In this episode Kurt speaks with Keith Giles, author of Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb. They talk about the notion of nationalism, or placing too much faith in one’s country.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for listening to another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. It’s a pleasure to be with you here back in studio at the Defenders Media offices where we do the podcast from week to week, but it’s not just that I’m here on another Saturday. It’s that last week, we were at the Defenders Media seminar called Reliable: Can You Trust The Bible? And we were at Faith Covenant Church in Wheaton, Illinois, so it was a great opportunity that I had to speak on a number of different topics and to be joined by Ted Wright who is the founder of Epic Archaeology and you can check out more about what he does there at Epicarchaeology.com or .org, you can go to either one. It’s great to have Ted on our team. He’s joined the Defenders Media Alliance. I’ve got to update his website to include his logo now. So pleased to have him on our team.
We’re back in the saddle here in the studio today and last week’s show if you haven’t had a chance to listen to it was my interview with Ted talking about the importance of archaeology and apologetics. We call the episode Digging For Truth. A lot of great things that we had to hear from him including one very fascinating update and now I’m not a, I don’t know how I should say this, a provocateur of new ideas, and I’m a bit skeptical when people start talking about Noah’s Ark because there’s supposedly, we’re doing the livestream today by the way, Daniel, good to see you there. Thanks for following along here. There’s an update on Noah’s Ark and I’m a bit skeptical when people talk about Noah’s Ark, but if you go to the episode, you listen to Ted, he says that there’s been this new discovery. There’s a wooden structure buried in ice and it smells like animal urine and it’s made of pitch, there’s pitch there. It’s very fascinating. He’s letting us draw our own conclusions of course, but at this point we just need to be cautious I think. I think we need to wait. It might end up being like the Shroud of Turin for example where it’s just kind of like people end up making their own decision about what that structure could be. At any rate, I thought that was fascinating, even though I tend to be cautious and skeptical when people claim they found Noah’s Ark. That’s very fascinating so if you get the chance go back and listen to that episode. It was a fun time live there at the seminar.
Today’s episode though is on Nationalism and what that means and what that entails we’ll get to momentarily, but before I do that let me say hello to Chris who is joining us here in studio. He was off last week, you were away at Colorado and I missed you at the event last week.
Kurt: Yes. How was your time in Colorado?
Chris: It was very productive. It was good too. They have mountains out there.
Kurt: They do.
Chris: So yeah. It’s nice to study under the shadow of the mountains and just sit down and get stuff down for awhile.
Kurt: I’m a bit jealous that you had that opportunity.
Chris: It was good.
Kurt: Well I’m glad to have you back. I missed you last week.
Chris: It’s good to be back.
Kurt: I felt like I was running around a little bit so I missed you.
Chris: It was a great show.
Kurt: And as you can see here people that are watching livestream, we’ve got cords all over the place. It’s a little messy and that’s because we took a lot of the equipment with us to the event last week and so we’re still working on getting things set up here yeah. I’m looking at the livestream now. Look at all those cords.
Kurt: So hopefully next week we’ll tidy up a little bit for you, but also glad to note that the livestream is working this week so we’re glad to have that going. If you’d like to have your voice heard on today’s episode or any episode, you can give us a call. The numbers is 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-278-7483. You can also participate in our texting plan. It’s totally free for you. All you do is text the word VERACITY to 555-888 and I’ll be able to get your text message during the week or during the show even. I’ll get that program loaded up so if you’ve got a comment or a question and you want that submitted just text the word VERACITY to the number 555-888.
I think that does it by way of announcements. For those of you that are curious about the videos that we were recording last week, we’re still working on those. I think we had a little bit of trouble with the audio so we’re going to see what we can do. Chris is now back in town so he’s the main video guy. He’s the bomb. They call him Merlin for a reason, cause he works magic. That’s what he does. We’re going to be talking about nationalism. At this point I wanted to bring on the guest for today’s show, Keith Giles, and so he is the author of Jesus Untangled: Crucifying our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb. Keith. Thank you so much for joining me on the show today.
Keith: Hey Kurt. Thank you so much for having me on. I’m very honored and blessed.
Kurt: Yes. Now before we get to talking about the book, let me ask a little bit about yourself and the bio. From what I’ve read here it says you’re a former pastor who’s abandoned the pulpit in order to follow Jesus and what you ended up doing was you founded a church where 100% of the offering is given away to help the poor, specifically in your surrounding community. Tell me a little bit about your story, your background, and what led you to doing this.
Keith: Yeah. Golly. I guess about 27-28 years ago I was a younger man, recently ordained Southern Baptist pastor right after I got married. I served as everything except a senior pastor. I’ve been an associate pastor, music minister, children’s pastor, everything. That was in El Paso, Texas and soon after that I moved to California, Orange County, California. Then my wife and I got involved locally with some Vineyard church and helped to plant a church out here in Tuscon. Never done that before. That was really interesting. My wife and I were doing children’s ministry and compassion ministry and that was ministry to the poor in the inner city serving families that lived in motels here in Orange County as well as senior home ministry and the homeless and all kind of stuff. We did that for about 3 and a half years and then we started feeling God calling us, our entire family, to plant a church and we thought that sounds great. We prayed about that and said “Okay God. We’ll do that.” Then after we said yes to that then the next thing we felt like God said was, “I want you to start a church that gives away everything to the poor of the community and doesn’t give a penny to rent, salary, televisions, all that stuff.” That was exciting to me. I couldn’t imagine, if someone asked me, tell me about your church and I said, “Yeah. I go to a church that gives away everything to help people in the community who are struggling financially and we don’t keep anything to ourselves.” That was exciting me and my wife and I thought that was great. We didn’t immediately know how to pull that off.
