a mass emailing from Morningstar Ministries in South Carolina by Rick Joyner. Rick is a well-known teacher/speaker particularly among charismatics and the prophetic stream. I don’t know Rick personally, but I’m aware of his ministry and years ago read his bestseller, The Final Quest.

Several people forwarded his email to me. He was sounding the alarm about the bill. Alarm is putting it mildly: he used terms like “diabolical”, “SINISTER” (in caps), “euthanasia”, “totalitarian control…to a degree that Hitler and Stalin could not have even imagined”, “make America into a national concentration camp”, “terrible impending holocaust”, and “unimaginable evil…will be unleashed into our nation if this passes…”.

Following his comments was a cut-and-paste addendum from the Liberty Counsel, an organization connected with Liberty University/Falwell Ministries. I personally was never a fan of Falwell’s Moral Majority movement back in the eighties, mostly due to the methodologies, a weak Kingdom theology, the “Christian-nation” America-centric stance, and, in my little opinion, a self-righteous tone of their rhetoric. Regardless of whatever political advantages were made, it set in motion and ratified a clear “us-against-them” perception of the Church that’s had long-term damage. I don’t believe that’s what Jesus intended.

The Joyner email not only saddened me, but I consider it irresponsible for an influential Christian leader, especially one given a prophetic title, to send an editorialized cut-and-paste commentary without doing the homework, particularly after firing up people to “read it for yourself”.

It was soon followed by a second email: a very mild apology for actually not reading the bill themselves. It struck me as odd that the main point of the follow-up statement was a questioning of why the bill was being “rushed”. I would have asked the same question of why a mass email of untruths and disrespectful dangerous exaggerations was rushed out as well.

Frankly, the whole tone seems to me to be as embarrassing as Hillary Clinton’s famous “vast right-wing conspiracy” interview years ago. Please, brothers and sisters, I beg you: tone down the rhetoric. I have been told numerous times of “conservatives” being shut out of the dialogue, ejected from town meetings. Frankly, every YouTube video I’ve seen is mostly angry, disrespectful people yelling in the town meetings and disrupting any sense of dialogue.

I have some simple advice: Christians should be very, very careful of their moral certitude. I have been a Jesus-follower for over thirty-five years, and too many times I’ve seen the prophetic God-card pulled out, “watchmen-on-the-wall” language used, and a “moral-policemen-of-the-world” approach to Christianity that in the end hurts more than helps the cause of Christ. We often seem to confuse expressing the values of Jesus with methods that are fleshly. We water down the power and sovereignty of the King and His Kingdom with world-worn strategies.

Christians should think twice about implying a democratically elected administration is comparable to Nazi Germany. Really? That’s embarrassing to the believers who didn’t vote like them…and an affront to Jews who survived the death camps. And please don’t forward chain emails without researching the material, making at least some attempt to understand the other side of the argument, and listen to a little bit more than our own subcultures.

Preaching to the choir can have inflammatory consequences.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9–14


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dave - once again you have said it well. While I am among the many others who have serious concerns about the slope on which we stand with the new administration, I am also among those who do not care for the angry, hateful attitude that comes when otherwise reasonable people (especially Christians I usually respect like Rick Joyner) allow fear to rule them. Its odd to me that when dealing with Holy Spirit encounters he is level-headed and even admonishes people not take 'courtesy dives' (IE - fake being knocked down in the Spirit for show), but to simply be in the Spirit and let God do the work. Apparently this doesn't transfer to the political realm...

    There is a difference between speaking emphatically/passionately and whipping people into a frenzy of fear. Jesus says we should fear nothing. Should we speak out when we believe there is reason to be concerned? Yes. Should we strive to protect freedom? Yes. But we have to stay rooted in love and use our wisdom. We have been given a Spirit of power, love and SELF CONTROL.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you on the danger of 'prophets' in the church using their titles for political purposes. Anymore I really don't take 'prophecy' very seriously...In terms of personal ministry, words of knowledge, etc I find it to be very much a gift that blesses. When it goes above that - even in terms of what the Church should and should not be doing, I no longer give much credence. There's too much subjectivity and frankly, not much to make an informed opinion on whether or not it is true...Sure, if it doesn't 'line up with Scripture' you can discount it, but even that can be subjective to some degree. Look at how the Bible has been used to justify slavery, the demoralizing of women and child abuse. I'm with Paul who reminds us that the gifts of the Spirit are wonderful but if they are not used to edify, encourage and LOVE then they are nothing.

