What would Jesus do?

22 December 2011

Millions of people believe that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God, sent to earth to teach us how to live.  Many others, including some of the founding fathers like Jefferson, modern Unitarians, and a lot of people who don’t consider themselves Christians at all, aren’t convinced that Jesus is the Son of God, but think he was a great moral teacher.  When they confront an ethical decision, or a morally loaded issue of public policy, they may ask, ``What would Jesus Do?” 

How would Jesus have voted on California’s Proposition 8 -- that is, what views did he have, or would he have had, on same sex marriage?  What would he counsel President Obama to do about Afghanistan?  Would he oppose the Death Penalty?  Would he pay his taxes without protest?  Would he oppose abortion?  Some abortions?  All abortions?  How about euthanasia?  There are many issues, on which it seems it would be good to have the advice of this moral teacher, whether or not he was or is as divine as some people think. 

In order to ask these questions, we need to know something about the historical Jesus: what he said, what he thought, what he did.  Of course everything about the historical Jesus has been questioned by someone or another… including his existence. 

But even to get started on our topic, we have to assume some things.  So we assume that Jesus did exist, and that the gospels, although written sixty or so years after he lived, are accurate at least on the points on which they agree.

The gospels don’t agree on everything.  They have Jesus saying different things as he was executed.  They don’t all tell the familiar story of his birth in Bethlehem.  Matthew has Jesus saying things on the mount that Luke has him saying on the Plain.  But, luckily for our purposes, they pretty much agree on his moral teachings. 

And many agree that the core of these teachings come to this, from Luke chapter 6:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.  Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them back again.  And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. 

Well, it’s pretty clear that Jesus wouldn’t oppose single sex marriage.  He would ask, if I were gay, wouldn’t I want people to allow me to marry?  And then he would do as he would want to be done to, if he were gay, and vote for gay marriage.

Or maybe not.  When Jesus was asked about divorce, he expressed a pretty traditional view of marriage.  He pointed out that God made man and woman, and they become one, and said no divorce except in the case of unfaithfulness.  So maybe it’s not clear that he would vote for gay marriage.

One one hand, it seems he would be on the liberal side of things.  Sometimes he sounds practically like a socialist.  "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God,” he said.  And to the rich he said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth….go, sell what you have, and give to the poor." And he famously observed: "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."  Sounds like he would definitely a democrat, or even further to the left.

One the other hand, sometimes   Jesus sounds like a pretty extreme individualist.  He thought people should give to the poor of their own free will, not through taxes to the state.  If Jesus were following the Republican Primary, perhaps the candidate he would have liked best is Ron Paul.  The individual should follow his conscience.  The key principle is not to harm others.

So it may not be so simple to figure out what Jesus would do.   On the show we will get help from  Andrew Fiala, who wrote the book What Would Jesus Really Do? 

 

Comments (24)


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Guest

Thursday, December 22, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

Jesus. Or a representation.

Jesus. Or a representation. Holding a Henry Repeater. Yes. I know guns, somewhat. The Henry rifle was originally chambered for a 44-40 round: big enough to stop a man, but pretty anemic against a bear or a buffalo.
What Would Jesus Do? That very much depends upon what someone thinks Jesus could do. Most would say that, based on lore,he would not carry a Henry Repeater. But, given current circumstances, we don't really know.
Now, when the idea of Jesus was conceived in the mind of God: birth; teachings; death; resurrection, and so on; we wonder when it was that Jesus the half-human, half-divine being knew the destiny awaiting him. He allegedly spoke of being forsaken. So he must have known. Somehow/somewhen. Look, I have always been perplexed by the Christian mythology. There are too many inconsistencies. Too many things that do not add up. I would expect it to be so for other faiths. Well, you can figure it out. I am not a doctor or even a bachelor---those could have earned me mo' money. I'll still die though.
(afterthought:that half-human, half-divine thing had been around awhile, right?

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Guest

Saturday, December 24, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

Many people try to answer

Many people try to answer "what would Jesus do" regarding situations today, many of them to further an agenda of their own that had nothing to do with His - like whoever decided to depict him with a rifle. I think I know what He would say about all those touchy topics like abortion, gay marriage, and such, and I can back it from his words. But others would debate me. These things existed in Jesus' time as well, and he chose not to focus on them. I have to be content with that.
The more important question, I think, is not so much "what would Jesus do," but "what does He want me/us to do?"
Oh, and Dave, on the half-human, half-divine thing...that indeed comes up in many religions (think Hercules, Gilgamesh, Krishna, etc), but that is not actually what comes up in Christianity. He is not half human, half divine - the Christian belief is that He was (and is, and always will be) fully God (John 1:1-3, Col 1:19-20, etc), and at the same time was fully man (Heb 2:11-14, Php 2:7-8). This is what made it so hard to grasp, and led to so many divisions as the church grew and people tried to bend the truth God gave them to fit their human reason and philosophy (think Arians, Myaphisites vs Diaphysites, and so on). Half-human half-divine would have been easy.

