Kanye West just released a high flying, Billboard chart rocketing, new album called “Jesus is King”. It begs a key question, Is Jesus King? It’s a Yes or No answer. Either He is or He isn’t. If He is, doesn’t that change everything? Martin Luther King, Jr. worshipped King Jesus. King James bowed to King Jesus and sponsored the best selling book about Jesus. Mega-celebrity, pop icon Kanye testifies that Jesus is King.
In an interview with Oxford grad, UK rapper Zuby talking about Kanye’s new “Jesus is King” album, TV host Tucker Carlson said, “It would be interesting to talk about whether or not Jesus is King. But no one wants to have those conversations so they dismiss Him, as you know, and many others.”
5 Talking Points to Engage the Conversation, “Is Jesus King?”
My family encircles eight women. Over three and a half decades of love for a precious woman resulted in two priceless daughters, then three perfect granddaughters. Thankfully, I’m still blessed with two moms – one by birth, one by bliss. How do I love these four generations of women?
How can we say we follow Jesus if we don’t love women like Jesus who proved love by His life and death? His love powers our love for the woman from whom we came, the woman to whom we vowed, the woman we were blessed to parent and the son in birth or in-law we lead.
The invitation to my first Muslim Ramadan “iftar” – the meal breaking the day’s fast – was a privilege afforded me as a member of Orange County, CA Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ Interfaith Advisory Council. I was warmly welcomed as an honored guest to a delicious meal enlivened with engaging conversation. A very informative video explained Ramadan and the iftar meal. I was humbled by the infrequency of the discipline of fasting in my own spiritual journey, let alone an annual, month long, daily dawn to sunset fast.
Here are ten pithy observations from my blindly W.A.S.P. vantage point between a familiar American Christianity and the Muslim faith invoking dynamic conversations worldwide.
ONE – I was greeted by a few Muslim women wearing a “hijab” headdress. Nearly half of Americans including a substantial portion of American Christians support legislation and politicians who empower women’s rights such as the choice to have unprotected sex and then abort an unwanted fetal consequence. Americans embedded in our sexually titillating society deem it incomprehensible for a woman to be compelled to cover her head in public. It seems so religious.
TWO – Admittedly, difficulty pronouncing names encumbers my social interaction. I know, how shallow of me to be concerned over misspeaking a name a few times. Okay, every time. I met a sweet woman Emine named after the mother of their Prophet. Think “Mary”. After concentrated effort, I still garbled her name. When I introduced her to a new Muslim acquaintance, I couldn’t pronounce his name I heard minutes prior. The first gracious woman I met at the door was the event emcee and a board member of the host organization. She said her name twice after I stumbled the first time. Her name was Cassandra. This awkward Anglo’s over-Arabicizing blunder messed up an easy name.
THREE – Confession #2, (#3 if you include my fast-light habits), I don’t have Muslim friends. Not even casual friends like your kid’s team parents you acquaint at the post game pizza party. Our former neighbors across the street were Muslims we didn’t befriend beyond cordial, curbside chats. Yes, she wore a hijab.
FOUR – Ramadan is a Muslim’s discipline of fasting every day of the 9th month of Islam’s calendar. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam along with Testimony, Prayer, Almsgiving and Pilgrimage to Mecca. I believe most American Christians rarely, if ever, fast. It seems so religious. We’re too busy to fast. We use fast to describe food not denounce food. Few practice consistently spiritual disciplines including the “Golden Three” Jesus presumes in the Sermon on the Mount as habitual – “When you give…” (like tithing), “When you pray…When you fast”. Forget the obligation to a once in a lifetime, better yet annually, travel to our Mecca unless Disneyland qualifies.
FIVE – Muhammad was not only a prophet, teacher and leader, he was a warrior. He was more Joshua than Jesus, more President General Eisenhower than Billy Graham. Followers of Jesus join the military but Jesus never led an army into battle. Muhammad did.
