Yes, Mr. Blogger, LifeWay most certainly is pro-life

If you know me, you know that people joke I can make the Pope look pro-choice. I am pro-life to the nth degree, so much I irritate other pro-life Christians sometimes. There are places I won’t shop and things I won’t be involved with because of abortion ties. I research, read, write, and breathe LIFE. I say all this to say that the last thing you will ever find me doing is covering up for anyone in this arena.

That said, I am disturbed by a blog that is going around social media, in which the writer, Mike S. Adams, asserts that LifeWay’s book division is not pro-life. In his critical blog, Rightly Offended, Mr. Adams details his shopping trip to buy the new book on late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, entitled, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. After his attempt to order the book on Amazon was met with a lengthy shipping delay, he goes to Barnes and Noble to purchase it. Critically commenting on the store itself, he remarks his journey to a far corner of the store that held only one copy of the book, which was not discounted like other new releases (since it is on the main B&N site, he doesn’t say if he asked for the discount in case it was a store mistake). Upset, he headed to his local LifeWay store, which is the real subject of his blog—using the missing book to make a parallel with the church’s silence on abortion. He says:

After looking through the small section and not finding Gosnell, I approached the woman working at the register and asked her to direct me to the pro-life section. I was disappointed when she told me Lifeway doesn’t have a pro-life book section. All they have is a section called “current issues.” She assured me that I could find the pro-life books there.

I took a look through the entire “current issues” section. There were a few books on homosexuality and a few dozen by authors telling us they were sure the world was about to end. But there was no Gosnell and only one book on the issue of abortion. It was on how to share the gospel with a woman after she had an abortion. It was only about 100 pages long. Just to the right of the book, I found a “finance” shelf with close to fifty different selections.

That pretty well sums up the state of the American church. For every Christian committed to defending the unborn, there are fifty “Christians” who are only committed to defending their 401k.

I wish Lifeway would make a statement by putting a pro-life apologetics section in all of their stores. But they are a just a business that serves and reflects the interests of churchgoers rather than proactively shaping the Christian culture.

Regardless, the book selection at Lifeway is a crude reminder of the indisputable fact that abortion only exists with the consent of the church.

Some of you may be surprised to hear me counter this blog because I absolutely agree that the church, overall, is silent on the issue of abortion. But LifeWay isn’t. Let me take you back to the day I made history without even trying. LifeWay had published a Here’s Hope Breast Cancer Awareness Bible, but it donated some of the proceeds to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who funds the nations number one abortion provider, a fact LifeWay, like many at that time, did not know. I wrote an article about this—and suddenly it was on the front page of every major media outlet in the nation (and some outside the nation). So horrified was LifeWay to realize they were funding a direct abortion connection that the pulled the Bible off every retailer and ceased the sales taking a heavy financial loss. LifeWay head, Thomas S. Rainer issued an apology:

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That action became a catalyst for Komen making a decision to defund Planned Parenthood. The head of Komen at the time Karen Handel wrote about it in her book Planned Bullyhood, saying that article was one of the last straws. (Eventually Komen caved to the bullying and reinstated the abortion giant’s funding, and Handel left and wrote her book).

I have to admit, I was stunned that LifeWay did what they did because Adams is right that usually even Christian businesses can tend to focus on the bottom line of the almighty dollar in cases like this, but not LifeWay. I realized then that this was a corporation that was truly Christian. The moment they realized the connection with abortion they apologized and reversed the action—true corporate repentance.

But the story didn’t end there. Many months later, it turned out that some employee in a Walmart warehouse found a box of the Bibles that were to be sent back and somehow got overlooked—and he put them on walmart.com for sale. I can’t even recall how I came across it, but I did. I was shocked. I ordered one (with the intention of returning it for a full refund) to be sure it was a legitimate order and not leftover. It shipped, and I contacted LifeWay, ready for a fight if they went back on their word. But there was nothing to fight about. They got to the bottom of it, the employee error, having those Bibles sent back, as they were supposed to be. I had managed to come across it the very time the rogue employee found them, so the Bibles were never sold. Except the one that got through to me.

During this time, I had a conversation with one of the heads of LifeWay. I had left the company a voicemail the night I found the Bibles, and he called me back at 10 a.m. the next day—apologizing for taking “so long” to get back to me. Of course, it wasn’t long at all, but that’s how urgent he saw it. When he received my message—which had to be sent from whomever checked the voicemail on to him, he headed to meeting of the leadership team at LifeWay who would be the ones to contact about the issue. He explained he finally found the leadership team and they were in a prayer meeting so then he had to wait longer while they finished. He was offering this by way of apology for his “delay” in returning my call. Then he explained how they had tracked down the Walmart mystery and there would be no sales of that Bible. Either way, they had pulled out of Komen, so the pink organization wouldn’t be getting anymore blood money, Bible or not.

