In 2007 and 2008, books, videos, broadcasts, and news articles were pouring into mainstream America with a guilt-ridden message that basically manipulated conservative Christians into thinking that either they shouldn’t vote because “Jesus wouldn’t vote,” or they shouldn’t vote on morality issues such as abortion or homosexuality. Suddenly, all over the place there was talk about “destroying Christianity,” or “liking Jesus but not the church,” or “Jesus for president” (suggesting that maybe we could get Him on the ballot but certainly we shouldn’t vote for anyone already on the ballot). It all sounded very noble to many. After all, everybody knows there is so much political corruption in high government and certainly as much hypocrisy within the walls of many proclaiming Christian leaders and celebrities.
This special report by Lighthouse Trails is not going to attempt to answer the question, “Should a Christian vote?” But we hope to at least show that things are not always as they seem, and what may appear “noble” and good may not be so at all.
This month, January, a young man, Jefferson (Jeff) Bethke, who attends contemplative advocate Mark Driscoll’s church, Mars Hill in Washington state, posted a video on YouTube called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” Within hours, the video had over 100,000 hits. Soon it reached over 14 million hits, according to the Washington Post, one of the major media that has spotlighted the Bethke’s video (actual hits has now reached over 17 and a half million as of 01-30-12).
The Bethke video is a poem Bethke wrote and recites in a rap-like fashion his thoughts and beliefs about the pitfalls of what he calls “religion” but what is indicated to be Christianity. While we are not saying at this time that Bethke is an emerging figure, and while some of the lyrics in his poem are true statements, it is interesting that emerging spirituality figures seem to be resonating with Bethke’s message. They are looking for anything that will give them ammunition against traditional biblical Christianity. They have found some in Bethke’s poem. Like so many in the emerging camp say, Bethke’s poem suggests that Christians don’t take care of the poor and needy. While believers in Christ have been caring for the needy for centuries, emerging figures use this ploy to win conservative Christians (through guilt) over to a liberal social justice “gospel.” Emerging church journalist Jim Wallis (founder of Sojourners) is one who picked up on Bethke’s video, writing:
Bethke’s work challenges his listeners to second guess their preconceived notions about what it means to be a Christian. He challenges us to turn away from the superficial trappings of “religion,” and instead lead a missional life in Christ.1
What Wallis is talking about when he says “preconceived notions” is Christianity according to the Bible. Emerging figures accept some of it but find to accept all of itis too restricting. Many of them call themselves red letter Christians, supposing to mean they adhere to all the red letters that Jesus said; but they have actually chosen which red letters they adhere to – they don’t accept them all. For instance, they dismiss red letters that refer to there being a hell for those who reject Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior. When Wallis says missional, this doesn’t mean traditional missionary efforts to evangelize the world. It means to realize that all of humanity is saved and being saved along with all of creation, and that the means of salvation didn’t take place in a one time event (the Cross) but is an ongoing procedure that occurs as people begin to realize they are all connected to one another and can bring about a Utopian society through this interconnectedness. Such emerging buzz words like missional fool a lot of people though.
Incidentally, if you never read an article we posted in the summer of 2010 regarding Jim Wallis and Sojourners, we highly recommend it. But be warned – you may find it quite disturbing when you read what the agenda behind the scenes really is: “Sojourners Founder Jim Wallis’ Revolutionary Anti-Christian “Gospel” (and Will Christian Leaders Stand with Wallis?)”
The rally call to throw out Christianity but keep “Jesus” isn’t a new one – we’ve heard it many times before from various emerging contemplatives. Futurist Erwin McManus once said in an interview:
My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ . . . Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian. I think they might be right. 2
And, of course, there is Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus But Not the Church. In a book review of Kimball’s book, Lighthouse Trails stated that the book should really be called They Like (Another) Jesus But Not the Church, the Bible, Morality, or the Truth. Kimball interviews several young people (one is a lesbian) who tell him they “like and respect Jesus” but they don’t want anything to do with going to church or with those Christians who take the Bible literally. Kimball says these are “exciting times” we live in “when Jesus is becoming more and more respected in our culture by non-churchgoing people (p. 12). He says we should “be out listening to what non-Christians, especially those in their late teens to thirties, are saying and thinking about the church and Christianity” (p. 12).
According to Kimball, it is vitally important that we as Christians be accepted by non-Christians and not thought of as abnormal or strange. But in order to do that, he says we must change the way we live and behave. Kimball insists (p. 19) that “those who are rejecting faith in Jesus” do so because of their views of Christians and the church. But he makes it clear throughout the book that these distorted views are not the fault of the unbeliever but are the fault of Christians, but not all Christians, just those fundamentalist ones who take the Bible literally, believe that homosexuality is a sin, and think certain things are wrong and harmful to society … and actually speak up about these things.
