November 30, 2020

Bob is Angry on Election Day

UPDATE: How did Jesus Fight The Culture War?

UPDATE II: Why angry Bob is angry?

Today being election day, and many of my evangelical friends being in somewhat of a foul mood, for reasons that, as of 12:28 p.m., are suspected and not yet clear, I found myself thinking about a fellow I’ll call Bob.

I met Bob while I was on sabbatical. He was a very dedicated conservative evangelical, and a pleasant enough fellow….when he wasn’t angry. And Bob was angry. Angry, afraid, frustrated and ready for a fight.

Bob was your stereotypical culture war evangelical. He was a Jesus follower, but his passion was what was going on in America, particularly the issues we broadly call the culture war: atheistic advances in the public schools, restrictions on Christian practice in the public square, the aggressive agenda of homosexual rights advocates.

Bob was obviously devoted to Christian and conservative media, particularly radio. He believed what he heard. Dobson. Point of View. 700 Club. There was some Michael Savage in there. Some short wave programs from the Art Bell side of the dial. And all the usual culture war channels on Christian radio and television.

In general, Bob was stuffed full of information that was only available through his devotion to a kind of Christian underground pirate radio, web sites and a regular diet of Christian authorities convinced the culture war was all-important.

Bob was mad and he was mad that more people weren’t mad. Of course, most people didn’t know what Bob knew. They had the general outlines of the problems, and sided with Bob on the issues, but few people had Bob’s zealous focus on the culture war. On more than one occasion, Bob’s assessment of the situation of Christians vs militant atheists, homosexual activists and the rising time of Islamists was quite similar to the attitude of the Confederacy. Secede and arm yourselves. This is a real war.

Now…Bob was part of a local church, but as you can imagine, he wasn’t very happy with his church either because…..that’s right, they didn’t see the situation to be quite as dire as Bob did. I had the feeling that more than a few people in Bob’s church might not be looking to share a cup of coffee with him after the service. Intense fellow, that Bob.

I was only around Bob for a few days, but in those few days I saw a kind of Christian for whom the term “culture warrior” and not the term “disciple” was much more applicable. Emphasis on the “Warrior.” This was Jesus vs Allah; Jesus vs Dawkins; Jesus vs Hollywood…and it’s time for the followers of Jesus to see the most recent Rambo movie or WWE event for some inspiration.

Of course, politics was Bob’s game. Christians had to rise up and vote in order to take back the culture. We are losing because we won’t fight in the arena of political power.

I imagine Bob’s not very happy on this election day. I’m guessing he’s voting for Chuck Baldwin and is upset that more Christians aren’t doing the same. I’m sure he has a small library of information on Obama that none of us have heard, even on Fox. I’m sure he’s alarmed and is frustrated that many of us aren’t taking the threat seriously.

Bob wants good things for his country, family and fellow believers. He sincerely believes those good things are closely related to freedom, conservatism, traditionalism and Christianity. He senses the death of a kind of Christian dominated culture, and he wants to fight with all he’s worth — even with weapons if necessary — to keep his rights and his Christian heritage.

Over at his blog today, Frank Turk basically said this:

Pray. Vote. Then Pray again. Then go live like a disciple of Jesus.

Bob, are you listening?

Michael- and the many readers of this blog- are you listening?

Go live like a disciple.

It’s hard to say this, but Bob isn’t seeing the big picture. Our American culture war is not worth the demise of authentic discipleship. Trading following Christ in love, even in post-Christian times, for fighting and defensiveness, is a bad trade. Bob is frightened. Our faith says “Fear not.” Bob says prepare to fight. Our faith says prepare to love.

I am particularly impressed that these days should call us together in real community, not separate us according to Christian media audience niche. There are some helpful voices out there in the culture war, but I’d like to suggest that it’s time to listen to your pastor — assuming he’s showing you how to follow Jesus — more than James Dobson or some angrier, more paranoid manipulator of fear.

I really is time to go Biblically deep into Jesus shaped spirituality, and not into the spirituality of fear and misbegotten patriotic fervor.

