Today, Tomorrow and the Next Day

Trust

Gentle Reader,

Over the last month, there have been scores of articles written, stressing the importance of voting. This midterm election has taken on a weight, an importance, that I don’t recall seeing before. We are all Chicken Little, but instead of the sky falling, we fear, and even believe, that our country is coming to pieces.

I look out my front window. We have new neighbors. They’ve been here since early September. I’ve yet to get up the courage to go and introduce myself. They’ve been busy getting settled, anyway, running loads to here from whence they came. When I do cross the street and extend my hand, my first question will not be, “Who did you vote for in 2016? 2018?”

Because who wants to start off a relationship like that?

Politicians have sold us a great lie: The neighbor is the enemy. This simply isn’t true. Unless you live near a Neo-Nazi, chances are pretty good that those in the homes within shouting distance want the same things you do. A job, good schools, safe neighborhoods. Chances are also pretty good that everyone up and down your street disagrees on how to achieve those things, and just what role the government should play in the achievement, but down at the base level, where it really matters, people are just people.

We forget that. All of us, so tuned into what our leaders have to say, find our sinful, baser natures rising to the forefront. Fears of “the other” and “the different” and “the invader” have been stoked, and blatantly. It behooves those in power to stir us up and create suspicion. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, the house that is divided shall not stand. He uttered these words in 1858, on the eve of civil war, when brother took up arms against brother.

Do we want to repeat this history?

Yes, I believe that if we do not check ourselves, we will wreck ourselves. Violence is the natural, logical conclusion when people feed on fear and hate. Perhaps not tomorrow. Maybe not even next year. But eventually.

I won’t tell you who to vote for. I won’t even tell you to vote. As I write this, the polls open in less than 24 hours and I have yet to decide if I will be among those waiting for a ballot. Not because I think voting is pointless – I don’t. It matters a great deal. A couple of weeks ago I was sure; now, I feel a heaviness knowing that, once again, it will come down to choosing the “lesser of two evils.”

Is that a choice that a Christian can or should make?

Wrong is still wrong, isn’t it, even if varied by degrees?

You’ve read here of my love of politics. Long have I been fascinated by the history, the personalities and the processes. Today, I am sickened instead. Waves of nausea wash over me as I ponder what lies before us. Nobody knows exactly what tomorrow holds, but it is not too far a stretch to make an educated guess. More anger, more division, more trouble.

Unless we choose differently.

We legislate morality. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Murder, robbery, abuse – all sinful, all penalized. What we cannot do, and must stop attempting to do, is legislate Christianity. This marriage of faith and politics, this reckless and futile attempt to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, right now, in the United States, as a distinct physical and political entity (read this as a jumping off point), must stop. There will be no utopia before the return of Christ. And His return certainly isn’t going to be forced by us.

Before you go to sleep tonight, examine yourself. Take a good, long, hard inventory of your heart and mind. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal both cherished and hidden sins. Ask Him to grant you the strength to repent. If you choose to vote tomorrow, be sure that you do so with His agenda squarely in focus.

Because that’s what we are to be about. Today, tomorrow and the next day.

Let us choose differently. Vote, don’t vote – that’s not an answer I have. What I can tell you is that, whatever the results are, we have to learn that sanctification is a process meant to change all parts of our lives. Nothing is to be held back from the refining fire of the Spirit’s touch. For some of us that might mean choosing to listen to the stories of an immigrant family (legal or otherwise). For others that might look like turning off the obnoxious cable news and reading the Bible a little longer than usual. I don’t know what God is asking of you, but I know it’s something, because that’s what He does.

Listen. Oh, please, let’s listen. Let’s choose Him, over and above all else. Like Hannaniah, Azariah and Mishael. Let’s not go with the flow. Let’s not allow ourselves to be manipulated. Let’s not give into fear and hate.

Today, tomorrow and the next day.

Mediate on these words:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

– Psalm 20:7 (NKJV)

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Just Don’t Write About It

Trust

Gentle Reader,

I suppose this has become a series. Should probably think of a title for it.

How does “Everyone is Crazy” sound? Ah, I can hear the protests. Stop using that word! It’s ableist! Everyone thinks differently, obviously, but as someone who takes a pill every night in the attempt to keep her mind functioning properly, I don’t use “crazy” as an insult. I use it as a shorthand for “let’s put some Prozac in the water supply so maybe everyone can chill out a little, okay?”

Anyway.

