Is America Sodom?

“Back in the 1930s, it began with the Jews, where they were evicted from public employment, then boycotted in their private employment, then stigmatized and that led to the gas chambers. This is the new persecution of Christians here in this country.” Mathew Staver, founder and Chairman of the Liberty Counsel and legal representation for Kim Davis, uttered those words on “Crosstalk” and “Washington Watch” the past couple of weeks. I find there no need to explain who Kim Davis is, who Mathew Staver is, or even what it is he is referring to. You already know what it is. You already have an opinion. If you don’t know, Google may be a good place to start. If you don’t have an opinion, perhaps your blood pressure hasn’t been boiling like mine–which is for the better!

Amidst all the chaos, discussion, hatred, love, backlash, political bantering, articles, social media wars, and attempts at making sense of something so complicated amidst a nation of people who seek to have everything overly simplified and immediately gratifying so they can make their opinion known to the world, my thoughts often wander to Scripture. Hopefully, you find that the right thing to do. Even if you don’t, keep reading, you may find yourself surprised by the end!

You may think that I’m headed in the direction of discussing gay marriage and the judgment of God. I’m not. Perhaps you think I’m here to discuss Biblical law versus governmental authority and the two variances. I’m not. Perhaps you wonder why I feel the need to post my opinions on this site even though I just talked about people always posting their opinions, I haven’t posted in years, you have no idea my credentials, and even if you did why should you care? To that I would say you have valid points! I would also (selfishly) say stick around! Follow my blog as I begin to share my story and discuss my faith and the Church. One thing you will find: I love a good discussion and I’m always open to your thoughts no matter where I stand.

So this whole Kim Davis thing has certainly led to an outpouring of emotions and a discovery of Christians across the nation I didn’t even know existed. A major discussion on religious liberty and Christian imposition has ensued. It has opened the door for many who feel the need to shout judgment and downfall as opposed to building relationships and showing love to those upon which they blame the downfall.

“Gay marriage is an abomination!” some shout.

“Homosexuality is the sin of Sodom that will lead our nation to destruction!” others have said so eloquently.

“America must turn back to God!” Some evangelists use that tag line to gain some more followers on Twitter.

So again, amidst this chaos, my mind wanders to Scripture and I begin to ask the same questions! Does America need to turn back to God? Is there a possibility of judgment upon our nation? Is America Sodom? To these questions I reply, undoubtedly, yes! But my reasons may not line up with many people.

For those who may not know, the story of Sodom can be found in Genesis 19. It is a story of two angels who enter into the city and are met by a righteous man named Lot. The angels inform Lot that they will be staying in the city, but he urgently persists that they stay at his home because the city is too dangerous. Lot prepares a feast for the angels, provides a place for them to wash up, and a place to rest. As the angels are about to go to sleep, the men of Sodom surround the house and call on Lot. They inform Lot that they (men young and old) have come to gang-rape the angels and treat them with hatred, disgust, and physical pain. The men bombard Lot, force their way into his home, and they are struck blind by the angels. The angels, Lot, and his family flee the city and it is destroyed by God. This, of course, is the Cliff-notes version of the story, and I urge you to read Genesis 19 for yourself!

It is interesting to me (and many others for that matter), that the story does not speak to homosexuality specifically. Genesis 19:4 says that it was all men of the city, young and old. Were they all homosexual? Every single one? Did they actually enjoy relations with a member of the same sex, or was it simply to degrade the angels? Not to mention, we’re discussing gang rape of angels! If a city has gotten to that point, perhaps the argument is quite valid that their destruction was just! However, it seems that to say homosexuality was the sin that led to the destruction of Sodom is a bit overreaching and shallow. It seems to me there is more to the story.

Acclaimed sociologist and evangelist Tony Campolo jokes that the problem with most evangelicals is that they don’t bother to read the Bible. While that may be funny, there is an element of reality in that statement when it comes to American Christians today. I believe that Scripture supports Scripture, and I believe the fullness of the text gives us an understanding of certain passages in their context alone. In other words, if read from Genesis to Revelation, a text in one passage or book may answer your question found in another portion of the text or another book. In fact, our questions regarding Genesis 19 can be answered in Ezekiel 16! Therefore, it is difficult for me to stomach those who shout judgment based on “the sin of Sodom,” when it seems as if they have blinded themselves to the fullness of the text.

Ezekiel 16:49-50, 56-58 says this: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen… You would not even mention your sister Sodom in the day of your pride, before your wickedness was uncovered. Even so, you are now scorned by the daughters of Edom and all her neighbors and the daughters of the Philistines–all those around you who despise you. You will bear the consequences of your lewdness and your detestable practices, declares the LORD.”

