Is God up to something in USA?

Is there a pattern here? According to the newspapers, THE CHURCH in USA put the person they chose into office last week.
Earlier this year, THE CHURCH in USA turned a movie called The Passion from a predicted failure into an outrageous success.
The year before, THE CHURCH in USA emerged as an economic entity in making Contempory Christian Music one of the stronger performers in sales of records. Political strength. Cultural strength. Economic strength. Regardless of whether you agree with the actual decisions made (most of you in blogdom DO NOT), we have to ask the question, “Is the American church being trained for something?” and “Is God up to something?”
To quote another American, who was also in a sticky, messy, ugly, bi-partisan situation called The Civil War,
He who does not see the hand of God in this is blind, sir, blind
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

This is taken from a longer comment on another blog post called “Hope for USA?. I am restating some of it here in case anyone wants to keep talking about the issues, without getting bogged down in silly republican vs. democrat arguments.

Something happened last week that i believe is highly significant. And I am asking if anyone else sees what i see. The Church-goers (as the Scotsman newspaper called them last weekend) in USA put the president they chose into office. I am speaking generally here. Perhaps they are the evangelical right, but put that aside for a moment and here me again . .

THE CHURCH put the person they chose into office.
Earlier this year, THE CHURCH turned a movie called The Passion from a predicted failure into an outrageous success. THE CHURCH!
The year before, THE CHURCH emerged as an economic entity in making Contempory Christian Music one of the stronger performers in sales of records.
Political strength. Cultural strength. Economic strength. Influence and leadership in many areas. What is God training the American church to do?????????????????????????? Let him or her with ears to hear figure that out.

Now I need to personally step over the fact that i did not like The Passion, don’t listen to CCM and am not a Republican. I also need to put aside the fact that I disagree strongly with the war in Iraq and the abuse of power globally, and the abuse of the envrivonment, etc

But if i am to be a thinking person, which i pray that God will make me if i am not already, and if i am to offer something prophetic to the world and not just tabloid speculation or Politically Correct assention, then i MUST have the ability rise above the issues and ask the question that no one else is asking . .

Is there something going on here that is BIGGER than what CNN are reporting or HIGHER than what people are saying?
Is there a pattern revealing itself in human history at this moment that may shed light on what God is doing or wanting to do?

And I say . . . YES. I think there is.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

33 Comments

  • Don’t quite get what you are trying to say. Yes, the church in America is using its power to get some things done, and I think I hear you hinting that this is in some way a new thing, but I am not yet as optimistic. Historically, the church has often been in a position of great power, and yet has very rarely used that great power to reveal to the world that God is Love. Most people would have concluded on the contrary that God is Power, God is Coercion. Are you thinking that it will be different this time around?

  • Have to agree with JJ, Kiwi! I hear what you are saying but I think our prayerful sense of interpretation should be, “the church in America is at a pivotal point of opportunity”. The interpretation, “what is God doing in this?” is a step too far because God would seem to be very far from…the actions of the Bush presidency, the ultimate message of the Passion film etc. The opportunity is indeed one that speaks loudly as “the church in the States is in a position of real power; does it choose to take the gospel route of laying down that power and thereby making a radical difference to the society, and perhaps the world, or does it choose to exert power and therefore lose its calling”. The three temptations of Christ were more than mere possibilities for personalised moral failure: they were alternative visions of what being a Messiah was about. Jesus could have gone for the quick spiritualised fix, the compromise with the material world or the cooercion through power. He chose utter dependency on God, weakness and servanthood. That route is available to the US church and people….as it is to us in the UK. But evidence of the power available to the church in either of these countries is unfortunately no guarantee of God’s will in them.

  • Very interesting!
    Yes I believe our Father is up to something but unlike most in christendom I believe it is something that will cause a GREAT SHAKING of those who claim to be followers of Jesus the Christ. Because of the actions of our so called Christian Nation people of faith throughout the world will see much more persecution in the coming years. I believe the actions of the U.S. will be seen as the thoughts and actions of all christians and as such persecution as we have never known will result. I pray that I am wrong but I see real troubles for believers in the years ahead.
    Peace

  • great comments – all 3 of them. thanks for starting the conversation well, all of you.
    George, when the Amercian church emerged as an economic entity of strength, at least in the perception of the country, I shared my fear that we could end up getting persecuted, especially if the economy worsened and the church was expected to pull it out through consumer spending.
    Maybe something similar is brewing in the global realm through military might and the Christian name? Quite possible and i am open to that idea.
    Maybe we need to learn to lead like Jesus, and to “take the gospel route of laying down that power “, as Suds said in comment number 2

  • Hear hear! (or read read I suppose). I can’t recall a Scriptural precedent for a Church being blessed by God by being made powerful…in fact this could sond closer to OT desire for empire than NT desire for Kingdom.

