That the American Church has problems is no surprise. Critics of the Church, many of whom have never actually taken an active part, have hurled pot shots at the Church since its inception. Churches are led and comprised of sinful, fallen people. Accordingly, there will be imperfections, shortcomings, failures, etc. Name an institution managed by people that does not have the same pitfalls.
That said, the current Church in America not only has problems, it has BIG problems. I'm talking about problems that are so huge they threaten the very survival of not only the Church itself, but of our nation, as well.
During the Twentieth Century, liberalism pretty much killed America's mainstream denominational churches; and legalism did the same thing to America's fundamentalist conservative churches.
In mainstream denominational churches, the rejection of the veracity of the Scriptures, the repudiation of essential Biblical doctrines, and the reception of liberal social agendas sent people by the millions fleeing these fellowships. Virtually every mainline denomination has been losing membership for decades.
For example, it is one thing for the state to grovel before politically correct ideology and embrace such moral deviances as homosexual marriage. To begin with, the state has no rightful place in sanctioning, defining, or legislating marriage at all. Marriage was never a state matter. It is a sacred matter. Our Creator has already sanctioned and defined marriage. What the state does or doesn't do is irrelevant. As with most issues involving faith, the best thing civil government can do is butt out. But for the Church to embrace homosexual marriage is another matter altogether. No Christian who has even a rudimentary understanding of the Biblical and Natural laws regarding marriage could maintain fellowship with a church or denomination that would surrender to the amoral machinations of a degraded society. And that is just one issue that has caused millions of believers to flee America's mainline churches and denominations.
For fundamentalist conservative churches, legalism has had the same effect as liberalism among mainline churches: it has pretty much killed them. During the last half of the Twentieth Century, fundamentalist conservative churches exploded in growth. A few decades ago, the largest churches and Sunday Schools in America were fundamentalist. But, just as mainstream churches succumbed to liberalism, fundamentalist churches succumbed to legalism. As the Scripture notes, "the letter killeth," and, indeed, it has pretty much destroyed America's fundamentalist churches. In fact, as a movement, it HAS destroyed them.
Accordingly, going into the Twenty First Century, these two cancers were already major problems within the American Church. But the problems that have wormed their way into the Church during the first decade and a half of the Twenty First Century have grown in both intensity and pervasiveness to the point that only a miracle from Heaven can avert impending disaster.
Here are the major problems that are destroying the American Church:
America's churches went from a "church growth" ideology in the latter half of the Twentieth Century to a "success" orientation in the formative years of the twenty-first century. "Success" is now the driving motivation of the vast majority of America's churches. But "success" is not defined in Scriptural terms; it is defined in secular terms.
A major study released by George Barna a few months ago clearly showed that "success" is the predominant philosophy of America's churches. And Barna's research listed the five-fold criteria that determined "success" in the minds of most pastors and churches: 1) Attendance, 2) Offerings, 3) Number of programs, 4) Size of staff, and, 5) Square footage of facilities. In fact, Barna's research showed that the vast majority of pastors will purposely NOT preach what they know is Biblical truth in order to accommodate the five-fold "success" goals listed. This has led to popularity-preaching; entertainment-oriented programs; soft, non-confrontational teaching; and an overall weak and compromising pulpit.
The "success" orientation of the modern church is a major problem.
*The Egregious Misinterpretation of Romans 13, the 501c3 IRS non-profit organization status for churches, and Statism
Though these three issues each have an independent nature, I put them together as they are intricately connected.
Though many pastors and church leaders would probably not be willing to admit it, for all intents and purposes, our churches are mostly more concerned with being the compliant servant of the state than they are the obedient servant of God. The way most pastors teach Romans 13 is nothing more than the promotion of idolatry. Christians are taught to obey civil government almost without question. As was the case in Nazi Germany, America's churches are taught that obedience to the state is obedience to God.
Have you been to a modern church wedding recently? If you have, as the pastor pronounced the bride and groom as husband and wife, you probably heard him say, "As an officer of the laws of the State of (your State) and in the presence of God…I now pronounce you man (or husband) and wife."
The IRS 501c3 non-profit organization status for churches (instituted in 1954) has turned pastors and church officers into corporate officers of the state--and most pastors and church leaders KNOW it--even if they are unwilling to admit it.
It's all about preserving the church's non-profit status so contributors can deduct their offerings on income tax forms and so that the church doesn't have to pay sales taxes on what they purchase or property taxes on what they own. And whatever pastors and church officers are required by the state to do in order to preserve that non-profit status, they will comply.
This doesn't require a knock at the door by an IRS agent; it doesn't require threatening letters or phone calls; it doesn't require any direct show of force by any government agency against the church. Pastors and church officers INSTINCTIVELY know where the "third rail" is and will avoid it at all costs in order to not jeopardize their non-profit status.
