National Public Radio (NPR), recently broadcasted a segment on Christian Nationalism, and a highlighted church was Patriot Church in Lenoir City, Tennessee, which NPR declared, “… what makes this church different, and others like it across the nation, is its embrace of the secular agenda of the far right.” So what factors characterize Christian nationalism?” Among other things, Christian Nationalists:
- Believe America is a Christian nation;
- Disbelieve mainstream media;
- Believe Trump is the legitimate president;
- Believe the Biden administration is evil and illegitimate;
- Oppose masks and vaccinations;
- Believe participants in the January 6 insurrection are proud patriots;
- Disbelieve the 1619 Project’s findings; and
- Categorically denigrate and discredit the reporting of sins that expose America’s prejudicial, demonic, and racist past, and broadly categorizes these sins as Critical Race Theory.
The bottom-line is this group embraces “the big lie” spread by Trump’s effective misinformation campaign to overturn a fair and just election (and the plethora of lies told by him throughout his presidency). The result is Evangelical churches are losing members. Peter Wehner recently wrote an article for The Atlantic entitled, “THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH IS BREAKING APART Christians must reclaim Jesus from his church.” In it he describes the following as a root cause:
"The way our sensibilities are shaped determines who we are, including the order of our loves. For many Christians, their politics has become more of an identity marker than their faith. They might insist that they are interpreting their politics through the prism of scripture, with the former subordinate to the latter, but in fact scripture and biblical ethics are often distorted to fit their politics."
This post begins a 3-part series that addresses the question: What is Truth Biblically? And this post is based upon II Thessalonians 2:9-12, and specifically explores the question: Can we comprehend Biblical Truth if we don’t know what constitutes a lie? Therefore, let’s address a fundamental question: What constitutes a lie Biblically?
The Bible states “satan is the father of all lies (see John 8:44),” and II Thessalonians 2:9 amplifies that truth: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.” The Greek word used for “lying” is “pseudos,” which translates also into “a lie.” Two applicable pseudos definitions are 1) Conscious and intentional falsehood; and 2) Perverse, impious, or deceitful precepts that are not what they seem to be. My father, the late Rev. Clarence Hilliard, warned his congregations of this eventuality by teaching, “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see!”
Jesus called satan “the prince of this world (see John 14:30),” so he has an army of minions to do his bidding. Some serve voluntarily because they sell him their souls. While others serve unwittingly because he is a deceiver, and many who are deceived actually believe they serve God (e.g., the religious leaders who initiated Christ’s crucifixion). Paul warned his readers to expect (if not already here), the “lawless one.” Who, in my opinion, is a person or persons who mesmerizes, among others, gullible “Christians” with lies and deceptions. It must be understood that lies are not spread accidentally! They are carefully planted, watered, and cultivated for maximum growth, and those who propagate them are liars. The deceptive seeds for challenging the validity of the 2020 election were planted long before Election Day. So who are liars Biblically?
Two translated Greek words for liar are referenced in this post and the first is pseustes which means “one who breaks faith; or a false and faithless person.” Therefore, the consequences for lying (or associating with liars), are dire. The truth is liars break faith with God, so Romans 14:23b denounces their lies, “… for whatever is not from faith is sin.” Let’s couple the Romans verse above with the second Greek word for liar which is pseudes, and John uses it in Revelations 21:8b when he writes, “… all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” The bottom-line is all liars scoff at truth so they are destined to spend eternity in hell, which should be proof-positive that Christians must not submit to their lies, because they actually further satan’s agenda. The next question is, “What Biblical Truth is not taught in Evangelical circles today?”
The answer, very simply, is the Law of Love, which is also known as the Great Commandment. In Luke’s account of the Law of Love, a lawyer asked Jesus, “…what shall I do to inherit eternal life (see Luke 10:25-28)?” When Jesus prodded the lawyer to answer his own question, he gave the following: “'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer’s answer was approved by Jesus who told him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” The problem today is this two-prong message of love is not taught universally in Evangelical circles today! Instead, converts are taught to love God (maintain a vertical relationship), but the mandatory horizontal relationship “to love my neighbor,” is conspicuously absent. The Four Spiritual Laws, as outlined below, is a prime example:
- God loves you and created you to know Him personally.
- Man is sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know Him personally or experience His love.
- Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin. Through Him alone we can know God personally and experience God's love.