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Guest

Saturday, December 24, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

What would Jesus do? The

What would Jesus do? The folks who love violence and inflicting penalty will cite the wrathful Jesus driving the moneychangers from the temple and his prophecy of the temple's destruction by the Romans. And the folks who favor love and non-violence will cite "love thy neighbor as thyself" and "turn the other cheek". The ambiguities in the New Testament and Old lend themselves readily. Thus warmonger and peacemonger alike may find justification, so convenient!
What would Jesus do? Whatever you want!
Thus one in the same entity can be a god of war and a god of compassion--two in one! Such a deal!
You'd need Mars and Quan Yin, from two different pagan religions to match it.
But I tell you I can't but help feel proud that here in the west we have a real religion, while everywhere else
they have only superstition.
Everyone knows that angels are real but bodhisattvas and other pagan creations are merely mythological.
One only has to look at an angel's beautiful wings to know this is so.
And me? I worship the universal god of sarcasm, the most holy Ambrose Bierce.

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Guest

Sunday, December 25, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

Why didn't Jesus write

Why didn't Jesus write anything?
=

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Guest

Sunday, December 25, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

The question should not be:

The question should not be: what would Jesus do.
Rather it must be: what will we do?
And surely the answer without any uncertainty or doubt is simply we must do what is right!
Right?
But what is right you may ask?
Do you know, yourself?
Right simply and truly just or equally is: the Oneness of infinite you.
=

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Guest

Sunday, December 25, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

Now that is a good question.

Now that is a good question. He certainly could have, literacy was quite common at that time, especially among Jews. There are lots of theories. My personal thought is that he was focusing his time on teaching, knowing that his time was short, and that he was not actually trying to start a new doctrine or religion. His first followers did not write anything (so far as we are aware) for the next fifteen or twenty years, either. The emerging realization that they might actually have to pass things on to another generation is what I think drove them to write - that, and as the church spread letters became necessary. Jesus did his teaching personally, sometimes to crowds but mostly focused on a small group of disciples, so had little need to write.

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Guest

Monday, December 26, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

You are all right, Nathan.

You are all right, Nathan. All Right. Inasmuch as you are a believer and I am not---we are both entitled to our opinions. Does the Bible say Jesus bled, before and after being on the cross? I thought it did---but maybe I was reading the wrong translation? Blood/bleeding seems to indicate mortality---fleshiness, uh, physical life. So. Hmmmm. What does this mean to the idea of the embodiment of a fleshly being into a spiritual manifestation of God? I just don't get it, Nate. Nothing lives forever---except, perhaps for DNA---but, forever is a long, long time, isn't it?-No? Please don't give me the "thousand years are but a day with God"---such worn out metaphors are useless now...I am a scientist and a philosopher. Look at how Bertrand Russell defined them, if you wish.

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Guest

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

I would also say lots of

I would also say lots of people don't ever think about it at all... they were told some stuff about Jesus, but they don't really think who he was or if he was son of a God, or great teacher, or whatever.. And I this this is most of people in fact.

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Guest

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

I'm thinking that the man

I'm thinking that the man holding the Henry Rifle might have been one of the great American Indian chieftains, perhaps Gerinomo or Sitting Bull---that is, before the arm and rifle were photo shopped onto a likeness of what someone thinks Jesus looked like. The thing about manipulating reality? Someone, somewhere, sometime will notice---and call you on it.

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Guest

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

When people today say Jesus

When people today say Jesus wasn't talking about Government action when He urged people to help others, I think that is a fallacious idea. Surely Jesus would agree with people who choose to band together and work to help others more effectively and that a democratic government is a legitimate tool for that effort!

