Wake Up, People! That’s Not the Real Obama!

Barack Obama released his birth certificate this week, proving that he is, in fact, an American citizen and entitled to be our president.

Too bad that’s not the real Barack Obama.

The Birthers wasted so much time wondering if Obama is an American citizen that they forgot to ask the important question: is he even human?

Or is this part of some diabolical plot by an alien race to conquer us from the inside-out? I submit that it’s the latter.

That’s why I’m not a Birther.

I’m an Earther.

Think about it, dear reader. Do you really think it’s a coincidence that “Obama” released his birth certificate not long after Glenn Beck was thrown from his prophetic mantle of truth at Fox News? (You can read my 100-percent accurate analysis of that tragic situation here.)

“Obama” doesn’t care about convincing you he’s an American! He just wants you to think he’s human!

I won’t tell you my sources on this because they don’t exist I shouldn’t have to. All it takes is a keen eye and a will to blog.

The real Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961 as an actual person and American citizen. What none of us knew at the time was that baby Obama was secretly replaced by an extraterrestrial look-alike, who in adulthood rose to prominence in the Democratic Party and assumed the presidency in 2008.

There’s a reason SETI has been de-funded and is no longer working. The other-worldly conspirators in our government don’t want you finding “Obama’s” home planet!

I know what you’re going to say: “Come now, Justin, why wouldn’t the aliens just attack us? If they’re smart enough to impersonate us, then they’d obviously have the advantage in a war!”

The answer, my inquisitive friend, is simple.

Independence Day.

Battle: Los Angeles.

War of the Worlds.

Heck, even Signs.

The aliens have seen our movies and know that we think they’re going to come in, lasers blazing. Every movie we’ve ever made has prepared us for an all-out, inter-galactic assault. We know the drill: we’ll be shocked that something like this is happening in real life but will be roused to fight for the human race (and to impress pretty girls).

No, if the aliens are going to attack, they know they’ve got to adopt another strategy. They know that humans–motivated both by courage and improving their dating prospects in the post-apocalyptic world–can’t be taken in combat.

But what if the aliens disguised themselves as humans?

What if they looked and sounded just like you?

What if they managed to get themselves democratically elected to high office?

You don’t have to picture it, people.

It’s happening. Every day, in our “democracy”.

That’s why you need to wake up now, before you spend the rest of your days hand-feeding grapes to an alien in the confines of what used to be your home.

Rise from your slumber, Earthers! We’ve got no time to lose.

Happy Endings

The last episode of The Office wasn’t particularly funny, but I was surprised by how moved I was. (Seriously, the scene between Michael and Jim, in which each of the teary-eyed adult men say “goodbye,” is one of the best moments the show has given us.)

Agent Michael Scarn ... FBI!

I didn’t expect that I’d relate to this episode or to Michael Scott, who until this point has been the show’s dim-witted protagonist. But after thinking about it, as well as considering how that character has progressed over seven years, I know why this episode hit me harder than I expected.

It’s because I’m a little jealous.

Michael Scott now knows his story has a happy ending–and I’m not always sure that mine will.

On my stronger days, I do. I know that everyone, at some point in their lives, hasn’t always been satisfied with where they are. Everyone second-guesses their motives at some point. Eventually those feelings pass and you are reminded–again–of why you chose to be where you are and how much you love it.

But that doesn’t stop the doubt from popping up in the future, does it?

And when it does, I find myself wishing for a little clairvoyance. I would like to know that there is a marriage in my future–somewhere. I would like to be able to see how the work I’ve done so far has made a difference in people’s lives. I would like to know that the friends I’ve grown to know and love are still going to be the people I know and love when I’m old and wrinkly. And I’d like to be sure that I’ve shown Christ to people in some way, that I’ve tried to be a friend to people who don’t always find themselves with friends and that I’ve hopefully given skeptics of the faith a reason to reconsider it.

I don’t feel like I need all of those things at this very moment. I don’t even need everything to happen as I picture it. I just want some assurance that all of this is leading to an ending I’m going to enjoy.

