I would have thought the difference to be obvious enough. Especially after speaking to the difference between theologies of Law versus theologies of Grace within Christian communities for so many years. And yet the Western church (and society) are split into two fundamental yearnings. Those who must have authority in their lives at all times and those who must have grace in their lives at all times. Consequentially each group has modified its position by the other. The Law people have added grace but always place it second behind Law; and the Grace people have added law but always place it second behind Grace.
As a psych guy what we believe usually is informed by our personal constitution or make up. "If a belief isn't fundamental to our core than it doesn't become a belief." As a Grace-guy I will always interpret everything in my life through God's grace. Its what drives everything else and cannot come after Law. But other people are Law-and-Order types. Law brings grace and is the reason grace is here. To me, its arcane thinking. But I get it when seeing people thumbing through Romans trying to figure out Paul's logic.
For Grace people, God's very nature/Being is first Love from which all His acts proceed. Not truth or justice, but LOVE. Love is what gives truth and justice meaning. Without LOVE we would have a miserable world indeed. But then again, I'm a Grace-person. Most likely I grew up with this idea through my parental upbringing and personal interactions with the world. It gave me the opportunities I needed to grasp God in the way that I do. When I tried the Law-path to life and theology it never made sense. It created more problems than it solved. Hence my rejection of Calvinism which leads out with a God of Law premeditating wrath and judgment on creation. Instead, I must ride on the "freedom train," the one where God declares "I Love you" and in my love have given you freedom to love me back. Thus the Wesleyan doctrine of Arminiamism (no, not Armenianism! haha. That's a country!).
At Relevancy22 there are a hundred articles and more on why Grace is superior to Law. I make no apologies for wishing to see life through the eyes of Love rather than through the eyes of Law. The very Jewish, and very Law-abiding Apostle Paul, had great difficult getting his head-and-heart around God's Grace which he observed through Messiah Jesus' "tour de force" and the Church of Christ he was persecuting. He describes a period of blindness in his life that so conflicted him that he couldn't make sense of life anymore. But when Grace won the battle over Law the scales on his eyes fell immediately off his soul when the Spirit of God touched his spiritual malady and raised him up unto the great gift of God's Love through Jesus. It righted all his curmudgeonly beliefs and theologies to a true north. Love made sense of the Law he believed in, was taught from a young child, and followed as a spiritual practice devoutly. Love destroyed it all and brought a peace beyond his years of understanding.
And so, as much as I detest binary thinking, in Western culture it is what makes our societies what it is. And if we must use binary thinking to discuss great ideas than this idea between 1) authoritarianism-and-fear and 2) love-and-freedom is significant. Between their interplay comes all of Western civilization's will to create, to be, to discover, to hope. It is what drives Western Society. These two powerful forces can divide us as much as they can heal us. And it can become a very present and real force as demonstrated by America's politics and national policies in these recent years of deep societal and theological conflict.
February 6, 2017
* * * * * * * * *
|President Donald Trump at the Bully Pulpit|
The mystery of Christians’ support
for Donald Trump is solved
by Paul Prather
January 30, 2017
"IN A WORLD OVERRUN BY BRIGANDS AND TERRORISTS, AUTHORITARIAN CHRISTIANS PREFER A BAN-BAR-AND-BOMB PRESIDENT, EVEN IF HE’S A SELF-PROMOTING HEATHEN."
I’ve expressed before my puzzlement that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump could win so many disciples among the Christians who make up a hefty portion of the Republican base.
Trump is an insulting, profane, thrice-married, megalomaniacal billionaire from New York City who can’t even pronounce 2 Corinthians correctly. Indeed, he seems to proudly stand for everything the Christian faith supposedly opposes.
And yet a great throng of Christians love the guy.
If you, too, have been scratching your head in wonder at this conundrum, allow me to say this mystery has been solved.
The answer made great sense, too. It even led me to contemplate an ancient divide within Christianity itself.
It came from a poll by Matthew MacWilliams, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
He wrote a brief essay for Politico.com about his research.
MacWilliams sampled 1,800 registered U.S. voters from across the political spectrum in an attempt to understand Trump’s popularity.
“I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate,” he said. “Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.”
Authoritarians, a group studied by social scientists for decades, inclined sharply toward Trump.
MacWilliams summarized what it means to be authoritarian:
"Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened.”
Statistically, MacWilliams found, among those likely to vote in the Republican primary, 49 percent ranked high on the authoritarian scale. That’s more than twice as many as among Democratic voters.
And Trump sings these folks’ love song:
“From pledging to ‘make America great again’ by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States,” MacWilliams wrote, “Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.”
Reading this, I experienced an “aha!” moment.
Not all of Trump’s Republican supporters are Christians, I know, but many are. And while religiosity was not the key factor in predicting support for Trump, many self-described Christians, be they devout disciples or only sporadic churchgoers, definitely incline toward authoritarianism.
You see, there’s historically been an emotionally charged split within our faith between disciples who focus on authority and those who focus on freedom, between those driven and riven by fear, and those propelled by hope and joy.
In the Christian vernacular, it’s a spiritual contest between “the Law” (capital L) and “Grace” (capital G).
Christians who lean toward the Law are all about God’s authority, the Bible’s authority, church leaders’ authority, men’s authority, civil authority. They’re the church’s cops and prosecuting attorneys.
They serve a stern God who lectures dryly from above, brooks no dissent and expects them to flog the daylights out of the dense and disobedient.
They thrive on order. They insist on doing things, whatever those things might be, the way they’ve always been done, whether or not that happens to make sense anymore, just because that’s the way they’ve always done them.
They operate largely from their own fear: fear of God’s wrath, fear of being wrong, fear of outsiders, fear of the public’s jeers.
Compared with them, Grace people, of whom I am happily one, are practically God’s do-gooder public defenders — or God’s loosey-goosey flower-children. (Although I tend toward khakis and a button-down myself.)
Grace people serve a God who is unimaginably merciful, infinitely liberating and surprisingly understanding of every kind of birdbrain.
They believe their job, being his children, is to love all colors and nationalities and faiths and political views and theological quirks. They’re about forgiving their enemies and making peace and and welcoming strangers and helping the poor, no questions asked.
Grace folks drive the authoritarians mad.
And vice versa. We Gracies giggle when we picture them showing up in heaven, only to discover, to their purple-faced dismay, that the Lord let us in as well.
Probably neither side has a lock on the whole truth.
Grace people need a little authoritarianism to keep us from levitating away on shimmering clouds, and Law people need a big dose of Grace to keep them from getting swallowed whole into their profoundly constricted sphincters.
Everything in the Christian faith, as in life generally, works best when held in balance.
Ah, but I digress.
The point is, when I read MacWilliams’ piece, I finally knew how so many Christians could support The Donald, even though he probably wouldn’t recognize Jesus if he saw him walking across the thawed Hudson River on snowshoes.
In a world overrun by brigands and terrorists, authoritarian Christians prefer a ban-bar-and-bomb president, even if he’s a self-promoting heathen, over some milquetoast pseudo-Christian who embraces strangers and prefers negotiation to warfare.
Trump will wall out border-jumpers and slap down smart-aleck reporters and keep things the way they used to be back in the good old — well, the way they used to be sometime, somewhere, in somebody’s version of the good old — days.
To these Law folks, he stands for authority. He’s large and in charge and vindictive and brazenly unapologetic. He’s as good an approximation of their God as they’re likely to find in such a gone-to-blazes world.