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Guest

Thursday, December 29, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

The clerics in most Christian

The clerics in most Christian sects tend to be evenly opposed on any issue such as same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, or war. Yet, the main teachings of Jesus were very clear: He was more interested in the state of the individual soul than in political affairs. He taught the importance of truth. (Indeed, Muslims call Jesus "the Truth" rather than "the Christ"). He taught the golden rule ("Do unto others ..."). He despised hypocrisy.
So, why the theological confusion? I suspect that too many theologians mistake rationalizing their prejudices for reasoning and thereby arrive at all sorts of absurdities concerning what Jesus would have done.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

Dave, yes of course he bled

Dave, yes of course he bled before and during the crucifixion, and the scars remained even after. That is exactly the point of fully human, and fully divine, at the same time. It is not about a human being who somehow becomes a "spiritual manifestation" of God, or God giving the illusion of being human for a while - both of those explanations occurred to people long ago of course. It is about the eternal God choosing to become one of us. So of course there is flesh, and blood, and mortality - that was the whole point of the Incarnation - and at the same time, eternity and immortality. It doesn't make sense to our human reason. So what? Why should human reason, which is of course limited and imperfect, bind God? And should we expect that everything will 'stand to reason?'

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Guest

Sunday, January 1, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

Sorry Nate. I don't get it.

Sorry Nate. I don't get it. Never did. If human reason is imperfect, why did God bother with humans in the first
place? Was the all-powerful creator just bored, as some have suggested? And, if in fact, we were created in God's image, why would our reasoning abilities be imperfect? Just wondering, Nate. Just wondering. I'm a scientist and philosopher by inclination---educated on my own, and without the paper trail of greater minds. No worries. Thanks.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

Dave: I'm not a philosopher

Dave: I'm not a philosopher or scientist myself, though I do find both interesting.
Why did God bother to create us? The Bible does not say, so anyone who answers is speculating - I think creativity is in his nature, it brings him joy to create. And "God is love;" perhaps he created us as a way of further sharing this love that is his nature. As for why he made us with imperfect reason, I'm not sure that he did. He made us with the ability to choose to remain with him or turn away from him - our turning away has damaged us. Whether our reason was one of the things damaged, or whether it was limited in the first place, is a debate among Christians as well. Of course, along with creating us, he also created things of much more limited capabilities, all the way down to protozoa, so there is no real reason to expect that he would make us perfect, or that he had to.
What is God's image in us? Another wide-open debate even within Christian circles. My own view - you can see it in the things that set us apart. We have emotion; we are creative; we are relational; we can imagine things not before our eyes; above all we can choose to love, or not to love, and act on that choice regardless of any and all other considerations.
Short and probably inadequate answers to what are in fact very deep questions. Thanks!

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, January 14, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

RE: How would Jesus vote..

RE: How would Jesus vote...was he a socialist, etc. The gospel commands the followers of Christ to obey "the authorities." This precludes all revolution, usurping, etc. (Did it ever dawn on you that the American Revolution was about taxation? Jesus didn't say, "give unto Caesar what is Caesar's as long as you have representation."...) Democracy is nothing more than a system that provides all voters with a piece of the authority - it makes us all into both the authority and potential obeyers or not obeyers of that authority. Democracy is constant, bloodless (save for capital punishment) revolution. Jesus would not vote. If you need further proof, look at this, "I say to you, do not resist the evil.". Voting equals the making of law. Law is the resistance of evil. Law is the withholding of the cloak when one comes for the cloak. We were told by Jesus to give unto the asker. This sounds like socialism. But socialism requires the FORCING of people's to provide what the asker asks for. Jesus would give unto the poor their asking as well as the rich (he would not resist the evil). Socialism is the resistance of greed, or the rich, or whatever you like, bottom line: It's resistance. He would not resist socialism, nor would he restrain, constrain or force his hand against those resisting socialism in order to create socialism, because these resistors are the asker. Furthermore, Jesus taught that all forms of angst are essential refutations of the salvation that is granted by merely believing that God provides all that one needs, "worry not on your life or what he shall put on, or eat...for all these things the nations of the world seek after, seek he the Reign of God, and all these shall be added unto you..." (see also Paul's numerous, absolute rebukes of living in the flesh. All politics is after the needs of the flesh. Freedom? Paul also admonished not to run to the excuse of the "cloak of freedom." All politics is revolutionary and resistance oriented. Voting is bloodless, but spiritually speaking it's a denial of salvation.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

PS: All politics is anxious.