I forget some of the details of our talk, but for some reason he had to email me something related to it later in the day. I will never forget that afternoon. It was a Wednesday. I was in the prayer room at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, laptop open, getting some work done, but enjoying the atmosphere. I can recall where I was sitting and the “feel” of the room based on the Wednesday regulars I would always see at the 4 p.m. intercession set. I have such sensory memories of that day because of the email exchange between the LifeWay leader and me. We had a brief email conversation the afternoon of our phone call, and then at the end of it, he added something I will never forget. He thanked me. He thanked me for writing the first article and exposing the connection because they would not have known otherwise. Because of that, he said, they were able to get that book off the shelves and not be a party to funding any place connected with abortion.

The man who is a leader in a business thanked me for costing him money and horrible publicity. I wrote an article that got them criticized and had the media descending on them. My article was quite critical, though it was also quite true. It cost them publicity, popular opinion—and cold hard cash. And that afternoon one of the heads of that organization thanked me for doing it because they had more interest in the truth and being no part of abortion than they did money.

And I cried.

Right there in the prayer room, with happy music coming from the stage, and intercessors pacing as they prayed, tears flowed from my eyes. They thanked me. They loved truth.

I’d just come out of a season of losing friends and even ministry because I had been so determined to stand pure in the area of abortion that I eschewed eating or drinking foods connected with its funding. I had refused to be associated with compromise, and it cost me (by the way I don’t regret that either). And people were upset with me because they felt “judged” or that I was too “self-righteous.” In truth, I could do nothing else because the Lord had drawn me into the pro-life movement with a powerful and unmistakable call. And then He gave me both a voice and a pen to speak. But it costs you to do that. And on that day, here was a man whom I had cost thousands of dollars, and he and his organization loved truth more than cash. He helped heal some of that pain with that thank you.

Let me be clear: He got nothing out of it. The stories had been written; the tale was complete. It was all after-the-fact conversation. He wasn’t thanking me to get good spin on a new story, for there wasn’t one left. In fact, this is the first time I have publicly written about that event.

Since then I have gone out of my way to buy from LifeWay when I am in areas that have their stores. Every time I see a LifeWay store my spirit soars a bit as I remember the bold witness they took for LIFE.

So tonight when I saw that blog from Mr. Adams, I felt righteous indignation. I don’t know all the facts. LifeWay may not be carrying this book, but I assure you the reason is not that they are afraid to take a stand for LIFE. The publisher of the Gosnell book is Regenry, a conservative book publisher, but not an overtly Christian one. Maybe Lifeway doesn’t have regular connections with them or a distribution contract. Maybe they only sell Christian or inspirational books since they are a niche store and not a general bookstore. The Gosnell book is an important work and a best seller already. But a Christian bookstore doesn’t always carry secular best sellers. I actually would not expect to find it at a Christian store. That doesn’t even make sense to me.

I am also troubled by the fact that Adams’ n=1. He went to one store and then wrote a blog. Did Mr. Adams call LifeWay? I can assure him that LifeWay is responsive to bloggers’ inquiries.

Mr. Adams is correct about the lack of books on abortion. But that’s not LifeWay’s fault, nor should the Christian company be the scapegoat for Adams’ frusrating shopping experience. A few years ago, I was in a private meeting with the publisher of a major Christian imprint and a Christian speaker who is a household name in the church world, who wanted to write a book about abortion. I was going to help write it. The major publisher (whose name you would also know) told us that people don’t want to read books about abortion. And while I found that a sad fact, it was not surprising to hear.

Indeed, our pulpits are all-too-silent. I was in Christian ministry before I ever heard a sermon about abortion. It surely did not happen in my local church, though my churches would acknowledge abortion was bad, but that was the extent of it, usually. Last year I was privileged to be part of a pro-life apologetics class at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. I read multiple books on abortion for that course—and none was easily available in the mainstream. This crisis of knowledge does not exist because of isolated incident like one LifeWay store not selling a secularly published book.

I agree with the indictment of the church’s silence and have said as much many times, but I vehemently disagree with singling out a business of great integrity in the pro-life arena over one incident that probably has more to the story than he sought to discover.

My friends, LifeWay is not the problem, and Mr. Adams is not “rightly offended,” as the title of his blog says. LifeWay most certainly is pro-life. Its leaders have great integrity and love Jesus more than money. Someday I hope to meet them in person because the last email with that man was an invitation to contact him if I were ever in the Nashville area so he could give me a tour of LifeWay and meet me in person. Know why? Because LifeWay loves LIFE.