Ezekiel tells us that the sin of Sodom is that they were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy! If we take Scripture at its word, then our questions on Sodom have been answered. They were selfish, prideful, had an abundance of wealth, were unwelcoming to aliens and refugees (Genesis 19:9), turned their eyes to those in need, and chose to be concerned with themselves, not the things of God. Oh, and they did haughty things! Yea, they tried to gang-rape angels! In our analysis of the passage in Sodom and in Ezekiel, we can’t rightly prove that homosexuality was the sin that destroyed Sodom. Homosexuality may have been a sin of Sodom (that’s for you to decide, not a point I’m  trying to make), but it wasn’t the destruction of Sodom. They were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned, neglecting the poor and needy, and it led to their destruction; and that’s where you as an American should be concerned.

If that was the sin of Sodom, which is what the Word says, then I believe we can be compared to Sodom. An impeding judgment may very well be upon us. Our hearts need to turn back to God.

We live in a world where 32% of people breathe in heavily polluted air daily. 20% of people consume 80% of the energy the world has to offer, and 80% of people live on just 20%. 6% of the world population possesses 59% of the world’s wealth, and that entire 6% is America itself! 74% of the population owns 39% of the world’s wealth, and 20% of the population is forced to share just 2%. 17% of people across the globe do not have access to clean/safe drinking water. 48% of people cannot openly speak or act according to their faith due to harassment, imprisonment, torture, or death (let’s have a discussion on your religious liberties once you realize you’re a part of the 52% who doesn’t have to worry about that).  20% of the world lives in fear of death by bombardment, armed attacks, land-mines, or rape/kidnapping by armed groups. 7% of the world has computers (that’s us!), while 93% do not. 50% of people don’t have a reliable source of food and are hungry some to all of the time. 30% always have enough to eat, 15% are overweight, 20% are undernourished, and 1% die of starvation. 86% of people are literate while 14% are not. 99% of people do not have a college education, while only 1% does.

Those stats may be overwhelming, but you have to beg the question: where are our priorities? In an American society where politicians feel the need to combat obesity because we eat too much, the relevancy of community college being free is a discussion because “everyone deserves an education,” minimum wage is being shifted upwards because the low and middle class can’t keep up with the 1% of societal wealth, and a multitude of people live comfortably every day with the guarantee of housing, clothing, food, relationship, and reliable transportation, we spend our time shouting about religious liberties and gay marriage leading to our demise! Professionals openly compare the persecution of Christians to Nazi Germany while actual Christians are actually persecuted, blood dripping down their cold body with an open slit throat! 27 million men, women, and children are enslaved to sex and labor traffickers as we speak, people outside your very home are going to bed hungry, cold, and lonely; yet, we can turn our self-righteous eye to the hurt surrounding us and illuminate our selfishness by focusing all of our time and attention on the Supreme Court and a County Clerk who refused to do her job. And that, my friends, is the sin of Sodom. We are selfish, arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned. We have turned up our nose to those less fortunate, and turned a blind eye to those who need to meet Jesus and his compassionate followers most!

As if that wasn’t enough for me to feel the need to express emotion along with the rest, I was disheartened and deeply saddened by the reactions of my Christian brothers and sisters regarding the Syrian refugee crisis. Sodom was not hospitable, the city was not fond of “aliens” (neither are we, given our ridiculous immigration policies that pose no true solution for anybody), and they didn’t take kindly to newcomers. And neither do we.

Sean Hannity, anchor for Fox News, posts a weekly question on Facebook. The question this past week was, “should we allow Syrian refugees into our country for help and support?” The responses were undeniably, “no!” The same Christians who were shouting about religious liberties and idolizing Kim Davis the week before were now making it very clear that they wanted no part in helping anyone that wasn’t like them. They weren’t interested in helping refugees for fear of a threat to the country and it’s proper functioning. They liked the thought of their religious freedoms in their American society, their Christian ideals to be openly praised, the freedoms that they possess, and the wealth that they obtain; but they didn’t like the thought of helping people obtain actual freedom and perhaps a fresh set of clothes and a bed to sleep on. No, that’s too far. Their Americanized Christianity doesn’t stretch that far. Apparently, the images of a toddler boy washing up onto a beach just wasn’t enough to stir their hearts. But the threat to their religious liberties damn sure was. Perhaps they forgot the fact that they, too, are aliens, reconciled to God through adoption in Christ Jesus.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Will America do for Jesus as we do for the least of these? Will you do for Jesus as you do for the least of these? Will we repent in order to serve Him more? Will we seek to lose ourselves for the sake of Christ and others? Or are the “prophesies” correct?