  • Honestly, I don’t see what it’s being trained to do … I worry about it’s power, and I wonder whether it’s wise of the church to be so involved in politics … the church can do all this, but if they don’t do it in love or with loving others as a goal then it’s useless, isn’t it?

  • Kiwi, you make the same mistake that folks outside of THE CHURCH in USA make … that all of us Christians am one big happy; we all jus’ the same. Couldn’t be further! Wisht it was (in a way), but it ain’t. Plain fact is THE CHURCH in USA is viewed with acute suspicion by the folks outside of it but still in USA. It is well-deserved. Too many in the evangelical bloc tune into CCM so they can tune out of the world, and contact with it. Too many in the evangelical bloc voted as they were told – and often from the pulpit, so they wouldn’t have to concern themselves with wrestling out issues like How Would Jesus Vote?

  • The Church of the Crusades was up to something, too. The Dutch Reformed Church was up to something in South Africa, too.
    I’m afraid that what we may be doing is selling Jesus and not really trying to live like the Triune God is calling us to live.

  • Yes, I think that God is up to something. But, it exists in the undercurrent of motives behind why things are becoming successful. I think that there is a large group of Christians who want to see God glorified, people come together, justice for the poor, etc., but they do not know how to carry that out. So, they follow what they think the “Christian” response is to be. Let’s look beyond the actions and see if God might not be stirring people’s hearts. If we can speak into that, people will listen and will go the right way. What I am seeing is more of a desire for God to be honored and followed than a desire for power. That can end up being a good thing. This is, of course, among the common folk. I can’t speak for the evangelical Christian “leadership”.

  • Interesting stuff, Andrew. I think it’s a good question to be asking. The church in America is at a pivotal point. It’s obviously very powerful. Yet if it doesn’t use the power in a godly way – or yield it in a godly way, then it may sink into the same apathy as many other ‘churches’ before.
    When I read this post, my first thoughts were along the lines of Job. What about the Crusades and countless other times the church became so powerful? In any case, we definitely need to pray that God uses these circumstance to bring himself glory, and that our church doesn’t sink into the crusades or 3rd millennium equivalents.

  • I dont know if God is endorsing everything that has happened or not. But God from day one wanted man to have dominion over the earth, when Adam gave that up, He started working upon Israel to build a nation under Him who would bless the nations of the world. When Israel refused to walk in obedience or return in repentance, Jesus asked the church to be salt and light, to exert dominion and influence under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
    True we have made a mess of this mandate historically – but that does not negate the call for the church to be the head and not the tail, to be salt and light. The earth is the Lords and all within… The secular/sacred division is a Satanic lie. To exert Godly influence in politics, business, education, etc is part of stewardship and evangelism…
    The fact that there is a Western world and church is due to the Roman church becoming the Roman government. It wasn’t all roses… but please don’t imply that the King of the Universe has not interest in dominion, rule, and authority in the earth, in our day.
    Don’t judge the King by the bad choices of His subjects… His agenda is to rule – through His church. Most of us are waiting for heaven till we even think of ruling. The mandate to Adam remains the same for the church – be My representatives here – govern the earth, extend my kingdom. Our choice of sin over obedience messes this up – but the madate remains.
    Whens the last time your church prayed that abortion would be repealed? Is that political territory out of bounds? Lord have mercy – all power is His, and available by prayer – but some in our ranks have a much smaller vision and simply waiting to go to heaven.

  • Great comments guys. I think that I’m inclined to agree with those that mentioned laying down the power to see the kingdom come. God’s way of extending His kingdom on earth very rarely fits with our expectations. I’ve got a sneaky feeling that God WILL use the US to reveal His glory but that it wont happen in a way that the US Church can take the credit. I think that as communities, cities and nations adopt kingdom principles they get to see life working the way it should do. I think this has more to do with God ensuring that we understand that He has the monopoly on wisdom and not mankind who seems to make a hash of it at every available oportunity, or at least that’s how it feels sometimes.

