Rebecca K. Reynolds

Honest Company for the Journey

Karl Marx and Our Divided America


I received one of the best questions I’ve ever received from a blog reader this week, so instead of replying in a comment, I’d like to devote an entire post to my answer.

A reader named Allen wrote to say:

“I would love to hear your thoughts on the influence of Social Marxism and the efforts to foment and manipulate some of the deep connotations of both the left and the hard right to bring chaos and deconstruction.”

First off, it did my heart great good to hear that someone in America is even thinking along these lines. Bravo.

Secondly, I wish I had time and space to devote to a longer answer, but the best I can do at this super busy stage of life is throw out a few bullet points and related comments. Perhaps these will at least give you direction for more research.

1. Marxism vs. Marxism vs. Communism and Socialism

If you’ve read Karl Marx’s writings, you know that they vary enough to be organized into at least two eras (pre-Engels and post Engels). Marx’s early manuscripts (known as the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts or The Paris Manuscripts) were published in 1844 and were hidden from the public eye for almost 100 years. Marx never referred to them in his later writings. Those early manuscripts had a big impact on Western intellectuals.

Marxist theories that resulted from Marxist writings split into more subcategories after his death. When we talk about Marxism today, we might be talking about Classical Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, Western Marxism, Libertarian Marxism, Structural Marxism, Neo-Marxism, Cultural Marxism, Analytical Marxism, Post-Marxism, Marxist Humanism, or Marxist Feminism.

And while there are similarities among Marxism, Communism, and Socialism, Americans tend to err by using these terms interchangeably. I am not going to distinguish between these philosophies in this post, but I want to at least acknowledge that there are differences.

2. Some Time Well Spent

When the Emergent Church began to appear on the landscape of evangelicalism, I was concerned that modern voices were beginning to echo the Social Gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch (early 1900’s). In fact, I found uncited sentences that were nearly verbatim Rauschenbush in several emergent writings. While it’s true that the church should bring the the Kingdom ethic to the earth, the Social Gospel is riddled with grave theological error. I won’t make time to unpack those errors here, but I will urge you to spend time with two sources that may shed light on how political evil intends to commandeer the church.

The first is an interview with former KGB agent and defector Yuri Bezmenov ( ). Yes, this video is old. Yes, every single American should spend the hour and a half needed to watch Bezmenov explain how enemies of democracy can maneuver a government and its people to gain power. Even if you think Russian aggression is no longer a threat to the United States, the practical instruction you will gain from hearing about Russian cultural strategy is vital. Every Christian (Republican, Democrat, and independent) needs this information to grow in awareness about how the cause of Christ might be manipulated for worldly ends.

The second resource is a little more obscure. It's a list of 45 Communist Goals entered into the Congressional record in 1963 after they were given in a speech by U.S. Representative Albert Sydney Herlong Jr.. (Liberal readers might find it interesting that Herlong was, in fact, a Democrat. As you read the list, remember that.) . Whether or not these goals were ever official, it’s fascinating to see how many have come to pass in the past 54 years. And it's helpful to at least think about why each step might (or might not) be important in undermining a democracy.

3. Intentional Unrest

Stirring up internal cultural chaos is almost always a declared goal of opposition forces, and we should be aware of the vulnerability of our own reactivity. When discussing this matter, our fingers should not simply be pointed at young people taking to the streets en masse, but also to the highest office in the land, and to every political leader who has built a platform on vitriol.

I do not know where the deep, secret allegiance of our leaders takes root, but even an unintended personal weakness (such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder) can feed the chaos that is beneficial to America’s enemies. This is why it is vital that our leaders maintain a dignified and mature presence on social media. Words have consequences, and any true patriot would be wise to remember that while rhetorical boldness can be as inspiring as one of Churchill's speeches, it can also be as foolish as any "Hold my beer" redneck with a handful of lit firecrackers on YouTube. Loud and proud doesn't equal wise and trustworthy.

4. None of this complexity excuses Americans from taking a stand for essential human morality.

The proper response to this tenuous social context is not silence. We are to speak truth—even hard and costly truth—into the public sphere firmly, wisely, and repeatedly. Furthermore, the evasive move of answering the KKK with “But BLM...” does not remedy the essential problem America faces. We must call evil evil and not allow reactive bifurcation fallacies (which benefit our enemies) to determine our course.