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The LifeWay leader pointed out to me that I could keep the Bible from Walmart.com because Komen wouldn’t be getting “one more cent” from them. So I ended up with a memorial stone from the Lord Himself. The book reminds me every time I see it that one blog can make a difference and alter many things, and the Bible reminds me that there are bold witnesses of truth and LIFE who care more about Jesus than money.

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God is good all the time—except if Hillary might be president?

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Cor. 6:14

I hope you’ll read my disclaimers before you read my post. Most of all, I hope you will prayerfully read my post even if you ultimately disagree with me. But first the disclaimers:

  • My ultimate concern with Donald Trump has always been the issue of LIFE. I made a vow before God on this matter that I take more seriously than my need to keep friends or anything else. That concern has not changed.
  • I hesitate at posting this not because I hesitate at any of my words, but because I am human—a person who likes to be liked, wanted, accepted. And I know the risk of a post like this means some won’t. That happened to me four years ago when I discovered Mitt Romney’s ties to the abortion industry and declared that pro-lifers should reconsider him. “You can’t say that. He’s the nominee; he’s the only chance we have now,” people told me. Thus, I began losing friends—on Facebook and in real life. Four years later I find myself in a happy place. I have friends and family, a home I love, a stability I’ve not had in ages. I have a new church I cherish. And I have a multitude of friends supporting Mr. Trump. Many support him because he is a better chance for Republican ideals, economic gain, and social issues most aligned with Christianity. I fully understand that. But I can’t.
  • This piece is not my personal “venting” about a man. My feelings are not what matter most, though certainly they are mixed in. This post is not to convince you to change your vote (the fact is, a Bible-believing Christian cannot equally justify a vote for the other three candidates placed on our ballots. My own state forbids me from writing in a candidate). I respect the right of the American people to cast their own private vote. My friendship and love for others is not contingent upon their vote or my agreement with any other aspect. In other words, you may vehemently disagree with every word in here and I can love you the same as I did before. My love is not conditional. That said, I hope you will read on.

The fire in my bones

I spoke out vocally during the primary season and made no secret of my support for Ted Cruz. I still believe he was the best man for the job, but Mr. Trump secured the nomination. That didn’t change my mind, but I chose not to speak very loudly after that because what’s done was done, and I didn’t have an option to present. Today the election fire burning in my bones is less about the selection on November 8 as it is about considering the will and permissiveness of God. Thus, I want to present two ideas in this piece. One is about our theology in this culture and the other is about morality in leadership. They are not mutually exclusive, of course, but they are also issues with some separate points. My audience is traditional, Bible-believing Christians. Anyone, of course, is welcome to read what I write, but I am addressing the church here.

We say we’re praying for the election, saying we trust God to accomplish his will, reveal what is hidden. What if this latest scandal–among many–is an answer to prayer? Do we have faith to believe that what we see and understand might be different from what God sees and understands. Do we really mean we are praying and seeking His divine will? Or does that subtext actually say, “We need to pray that people vote for Trump because Hillary is bad?”

We excuse this man’s repeated and public sins because we see him as our only hope to have a sort-of conservative in the White House, and hang on to our Supreme Court seats for the next generation. There’s some obvious truth to the Supreme Court argument, but is that enough to justify the defiance of the word of God?

And about those words. I can tell you that for every word that “Trump is God’s chosen man,” there have been words that Cruz, Rubio, and others have been. Repeatedly I see people say, “I believe the word of the Lord about Trump being God’s choice.” By whose authority do we receive the word of the Lord? A word should be confirmed by scriptural truth. To blindly receive the word of the Lord because someone well-known or respected says it is a slippery slope. We are to test the spirits. Many well-meaning people have given false words; we are human; we prophesy in part. If the sole reason we have supported Mr. Trump is “the prophet said so” then we need to look at our own theology.

But he said it a decade ago, says the argument. That he did. This one. This is not the first instance of his vulgarity, by far–it’s a pervasive pattern–and it probably isn’t the last, unless he chooses now to repent and become the different man he claims he is.. That’s the issue here. If our faith compels us to support him as our God-chosen leader, we have some questions to ponder.