PS: All politics is anxious. Politics says, "If we do not vote in this law, or this person, bad things will happen." Those who behold the salvation that is the reversal of the wit consumed in Eden nothing coming down the pike as bad. (they are reversing it within by their will or by the bliss and power beholding heart, which, yes, is essentially, by the commands of Jesus, a pacifist thing....yes, unwise per evolution's dogma, so that the evil will be left on the earth to cleanse itself from the universe - an eschatology that i think does not controvert the Gospels). It will suck, for sure, but essentially God is almighty, and all the times are leading to the time when the meek shall inherit the earth - a good thing. We give unto the asker, and we resist not, "so far as is in he," (this latter addendum of Paul's perhaps giving a nod to the fact that the animal within us will betray our better effort or will when pain or terror comes into the picture). But voting, while safe within our comfortable nation, to stop an evil, asking foe, or to take from the rich to give to the poor, or to keep the poor from taking from those who consider themselves meriting their posession? This is resistance.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

Ps again: If the first post

Ps again: If the first post was confusing, look at it this way: Any democracy can arrive at any degree of socialism. One iota of welfare, and you have one iota of socialism. The degree to which a nation is socialist is the degree to which, from a Christian perspective, the individuals of the nation have sought to become the authority and grasp the reigs of material fate - an act which requires the resistance of ones who would rather things be more of a material meritocracy. Socialism requires law enforcement, which is fine, but you can't be a Christian and be also a part of that enFORCEment. So often the people Jesus was admonishing us to give to or yield to were not the poor, but some folks who were well above the material station of his audience, ie., the Roman government (a welfare mechanism for a sumptuous homeland and it's far flung administrators and it's presently, desperately needed allies) as well as Roman soldiers.
Look, He made it pretty simple: do not resist the evil. Who to a socialist is the evil? Those who resist socialism. Love thy enemy. Who is the enemy of socialism (and don't try and complicate the word love, because, as I've established, the asker is given unto, and nowhere in the Gospel can you find a caviat to that, and you can find several instances of some very bad people being yielded to, some of thisyieldingby thievery man we were told to "follow in the footsteps of...", picking up "our cross" no less. C'mon peeps! The martyrs of the first couple of centuries had it right. But somewhere along the way we left His footsteps, around the time we started following Constantine's...

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Sunday, January 15, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

Mel: it is true that

Mel: it is true that submission is a big part of the Christian life, and also that there is a strong strain of pacifism in Christianity, which I respect though I have not followed it myself. As to whether or not Jesus would have voted, and if so how - I think there is no way to answer that question. In his time on earth the situation never came up. One can show that, presented with the opportunity, he put aside the idea of political revolution. He in fact did preach obedience to authorities even when they were hypocritical. Paul simply said that governing authorities are there for a reason (reward good, punish evil), and for that reason to be obeyed. Peter stated the principle that one must obey God rather than human authorities when the two conflict (Acts 4, Acts 6). I think Jesus, and Peter, and Paul, were all extremely careful to make sure the two did actually conflict before engaging in disobedience.
So if voting were in fact an act of disobedience, or only about resisting evil or fear, I would say you are right. But the position only holds if that is all voting is about, which I think is not the case. In a democracy, voting is an act of obedience to the law and to one's community responsibilities - a situation that did not pertain in Jesus' earthly time.
Politics was simply not a concern of Jesus or of the apostles - they had much more important things to do. As the church, I think so do we. As an American citizen, politics does concern me - as a Christian, it does not. For the church as a whole, I think it should be a non-issue - certainly trying to line Jesus up on one political side or another is at best silly. That, if anything, is the modern legacy of Constantine. I very much doubt that the Lord will ask us, come that Day, "So, how many supreme court justice nominations did you control?"

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Monday, January 16, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

Hey Nate, thanks for the

Hey Nate, thanks for the response. Let me query: Would Jesus incarcerate someone? When you vote, you are becoming the authority - you share in its actions. I realize democracy is a new phenomenon, but it's simple to see what it is - its very genius and it's very attraction was that it took power out of the hands of the few and put it into the many. When you vote for, let's say, a socialist leaning law or politician (a literal "representative" of the majority electorate), you are then a part of the power that arrives at a person's door and says, "You're coming with us, to prison, for not paying your taxes. We need your taxes, to pay for this here social program." I could go on and on with the passages. And as for you being for your religion and for your nation, was it not said by Paul that you cannot be living in the flesh (the governments are for the flesh - "all these things do the nations of the world seek after.") And did not Jesus say we cannot serve two masters, not God and Mammon (the nations are for mammon).

