Christian Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude, German word that comes from two words that literally mean “harm-joy,” is that certain pleasure one feels at the misfortune of others.peanuts-schadenfreude-300x253

Do Christians feel this? Take a little look at FB or nearly any other social media outlet and it is there. Just the other day, I saw Christians reveling that an earthquake damaged some Buddhist monuments. A lot of “LIKES” from Christians. Presumably, they felt that God had intentionally decided to send an earthquake just to damage these structures, and add misery to their lives. Others seem so thrilled whenever anything bad happens to Islamists or political candidates on “the other side.” Right now it seems like so many want to connect disasters with homosexuality. Apparently, some countries are not mistreating homosexuals enough, so God is hitting them with natural disasters— or so the logic of some goes.

Christians are not alone in this. I remember 15 years ago, after the 9/11 attack on the twin towers, there was video of people celebrating in Gaza. A few days later, the revelry died down considerably, as many took time to reflect that this was not a blow against a political institution, but against fathers, mothers, children… fellow human beings. But my concern is not about how other people reconcile schadenfreude, but Christians. So, returning to 9/11, I recall a Christian friend of mine saying to me,

“I know I should feel sorry that so many people died in 9/11. But it happened in New York City, so most of them support abortion. I cannot feel bad what happened to them.”

Perhaps if he pictured them as lost sheep sought by Jesus, created by God in His own image rather than as “pro-choicers,” maybe he could find room for some empathy.

There is, actually, a positive side to schadenfreude. It is REAL and it is HUMAN. We are social beings who naturally create groupings of US versus THEM. We of a nature “love our friends and hate our enemies.” Facing that reality is not so bad, rather than pasting on a fake smile, and embrace the anemic virtue of “tolerance.” Schadenfreude could be said to be human nature.  But as Ruth Sayer (played by Katherine Hepburn) said in the movie The African Queen, “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.”

Certainly reveling in schadenfreude is not something for Christians to do. We should “weep with those who weep” rather than “laugh at those who weep.” If we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” and we are to “love our enemies;” presumably we should also desire God’s mercy  for those that we are tempted to be unmerciful to.

Frankly, when it comes to natural disasters, or even human-driven evils, it is questionable that we should presume them as God’s judgments anyway. The doctrines of Common Grace as well as the Fall (“Common ‘Curse'”) suggests that just as the rain falls on the just and the unjust, disasters cannot always be moralized or justified.

Jesus said that we should not judge… or at least not be quick to judge. You may think that Jesus call not to judge would not apply to disasters, but consider this passage.

At that time, some of those present told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2To this He replied, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? 3No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you too will all perish.   Luke 13:1-3

At the very least, Jesus discouraged judging in favor of introspection. Related to this, consider the broader passage on judging:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.   Matthew 7:1-5

I would suggest that one should not be quick to moralize the misfortunes of others; and even more so if one is not willing to consider one’s own misfortunes as being due to one’s own misdeeds. A better option is to help those in need.

Christian witness is always stronger when seen in terms of a helping hand rather than a pointing finger.


What Happens When Conflicts are NOT Resolved

ramA mission team can go through similar process as what happens in a church when conflicts are not resolved.

Two intensifying processes take place throughout the stages of unresolved conflict: (a) an increasing personal frustration over the unresolved issue(s), and (b) an increasing negative perception of the character of the other person / people.” Looking at the image below, the best time to resolve a conflict is at stage 2. However, stage 3 is still in the healthy zone for resolution.



Stage 1. (Sometimes) an Uncomfortable Feeling. Something is wrong but not sure what.

Stage 2. A Problem to be Resolved. Problem identified. <Issue-focused> [Best time to resolve a conflict]

Stage 3. A Person to Differ with. (Other person-focused) Sides are determined. Discussion changes from what is the best solution, to who is right and who is wrong.

Stage 4. A Dispute to Win. <Issue-focused with greater intensity> Collaboration breaks down. Other issues begin to add to the conflict. Feelings get hurt.

Stage 5. A Person to Attack. <Other person-focused. Greater intensity>. Battle lines are drawn. Stereotyping of the other side occurs with the worst thought of adversaries.

