Tom: Thanks, Gary. On this program and next week, the subject is “Politics as Religion.” My guest to discuss this – really, a growing development within Christendom – is J. B. Hixson. J. B. is an author, Bible teacher, and radio host. His ministry is Not By Works and can be found at www.notbyworks.org. You can go to his website to order his book Getting the Gospel Wrong: The Evangelical Crisis No One Is Talking About, an important book.
J. B., thanks for joining me again on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
J. B.: Hey, my pleasure, Tom. Thanks for having me!
Tom: J. B., let’s start with a general overview of our topic “Politics as Religion.” You know, that title could have different meanings to our listeners, so let’s define what we plan to talk about, and what do we mean by “Politics as Religion,” or to say it in another way, “Politics as an Essential Part of One’s Religion”?
J. B.: Well, it really is an interesting phrase. I love the title there, “Politics as Religion.” What we are seeing today is that God is sort of being cast as the Republican and even as an American. And when I speak at different conferences, that’s one of the first things I do is remind people, “God is not a Republican, and God’s not an American.” And it’s funny. Even just saying those two simple things, the reaction that I get is a raised eyebrow at a minimum and sometimes some boos! But that’s the reality is that our God is the eternal Creator of the Universe. He spoke the world into existence. In the grand scheme of things, the United States of America is only 242 years old. And God is doing a lot more in the world than just what we see in Washington, DC, or what we see even in our local politics.
What I mean by “Politics as Religion” is just trying to encourage people to see through the lens of the Scriptures rather than through the lens of some kind of a right-left, Republican-Democrat paradigm, even though the issues that sometimes those paradigms are involved with are important issues. We need to remember that the Scripture is the ultimate standard for our beliefs, attitudes, and practices.
Tom: Right. The thing that concerns me is that oftentimes it’s not just – call it the doctrine, or the teaching, or the view. Sometimes it falls back on a leader – on somebody who’s prominent and somebody . . . so they rally behind an individual, and, more often than not, they lose sight of – wait a minute, let’s be a Berean here. Let’s check out what he’s saying, what he’s doing. We may agree with some of the aspects of it, but are we following this guy? Is this guy leading us according to the Scripture, or is he scriptural? These are problems.
J. B.: Absolutely! Yeah, we tend to assume that if it’s Republican it’s Christian, and if it’s not Republican it’s not Christian; or if it’s Fox News it’s Christian; if it’s not Fox News it’s not Christian.
J. B.: It’s really a symptom of a bigger problem, and I think that’s one of the things we’re going to touch on later in the program is just this lack of discernment and this idea that people enjoy being spoon fed, so they like to get their issues and sound bites from some of the talking heads rather than really doing the research themselves.
Tom: Right. You know, one of the seductive aspects of mixing politics with Christianity is that there are often views that political parties promote with which Christians agree, which is pretty much what you just said. And while that may include Christians who are mostly conservative in their politics, it doesn’t leave out those who are liberal in their politics.
You know, I think about what’s called “Progressive Christianity,” which is really left-wing liberal beliefs, and the idea seems to be, “Let’s get our beliefs, our agenda, into society through political action.” Well, what are some of the problems with that?
J. B.: Well, I think right off the bat the biggest problem is that it comes at a cost. Most politicians are going to promote anything they can to get the votes, and so, they would happily appeal to the sort of a Christian evangelical wing to try to get votes when they don't really believe, a lot of times, the things that they’re saying.
But another problem with that idea of trying to get our beliefs or agenda in place through political action is just . . . ultimately, you can’t legislate morality.
J. B.: The Apostle Paul was pretty clear that the Law is powerless to change the heart. I’ve never seen a stop sign uproot itself from the side of the road and force a car to stop. So, laws and legislation have their place, and we do need laws, obviously, but at the end of the day it’s about a change of heart, and I think sometimes, whether we realize it or not, by jumping on the bandwagon of the so-called right-wing conservative movement, we are unwittingly subcontracting this idea of trying to change the world to a pagan institution.
Tom: Right. Along that line, I know some who are listening and they might be on the edge of their seat: “Well, wait a minute! Don’t these guys understand that we are citizens of this earth? We have a dual citizenship.” I want to talk about that, because that’s important; and, folks, if you’re getting the idea as we go through this that we’re anti-government or something along that line, hopefully you’re missing the point of what we’re saying or what we’re going to say.
So, we do have a dual citizenship: heaven and this earth. But what about living up to our responsibilities as, well, what we would call our earthly duties? What do we have to say about that?
