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november-3-2020

(Do Not Open Until Election Day 2020)

November 3, 2020

 

Dear followers of Jesus,

It’s Election Day!  Wow!  Has it been four years already?

Today, the people of the United States will either: 1) re-elect President Donald J. Trump to a second term, 2) elect another Republican in the rare event that someone successfully challenged President Trump in the primary elections to become the party’s nominee, or 3) elect the Democrat candidate in the 2020 Presidential race.

I’m writing this letter to bring some things to your remembrance and to ask some things of you, especially if the third possibility becomes a reality today and a Democrat is elected to lead our nation as the next President of the United States.

1)  Keep praying. 

Four years ago, in the days following President Trump’s election, many Christians composed some beautiful and deeply meaningful prayers on behalf of the President-elect and our nation.  Some posted and shared these prayers on social media.  They acknowledged and praised God’s sovereignty, credited His wisdom and His guidance upon the electorate, professed their confidence that His divine hand had been decisively active in the outcome of the election, and petitioned His richest blessings to be upon the new President.

I hope that you saved those prayers in an easily accessible place.  Please retrieve them and pray them again today and in the days ahead… verbatim.  Change them only to reflect the name of the new President-elect.  They would be splendid prayers for you to continue praying over the next four years.  I’m asking this of you simply because I don’t recall the composition of such prayers in 2008 and 2012, and it would be a real shame to reserve such lofty petitions only for candidates of our liking and choosing.  Or is it possible you believe that God only selectively involves Himself in our elections, with unfavorable outcomes serving as an unmistakable signal as to which ones He has chosen to sit out?

Oh, and the countless public prayers that I have heard in Christian assemblies over the last four years that specially requested heavenly blessings upon President Trump, openly and unashamedly mentioning him by name… those would be great to continue as well.  Again, my mind isn’t quite what it used to be (I’m nearing 60 now), but I just can’t remember such prayers being offered with any regularity during the eight years prior to President Trump’s election.

2)  Keep reciting and living out Scripture.

Do you remember those Scriptures and memes that were so prolifically posted on social media when President Trump was elected?  They included Biblical texts like:

“First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-4)

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good… Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor.” (I Peter 2:13-17)

That was so great!  Please do that again!

Many Christians experienced a miraculous measure of renewed interest and dedicated commitment to these Scriptures on November 8, 2016.  I just don’t want to see these texts fall back into the depths of obscurity, neglect, and disuse that they suffered from 2008 to 2016.

3)  Keep calling for unity, healing, and overcoming divisions and differences.

Following President Trump’s election four years ago, there were repeated calls from Christians for the nation to come together, unite, support our new President, and heal the wounds of division within our country.  Harsh rebukes were offered to those engaged in post-election protests, urging them to get over it, accept the will of the people, and respectfully support the President-elect as the incoming leader of one nation under God.

The memories of many were apparently instantaneously wiped clean of any recollection of the divisiveness, disrespect, incivility, insults, name-calling, demonizing, venom, and vitriol in which far too many Christians had been deeply involved for the previous eight years.  I lost count of the number of believers I know who stated or wrote, “Barack Obama is not my President.  He will never be my President.”  I regularly heard President Obama’s name spoken with derision and contempt.

You can’t speak like that and behave like that for eight years, and then, upon the election of your favored candidate, wave a wand, flip a switch, sweeten your tone, invite everyone to grab a hand and sing “Kumbaya,” and expect to be taken seriously.  You can’t repeatedly toss grenades and verbal weapons of mass destruction, and then glibly pontificate about the need to heal.

So, if “the other candidate” wins this 2020 election, please commit yourself to be among the first to call the nation to unity, to demonstrate solidarity and show support for the President-elect, and commit yourself to sincere and ceaseless prayer on his or her behalf, and for our nation under their leadership.  Whatever you thought “God is in control” meant in 2016, try to speak and act as if you still believe it now.

Only when we’ve lived it can we credibly prescribe it.