Stage 6. My “Face” to Save. <Self-focused. Greater Intensity> Things get personal. Protecting one’s image and character become dominant. Things are seen as black vs white, good versus evil.

Stage 7. A Person to Expel, Withdraw from, or Ruin. <Other person-focused, Greater intensity> All or nothing battle. Someone or a whole group must go.

Stage 8. The Aftermath. All are affected. Some are embarrassed. Some are not satisfied and want to ruin the reputations of others. Some are full of shame and now lose confidence in themselves.

This sounds extreme… but around the world:


<Reference: The Escalating Stages of Unresolved Church Conflict by Ken Newberger>

A Minister’s Five Best Friends


Liz Ryan is one of my favorite columnists– a regular contributor to Forbe’s Magazine. She writes regarding business employment– hiring, firing, and managing people. Although I have been out of the corporate world for over a decade, I find much of what she says very applicable in ministry as well. Much of her guidance centers on the importance of mutuality, respect, and, well, humanity, in the corporate world. One might suspect that these principles are hardly needed to be meditated on in the ministerial world— but that is wrong. Sadly, it is often even more necessary. Rules for proper treatment of workers are commonly overlooked in the religious world– often under the guise of “freedom of religion” or that serving God is a 24/7 job. I worked as a banquet server, hardly a classic ministerial role, for a “Christian business” where poor treatment of workers was justified by toggling back and forth between “you need to sacrifice because we are doing God’s work” and “sorry, but this has to be done to be competitive in the market.” The terms SELF-SERVING and DUPLICITOUS come to mind

I strongly recommend her article, FIVE PEOPLE EVERYBODY NEED IN THEIR CORNER.

I could stop there, but would like to interpret it in terms of ministers– primarily pastors and missionaries.

A minister needs people that he/she (I will use he here due to laziness) can trust.

  1.  He needs one he can trust with his emotions. He needs an UNCRITICAL LISTENER. People in minister often struggle greatly because they are uncertain who they can talk to about their burdens or frustrations. Far to many in the religious profession have the awful tendency to be advice givers and experts; or worse, judge-ers and condemners. Sometimes one need to vent or even confess to someone who will simply listen and accept. However, as Liz Ryan noted, you need more than this. One needs more than the human equivalent of a fuzzy blanket to talk to.
  2. He needs one he can trust with the truth. He needs a BRUTALLY HONEST ADVISOR (or BHA, for short). The truth hurts, but sometimes we need to hear the truth… but from someone we trust. A BHA should be someone who we trust to know the truth, and trust that he/she has our best interests at heart. For example, a pastor who likes to lead corporate worship with an off-pitch voice, needs someone who cares enough to tell him the truth— that his singing voice and microphones don’t really mix. (I would like to add “You know who you are…,” but in fact, you probably don’t.)
  3. He needs one he can trust who has blazed the trail before him. He needs a MENTOR. This person is generally more experienced and commonly older. He has, generally, been there and done that. His primary strength is not drawn from books or articles but life experience. The advice given from a mentor is welcome because it is seen as trustworthy and based on reality. Commonly an older pastor or missionary is what is needed. However, age and experience are not enough. Good mentors are, sadly, a rare breed. If one is willing to help, think long and hard about it. A good mentor may be exactly what you need.
  4. He needs one he can trust to challenge him to grow. He needs a COACH. Like a mentor, a coach gives advice, but it may not be based on great experience. Rather it comes from a position of being a good listener, reflector, and reframer. A good coach is not always right, but should help the minister look at his life (holistically) from other perspectives.
  5. And speaking of other perspectives– He needs one he can trust to be a very different viewpoint. He needs a NON-MINISTRY FRIEND. A minister should have friends not in ministry. Frankly, he should have some not in the same denomination or organization. In fact, it would be good to have friends who are not even fellow-believers. He needs someone who doesn’t talk shop and, frankly, wouldn’t really understand shop-talk anyway.  He needs someone he knows who won’t give the same old “Christianese” or denominational formulae for specific concerns. And much like the Uncritical Listener, the non-ministry friend can listen without being religiously or professionally invested or biased.

Of course, if you need such friends, others do as well. Which roles can you serve for others?

