Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Ugly Face Of Fanaticism: Christians Blindly Following Wicked Leaders

Few would argue that we are witnessing the unraveling of the end of days if signs and events are any indication. The ferocious battle between good and evil rages even more, and the fact that Christians are at the front lines of this battle is indicative that spiritual casualties are a possibility. Jesus, during his earthly ministry had warned his disciples of the coming deception that would test their faith that even the very elect could fall for. When his disciples inquired of him as to the end of days, the first thing he said was, "take heed that no man deceive you" (Matthew 24:2-3).

Deception is the favorite weapon of the devil to ensnare those that do not belong to him. Deception is his classic ammunition intended for the believers to get to the core of their belief where he can easily compromise without him getting noticed. I remember a pastor once said that "the devil cannot get inside the church (a building or room where we gather), for it is a holy place. Of course I imagined we were being secured by a spiritual fence in the form of fire where no enemy dares enter. But as a Christian desiring to grow deeper in the knowledge of truth, I found out that the enemy can make easy playground through the doctrines taught in church.

As Christians we are called to be vigilant, discerning and well-versed in the scripture. But the devil is cunning, his antics never get boring when it comes to ensnaring believers into his trap, and he is more well-versed in scripture than any of us, so who can top that? The Bible says, "greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). So, that is already one big blow to the enemy, if we hold on to God's truth in faith. Speaking of truth, it is very important that as Christians we don't strip ourselves of the full armor of God, one of which is the belt of truth that should be tightly fastened. But once our belt of truth loosened up, our breastplate of righteousness also goes down with it, and every other armor comes unraveling so that we lose our battle with the enemy. Some Christians easily overlook the fact that once we have submitted ourselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ, we have also automatically enlisted ourselves into God's army. We don't expect to be just sitting back as spectators to the ensuing battle without participating, and by participating we mean getting ourselves fully equipped to be ready for battle with the intent to win it.

Christian Dilemma over scriptural emphasis on following laws of men

Very often we hear exchanges of opinion in church and among Christian communities as to the right interpretation of certain scriptural doctrine that sometimes contentious subject find its way on social media platforms. As a result, debates and arguments lead to fire and brimstone which ultimately unmask the true state of modern Christianity, thereby giving the unbelievers a front view seat to the spectacle. 

One particular subject that sets up Christians to an argument can be found in Romans 13:1. It says, "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." Take note that Paul calls everyone to be in subjection to all authorities as it is God who establishes authorities on earth. What Paul wanted to say is that, authorities are there for a reason to create laws and policies in order to attain social order. For when there is no law there will be chaos and disorder. Even Paul and other disciples had subjected themselves to authorities. When they were apprehended and jailed for no apparent reason apart from preaching God's word, they did not fight back or initiated dissent, rather they obeyed their oppressors who happened to be the men in authority.

In Acts 5, the authorities got the apostles arrested and jailed for preaching and healing the sick. But the angel of the Lord came to their rescue and commanded them to preach about Jesus. When the authorities found out that they got out of prison and still preaching at the temple, they were again arrested and presented to the council where they were warned not to preach again. But Peter defiantly replied, "we would rather obey God than men". Before they were released, the authorities had them beaten again and warned them not to preach Jesus to which they blatantly defied by continually preaching and teaching in the temple and in every house. (Acts 5:42)

Take note that if Paul's admonition to believers to obey authorities is absolute, he himself should have obeyed them, no more ifs and buts. When the authorities had warned him not to preach, he should have stopped preaching, for reasons that he just causes trouble by stirring up arguments that would eventually lead to chaos and dissent. But Paul and all other apostles were not cowed by death threats and incarceration because to them God's laws and commandments should come first before all other laws of man. They could have easily stopped their ministry if only to set an example to the believers that they practice what they preach. But there is really no need to be confused if we all read and understand our bibles because one thing that Paul and the apostles would want us to know is that, once the law of man is already in conflict with the law of God, there is no contest as to which law the believers ought to follow.

Christians unconsciously becoming complicit to the transgression of God's law

These days, one of the hot topics in just about every conversation of global proportion is the so-called war on drugs in the Philippines initiated by president Rodrigo Duterte. Since he took office in July this year, there has been over three thousand dead people who are either products of police operation or extra-judicial killings. Duterte won the election in May mainly because of his promise to rid the country of drugs and other crimes in only three to six months - which greatly resonated with people. Filipinos think he is their hope amid all troubles befalling the country. If anything, their admiration of him already borders on idolatry if the degree of loyalty to him is any indication.

Duterte supporters come in all shapes and sizes, his charisma pervasive it transcends religion, social status and party affiliation. History would vouch no other political figure has emerged in Philippine setting as polarizing as Duterte. Either he is being adored or loathed. By tradition, if a politician has a reputation of killing people, that could pretty much spell his doom. Ironically, Duterte is being adored for bragging he had killed many people and has promised during campaign that he would kill all criminals so that peace will be achieved in the country of 110 million.