When we fail to do these things, the light of Christ becomes shrouded by our duplicity, our hypocrisy, and our blatant double standards.  We ensure that those who are skeptical and dubious about our belief in Jesus will find it even more impossible to accept our faith as genuine and authentic.

If we believe that our God’s sovereignty and the successful working of His will is dependent upon the election of a particular candidate or the dominance of a single political party, then our God is far, far too small.

Lest you think I’m being overly critical of believers or unduly “beating up on fellow Christians” to the neglect of pointing out the faults and failures of those in the world, please understand that the latter is not within my purview as a minister of Christ.  “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.” (I Corinthians 5:12-13)

My desire is that our light shine more brightly, our convictions more consistently, and our witness more credibly as disciples of Jesus.

Grace and peace always,

Tim

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First of all, an admission and a bit of personal history: I love Chick-fil-A.

My first Chick-fil-A sandwich was eaten at Eastdale Mall in Montgomery, Alabama, shortly after my family moved to town in the summer of 1979.  It has been over 30 years since I have visited that mall, but, if the store still exists in the same location, I could walk straight to it like a guided missile.  My life since then can be somewhat timelined by the significant “Chicks” along the way:  Florence, Alabama, in the mid-90s where I witnessed the construction of the first stand alone, “mall-less” store that I had ever seen (in actuality it was built just outside the mall); Allen, Texas, where our weekly men’s breakfast from the McDermott Road church met for a short time and where several of the congregation’s youth would ultimately work; the store in McKinney where Richard Beasley and I would eat after a morning round of golf at Oak Hollow; the store in The Colony where Jeff Jenkins and I would meet regularly for breakfast and conversation; and the innumerable stores across multiple states where my family and I have dined in and “driven thru.”  

I have long admired (and occasionally been selfishly annoyed by) Chick-fil-A’s company-wide policy of being closed on Sundays so that employees can attend worship services and spend time with their families.  I greatly respect that kind of “principle over profit” approach to business.  I have also deeply respected the Christian faith of the Cathy family in the founding and leadership of their company.  Several friends of mine have heard Truett Cathy and Dan Cathy speak at leadership conferences and business conventions over the years and they have been profoundly impressed by their authenticity, humility, and commitment to biblical morality and values.

Despite all of the considerations above, the primary reason that I eat at Chick-fil-A is that I really, really, really like their food.  Truth be told, I would eat there if their founder and CEO was a Muslim, a Buddhist, or an atheist.  I go to Chick-fil-A for good chicken, not to make statements about my faith, morals, or politics.  If the food weren’t good, I wouldn’t eat there, not even if the company’s founder was the person who had led me to faith in Christ.  I would unquestionably love him and be eternally grateful to him, but I wouldn’t buy his chicken.  If Chick-fil-A was open on the Lord’s Day, you would periodically find me having Sunday lunch there, despite the fact that employees were being forced to miss morning church services or prevented from playing with their kids at the park.      

By now, most of you are aware of the latest skirmish in our nation’s culture war involving supporters of gay marriage and supporters of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy and his vocal defense of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.  I won’t rehearse the entire history of past clashes between Chick-fil-A and the LGBT community, but Cathy’s recent comments resulted in the Jim Henson Company pulling its Muppet toys from Chick-fil-A’s kids’ meals.  The mayors of Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco went on record as saying that Chick-fil-A’s values did not reflect those of their citizens and, therefore, the Atlanta-based company “need not apply” for building permits or business licenses in their cities.

The Christian counter-offensive has been swift and emotional.  I have been made aware of this most keenly from Facebook, where there has been a steady stream of admonitions to join hands, wallets, and palates for “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on Wednesday, August 1.  Organizer Mike Huckabee (or someone very effectively impersonating him on FB!) is “asking people to eat chicken and not to be one” by turning out in force this Wednesday to support Chick-fil-A with our fast food dollars.  This effort has picked up endorsements from several significant individuals and organizations.

Just a few observations, primarily for the consideration of fellow believers. 

Can we all just take a deep breath and chill a little, my brothers and sisters?