Relative Relativism


Consider this story,

“An American missionary couple went to British Columbia to minister among the Kwakiutl Indians. The work was not progressing as rapidly as the couple had hoped, and the village chief was not cooperative. When their first child, a handsome son, was born, they named him after the chief, thinking this would flatter him and gain his cooperation.
Much to their surprise, when they announced the baby’s name, the Indians branded them as thieves and forced them to leave the village. The couple did not know, until too late, that the Kwakiutl Indians consider a person’s name private property. It is one of their most prized possessions. No one takes another’s name unless it is willed to him.”

         -From “Cultural Anthropology: A Christian Perspective, 2nd edition” by Stephen Grunlan and Marvin Mayers, p. 251.

The authors used this example to address the question Biblical Authority versus Cultural Relativism. The figure above shows how I would like to think of it. If two ideals are Bible as authority and Culture as authority (strange attractors if one wants to pull a bit of Chaos Theory into it– certainly missions has elements of chaos, as well as “strangeness”).

One ideal would be Cultural Relativism (Red region). With this, culture is the authority, the canon for ethics, thought, and behavior, while the Bible is not deemed important.The other ideal is Biblical Authority (sky blue color, I guess). The Bible is canon– the standard by which ethics, thought, and behavior are judged.

But there are overlaps. I would argue that the full overlap of the ideals doesn’t actually happen. If one is authoritative, then the other is not. But when one recognizes there there are intermediate positions where culture is important, and that the same could be said regarding the Bible, then other positions can be found.

I will ignore the brown region where both Bible and Culture are important, but neither are authoritative. That is not to say that it is an uncommon view… but I want to consider positions of authority.

The Orange Region might be described as Uncritical Contextualization (as coined by Paul Hiebert). The Bible is important… but not authoritative. The culture is deemed authoritative, and missionaries would seek to find the Biblical goodness and divinity within the culture.

The Periwinkle Region (I don’t know the exact name… blue/purple/gray region) could be described as Critical Contextualization (by Paul Hiebert) or Relativized Relativism by Eugene Nida. In other words, the culture provides a relativizing of ethics, but such relativizing is not absolute, it in turn is relativized to the Bible as authority.

Nida stated in his book “Customs and Cultures” (1954), page 52:

While the Koran attempts to fix for all time the behavior of Muslims, the Bible clearly establishes the principle of relative relativism, which permits growth, adaptation, and freedom, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Bible presents realistically the facts of culture and the plan of God.   … The Christian position is not one of static conformance to dead rules, but of dynamic obedience to a living God.

This does not solve all concerns. One could argue that it makes it even more confusing. Take the example at the start of this post of the missionaries charged with stealing a name. Did they violate cultural standards? Yes, their behavior was taboo. Did they sin? Ahhh… that is a tougher one. They “stole” a name. But in most cultures, one’s name is public domain. So if one takes the Bible as authoritative, one might argue that the couple did indeed sin because they were found to have stolen something owned by another. On the other hand, another person who holds the Bible as authoritative may decide that there was no sin, since in the Bible, a person’s name is public domain. Since one cannot “own” one’s name, it can’t be stolen.

I would argue that a theft did occur… and therefore a sin, even if only done in ignorance. In fact, in many cultures, one can own/patent an idea, trademark a logo or motto, register an incorporated name, and copyright a creative work. The idea of stealing a non-tangible property is well supported in many cultures. But even if it wasn’t, the Bible says that one should not steal– wrongfully take for oneself what is someone else’s. But the Bible gives NO EXHAUSTIVE LIST of what things one can own to define when theft occurs. As such, it seems likely that the culture is important in determining when stealing occurs. But culture should not be authoritative (trustworthy standard) when it comes to stealing (one must relativize the relativism). One can imagine some cultural situations where one might find reason to question their views on property and, thus, stealing.

  • If a culture defines certain people as property of another human being, should liberation of those enslaved be viewed as stealing (a sinful violation of God’s view regarding theft)?
  • If a society takes possessions from another society or a segment within that society and declares that a certain group, we might define as oppressors, now owns them, and any correction of such injustice would be viewed as stealing.

 The Bible needs to be the standard, without making ancient Hebrew or early Greek the real authority. These are challenging and point to relative relativism, or critical contextualization needed to determine the will of God in a new, or old, culture.

