War of the Words

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

It’s a chilly almost mid-October afternoon. My coffee has grown cold. I’m dazed and confused, to borrow the film title, following a wicked days-long headache. Caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror earlier and I look like death warmed up. Ghostly pale skin. The pupil of my right eye is dilated, which makes sense, as that’s where the Witch-King of Angmar has been stabbing me repeatedly.

Shout out to Tolkien.

There’s been a lot of talk about protesting. What good does it do? When should it be done? Who can protest? How should protesters conduct themselves? What does it all mean? When is life going to return to normal?

And now this.

Click the link.

Read the article.

This short entry, posted on one small blog that resides in a dusty corner of the internet, is my protest.

In a battle over words, I use words.

Without them, specifically the written variety, I wouldn’t be able to communicate. I wouldn’t be able to process the world around me. The love affair began at age 6, on the day I picked up the pen and committed unknowing plagiarism with the composition of a Sherlock Holmes story. I haven’t put it down since.

Should writers be people of integrity? Should we tell the truth? Yes. I was blessed to have a college journalism adviser that could spot a fabrication or a “stretching” from miles away. Once he even yelled at me for manipulating a quote from one of the local papers. The reporter had contacted him and complained. (Haven’t told anyone this story until today. Because, you know, shame and stuff). Fairness and accuracy matter.

Nevertheless, the “disgusting” press can write whatever they want. It’s up to the reading public to hold journalists accountable. It’s up to editors and owners to dish out discipline. Anyone can sue for libel. If laws are broken, then justice should be swift and direct.

None of that means that the printing rooms should go dark at the whim of a public official. The government – local, state or federal – is in no position to dictate to or control the press, thanks to James Madison and the people who thought the Bill of Rights was a good idea. We, especially Christians, do not want state-controlled press. We do not want the president, any president, to have a say in what goes to print.

Why especially Christians?

Think of your brothers and sisters around the world, men and women who risk life and limb to get their hands on even a single page of the Bible.

Censorship, in any form, will only harm everyone in the end.

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Photo Credit: Alexa Mazzarello
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Let’s Talk Darwin, Shall We?

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poorWill also cry himself and not be heard.

Gentle Reader,

Are you a Social Darwinist?

Of course not, you scoff. Darwin = bad.

Sure about that?

Social Darwinism is:

the theory that human groups and races are subject to the same laws of natural selection as Charles Darwin had perceived in plants and animals in nature. According to the theory, which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the weak were diminished and their cultures delimited while the strong grew in power and in cultural influence over the weak. Social Darwinists held that the life of humans in society was a struggle for existence ruled by “survival of the fittest,” a phrase proposed by the British philosopher and scientist Herbert Spencer. (emphasis mine)

Please, reflect on this.

Does any part of you believe this?

Further:

The theory was used to support laissez-faire capitalism and political conservatism. Class stratification was justified on the basis of “natural” inequalities among individuals, for the control of property was said to be a correlate of superior and inherent moral attributes such as industriousness, temperance, and frugality. Attempts to reform society through state intervention or other means would, therefore, interfere with natural processes; unrestricted competition and defense of the status quo were in accord with biological selection. The poor were the “unfit” and should not be aided; in the struggle for existence, wealth was a sign of success. (emphasis mine)

Again, please reflect.

The history books lining my shelves tell me that Social Darwinism died out during the 20th century as a result of advances in biology and sociology.

But did it?

I have doubts.

I watch as people – friends of mine, conservative and liberal – debate the issues of the day. Of particular note is the Affordable Care Act and the GOP efforts to demolish it. Does the ACA have problems? It does. Under my husband’s insurance plan (an HSA), I’ve been denied medications and treatments. That’s still legal. The ACA wasn’t real reform. There’s plenty of blame to pass around.

There is a far greater problem than the ACA, however: Hard hearts.