That’s all I have time to offer for now, but I will try to give more another day.

Allen, thanks for your good question. For now, readers, please be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. Not only is it right and good to take the time to be informed about the complexity of our situation, educating ourselves is the second-most patriotic effort Christians can make for our nation at this time. The first, of course, is to live in complete submission to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I reread this every few years just to remind myself of how much has changed since 1998

Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency

The following declaration can be found at, November 16, 1998

The following declaration can be found at

To be released on 13 November 1998

As scholars interested in religion and public life, we protest the manipulation of religion and the debasing of moral language in the discussion about presidential responsibility. We believe that serious misunderstandings of repentance and forgiveness are being exploited for political advantage. The resulting moral confusion is a threat to the integrity of American religion and to the foundations of a civil society. In the conviction that politics and morality cannot be separated, we consider the current crisis to be a critical moment in the life of our country and, therefore, offer the following points for consideration:

1. Many of us worry about the political misuse of religion and religious symbols even as we endorse the public mission of our churches, synagogues, and mosques. In particular we are concerned about the distortion that can come by association with presidential power in events like the Presidential Prayer Breakfast on September 11. We fear the religious community is in danger of being called upon to provide authentication for a politically motivated and incomplete repentance that seeks to avert serious consequences for wrongful acts. While we affirm that pastoral counseling sessions are an appropriate, confidential arena to address these issues, we fear that announcing such meetings to convince the public of the President’s sincerity compromises the integrity of religion.

2. We challenge the widespread assumption that forgiveness relieves a person of further responsibility and serious consequences. We are convinced that forgiveness is a relational term that does not function easily within the sphere of constitutional accountability. A wronged party chooses forgiveness instead of revenge and antagonism, but this does not relieve the wrong-doer of consequences. When the President continues to deny any liability for the sins he has confessed, this suggests that the public display of repentance was intended to avoid political disfavor.

3. We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. Elected leaders are accountable to the Constitution and to the people who elected them. By his own admission the President has departed from ethical standards by abusing his presidential office, by his ill use of women, and by his knowing manipulation of truth for indefensible ends. We are particularly troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse with the aim of avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.

4. We are concerned about the impact of this crisis on our children and on our students. Some of them feel betrayed by a President in whom they set their hopes while others are troubled by his misuse of others, by which many in the administration, the political system, and the media were implicated in patterns of deceit and abuse. Neither our students nor we demand perfection. Many of us believe that extreme dangers sometimes require a political leader to engage in morally problematic actions. But we maintain that in general there is a reasonable threshold of behavior beneath which our public leaders should not fall, because the moral character of a people is more important than the tenure of a particular politician or the protection of a particular political agenda. Political and religious history indicate that violations and misunderstandings of such moral issues may have grave consequences. The widespread desire to “get this behind us” does not take seriously enough the nature of transgressions and their social effects.

5. We urge the society as a whole to take account of the ethical commitments necessary for a civil society and to seek the integrity of both public and private morality. While partisan conflicts have usually dominated past debates over public morality, we now confront a much deeper crisis, whether the moral basis of the constitutional system itself will be lost. In the present impeachment discussions, we call for national courage in deliberation that avoids ideological division and engages the process as a constitutional and ethical imperative. We ask Congress to discharge its current duty in a manner mindful of its solemn constitutional and political responsibilities. Only in this way can the process serve the good of the nation as a whole and avoid further sensationalism.

6. While some of us think that a presidential resignation or impeachment would be appropriate and others envision less drastic consequences, we are all convinced that extended discussion about constitutional, ethical, and religious issues will be required to clarify the situation and to enable a wise decision to be made. We hope to provide an arena in which such discussion can occur in an atmosphere of scholarly integrity and civility without partisan bias.