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

Nate, take a look at your

Nate, take a look at your second to last paragraph. First, voting is not required by law. Second, all voting is for people or laws whose only ability to do anything is predicated on power - the ability to force someone to do something that the electorate's voice has said is GOOD. What's the opponent of good? That's right. Do I sound like a nut? Look, I didn't write the Gospel. You were told to beleive in it as a babe believes. What I'm saying flies in the face of common sense (the party that doesn't vote is the lot that gets shafted, the religion that doesn't defend itself goes extinct...). But a babe does not know commons sense from a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Do not resist evil. Period. If you try to claim it's more complicated than that, or that we need to study up on the meaning of it your saying God did not write something that could stand the test of time, and that babes best not go to the Gospel unassisted. Can you entertain the possibility that Christianity got corrupted? If so, would it not be appropriate to reverse that corruption? You see, from Jesus onward there were tens of thousands of people who took up their cross and followed, because they
Believed in the pot of gold at the end of earthly death. Two things to leave you with: If you are conservative: how do we know that Islam is not the mechanism of the bless-Ed Armageddeon? And how are youa saved person, going to be ill affected if the nation's work ethic goes to pot because people become dependent on the wellfare state? If you're a Socialist, your righteous imploring and your laws cement ever more and more the truth that it is the material world that matters.
(paraphrasing from some NT book): "the rulers of the world lord it over them and they are called benefactors. But you, you are not to be like this...". And, "all these things do the nations of the world seek after, but he, seek he the Reign of God..."
You're right, democracy didn't exist in Jesus' time. Who brought it to us? Peope who thought we NEEDED it. Saved people need for nothing (...seek he the Reign of God and all these things shall be added unto ye.". And remember, he's not talking about after death, "there are some standing here today who will taste the kingdom come in power before they taste death...". And, the kingdom of God is within you...". Voting says one thing: we lack a thing, we must do this so we don't, and force will be aplied, wether you support that force or not, to make the thing you voted for happen. You gave the force it's direction, and so are needing.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

I'm not connected with the

I'm not connected with the book out now that uses my "handle" in its subtitle. So let's not worry about copyright and other such materialist foofawrah, OK? The Henry rifle was revolutionary for its time---a man (or similar being) could "load it once in the morning and fire it all day." All good, of course. But the rifle lacked a protective wooden forearm piece. Those who wanted it fire it "all day" had to use a good leather glove on their bracing hand, or else suffer burns from barrel heat. Jesus would not have had to concern himself with that contingency. There were no Henry rifles in his age, as far as we know or has been written. What Jesus would or would not do, TODAY, is moot, I think. He fulfilled his purpose, we suppose. Word is he did have a temper---the Temple Incident appears to attest to that fact. But, he was first a mortal human, long before he forwarded his teachings and annoyed authorities. And when later executed, he died. As did Mohammed; The Buddha; Zoroastre (if in fact he existed at all); Baha'u'llah; and any number of lesser known prophets, seers, shamans, and charlatans.
Look. All of this is speculation and surmise. People are free to believe, and believe in, anything they choose. As some in this discussion have intimated, religion(faith) and philosophy (inquiry), are similar to each other. They are growth industries of the human condition, though their ends are not totally clear. Science is better organized and this difference is the reason why it remains at odds with its siblings. Science insists upon proof, taking nothing on faith. So there it is. Argue you this, or argue you that: (...face piles of trials with smiles...)
The Camel is chewing on betel nuts...It is midnight at the oasis. Tomorow will be much as was today...

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

Mel: would Jesus incarcerate

Mel: would Jesus incarcerate someone? At some point he will separate the sheep from the goats eternally, and that is much more serious than mere earthly incarceration. He even paid his taxes. One can indeed not serve both God and Mammon - and one cannot live by the Spirit and in the flesh - however the governing authorities "do not bear the sword for nothing" and we are to "pray for kings and all those in authority" so that they can do the things necessary that we might "live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." I daresay one cannot live such a life in the midst of anarchy.
And if indeed we are to "make disciples of all people" and if indeed "God wants all men to come to a knowledge of the truth," would that not include even people who serve in government? When even soldiers came and asked John the Baptist "what should we do?" he did not tell them to leave the army - and they were in the army of a local tyrant.
Would Jesus vote? I don't know. Would he forbid us from voting? I think not. We are not of this world, but we are in it for a time, and while in it we are to live as blamelessly as we can, in order to "shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of truth." I think this means living in obedience to the governing system and authorities, so long as neither demands us to disobey the commands of God upon us. There is no commandment against voting, nor against serving in government. We are to be "salt and light," we cannot do that without being involved in the world around us.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

Why has this post attracted

Why has this post attracted so much attention? Is everyone in this great land a closet Christian? Or, is the impetus more basic than Jesus or anyone else? Never has there been a faith that has created more arguability, within and without of itself. Is this the underlying secret of the universe:humankind, in all of its earlier to later manifestations, thrives on the Great Controversy. Is that ATF there is?

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Saturday, January 28, 2012 -- 4:00 PM

Maybe this topic is more

Maybe this topic is more important to people than our oh-so-chic public cynicism would have you believe.

 
 
 

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