While Mr. Trump issued an apology, it was not the apology of a strong leader. It lacked both contrition for the act and repentance for the sins. Trump is said to have converted to Christianity, but makes no mention of this as he apologies. In fact, it’s been others who have reported he “accepted Jesus.” (The leader who reportedly led him to the Lord is one who has publicly justified her own sinful choices, incidentally, which doesn’t mean she couldn’t have led him to the Lord, but it would be helpful to hear a confession of faith from the one proclaiming it). Trump himself previously stated he didn’t need to ask Jesus for forgiveness. Later, he backtracked some and said he hoped he wouldn’t have to ask for much. His description of who Jesus is to him was telling:

“Jesus to me is somebody I can think about for security and confidence. Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage and, because I consider the Christian religion so important, somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind.”

But maybe he decided sometime after that statement in June that he needed Jesus as more. Some say since he has surrounded himself with Christian leaders, it’s a sign of his purity of heart. However, that doesn’t make him a fruit-bearing Christian anymore than a twig surrounding itself with apple trees produces apples. I cannot judge the depths of Trump’s heart, but I can judge what the fruit tastes like, and it is bitter much of the time.

Trump’s sex tape apology was mixed and poorly received by many Republicans. Trump says, in part:

“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize…. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.

“Let’s be honest, we’re living in the real world. This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today. We’re losing our jobs, we’re less safe than we were eight years ago. And Washington is totally broken. Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground.”

In the midst of these words are some notable problems. He apologizes almost as necessity, as if to say “oh crud! I better apologize this time.” He expresses no remorse for his attitude, his demeaning comments, and his perversion. He pledges to be a better man tomorrow, implying he is not yet. He doesn’t say anything more than “I was wrong.” Wrong about saying it in an interview? Getting caught? Discussing sexually abusive comments? The lack of specificity is tantamount to a child who apologizes because he was caught and doesn’t want to be grounded.

Further disturbing in his apology, however, is his conclusion. Calling such perversion a mere “distraction” is bad enough, but to then deflect back to Clinton is inappropriate. Whatever Clinton has or has not done is irrelevant to Trump’s actions at issue here. This is not a war of who committed the worst sins (and frankly, it wasn’t Mrs. Clinton caught with her pants down anyway).

Because this happened on the brink of the Sunday night debate, I decided I should watch and give it one more chance. What I heard appalled me. Trump reiterated, numerous times, that while he “regretted” his words, “This is locker room talk. It’s just locker room talk.”  But the jock in the locker room isn’t running to be the leader of the free world, running on a platform of conservative faith values–and isn’t 59 years old, which is how old Trump was in this recording. After being pressed by Anderson Cooper about the actions he describes in the tapes, such as groping women and forcing them to kiss him, he backtracks and says he didn’t do those things. Thus, he announces himself as a 59-year-old boy who brags about sexual conquests that didn’t exist (assuming he is telling the truth).

Additionally, after the first mention of the tapes, he briefly answered with his catch-all “just locker room talk” statement, and then launched into a litany of how ISIS was doing awful things and we should be focusing on that. ISIS was the buzzword for Trump’s deflection, but dealing with ISIS and dealing with the perversion are not mutually exclusive. It is inappropriate to hold ISIS up as a reason to ignore the continued patterns of perversion.

But Trump is not alone in his deflective defense. Many others have joined him. One popular defense says, “We must defeat Hillary no matter what.” This tactic says we are deciding to overlook all the red flags about Trump in order to defeat someone we know better is actually worse. Believers, this argument says we don’t trust God enough to believe that He would or could allow Clinton into office. Worst of all it says that God Himself could compromise His own standard for the sake of defeating Clinton.

Another defense says, “we are all sinners who need Jesus.” This statement is true. The implied result is not. As believers we are all sinners who have repented and turned from our sins. We would all call a pattern of pervasive sin an “unrepentant lifestyle.” Except when Trump is the issue. Yes, these tapes were a decade ago, but these tapes are not an isolated incident. There have been incidents in the past few weeks back to well before these tapes. Time and again, Trump is perpetuating deep offenses and degrading comments.

Finally, the most prevailing defense against him indefensible goes like this, “Well, they haven’t been in a locker room if they think that talk is shocking. I have heard worse in____.” “What about the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, which was much worse?” “If you think that is bad, how about Bill Clinton…” And all of those have only one answer: They are not the issue at hand. They are real and legitimate issues, but guess what? That talk is not okay in the locker room either. There is always worse somewhere, but the Oval Office should be some of the best. No Christian should be filing his or her mind with porn anyway, but maybe the popularity of that porn novel explains our tolerance for open perversion. And Bill Clinton isn’t actually running for president, so that comparison isn’t about this. Whatever his wife has done or not also isn’t the issue. Her issues are reasons to reconsider voting or endorsing her. These false equivalency arguments are just that, false. The issue at hand is the issue at hand.

Sometimes trusting God and leaning not to our own understanding means doing what’s right even when the obvious cost is high. We cannot claim we trust God is we are paralyzed with fear over Clinton being our president.