  • I live in one of the last vestiges of socialism in the world (Nicaragua) and here it’s quite the reverse of the situation in the USA. Last Sunday the Marxist Sandinistas retook large parts of the country in the municipal elections with the support of 70% of the Christian vote (both the Roman Catholics AND the evangelicals, go figure). The Christians here have put in leaders who, in many cases, will drag out the old class warfare arguments and tired old socialist solutions to social problems. It remains to be seen what will happen but I’ve already been warned by several people to be careful not to say anything critical about the new powers that be lest I get into trouble. I’m mostly apolitical and just trying to be Jesus in the midst…and that, I think, is the challenge we’re all facing.

  • Duh…my whole point in the above post was to say that I see God’s hand in the political situation in Nicaragua (like Liberation theology coming out of the original Sandinista revolution) just as I see His workings in the US of A. God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick, can’t He?

  • let God be praised and the rest of us shamed. where is the hope that faith brings? sometimes I wonder if many in the emerging circles would rather see the US torn down by God than used by Him. letting personal bias and cynicism win out over faith in a God that can use all things for His glory, even a war. He can use weakness and He can use power. He can use a philanderer and a man that prays and qoutes Jesus as his favorite philosopher.
    While the US church is opening a new door to accepting people and cultures, I see the emerging church quick to judge and stereotype them and George Bush as… judgemental, no less. Andrew, nice work bringing up this discussion and may we always be asking “what is God doing… What can He do?” without fitting God into our ideology box on the right or the left.

  • Sorry…next time I’ll collect all my thoughts into ONE post!
    One thing that bothers me is the very negative attitudes (judgementalism, to be frank) in the emergent blogosphere against pro-Bush USAmerican evangelicals. I was starting to believe that the old 20th Century labels of “liberal” and “conservative” had outlived their time. Perhaps even the folks at Sojourners believed this until their “God is not a Democrat or a Republican but, nonetheless, VOTE FOR KERRY” campaign.
    I know there are those among us who, like Jason said above, can delve into what God is doing without tying Him to a political ideology.

  • Nels, you make profound counterpoint to the generally accepted view of the “power of the pacifist Christ” arguement. It occurs to me as well that to interpret Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as being an example of a worthy form of political expression is unwise. It is the Father’s condition for salvation through Jesus, to which Jesus is obedient “even unto death.” It seems to me to be a better example of the nature of the relationship we should each have with God, rather then being about the type of political relationships we should have with one another.
    Perhaps Christ’s assertion that he came to “bring the sword” is a more useful political commentary?

  • I live in NZ and don’t really know what I think of Bush but I have been stirred by the media reports coming out in relation to some of the morals that Bush is pushing. Here in NZ our Govt. is pushing thru law changes every day that are extremely anti-christian and immoral and yet at this same time the US is pushing for tighter reigns on Abortion and Same-sex marriages. These sorts of things are important and I have to honor Americans for standing up at Election time and showing that these issues matter to us (both Christians and moral Unbelievers). I do feel as if God is shaking his church globally at the moment and then seeing the big changes that will occur in Israel over the next few months I get the impression the end is drawing nearer so let us as one make the most of every opportunity to share God’s love with a lost world and not get at each other’s throats when people do it differently to how we would but just keep the goal in our sight always. God bless you all.

  • There is a difference between making disciples (emphasis on discipleship) and making disciples (emphasis on making ie. coersion.) It would be great if the church in the USA could give themselves at fully to the former as to the later.
    e.g. Much better to have a land where the law on abortion is irrelevent because no one wants one, rather than a land where a large group of the population try to force their own values (even good values) on everyone else, meaning people are less interested in what we really want to communicate: the good news about Jesus. The good news is that Jesus doesn’t want to control you RATHER hewants you to willingly surrender to his leading. So why is the church trying to control everyone else when even JEsus doesn’t try to do that.
    Let’s pray for greater unity and cohesion for the church in America (even Bushy) – try and love and beleive the best of them – and pray (in humility) for God to revive them and us, that they and we might more effectively represent Jesus to the whole world.

  • I love your heart Andrew. It is so refreshing. I don’t even have to agree with you to know that you are an optimist; always looking for the good and advancing that. Thanks.
    Someone said “God would seem to be very far from…the actions of the Bush presidency”. So much of the backlash against the prez I think is due to humanity’s consistent inability to look at the heart. We love to look at actions and simply judge them as right and wrong. While in many cases it is possible to do this, more than likely the issue is far more complex and tense. We see a similar tension throughout the Bible. Faith and works come to mind (and not because John Kerry preached a hearty – and quite controversial – sermon on them either).
    We all have a different opinion about how to wield his power in a godly way, point blank. One could make the case either way for the prez in particular. While one argues that the prez does nat value peace and love, the other could argue he values justice.
    Haven’t any of us learned from history?
    One of my gripes with the “postmodern church” is the focus on the grace, mercy and love of God while ignoring the justice and wrath of God. We love to call God “Daddy” these days; crawl up on His lap and have Him read us a good book, but do we ever stand in utter awe of God anymore? We need to go back and read the Psalms; get a little perspective.