Keith: You can imagine! What we were thinking was, “I still need to eat and take care of my two little boys.”
Keith: So like how do I pay the, and Orange County by the way is second only to San Francisco as one of the most expensive places to live, so it’s not cheap, you know. Anyway as we just prayed about that, the answer that eventually came to us was that I would just get a job like everybody else.
Kurt You’d be a tentmaker.
Keith: Yeah. I’d be a tentmaker exactly. I’m a copywriter for an in-house marketing agency for what turns out to be the world’s largest global technology distributor on the planet. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of us, but if you have any kind of electronic device or even software in your possession, there’s a really great chance it came from us. Anyway, we have an in-house marketing agency and I’ve been doing that for about ten years.
Keith: We started the church. The other end of the equation was that’s how to pay the bills, but the other end of the equation was where are we going to meet and so we decided to meet in homes. That’s what we started doing, initially at our house. Now we’ve started rotating, different houses every weekend, with the people that end up coming with us or they just found us. Really. They just kind of found us. That’s what we do. We’ve done that for ten years. Every penny that comes into the offering goes to either help families that are living in these motels, there’s one particular motel we’ve adopted in Santa Anna. We’ve started doing ministry, right now the street from me is Angels Stadium. I can see the fireworks whenever they go off when there’s a game. I can look out my window and see them. It’s a great show. What’s also right next to in the shadow of Angel Stadium is what we’ve been calling City, which is, it looks like a shanty town, literally. There’s just probably I think the count was about 300 or so people that are homeless that are living in tents all up and down the river bed right in front of Angels Stadium so our church has started going out there just really relational. We’ll bring them batteries or socks, the kind of practical things they’ve asked for, but building relationship with them, getting to know them, hear their story, what they’re struggling with, what they’re going through, praying for them whenever we can, helping them to get out of a bad situation.
Kurt: Yeah. Yeah.
Keith: That’s kind of the primary things we’ve been doing for the last ten years so when I say I’m a former pastor who abandoned the pulpit to follow Jesus, that’s kind of what I mean. I think when I was serving in traditional churches like that, not that it was bad. I grew a lot. It was a very good experience for the most part, but I think somebody once told me that traditional church can sometimes be like a school that no one ever graduates from. You started going there when you were nine years old. Now you could be 90 and you’re still in the same class. You’re in the 101 class and you still come to the same class and every week and no one ever taps you on the shoulder and says, “You know what brother. I think you’re ready. I think you could start putting into practice some of the things you’ve learned.”
Kurt: One of your criticisms of the traditional model is that you just didn’t see people really growing in disciples. Would that be the concern in a nutshell?
Keith: Oh yeah. I think the church, traditional church, has done a wonderful job of making converts, but a really horrible job of making disciples. In other words, a disciple is someone who is not only following Jesus on a daily basis but are also helping others follow Jesus on a daily basis. Disciples make disciples who makes disciples who make disciples. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the traditional system, you have pastors who create people who follow them, depend on them, but haven’t done a great job of teaching them how to give it away and live it out and all that stuff. One of my favorite quotes is a guy named Fenelon, it’s a book called Let’s Go. He’s like a 17th century…
Kurt: I like those old guys .
Keith: Oh yes. That’s the rich stuff. His quote is, I’m paraphrasing him, but his quote is essentially this. These are letters he was writing to people he was discipling and he wrote a letter to one of those guys and he said, “If you stopped learning now you wouldn’t live long enough to put into practice everything you already know about Jesus.” I think that’s exactly where I was and I think that’s exactly where a lot of Christians find themselves today, that they already know so much information about Jesus, about God, about Christianity.
Kurt: They’re just not acting.
Keith: Yeah. When do I start walking this out? When do I start moving forward with Christ?
Kurt: Yeah. I saw someone, I think on Facebook had posted something about for people who do short-term mission trips overseas, if you’re not willing to tell people about Jesus here then why would you think you’d be willing to tell people about Jesus there or something like that. Basically, he was just admonishing that we need to be, that the whole world is where the harvest is to be had and we need to be doing that stuff here too. I’m sure of this stuff, your experience has led you to a number of thoughts that you’ve had on the relationship between Christianity and politics and so it’s led you to publish this book Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb which for those that are interested in checking out you can go to Jesusuntangled.com and the book’s on Amazon and other outlets as well. Keith. We’ve already got a caller. We’re not going to take the call quite yet though. I guess it’s someone that’s already familiar with your book. I’m seeing a description here so this person already has a question for you so caller Vance, thank you. We’ll keep you on the line here and in the second half of the show here we’ll bring you on because first we sort of want to introduce the listeners here to what the book is about so tell us a little bit about your concern. You’ve got some provocative chapter titles here and maybe we’ll just jump right into it. How does nationalism and perhaps you could describe what nationalism is to us, how does nationalism hinder the Gospel?