America may truly be Sodom.

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This work is copyright 2015 Dylan Gunnels and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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Jesus on the Radio

1,600:10,000–this is the ratio of Christian radio stations compared to the total number of commercial radio station across the United States, according to radio-media.com. More and more every day, it seems a commonality to hear of a new “Christian Artist” or “Christian hit.” Christian music has become quite accessible all across the country, as artists are arising, albums are being produced, concerts are taking place, and radio stations are unashamed of the gospel. As a believer in Christ, it must be a joy to experience the peaceful sounds of the faith in a public setting or even in the car while in the midst of the world. As is with anything else, however, there are pros and cons to faith-based radio. In speaking about Christian artists, songs, albums, concerts, and radio stations, it is certainly seen as a blessing in which worship can potentially be lifted to God through song throughout the entire day; but, the implications of these opportunities must be regarded in various respects.

I personally must admit that I rather enjoy jumping into my car after hours in an office, classroom, rehearsal setting, etc. only to be surrounded by the sounds of praise while driving down the road. I listen to Christian music on the radio, commercial-based and satellite radio. It is certainly not the only music with which I delight my eardrums, but I absolutely appreciate the fact that I have such accessibility to music that enriches and feeds my soul.

Psalm 100:2 states, “Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Obviously, this verse applies to many various aspects of worshiping in song. However, I will be the first to tell you that I suffer from a common disease known as road rage–I cannot stand to be cut off in traffic or anything of the sort. This verse seems to apply because I tend to worship in gladness as the joyful songs of praise protrude from the speakers within my car, rather than focusing on the unnecessary lack of a blinker or the oblivious pedestrian. Of course, 1 Corinthians 10:31 states that, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” The ability to constantly worship in song–or at least be reminded of His presence, goodness, and Word–can bring about a desire to do all things for His glory. Lastly, all of this is an opportunity for evangelism, as Christian artists/stations do an abundance in their communities and for charities abroad. If anything else, one can never doubt the power of the Holy Spirit to interact with a lost soul through a song they heard on the radio while flipping through the stations.

On the flip side, I feel that as we make advances we must always remember to be in this world but not of this world (John 17:16). I obviously have a love for Christian music, but I become fearful when we begin to make the objectivity of our worship more directed at the artist or singer rather than the Creator. Christian radio, artists, and concerts can and are slowly looking more of the world. As stated before, they all do many good things for many good causes, while producing music that brings glory to Christ. However, some bands have a love for promoting themselves through marketing and ploys, while making a nice sum at regular concerts. Some songs can be slightly borderline when it comes to worship, and others simply put on a show so as to impress and attract. All the while, stations assist in making these things come to pass.

This post is somewhat simple and to the point. I openly admit that I don’t necessarily have an answer to the problem that I am presenting, if it is truly a problem at all. I do find great favor in the fact that Christian music is just that–music with the intention of worshiping the Savior, reminding us of the Savior, or simply having fun in reference to the Savior. I do believe that it assists in people’s daily walk and gives the option for listening to something that is a constant reminder of the faith rather than the junk of the world. That being said, I pray that all those affiliated with the Christian music scene give utmost regard to the utmost Creator in all that they do, remembering that they are fulfilling a calling, not obtaining a paycheck or a status of fame.

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This work is copyright 2012 Dylan Gunnels and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Recent Edit

I chose to edit my previous blog, CSU Chapel: Where’s the Worship so that it was slightly more formal and informational. I have done this so that I may submit it to an editorial, but I also wanted to let my readers know that it has changed for a fresh read and perspective. Thanks for reading, and God bless!

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This work is copyright 2012 Dylan Gunnels and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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CSU Chapel: Where’s the Worship?

I proudly attend Charleston Southern University, a private Christian university dedicated to a mission of “integrating faith in learning, leading, and serving.” There are many various ways that the university seeks to uphold this mission, from campus ministries to campus outreach, faith-based learning to cross-curriculum, on-campus and off-campus events. One in particular is Chapel service which occurs every other Wednesday. Essentially, this is another course required to graduate, as all students need a certain number of Chapel attendances to receive that much needed diploma. However, this Chapel  time is intended to be an enriching experience–an hour dedicated to worshiping the risen Savior and then be inspired by a guest speaker from many various walks of life, career positions, and ministry facets. Unfortunately, said Chapel can be just like anything else: it can become a show or a crowd pleaser and deter from its original intent and mission in an instant. Some days I leave Lightsey Chapel inspired and filled with the Spirit, while other days I walk out and wonder what I just sat through. 