Perhaps what is most damaging about Dan Kimball’s book is his black and white, either or reasoning (the very thing he accuses Christians of). He makes it very clear that you cannot be a Christian who takes the Bible literally and also be a humble, loving thoughtful person. They are two different things, according to Kimball. There is no such thing as a loving, humble Christian who takes the Bible literally. His book further alienates believers in a world that is already hostile to those who say Jesus is the only way to salvation, the Bible should be taken literally, homosexuality is a sin, and we are called out of this world to live righteously by the grace of God. (We hope you can take the time to read our review of Kimball’s book to better understand this “I hate the church and religion” viewpoint.)
Brian McLaren, the emerging church’s early pioneer resonates with these ill feelings toward the Christian faith when he stated:
I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.3
For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained.4 Don Miller, Blue Like Jazz
They [Barbarians] see Christianity as a world religion, in many ways no different from any other religious system. Whether Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or Christianity, they’re not about religion; they’re about advancing the revolution Jesus started two thousand years ago. 5 Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way
New Light embodiment means to be “in connection” and “information” with other faiths…. One can be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ without denying the flickers of the sacred in followers of Yahweh, or Kali, or Krishna.”6–Leonard Sweet
I happen to know people who are followers of Christ in other religions.7–Rick Warren
I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity…. I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.8–Thomas Merton
Allah is not another God … we worship the same God…. The same God! The very same God we worship in Christ is the God . . . the Muslims–worship.9–Peter Kreeft
Roger Oakland relates a story from the Book of Acts:
[T]he apostle Paul had been arrested for preaching the Gospel. He was brought before King Agrippa and given the opportunity to share his testimony of how he became a Christian. He told Agrippa that the Lord had commissioned him to preach the Gospel and:
“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:18)
Agrippa continued listening and then said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian (vs. 28).” Paul answered him:
“I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” (vs. 29)
If Paul had been following the emerging mentality, he would have told Agrippa, “No need to become a Christian. You can remain just as you are; keep all your rituals and practices, just say you like Jesus.” In actuality, if Paul had been practicing emerging spirituality, he wouldn’t have been arrested in the first place. He would not have stood out, would not have preached boldly and without reservation, and he would not have called himself a Christian, which eventually became a death sentence for Paul and countless others. 10
It’s hard to believe that there was not at least some political agenda in this storm of “we love Jesus but not the church or Christianity.” And we believe this agenda was aimed especially toward young people from evangelical conservative upbringings who had joined the emerging church movement. In a CBS Broadcast, anchorman Antonio Mora suggests there may have been over “twenty million participants [in the emerging church movement] in the United States alone by 2006.11 Even half that number would be enough to change the results of a presidential election.
Some may contend that Jefferson Bethke’s song doesn’t have any political message at all – it’s just about hypocrisy of religious people. But interestingly, in the very first few lines of the song, Bethke raps:
What if I told you getting you to vote republican, really wasn’t his [Jesus’] mission?
Because republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian.
Could there be some message here that Bethke is trying to relay? Is it just to tell people that just because they are Republican doesn’t mean they are Christian? Surely not. A fourth grader could reason that out. It’s difficult not to believe there is some other message here that just happens to be taking place on an election year.
Just consider some of the things being said by evangelical and emerging figures during the 2008 presidential election year. And think about what you are hearing today. A lot of people love the messages being sent out by people like Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, and let’s not forget Frank Viola and George Barna’s book, Pagan Christianity, where they condemn church practices like pastors, sermons, Sunday School, and pews, but say nothing about spiritual deception that has come into the church. These latter two figures (Viola and Barna) give readers a feeling that they should hate Christianity but just love Jesus. But what Jesus are these voices writing, singing, and rapping about? It may be “another Jesus” and a “different gospel.”
As the world is gradually (but not too slowly anymore) heading toward a global government and global religion, it is becoming more and more apparent that this global society will be one where “tolerance” is the byword for everything other than biblical Christianity. And what better way to breed hatred toward biblical Christians than to say “we love Jesus but hate the church” (i.e., Christians and Christianity)? Perhaps they have forgotten what Jesus said:
If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15: 18,19).
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:14)
This report we have written may produce more questions than answers regarding things like politics, voting, the role of Christians in the world, the view the world has of Christians, and so forth. But while we have not answered such questions, we hope we have shown that indeed things are not always as they seem and that often what seems right may actually be from a deceiving angel of light and who appears good may actually only be false ministers of righteousness.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. 2 Corinthians 11: 14-15
2. http://www.christianexaminer.com/Articles/Articles%20Mar05/Art_Mar05_09.html (Also see our research page on McManus.)
3. Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, p. 293.
4. Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz (Nashville, TN: Zondervan, 2003), p. 115.
5. Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005),p. 6.
6. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, p. 130.
7. Rick Warren, “Discussion: Religion and Leadership,” with David Gergen and Rick Warren (Aspen Ideas Festival, The Aspen Institute, July 6, 2005, http://www.aspeninstitute.org); for more information: http://www. lighthouse trailsresearch.com/newsletternovember05.htm.
8. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
9. Peter Kreeft, Ecumenical Jihad, op. cit., pp. 30, 160.
10. Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, chapter 10
11. Cited from Faith Undone, from chapter 1; taken from Antonio Mora,“New Faithful Practice Away from Churches” CBS Broadcasting, July 10, 2006
These clippings below from various 2008 Lighthouse Trails articles show that there was a definite effort to alter the sociopolitical views of conservative Christian adults and their young adult children.
January 2008: According to an AP (Associated Press) report out of Washington DC, “Rick Warren is calling for reconciliation in politics and the church.” . . . The report also stated that Warren said “the nation needs both liberals and conservatives, and he lamented that evangelicals are often viewed as only ‘right wing.’”1 Warren’s ongoing message has been that “right winged” Christians against gay marriage and abortion need to come to a middle of the road place with liberal “Christians” who want to do something about the environment and AIDS. In this talk Rick Warren stated: “People ask me all the time, Are you left-winged or right-winged? … I’m for the left wing and for the right wing…. the fundamental truth is Washington needs both wings. (Rick Warren Calling for Reconciliation Between Religion and Politics )
January 2008: The New Baptist Covenant, an alliance of over 30 Baptist organizations, will be hosting the 2008 Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant conference starting today, January 30th. A luncheon will be held with guest speaker, Al Gore. Other speakers at the event include Tony Campolo and former presidents Bill Clinton (keynote speaker) and Jimmy Carter (the founder of the New Baptist Covenant). . . . The 30 plus Baptist organizations that are part of the New Baptist Covenant represent 20 million Baptists around the world, according to the NBC website. . . . In addition to Al Gore and Tony Campolo . . . some of the “Presenters” at the conference starting today are: MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), The Alban Institute, and The Upper Room. While this article will not attempt to determine whether there are political motives behind this newly formed organization that includes at least three major political personalities, one thing can be stated with surety: The New Baptist Covenant has the potential of being another avenue through which mystical spirituality will enter the lives of millions of people and thus take them further away from the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. (Conference Alert: Al Gore and Tony Campolo to Address Baptist Organizations )
January 2008: Emergent leader Brian McLaren will begin his “Everything Must Change” tour in February. The tour will run in several different US cities and is named after his book, Everything Must Change. . . . McLaren’s message that everything must change is the ongoing message of the emerging church. (Conference Alert: Brian McLaren Tour Starts Soon )
January 2008: On February 11th, Cedarville University will be hosting an evening with emerging church activist Shane Claiborne. The evening is titled after Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution . . .
Claiborne’s book has a foreword by liberal political activist Jim Wallis. While Cedarville’s Dean of Student Life (Purple) told Lighthouse Trails that Cedarville is “very conservative,” pointing students to a book that is partially written by Wallis seems to give a different message. Wallis is the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, a widely read publication that gives a voice to mystics, emerging leaders, and New Age proponents. Sojourners would not represent the views of a “conservative” Christian college by any means, and it is a dichotomy for Cedarville to call itself conservative Christian then introduce students to a book written by Wallis and Claiborne in a favorable light, which CU is doing when it says that Claiborne is “rooted in the values of the Christian faith.” (Cedarville University Bringing Emerging Church Activist to Campus – Claiborne is the author of Jesus for President)
March 2008: Tony Jones comes out with his book, The New Christians, which insists that Christianity is dead. As is typical with many emerging church books, The New Christians emphatically tries to convince readers that the “church is dead” (p. 4), at least church as we have known it. Jones uses several analogies to describe present day Christianity, such as it being like the nearly-obsolete pay phones, or a dying old growth forest, or compost (rotting vegetables). He says we can almost hear the “death rattle” of “America’s church” (p. 5). (Book Review – The New Christians by Tony Jones )
May 2008: CNN, reporting on a document that is going to be released this Wednesday and signed by several “evangelical” leaders including Rick Warren. . . . we thought our readers would want to learn about “An Evangelical Manifesto,” another effort by some highly influential figures to marginalize biblical Christians. . . . “The statement, called “An Evangelical Manifesto,” condemns Christians on the right and left for using faith to express political views without regard to the truth of the Bible, according to a draft of the document obtained Friday by The Associated Press.” (This is really to say that conservative Christians shouldn’t get involved with politics. PART 1: ‘An Evangelical Manifesto’ criticizes politics of faith)
May 2008: “An Evangelical Manifesto” Released
May 2008: First, Red Letter Christians announced that we are trying to create a new movement that seeks to make faithfulness to Biblical Christianity an imperative for progressive politics. With media exposure, the group recasts the image of a “Christian” in the 21st century, i.e. sympathetic toward the bondage of homosexuality and inclusive toward other religious belief systems. The Red Letter Christians misrepresent Biblical Christianity to the general public. Now, another self appointed “non-group” of public square Christians step up to the podium at the National Press Club to act as spokesmen ( though the event is described as an invitation to join the effort ) for Evangelicals to announce: ” We’re different, we’re sorry, and we’ll change for the global good.”. . . The expressed intent of the Manifesto claims to “depoliticize” faith or “take religion out of politics.” Which is interesting, giving the venue of the National Press Club. (Decoding the Evangelical’s Manifesto for Global Ecumenism )
May 2008: Three “of the most outspoken” leaders of the emerging church (Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Mark Scandrette) will be going on a national road tourthis summer and are receiving sponsorship from several large organizations. Some of those sponsors are Christianbook.com, Jossey-Bass, Compassion International, International Bible Society, and Zondervan.