SIX – Annihilation of the infidels by ISIS and other radical terrorists is driven by their self proclaimed obedience to Islam. In light of these atrocities, my Muslim fellow Council members, plus every speaker at the Ramadan iftar, stated emphatically the radical jihadists do not reflect their faith. We American Christians have so many flavors of “Christian”, whether the Protestant plethora or Catholic singularity, we easily differentiate from and do not take responsibility for “The Troubles” of the Irish 30 years ago let alone the Crusades a millennium ago. Such distinction is not easily parsed for Muslims.
SEVEN – Separation of church and state in American politics is starkly different from how some see Islam in the purest form through Sharia Law. Christian voters and politicians bring their faith into the public square as values not doctrine. Many consider Islam irrevocably socio-political.
EIGHT – Muslims revere the prophet Jesus while American Christians have little regard for Muhammad. To a follower of Jesus, Jesus is the only way of salvation. Muhammad is Islam’s true and final prophet who was preceded by the prophet Jesus but not subordinate to Jesus. Christlike Muslim doctrines and values exist in Islam but Muslims do not resurrect the prophet Jesus as the incarnate God who is Savior and Lord. Descendants of Father Abraham’s rivaled offspring Isaac through Yeshua (Jesus) and Ishmael through Muhammad still struggle coalescing a respectful disagreement for the greater good of our global community.
NINE – As only a child can accomplish, during our meal, a precious, blonde hair, blue eyed, little girl named Fatima brought much life to our table and the gathering. A child with her kind mother (in a hijab) and friendly, bearded father of Turkish descent celebrating a meal as a family in their faith community is a universal picture of the love, joy and peace we all want in and outside our homes. I heard in my mind, “Unless you change and become like a child, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
TEN – Jesus’ commission to“Love your neighbor” defined my Ramadan iftar experience eloquently expressed in the unplanned, recurring theme of each speaker. This is a kingdom we can all seek first. Our gracious host Cassandra finished our gathering in tears, uttering softly, “There’s too much killing, too much.” She bid us goodnight from the depth of her heart. The unity of humanity transcended difference and buried indifference.
Pope Francis pontificated, “One is not a Christian if he speaks about walls not bridges.” Donald Trump testifies, “I’m an Evangelical, a Presbyterian.” The central question for any Presidential candidate who claims to be a Christian is this: Are you a disciple of Jesus?
The question unveils two more: First, are “Christian” and “disciple” synonymous? Second, is Jesus more than Savior but equally mentor, teacher and #1 campaign advisor? Consider the questions in reverse order.
Question #2 – Is public profession in Jesus enough or does an “Evangelical Christian” by definition prioritize and practice the teachings of Jesus as a disciple? Is Jesus’ exhortation to the religious, “Get away from me you evil doers” relevant to Christians who believe in but don’t behave like Jesus? Will a believer receive the Master’s welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven without living out His words?
Professed faith does not produce practiced faith. “Un-Christlike” Christians are rampant across American, consumer Evangelicalism. Mean Christians populate pews. Righteous indignation is praised if the anger furthers a partisan agenda. A Trumpvangelical is one who endorses the Teacher but ignores the teaching, a guest in His house on Sunday who disregards His directives Monday through Saturday. NY Times Douthat calls them the Christian Penumbra who are “Christian-ish“.
When the life of Jesus is not disciplined into the fabric of our character, our words and actions tear back the curtain. Sincere yet fundamentally unchanged believers do not resemble the One we claim to follow. Daily habits give the impression Trumpvangelicals dozed off during the Sermon on the Mount.
Are the Pope & I too judgmental? Is my log eye blinding me from removing Mr. Trump’s speck? I am not indicting Mr. Trump, I am inviting him and pews full of Trumpvangelicals to follow Jesus with me and learn His cheek-turning counsel is more than advice for the antiquities.
Who is missing the mark? Mr. Trump and I. We preachers often present a gospel as divorced from discipleship as Donald is from Ivana and Marla. We seek bigger churches not bigger Christians. We offer discipleship as an elective not core requirement. Thankfully, an amazing grace-full invitation to become apprentices of Jesus stands with no fear of being fired. Attendees can become followers when someone walks with them. In addition to a promised, eternal Miralago after life, our next POTUS, if he or she wants to, can learn from the One who shoulders the government how to serve like Jesus if He called the White House home.