The following scholars subscribe to the Declaration:

1. Paul J. Achtemeier (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

2. P. Mark Achtemeier (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

3. LeRoy Aden (Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia)

4. Diogenes Allen (Princeton Theological Seminary)

5. Joseph Alulis (North Park University)

6. Charles L. Bartow (Princeton Theological Seminary)

7. Donald G. Bloesch (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

8. Carl Braaten (Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology)

9. Manfred Brauch (Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary)

10. William P. Brown (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

11. Don S. Browning (University of Chicago)

12. Frederick S. Carney (Southern Methodist University)

13. Ellen T. Charry (Princeton Theological Seminary)

14. Karl Paul Donfried (Smith College)

15. Richard Drummond (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

16. Jean Bethke Elshtain (University of Chicago)

17. Edward E. Ericson, Jr. (Calvin College)

18. Gabriel Fackre (Andover Newton Theological School)

19. Robert Gagnon (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)

20. Joel B. Green (Asbury Theological Seminary)

21. Robert H. Gundry (Westmont College)

22. Scott J. Hafemann (Wheaton College)

23. Roy A. Harrisville (Luther Theological Seminary)

24. Stanley M. Hauerwas (Duke University)

25. Gerald F. Hawthorne (Wheaton College)

26. S. Mark Heim (Andover Newton Theological School)

27. Frank Witt Hughes (Codrington College)

28. Robert Imbelli (Boston College)

29. Robert Jenson (Center for Theological Inquiry)

30. Robert Jewett (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary)

31. Jack Dean Kingsbury (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

32. Paul Koptak (North Park Theological Seminary)

33. John S. Lawrence (Morningside College)

34. Walter Liefeld (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

35. Troy Martin (Saint Xavier University)

36. James L. Mays (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

37. S. Dean McBride (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

38. Sheila E. McGinn (John Carroll University)

39. John R. McRay (Wheaton College)

40. Robert Meye (Fuller Theological Seminary)

41. David Moessner (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

42. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

43. Carroll D. Osburn (Abilene Christian University)

44. William A. Pannell (Fuller Theological Seminary)

45. Jon Paulien (Andrews University)

46. John Piper (Bethlehem Baptist Church)

47. Stephen Pope (Boston College)

48. J. E. Powers (Hope College

49. Mark Reasoner (Bethel College),

50. John Reumann (Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia)

51. David Rhoads (Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago)

52. W. Larry Richards (Andrews University)

53. Daniel E. Ritchie (Bethel College)

54. Joel Samuels (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

55. David Scholer (Fuller Theological Seminary)

56. Keith Norman Schoville (University of Wisconsin)

57. J. Julius Scott (Wheaton College)

58. Mark Seifrid (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

59. Christopher R. Seitz (St. Andrews University)

60. Klyne Snodgrass (North Park Theological Seminary)

61. Max Stackhouse (Princeton Theological Seminary)

62. W. Richard Stegner (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary)

63. Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

64. R. Franklin Terry (Morningside College)

65. David Tiede (Luther Theological Seminary)

66. Reinder Van Til (Eerdmans Publishing Company)

67. Warren Wade (North Park University)

68. J. Ross Wagner (Princeton Theological Seminary)

69. David H. Wallace (American Baptist Seminary of the West)

70. Timothy P. Weber (Northern Baptist Theological Seminary)

71. Merold Westphal (Fordham University)

72. Jonathan R. Wilson (Westmont College)

73. Edward and Anne Wimberly (Interdenominational Theological Center)

74. Harry Yeide (George Washington University)

A Bit of Housekeeping: a Side Note on Comments

This won't be a long post, just a little housekeeping. :)


Today I realized that I need to let my readers know that I keep a filter on comments here, and that I plan to do so for as long as I blog. There are many places on the internet where people call each other names and try to hurt others with their words, but my blog isn't going to be one of those.


While a hearty discussion between people of different belief systems can be profoundly beneficial, abusive firestorms begin when verbal hostility takes over, and these accomplish nothing but the purposes of hell.


My blog is a place to talk about ideas and seek Jesus. It's not a free-for-all where strangers are allowed to be mean to strangers. I never mind disagreement, but all comments that you offer to other readers must be civil, patient, and kind or else I won't push them through to the public eye.


Basically, I don't allow anything said here that I wouldn't allow to be said over my dinner table. If my children were sitting in a room while an adult was flying off the handle, I would ask that adult to leave my home. I'm applying that policy to my blog as well.


If you disagree with me or someone else and want to talk about an issue publicly here, take some time to do the following before commenting.