Unfortunately, Bob is not a rarity. He’s not a majority report among evangelicals by any means, but he represents a significant number of Christians who are pursuing a very different kind of Kingdom than what we see in the book of Acts, the epistles and Revelation.

Jesus told his disciples that to follow him a lot has to die. We find a new life in Jesus, but it comes at the expense of the old life. I can’t help but believe that Bob, for all his zeal, his holding on to some of the old creation. There are some good things in this American Christian heritage of ours, and no one wants to see it taken away.

But it may happen, and if it does, Frank is right: Pray, then go live like a disciple.

Don’t feed the voices of anger, fear and the justification of violence. These were the same choices that the Zealot movement presented to Jesus; the same Zealots to whom Jesus said “Love your enemy. Don’t resist the evil-doer. Pray for those who persecute you.”

I’m sure it sounded ridiculous at the time, but in the end it was another invitation to discipleship, to Jesus shaped spirituality, to taking up the cross and finding a new life beyond it.

Those choices come to us every day. They sometimes come to us when we are tightly holding on to things we believe enough to be angry.

Put them all down. Pray. Go be a disciple of Jesus.

A good word for a chastened evangelicalism.

Comments

  1. Yes. Yes. Yes.
    We serve a risen Lord, and he is sovereign over all. The Kingdom of God is now, within us. Not within Washington DC.

  2. Quite right. The church survived Nero, and Hitler and Stalin and Mao. The Church will survive this election cycle. Thankfully, this world will pass away. The elements will melt with fervent heat. We serve in this world as a colony, and embassy of the New Heavens and New Earth. The church is called to facilitate immigration to this New World. Our political efforts in this world will ultimately fail to promote or bring the kingdom of God.

  3. Nero? Stalin? Hilter? Mao? I don’t think we can equate either candidate to these names, nor do I think it’s the end of the world. But then again, I’m not dispensationalist.

  4. Gregory said the church has survived bad people. He didn’t say either of the current candidates was the same kind of person. In fact, the implication is clearly that the current candidates aren’t similar to these bad people.

  5. I like something Greg Boyd (gasp! I know…) said. He remarked that what the church really has to offer the world is suffering, the willingness to truly sacrifice to benefit others. “Bob” and so many others (and I) need to hear James’ word, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jas 1.20). Only laying down our lives in Jesus for others does.

  6. I wonder though if there aren’t those like Bob on the other side of the aisle. They are angry that more people aren’t emerging and that the “Christian right” isn’t supporting the change, the break from tradition, etc. I would probably consider myself one of those people, but at the same time, I’m not angry. But couldn’t these same extremes be said for those in the emergent movement who talk about emerging things all day while the rest of the world just keeps moving on none the wiser?

  7. Any similarity between “Bob” and me is purely coincidental. 🙂

  8. Wow!

    This is fantastic stuff Michael.

    Can you give me almost the same article and use fundamentalist instead of “culture war evengelist” and expoound on that one for me.

    I could use it in my musings. I mean it.

    :).

  9. iMonk- The evangelical church as an institution long ago stopped being primarily a witness for Christ in the political arena and started being a paid-for interest group supporting the Republican Party. How many times did the “official voices” of the church sit silent when the Party did something unbiblical because they believed the Democrats would be worse?

    In this I think our Catholic brothers have done a much better job of being a voice that ticks off both left and right (pro-life from conception all the way through death row, for example)with its consistency while having the right attitude about social action.

    Was the church right before the 1980s when it vacated the political arena? No. Was it right during the last 25 years when it was co-opted into the Republican Party? No. We deserve our upcoming wilderness experience, when one party dislikes us for failing to deliver and the other ignores us as being a player for the other, losing side. Maybe we can get to being involved on behalf of Christ and being a voice in that wilderness, owned by no one but Him and speaking His truth into the political questions of the day, no matter who likes it or hates it.

    If that is one result of our election today, I would be happy.

    Sean

  10. Chaplan Mike,

    I have great respect for Greg Boyd as a person and author and as a Jesus-centered Pastor. People (myself included) may disagree with some specifics but his goal, purpose and aim are the same as my core values.

