On Beyond Zebra: The Way of Jesus and the Tyranny of False Dilemmas
This morning a friend shared a comment he had found in a random discussion and which encapsulated well the false dilemma too many Christians imagine they face: shall we retreat from the world and hide out until doomsday, or shall we infiltrate its corrupt political systems to force change from the top down by always supporting the lesser of two evils, hoping to get enough good people in power to eventually reverse the moral depravity of the world and make its political and military systems serve God’s ends?
This dilemma is a result of Satanic programming over centuries, designed to hide the Way of Jesus from those who seek him. By convincing Christians to pick from a false selection of bad choices that all serve his own ends, the adversary can keep us ignorant of the power available to us in Christ for overcoming evil.
Many Christians are so deeply programmed with this false choice that when they hear anyone reject position A, they automatically assume that person is defending position B.
But what if there were a Christian framework for understanding power and renewal that rejected both a and b and the whole alphabet of human solutions—that could take us, in the words of the inestimable Dr. Seuss, “on beyond Zebra,” where the horizon shifts and none of the old rules apply?
Many recent conversations I’ve had with professing Christians around politics reveal a deep ignorance of the alternatives to the futile thinking that creates race riots and police states and inquisitions and oppression. This is my attempt to crack the door to that alternative for those who are interested.
Below I’ll quote the comment that inspired my response and then respond paragraph by paragraph. It’s long but I hope it helps clarify what my closest friends and I believe and practice, by contrast with both the political agitation of the Christian Right and the passive isolationism of too many contemporary Anabaptists.
Read on for the first quotation:
Many of these people also believe God has called us to hand the government over to the devil on a silver platter. Simply because they believe all government is of the devil and we dare not interfere. God designed the devil to control that piece of the pie.
That view is a sad distortion of the original stance of the apostolic church and those who walk in its ways today, and anyone who takes such a passive stance needs a wake-up call. What historically faithful Christians believe is that the devil is a usurper who owns none of the pie, and as followers of the rightful King, we refuse to fall on our knees at the polling booth or pledge allegiance to a corrupt system in exchange for a handful of the usurper’s crumbs. Those who press for Christians to vote and hold public office are trying to broker a merger with Satan’s kingdom. But Jesus and his followers are engaged in a hostile takeover.
With this mindset there is a belief system that we cannot have a believer in government, but that people should hope that a satanist takes the government position instead of a believer, since a believer would be in compromise, and somehow upset how God designed the devil to run things.
As characterized here, this view is both true and false. It’s clearly ludicrous for a Christian to seek office in the violent power systems of statism and organized religion that colluded to murder Jesus. But that’s not because Satan is the legitimate Lord of the people in those systems: it’s because aiding and abetting a power structure created and sustained by rebellion against our King is treason.
Do these people indirectly support abortion, human sacrifice, sex trafficking, and the worst forms of evil? Are they complicit in it?
Yes. People who remain aloof from the evils of the world, leaving it to plow into hell on its own, are complicit. But so are those who participate in the myths and rituals—elections, the Pledge of Allegiance, flag-waving, oaths, military parades, state anthems—that legitimize those systems and empower them to continue producing “the worst forms of evil.”
The only people NOT complicit are those who remain outside the world’s power systems and actively build an alternative society under Jesus’ sole authority to replace and undermine those systems.
They believe we should pray for the government, however our prayers will not change the way the government is run, since God designed the devil to have it.
However there is a chance some government officials might become Christians through these prayers, and promptly leave the government, which equals “of the devil” to the people with this mindset.
It would indeed be silly to pray if one expected no results from that prayer. Historic Christians believe prayer gives us a powerful connection to the King of Kings and allows us to collaborate with him in his reconquest of a world temporarily occupied by evil.
It is because we believe our prayers ARE effective that we reject accusations of “doing nothing” when we abstain from worldly politics. Either prayer is effective, and those who pray but do not vote and lobby are legitimately engaged in the battle for righteousness, or prayer is not effective, and voting and lobbying are essential to make a real difference. You can’t have it both ways.
Many also believe the world is going to hell in a handbasket because we are in the end times.
They believe we should shelter in place until Jesus comes and takes us. In that process we shouldn’t rock the boat to much, meaning pray to much against the evil and chaos that’s happening.
I’m familiar with this viewpoint, as it was common in my own cultural upbringing. It’s a tragedy to see believers capitulate to evil like this, giving up on the power of the Gospel and hoping just to hide out and avoid extermination until God airlifts us away.
Christians of every age have believed they were living in the end times, and on one level they were correct. Whatever geopolitical realities we live with today are temporary, doomed to expire through weakness or overthrow, and so in every age “the world is passing away.”
Those of us who study the history of the church and the world note many signs that the influence of Jesus has spread and is affecting the conscience of the world today more than at any time in history. The yeast is working through the dough, the mustard is spreading its branches, and the principles of evil that uphold the world’s power systems are laced with cracks and jolted by tremors.
Sure, evil is still fighting back, more as the time gets shorter, and standing for truth in most of the world can still get you ridiculed, assaulted, or worse. But there’s never been a sillier time to head for the bunkers. On the other hand, there’s never been a sillier time to capitulate to a merger with the kingdoms of the world in the hope of prying the devil’s fingers off the tools he invented.
Jesus’ Way of active, confrontational love is winning. We just need to stay the course.
It is my opinion the people with this belief system may have embraced the cross, however they never embraced the resurrection.
As a result they see Jesus as a helpless victim instead of all powerful.
The world sees the cross as weakness and victimhood, the ultimate sign of a lost cause, the end of the road. What a tragedy that anyone would attempt to embrace the cross without having the eyes of their understanding enlightened to see what it really means!
On the cross, Jesus disarmed the powers, making an open spectacle of them, and in the fellowship of his sufferings we do the same. It is when we lay down the cross and embrace the sword, the ballot, the dungeon, and the flag that we surrender to the powers of evil and start down the road that leads to a mob demanding the murder of God for the good of the nation.
Don’t let the Deceiver corral you into a false choice between isolation and cooperation—between cowering in bunkers or linking arms with the kingdoms of the world in a futile attempt to Christianize them. Suffering love, fearless confrontation of the powers at the cost of our own lives, earnest prayer, self-giving service and compassion for friend and enemy alike—these are the tactics through which the world is being won for our King.
No King but Jesus!
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