  1. Ask a humble and sincere question for clarification before making angry assumptions. 
  2. Remove all name calling, insults, and unfair associations in your post. Stick with the issue instead of trying to hurt people.

If you just need to vent at me,  you can do that. But when I can tell a reader is letting his/her temper lead, flying off the handle unfairly, I usually just read a sentence or two and then mark the post as "spam" without finishing it. That sort of label means all future messages from that IP address go directly to the trash, and I won't even see them.
Hateful comments make me feel empathy about the trauma or relational lack that leads a person to adopt a hostile style of communication, but they don't hurt me. They evoke mercy, but they are too pitiful to actually sting. At least they haven't yet.

Thankfully we live in a free country where aggressive and rude folks have other venues for their anger. I'm just not going to host them here.

This post doesn't apply to 99% of you. Of the tens of thousands of hits I got on a post this week, I only had two rude comments attempt to make it through. That's pretty stunning, if you think about it. But it's still loving to define some ground rules for a community now and then, and these are the rules for Thistle and Toad.

Oh, one more thing. I sometimes hold off on comments that make claims about public figures. That's not because the writers are trying to be rude but because I need some sort of validation before helping spread information that might hurt someone else's reputation. If you have something in such a category to share, please just provide external reference material that allows me to validate your claim.

Alright, gotta get back to some things here. I'll be back in I Corinthians tomorrow!

Take care,


How to Be a Better Atheist: What to Understand if You Want to Be More Effective in Rejecting Christianity


Lately I’ve seen too many people rejecting Christianity the wrong way. I understand why these folks are confused. The name “Christian” has come to represent a lot of crazy stuff over the past 2,000 years.


But if you’re going to be an atheist, you might as well have a solid grip on what you are rejecting. So I’m going to try to make a few clarifications here to help the non-believing do that work with a little more precision.


First off, let's talk about what you’re not rejecting when you are rejecting Christianity:


1. You're not rejecting a political force.


A couple of decades ago, the Moral Majority/Christian Coalition decided to work with the GOP, and what’s grown from that alliance is now a sort of spiritual/political cyborg.


This evangelical political movement has borrowed a handful of elements from Christian morality, but the whole machine cares a lot more about gaining earthly power than it does about listening to your hard questions or talking to you about your faith. I mean, think about it. When was the last time someone fighting for political Christianity actually took an interest in your soul? It’s probably been a while, right? Now think about the last time you heard a “Christian” fight for laws, political platforms, and government benefits. Last week, probably.


I’m not saying that Christians can’t get involved in government. A responsible government is made of people of all belief systems. I am saying that a lot of what’s hitting the public eye as “Christian” has very little to do with the teachings of Jesus and a whole lot to do with an attempt to maintain cultural muscle.


2. You're not rejecting young earth creationism.


So in the 50’s and 60’s, America’s educational values changed because of the Space Race. We needed to beat the Russians to the moon, so American school shifted its priorities to produce better scientists.


There’s nothing wrong with emphasizing science—science is great. But it’s important to realize that a historical nationalistic/military shift impacted America’s epistemological values. A lot of us were taught the scientific method as kids--a method which is rooted in a philosophical system called empiricism. In other words, we were taught to trust our senses to tell us ultimate truth. And even though we never really thought about the decision we were making here, we went with the flow and accepted the fact that empiricism was the most reliable measure of truth because our nation needed students who could grow up to build bombs and rockets.


When Christians realized this shift in values was happening, they got nervous. They worried about losing credibility in a world in which empiricism was the trump card. So some Christians decided to try to engage with the new values of our time. They started attempting to find ways to make the Bible fit what was being said in the realms of science.


Some of this feels like an exercise in futility to me. If God has all the creative power, he could make an old earth look young or make a young earth look old. Besides, if he’s outside of time, the complex stuff that wows us quickly becomes a non-factor to him.


When you throw an understanding of how ancient Hebrew poetry works into that mix, and then add in two scoops of what modern physicists are finding about human inability to validate the material world, you end up with so much nuance, nobody on either side ends up standing on solid ground. I’ve yet to see a Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate that did anything more than serve as a pep rally for what everybody on either side wanted to hear from the get go. They never get to the first question, which is how to verify a system of truth from premise #1.