Keith: That is sort of the point of my book. I think nationalism hinders the Gospel in several ways. I think what I call entanglement with politics and nationalism and let me just say, everything I’m writing about in this book, everything I’m pointing out in this book, it came from my own personal experience. I look in the mirror and I said, “I’m someone who’s entangled.” I’m someone who frankly had a very hard time separating my faith from my politics, to the point where I didn’t know where one ended and the other began and so I recognized first in myself these struggles. Right? Here’s where I think nationalism can be a problem. I think that when we are more American than Christian and I think that’s part of the struggle for American Christians is that we’re more American than Christian and the problem is that you can’t convert a culture if that culture has already converted you. To use another kind of lame analogy, Neo cannot save anybody else from the Matrix until he first gets unplugged from the Matrix and then from outside the Matrix he can jack back in and can help people understand how to get out, but as long as he’s still in it, he can’t help people get out of it and I think part of what, let me just go straight to the heart of it I think. I get it. Most of my life, I would have responded to this message ten years ago, to my own book, if I had read this book ten years ago and not written it, I would have said, “Well what’s wrong with being patriotic? What’s wrong with being a nationalist? Why can’t I do both? Why can’t I do both? Right?” And I would agree with that idea if following Jesus and following politics or being patriotic were the same thing. If those two agendas were equal, in other words, if both Jesus and His kingdom and America and the American empire or the American government or country, if they’re both headed north, if they’re both going the same direction, well then of course I do both. I can just straddle the line, walk the fence, and I can do both because they’re both going in the same direction, but my conviction has become, I believe this is born out scripturally as well as how we see the church was in the 1st century, what I see is that the message of the Gospel is that Jesus is going a different direction. Jesus shows up on the scene and doesn’t say, “I see the direction you’re going. Let me just slap a cross on that and Christianize it and let’s keep going the way we’ve been doing,” but Jesus shows up and says, “You know what guys? That’s the wrong way. I have a different way. I have a plan, a kingdom, another agenda, another way to make the world a better place.” I believe Jesus is headed due north and I would say that the ways of the world, and I think that following nationalism and politics and all those kinds of things is heading south and I don’t think it’s possible for us to go north and south at the same time. If Jesus is heading a different direction, again if you try to go north and south at the same time you’re going to walk in circles or you’re going to be torn in half, again that’s my conviction and it comes out of something where I’ve seen it in my own life or I recognize that maybe I am more of an American than I am a follower of Jesus because there are differences. It’s not congruent as much as we might think it is, and I think there’s also, I don’t want to dominate because I know you have questions as well, but I want to make sure we get into the reasons why I think it matters, why that entanglement is dangerous. Go ahead if you have another question.
Kurt: Yeah. I would think at the very least I would agree with you to a degree that for some people, at least in terms of American Christianity, for some people, Americanism is the religion and even though they call themselves Christian and they may even go to church on Sundays it’s clear that their faith is not in Jesus but their faith is in country and if only their party were leading the way, then we would be saved. I think for some people, yeah.
Keith: In other words, it’s sort of like saying what we need right now, the rules are screwed up. Our nation is jacked up. You know what we need? A better politician. If we could just find the perfect politician that guy will fix everything, and I’m telling you man, I’m old enough, I’m 50, I voted straight ticket Republican from the minute I was old enough and eligible to vote my entire life and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result and that to me is insanity. I’ve lived long enough to say I’m looking at this thing and I understand that the heart of saying I want to be involved in politics is because I want to make my world, my society, my community, my neighborhood, I want to make it a better place, but I don’t think politics is really the best way to do that. Not only is that not the best way to do that, it is not the way that Jesus showed us to do that. He has something called the Gospel.
Kurt: It’s very relevant that you’ve brought this up because for those that are following the national conversation if you will, the Republican party has recently just tried to pass a new healthcare bill which the acronym is the ACHA and interestingly enough, for years the Republican party has talked about repealing Obamacare and a number of folks and those that have listened to the podcast long enough know where my positions lay. They know that, so my concern is that this bill doesn’t do that and so ultimately the bill didn’t have enough votes so it wasn’t put on the floor to be voted on because the party realized that it would lose, but it’s fascinating here Keith, you’ve talked about how you’ve voted one way your whole life and realized nothing’s changing. I get that impression as well so I’m sympathetic to that observation that if it’s our party we vote for it doesn’t seem that change really happens, but more importantly than that is that we need to be followers of Jesus and maybe that’s where we see the better change. Right? We want to change people’s hearts so that’s really what Jesus wants us to do. He doesn’t want us to vote a certain way. You can’t just be a Christian on Election Day. You’ve got to be a Christian on all those other days, so tell us a little bit more about your observation about how important it is that we change people’s hearts more so than the political status quo.
