Isn’t It Time to Upset the Applecart…And the Status Quo?

courageThere was a man once who had a major beef with the establishment, and refused to go along with the status quo–a status quo that fattened both the overtly immoral people of his country as well as the corrupt hypocrites of his own political and religious circle.

His followers had a knack for getting on the wrong side of the power structure in both camps.

One of his most dedicated followers, a man named Stephen, upset the apple cart. In trying to do what was right, he got the establishment bent out of shape at him.

Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men…And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses…And the high priest said, “Are these things so?”

And Stephen said:…“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him…But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him.

Maybe if Stephen hadn’t been so “boorish,” they wouldn’t have killed him.  Why couldn’t he have tried a more “winsome” approach? Why did he have to be so “negative”? What a pity he didn’t try harder to get along with others and be nice. Apparently Stephen was incapable of accomplishing anything. A Christian wouldn’t speak harshly like this!

A man named Peter was another dedicated follower. He and some other followers were arrested for upsetting the establishment, thrown in prison, and some threatened to kill them.

But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison…And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Some might say Peter was “having a temper tantrum,” eh?  Maybe Peter felt it was “my way or the highway,” eh?  What a “bad attitude”!  Perhaps Peter was just a “chest thumper.” Maybe Peter just didn’t understand “how things get done” in a polite society, eh? After all, why did he have to go around getting people mad at him all the time?  Why did he have to “just say ‘no'” all the time?  Why did Peter feel he had to “attack people” all the time? You can’t get the message out when people get mad at you, can you?

Woodrow Wilcox


A man named Paul, one of his best followers, caused a riot:

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel….And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus…we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today…”

How’s that for “working with people” and “getting things done”? I wonder why Paul had to be so “divisive”? A guy like this would be “unelectable” in a political race; definitely an unpopular soul.


This guy Paul even “attacked” a leader in the movement, one who had walked with the master, for being a CINO (Christian in Name Only):

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.

How divisive! Just because Cephas (sometimes known as Peter) acted one way with one set of people and another way with another set of people–that’s no reason to call him a hypocrite!  Cephas was just trying to build a “big tent” and be “inclusive.”   And here, Paul had to go and “attack” Cephas for trying to be nice!  What a fringe extremist Paul was!

Another of his followers, one he described in glowing terms, didn’t pull any punches when it came to calling out the establishment for what they were:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

But it wasn’t just his followers who ticked people off and upset apple carts. This man himself surpassed his followers in being “divisive” and “turning people off”.

He publicly castigated the establishment and people who disagreed with him for their hypocrisy and their betrayal of the very values they claimed to stand for.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools!..Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!… You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence…Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

On another occasion, he said to the establishment:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

What a bunch of ugly comments!  How “un-Christian” of Jesus to have spoken to people like this!  Why couldn’t he be nicer? Didn’t Jesus understand the politics of addition, not subtraction?

Didn’t he realize that by criticizing the leadership for their betrayal of the documented principles of their movement, and sometimes acting outside the hierarchy, that he was “dividing the party”?

This man also didn’t have much use for people who said one thing while doing another; rhetoric that doesn’t match actions never impressed him:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.

What a shame that he didn’t have positive things to say about others.  Excluding people and making them feel bad is not a way to establish a “big tent.”

He was also known on at least one occasion to have gone into their halls of power and quite literally upset the applecart of the status quo:

In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.  And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

No wonder some of this man’s followers threw “temper tantrums;” they learned about “throwing temper tantrums” from their master.  Why did he have to be so negative?  Didn’t he understand that movements are won by addition, not subtraction?

This man was the epitome of a “my way or the highway” man, claiming

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.


If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear is own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Why couldn’t he be more “inclusive“? Didn’t he realize that having a “big tent” was better? There’s no way that message was going to appeal to the “moderates,” and the youth would want nothing to do with such an extremist position.

What a pity that this man didn’t try a more “winsome” approach. He might have actually accomplished something if he has been nicer.

Interestingly,  there were some followers of this man who came along much later. They were resisting the oppression of the establishment, which was trampling them, their values and their freedoms. They were as “intransigent” as the man they followed.

For example, in response to the heavy-handed hypocrisy of the establishment, a man named Patrick said

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Why couldn’t he just moderate his tone a little?  Why all the “chest-thumping” and theatrics?

Another man named Sam was just as “extreme” and “divisive”:

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.

Didn’t this Sam fellow realize that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar? What was this “fringe” kook thinking? Why did he feel the need to “promote himself” by “insulting others”?

Sadly, in our post-Christian culture, things are back to having not changed much. Anyone who stands up for what is right is an uncompromising “extremist” who believes it’s “my way or the highway.” To not follow the herd and not go along with the in-crowd is to be “divisive.”  To tell the truth is “insulting” and “offensive” and “hateful.”

To hear RINOs (and even some “conservatives” and “Christians) tell it, people like Ted Cruz and Stace Nelson are too “extreme,” and have “temper tantrums” and “don’t work well with people;” they can’t win political contests or accomplish anything because (liberal) people don’t like them. Riiiiiiight.

At this point, do I really need to say more? Do I really need to spell out the moral of the story? Because at this point, it should be obvious enough for even a RINO to get it (though accepting the truth is another story).

So if it’s clear enough for a RINO to understand, surely conservatives and Christians can get it without me having to spell it out any further.

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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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