Some of the most thoughtful, orthodox Christians I know actually allow for an old earth creation model. I’m not saying those people are right or wrong, but am saying that Young Earth Creationists who claim, “If these chapters aren’t literal, nothing is literal,” are (in truth) making a claim for Young Earth Creationism. They aren’t making a claim for all of Christianity.


3. You're not rejecting the "Hurry and Get Saved So You Don’t Go To Hell!" bit


This point is complicated, and it involves quite a bit of church history that would likely bore you. But let me just say that in some of the revival movements, the great big package of “salvation” got compressed into Tweet-speak: “Trust Jesus, or go to hell.”


I think well-meaning Christians started some of this because they were trying to communicate what Jesus is offering in a few simple steps. But the problem is, people are lazy. A lot of folks don’t study. They don’t dig. They don’t take risks. The structure that was supposed to unpack into a lot of different angles ended up being presented as the ultimate deal. These "SparkNotes" of faith didn't just help people interpret the Bible, they took the place of it.


The reduction also morphed into some emotional manipulation that was strategic for making big congregations. While awe should exist in the presence of a transcendent, holy God--and while hell is something to fear---the fear that many pastors wield while trying to grow a church is a whole different entity. Earthly religious fear is more about controlling you than it is about helping you. Holy religious fear is about healing your wounds.


4. You're not rejecting a God who can kill anybody he wants, who oppresses women, and who encourages slavery.


I’ve seen many atheist sites that argue against these three points. They pick verses out of the Old Testament and claim to offer proof that God is an immoral, narcissistic, and bloodthirsty being. Then they cite the Crusades and try to connect the dots. They say that Christianity is dangerous and that anybody who loves a God like that either has Stockholm Syndrome or is content with being a Stepford disciple.


This topic is too complex to unpack in a tiny section of a single post. However, all those family members or acquaintances who have told you that you just have to accept all this stuff without questioning God because he’s perfect aren’t speaking for all of Christianity.


Scholars like C.S. Lewis had a lot of trouble with the brutality of the book of Joshua. Ivy League philosopher Greg Boyd spent eleven years studying the morality of the Old Testament. These guys didn’t accept easy answers, and they were honest about what they discovered as they explored.


There are so many ways Christians deal with some of these passages, and a lot of the best ways boil down to being responsible enough to interpret the Bible like we interpret other works of literature. We look at history. We look at authorship. We look at theme. We make the scholarly efforts we make to interpret every other piece of literature from Sophocles to Tennessee Williams.


One of the downsides to the elevation of science, and the subsequent treatment of the text by Young Earth Creationism, was the development of a harsh, humanistic, linear approach to Biblical interpretation. Those folks claim to life by faith, but they have embraced secular values for understanding a sacred book. I don't think they realize how proud that is, but the people who do this have actually limited their interpretative abilities instead of elevating them. And they have also violated some Biblical guidelines for finding truth in the process.


Since I’ve already named some of the errors of Christians, I hope you will let me also say that numerous citations on atheist sites do not interpret Scripture responsibly. So many snarky remarks from non-believers have more style than substance because atheist authors tend to miss what was actually being said in the Scripture.


Again, there’s not room to deal with this whole point here, but just know that a lot of people are popping off at the mouth about this stuff without having done the academic work needed to make a solid claim. When you find people who have done the work, a lot of times, their answers are much more substantial.




If you reject any of those main points above, you aren’t actually rejecting Christianity. You may be rejecting political, cultural, and financial forces that are attempting to use the gospel for an earthly end, but you aren't rejecting the true gospel.


If you want to reject Christianity, you’ve got to go beyond all that. To be a proper atheist, you must reject the heart of the faith, which is this:


Once upon a time, there was a God who made a material realm which fit inside of a more complex, metaphysical realm.


The smaller, material realm had boundaries (like dimensions and time), and God gave humans (and other creatures) the ability to sense those boundaries.


He also gave humans a unique perceptive ability to connect with Him that reached beyond the material. This ability is called "the spirit." Lots of animals have bodies, and consciousness (souls)-- I think some even have feelings--but humans are the only creatures that have the ability to connect directly in the spirit with their Creator.


Humans were also made uniquely creative, not just with problem-solving skills or tool-making skills, but with an aesthetic sense and the ability to innovate. We can call this ability the "imago Dei," or being made "in the image of God." Modern lingo? MiniMe.