J. B.: Well, first of all, I think that we need to remember that our heavenly citizenship comes first.
J. B.: That’s the priority, you know. Paul said in Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” He said in Colossians 3, “Set your mind on things above,” you know. We have an obligation to serve the Lord first and foremost, and, again, in the grand scheme of human history, the United States of America, it’s fairly novel. And, by the way, if you understand biblical prophecy the way I do, there’s no guarantee the United States of America will be around when the eschatological events kick off with the Rapture.
I’ve often reminded people, “Has it ever occurred to you that you might be raptured as a Chinese citizen or a Russian citizen?” I don’t think that’s likely, just looking at the signs of the times around us, but theologically, it’s certainly possible. And it’s just a way to remind us to take off those red, white, and blue glasses and put on biblical glasses.
But back to your question, you know, yes, obviously every human being, 7.5 billion people on the earth, has a responsibility to serve and to live out their Christian life if they know the Lord in whatever country they’re living in. And in the United States, that life comes with some unique blessings and some unique challenges. But what we’re saying is you have to separate this right/left, Republican/Democrat paradigm from religion, from what the Bible says, and recognize that that’s not the answer to all our problems.
Let me give you an example, Tom. If the Republicans were somehow God’s sanctioned or ordained party, then all we would need to do to really change the world is to find ourselves in a situation where the Republicans control the White House, the Senate, and the Congress, and where the Republicans have appointed a majority of Supreme Court justices. And, boy, if we could ever do that, it would be game over, right?
Well, guess what? There have been many times when that’s the case. The Gingrich Revolution, the Tea Party Revolution – until this last election, we were living in a situation where both houses of congress were controlled by the Republicans, and we had a Republican in the White House. And yet, Roe v. Wade is still in place. We’ve got gay marriage, thanks to a Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justice. We got Obamacare, thanks to a Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justice.
So, we need to understand that things are not always as they appear, even though there are some godly men and women who serve in, frankly, in both parties and truly are attempting to make a difference in this world with a biblical worldview in politics, it would be a vast overstatement to just assume anything with an R after its name is somehow godly.
Tom: Right. The thing I think about as you went through that, there are things that we need to do. For example, it’s our responsibility to vote. Some of the things that take place, if not just for ourselves (laughing) – I’m elderly, okay? But I think about my kids and my grandkids – what are they going to have to deal with? And if we have, as you said, not many countries have what we have, so we do have a responsibility to vote. But I think back to some of the things you mentioned: running an individual for president. I think back of the push behind Pat Robertson through the Moral Majority and the Christian Right. Boy, that was bad news.
J. B.: Right.
Tom: Or even before that, we had Carter claiming to be a born-again Christian, and then bringing many over to the Democratic side, and so on, and boy, what a disaster that was, in my view, okay?
J. B.: Yeah.
Tom: But what I’m getting at here is we still have a responsibility. I think, personally – you may not agree with me, but I don’t know how a true committed born-again Christian can be the president of the United States. It’s a pluralistic society. He has to cover so many different things that were contrary to what the Scriptures say.
Or you think back to the Surgeon General, who was a Christian, and then he had to fall in line with the whole condom thing. It’s problematic, and so on.
J. B.: Yeah, that’s what we were saying a moment ago, that when you try to get your beliefs or agenda into society through political action, it comes at a cost. There always has to be compromise.
J. B.: But you’re right. It goes to the ’70s with groups like the Moral Majority and other political action groups, and they have become a powerful lobby in DC. And I’m sad to say, but having researched this and talked to some people on the inside, not all of the leaders of those so-called evangelical blocs are truly biblical conservatives! And there have been a lot of exposés written about them. I think when you sort of get down into the muck and the mire you end up getting dirty yourselves.
But I would agree, in America, and any country where you have the right to vote, you should get out and vote, particularly at the local level – that’s where you can really make a difference. On the school boards, on town commissions, mayors, even, local sheriffs – those are vitally important because the tentacles of the Federal overreach don’t always come that far, at least not yet.
J. B.: I think a case can be made at the national level, even though philosophically we all still believe we have a duty to vote, ever since the introduction of the digital voting and the digital vote tabulation, it’s a real open question as to how much your vote really matters. If you watch documentaries – extremely well-researched documentaries, such as Hacking Democracy, or Black Box Voting, or even listen to some of the congressional hearings that have been held on this matter on C-Span, there are some real issues. An 18-year-old computer whiz can be paid $100,000 by a rogue group to strike a few keys on his keyboard in a cubical in Cleveland and literally change the outcome of the results of an election in California. So, the digital . . . I mean, if we can digitally hack into NSA email servers, if you don’t think we can hack into voting tabulation machines, then you’re pretty naïve.