Another way of showing a similar thing is the one Marvin Mayers used in the same book as the story at the start of this post (but on page 256). The labels and focus are a bit different, but the end result is the same— Biblical absolutism (canon/authority) and Cultural relativism (importance but second to the Bible).

relativism 2


Parable of the Lost Pearl (Reprise)

I would like to take the Parable of the Lost Pearl, as used by Patriarch Timothy I in 781 AD, and give it a few twists to suggest different theological views. The parable can be seen in the original form in THIS PREVIOUS POST.


Consider the parable this way…

“Long ago, a royal expedition returned from years at sea. The captain was invited to a great banquet held by the king in honor of the safe, and apparently successful, return of his fleet. The captain as a guest of honor had a special gift to present to the king… a rare and perfect pearl that had no equal in all the world. At the height of the feast it had been determined that the captain would present the king with this perfect pearl.

But there were thieves in the midst of the group. They hatched a plan. Three would snuff the flames that provided light in the room. One would take the pearl from the captain in the darkness and one would spill stones that were similar in size to the pearl on the ground to add to the great confusion. Hopefully, in the confusion, the thieves could escape.

The plan almost worked. The lights went out and the stones were dropped… but the one thief who was to take the pearl misjudged in the dark and only succeeded in knocking the pearl out of the hand of the captain.

In this utter darkness, the captain cries out for everyone to be careful because this priceless pearl is on the ground somewhere. Each reached down to feel around and found a pearl-sized object. Each stood up excited at his or her find. Some hoped to hide it successfully and sneak away, but also didn’t want to be implicated in the theft due to their absence. Some on the other hand wanted to tell others excitedly how they have found the one true pearl… only to discover that others believe that they have that one same pearl.

For a long time the people stood in the room in a stalemate. No one can leave without risking being branded a thief… but no one can completely convince another as to who has the real pearl. They must wait until the light of day.”

This story has more than one potential ending, and the ending one chooses speaks much about one’s worldview.

  1.  Pluralist/Universalist. A view akin to John Hick may end the story with the sun rising to discover that everyone is holding an incomparable pearl.  In this case, the point is that no one has a unique find that others lack. All have the truth.
  2. “Heavy” Post-modernist. If one holds to a Jacques Derrida form of post-modernism, I suppose the story would end with the discovery that no one has a pearl. In fact, there is no pearl… it was a deception of the captain. This would point to the rejection of authority and “real” absolute truth.
  3. Modernist. The ending would drift towards a “whodunit.” One wise person figures out a way to identify who has the true pearl, and, perhaps, who the thieves are. This would perpetuate the belief in a wise authority figure who is able to identify what is really true while everyone else is still in the dark.
  4. Pre-modernist. I am not so sure about this. I suppose that maybe the pearl would reveal itself (or there would be some other miraculous revealing) without waiting for the daylight. This might suggest that the true faith has a self-evident quality that cannot be hidden or confused with fakes (much like in the “Princess and the Pea” where royal blood ultimately reveals itself).
  5. “Light” Post-modernist. In this case, I think the story would stop right where it is. This view does not deny the possibility of that there is a true pearl (absolute objective reality). Rather, there is doubt about the ability of people to be able to identify such reality, discerning it from that which is not real. Therefore, the story ends in a state of doubt. Eventually there may be light to know what is TRUE, but for now, we can only guess and hope.

You will note that as the parable (similar but different to how I told it) was related by Patriarch Timothy I, ends where I ended it. He noted that one could relate the pearl to religious truth. Each person believes he/she is right and others wrong, but until the end of the age, we cannot know for sure. That being said, one may have evidences of having the true faith, much as a person may have reasons to suspect that he/she has the true pearl (weight, size, density, “warmth,” and surface texture, for example). postmodernism

In the story, then, Timothy comes closest to a “light” post-modernist position. We have the inability to be absolutely confident that we hold true beliefs and that others do not. We must accept a certain amount of doubt, meaning that we must maintain a certain amount of faith if we are to hold onto the potential pearl we are holding. However, Timothy goes on to say that one has the possibility of figuring out whether it is likely that one’s beliefs (much like the “pearl” one is holding) is likely to be real or not. As such, he takes a somewhat more positive “modernist” view of the ability to evaluate the one’s subjective perceptions than a typical post-modernist. At the same time, the evaluation is not left to an “expert” but to the individual… this is also more post-modern than modern.