The desire to comply with the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) for churches makes it easy for pastors to teach the Hitlerian version of total submission to civil government.
Statism is NOT patriotism. Neither is it Christian. The Bible is chock-full of examples of resistance to unlawful government. I'm sure many of our pastors and church leaders have never personally studied the issue and are simply regurgitating what they have been taught. I am confident that many of them are truly ignorant of what they are doing, but that doesn't change what they are doing. Wittingly or unwittingly, they have allowed themselves to become statists: the sheepish servants of the state.
The condition of the American Church today is EXACTLY the same as was the condition of the German and Russian Church during the rise of Adolph Hitler and Joe Stalin. This is why the Church seems totally unconcerned and indifferent to the growing Police State in America today.
*Ignorance of Natural Law and the Law of Nations
God-ordained Natural Law has not been taught from America's pulpits since the Nineteenth Century. The vast majority of pastors and church leaders in America are totally ignorant of these immutable laws.
The lack of understanding regarding Natural Law has made it virtually impossible for the American Church to truly understand the fundamental principles of good government and liberty. All most Christians know about government is what they hear on FOX News or from Rush Limbaugh. Their pastors almost never broach the subject. And for good reason: most pastors are themselves ignorant on the subject. Therefore, about all they can talk about is "liberal" vs. "conservative," or Democrat vs. Republican. The divine principles of Natural Law that are supposed to govern nations and man-to-man relationships are foreign to the thinking and understanding of the vast majority of pastors and churches.
The ignorance and misunderstanding of Natural Law by the Church has created the societal and political conditions that now exist in this country.
But there is one more major problem in the American Church. And I believe this problem is the GREATEST problem of all. And, to be honest, it had not dawned on me how pervasive and deep this problem was until last week.
*The Church is Filled With Hate
In my column last week, I used the movie, American Sniper, as a catalyst to point out that the United States has been waging unjust war on countries such as Iraq--and meddling in the internal affairs of countries such as Iraq--for decades. I also pointed out that not all Muslims are terrorists and to condemn all Muslims on the basis of Muslim Jihadists is wrong.
Folks, you can't believe the firestorm of anger that deluged me. My Facebook page registered over 100,000 views of my comments and precipitated a flood of hate-filled responses. Here is a sample of the more-mild reactions:
"All Christians should be standing against Islam and proclaiming America for the kingdom of Christ. I am not a Muslim sympathizer and I have lost respect for you, Mr. Baldwin. Islam is anti-Christianity. You cannot serve 2 masters."
By standing against Islam, Cathy means it is right and righteous to go to war against Muslim nations, because they are "anti-Christianity." So, Cathy, since when is it America's responsibility to export Christianity over the barrel of a gun? I suppose we should then invade and destroy every Muslim nation in existence, including Saudi Arabia.
Speaking of Saudi Arabia, if we can believe the official story of 9/11 (which I don't), the Muslim terrorists that perpetrated those attacks were all from Saudi Arabia, NOT Iraq. Why didn't we invade Saudi Arabia? Iraq had NOTHING to do with 9/11 and everyone on the planet knows it. In truth, Saudi Arabia has done more to fund Islamist terrorists than any other nation in the region. Yet, official American foreign policy regards Saudi Arabia as our friend and ally.
But Saudi Arabia is a Muslim nation, which means they are "anti-Christianity," so Cathy (and many like her) believes we should go to war with these nations to advance "the kingdom of Christ." But what about Judaism, Cathy? Judaism is as "anti-Christianity" as Islam. What about Hinduism? What about Buddhism? What about Atheism? Is America supposed to go to war with every nation of the world that has a population of people who are "anti-Christianity"? If so, we should be attacking most of the nations of the world.
And since when can we evangelize the pagan peoples of the world via brute force? When has that ever worked? And what Scripture do you base that theory on? People are won to Christ with the message of God's amazing grace and love through Christ's death on the cross. What? Did God commission us to kill and destroy all of the heathen of the world? I thought our commission was to love and win them, not attack and kill them.
But a host of attacks against my comments last week were much more caustic. Here is an example:
"Imam Mohammed Judas Baldwin; My wife and I were listening on line to your 1-25-15 program, I shut the program off when I heard your rant against your Christian brother and sister Pastors. My wife astutely said: 'Muslim Lover?' I believe I have figured out your love of all things Islam, and your betrayal of God, Jesus Christ, and Christians. Your God Allah, Your savior Mohammad, and your fellow Muslims. Allah offered you a better deal. Paradise and 72 Virgins. The Virgins, in your case, 50/50 prepubescent boys and girls. Judas Iscariot had the decency to hang himself for his betrayal of my savior Jesus Christ. How about you? You can get Allah and the virgins, sooner, if you do it to day…Shame on you, you Fool."