  3. An additional note on prophecy...A very wise friend of mine once explained that prophecy is really meant to be looked back upon. We can look back and see that all the prophecies in Scripture have so far been fulfilled which gives us reason to believe in the dependability of Scripture...At the time of those prophecies, though the people were probably as uncertain as we are about what was what...You have to take it in, file it away and see what transpires.

  4. I don't know what else to say other than "Amen". I am saddened by the close-mindedness of our "Christian brothers and sisters". The Pharisees are out in full force on this one.

  5. Culture wars, I hate them. Its a us versus them mentality. Sick and tired of being sick and tired of Culture Wars.

    When are we going to stop stoning people.

  6. Well said.

    Politics has taken the place of religion is so many peoples' lives. Politicians (and political commentators) have become their gods and devils.

  7. I just wanted to comment that the spirit of your statement is exactly the reason I find myself returning to the Vineyard week after week. It seems that history is full of Christians that neglect to stay tuned into the heart and tone of Jesus’ teachings…. Cornel West, one of my academic heroes, has even gone so far as to give this trend a name: Constantinian Christianity. I hope (and expect) that your intellectual and spiritual honesty continues despite the barrage of public ignorance.

  8. We all stumble in so many ways. If we could only take what we think we see as ungodly and turn it into intercession, what a powerful, Christ-like Church we'd become. Believe me, I'm trying to digest these words myself.

  9. Well put. I agree, but your history is lacking. The National Socialist Party was elected in free elections in a democracy. To say it can't happen here is foolish.

  10. Yeah, I thought of that as I wrote it. But it was a fledgling parliamentary democracy of only a couple of decades at the time. When Hitler was elected, there were multiple political parties (there are some advantages to a two-party system!) and because of this his party was elected by less than a majority of the people. Even worse, he almost immediately created a dictatorship and outlawed other parties and declared an emergency state through his feared secret police. Nasty stuff.

  11. All Christians should be involved in politics to one degree or another in order to have a voice that can be heard. Our right to vote can make a difference. Sadly many I fear fail to take that responsibility seriously by not voting or show apathy that we cannot make a difference when really we can.

    We all know what is going on right now. Both sides of the issue are being hotly debated and there is a bit of subversive forces operating on both sides using scare tactics to sway the populace opinions.

    How ever, one of powerful influence in the faith department over others should not use their position to sway the opinion of their followers one way or another or use scare tactics.

    We as christians should be able to discern what is right or wrong through prayers to God and find guidance in our decision making process.

  12. Amazing - the one bill that gets scrutiny, while trillions of our dollars pass through congress each day; some for good purposes and others to fund pet projects along with pork for the reps constituents. Had we had this type of outrage when Roe vs Wade was passed, when partial birth abortion was made legal, when they kicked prayer and Bible reading out of school, we'd be in a different place, no?

    As a church, we have nearly lulled ourselves to sleep. Our current presidential leadership was approved by about one third the nation-- half of those Christians.

    For the record - the Federal health care proposal makes the claim that a large amount of coverage will come from the elderly with so called preventative care. The problem is that the world over, old folks get sick and use 70 to 80 percent of their health care dollars in their last days. They said we'd have savings from electronic health care records while our president intends stuffs the pockets of GE, owners of a news network that promoted him during the election.

    I am actually a little surprised a the rhetoric. Haven't mainstream Christians gotten what they voted for? A liberal president with a health care agenda. Why are Christians so outraged now, for the most part they were complicit in the last election.

    The church should have an opinion, and it voted the economy, and not for the social issues it should have.