It’s popular to publish “listicles,” those sometimes-annoying pop-up articles that proclaim to reveal “10 Secrets to Younger Looking Skin!” or “5 Steps to Becoming a Master Underwater Basket Weaver!” The exact opposite of popular is publishing articles discussing the intersection of theology and politics, or, as I like to think of it, pavement doctrine. You know, the way in which we walk out this thing called “faith” on a day-to-day basis. Actually, as I read these sentences, I realize that it’s okay to write about pavement doctrine, as long as you, the author, choose to stay in a specific lane on the road. “Conservatives” have their favorites, as do “progressives.”

When you go hop-scotching around, discussing the flaws on all sides…well, you lose subscribers. Occasionally get roasted on social media, but that’s kind of a badge of honor, right? My skin is certainly thicker than it used to be.

So why put yourself through that?, people ask. Just don’t write about it.

Would that I could. Can’t so I won’t.

Do you know that Christianity is an intellectual faith? Certainly relationship with God is not only about the mind, but nor is it about closing the mind. This is so obvious, so essential to the truth-claims that we make, that I cannot understand how so many operate from a place of…not stupidity (I don’t believe that anyone is actually stupid, meaning incapable of thought), but willful ignorance. Anything outside of the tidy little boxes we prefer is nothing about which we wish to know or understand.

Consider the issue of abortion. I am a pacifist, so I am as pro-life as you can get. The ending of human life by other humans is abhorrent in all its forms. Do you know that this, oddly, puts me outside of the pro-life movement much of the time?

Think about it. The Republican Party has positioned itself as being anti-abortion, correct? The rallying cry is “overturn Roe v. Wade!” Never mind the fact that overturning simply kicks the issue back to the states, who will make their own laws, rather than making abortion illegal. And if abortion were made illegal, would the GOP then legislate things like equal access to contraceptives (men can buy condoms at the store no problem; women need to visit the doctor for a prescription) which would mean shaking free of the insurance lobbyists and actually reforming the healthcare system?

The Democrats are no better. The party fights amongst itself right now, attempting to determine if abortion-on-demand will become a litmus test for membership. Loud voices begin to make it quite clear that pro-life people are not welcome. Never mind that pro-life people would likely help pass things like true healthcare reform and sensible environmental protections, planks on the Democratic platform. This makes it seem as though there is no place for people of faith.

That’s the problem with both party loyalty and single issue voting. Neither allows for nuance.

Our faith should enable us to think critically. We should be comfortable with nuance. That might sound strange, because the truth of salvation is so starkly black-and-white. It is. Jesus, and Jesus alone, saves. And what happens after that? I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: We live as Revelation 21 people in a Genesis 3 world. This means that we should clearly see that all systems are made by humans, who are fundamentally warped, and as such, no philosophical stance regarding the role of government is going to have every answer. No political party is going to get it right every time. No president is going to usher in a golden age.

Because golden ages, no matter what the history books say, don’t exist.

Mediate on these words:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

– Psalm 20:7 (NKJV)

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Suck It, Buttface

Trust

Gentle Reader,

Last week I wrote about the United States being caught in the grip of a nation-wide panic attack. Everyone seems to be dialed up to “11” at all times, ready to snap at the slightest provocation. Surely there are cooler heads out there, but they are not in control of the narrative. At all. Instead, shouts of “war!” and “enemies!” and “conspiracy!” fill our ears, via the breakneck news cycle and our collective social media addiction.

The confirmation and swearing in of Brett Kavanaugh as the 114th justice of the Supreme Court hasn’t helped.

I purposefully waited to write this, what might be the second installment of a series and what might be just a rather annoyed addition to the previous (I don’t know yet), until after last Saturday’s vote. Like many others, I watched the entirety of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony the week prior. I watched Judge Kavanaugh’s rebuttal. I watched Senators play politics, making speeches that sounded really good but ultimately contained nothing of substance. Everyone voted exactly as was expected. I watched as hard battle lines were drawn – “It’s so hard to be a man in America because those women, they lie!” vs. “All women must be believed!” I watched as Christian men and women shot off tweets and posted think-pieces in which they said, “Well, you know, the Bible does say that there needs to be two or more witnesses to a crime before anyone can be convicted…”

But mostly I watched as disgusting memes were passed around and those on the “winning side” gleefully enjoyed their “victory.”

Let’s break this down.

Everyone voted exactly as was expected: Where, oh, where, are the politicians who will put country ahead of party? Where is this generation’s Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy? Where is the man or woman moved by faith in the Creator, convicted and convinced that he or she must be a good steward of the creation?

I do have to give credit to Heidi Heitkamp, Senator from North Dakota. She, a Democrat in a strong Republican state, could have taken the easier way out and cast a vote that may have earned her a bump in a contentious race. (That’s what Joe Manchin, Senator from West Virginia, appears to have done, from a strictly political, in-the-middle of a campaign perspective, based on what has been reported in both right- and left-leaning publications. Ultimately, I don’t know why he voted “yes,” since I can’t read his mind). She chose to vote her conscience instead, based on her statements. May more rise up and do the same.