It’s entirely possible to be a compassionate person and believe that the government has no role in providing healthcare. I believe that. I wish this kind of person would speak a little louder. I wish they would tell those who say things like, “They should just get jobs,” “Healthcare isn’t a right,” “I shouldn’t have to pay for other people to go to the doctor,” and “People who need Obamacare are lazy” how appalled they are over that lack of compassion. I wish this kind of person would find others who are able to come together and create a brilliant plan, one that makes healthcare accessible and affordable for all.

Because Social Darwinism is alive and well, you see.

It’s not about money.

The Senate just passed a $700 billion defense policy bill.

Can’t find too many ACA opponents, who claim to want to cut spending, who say they want a smaller government, too upset about that. (Note: If you understand me to be saying that soldiers shouldn’t be paid, then you are practicing eisegesis. Go sit in a corner). Such people more than likely do exist; I’m just not seeing anything from them.

Behind that lack of compassion is, though perhaps subconscious, a smug sense of superiority. I’m not sick. I’m better than you. I’m stronger than you. Go take care of yourself. I’m busy.

This would be a bad enough attitude amongst the pagans (really, no offense meant, pagans), but I’m seeing this crop up more and more among people who call themselves Christians. People who are supposed to be loving. Compassionate. Kind. The ones who take care of and stand up for the little guy. The ones who are supposed to be humble, giving, sacrificial.

Again, it’s possible and, I’d say, even completely fine to disagree about the role of government in healthcare. (Although, I do find it odd that some of the strongest voices raised against the ACA and all socialized medicine belong to recipients of Medicare. If you did not know or did not realize, Medicare is socialized medicine). But tell me: What will we do if and when the ACA is dismantled? Millions of people will be without coverage. There’s talk of going back to the days of pre-existing conditions, which basically means someone like me can just go ahead and die, thank you very much. Big cuts to Mediacaid – you know, the thing that allows poor children to go to the doctor. And why would we need maternity coverage? The stork brings babies.

Yes, yes – supposedly the people in the suits want to give block grants to the states.

But you know that each state is going to get different amounts, right?

And that the state government gets to decide how to use and spend those grants, right?

That there’s no guarantee here?

But that’s okay, because you’ve never been sick. You’ve never needed surgery. You’re a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” sort. Jesus said that He’d help those who help themselves, after all. (No, He didn’t). I mean, it doesn’t matter that your state might not have enough money to help you – you’re never going to need that help. You’re not some lazy, disgusting, weak person.

In the church, we don’t call it Social Darwinism. Instead, we tell people to just pray harder. Under the guise of sharing concern, we wonder with others what this sick person has done to bring this on themselves. Boy, it’s a good thing that we’re right with the Lord. We’d never do something so bad as to make Him give us cancer. We’ll tut-tut and flap our hands over that church member who does have cancer, maybe even bring a meal or two, but we are certainly not going to help pay the bills. That’s not our job. Oh, and hey, Government? You will not use our tax money that way!

We need to examine ourselves. Disagree over models and plans and roles, but never forget that there are real, human lives in the balance here. Never forget that you are, in fact, commanded:

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one anothernot lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

– Philippians 2:1-4; Romans 12:9-13; 1 John 3:16-18; Colossians 3:12-17 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

There is no place for smug, arrogant, Social Darwinism in our faith. None at all.

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Five Minute Friday: Speak

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

On one thing we can all agree: What a week it’s been.

Linking up with Kate and my buddies. We: speak.

Go.

There are many things I could write tonight. Many things I could say.

Only a few need to be shared in this moment.

One: To my brothers and sisters of color, I am sorry. For the times I shrugged off an inappropriate joke. For the times I’ve been afraid of you because you are different from me. For the times I didn’t seek to understand. For the times I didn’t listen. I want to be better, to do better. This is not about politics; not about left or right. Not about looking good for anyone. It’s about publicly owning what I need to own. From here on out, I wish to be more aware and more sensitive. I want to build bridges instead of walls.