Relationships are important to God because he exists in community with himself. The concept of the Trinity is kind of hard to understand, but I think it boils down to relationship between three persons that is so synchronized, all three beings operate as one.


Maybe a metaphor of the creative process will make that more clear.


When an artist comes up with an IDEA for a project, she then applies her ENERGY to that creation. When she is done creating, there is a connective POWER that binds her audience to the work she has made. So, an IDEA works out through ENERGY to result in connective POWER (Sayers).


Likewise, the Trinity has an invisible directing IDEA (the Father). The ENERGETIC outworking of the idea in the physical realm is the Son (Jesus). And the connective POWER between humans and the godhead is the Holy Spirit. Like a single piece of artwork that is unified in beauty but contains different elements of process, the Godhead is both one and three.


God wanted humans to join in that union. So, we were established on earth with a spiritual capacity that would allow us to create with him and live in his love. (Some of the first commands of God to humans were encouragements to be creative, you know.) But nobody can be creative while being a lemming. So, God made us free to either choose that artistic union or reject it.


The story of Eve talks about how humanity made a choice long ago that it still makes today. We decided that we wanted to be like God without really being dependent upon God.


I think all of us have wanted to be god-like without being subject to God's authority or his resources. We are like teenagers who want to be left alone to try things our way. But in our liberty, we tried to break free, and we tore a great big hole in everything.


A piece of art doesn't thrive without its creator. If a painting in process could yank away from its painter, deciding to try to make itself beautiful, it would look terrible. And in a similar manner, the original vision for what humans were supposed to be and do was lost.


God saw we had chosen to be fiercely independent. He heard our stubborn insistence that we didn’t need any help. But he also knew that we couldn't get out of this hole we were digging by ourselves. So he sent Jesus from the meta-dimensions, compressing him into our human boundaries of space and time.


In this tangible, physical form, Jesus took all of the separation we had created into Himself. He did that so he could patch the break up and make a bridge that led us back into relational and spiritual communion with him, the Father, and the Spirit.


Why did He do that? Because he knows it’s hell to be solo. He knew this hell of autonomy could last forever, and grow deeper, and darker, and become more lonely without some intervention. And he knew that even though it would hurt, he could help us live and thrive instead of going deeper and deeper into isolation.


It's hard for us to see this, because humans have been trying to make our own autonomy work forever--which means it's still our default. We don't hear our independence any easier than we hear the accents we learned as kids.


We notice when humans get surges of brilliance here and there. And we learn to love the thrill of our own roar. We notice that it feels good to say things like, "I am god!" and "I am master of my destiny."


But down inside us, there’s still a restless, a homesickness, a sense of loss—and that loss comes from being torn away from the heart of the creator who made us to connect with him.


When we refuse that creator, we’re going to feel a couple of things. First, we will feel proud, like we've got this and don't need help. Declarations of self-sufficiency cause an adrenaline rush, right? It's hard to give up that thrill.


But eventually, many of us will begin to feel lost and empty, like something is missing. And that emptiness can last for eternity if we remain unwilling to be vulnerable to the God we need. He won't dominate us. He will let us resist him until we harden into a forever-hell of “I’ll do this myself.” But that's not what he wants for us, because we were created for artistic community.


The next part of what I'm about to write is something you won't hear from a lot of people who call themselves Christians. I don't know why the rest of the story is hardly ever mentioned in Christian dialogue because it's all over the New Testament. It's hard to read a single book of Paul's without finding this concept. But for some reason, a lot of preachers and teachers don't talk about it much.


The whole machine of faith doesn’t stop with a single moment of saying, “Okay, save me." Sure, that's only the starting point, but there’s an awful lot that is supposed to happen after people are born into a new life in Jesus.


The New Testament tells us how to finish out the years we have on this planet, plugged in to a God who actually comes to live inside us. This new way of living is not about trying to be moral. It’s not about following a bunch of rules. It’s about letting go of effort and independence and learning to lean into a connection that is free, resource-rich, and beautiful.