This brazen pronouncement by Duterte coupled with a serious vow to make it happen in just six months - either got people excited or alarmed. Fast forward to three months, the death toll including many who were innocent - whom Duterte supporters pass off as collateral damage - is already inching closer to four thousand mark. Despite cries by the global human rights organizations of a massive human rights violations and the increasing local opposition to the culture of death - there seems to be no waning of the bloodlust by the Duterte supporters who advocate drug users of all kinds deserve death.

Wait till we hear real consensus from real people. During the campaign preceding the election, it is understandable that Duterte's support comes from all walks of life - and that includes born-again believers who openly campaign for Duterte. Pastors and spiritual leaders would even dedicate a day of prayer and fasting to ensure Duterte's victory in the election.

It is no secret that President Duterte despite all allegations of criminal past - enjoys massive support from Christian communities. The magnitude of support he has from Christian groups is unprecedented in Philippine political history, that not even a certain Eddie Villanueva, a popular pastor evangelist - could draw a fraction of that support when he ran for president twice.

Now this is where it gets really disturbing. If social media is to be the barometer to gauge people's opinion, the consensus is really scary. Most professing Christians including those that I know of personally - are in favor and fully supportive of Duterte's style of war on drugs no matter the method of implementation. So far those that are dead include the innocent, women and children, and lately a vacationing OFW who was mistaken for a drug suspect, got apprehended, tortured and killed by the police.

The love of many shall wax cold

A few months back prior to election, I had a conversation on Facebook with a pastor based in the Middle East who is an ardent supporter of Duterte. He said he does not believe in due process anymore and that it's about time that all the menace in society should be annihilated. He said he stands by what he said because he already started to fear for his family given today's crime-riddled society, so due process to him is no longer applicable. That goes without saying, once a suspected criminal gets cornered, there will be no jail time for him or a court of law hearing his case, just one final stop for him: six feet below the ground.

That conversation may sound ordinarily innocuous but it is reflective of the actual values present in today's churches: of Christians forgetting the very basic tenets of Christianity for their self-preservation. What makes it even disturbing is the fact that this pastor does not believe in due process anymore but is advocating death for society's transgressors as shortcut to peace. The fact that it is an opinion of a Christian, let alone a pastor who had topped his Homiletics class, is doubly disturbing, and I could only hope and pray he is alone. But reality tells otherwise. In the wake of a weakening Philippine economy mainly due to fears and worries of the president's deadly war on drugs, some Filipino Christians are yet to awake from their blind adoration of him. The extent of their fanaticism is shockingly evident by their Facebook posts supporting the lies and ferociously defending even the vilest of deed associated with the president, and we can't even start to comprehend how on earth Christians can lose their testimony and becoming belligerent in the name of their idolatry for a wicked man.

I've been in some of these churches and I can tell how congregants are being fed with the doctrine of absolute authority by the state and that Christians ought to obey leaders as though it is a godly mandate they need to follow ascribing to Romans 13. However, this twisting of the scripture coupled with church's leaders special fondness for a certain leader - makes for a lethal recipe for spiritual deception. They think that whatever directive it is coming from a leader, even if it is a wicked leader, they ought to support it. And this begs the question: How can "Christians support and even defend a leader whose program of death is a glaring violation of God's commandment "thou shalt not kill"?

Christian's false obedience (to authorities) as one facet of deception

Indeed deception comes in a variety of forms. Christians who believe that if they follow or obey whosoever in authority as backed up by their Romans 13:1 misinterpretation - will be finding themselves at war with biblical truth. Or is it because they themselves are the fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3: 1-4 that they would rather support a president who advocates killing without the rule of law? How far will some Christians go in their adoration for a wicked man at the pretext that he is a god-installed leader whom they should support and follow regardless of his bloodthirsty agenda? Have they already forgotten the time when the gospel of salvation was preached to them and later found out that "God wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth"? (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9) Did it not even cross their minds that the death of the wicked does not please God? (Ezekiel 18:32)

Christians ought to obey authorities for no authority under heaven exists except that which God ordains. That's very clear.  God also tells us to obey human laws, and we should. But sometimes men in authority act as if they are above the law of the land, and yet people, including many Christians perceive it as God-ordained so that they equate supporting and obeying these men in authority to obeying God. And what kind of a Christian will support and agree with a leader who invokes Hitler and tags himself as the modern-day copycat who would gladly slaughter millions of drug addicts? If we do, we have been greatly deceived for not even recognizing we no longer serve the compassionate God who gives second chances, in fact many chances, to all. Truth be told, we may have been serving another god.

The Holy Spirit will not allow true believers to get stuck in a quagmire of confusion for it is Him who guides, directs and convicts believers into all truth. It's just that we do not allow Him to do His work in us because as Christians our personal opinion and preferences override that of the will of God. This is where many Christians who are die-hard supporters of wicked leaders suffer from an issue of false obedience. It is as simple as it gets: we've been commanded to obey human laws and also authorities, no question about that, but when human laws come in conflict with God's law, "we are to obey God rather than men".

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