Keith: Yeah. Absolutely man. This is the thing. As I was going through my own journey and doing research and stuff for the book, what I realized is that Jesus is a smart guy and when He showed up and saw how screwed up things were and saw what a mess we’d done of things, what He gave us was the perfectly designed system, this perfectly designed virus that is designed to not only transform you and me to begin with, he makes of people who are like Him, who love like Him and serve like Him and think like Him and act like Him and that’s the goal. We’re supposed to be transformed into the image of Christ ourselves, but then that same Gospel is able to transform my family and my neighbors and my community and this is the way we change the world, and I promise you if politics could get their hands on something like that, they would trade with the church in a heartbeat. “You give us that and we’ll give you the power to pass laws!” You can create legislation and pass laws because that’s all they can do, but that doesn’t change anyone’s heart. I can pass any law I want. I can pass a law as simple as something that says everyone must go and buy a dog, and everyone would go out and buy dogs, but you’re not turning people into dog lovers. They may still hate that dog, but they got a dog one way or the other, but you’ve not made people into dog lovers or whatever, but the Gospel has the power and the ability to transform us and our world into people who are more like Jesus. That is His plan and my concern, my fear is that when we get entangled, just like you said Kurt, when we get entangled with our politics we start to feel like you said. If I just vote a certain way and stand for certain political ideologies or platforms or campaign things then I’ve accomplished something that Jesus called me to do, I’ve done my part, when we’ve really done nothing. I’ve done many interviews and had many conversations about the book with people and it seems like this happens all the time. What I’m saying is to Christians and again my audience is Christians. I’m saying to Christians, “You know what? We need to focus ourselves not on politics, but on living out the Gospel, preaching the Gospel, being followers of Jesus, and going all in with Jesus and His power and ability to transform the culture, us and the culture around us.” When I say that, inevitably the response I get is, “Keith. You’re saying that we should do nothing. You’re saying we should disengage from the culture. You’re saying we’re just going to sit back, to quote a famous quote, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. You’re saying do nothing.” Well no. I’m not saying do nothing, but that’s what they’re hearing. Why aren’t they hearing what I say, “Don’t become entangled with politics.” What they hear is me saying then do nothing. The reason they hear that is because if I take away politics, they’ve got nothing. Here’s a great example. You know people like this and I know people like this. There are Christians and I know them and I used to be one of them who would at the drop of a hat enter a two-hour argument with a total stranger about politics, but that same person would absolutely never enter a five-minute conversation with that same person about Jesus.
Keith: That is our problem. We’re more passionate about our politics than we are about Jesus and about the Gospel of the Kingdom so I am not, please hear me, I am not advocating that Christians disengage from the culture because there’s no possible way to follow Jesus and live out the Gospel without engaging the culture. That is exactly what we’re called to do and not only that, by engaging the culture as followers of Jesus, by living out and sharing the Gospel with people, it will have an effect. There’s the promised effect that will not return void, that it will bear fruit, that apart from Jesus we can do nothing, but with Him we can have this transformational impact on the whole world, this little seed that seems like nothing. That’s part of our problem. It seems like nothing. It’s so powerless, compared to the Oval Office or a congressional authority or the Supreme Court. The Gospel just seems nothing compared to that, but I’m telling you, Christians need to go back and have faith once again in the absolute nuclear ginormous power and ability of that Gospel to transform people from inside out, so again I think another way to say it, another way to express what I’m trying to say is this. I’m concerned that Christians in America are not loyal enough to their leader. I think Christians in America are not patriotic enough about their holy nation, because according to the New Testament, our leader is Jesus and the only holy nation on this planet is the body of Christ around the world and so we need to be more passionate about following our leader who’s Jesus and more passionate about our nation, which is the Kingdom of God, which by the way transcends every national border and covers the planet. That’s who we need to have authority. That’s what we need to go back to and I call people into. When I say crucify our politics it’s so we can pledge allegiance to the lamb of God who is the King of Kings.
Kurt: Keith. We’ve got to cut to a break, but when we return I’ve got some more questions for you on some of the same things here and I’d be interested to see how that maybe fits with some things that you said in your book so hopefully we’ll be able to flesh that out after a break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking us through that short break from our sponsors. If you want to learn more about how you can become a sponsor for our show, you can go to test.veracityhill.com and click that patron tab and you can read more about how you can become a sponsor or just a regular supporter of this show. Before we get back into today’s discussion on nationalism with Keith Giles, we’ve got a fun segment of the show, we started a couple of weeks ago, I think this is week four of doing this and so we’re talking about memes.
Kurt: We could’ve had that clip a bit shorter, but for Chris’s sake we decided to make it a little bit longer for ya. Instead of a 5 second clip it’s like 12 or 15, whatever it is. At any rate, what do you meme? That is the name of this segment and we’ve got three memes that we’re looking at here just quickly today. The first one up we have is on Islam and Chris is running livestream, has got these posted for you, and we’ll throw these up on the web site as well if you’re just listening on the podcast right now so go to the web site, Veracityhill.com, and you can see these images. Here we’ve got this meme, “We will punish those who criticize Islam.” It’s a clearly a Muslim who’s saying that, a Muslim leader, and here we’ve got “We will punish those who criticize Islam,” and it’s the Prime Minister of Canada. Interesting here. These are all listener-submitted. I think what the person who submitted this meme, what they’re wanting to point out here is that it seems that even in the free countries there are laws being proposed to limit free speech and to punish people that want to criticize Islam and this person that submitted this one even gave a link to the parliament of Canada with the text of the motion here which is fascinating. I’ll link that at the web site. Maybe we should be concerned about free speech being limited, but, and I’m sure when we bring Keith back on here he’ll talk about how, look, there are Christians in Muslim countries and we’re still called to be followers of Jesus, so ultimately that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to be a disciple of Jesus no matter where we’re at, but yes to the person that submitted this. I would say, yeah, I’m still concerned in engaging with culture and politics, I’m concerned that we would have certain freedoms limited and so I think, and I’m sure we’ll talk with Keith here momentarily about this, I think we should be concerned about that, but not at the expense of following Jesus.