    No gasping here!

  11. In my experience, Bob will be voting for McCain.

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    You see me now a veteran
    Of a thousand psychic wars
    I’ve been living on the edge so long
    Where the winds of limbo roar
    And I’m young enough to look at
    And far too old to see
    All the scars are on the inside
    I’m not sure if there’s anything left of me —

    Don’t let these shakes go on
    It’s time we had a break from it
    It’s time we had some leave
    We’ve been living in the flames
    We’ve been eating up our brains
    Oh, please don’t let these shakes go on…
    — Blue Oyster Cult, “Veterans of the Psychic Wars”

    P.S. Who’s Chuck Baldwin?
    “Just like Ron Paul, except CHRISTIAN (TM)”?

  13. People like Bob don’t love Jesus. They love being angry. They love fighting, not sitting at Jesus’ feet.

  14. Hmmm, just a thought Jen, maybe “Bob” has lost his joy.
    Maybe you/ we aren’t, the ones to decide if he loves or doesn’t love Jesus. Or do we now have windows into men’s souls ?
    He needs our prayer… and maybe an invitation to step out and have coffee with a couple of Christian brothers.

  15. Debbie- I am not a dispensationalist either. I am an amillenialist.

  16. I think Bob and his kind love Jesus. But love can take some unhealthy turns. I know some dads who love their sons, but pressure them into sports for their own ego needs.

  17. If and angry Bob equates to a Bob that does NOT love Jesus–then King David was in dire-straits.

    Jen, maybe Bob is the one Paul writes about in Romans 14:1?? Just a thought.
    fishon

  18. Amen and Amen, Michael. Thank you for this post. Locally, my wife and I went to an evening service at a close by megachurch and had to sit through half the service being told how to vote on a particular ballot measure. They got pretty worked up about it. Also locally, a prominent evangelical public school board member came to fisticuffs publicly and on video with opponents of this measure. In both cases, those who could have used words and actions to preach Christ and the gospel instead only propogated the culture war. Very sad.

    I remember writing a note to my wife during the service: I’d rather worship with the broken than with the culture warriors.

  19. “We are losing because we won’t fight in the arena of political power.”

    Amen.

    I was just thinking about this earlier today. I don’t care about Gay Marriage; politically at least. I don’t think the government should be involved in marriage at all. Why should a man and a woman who are making a vowel before God have to get government approval first? If society decides that 2 guys can get married doesn’t that mean that we have lost the culture not that we need to sue someone or use the strength of arms/law to make someone ACT like a Christian?

    Abortion is the same idea. If society says that killing your unborn children is ok, doesn’t that say something about how they view our opinion on it?

    If we spent as much time telling people about Jesus, warning them to flee the coming judgement, and loving our neighbors as ourselves the church would still have it’s place of authority within this culture. We’ve relinquished that authority because we have also relinquished the responsability to live a Godly life.

    I think this is a big reason why we don’t see signs and wonders much if at all in the western world. We can’t even let material things rest in God’s hands…we try to impose our will on others and yes, even on God. When faced with a culture that is not Godly but not truly hostile to Christianity (name for me the last person killed in America for his/her faith.) we get angry, hostile and try to use worldly means to force people to be like us. How can we lack faith that God can influence/control such day to day things and expect to have faith that God can heal the sick or give sight to the blind?

    DD

  20. Dan Crawford says

    A priest-friend told me of a man who’d come to him regularly for confession – and the pattern was always the same – he confessed sins of anger – the priest would offer some counsel, assign a penance, give him absolution. The pattern continued for months. The man would come to confession, confess his anger, the priest would offer counsel, assign a penance and give him absolution. Finally, one day, the priest asked him what he listened to on the radio. The man mentioned all the right-wing and neo-fascist angry ranters on the radio stations in the area. The priest told him to lay off the radio for two weeks: if you’re driving, he said, put on some classical music, or grab some quiet music cds. Two weeks later, the man returned with a different list of sins, and said to the priest: I haven’t been angry in two weeks – what’s going on? The priest told him to stay away from the professional ranters. I think my priest friend is onto something. Which is one reason I’ve stopped listening to Dobson, MacArthur, and the other ranters on my Christian radio station. And I feel a lot better. Tell Bob to stop listening to the professional ranters on secular and Christian radio.