    We may need health care, but as a church we need Jesus. We need to vote for Biblical principals first. Wouldn't it be amazing if we had a Christian party that campaigned on family, marriage, pro-life, taking care of the poor, the widows and those in jail? Oh that's right, that's Mitt Romney the LDS guy.

    Church, we need Jesus, humility, repentance and real discipleship, not some stupid 5 week program. We need friends that call, show up when you move, pray for you, mentor you and just plain be there. In short we need to be doers of the Word. As Christians we are not supposed to have an opinion, God is. The Good News, He wrote it down.

    Health care? Mark 1:32 At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.

    And a note regarding prophecy. It creates a destiny that is even though it does not exist. All prophecy needs to be tested, and probably prayed through, but it is not God telling us something so one day we'll say, "gee, that was You." No, it is intended to create a destiny (hopefully be encouraging and edifying) to cause us to hope, and to preview a plan God has for us, and other times to confirm something that we have been sensing in the spirit. Prophecy is not a parlor game, it is an essential gift in the church to guide believers, churches, regions and countries when used properly.

    Forgive me for being on a soap box, but the health care issue is just one more in a long list of things that we may be forced to pay for. Ask a vet how they like their health care, that is basically what we'll have if this passes.

  13. Thanks for this great post Dave! My politics make me an outcast among many Christians and that is just ridiculous. People will not come if they do not feel loved and the vitriol from Christians is turning people away from Christ.

  14. Jesus urges us to radically care for the sick and needy, ... for us to make the free choice to give away our time, wealth, power, ... life.

    But we should be wary of any government that wants to take that free choice out of our hands and make those decisions for us.

  15. David,

    You honestly think our health care plan should be miraculous healings?


    I am a Christian and I support gay marriage and am pro-choice. So who gets to decide the Christian Party's platform? You? That means we would need two Christian Parties - a conservative one and a liberal one.

    Welcome to the current system of republicans and democrats.

    I wonder if Jesus stayed out of politics because he knew heart change couldn't be legislated.

  16. Ok. I had to get another word in here.

    I do not support gay marriages nor do I support pro choice. In Steves eyes, I guess he supports the theory that John Shelby Spong in His book " The Letters of Paul" hinted that the Apostle Paul was Gay. There is no refutable evidence that he was. Only an Episcopal Bishop's conclusion.

    If you take the bible scriptures as fact, it is plainly stated marriages between a man and woman is the normal principle. All other unions are sinful.

    In ancient times the procedure of abortion on the unborn was not mentioned.Perhaps that terminology had not yet become known.

    In scriptures Jesus rebukes his diciples for trying to keep the children away from him. He also goes on to warn of any harm that may come to the children here on earth. Could he be hinting at abortion too? It is also said thou shall not kill. Is abortion actually killing an unborn child? I believe so.

    Any one can profess to be a Christian in a public forum but their actions and thoughts truly reveal their real category.

    I don't profess to be a Christian. That is up to God to categorize what I am. I only try to be a student of the Bible and follow it's word.

  17. photogr, I don't want to go back and forth too much here but it's a bit of a leap to assume that someone who supports gay marriage must believe Paul was gay. Please don't talk down to other Christians for having different political beliefs than you.

  18. Hi Dave,
    I watched the same thing. People just yelling and being rude. It seems that we reward this behavior. The loudest voice is right? People are bullies.

    I would just like to see them come up with a way that people that don't have money can still be cared for. Poor people get cancer too.

    I think it stems from who we are really looking out for, others or ourselves.

    "Outward Focus" would tone it down.


  19. Wow...

    I think all must be careful when combining politics and religion.

    Steve Fuller is right on 1 point...being a Christian doesn't define you to a political party.

    And Jesus' example would be to love the sinner...hate the sin. Give to the poor...I doubt he would advocate for big or small govt, he'd help people directly and encourage the same. We must also realize using Jesus' role in politics is not a true comparison - he wasn't in a democracy.