#2 here we’ve got the vote. One simply does not vote to pull out. This meme was submitted by someone who made this. He told me regarding Brexit this summer when Great Britain voted to leave the EU and it’s a bit more complex than your voting and then he said, “How relevant is this today given the health care stuff this week in Congress?” It’s not so easy perhaps than we think it might be. Yeah. That’s true. Sometimes things are harder than we expect and voting is in some ways a formality. There are a lot of logistics that are required. That’s quite right. But nevertheless I think voting is still important and again, we’re going to have Keith chime in on these here after this segment. There are logistics we need to consider, but I still think we need to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing.
#3. Lastly we had this one submitted. Funny enough, even though we request submissions, we had a number of folks just send humorous ones, just funny ha ha, which is great. Here’s one of those. This is a picture of a baby and it says, “Life has never given me lemons. It’s given me anger issues, anxiety, serious love of alcohol, and a dislike of stupid people.” There. That’s what it says. And a dislike of stupid people. It’s a humorous one with the baby having those issues. It’s a play off of that phrase if life gives you lemons, make some lemonade. This person’s been given a lot verse. Which, look, if I’m going to take this meme seriously, yeah, that’s true. It’s a testament to the fall that some people are given bad hands if you will and I think that the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus reaches everyone in any life circumstance whether they’re suffering or whether they’re the elite of the society. Jesus’s message is for you and so that’s it for the memes and of course, Chris just for you, we’ll play it out as well.
Kurt: Alright. Back to today’s topic. We’ll talking about nationalism. Has patriotism gone too far? Keith. Thanks for joining us back here on the show today. Perhaps you were listening in on the memes there. What were your thoughts on some of those?
Keith: A couple of thoughts. I didn’t understand completely the first one about the Muslim thing. Was it just sort of like, remind me again.
Kurt: It was an image of a Muslim leader and the Prime Minister of Canada and each one had there that if you criticize Islam we’ll punish you. I think the concern is that free speech is being infringed upon from people being able to publicly criticize Islam.
Keith: Right. I don’t know. I look at it again from the standpoint of, for me, I look at it now more than ever as when I say we, what do I mean? When I say we what I mean now only is the body of Christ. What I used to mean when I said we, I meant America or when I said we I meant maybe my denomination or whatever, but now when I say we, I just mean, me and my brothers and sisters in the church. I think this we and them, the book talks about this, the tribalism, a tribal mentality. I don’t think we, and when I say we I mean the body of Christ, I don’t think Christians need to criticize Islam. I don’t think we’re called to criticize Islam. I think we’re called to love everyone whether they’re Buddhists or Muslim or whatever, but this tribalism, this politics in the church, is dangerous because it creates an us/them within the body of Christ, so now brothers and sisters in the same church, in the same family of God, see each other as us or them and creates this division right. The thing about this tribalism and the thing about this us/them mentality I’ve also noticed is that it’s really easy to talk about this group of people in a very broad way and say all liberals are stupid and all Muslims…and all gay people, the truth is I can only say that if I’ve never met anybody and I don’t have a friend who I can say their name and I’ve been their house and I know their kids’ name. Once I have an actual human being that I can connect to that group, then I can’t tolerate any more saying all….
Kurt: Stereotypes. Using these labels.
Keith: Right. You haven’t met my friends. These people are the most hard-working people I’ve ever met, or whatever, so that’s partly why I think this tribalism mentality, this us/them mentality is dangerous in general, but it’s really dangerous in the church.
Kurt: In terms of discriminating and I use that term broadly just as demarcating, you would say that we could still say, have debates with Muslims, like a form of civil debate or give, say if I wanted to write a magazine article about why I thought Islam was even a false religion. That would be okay. Right?
Keith: It might be okay. I’m not sure how productive it would be. It depends on what your goal is. I don’t think an article like that, a Muslim would read that and say, “Oh good. I think I’m going to be a Christian now.”
Kurt: Maybe if it was written in the right way where you are trying to appeal to that audience. You would talk about having a criteria for why we should believe certain positions.
Keith: Can I suggest something, and my book doesn’t talk about this but since we’re on this issue I just wanted real quick to say that, because again I’ve had Muslim students who come to UCI and other universities here, I have this in our church. They’ve been to our church and I’ve had lunch with them and dinner with them and hung with them and something that I learned about talking to Muslims is rather than talking about how we’re right and they’re wrong. I think if we make it about which of us is right and which of us is wrong, we’re not going to get very far, but here’s something that blew my mind which is amazing, which I think most Christians don’t know, I did not know this. Muhammad is only mentioned by name four times in the Qur’an but that Jesus is mentioned 25 times. They call him Isa, and the Qur’an, Here are things that Qur’an teaches about Jesus.