So, people say all the time, “Well, you’ve got to get out and vote.” Well, I’m not sure at the presidential level how much of that – not to sound like a conspiracy guy, but how much of that really matters. You know, in Iran, they have elections, and amazingly, Ahmadinejad used to win every time. So, does that mean that if you’re a Christian in Iran that you have a moral duty to vote? Not if you realize that the voting is rigged and it’s all a farce, I don’t think there’s a moral obligation in that case. Does that make sense?
Tom: It does, but I’d like to go back to what you said regarding the local level.
J. B.: Yeah.
Tom: Again, we have our children, who have their children in schools. So for somebody to get on the school board, I think it’s important, especially with some of the rules and regulations we see coming out of the schools, you know, you can’t bring your Bible, you can’t talk about Jesus, whatever it might be. Not that that’s going to solve every problem, but if a parent has no choice, he has to have . . . he can’t homeschool – whatever it might be – but he has to have his child in the school system, well, we need a voice there – a voice to bring it back to – not just biblical sense, which is critical, but common sense. I mean, we’ve seen that we’ve lost that part in major ways.
J. B.: Yeah, I have six . . . my wife and I have six children. One of our older children just got married, and no grandchildren yet, but likewise, we share some of those concerns. And the landscape is pretty discouraging when you look at what all is going on out there in the United States and in the world at large, and maybe your listeners have already picked up on sort of a tone of negativity, but I want to say that I’m not ready to give up the fight.
J. B.: I mean, until Jesus comes, we have an obligation to really fight hard, to spread the gospel, to try to make a difference – even though there are many problems in our country, it’s still the best country in the world, and we can make a difference in little ways, and one of those little ways is to get involved in local politics.
Now, for us, we’ve chosen to homeschool our children all the way through. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care about local school boards, because we serve in churches with people who do put their children in public schools and we want to have some positive voices in there. And you can do that better with some biblical leadership on the school boards than without it.
Tom: J. B., it’s important for us to lay this out front, with regard to what we’re going to address through this. So, it’s important, yes. Folks, we’re just saying we do have a responsibility, and we’re not going to give up the fight here, especially where maybe our children or our grandchildren are involved.
But now, let’s move onto kind of what, I know, from the discussions that we’ve had, where your heart and my heart is in this, and that is our great concern that many Christians seem to be putting their hope in man – that is, the means of man to bring about the righteousness of God. What are we talking about here?
J. B.: Yeah, I can think of two recent examples where, you know, I was involved in some pretty heated discussions, and some good Q&As at conferences where I spoke, and that was the last two presidential elections. The mantra seems to be, among many Christians, that, “Well, I’ve only got two options, so I have to vote for ‘the lesser of two evils.’” And, I’ll just be honest. I don’t buy that principle at all. I believe when both options are evil, you should choose neither. And people say, “Well, then you’re just casting a vote for the more evil person.” And they feel like you’re sort of forced into one of these two options.
But we put out a DVD some time ago called, “One Nation under God,” in which I used the example of David in Scripture. Here’s a guy who became a leader of Israel, and he was the last guy you would expect to be chosen. In fact, when Samuel was going down the line, he thought he had chosen all the candidates, and then they said, “Wait a minute! No, there’s one more guy.” You know, he’s the least likely guy, but he’s God’s man, because he’s a man after God’s own heart.
And, so, I believe that if Christians would vote through the lens of Scripture instead of being forced into one of two options, it would be amazing to see what God could do. Now, I know from a human perspective it seems like a long shot, but I don’t buy the premise, “The lesser of two evils.” I think that’s sort of putting your hope in the system rather than putting your hope in God and letting God put forth the man of the hour that might in fact bring revival and bring a lot of change.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Let’s shift gears here, slightly, and that is putting our hope in a man to bring about some change and so on. Now, we have seen this – I mentioned earlier that there are some individuals out there that we thought, Oh yeah, this guy’s gonna be good, because he’s this or because he’s that, or whatever it might be. In some cases, they’ve been disastrous.
J. B.: Oh, yeah!
Tom: Now, what I’m thinking about more specifically is that when an agenda – a guy leading and agenda – comes along, and whether you call it Republican or you call it Conservative, now this is the man. And he may not even be running for office . . . To me, one character that I think about is Glenn Beck. I mean, here is a guy who came in and, boy, talk about rallying Christians to himself under the guise that he was a Christian! Well, if you call a Catholic Mormon a Christian, you’d better check your thinking on that. But he was invited to speak at Liberty. I think he did the graduation there, and so on. But the point is that here’s a guy who his agenda – many Christians, professing Christians, maybe even true believers, bought into the program. Now the agenda became the thing, and he became “the man.”