The message I delivered last Sunday, and to which Michael was reacting to, was taken from Matthew 5:44, "Love your enemies," and from Matthew 7:12, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
And, yes, Michael, I do love Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, etc. They are all souls for whom Christ died.
If unbelievers and pagans want to be filled with hate, so be it; but hatred has NO PLACE WHATSOEVER in the heart of a Christian. And after receiving tens of thousands of hate-filled responses regarding my comments last week, it dawned on me that the American Church is largely filled with hate--hatred against the Muslim people.
Ever since 9/11, Christians and conservatives have developed a hatred and animus, not just against Jihadist-Muslims (which, even that is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE for a Christian), but against Muslim people everywhere. All Muslims are commonly castigated and vilified just because they are Muslims.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is absolutely NOT TRUE that all Muslims are anti-American, anti-Christian murderers and terrorists. It is NOT TRUE that all Muslims want to enact Sharia Law in the United States. It is NOT TRUE that all Muslims are our enemies.
I wonder how many of these Muslim haters have ever met a Muslim in person. I have. I have met many--both in the United States and in the Middle East. They are NOT all America-haters. They are NOT all trying to kill us. America has had Christian missionaries ministering among Muslim nations for as long as our country has been in existence. And many Christians would be shocked to know that overall the Gospel has received greater acceptance by the Muslim population than by other religions of the region--much more, in fact, than by the Jewish population.
Here is a letter I received from a Christian missionary named Jeff:
"Hi, Chuck! We…want to tell you that we stand 100% with what you said in both your column and to your congregation. We have been missionaries for 40 years, a good ten of those in Muslim countries (Tunisia, Libya, Jordan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Bosnia, and Albania). We have not just met or talked to a Muslim, we have witnessed to them in depth for years. It is SO RARE to hear anyone nowadays saying anything conciliatory towards Muslims, much less positive. I thank you for the things you have said, and am so very sorry for the hateful responses you received in the comments to your column that reveal the dark heart of many Christians in the U.S."
To be honest, most of the Muslims I have met in the U.S. and in the Middle East demonstrate more kindness, common courtesy, and genuine compassion than many of the so-called Christians I have known.
Let's be honest: some Muslims are Muslims in name only, much like many Baptists are Baptists in name only, or Catholics are Catholics in name only, or Mormons are Mormons in name only, or Jews are Jews in name only, etc. There are millions of Christians in America's churches that couldn't tell you what's in the Bible to save their lives. They couldn't quote the Ten Commandments; they couldn't quote the Golden Rule; they couldn't name Christ's apostles; they couldn't quote five verses of Scripture from memory if their lives depended on it. There are many Muslims in the exact same condition.
Furthermore, not all Muslims, who are devout, take the verses of the Koran that speak of Jihad and killing infidels, etc., to literally mean killing all non-Muslims today. No, not all of them do!
Think of this: how many of us Christians believe that the civil laws and military commands that God gave to the children of Israel through Moses should be literally incorporated into the Church and into the civil laws of America today? Do you believe we should be stoning people to death for adultery, or breaking the Sabbath (So, any Christian nurse or policeman or physician or fireman, etc., who works on Saturday should be stoned to death?), or blasphemy, or for children who curse their parents? Do you? Should we literally destroy entire nations--including men, women, and children today? These things were literally commanded by Jehovah God for the children of Israel under Moses. And, yes, God is God and is righteous and just as much when he condemns as when he forgives. No man sits in judgment of God. His ways are always right and holy. But God is NOT giving direct audible commands to anyone in the U.S. government today--or to anyone in our church pulpits, for that matter.
Many Muslims I've met interpret those passages in the Koran like we do those Old Testament Scriptures. Why can Christians interpret our Bible in this manner but Muslims cannot interpret their bible in a similar fashion?
In fact, I know of several Christian pastors and preachers in America who mimic Muslim Jihadists and believe that we SHOULD be implementing the Mosaic Law in our country today. If they had their way, we would be stoning people to death for the sins mentioned above just as they did under Moses. Have you ever witnessed a stoning? It is as equally torturous as beheading--maybe even more so.
Beyond that, these Muslim haters seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that every day there are tens of thousands of Muslims who risk their lives resisting Muslim Jihadists. It was a Muslim village that risked their lives against the Taliban to save the American fighting man that was depicted in the movie, Lone Survivor. Why don't we recognize this reality? It's because hatred and bigotry against the Muslim people have blinded us.