So what? Well, if Patriarch Timothy is expressing Christian faith in 781 AD, there is more in line with a light form of post-modernism. Objective truth/reality exists, but we must accept that we lack the ability to perceive this reality without risk of deception. We however, in line more with modernists, can analyze to see if it is likely that what we believe is true. Still, until God reveals all truth to the light at the end of time, we must live in a state of faith (and doubt).

It is good that Christian faith appears to have much in common with a light version of post-modernism (not rejecting objective or ultimate reality, but questioning our ability to discern such reality). It seems as if relatively few people accept the ‘heavy’ form of post-modernism, although many, without much thought to the justification, seem to accept the implications of that view. If there is considerable common ground with this light version of post-modernism, there should be plenty of room for respectful honest discussions between Christians and this particular worldview.

Ministerial Burnout


I have the blessing of talking with many ministers (missionaries and pastors primarily). It is often rather amazing how their public selves diverge from their private selves. Their public selves are all “Praise God!” and “God is Good All the Time!” (Is God good all the time?) But privately, they will often open up about their struggles with their ministry, their faith, their relationships. Many of them have ministerial and personal lives that are in chaos. There are many reasons this can happen, but one common theme is burnout.

What is burnout? Burnout is a holistic condition, meaning that it is a malady of heart, body, and mind, and shows symptoms that are also holistic, including relationships.

Quoting Nairy Ohanian, burnout has symptoms that include:

feeling overwhelmed by needs, unable to help, isolating self from people, cynical, distrusting, blaming others, feelings of incompetence, compassion fatigue, self pity, emotional exhaustion, detachment, irritable, frustrated, spiritual confusion, trapped with no end in sight, critical spirit upon self and others, despair and hopelessness. Besides the emotional and attitudinal warning signs, often there are physical manifestations of burnout. Burnout candidates often experience trouble sleeping, headaches or migraines, chronic hives, constant fatigue even after resting, excessive weight loss or gain, abnormal monthly cycles for women, anxiety attacks, distressing dreams or nightmares, tremors, dependence on over the counter drugs and possible alcohol dependence. (“Burnout of God’s Servants,” 2008)

Many of the horror stories of ministry leaders who were found to do horrible things did so after being overwhelmed by stresses, and then began to develop unhealthy ways with coping with them. This is not excusing their behavior, but a recognition that many find themselves involved in behavior later in ministry that they would have found repugnant early on, before stresses began to overwhelm them.

Burnout comes from a variety of stressors at home, with the ministerial team, and in serving in the ministry. Two classic examples of burnout, or potential burnout, in the Bible are Moses and Elijah.

Moses, in Exodus 18, receives a visit from his father-in-law, Jethro. In verses 13-18, we read,

The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.”

In this, Moses’ system of ministry, taking on too much responsibility without proper delegation, will lead to being worn out, as well as the people he was serving. Elijah had a similar problem of taking on too much. In I Kings 19, Queen Jezebel threatened his life after a time of great seeming victory, so he runs for many days to Mount Horeb. Even before he gets there he appears ready to give up (verse 4)

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

After giving him food, drink, and rest, and encouraging him to continue to Mount Horeb, God finally speaks to him and Elijah responds (verses 13 and 14)

And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Like Moses, Elijah feels that he has to do it all himself, feeling alone and isolated. Many in ministry feel that they have to do it all. As such, they have a poor understanding of themselves as limited beings. Relatedly, they don’t have good boundaries, protecting the time they need for care of themselves. Ministry consumed their time, their relationships, and their energies.