The reactions from the mayors in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco are predictable, political rhetoric solely intended to further endear them to their constituencies.  Their position is unreasonable and irrational, not to mention unconstitutional.  Their threat of opposition to Chick-fil-A’s expansion in their cities will never stand.  If they haven’t already figured this out for themselves, I assure you that their City Attorneys have done so and have reminded Their Honors of a little complication called the First Amendment.  This glaring, potential injustice was even pointed out rather quickly by the ACLU and several liberal columnists.  Political posturing at the expense of free speech and free enterprise just won’t be tolerated in the U.S., at least not at the present.  I would highly recommend for your reading an editorial in the current issue of Christianity Today entitled, “More Than a Legal Issue: The Gay Marriage Debate Shouldn’t Drive Us to Outrage or Panic.”  Published before the latest brouhaha, the subtitle is eerily prophetic. 

A few of the graphics that I have seen on Facebook featured the “Eat Mor Chikin” Holsteins displaying placards that read, “One Man; One Woman” in support of the Biblical doctrine of marriage.  Some of us are old enough to remember when this mantra contained a third phrase, “For Life.”  That last one doesn’t sell as well anymore, even (and maybe especially) among Christians.  Sadly, the divorce rate among Christians in the United States is not radically different from that of the larger culture.  Regardless of your understanding of the teaching of Jesus and the Apostle Paul on the subject, it is hard to imagine that the contemporary practice of disposable marriage among believers somehow reflects the will of God for our families.  “Inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him” regarding marriage (to quote Dan Cathy) did not begin with the recent efforts to legalize gay marriage.  Having surrendered the moral high ground on the biblical model of marriage a long time ago, the call by Christians for the defense of “traditional marriage” tends to ring a bit hollow these days and invites charges of hypocrisy from skeptics and critics of our faith. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, for whom millions of Chick-fil-A supporters will likely vote in November, is a member of a faith tradition that, while being solid on the “one man” aspect of marriage, has, historically speaking, been rather fuzzy on the number of women who can simultaneously share in the matrimonial equation.  The “mathematics of marriage” in Mormonism hasn’t always been an exact science.  Sorry, folks, but it needed to be said.

Chick-fil-A-Gate has also reminded me just how easily we Christians can get our knickers in a twist.  When something doesn’t go our way (and why should things ever go our way in a world that largely does not share our faith and values?) we tend to get just as “loud and proud” as the next “victimized” group.  I wish that our responses weren’t so painfully predictable when we are gigged and goaded by others.  We whine, cry foul, and vehemently insist on our rights, all at the expense of gutting our witness as followers of Christ.  We vainly claim persecution at the slightest offense, while believers in other parts of the world truly suffer (and sometimes die) for their faith.  “When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things,” (I Cor. 4:12-13).  Our many liberties have spoiled American Christians into indignant discontent with being the scum and dregs of the earth; we simply won’t have it.            

Might I make a suggestion for those who really want to show their support for Chick-fil-A and for others this Wednesday?  Instead of the mere quid pro quo of giving Chick-fil-A money in exchange for a meal that you might have purchased anyway (where is the sacrifice and heroism in that?), why not just walk into the store and make a donation of $10, $50, or $100, asking for nothing in return.  Don’t like the non-tax-deductible sound of that?  Then make a donation to the company’s incredibly inspiring WinShape Foundation!  I assure you that your money will be put to good use.  How about purchasing $50 worth of meals and taking them to a homeless shelter, or contacting your local fire station and letting them know that you’ll be providing a Chick-fil-A lunch on Wednesday for those on the afternoon shift; anything beyond satisfying your own hunger with a #1 Combo in the name of morality.                            

So, will I be eating at Chick-fil-A this Wednesday?  I may, if the lines aren’t too long (and they frequently are, to the tune of $4.1 billion in sales last year).  And if I do, it won’t be because I’ve been bullied into it by this “eat a chicken or be one” nonsense.  My faith and morality have a lot more substance than that.  But, if I don’t eat there on Wednesday, I will definitely do so sometime in the very near future.  Like I said, I love their food!

Praise the Lord and pass the waffle fries!

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