Resurgent author Erick Erickson writes in a compelling piece that while Clinton would be bad for America, Trump would be bad for the church. You can read his piece here, but sufficient to say, I agree with him. He asserts:

More importantly, while I think Hillary Clinton will do long term damage to the country, I believe Donald Trump will do far more damage to the church, which must be my chief priority. A Clinton Administration may see the church besieged from the outside, but a Trump Administration will see the church poisoned from within.

Read his whole piece for the details, but the facts he lays out are troubling. Detailing the justification Christians are making for Trump, Erickson notes:

So many pastors who email me to beg me to reconsider and so many others who write do so because they think this is the last best chance to get this nation right. They think we will turn a corner after which we cannot turn back. While I concede they may be right, what I see is a level of desperation causing them to place their trust in one strong man instead of God. And, in truth, I do not concede they are right, but have concluded we are already past the point of redemption when the best either party can do is offer up Clinton or Trump. We are beyond the point of looking to five black robed masters to save us from ourselves when we put up either a Clinton or a Trump. The seriousness and virtue of the voter is in the grave already and my Christian brethren for Trump yearn for an idolized past that never existed in a future that is not theirs, but God’s, to shape.” (Emphasis added).

Lastly, for those who compare Trump to Cyrus, God never asked his people to support Cyrus’s cause, only to accept him as their ruler. God never asks his people to choose between the lesser of two evils. God uses all men, from pharaoh to Trump. And he can do so without making Christians endorse the person’s sins. God did not tell the Jews to throw open the gates of Jerusalem for Nebuchadnezzar. God did that himself. God shut the door of the ark and brought the rain and dried again the land. God raises us from the dust of the earth and he stitched us together in our mothers’ wombs. He holds the entire universe in the palm of his hand. God can see us through all things if we aren’t so busy pretending his will and exercising pretended divine authority. His will be done. If God wants Trump in the White House, he does not need my vote or a violation of my conscience to get Trump there. To think otherwise is to think God is not God.

On being unequally yoked

To endorse a person is to be yoked with him. I would argue that there is a line between the average Christian just trying to make a tough choice and a leader charged with standing for truth and righteousness actually yoking him or herself with a man who practices unrighteousness. Is this not an unequal yoking?

Our fawning love affair with Trump is like a woman trying some evangelism dating because she’s getting older and hasn’t found the right man among her Christian group. She meets a guy she really likes and decides since he says he believes in God and talks to Him sometimes, he will grow in his faith and be a man of God. Perhaps he will. But he is not then ready to be her Christian husband prepared to lead his family. The woman, we all recognize, is deceived and just wants the man she thinks is the best chance she has, so she compromises while justifying herself it will work out. Instead, she spends years unequally yoked, bonded to a marriage that produces no fruit. And her husband? Why does he need to pursue Jesus more deeply? His wife married him after all, and she loves Jesus, so he’s obviously good enough to remain on his complacent laurels.

Erickson notes our fears are similar. Christians are equating Clinton in office as their own destruction:

They seemingly argue that if the nation falls, the church falls and for the church to rise the country must rise. But Christ has already risen so the true church is in no danger of falling. The gates of hell shall not prevail.

Leadership apart from Christianity

If Trump were not enmeshed in the religious side of things and endorsed by a rousing round of Evangelicals, there would still be valid concerns about his leadership abilities. A leader has to be the front man (or woman) the model for others. In my job we are sometimes charged with doing minutiae that is really not related to our job. It’s time consuming and, frankly, annoying. You know the first person to start working at it? My boss. He starts, does the most work, and takes the fall as the leader if upper level management is displeased. He faces it head on. He is a pleasure to work for because he leads us by example. We never have to wonder if he will back us if we do things correctly, and help us if we do them incorrectly. We also never have to worry he will do something wildly inappropriate that would put us all under a lens. This is what good leaders do; they lead with integrity and strength. They don’t yell, blast pomposity, or insult other leaders they think do a worse job. They focus on their jobs and the people they are charged with leading. My boss and I share some differing political views, but I could much easier vote for him as our president because he leads well.

Another point that Sunday’s debate causes me to add on the subject of leadership is this: Trump asserted, addressing the sex tapes and his comments, “They’re just words.” Considering my own career, I am horrified. Professionally speaking, those “just words” can easily get someone fired for sexual harassment. Those types of comments to women or about women can actually be illegal, in addition to being immoral and assaulting. They are not “just words.” And putting faith aside as a factor, words such as these and the 17 years of recordings to shock jock Howard Stern, further propagating sexual deviance, are enough to get some people fired or sued.