The three men will hit 32 cities with their message of “a 21st century gospel.” Pagitt states they are taking their “invitation of hope and good news to people around the country. . . preaching a fresh way of life and faith–one that is in rhythm with the life of God.” Unfortunately, this “fresh way” consists of a message that contradicts the gospel message of the Bible. (Emergent Road Show Receives Sponsorship From Major Organizations )
May 2008: Time magazine has joined the ranks of Christian and secular media that are reporting this week on Rick Warren’s new PEACE Coalition. The article, titled “Rick Warren Goes Global,” says that Warren is “perhaps the most important voice in contemporary American Evangelical Christianity,” and that Warren is hoping to “take his ‘brand’ [of spirituality] to the ends of the earth.” Warren told Time (who was invited to the by-invitation-only conference) that this was “the most important conference” of his life, and he was extending participation in the PEACE Coalition to “the wider Evangelical community.” . . . For those who read the Timearticle and are not familiar with Rick Warren’s previous statements and teachings, Warren’s reformation may appear to be a biblically-based reformation, one that represents the Christian church, caring about the poor and needy. But Warren has defined this “new reformation” and how he intends to “re-engineer” the Christian faith. For instance, when Warren spoke at the Pew Forum on Religion in 2005, he told the audience that his new Christian reformation would include those from other faiths (in particularly Muslims). (Time Magazine on Rick Warren’s New Global Reformation and His PEACE Coalition )
June 2008: Emerging church leaders Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Mark Scandrette have gone on a summer road tour across the US as we reported on May 22nd in our article, Emergent Road Show Receives Sponsorship From Major Organizations. Jones says the tour is a rendition of evangelism 100 years ago. “We think that the church — even Christianity — needs an overhaul,” Jones states. Lighthouse Trails believes this tour will mislead many people. For three emerging leaders to say they are impersonating evangelists from a hundred years ago is a frivolous parody at best, and a mockery of godly believers of the past and the God whom they served at worse. The great evangelists from the past were for the most part Christians who held fast to the Word of God and did not compromise its truth and authority. But not so with those who lead what is known as the emerging church. (Pagitt, Jones, Scandrette: “What in the World Are We Doing?” )
June 2008: On June 26th, an Associated Press article was released titled “Faithful in pews might not be voters in November.” The article prompted a response by emerging church author/lecturer Brian McLaren. The article stated that Obama had “sent Brian McLaren, one of the country’s most influential pastors, to meet with fellow evangelicals.” . . . McLaren concluded his comments by stating: “. . . To say I hope he[Obama] will be our next president rather than Senator McCain is accurate.” (Brian McLaren: Hoping Obama Will Be Our Next President )
August 2008: On Monday night, August 25th, emerging church author Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz) gave the closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. This comes on the heels of the news that Brian McLaren (prolific writer and emerging church leader) is now an advisor to Barack Obama. A concerted effort is taking place to draw emerging church voters into the Democratic arena. It is quite possible that the emerging vote will be the tipping factor in the upcoming presidential election. (Donald Miller, the Emerging Church, and the Democratic National Convention )
September 2008: Phyllis Tickle and a New Kind of Church
October 2008: Socialism in America: A Revolution in the MakingBy Jan Markell – In recent weeks it has become more obvious that America is on the yellow-brick road to Socialism. In 1962 Russian Premier Khrushchev said, “We can’t expect the American people to jump from capitalism to Communism but we can assist their leaders by giving them small amounts of Socialism until they awaken one day to find out they have Communism.”