  21. Michael: Read it once, read it twice, still don’t see it. But I’ll take your and Greg’s word for it. 🙂

  22. Gee…I’m not like Bob at all. I voted for Chuck Baldwin just this morning, and I’m not angry. I just simply decided to vote for people who I agree with. But I’m not angry, I swear! That would be wrong…

  23. I wasn’t implying that all Chuck Baldwin voters were angry. Sheessh people.

  24. Jeremiah Lawson says

    These are the times when I think evangelicals really don’t get what Francis Schaeffer meant by a post-Christian culture. One of the sad ironies is that Schaeffer has been invoked by culture warriors who don’t realize the full implications of some of Schaeffer’s statements. We lost the culture war somewhere back around Scopes, not when Clinton got into office.

  25. Jeremiah Lawson says

    Scopes wasn’t the sign of defeat because of that particular topic (evolution) but of the time frame at which evangelicals failed to address things when they could have. Just want to be clear about that.

  26. Let’s give Bob his due! seriously, Bob has a right to his beliefs and the Bob’s are needed to give balance to the other side of “anything goes, God loves you” side who either doesn’t care, or won’t fight for a thing. Look, the question is how big is our tent? Are the Bobs allowed or not. I get that he is not perfect “Witness Man”, but which one of you are?
    Please do not be a Bobiphobe. I get it that he is not going to win over many to the flock, but give him his props, he is one of the sheep. Does he have the right to be angry at the loss of things he loves and stand firm for what he believes to be right? Does he lose this right by listening to the wrong radio show or Preacher? Is being a Bob worse than being a Tony? America has a lot of Bobs. Some out in the open and some in the closet. Love your Bob and let him be himself. A Bob is a horrible thing to waste.

  27. Jude , being angry is not wrong. At all. We follow Jesus not Mr. Spock. Just fix it by sundown.

  28. Like many of us, “Bob” may be full of the knowledge of good and evil, rather than Christ. That’s not a good thing, despite what may be the prevailing evangelical opinion.

  29. Willoh, good point about other folks being a Tony.

    So where is the balancing point in all this? I have been struggling with finding or discovering for myself just where I end as an individual Christian voter voting my conscience and where I begin as part of “the church” so that I don’t end up mixing church and state. And I come from a “Bob-like” background and struggle not to get sucked back in so that I can figure out for myself how I should live/thing/vote as a citizen of man and citizen of heaven. (Heck, I’m trying to avoid watching “Expelled!” by Ben Stein that my MIL is so adamant that I watch!)

    I get the idea that we should respond like Jesus would in all things. But does this mean that we don’t speak up in the face of evil (partial birth abortion, abortion in general)? Does this mean that we don’t speak up if “unfair” policies are put in place? Or do we speak up, just kindly? Help a girl out here…

  30. Bob is on the way to the “Christless Christianity” that Michael Horton is warning us about in his new book. A moralism where Jesus is just a symbol.

    Culture warriors like Bob are the fruits of the evangelical failure to have a clue on how to spiritually form a Christian. He’s formed by Christian media and political considerations.

    Bob is a brother, but as his kind become more and more typical and enter leadership, evangelicalism will become less and less Christian. Moralism isn’t Christianity. The law isn’t the Gospel.

  31. >But does this mean that we don’t speak up in the face of evil (partial birth abortion, abortion in general)? Does this mean that we don’t speak up if “unfair” policies are put in place? Or do we speak up, just kindly? Help a girl out here…

    Jesus didn’t protest the Roman government. he didn’t protest homosexuality, wheich was rampant, or infanticide, which was rampant. He preached the Gospel, formed disciples and created a community that lived out the meaning and compassion of the Kingdom.