But what about Hillary?

“But what about Hillary?” is not an appropriate response to our concerns with Trump. In a court of law, when someone is accused and his counsel tries to talk abut another criminal, the opposing counsel objects. “Sustained!” the judge says, “Irrelevant. Counsel, keep your arguments to the case at hand.”

Ask yourself if Trump were before you as nether Democrat or Republican, but simply a man running for office about whom you knew all you know now, would he be a viable option for you in that anonymous presentation? Is he only viable because of the opposition?

In the book of Job, Job is dealt what seems to as an unfair hand. His life is pulled out from under him—under God’s permissive will. God allowed Satan to do what he did, and his friends can’t see the reasoning so they have to make some theology up to fit their paradigm. They offer justification for Job’s suffering that is well-intended but unbiblical. Understanding a confusing situation is not a prerequisite to seeing God’s hand in it.

“God is good,” we say, chanting back in unison, “all the time.” (“And all the time, God is good! Amen!”) We say it when we find a parking space up close on a rainy day, get a promotion or when we pass a test by one point. We say it when things go well for us. Sometimes, those with deeper understanding of the Lord, say it when things don’t go well. I have had friends with cancer say “God is good” and mean it. They know something not every Christian knows: God is good, but His good may not look like our good.

Our perception is earthly perception. It is flawed. I think of the most tragic and painful events of my life, events that even caused me to question God. Had I not been orphaned, dumped again, tossed aside, I would not have the parents I have now. Was God good when I was abandoned? Was He good when I was “unadopted”? Or is He only good now that I have parents? Was the same God not God in it all?

What if we vote apart from our fears and Clinton becomes our president? What if our religious liberties truly erode, our taxes skyrocket—and abortion becomes more widespread (heaven forbid) than it is now? What horror just the last point would bring.

But what if, in the midst of that, the church then realized its calling, and the true believers rose up out of apathy and silence en masse this time? What if we thrived and became the mighty remnant of the Lord, filled with signs, wonders, miracles, power, hope? What if multitudes came to the saving grace of the true Jesus because of the state of the nation and our witness? What if the entire face of the nation changed in a way like that? What if a declined national climate, even persecution, brought the revival we say we want at any cost?

A fact few note when fighting for pro-life issues is that under Barack Obama’s administration, there have been more restrictions on abortion than anytime since Roe v. Wade. The reason certainly isn’t our pro-abortion president. The reason is the army of people who got either awakened or just plain scared by his leadership and fought back. Now, hear me clearly: In no way am I suggesting he was the best choice for LIFE. He was not. But God used his election to lower the abortion rate. Never have I seen such a powerful prayer movement against abortion, coupled with action by believers to end the atrocities. When it was obvious the government wasn’t going to take the lead from the executive branch, the church stepped up to the legislative branch.

Listen, folks, I get it. I really do. If anyone understands the gravity of the Supreme Court seats, it is I. I wept when Justice Scalia died because I knew in that moment what it meant for us on issues of Christian conservatism. After Trump was nominated, I prayed more. I asked God if I was to vote for him, and my covenant with God made that answer pretty clear. But neither did I wish to tear him down. In the back of my mind I had a light hope that he would be elected and at least I would still be able to afford to pay my taxes, get rid of the Obamacare mandate—and have more conservative justices. I wanted it to be okay. This is the reason I have said very little since he secured the nomination. I conceded inwardly that he was probably the best chance, though I could note endorse, or even vote, for him.

Unlike some of my #NeverTrump friends, I did not get angry with my pro-life leader friends who joined his national advisement team. Advising and endorsing are different. I would advise a Satanist to turn to Jesus and fill her with reasons why, though I would never endorse her worship. I believed, perhaps, even though he really wasn’t equipped for the job, as a businessman, he was smart enough to surround himself with those who were. Like many, I supported his VP choice in Mike Pence, one of the most pro-life leaders in our nation whose work as governor I know well, though I could not turn my endorsement for Pence into one for the double ticket. What I am trying to emphasize here is that I have not been hostile in these months; I have prayed and been open to Trump being our president. I have actively looked for the best. But it’s not there.

Mr. Trump is a man created by God whom Jesus adores with every iota of who He is. Jesus is love and loves Trump as much as he loves Billy Graham–and you and me. That’s the gospel, folks. His death was for both and all of us in between. Trump is not beyond redemption, salvation, or hope. He is not beyond repentance for his decades of sexual perversion, often publicly detailed. Whether the tapes that broke this story or his 17 years of talking to Howard Stern about sexual escapades and things I would not mention even in this blog, it’s clear there are issues. At no time has Trump offered repentance to the people he claims to be equipped to lead. But if one claims to be a Christian and is endorsed by people of faith, linked, locked, yoked to faith leaders and catering to people of faith, then there should be fruit. No, we are not electing a Sunday school teacher or pope, but we are electing a leader of a nation that is mired in issues of racism, sexual perversion, and other problems, which are furthered by Trump, out of his own mouth in recent weeks and months.