- We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love.
Many “Christians” have been falsely proselytized by this evangelistic tool. False because it makes no mention of the essential love Christians must have for one’s neighbor – even among those who are sociologically different! Therefore, this weapon of mass deception used by satan produces vitriol and divisiveness, because it promotes animosity instead of brotherhood both within and without the Evangelical community! Peter Wehner, referenced earlier, documented this problem:
“'When Trump was able to add open hatred and resentments to the political-religious stance of "true believers," it crossed a line,' Marsden said. 'Tribal instincts seem to have become overwhelming.' The dominance of political religion over professed religion is seen in how, for many, the loyalty to Trump became a blind allegiance. The result is that many Christian followers of Trump 'have come to a gospel of hatreds, resentments, vilifications, put-downs, and insults as expressions of their Christianity, for which they too should be willing to fight.'”
Since The Bible warns “Christians” to love both God and neighbor to live, the question must be asked: How did many, who claim to be Christians, err so badly? The answer is found in II Thessalonians 2:10 which reads, “and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” Hilliard, my father, also taught his congregations, “Whenever a half-truth is given to represent the whole truth, then it is an untruth (he used this quote also in His A DISSENT TO THE COVENANT ISSUED AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON WORLD EVANGELIZATION).” The only logical conclusion to draw from this omission is The Four Spiritual Laws are an, “unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved [emphasis added by author].” John, in Revelations 22:18-19, recorded the words of The Holy Spirit who sternly warned us to not add anything to God’s Word, or take anything from it, so this omission is a grave violation of that warning!
A fundamental problem with deceptions are they hinder believers from objectively facing reality, so let’s look at a few examples:
- The reality is the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion as an inalienable right to all Americans so the deception is America is a Christian nation;
- The reality is the mainstream media does a relatively good job of presenting reliable fact-based journalism (and even prints retractions when necessary), while the deception is to believe in conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated stories from dubious and biased sources;
- The reality is Trump lost the election fairly and squarely by over 7 million votes, but the deception is to believe that the plethora of failed court cases, audits, recounts, and certifications do not negate their belief that the election process was rigged;
- The reality is Biden’s administration is devoid of blatant partisan bias and is equally beneficial to all Americans, while the deception is Biden is evil, illegitimate, and incompetent; and
- The reality is wearing masks and vaccinating against COVID has proven highly effective in preventing COVID spread, hospitalizations, and deaths, while the deception is the very presence of mandates infringes upon the personal freedoms of those who are deceived.
As a Black Pastor, I believe the primary reason we are unable to solve the race problem in America, even within a Christian context, is those who are in power deceptively romanticize or are unwilling to address reality as experienced by the powerless! Recently I was told by a Christian White brother that racism is no longer a problem in America. Also, several years ago Mark Johnson (a White Pastor) and I attended a City Reaching Conference and a delegation from Mississippi talked about how Black and White ministers meet every week to bridge the racial divide, but when they laid out their ground rules, their first rule was, “We do not address any tough issues!” Until the Law of Love is universally taught and practiced among Christians, satan will blind The Church of Jesus Christ from reconciling:
- The atrocities experienced by Blacks and other peoples of color here in America; and
- Its own culpability in prolonging America’s race problem by refusing to address the injustice and treatment of racial differences openly and honestly.
Paul sums up the effects of not living by the Law of Love nicely in II Corinthians 4:3-4, when he writes, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age [satan] has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”
The last major question addressed in this post is: What are the ramifications for not living by the Law of Love? Paul also addresses this question very nicely in II Thessalonians 2:11-12: “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The first of two ramifications for not living by the Law of Love is their thinking becomes delusional; and the second is they will face God’s condemnation. Let’s consider the delusional thinking ramification.
II Thessalonians 2:10 talks about the deception a lie causes, and verse 11 talks about the delusion created by that lie, so how are they different? The difference is the deception causes a person to believe a lie, while the delusion justifies the actions the liar (or a believer of that lie), takes to combat the perceived danger created by the lie, and both the liar and the deceived are deluded. A case in point is Putin’s delusional full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Putin used his platform to deceive gullible Russians (and others including Trump and other American politicians), into believing that Ukraine was ready to invade Russia or Russian-held territory within Ukraine’s borders. Therefore, Putin's delusional mind justified his unprovoked attack upon Ukraine, a sovereign nation!