    Culture warriors have taken over evangelicalism because we’ve failed to be the church Jesus founded. Jesus wants the church to proclaim, disciple and live out the Gospel. Christians are involved in justice issues, but they do it as disciples and from within communities that show what the Kingdom is like; the Kingdom that is Jesus shaped.

    The church is Jesus fighting the culture war his way.

  32. Thanks for clarifying, iMonk. The idea of being a disciple of Jesus who transforms the culture around me is an idea I’ve embraced in the last couple months, but when I talk with friends who are fellow believers and “culture warriors” I begin to doubt my prescription that we need to “stay out of politics” as a church. I begin to thinking that maybe I’m being too rigid. Isn’t there room for some Christians to be political activists? As for the law not being gospel, I get that. I don’t know many Christians, even culture warriors who would disagree with it. I’m still struggling and wrestling with this idea of where I end and where the church begins.

  33. Political activism? Sure….but who is our model? Who teaches our methods? Who sets our agenda? Who teaches our ultimate goals? Who must we imitate at all times?

    Jesus.

    I don’t see much Jesus in the usual culture warrior rants and protests. I just see a lot of frustrated Republicans worshiping their country and afraid of living in a post-Christendom world.

  34. [Moderator edited]… The position of Christians in America is very different from our position in the first century. Now we have a right, even a duty to to express ourselves and be salt in this great salad of America. I know Bob can get loud, and i know his sources are a bit shallow, but Bob is my brother and I respect him for the choices he has made. In fact when i look at the possibility of the next few judges in the Supreme i wonder if Bob just might have been right.
    Verily we have failed to be the Church the Savior founded…If everyone would just stand up and speak up a little Bob would not have to yell.
    I know the guy has faults, but love him for his depth of feelings. At least he isn’t getting spit out as luke warm. I don’t think there are as many Bobs as some do. They just seem like a big crowd due to the rant.
    I could be that if you put us all in a blender on puree, what would be poured out would be his church, and Bob is a flavor that belongs in there too. Maybe without Bob we would be a daiquiri without the lime juice. But then I am kind of Baptist and would not know about that. Don’t tell Bob.

  35. Seen this Driscoll post yet? The man certainly knows how to keep his eye on the gospel.

  36. I think Bob and his friends cut their own throats when they decided to go into politics. They supported Bush and he sowed more mistrust than any other president. From now on, any person that Bob and his friends support and endorse, will be viewed with mistrust.

  37. great discussion. the Bob’s of this world (and I used to be one) make it harder for those attempting to pray and live like a disciple to be trusted by our atheist neighbors.

    But we are not in danger of prison or death if we attempt to talk about the hope we have in Christ (yet). And if it comes to that, do we think being Americans we somehow have the ‘right’ to demand God prevent that kind of suffering. Generations of Believers have suffered before us, maybe we are really angry with God not liberals.

    Interestingly, I think I am loosing my son to the culture war (destructive options are so attainable) but I have to wonder if it was easier for him to conform to ‘Christian’ morality (law) if I would find myself in heaven without him and be surprised. Fewer of us can say to Jesus I have obeyed the commandments from my youth, what must I do…?
    I wonder if the percentage of true believers isn’t greatly different, just the number of people trying to conform has changed, I wonder…

  38. Just because Bob is paranoid does not necessarily mean everybody is not out to get him.

  39. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Like many of us, “Bob” may be full of the knowledge of good and evil, rather than Christ. — Dumb Ox

    That’s an interesting way of putting it, Dumb Ox.

    Here’s my first impression take and exegesis on what you said:

    Bob knows what is Good.
    Bob KNOWS what is Evil.
    As God would if God only KNEW what was REALLY going on.
    As God would if God would only listen to Bob.

    See the absurdity of Bob?

  40. Holy smokes, dude: I agree with you — and it’s almost thanksgiving.

    How can we have a holiday melt-down if I agree with you?

  41. HUG:

    Actually, I was paraphrasing Bonhoeffer.