We say “I’m not Democrat or Republican; I’m about Jesus.” Jesus died on a cross to show the goodness of God. Is it so far beyond us to think that maybe this is the turning point for our nation and it’s not the pretty one we hoped? Do I know God’s plan exactly? That answer is obvious. But I know God’s character. God doesn’t have to stoop and settle, nor should his people.

I spent years as a part of ministries that taught me something I retained deep within me: Voting is a prophetic act. It is my duty to vote, but my vote is first and foremost before the Lord. I am making a statement to God of what I am doing with the honor He has given me to vote. I live in this world, but I live under the law of God. I can neither vote for Clinton nor Trump and the reasons are similar. The differences, however, are that one is claiming to represent people of faith, and is endorsed by leaders who name the name of Jesus. When you add Jesus into the mix, the implications are serious. Jesus asks us to be hot or cold—and has harsh words for being lukewarm.

I posit that God will do more with a sincere and seeking church subjected to a corrupt government than He will with a compromised church under a so-so government. My idealistic self hopes for a Pollyanna dream, like Trump and Pence switching places and Clinton defeated. But that likely won’t happen, as much as I can dream. So my Christian self has to ask, “do I trust the Lord enough that I believe even if publicly proclaiming his name and fighting against innocent bloodshed becomes illegal I can declare He is good and we are in his will?”

The Bible is filled, absolutely filled, with God moving mightily in the face of persecution. We have it so good in our nation that we seem to think a threat to our liberty can’t be the will of God. Can God use Trump, Clinton or anyone else? Absolutely. Absolutely without question. But His ability to use someone in spite of His desire is no the same as His endorsement. For what fellowship has light with darkness?

Precious moments: being “too Christian” in graduate school

In graduate school I was “too Christian.”

We were training to be teachers in the humanities department, and I was taking a required colloquium in teaching class as a graduate assistant. That day, Professor X came to guest lecture. X was telling us how these vulnerable freshmen come to us and have been raised in a bubble all their lives. He said, back in the late 90s, “Just like that: Bill Clinton, Jesus, and Santa Claus.” He followed it with a WHOOSH sound, as if to say the reality that none was real overtook these poor misguided kids.

You could see my reaction. I was indignant It was not raging anger, not hatred, certainly not agreement.  I was indignany that somehow Jesus was supposed to be reduced to fantasy if I were an intellectual. I knew better.

It was October, and since August I’d been on a new spiritual journey, unlike any before in my Christian life. I had a spiritual mom in my life who prayed with me often, who talked to me about God like He was a real person. And I had begun to change. I was alive again. Alive for the first time, really. And there was no way Jesus was in the same category as the fallen Bill Clinton and fictional Santa Claus. I felt like someone had just dissed by BFF. Because he did.

I went quiet the rest of the 2 hours and 40 minutes. It was a turning point in my spiritual life, that day. It was the day I knew I either had to acquiesce to the culture around me, or stand up for what I knew was true. My job as a teacher was not to change student’s beliefs; it was to help students question things in a productive way to ensure they understood what they espoused about anything. That’s a fine line, but it is a distinctive one. One tears down, as if to say “I’m right, and you are misguided.” The other deconstructs and puts the pieces back together one at a time to build understanding and come to conclusions. My job was to create learners and thinkers who could construct knowledge and induce reasoning to deduce the world in which they live. I was not going to be part of telling people their beliefs were wrong. I was going to be a part of helping people figure out how to be sure of what they believed—whether about human nature, personal values, or Jesus Himself.

That week I prayed. A lot. I talked to my spiritual mom. I wrestled inside myself. I knew it was a turning point. The next week I showed up to class in a t-shirt that had the Bible verse where Paul says, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). That was my answer. Looking back I see it was a bit “in your face,” but I think God honored me because of my heart, if not my methods. I didn’t stick my backside at anyone so they could read the shirt or anything, but I wore in on purpose; I wore it for myself, my banner. And the class debrief began.

The teacher asked what we thought of Professor X’s lecture. And the students gave all the right answers. Except me.

“I didn’t appreciate what he said about Jesus being a myth.”

The teacher backtracked. “I don’t think that’s really what he meant,” she said. But I quoted him again. “Yes, he did. He said that exactly.”