  • Interesting that Andrew admits to having to step outside his personal reactions to The Passion, CCM, and Republicanism in order to make his observation that God may be up to something, and then to read so many commenters that sound as if they are unable to do the same.
    I have reservations about a lot of stuff that many have commented on as well, but I would also suggest that we may need to work harder at stepping outside of our own ideologies and prejudices — just in case God is really doing something and also just in case (perish the thought) that we might be WRONG about something…

  • andrew, thanks for bringing this up… definitly something large thats hard to put a finger on but is slowing starting to simmer.
    keep stirring the kettle… thanks

  • Who is to say that it is not love for humanity that does not prompt the Iraq war? I am not saying that the US is above criticism or accountability but can you separate God’s love from His wrath? Look at the picture of the cross. The image of God’s most severe wrath and most wonderful love.
    You can look at the wrath against the extremists or at the love for fellow man where a huge country will have freedom and self governance. Could one have occurred without the other?
    This carries over into the abortion issue as well. Enforcing your beliefs on another person versus protecting the life of the unborn. All laws are based on morality and beliefs of right and wrong and values.
    Christians in the US do need to be living sacrificial lives towards our neighbors that will change hearts and minds towards Christ. Real love and assistance needs to go to mothers in impossible situations, offering them another solution. Same with Iraq.
    But while it would be great to live in a society so fully committed to Christ that there would be no murder or abortion etc. but why should Christians not stand up for the rights of others when there are those would deny them?

  • I had a similar thought almost 10 years ago; namely, why is the US so successful? (Yes, … I know… define “success”). But none the less, why? Is God involved in success? Whatever for?
    I didn’t understand why but I decided to look at the facts and wonder before deciding. So in the process this image hit me. Christianity is a complete world-view with it’s own language, myths, and values. Over the last 2 millenium Christianity has moved across the globe like a weather front and collided with other world-views and either swallowed them (various pagan traditions) or crushed them (communism, fascism).
    I thought at the time that the next world-view Christianity would collide with was Asian. And some might say that Christianity is actually colliding with Islam, but I don’t think so. I think the current difficulties surrounding Islam are really more of a civil war within Islam for control of Islam’s future and Christianity happens to be a convenient scape-goat. Christianity has had over 1000 years to go through some of the same social changes that Islam is trying to do in a few hundred.
    More recently (the late 90s) I read an economics paper that said that if the current world economic growth continued, the current US median income (at that time) would become the world median income by 2025. Now, since the tech crash, that may not happen until about 2050. But none the less, that is a lot of poverty to wipe out, and it is being driven mainly by the US economy. And the tech crash increased the speed of out-sourcing jobs which may increase the speed of world economic develpment more than we think.
    So why success? What is God up to? Does God really care about our financial condition? Why would he tell us to give to the poor? Maybe He really does care about the whole person? Wait,… who has a problem with money? God? No, just us.
    Maybe Gods ways are not our ways in more ways than we realize. Anyways, it should be fun to watch Him work.

  • Andrew,
    Sigh. You are really challenging me with your US posts as of late. The question I have to ask myself is “why”? Why am I so politically cynical now? Why do I want to act very uncivil and write you a long missive telling you why you’re wrong? Why do I care so much, and am I shaking my fist at the Sovereign God Who has, inexplicably, allowed USAmericaChurch to get this powerful and influential?
    Ever since I’ve learned about Contstantine I’ve been eagerly exploring the nonconformists; the Montanists and Donatists and Waldensians and Lollards; the Anabaptists and Hutterites and Quakers and Little Flock (of China) and Catholic Workers. It always seemed to me that those who stood at the margins and resisted the State–nonviolently, of course–were walking more in the way of Jesus than those who were enamored with its forms of power.
    So these past four years, they’ve radicalized me politically, where its nearly impossible for me to have a civil conversation with an average USAmerican evangelical voter.
    This to me is a sign of my own uncertainty and insecurity with what I claim to accept. Though I’ve signed Kingdom Now’s 95 Theses and the Ekklessia Project’s Declaration, and am considering Sojourner’s new confession of Christ (developed with Brian McLaren, among others), when I’m not reading Haeurwas or Campolo or Wink, or on the Jesus Radicals discussion boards, I feel like a “resident alien” in the country of my birth. (I’m too lazy to list all of the links to the above, many of them are concentrated in http://www.geocities.com/redwookie/?200413#political however.)
    Is this wrong of me? I don’t want to hate the bigots. But I have a hard time being as breezily whimsical, and optimistic as you seem to be. I’m having a difficult go at exorcising myself of the nagging feelings of post-Republican guilt, and unable to rest peacefully in my gradually-acquired set of leanings.
    What to do?
    –Upset In Atlanta