Well, earlier I mentioned – this goes back to the Moral Majority, the Christian Right, Pat Robertson. We had, in that particular situation, Jerry Falwell, for example. So, you know, he’s – Jerry Falwell’s working with Sun Myung Moon, or whoever will come together to get his conservative perspective into society through legislation, or what have you.
Of late, we’ve seen the same thing happen according to progressive Christianity, or the left side. They’re trying to get their agenda in, and there are individuals who step up, and maybe somebody who’s not as conservative minded as others, they say, “Yeah, this is the guy we want to follow. He’s got the right idea,” and so on. This is a problem. This is, again, how we started out: this is Christians – professing Christians, true Christians – using a man, putting their hope in a man to bring about the righteousness of God. It can’t happen.
J. B.: Oh, man. Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. We are so easily duped. I say often, “I wish Christians would just turn off Fox News and open the Bible. Because we love a hero. We love somebody to champion our cause, and so, whether that’s Glenn Beck (and I know he’s not on Fox News anymore), but whether it’s Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh – those are all just metaphors for leading talking heads of the so-called conservative movement – people don't take the time to stop and realize what they’re really doing when they hitch their wagons to those types of people.
And I could tell you a story about Glenn Beck real quick. I had the chance a few years ago when Beck was still on Fox News to spend some time – spend a whole day – with a leading evangelical, and I won’t mention his name, but everybody in the listening audience would know him if I mentioned him. And when I got there for this appointment, he was running late, and they said, “I’m sorry, he’s running a few minutes late. He was on the Glenn Beck show live this morning, and he’s coming in from that.” And I said, “Oh, that’s interesting.”
So this evangelical leader comes in. We sit down to talk, and he said . . . first thing he said to me was, “You know. I used to be skeptical about Glenn Beck and whether he’s a Christian, but you know, after spending a few minutes with him this morning, I really think he might be a Christian.”
And I just . . . I wanted to just grab the guy and shake him! I mean, it would have been disrespectful, but I wanted to say, “You’ve got to be kidding me. You mean, after 15 minutes with him, you’ve allowed him to convince you that even though you know his theology, you know what he stands for, you know what his belief system is, and yet, you think, just because he invited you on his show, somehow he’s a spokesman for Christianity.”
So, nobody’s immune, whether we’re just the average guy out in the byways and highways, or we’re a leading evangelical, the deception is powerful, and it’s so easy to just jump onboard these bandwagons.
And again, I go back to if that’s all it would take, why haven’t we changed anything? Why haven’t we overturned Roe v. Wade? We’ve given these movements our vote, and we’ve given them in many cases our money, and yet, nothing changes.
Tom: What you said about somebody stuck on, whether it be Fox News, or whatever, I’ve got a suggestion. Rather than just turning it off, I would say, be a Berean.
J. B.: Yeah.
Tom: Why don’t you sit there and listen to what they have to say and then compare it to the Scripture? I guarantee you – that will wean these people off. I don’t want any part of that from the get-go.
J. B.: Yeah, and not even just comparing it with Scripture, which is the first and best approach, but just even do your own research. I remember when John Roberts was put forward on the Supreme Court, and all the Republicans and conservatives and Christians were all so excited. “Oh, this guy’s outstanding. He’s wonderful.”
I took a half-a-day one time to just go back and research where he came from, what law firm he worked for. I discovered that he had been a partner at the leading LGBT law firm for some twenty years, I think it was. And so, when later on, he cast the deciding vote in favor of gay marriage, and everybody was stunned, I wasn’t! I said, “This guy’s just acting like he’s always acted.”
So, we were told he was a conservative, because Sean Hannity said he’s a conservative, but, again, you need to do the research.
Tom: Right. Well, we’ve only got a minute or two left in this session, but, folks, what we want to do is go over more of these issues. We want to talk about things like conservatism – is it next to godliness? Or “people of faith,” or the well-being of all. And we’re going to deal with a major, major item, which is “the end justifies the means,” which is really the heart of much of what we’ll be talking about.
So, J. B., again, good stuff. Maybe some people out there are a little upset. Maybe they don’t agree with us. Well, that’s fine, but at least consider what we’re saying, and again, hopefully, you’re a biblical Christian, and if that’s the case, hold it up to that. Be a Berean.
So, again, thank you J. B., and I look forward to next week!
J. B.: Amen. Thanks, Tom!