That’s what I hope, anyway. Maybe you can relate because lately, you’ve been asking yourself a similar series of questions.

I don’t have an easy answer for you. If I can’t foresee my own particular ending, then how am I supposed to know yours? But I can offer something else. In the moments when I’m weak, here’s what I remind myself:

I think our story is part of something much bigger than ourselves.

I think we were created for beauty and wonder and justice and love and that we have been hijacked.

I think we were made for greatness and worshiped lesser things.

I think each of us has fallen short of that, over and over again, only to wake up on the ground and find that God Himself has stooped down and offered us a way to get back up.

I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is God with flesh, feet, and the occasional morning breath and that, by looking at him, I learn that God likes me as a person.

I believe the Cross is not a defeat but a sign that Love has reckoned with our sin and has neutralized our shame.

I believe the Resurrection has assured us that we’re going to dance on our own graves and outlive the darkest parts of ourselves.

I believe the Church is a community of whores who have been called to forsake their clients and pursue a Lover.

I believe that the same King Jesus who died on behalf of rebels will return to set things right, once and for all.

And because of that Great Story, at my darkest moments of disbelief and doubt, I’m reminded that I live in a world of happy endings after all.

How Has Your Theology Changed?

Every now and then, I look back on my walk of faith and have a hard time believing just how much I’ve changed. I don’t mean in terms of virtue and character but also in my theological outlook. Things I couldn’t have imagined believing 10 years ago, I either do hold to them or don’t really care enough either way.

So I thought it’d be fun to list out some ways that I’ve changed. (I’m sure I’ll look back in 10 years at this list and realize how much I’ve changed–again.)

After you read my list, feel free to join the conversation. How have you changed as a Christian? Are you still hold to the faith?

Are you a Catholic turned Protestant?

A Christian turned atheist?

A Baptist turned … wait, what was I thinking? You’re Baptist. You’re already perfect! 😉

I’ll start it off:

-Where I once would have seen salvation in terms of Jesus getting us into heaven, I now see the Gospel as God’s message of how He intends to save the world–through Jesus Christ. The Gospel is about more than a personal relationship with God or social-justice work. God will destroy evil once and for all and establish the world in justice. All of this is accomplished through Christ, and anyone who’s willing, regardless of their sinful history, is invited to be saved and join the movement.

-I’ve gone from being a young-earth creationist to someone who thinks that the theory of evolution is valid and that our universe is billions of years old. Truth is truth. In this case, I think it’s found both in Genesis and through science.

-I used to be a four-point, John-Piper loving Calvinist. (The concept of limited atonement never stuck with me, even back then.) I no longer think that the Reformed concept of “election” matches up with what the Scriptures actually present to us.

-I’m no longer a biblical inerrantist. I’m not convinced that when the biblical writers described the Scriptures as inspired or God-breathed, they had “inerrancy” in mind.

-I used to think that only people who had heard the Gospel could be saved. I now think it’s possible that someone who hasn’t heard the Good News can respond favorably to the revelation they’ve received of the true God and be saved. It’s not within my power, though, to know who that might be or God might make that work (assuming such a thing is even possible). It’s certainly not an excuse to cast aside the Great Commission.

-I still hold to a traditional view of hell even as I hope I’m wrong about it. I hope that God would continue to offer mercy, but even if He did, I don’t think that guarantees anyone in torment would take it. (This scenario assumes that post-mortem repentance is even possible.) You can label me a “hopeful universalist,” because I hope that everyone, everywhere, of every time period, will come to know Christ, but I have yet to hear a convincing case for it from Scripture.

-When the Bible condemned homosexuality, I’m open to the view that it was attacking same-sex acts performed in the context of pagan worship and not within a committed relationship.

-Even if the traditional view is correct, I don’t think that’s justification for anti-gay marriage laws. I’m not convinced such laws are the best way to “protect” marriage–assuming gay marriage is an actual threat. I also find it odd that many conservatives want the government to be powerful enough to regular marriage when they cringe at the thought of government getting involved in health care.