  • Hi Upset, this is andrew, your upsetter, or perhaps unsettler . .
    I camp out with you, and with most of the commentors here. I live and work on the margins – and BTW – “Post-Christendom” by Stuart Murray Williams is a good new book on that subject (church after constantine) that you will appreciate.
    so whats the big fuss about my question?
    If i were a PTL-watching, Republican-voting, Maranatha-listening, PreciousMoments-buying, Sunday10AM-gathering, MichaelMoore-hating, WWJDBracelet-wearing, NedFlanders-talking kind of believer . . . .
    then asking people to take a synoptic look at the patterns would be expected.
    But I am normally the extreme guy on the margin who is taking hits for the postmodern subcultures and emerging church. thats the paradox.
    but please dont call my question “whimsical”. I am swimming upstream here in asking people to think again and see deeper into the situation. Most people who read this blog are unhappy with the election results. I am not trying to gain comments or enemies. i am asking a question – does anyone else out there see more going on that whats on the surface?
    And if the answer is no, then lets just say it and move on.

  • ‘does anyone else out there see more going on that whats on the surface?’
    i see it.
    i also see that my country is deeply polarized.
    my fear is a religious war. maybe not like ones we had before, but certainly war-like enough that canada could become my home.
    we are quite intolerant here in the USA.

  • wow such response! it seems the church will always be taking some position wether we like it or not. OT church did well in some seasons and then got itself into the position where judgment came and a period of hard adjustment before leaving love of power,idols etc. The new testament church seemed to have to have a more personal persucution during times of adversity.
    we cannot disown our “parents” and will suffer and rejoice with them.

  • To assume that God is on the side of this particular, powerful incarnation of evangelicalism seems to be making the same mistake as those people in Jesus’ day who expected their messiah to overthrow the Romans. After all, wouldn’t the supreme display of God’s power include a little bit of earthly butt-kicking as well? And we all know what happened with that…
    God is everywhere, and if you’re looking at the patterns in Scripture, not just in current events, then he’s probably somewhere hanging out with the homeless, the poor, the prostitutes, the widows, and the orphans as usual.
    Also, to say that your question has more validity because you aren’t the type of person who would ordinarily ask that question is a logical fallacy. The question has the same amount of validity, regardless of who asks it.

  • wow.
    These comments stir more in me than the original post (which I know is your design, Andrew).
    Yes, God is doing something. No, we will rarely be able to see and understand it.
    THE CHURCH in the US with power, significance and influence? Certainly and without question. Look beyond the Red and Blue states that are often shown. 94-95% of the counties in the USA voted for Bush. Funny those same are the places where church *attendance* is high.
    THE CHUCH in US the with the power of transformation? Certainly, not. They don’t really see how to use their so-called power (as you described as political, economic and cultural) to make a *real* difference in the every day lives of the people they interact with. They rarely, if ever, even talk to others about the person of Jesus that they’ve have an encounter with — and can’t run away from. Talking with a semblance of reality about the sin and shit we deal with in our personal lives everyday? Are you kidding. Social justice, the environment, human rights, racial reconciliation, etc.? Those are issues that are subsumed by the “easier” ones like abortion, gay marriage and the “war” on terrorism.
    While I agree with our New Zealand friend that sometime these moral issues *are* worth making a stand for (and need to be). They’ve been so politicised that many of us remain cynical and quite detached from trying to perhaps influence the process appropriately. Which is why, while I was not in total support of the Jim Wallis, et.al, Statement, it was one attempt to say not all of us are walking “in step” with what many in the higher profile Evangelical leadership says.
    What is God doing? Let’s pray that he is preparing THE CHURCH in the US for something fresh and new — as opposed to what many of us are fearful of — more of the same.

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