Kurt: He works more miracles than Muhammad.
Keith: Yes. Exactly. I think, man, you know what I mean. Can you imagine if I told you, “There’s this guy over here and he’s not a Christian, but here’s some things he believes about Jesus. He believes in the virgin birth. He believes Jesus is the Word of God. He believes Jesus is the Spirit of God. He believes Jesus is the Messiah. He believes Jesus created life. He believes Jesus cured people. He believes that Jesus gives life to people who are dead, He can resurrect them. He believes that Jesus is alive today, is in Heaven, and that Jesus is coming again to judge the world.” He’s not a Christian, but he believes all those things. How would you go and talk to him? I hope you wouldn’t walk over there and point out all the ways he’s wrong. I hope you’d walk over to him and say, “Man. We have a lot in common. Let’s talk about Jesus.”
Kurt: Sure. Yeah. And that’s one method.
Kevin: If we adopted that as a tactic, that’s a better tactic I think. It gives you more hope of making some progress if we focus on what we have in common because let me tell you, we have way more in common at that level about Jesus than we do with Jewish people. Jewish people don’t accept any of those things about Jesus.
Kurt: It may just depend on one’s audience though. If there’s a Muslim at the lunch table, that’s probably a better method, but the format might vary and I think at least as it concerns this meme talking about discrimination, it would be publicly, if there’s a public forum, there’s concern there. We’ve got to move along and we’ve had this caller patiently waiting and so let’s see. He wants to comment on the current concerning state of Christian entanglement in politics so Bob, thanks for calling in the show today. What’s your comment?
Bob: First of all, thanks for assuming that I’ve been patient. That’s very polite of you. My comment is there’s no avoiding the entanglement. I’ve been around for an awful lot of this. I grew up in the church, got away from the church, came back in in my early 30’s and spent 35 years just up to my eyebrows in the evangelical movement. By the way, both times that I left the church. The first time I left the church I was 15 years old and a funny talking Catholic guy from Massachusetts ran for president and my Baptist church prayed against him not because they disagreed with him politically, but because he was a Catholic.
Kurt: You’re talking about JFK of course.
Bob: I’m a 15 year-old south Missouri kid. I didn’t know what bigot mean, but I sensed the…I was completely turned off by it and that no doubt, the other occasion being a 15 year-old, I got away from the church. I waited…32 years old so I was away a long time and then I had a really profound experience, personal experience, that brought me and the only thing I knew as a response to that experience by the way was to get back into church because I knew God had done something in my life, had made a change, and my only venue for that was to get back to the institutional church so I did that and about ten years ago my wife who is a quiet spoken, not aggressive individual whose Dad raised her on the very conservative side started saying we can’t buy into where the evangelical church stood politically any more. I would correct her and say you can’t talk her way. You’re daddy’s daughter. But as we stood back and looked, and this is not a Republican/Democrat thing. I don’t meant that at all. I just meant what I saw spiritually, what was happening, and in 08 I would go to morning prayer meetings in my church and I heard exactly the same spirit there that I heard when I was 15 years old and so I have been called a gremlin, called…., called whatever you want to. I have left the institutional church twice in my life. In reality because of politics and I’m not political. I’m a registered independent. I do vote, but I absolutely vote for the moral or the concept. I don’t vote the party line. I never have. I’m not deeply political. I want to know how we can untangle because the two because we live and Jesus said abide till I come. What does that mean? Does that mean to be involved in where we are or does it mean spiritualize where we are and not look at the realities of where we are? Hi, Keith. We’ve been facebook friends a long time. Good to hear your voice.
Keith: Hey man.
Kurt: Keith. I’ll let you take Bob’s comment first.
Keith: Yeah. I would say first of all, I want to acknowledge his comment, his pessimism that we can’t avoid it. I understand on one level maybe locally where you live you can’t find a church that doesn’t have one side or other of the coin, one party or the other political conversation, and I think it’s true probably across America which is again why I wrote the book, but I would say it is possible. I think though it’s going to take individual Christians holding firm to the idea that we don’t want, when we come together as the body of Christ, what we don’t want is politics. We want Jesus. This is one of the reasons why I think that this issue is so important. I would also say if you haven’t read my book, Bob, please read my book. I think this is why this is so important. That’s why I wrote the book. But he’s exactly right. There is especially something called the Nones and the Dones and I don’t know Kurt if you’ve addressed this on your show, but there’s a trend happening in the church in America right now and they’re called the Dones where it’s a younger generation of people who have said they’re done. They grew up in the church. They may have leadership in the church, but they’re checking out of evangelical Christian church and one of the main reasons that they give is that they’re tired of hearing sermons about everything about Jesus. They’re hearing sermons about politics or about political issues. It’s more about what we’re against than who we’re for and we’re losing thousands and even millions of a younger generation of people and so let me tell you, we need to prioritize this issue of entanglement or we’re going to lose an entire generation. The church is getting older and that means the younger people are checking out and it’s not because they don’t want Jesus. They desperately want Jesus. Two years ago before I wrote the book, I started a group on meetup called Jesus Without Religion and Politics. I was running two meetings concurrently, two meetings a week, with people who just wanted, they were like, “Yes. I want Jesus. I don’t want denominational baggage. I don’t want arguments about who’s right and who’s wrong on this issue. I don’t want to hear about the political stuff. Can I just get with other people who just want to focus on Jesus?” There is a hunger and desire for people. That is exactly what they want. Yes. There are a lot of churches who haven’t realized what they’re doing yet. They’re sort of tone deaf about the fact that they are turning people away. They’re attracting lots of people that agree with them on those issues, but the problem is those are a lot of older people who seem to care about those things much more than a younger generation does.