    “For man in the state of disunion consists in passing judgement, and the ultimate criterion is man himself. Knowing good and evil, man is essentially a judge. As a judge he is like God, except that every judgement he delivers falls back upon himself. In attacking man as a judge Jesus is demanding the conversion of his entire being, and He shows that precisely in the extreme realization of his good he is ungodly and a sinner. Jesus demands that the knowledge of good and evil be overcome; He demands unity with God.”

    “He [Christ] thus has a new knowledge, in which the knowledge of good and evil is overcome. he has the knowledge of God, yet no longer as the man who has become like God, but as a the man who bears the image of God. All he knows is ‘Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ (I Cor. 2:2), and in Him he knows all…Whowever knows God in His revelation in Jesus Christ, whoever knows the crucified and risen God, he knows all things that are in heaven, on earth and beneath the earth.”
    -Bonhoeffer, from “Ethics”.

    But relativism is tempting. It would appear that few know the difference between good and evil anymore. But as Bonhoeffer goes on to say, it is not enough to know good, but we must also do good. If we all examine ourselves, we would agree with Paul that even we don’t do what we know what is right.

  42. iMonk, I followed the link to your April 25 post and all made more sense. Thanks! I’m on the same page.

  43. Good post and lots of good comments.

    I think something to consider in the culture wars is simply the fact that for many Evangelical militants, it is a fight to make the massive society of non-Christians or nominal Christians who glut themselves on the entertainments of the non-Christians behave like committed Christians. Why should they? Sure, one could say these wars are a matter of protecting the rights and privileges of Christians to continue to practice and express their faith freely, and to some extent, that’s true. But that’s not usually what the loudest and most expensive cultural battles are all about.

    If Christians want to see a Christian ethos maintain or grow in strength in our society, it won’t happen through angry tirades or court battles (which always breed new court battles). That just entrenches opposing sides. It can only happen through the witness of the Church as the presence of Christ and his love in the world. This doesn’t mean the Church is silent about the ills of society, but it also doesn’t mean she is stamping her feet and popping veins in her sweaty forehead because the rest of the world doesn’t do what she says.

    Distinctly Christian values can only be plausible in a society if a large majority of the people in that society are actually Christians, and not just in name or church attendance only.

  44. I don’t believe discipleship precludes involvement in the political life of the United States. Nor is anger always wrong. I won’t make a judgment about Bob’s anger one way or the other since I don’t know him nor have I been around him. Paul didn’t protest the Roman rule, but Paul didn’t live in a representative Republic with the freedoms we have in the United States. It seems to me that in our political context one can be a Christian and a citizen at the same time. One can care passionately about the issues affecting our culture and society and still follow Christ.

    By the way, I’m not mad. I will pray for President Obama. I will respect the office he holds.

  45. Beautiful! (I work with someone like this, and, oddly enough, his name IS Bob.) So well said, I will be forwarding this to many. Amen and amen!

  46. Memphis Aggie says

    Very nice post, liked the picture too. Especially like the reminder that community comes together in hard times. Sure I’m dissapointed but some things are just outside our control.

    Here’s a quote circling around the Catholic internet:

    Let nothing disturb you,
    Let nothing frighten you,
    All things pass away:
    God never changes.
    Patience obtains all things.
    He who has God
    Finds he lacks nothing;
    God alone suffices. — Saint Teresa of Avila

  47. I’ve met Bob. I almost got sucked into being Bob. Bob’s life is no life at all. Freedom came for me from realizing that I can be against homosexuality as a lifestyle, gay marriage, abortion, et al. – but I don’t have to be angry about it and I don’t have to worry about whether God’s in control of this country or not. Not my job… nor is it Bob’s.

  48. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I’ve met Bob. I almost got sucked into being Bob. Bob’s life is no life at all. — Alan Paul

    Which is why there will always be a Bob. Because Bob is Immortal.

    “How can you kill that which already has no life?”
    South Park‘s World of Warcraft episode

  49. Let me say this again: If your comment gives conclusive evidence that you are ignoring the actual content of the post, I’m deleting you.

  50. ‘Bob’ needs to change his name (not to mention his heart)