It’s so hard to be a man in America: Are you kidding me? Do people really think that women are working behind men’s backs to take them down because…? You know this isn’t true. I mean, come on. Your mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, coworkers and friends do not have a secret website where they share strategy and receive marching orders (probably from George Soros, who I am not entirely convinced is a real person). This is just the latest battle in the gender war that has raged since Adam and Eve ate the fruit. You really think that Satan doesn’t want to divide men and women from each other? To get us to view the opposite gender with suspicion, fear, disdain? To tempt us to try and dominate and abuse each other?

Women aren’t your enemy.

(For sure not all men believe these things or think this way. I’m privileged to know a lot of good guys. However, I’ve also seen some disturbing memes and rhetoric about women, coming from Christian men. This section applies to them. If this isn’t you, brother, please, confront the wrong thinking).

All women must be believed: My response here is nuanced, which we’re so good at these days, so please, do try to read all of it.

Just as man should not automatically be believed because he is a man, neither should a woman automatically be believed because she is a woman. Ah, I can hear the laptops slamming shut. Do not misunderstand me. I fully comprehend sexual assault statistics. I know how common it is. I get that the women who make false accusations are few and far between in the grand total. Men have been inappropriate toward me. I have had people work to destroy my reputation because I have chosen to come forward. I want perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Proponents of feminism and #MeToo have to be very conscious of pursuing just that, justice, rather than grabbing the double-standard that has been used against women for so long and stabbing men with it. We don’t like that men are automatically believed because they are men. At least, I don’t. So I don’t want to be automatically believed because I’m a woman. Basically, gender shouldn’t enter into the equation.

Equal treatment doesn’t mean special treatment. Does that mean we, particularly Christian women who understand and embrace that we are fully the equal of men in God’s design and also understand that the injustices of this world are rooted in sin, are going to have to work to pass better laws, to get church leaders to deal with sin rather than sweep it under the rug, to expose and work to correct often unconscious social attitudes that are biased against women? Yep. And no, it’s not fair. It’s not right. But when I think of all of my goddaughters – six in total – I know that it’s worth it.

Speaking truth and working for justice is always worth it, even when it hurts. That’s a hard thing to settle on, knowing that no form of utopia will ever be achieved this side of Eternity. But we cannot, must not, cease to do good, no matter how strong the wrong seems.

Two or more witnesses: Again, are you kidding me? Nice job taking Deuteronomy 19:15 out of context, guys. Great spin. If the only possible way that anyone, ever, could be convicted for any crime is for there to have been witnesses to the crime, no sexual assault cases would ever be prosecuted. Guess who saw the things that happened to me? Nobody other than me and the men who did them. Does that mean I’m lying?

And this whole issue of lying? People lie when they can get something out of it. Covering their butts, advancing up the corporate or social latter, you name it. Lies are motivated by the desire to achieve something. Again, back to nuance here: I don’t want to be believed simply because I am a woman, but at the same time, what do I or any others who come forward and speak about what’s happened to them have to gain? Nothing but additional problems, in my experience.

(Note: Yes, some women have lied about being assaulted. That doesn’t make all women liars any more than the fact that some men rape makes all men rapists).

Finally, the victory dance: Incredibly disgusting. I saw things posted by fellow Christians that should make them blush with guilt. Really, you want to “crush the left” and “destroy the libtards?”

You think that makes Jesus happy?

That’s what it’s all about. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be all about for us, the ones who plunge ourselves into the fountain filled with His cleansing blood. What pleases Jesus?

He’s not pleased when we look at our neighbors and sneer, “Suck it, buttface.” He’s not pleased when we reduce our fellow people to soulless opponents in a game that nobody can win because the rules are ever-shifting and the goalposts always moving. He’s not pleased when we think that the Gospel belongs to and is lived out only by the segment of the population who votes a certain way. He’s not pleased when we care more about what CNN or Fox has to say than we do what He says, contained on the dusty pages of our Bibles (or, for us awful Millennials and Gen Z-ers, in our rarely-opened Bible apps).

Meditate upon these words:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

– Psalm 20:7 (NKJV)

********

P.S. – I couldn’t figure out where to fit this, but just so everyone knows: Democrats aren’t fascists. Fascism is a right-wing position. Making that claim is like saying that Republicans are socialists, a left-wing position. If you’re going to engage in hyperbole, at least use the terms correctly. Thank you and goodnight.