Kurt: Yeah. Yeah. I might have a slightly different take on analyzing the statistics, but certainly I think, Keith you’re right, there is a trend for some people out there and I think those people definitely need to be reached and we need to ask what is the way to reach them. Now Bob if I may to your comment, I would say that maybe it’s the case we should hold our view of politics loosely, but I still think we need to have some engagement. I still think we should vote with conviction regarding how we think Jesus taught on a number of ethical issues, but maybe the way that’s done in traditional church isn’t all that appealing. Maybe it’s the style. Maybe for example instead of from the pulpit, that could be left towards an educational like class for an open discussion.
Bob: Can you hear me?
Kurt: Yeah. Go ahead Bob.
Bob: I’m a 72 year-old. I’ll be 72 years old next week and I’m a …. and it’s very accurate what you said, up until about a year ago I said five years every Monday night one of the most popular bars in Kansas City, meeting with people in the age racket you’re talking about and teaching is exactly right. Nobody’s giving up on Jesus here. Our motto, we started a blog 5 and a half years ago. We decided to make it sound religious so we sort of did a little Latin thing on it. You can take that apart. What they’re against is, for lack of a better term, is the BS, and I don’t think we need to hold our politics loosely. I think we absolutely need to be involved in our community, but I think we can do when this election came around, I made the decision, and…blog with some pretty strong folks and I made a decision to step back and not directly address politics by name and I have some awfully strong beliefs about what happened in the last year or two, but I decided that if I did that, I would initiate a wall being built that would not allow me to interact with people on a thoughtful basis. We have a tendency for our eyes to glaze over when somebody directly speaks against something that we believe in and we have a passion about and interestingly enough I don’t think Jesus ever did that. I don’t read any of the red letters that show Jesus getting in somebody’s face, you’re this or that, except of course the most religious, and he had no tolerance for them at all. But what I see him doing is interacting with people on their own level. Accuser a blog post I wrote on Samaritan say, I mean we don’t know the religious background. We don’t know if he’s praying a sinner’s prayer. We know he was Jewishly unacceptable. He was religiously unacceptable. We don’t even know his name. Was he saved? We’re looking at all these people. I love what Keith said earlier about and I didn’t know that either, but I look at the Muslim friends that I have and frankly I’ll look at the agnostic friends that I have and I see greater, consistently greater examples of the red letter Jesus that I’ve grown to love over all of my many decades of life. I can see consistently more there than I do in the decades I’ve spent in church. I’m sorry about that, but it’s a fact.
Kurt: Sure. Yeah. Many of us have different experiences and my own experience has been that I actually like to talk about politics with people and I think that it helps when people talk about that because it’s typically taboo, but when people can talk about politics in a civil way, I think that can be beneficial and can help relationships, because I’m friends with, there are people at my church on the opposite end of the spectrum and I don’t just mean Democrat or Republican, I mean federalist or anti-federalist or socialist or capitalist, so I’m friends with people that hold very different perspectives from me, and I think even talking about the issues helps our relationship. It’s a good way of relating to one another. Bob. We’ve got to cut you off here because the show is coming to a close, but thanks so much for calling in to the show today.
Bob: One more very short…
Kurt: Yeah Bob. Go ahead if you can keep it short.
Bob: I have found that it’s absolutely amazing how many of these things you can speak of not ever saying anything political. Just quoting the words of Jesus. It’s absolutely astounding, and you provoke people to faith not inside the political box but inside the greater worldview box. That in my opinion is worldview changing. Keith. Good to hear your voice. Kurt. Thanks for having me on.
Kurt: Of course. Thanks for calling in.
Keith: God bless you.
Kurt: so Keith, for what Bob’s talking about there in terms of having, using the words of Jesus, that does a great good in reaching people and it goes beyond the political issues so I think ultimately that that’s right, but Keith, what would you say, for example, Jesus did interact with the Pharisees. In his day while it was not the perfect perspective, I mean Jesus was in a theocratic society. In that sense, it was tied, the religious beliefs with the legal doctrine, the law, so what would say then in terms of how Jesus interacts with, Jesus goes into the temple and He brings about a sort of political justice. How would you say then in terms of how Jesus interacted with politics and how He in some instances at least, we see He transcends the political discourse, like the coin instance where someone shows him the face of Caesar. Right? He sort of transcends that debate, but in other debates, He seems to get entangled with politics. How would you understand those types of events in His life?
Keith: I think, again, I think if our focus, if our 100% focus is on Jesus and following Him, then yes, we might now and again, bump up against something that might…
Kurt: Calls our attention
Keith: Be called political. Yeah. Exactly. But that’s not our focus and not our goal.