    I don't like combining pro-abortion with gay rights. Treating people well when they have a different moral code, doesn't condone or promote their behavior. However, ending a life - an innocent life...when there are other alternatives - well that is a moral stand. Being pro-life isn't a political issue, it is a moral just so happens that only 1 political party has embraced it. However, if democrats demanded leaders who were pro-life, then they would move to the fore front...they do exist. Christians should prioritize their issues - pro-life shouldn't weighted the same as the tax structure I'd prefer.

    Steve Fuller - you've volunteered your position, and I'm always floored by someone who can condone abortion. You must have thought this through...please share with me your rationalization? When you face God one day, and he asks why you supported abortion - what will your response be? I myself fear the question of why didn't I do more than just vote the issue?...this is what our church should ask.

    Abortion will be our generations slavery - an unexplained lapse in moral judgment made only for convenience. Maybe that is wishful thinking, b/c it would require our culture to get a moral wake-up call.

    One last thought...Dave Workman - I actually agree with your comments on the rhetoric, it turns off the audience. However, in my limited sample size...I see you using the Right as your example. In addition, I think the church must make clear moral stands...not to be divisive, but in line with biblical interpretation, and advice for our congregation. We shouldn't be afraid to say our opinion on abortion - sometimes discomfort and anger forces internal reflection...that changes hearts and minds.

  20. The way I understand it, the abortion issue comes down to "when does human life begin". We don't know for sure and pro-choicers believe it's later during fetal development.
    Anon, Dave never told anyone not to speak up. But the screaming is getting us nowhere.

  21. OK. I am back.

    Life begins when the sperm enters the egg and life begins to form with in that egg. After a few cells unite the life cycle begins as a living entity. The most simple biology classes recognize that. Usually with in a week or so I believe gestation begins but at comception the cells are already beginning their journey to reproduce to multi celled forms which leads to a representation of a life form.

    There fore it is murder to abort an unborn entity ( human or animal)? And what does the bible say about murder?

    There is an alternative. Adoption. Many thousands of families yearly try to adopt children and fail due to lack of availability of children. There is no need to abort unborn children when so many families are wanting to adopt.

    Aborting to save a life is another issue entirely.I would not want to have to make that kind of decision. I trust evey one knows mty stand on abortion.

    Gay marriages and unions of the same sex. As per the bible I camnnot disagre that it is a sin. If God changes his mind but that is highly unlikely.

    As some are led to believe, it is not an abnormality of the genetic make up in a persons DNA. It is a thought process where by one chooses to be gay for what ever reason ( sociological or family intervetion). One can avoid those choices if they choose. This I discovered through scientific research publications.

    Now this doesn't mean we have to judge these people and condem them. Far from it. We have to show them the same love we do to others that are sinners and hope and pray they can change their ways with our help, through others, or on their own.

  22. St - If you/we "don't know for sure"...what is the more appropriate response?

    Kill fetuses anyway...and hope as Christians we're right when answering to God?

    Anyone who sees an ultrasound doesn't need a scientific answer to life.

    Our own government has acknowledged that the fetus is alive...if I kill a pregnant woman it is a double homicide...of course if that baby is an inconvenience...well then the mother can choose to kill it. (life = desired by mother...?)

    If we go by brain activity or physical activity...then fetuses have an advantage over vegetables, some mentally retarded people, and some elderly. (life = capability...make way for euthanasia)

    So lets not hide behind the
    "definition of life"...Lets do what we KNOW IS RIGHT...protect children. Voice our opinions on this moral issue. Lets make it not a political party issue - demand our political leaders on both parties stand firm on this.

  23. "You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy
    out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another
    person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to
    anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody
    else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to
    work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the
    other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody
    else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about
    the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

  24. I'm 62 and sitting here w/o insurance, w/o a job and 2 of my sons and I are looking for new homes w/o much success because we do not fit in the right money quota. You know wha--it's going to be all right!! Thingss go the way they do because of three things: God, the devil and our free agency. Please keep telling and reminding who wins in the end of the Bible; and, that no matter what He uses everything for not only our good but His, too.

  25. I knew I liked you...I will avoid the temptation of cutting and pasting your post to everyone myself...