Burnout is to a large extent related to a compiling of stresses, where the stresses become too much for the coping capacity of the individual. As such a person often feels both drained and overwhelmed. One can imagine a person as having two gauges attached. One gauge measures the stress a person feels. The higher the value the more the person feels overwhelmed. Stress is the overall accumulation of wear and tear on the body due to demands placed on it. Stress is also holistic… mental stress, emotional stress, physical stress, and more. Likewise, the symptoms are holistic: physical, mental/emotional, behavioral, social, and spiritual. The other gauge is a measures of the coping capacity of the individual. The lower it is, the less stress the person can handle. Some aspects of coping capacity are related to long-term characteristics of the individual, such as temperament or family background. Others are related more directly to the present, such as exercise, rest, and other forms of mutual and self care.

As stresses overwhelm one’s ability to cope, burnout develops. The emptiness can be felt in a number of ways. One can feel “depressed” (not necessarily clinically depressed), worn-out, emotionally numb, unmotivated, spiritually “dry,” socially disconnected, alone, and lacking hope.

Sin can easily come into this spiraling of symptoms, but it is not necessarily the initiator. Seeking to serve God without knowing one’s personal limits may be foolish, but it is not necessarily sinful. However, as one’s life becomes less and less fulfilling, as one shifts from a “human being” to a “human doing,” all aspects of life begin to suffer, including spiritual. In fact, often the person will begin to seek substitutes to cope with the stresses— including drugs, addictive behaviors, or fantasies of a life that is more enjoyable than the real one. These substitutes have limited long-term success as coping mechanisms, and commonly lead to forms of acting out that further damage all aspects of one’s life.

So what to do about burnout?

  1. Acknowledge it. This is a very important first step.

  2. Let go. Rather than pray for God to give more capacity to handle the stresses of life and ministry, recognize that God’s will was demonstrated in creating each human as a limited being. It is likely God’s will to let go of some of the stressors.

  3. Reject unhealthy coping methods and begin to develop healthy ones. Healthy ones include taking care of one’s health, having a positive supportive network of friends and family, and having hobbies or other activities that one enjoys that are not connected with ministry.

  4. Establish priorities and boundaries. Ministry is important but there are things more important, such as God and family. Recognize that it is okay to say “No” to ministry requests or “Let me pray about it and get back to you.”

  5. Speaking of prayer, establish good habits of spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, Bible study, and meditation. This should not be done legalistically, become another ministry burden, but as part of a joyful rekindling of one’s relationship with God.

  6. Learn to delegate and to accept the accountability of others. Leaders need to be accountable to others as much as anyone else, if not more. Find people one can trust to share with freely, and who are willing to ask the tough questions.

Prophetic Politics?

I was looking at my FB stream a few days ago, and saw a post that was being shared by a friend. It showed two pictures– one was apparently evangelical pastors in prayer, while the other a catholic priest… pontificating, I suppose. The overlayed captions referred to these two groups’ relationships to the new Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte. Putting the two captions together, one gets something to the effect of:

“Evangelical leaders pray for their President. Catholic priests criticize him.”

The creator of the post was presumably attemptingpastors_635756816147714998 to make his own group look good (Evangelical Christians) and another group (Roman Catholics) look bad. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is pretty common for a person to pump up their own social group identity by tearing down another. It is also common for religious groups to “suck up” (sorry for the Americanism) to people in political power. The problem here is that if one takes these statements at face value, both groups are deserving of a certain measure of shame.

If one is truly a man or woman of God, having access to God’s ideals that challenge man’s systems and institutions, then one should BOTH pray for civil leaders AND criticize them. Civil leaders need this. Politics and the voting public don’t really need statements of religious leaders that:

  • Emphasize their own personal religious or political partisanship
  • Promote an uncritical support or submission to authority (a fan rather than supporter, being obsequious rather than holding them accountable)
  • Maintain a critical heart that is not seeking their civil leaders’ best, as well as the people they were called upon to serve.

We need religious leaders who accept a prophetic role. They need to embrace the role of the prophet in the time of Israel. Prophets accept that the civil leaders have an important role in society (and apparently avoided the temptation to be civil leaders themselves). At the same time, they declared the truth, holding leaders accountable for their leadership.  They also appeared to accept a role of being a mediator between these leaders and God at times.

Today, religious leaders appear more interested in partisanship, seeking the “lesser evil,” bigotry (of many flavors), and playing junior politician. This does little but demean themselves and their god.

We need more prophets and less politicians in the church right now.

Quiz Question:  Can Anyone Spot Any Problems With This Sign?