That wasn’t the end of the Christian debate. The next week was the time to highlight all the “embarrassing” Christians. You know, the ones “with bumper stickers that say ‘I heart TBN,’” one said. “Or Precious Moments,” someone added, giggling at the cheesiness. “Someone gave me a bunch of Precious Moments stuff,” she said, sarcastically.

That was it. Without missing a beat, and without a hint of anger, I opened my purse and took out my checkbook. My Precious Moments checkbook. The one I thought was cute, and was no reflection on my level of thinking ability or intellectual endeavor. I liked seeing praying kids and scriptures when I paid bills.

I showed them the checks.

The one making fun of it immediately looked a bit embarrassed, and she genuinely and kindly offered to give me the Precious Moments gift she had been given. I still appreciate that because I saw her heart was good and she didn’t realize that her attitude could be perceived as negative. But in most cases I just became a freak show.

Later that class the teacher said, “You know, SM, you really might consider going over to the education department to get your degree since humanities is more for future professors, and you just want to teach junior high.”

“No,” I said, resolutely, “I’m positive I want the master’s degree in humanities.”

And so I stayed. But not as much because very suddenly there was no graduate assistantship left for me. I was half time, and it seemed they needed to cut back on half-timers. I knew darned well that wasn’t the reason. Most people need assistantships to stay in school. It was a push to get me out. In fact, they told me I wasn’t really like everyone else because I just wanted to “get [my] degree and get out.” There was a club forming in the humanities department, and I was too Christian to be in it.

I walked over to another department where I had a bit of work experience in their field and applied for an assistantship. I got it. I was paid double, kept all my benefits, and worked half the time as the other one. God took care of me better than if I had stayed. It was one of my first lessons of Him honoring His word and those who keep it.

I had switched major advisers early on, and I had a lovely woman who supported my work and research. I’m not sure where she was as far as sharing values, but that’s good. She didn’t let her opinions be known. This endowed professor and scholar of worldwide renown taught me, mentored me, and got me through my thesis research, which was especially controversial, but fully substantiated. Now I see it was also prophetic. Since that time I have literally watched things I wrote about being possible in the future fully come to pass.

The day came to defend my thesis. I had one person on my committee who was having issues with some of my assertions, such as things I said about the right-to-die movement. He was going to be my only hurdle, and while I knew it would be okay, I was trying to fully prepare for a real defense. Would you believe he was too sick to attend? He got better, but he actually felt so bad he was unable to come–he had an ongoing problem, but that one day, it was just too much for him. Since the rest of the committee and grad school faculty were there, the defense went on. I did well. Really well.

The icing on the graduate school cake happened that day. The director of graduate studies commented that my thesis was more well-written than the dissertation that just got defended last week—and said I needed to seriously consider coming back to do my doctorate. There. In the department that wanted to move me to the other school. It was the ultimate vindication for me in that entire experience. I finished in about three years, average time for that program, which included both a thesis and comprehensive exams. During most of that time I was working in another department and just taking classes because after the first year, I was not conformed enough to join the prevailing thought and ways. I realize that statement sounds dramatic, but it’s also true and I was told as much many times. I had to examine a lot in those years, but soon after the class confrontations came my deepest encounter of my life with Jesus—one that impacts me to this very day. In the season I was most challenged to either conform or be set on the back burner, I had enough in me to know what my choice was.

The opening of my thesis includes a reference to Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” In the end it was published—and, ironically, sits in a specialized research library in Washington, DC, where my research contributed to the body of work on topics of nonconformity.

What I learned most in my season of graduate school wasn’t about other people. The Bible tells us people will be hostile to–or at the very least not understanding of–Christianity. What I learned was what I ultimately wrote about in that same thesis: That we must know why we believe what we believe, or when it is challenged we will fall. I learned that my faith was real and worth standing for. at whatever the cost, and it did cost me. But God covered me too. I don’t even remember at this moment the precise moment, but at the end of my program right around my defense, the Lord gave me Isaiah 55. The part that I recall sticking out the most was this:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (v. 8-9, NKJV)

As I reread this chapter to quote here, I was also struck by the fact this was at the end of my program that the Lord gave me this and what it says in that chapter:

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

“For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace; (v. 11-12a, NKJV)

This was my promise fulfilled. I went out with joy and peace. But I didn’t do it for the promise. I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen; what I knew was that I loved God more than being part of the jokes about him, no matter how logical they seemed.

In the end, Professor X’s visit was a blessing. God will use anyone and anything He wants. Professor X was never my enemy. He was a catalyst to a great move of God in my life.

And that’s the moral of this story.