For instance, CSU Chapel decided that for one past service a former student and country singer–Ansel Brown–would have the privilege of singing for all the students in attendance. Now, this post is not necessarily intended to criticize the generic lyrics, flat pitch, forced “country twang,” awkward sign language “dancing” by his wife, or the insane amount of pride and self-love Ansel had for himself and his performance. However, after witnessing Ansel sing two songs that really had nothing to do with worshiping God and listening to him brag on himself, I looked around and realized that this was seen as such a joke that the people in attendance were not in a worshipful spirit, and were then not in a position to receive a message from the speaker. What occurred on this particular Wednesday was a political runaround in which the University must have felt the need to please an alumnus rather than stand firm in their mission. There are certain aspects necessary for true impact and CSU seems to be missing one. Simply put, I feel that CSU Chapel is neglecting a major portion of what is necessary to achieve a proper Chapel service: worship.

CSU Chapel website states that “Chapel is to engage CSU community in discipleship, worship, and development of a biblical world view through music, testimonials, and speakers.” It goes on to say that it is to “lead the CSU Community in transformational times of personal and corporate worship.” My concern: CSU Chapel is not fulfilling the statement that it is portraying, and corporate worship is not truly happening during these services. At times the music is non-existent, and at other times it is more of a concert or a show. Often times, if we are actually ensuing worship with the Worship Ensemble or music faculty it is only one or two songs. Although it may sound odd, most everyone has to warm up to worship with their whole heart and spirit so that transformation can occur. I would not walk out on the football field and play four quarters without warming up. In the same way, one must take the time to pray, experience a first song of worship, rid themselves of distractions, and focus their heart on worshiping God with every fiber of their being. Then it becomes “intimate and transformational” worship. I believe the time has come to truly ask the question: is Chapel about CSU or is Chapel about God? Ultimately, we know the answer to that question, and we know that the solution is not hard to find. In fact, commit twenty minutes to worship and thirty minutes to the speaker. I promise you will uphold the mission and always get out on time for fried chicken!

 
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This work is copyright 2012 Dylan Gunnels and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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What Is Worship?

I am writing this blog for a class–I don’t believe it will stay that way, however. Multiple blogs will be guided by the Professor, just as this one will be (topics, structure, word limit, etc.). However, I want to tackle some of the big issues of the church today, in a manner for discussion–for thought and free speech. I am a 19 year old college student attending school for ministry and counseling. I read my Bible and have daily interaction with the Lord. I enjoy praying with others, counseling others, serving the Lord, and yes: worshiping in a contemporary fashion.

My love for contemporary worship, however, is not what necessarily offended me as I listened to three theologians discuss “worship” during their White Horse Inn podcast. In my opinion, the three men tackled the issue like USC’s secondary (thank you Carolina fans for the slight chuckle). It was obvious that they were only referring to music when they were discussing worship. Let’s get something straight, is music a part of worship? Yes–it is referred to several times in Scripture (Psalm 95:2; Psalm 98:5; Psalm 147:7; Eph. 5:19). Is worship music, however? No–I think the simplest answer is to point to Scripture which tells us to do all things for the glory of God by worshiping Him in Spirit and in truth (1 Corinth. 10:31; John 4:23). In speaking about the music, the gentlemen made it seem as though contemporary worship is simply a form of satisfaction and that all churches resemble a rock concert. Of course some people will idolize and overdue music, but are we not trusting in the Spirit enough to know that He will make straight the crooked path? And on that note, I believe that worship has evolved in the way that it has for a reason–being guided by God so that we may have the most intimate form of worship we have ever had.

Lastly, they all seemed to agree that churches today are too chaotic–that they allow worship, communion, prayer, tithing, all at the same time, showing no unity in the body. Can I just say that being a part of a service like that is incredibly moving and Spiritually fulfilling. We are not “seeking personal satisfaction as God reigns down Christmas presents of grace and blessings every Sunday,” as one man so greatly put it. We are coming together as a body, thankful for the grace and mercy God has poured out on us during the week, knowing that we are sinners, and thanking Him for His blessings as we pray, receive communion, sing, and have a gospel-centered message. We have received the Spirit of revival and that excitement always comes out in worship! Perhaps these men need to stop focusing on legalistic arguments and reading scripted prayers, and look to the One who is reigning and responding whether we acknowledge it or not.

Please feel free to listen to their podcast: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/05/20/whi-1102-the-worship-experience/

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This work is copyright 2012 Dylan Gunnels and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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