-I’m much more willing to listen to different theological opinions than I used to be. Regardless of whether you agree with me on biblical inerrancy, I think we can all agree that none of our personal views are inerrant and all of us need to be challenged from time to time.

That’s it from me. Your turn!

What We Should Care about in 2012

It’s almost hard to believe, but the 2012 presidential election is right around the corner. That’s the great thing about our democratic system: by the time you’ve fully recovered from the last election, the next one is already gearing up.

Anyway, the Washington Post published an article a few weeks ago about the potential Republican contenders trying to court evangelicals. I hope my fellow churchgoers enjoy the oratory now, because if one of these conservatives actually wins, these two issues probably aren’t going to be brought up again (lest they damage their re-election chances in 2016).

Here’s what you probably won’t see people courting evangelicals with: a promise to run a campaign that loves the people with whom it disagrees.

That’s the tragic thing about Christians in this country, whether they’re conservative, liberal, somewhere in between or even on the fringes. To defend the truth and Christian values–whether it’s fighting abortion or helping the poor–they will spread and support lies against their political opponents.

Their consciences won’t be bothered in the least by voting for candidates who propelled themselves to victory by viciously tearing down other people.

People who claim Jesus as Lord will have no problem forwarding ridiculous, slanderous e-mails about Barack Obama or the yet-to-be-announced Republican nominee. It won’t matter that the e-mail’s subject line says “FWD: NOT A JOKE”. We’ll accept it as truth because we’re so motivated by our hatred of others that it won’t cross our minds that what we’re telling people is false.

(We all have access to Google, Snopes, FactCheck, and PolitiFact and could verify what we’re telling people in a matter of minutes. To say that this behavior is unacceptable is putting it mildly.)

All of this says something about us:

Being honest isn’t a Christian value.

At least, as far as we’re concerned, it’s not a big one.

And no, it doesn’t matter that you aren’t personally engaging in that behavior.

If you don’t say anything when you hear your fellow believers smearing someone, then you’re just as guilty as they are. Your silence empowers them and their lies. It also damages our ability to share the Gospel, since no one in their right mind would rely on a known deceiver to tell them the truth–let alone the Truth of Christ.

If you hear a politician resort to slander to get ahead in the polls but continue to support them, then it doesn’t matter if you protest how their campaign was run. Why would they care if you object? You still rewarded them with a vote.

That’s why no candidate rallies their supporters by promising that, however tight the race gets, they will not engage in smear tactics against their opponents. That’s not going to get the base to go door-to-door to pass out pamphlets, volunteer to drive people to polling stations in November, or make donations to the campaign.

But imagine if the opposite were true.

Think of how much healthier our political environment would be if American Christians–Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, all of us–stood together and with one voice demanded that our candidates either run campaigns based on truth or kiss their political aspirations goodbye.

Would we see fewer attack ads and more time spent discussing substantial issues? Probably.

Would our candidates hold themselves to the same standard of honesty when they take office and attend to affairs of state? Hopefully.

Would Christians be able to go to bed at night in peace, knowing they honored Jesus by practicing and demanding honesty?

Absolutely.

So as we enter the insane season of presidential politics, that’s my hope and prayer: for truth to become a Christian value again.

The Gospel vs. Gas Prices

Every time I pass by a gas station these days, there’s a temptation to hold my breath as the sign comes into view and I can make out the price per gallon.

And every time the price is a few cents higher than it was the day before (or even a few hours prior), it’s easy to succumb to frustration and fear.

“There’s no way that gas could’ve shot up this quickly without price gouging.” That’s one thought.

Another prevalent one goes like this: “How the hell am I supposed to use my money for other purposes when more and more of it goes to the pump?”

Life always seems to have no trouble getting harder. It always seems to have a problem moving forward. Gas prices go up; our salaries don’t. Health-care costs rise; your ability to pay for them remains stagnant. And so on.

It’s easy to buy into the lie that things will always be this way. You’ll always have a need to be anxious and concerned with the future.

You won’t.

The Gospel is an assurance of that.

Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave. The evil that resides in us has been broken. The prison of death, in which we all had a cell reserved, has had its doors kicked down from the inside.