Plus, the dirty truth that most Americans, including most Christians, seem unwilling to accept is that most of the conflict between the United States and the Muslim nations of the Middle East has been created by our own federal government.
I speak regularly with retired Special Forces military personnel who share with me the way our own CIA and State Department have bullied, lied to, intimidated, and betrayed our Muslim friends in the Middle East. They have seen it up close and personal. This has been going on for decades. In fact, our federal government has tortured hundreds of people in the Middle East in some of the most vile ways possible. The only difference is, they don't broadcast it over television.
I recently asked a retired Green Beret, "How much of the conflict between the U.S. and Middle Eastern states would stop if Washington, D.C., would simply stop meddling in the internal affairs of those countries?" This Green Beret served in the the Middle East for years; he was a Special Ops soldier. He saw the surreptitious and covert things that our government routinely does--things the public doesn't see. His answer to me was, "100%."
Our own federal government put the Taliban in power, put Al Qaeda in power, and put ISIS in power. Our federal government often uses war and conflict to cover up its own murderous activity or to kill the very people that they formerly gave arms to, supported, befriended, etc. Whether one wants to believe it or not, most of the conflict in the Middle East has been caused by our own government. We are our own worst enemy. How convenient that we make Muslim people everywhere the straw man to divert attention away from the real criminals.
Yes, the American Church has a BIG problem: much of it is filled with HATE. To be sure, Christians are instructed to hate "evil," but nowhere are we instructed to hate people--any people. Yet, the hatred of Muslims by Christians in America appears to be epidemic.
Hatred is a cancer. Hatred, bitterness, resentment, bigotry, etc., kill the soul. When Jesus instructed us to love our enemies, it was NOT for our enemies' sake; it was for OUR sake. How can God bless a hate-filled Church when He commands us to love our enemies? How can He bless warmongers when he tells us that it is peacemakers who are blessed?
When America MUST defend itself against any enemy, regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, etc., we are obligated to do so. In the Twentieth Century, we fought hot wars against Christians from Germany and Italy, against Shintoists from Japan, against atheists from North Korea, and against Buddhists, Taoists, and Confucianists from Vietnam. But there is a huge difference between defending oneself against an enemy that poses and imminent threat and fomenting hatred against an entire people for the crimes of a few.
How can Christians claim to love God and believe in winning lost souls to Christ be so consumed with hatred against an entire people--most of whom have done NOTHING to harm them? Yes, I realize there are some who call themselves Christians who hate other people besides Muslims. Some hate everyone who is a Jew; some hate everyone who is a minority; some hate everyone who is victimized by an aberrant sexual lifestyle, etc. Hatred has been with us since the dawn of human history. But in my entire lifetime, I have never witnessed anything like I am witnessing now: the pervasive, widespread, almost universal hatred of the Muslim people--by Christians.
As I said, hatred destroys the soul. And I fear that hatred is destroying the soul of the Church.
Whose fault is it that mosques are being built in America? Many of the buildings being used for these new mosques are abandoned CHURCH buildings. The darkness of false religion will always fill the vacuum that is left when truth departs. And the fact is, Christianity is dying in the United States. No, it's not dead; but it's dying. There are tens of thousands of empty abandoned churches all over America. More and more Americans are turning their backs on the Church. What difference does it make which form of darkness invades the land? The problem is that the true light (the Church) is failing. What do you expect will happen?
What difference does it make whether the darkness takes the form of Islam, or Buddhism, or Shintoism, or Judaism, or Atheism, or Communism, or any other "ism?" The problem is not the presence of darkness; the problem is the absence of light.
The Church has lost its light and its love. Christ is doing what He said He would do to those who lose their love: He is removing the candlestick.
The American Church has focused on being "successful" instead of being righteous; it has capitulated to the lordship of the state; it fears the IRS more than it fears God; it has stopped preaching the "hard" messages of the Bible; it is popularity-driven, entertainment-driven, and comfort-driven; it has abandoned the fundamental principles of Natural Law and liberty; it has replaced genuine patriotism with statism; and it has used Romans 13 as justification for idolatry.
A quote from Charles Caleb Colton (1820) is in order here: "Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; die for it; anything but--live for it."
The Muslim people are NOT our problem; the problem is the American Church. It needs to start living its religion.
P.S. Once more, I am in touch with a group of patriot Christians in Springfield, Missouri, who very much desire to start a new non-501c3 fellowship. As soon as this group can grow a little more, I will take my team and conduct a Liberty Church Project conference for these folks. If you live in or near Springfield, Missouri, and would like to join this group, here is an email that you can use to connect with them. Hopefully, there will soon be enough people that we can see a brand new non-501c3 church established in Springfield, Missouri.
The email address is: MoLibertyChurchProject@gmail.com
© Chuck Baldwin