You’ve seen those television shows where people who have been single for 40 years finally get married and struggle with sharing the toothpaste. Well, after years of living independently, it’s a whole new dynamic for Christians to learn community with a God who lives inside them. A lot of Christians never really explore what that means, so they continue to try to do everything on their own, using shame and guilt as motivators, and leaning on the same old broken methods of self-control and determination that they used when they were secular.


This is why so much of what is called Christianity is messed up. A laser focus on only keeping as many souls out of hell as possible has resulted in failure to implement what is actually supposed to happen after salvation. So many Christians think there’s not much more to do after walking an aisle and praying a prayer, so they fumble around post baptism trying to accomplish personal and social change, and they goof a lot of stuff up along the way.


But when Jesus comes to live inside a person, new resources for a new life are there.


People who were impatient have tools to be patient. People who were selfish have tools to be kind. People who were resentful have tools to be forgiving. Like a kid learning to drive a high-powered vehicle, we have to learn to use those tools, and that knowledge takes time. But resources for living in a new way show up once we are connected with Jesus. At conversation, we at least get the keys to the car.


The letters of the New Testament spend a ton of time talking about how when our identity changes with faith. Paul tells us that we don’t have to struggle and strain to be good like we used to; we just need to learn to depend on the gifts of a God who loves working with us, and who is helping us become beautiful like he is.


And by the way, we don’t lose our old personalities here. We fill them out until they are winsome and generous. In other words, we begin to look like a painting that has finally turned itself over to an artist who knows what he’s doing.


If you’ve never heard of a Christianity that looks anything like this, write me. We can get away from all the politics and arguing and take apart a book of the Bible like Galatians or Ephesians. Or we can look at John’s gospel and see what sort of descriptions he has for us. It’s possible that you might learn things about the faith that most people who call themselves Christians don’t see because they are distracted and confused.


In the end, you might still reject Christianity. But if you do, you will be rejecting the true heart of it, not distorted imitations. And you will have rejected it at the source, after having done some primary research, instead of floating along with sloppy, self-serving interpretations. I think this sort of clarity tends to be a good idea, no matter where we stand on the issue.

For the Love of Foyle: The Most Important Television Program Conservative America Can Watch in 2017

 For me, there's no close second. Far and above every other television show that I have ever loved stands Anthony Horowitz's Foyle's War.

Until watching this program, I never understood what fans meant when they said, "This is my show." I'm not a fan of TV in general, so it always felt a little silly to hear someone connect his or her identity with a weekly program.

I now stand corrected. Foyle's War is the show of my heart. I hold these episodes with a similar loyalty to the writings of C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, Shakespeare, Flannery O'Connor, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

The setting is WWII, in Hastings--a town on England's southeast coast. Michael Kitchen plays the Detective Chief Superintendent, a police officer who is attempting to fight back small town crime in the shadow of a massive global war.

While each episode unpacks a murder mystery, so much more happens simultaneously as well. Like the best mystery stories of Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers, Horowitz uses the genre to address human nature in all of its potential wonders and flaws. Essential questions of ethics are addressed in such a way that we learn both the risks and the nuances of living uprightly in a broken world.

Week after week, Foyle shows us that it is both dangerous and vital to maintain personal integrity, and he does this in a way that is so winsome that even a rebel like me wants to make good choices at the end of every episode. As a protagonist, Foyle is shrewd without being proud. He is thoughtful, discerning, kind, brave, and principled. He is willing to stand against corruption that has infected his peers, even when he is threatened. He stares down "for the greater good" arguments, knowing that not all ends justify all means.

Beyond all this, the show is beautiful without sacrificing honesty. The East Sussex countryside is glorious, and yet scenes of bombings and battles show us the trauma of wartime. And as a viewer moves slowly from the opening episode through the last season, the reality of WWII, and the sacrifices made by thousands of families become moving realities.

When I grow weary of the state of the world, discouraged about attempting to hold to what is right and good, I often sit with an episode of Foyle's War. This show reorients my vision, reminding me that it's okay to feel alone in corrupt times. It reminds me to hold fast and to love what is lovely and true, though all the world goes mad around me.

If you have never watched this show, start with the pilot episode: "The German Woman." (Because Foyle progresses through history and plot development episode to episode, chronological viewing matters here.) I think this series is the most important show conservative America could be watching right now. It's stellar viewing for your older kids. It will likely be medicine for your heart as well.