Jesus’ resurrection is the first sign of the world to come. It’s a world in which God’s beauty radiates in everything, through every person. It’s a world in which justice reigns and mercy is beloved.

What we spent a lifetime pursuing through our obedience of Christ will have been realized. Jesus will free this world from everything that would hold it captive–and that includes everyone who wants the freedom he offers here and now. One day, it will arrive in full.

That’s good news for us, because we have much bigger problems than the cost of fuel–and they’ve been handed their walking papers by God Himself.

That’s good news for those of us struggling under the weight of gas prices, because the victory of Christ means that things aren’t always going to be this way.

The world is moving toward something better, mightier, wondrous.

Uninhibited joy will be a part of it. Anxiety will not.

So don’t fret too much the next time you hear of rising gas prices.

They’re on borrowed time.

What Really Happened to Glenn Beck

You might have heard that Glenn Beck will end his show on Fox in what appears to be a mutual split between himself and his network. That’s exactly what “they” want you to think.

Don’t ask who they are. Deep down in your heart–where you keep your patriotism and your Protestantism–you already know.

Shrouded by darkness and empowered by their secrecy, they are the ones who brainwashed an unsuspecting American majority into voting for president someone who isn’t even an American citizen. Having become bored with overthrowing the government of Egypt and causing trouble in the rest of Not America, they’ve turned their mighty socialist weapons against the one man who would expose them all:

Our dear, dear Glenn.

That’s only a fleeting glimpse of their wickedness.

They eat American flags for breakfast.

They pray toward the National Debt Clock.

They want to make health care affordable. For everyone.

But you might argue that Glenn Beck’s departure from Fox News seems like it was his idea. Dear reader, that’s exactly what they want you to think! Don’t you know that the best conspiracies are the ones that trick you into thinking that a sinister event is seemingly normal?

How many times have we seen this deception play out? You say you haven’t? I say you haven’t been paying attention.

They’ve already silenced the majority of us who were willing to boldly speak from the comfort of our homes and from behind the anonymity of our blogs (so long as we remember to update them). What you’re reading now is the last-ditch plea of those of us who fear that our Founders’ dream–something that wasn’t made in China–may again teeter on the edge of utter destruction.

Now you know the truth.

What will you do now?

Will Somebody Please Punch the Newboys in the Face?

I was browsing iTunes a moment ago when I noticed that the Newsboys had a new album out, so I decided to quickly browse through their newest batch of songs.

I haven’t listened to them in years. My musical tastes don’t really include Christian rock anymore; even if they did, it’s hard to see Michael Tait as a singer for anything other than dc Talk.

So what brought me out of my self-imposed exile?

I noticed one of the tracks on the Newsboys’ new album: “Jesus Freak.”

That’s right. It’s a re-make of the dc Talk song from the mid-1990s. It’s still got Tait. From what I can tell, it still has the same singing+Toby Mac-style rap combo, only the Mac Attack isn’t in it.

And Kevin Max–who was, without question, the most-talented member of his former trio and a fantastic solo artist at present–is nowhere to be found. Good for Kevin Max.

Because “Jesus Freak” is like Christian music’s Ark of the Covenant.

You don’t touch it.

Ever.

Now, I don’t want the Newsboys’ faces to melt off, although I am tempted to go all John Piper on them and post “Farewell, Newsboys” on Twitter. (I’d have to reactivate my Twitter account to do it, which should be a good indication of my irritation at the moment.)

I also won’t go on a rant about the general lack of creativity in popular Christian music, but then again, there’s a demand for it and bands and their record labels have to make a living. Besides, it’s not like popular “secular” music is that much better.

(That’s not to say there aren’t creative bands in both areas; you just have to search a little deeper for them, is all.)

I just think re-making “Jesus Freak” is a bad idea. Period. It’s like rebooting the Spider-Man franchise only a few years after the original trilogy finished up. (Oh, wait …)

So sorry, Newsboys, but unless me and my friends decide to hold a bonfire party in which we burn CDs, I’m probably not going to buy your album.