A Few points need to be made based upon II Thessalonians 2:11-12. The first is satan promotes lies so when deception is chosen over truth, the deceived is pit at enmity with God. The second identifies God as the one who sends a powerful delusion upon those who are deceived. The third is delusions are instrumental in reinforcing and justifying lies. Finally, the delusion causes the deluded to act recklessly, irrationally, or irresponsibly (had pleasure in unrighteousness). Let’s look at a few examples to clarify this point.
The first is a coup d’état was attempted on our nation when rioters stormed the Capitol Building on January 6th. However, several who were arrested acknowledged that they were deceived and described their own actions as delusive and irrational! Nevertheless, deluded Evangelicals still call those traitorous rioters “proud patriots.” Another case in point is the plethora of delusionally-inspired election laws passed by conservative state houses since Trump’s sound defeat during the 2020 election. The deception is the election was crooked while the delusion has led many state houses to pass irrational laws that make it harder for non-Whites to cast ballots in future elections.
The final example has to do with the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory. The deception is that White Americans should not be burdened by accurate accounts of America’s history of racism, segregation, redlining, lynching, dehumanization, genocide, discrimination, or a host of other sins; because it might hurt their feelings. The delusion is calling upon state house to enact laws that make it illegal to teach truthful accounts of U.S. history, but the problem is historically, U.S. History has been written and taught from a White perspective which intentionally masks historical truths, and thus makes such curricula more akin to propaganda than truth! The following article excerpt is from The Guardian entitled, “The fight to whitewash US history: ‘A drop of poison is all you need:’”
"The laborious project of establishing truth in the face of official lies is one that Americans embraced during the racial reckoning of the summer of 2020, whether it was individuals speaking out about their experiences of racism at work, or institutions acknowledging their own complicity in racial injustice. For a time, it seemed that America was finally ready to tell a more honest, nuanced story of itself, one that acknowledged the blood at the root.
But alongside this reassessment, another American tradition re-emerged: a reactionary movement bent on reasserting a whitewashed American myth. These reactionary forces have taken aim at efforts to tell an honest version of American history and speak openly about racism by proposing laws in statehouses across the country that would ban the teaching of 'critical race theory', the New York Times’s 1619 Project, and, euphemistically, 'divisive concepts.'"
The second of two ramifications for not living by the Law of Love is those who are deceived will receive God’s condemnation in Judgment! While maturing in an Evangelical Church and attending Christian summer camps during my teen years, I learned the lyrics to the song, “They’ll Know We Are Christians,” and wanted very much to believe that the lyrics of that song echoed with a ring of truth here in America:
“We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord… And we pray that all unity may one day be restored: And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.”
But as I have aged and become a serious student of The Bible, I see that the Law of Love, the missing Biblical Truth, was never universally embedded in the Christian Church here in America. It was not present during the dehumanization and peonage of America’s enslaved African population. It was not present when America’s Native population was decimated, their land and resources stolen, and many were (and still are) forced to live in squalor conditions. It was not present post-emancipation when many state legislatures passed (and some continue to pass), Black (and other egregious) Laws to control, cripple, dehumanize, disenfranchise, and illegitimatize Blacks and other peoples of color. It should be clear from this study that resentment towards others who are different racially, politically, ethnically, sociologically, geographically, culturally, or by any other differentiating indicator is not what Jesus had in mind when He told the lawyer in Luke 10:28 to “… do this and you will live.
Nevertheless, the lawyer needed clarification according to Luke 10:29: “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?” Jesus was talking to a Jewish lawyer, so He shared the parable of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30-37), in which a man was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Nevertheless, members of two of the most respected groups in Israel, a Jewish Priest and Levite saw the wounded man but did not minister to him because (in today’s vernacular), they did not want to be called “Socialists.” Nevertheless a Samaritan – Someone who is ethnically, sociologically, geographically, and culturally different than the Jewish lawyer, attended to the needs of this wounded man and paid his room, board, medical expenses, and promised to cover additional expenses, if warranted, upon his return. Therefore, when Jesus asked the lawyer, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves (Luke 10:36)? The lawyer responded in verse 37, “He who showed mercy on him.” Finally, I leave you with what Jesus said to the lawyer, “Go and do likewise!”
You are challenging us to #reimagineCHRISTIANITY...in America.