Kurt: Can I expand? Correct me if I’m wrong. You would say getting involved in some issue from time to time might be an outworking of our Christian convictions as we become faithful disciples of Christ, but that the moment we begin to put our hope in politics that a solution, for example, the pro-life issue, the abortion issue. If we think that getting to overturn Roe v. Wade would all of a sudden do the trick, we are totally mistaken because there are still going to be women, vulnerable women out there, that want to get rid of the human being inside of them and we need to reach those people. Have I correctly understood your position?
Keith: That would be exactly right and I talk about it in the book, the fact that I think it was in the 20’s, in America, the church, there was a movement of Christians that actually did drastically reduce the abortion rate in America which at the time per capita was worse than what we have now. They actually were able to reverse that and to drastically reduce the abortion rate in America and the way they did it was by loving women who were unwed mothers, coming alongside them, helping them keep their baby, adopting their baby, watching their baby while they went and finished their education and got a job and took care of the child and at the same time by the way holding the men accountable who were knocking these girls up and not being responsible, opening orphanages, those kinds of things, and by doing that, and again by sharing the Gospel and just being salt and light in the community, the abortion rate in America was drastically reduced and it wasn’t because somebody voted on something or passed a bill, because as you said, even if we could, and I don’t think we can, but even if we could overcome Roe v. Wade, we would not stop abortions from happening in America because that wouldn’t change anyone’s heart.
Kurt: Interesting. Well we’ve got to come to a close here Keith but let me say this. I’m really glad I brought you on the show today. Some of the stuff I read brought some concerns to me and I could see that maybe the way some phrases were said were for emphasis, but in talking to you and clearing these things up I see that we’re closer than I thought we were so I think that’s a good thing. That’s always nice.
Keith: Yeah. I agree.
Kurt: Awesome. Keith. Again, thanks for coming on the show and if you want to check out Keith’s book it’s Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb. People following on the livestream can check it out there. You can go to Jesusuntangled.com and you can find the various outlooks where you can purchase the book. Keith. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Keith: Thank you Kurt for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Kurt: You got it. God bless you.
Keith: God bless you too man.
Kurt: Alright. We’ve got one question here from the mailbag so let me quickly play that clip.
Kurt: I like how that guy says “aah” right at the end. It’s like he’s just breathing a sigh of relief that that music just makes him feel so good.
Chris: Yeah. It’s like he’s shaking a beverage, anything but a Dr. Pepper almost.
Kurt: Oh. Anything but a Dr. Pepper… So here we have David. He submitted a question for us this week and if you want to submit a question for our mailbag segment, you can send me an email. Kurt@veracityhill.com. You can even text it to me if you’d like. Just text the word Veracity to 555-888. So here’s David’s question. He says, “How is it that the Kalam Cosmological Argument is not the God of the gaps position?” The Kalam Cosmological Argument or other cosmological arguments look to the origin of the universe as evidence for God’s existence and the God of the gaps position is that we just don’t know something and therefore God must have done it. To David here, I would say the cosmological argument looks at the evidence. It looks at what we can observe from the universe and it makes certain inferences which lead us to the conclusion that it was God so we have evidence and we have rational thinking in the form of either abductive or deductive arguments where we make an inference based upon the evidence so for example, in terms of the cosmological argument, we’re looking at the entire universe and we’re asking ourselves what could possibly have existed before time, before space, and before matter to have created these things at the beginning. Right? At the singularity with the Big Bang. There must have been something to get that process going and so you give me a list of things that can be non-spatial, non-temporal, and non-materialistic and I think at that point we’re talking about God. We’re talking about the creator of the universe. Now of course that doesn’t assure the position of Christianity, but I think it gets us one step closer because you can reject Christianity and still believe that God exists, but I think that there’s good evidence for thinking that Christianity is true, and of course you wouldn’t think Christianity were true if you already reject the existence of God. At any rate, that’s how I would say the Kalam or any general cosmological arguments of which there are a variety is not the same as the God of the Gaps. It’s not the same as saying “We just don’t know how this works, therefore it must have been God”, because we’re making a deduction about some agent that started the process and is outside of time, space, and matter, and I think there are only so few things we can think of that would qualify. In fact I think there’s only really one that fits the bill on this because we’re talking about the edge of the boundaries of the space-time continuum. One analogy I had in a Facebook discussion was it’s like playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Chris. You’ll appreciate this, which is an open world concept, but look. There are still boundaries. You can only go so far in the game and that’s what we’re dealing with when we’re dealing with the space-time continuum. We are dealing with the edge and when you’re dealing at the edge, what’s beyond it? Whatever is beyond it is not part of space, time, or doesn’t have matter and I think at that point we are talking about the divine.
Thank you for submitting that question David and again for those that want to send a question my way, I love to play that little jingle, so just email me, Kurt@veracityhill.com. If you’re Facebook friends with me I’ll even take your questions that way as well. That does it for the show today. I am grateful for the continued support of our patrons. Those are folks that just chip in a couple bucks each month to help us run and I’m also very thankful for the partnerships that we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0, and Traffic Buffet. Thank you to the tech team today. Chris. You were stellar at what you did and I very much appreciate having you back giving your off week last week so thank you for that and a special thanks to our guest Keith Giles, author of Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb. Thank you for coming on the show today and having that conversation with me about nationalism. Thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.