Two: White supremacy isn’t just hating people of other races. The groups that converged in Charlottesville last weekend would gladly do away with me – whether that means kicking me out of the country or killing me. Because I’m ill. Because I can’t have children. Because I struggle with depression and anxiety. White supremacists seek “purity,” whatever that means, and I’m certainly not that. There’s a good chance that you aren’t, either.

Three (I shared the following on Facebook earlier today): Many speak of the Civil War as being fought over state’s rights. For the sake of argument, let’s say that’s true. I need someone to explain to me why anyone is angry that the state governments are choosing to remove Confederate symbols from public display.

Think about it.

Finally: I follow several African-American Christian leaders online. They are all asking the same questions – Why can’t our white brothers and sisters see how this hurts us? How these things stoke the fires of hatred and prejudice?

We should listen to the people who have to deal with what these things stand for every single day.

Stop.

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Also linking up with Suzanne Eller and the Ra-Ra Writers

More information:

 

The Myth of the Kindly General Lee

 

What Would Jesus Say About Confederate Symbols?

 

On Trump and Repentance

 

The 1850s Response to the Racism of 2017

 

Social Conservatism vs. Tribal Nationalism

 

Lost Cause of the Confederacy (this is from Wikipedia, so use it as a jumping off point)

 

Alt-Right, Alt-Left, Antifa: a Glossary of Extremist Language

 

Charlottesville: Race and Terror (a must-watch 22-minute video)

Thoughts After Charlottesville 

Gentle Reader,

You know I’m a pacifist, but I wonder how we got from Captain America punching Hitler to, “well, Nazis aren’t that big a deal” and, “it’s probably all a conspiracy because Soros and Antifa.”

How did we come to idolize Robert E. Lee, a slave owner who fought against his own country?

Why do we still doubt that the Civil War was about slavery?

Why are people who call themselves Christians saying, “we will not be silenced?” Chanting, “blood and soil?” (That’s a Nazi slogan, if you don’t know).

A woman died and dozens more are injured. All for a statue that shouldn’t have been erected in the first place.

And, yeah, I know. Free speech is a thing we have here. People can assemble and say stupid, ugly things. I support that. Doesn’t mean that I will shy away from labeling that speech “stupid” and “ugly.” 

After sitting with and mourning this for 2 days, I wonder: Could we Christians lead the way here by no longer screaming about our rights? By refusing to see the government – local, state or federal – as an entity meant to protect us? What if we truly rested in the promises of Christ, knowing in our bones that He will see us through whatever happens? What if we decided to esteem others and consider their needs before our own, as Paul admonishes in Philippians 2? What if we recognised that this world is not our home and that the spread of the Gospel is more important than politics? What if we looked to our brothers and sisters in hostile countries and emulated their example? Those of us who are white, what if we took the time to really listen to and empathize with people of color – not to take on false guilt, but so we can understand what they deal with?

I wonder what would happen. I wonder if we’d become agents of healing and shine brightly in dark places.

Meditate on these passages:

2 Corinthans 5:20; 6:4a, 6b

2 Corinthains 5:9

Philippians 2:3-4

Philippians 2:14-15

Philippians 4:5

Colossians 3:8

1 Thessalonians 5:5

James 2:8-9a

Matthew 28:18-20

Romans 12:17-18

Galatians 5:24

1 John 4:9

Revelation 7:9-10

Racism has no place in Christianity. May we be courageous enough to examine our own hearts and repent if needed. May we be brave enough to vocally condemn this evil. May we be loving enough to reach out to those who are different.

Skin is skin.

It doesn’t matter.

Lord, teach us to love as You love. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Expose what needs exposing. Help us to prioritize preaching the Gospel over and above all else. Kill the selfish ambitions and vain conceits that strangle our hearts.

Break us and remake us.

Forgive us, Jesus. 

Red, brown, yellow, black and white – all are precious in Your sight.