Additonal p.s. – Underlined words/phrases indicate editing done after reading Andrew’s comment below. He was right in his point about Manchin. I apologize for being hasty and too broad in my comments. I seek to be even-handed but I don’t always succeed. I appreciate gentle, constructive criticism.

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I Lied (Kind Of)

Tired

Gentle Reader,

When I wrote that I needed to take a sort-of break from writing, I was telling the truth. I don’t want to stick to a posting schedule right now. What wasn’t true is that I lack inspiration. I mean, I do. In a way. I am working out where God wants to take this little blog of mine. I want to be faithful to His leading.

But.

What I did not say is that I am tired. Very, very tired.

Over the last coupleish years, I have written about controversial topics and taken positions on those topics that are often unpopular among some. The rise of Trumpism, as distinct from traditional conservatism, has been deeply bothersome to me, but what has truly been alarming is the ongoing attempts to justify his lifestyle and actions (as well as those of the current administration and Congress) using Scripture. The combining of biblical worldview and ethics with a particular party and set of political positions, leading to the assumption that the two are the same, is incredibly annoying. The outrage over peaceful protests makes no sense to me; you may not agree with the position of the protester, but you can’t deny they have that right. On and on it goes.

In recent days, the Twitterverse has labeled me both a fundamentalist for affirming the literal, bodily resurrection of Christ (you know, the central article of the faith) and a liberal for finding a recent statement regarding social justice to be equal parts unnecessary, needlessly divisive and far too vague. As to the resurrection, I’ve heard that it’s not needed; one can be a Christian without believing, which makes zero sense because then what the heck are you here for? As to the statement, I’ve been told to take it at face value, to not consider the positions, teachings and other statements of the framers and initial signers, which makes zero sense because context matters.

Like I said, I’m so tired. Not only is the political world a dumpster fire, but Gnosticism rears it’s ugly head once more, a Gnosticism that denies the resurrection and a Gnosticism that elevates the spiritual over the material. I don’t really have a dog in either conflict, so to speak, because the one is taking place within Anglicanism and the other within the Reformed movement. After all, I’m just a breath away from being a heretic, by virtue of holding to Arminian and egalitarian positions.

Grin.

Actually, I have been called a heretic this week for not signing the statement. But here’s the thing: I have spent the last year purposefully looking for and following biblically sound men and women of color. I live in a fairly ethnically homogeneous area, so I don’t have much opportunity to interact with people who don’t look like me. I thought that it was important for me to seek out those whose theology is sound but whose lived experiences are different from my own. I wanted to hear their perspectives and stories.

I haven’t always agreed with everything these people have said (when is that ever true?), but I have learned. A lot. There is real, ongoing pain and struggle. Heartache that I and many others are largely unaware of, because it’s not part of our daily lives. So while I can and do agree with significant chunks of the theology contained in that statement – the affirmations – I can’t get in line with the denials. I can’t divorce social justice from the Gospel. Submitting to Christ necessitates that I work to help and care for the marginalized and oppressed. Committed, solid believers can disagree on what that looks like on a practical level, but we can’t disagree that Scripture consistently testifies to God’s commanding His people to do justly.

(Side note: I don’t know all of the ins and outs of this particular social justice fight. As I said, I’m not Reformed. A lot of what the Calvinists argue about leaves me looking at them with a strong side-eye. I do know that certain people have gotten into Twitter snits, which isn’t helpful in any way. I can and do extend charity to the authors of the statement; it’s possible that they did not mean to come across the way they did. Basically, I wish that the leading personalities on all sides had gotten together and had discussions).

So tired.

That’s why I haven’t wanted to write. That’s the real reason. I’m exhausted in trying to explain, over and over again, things that seem so obvious to me. I make my conservative friends mad. I make my liberal friends mad. And I weep as I watch the Body tear itself apart not over doctrine, for the most part (save for the strange resurrection debate), not over orthodoxy, but over orthopraxy, the way the faith is lived out. I watch brothers and sisters who genuinely, strongly hold to Scriptural teaching beat each other up over whether Republicans or Democrats should be in power. I observe and sometimes participate in complete distractions to the Great Commission.

I’m a Bible teacher. Down at the bottom line, at the base, I want people to know Scripture because I want them to know who God is. I want people to love Jesus because He loves them. I am the farthest thing from perfect or smartest, but I strive to look at every issue through a biblical lens. I want to live out the ethics of Christ. Frankly, we (the hugely general, extremely broad, American church as a whole “we”) aren’t doing a good job of that. Our lack of knowledge, lack of wisdom, lack of love, lack of patience, lack of grace and lack of understanding the “now” aspect of the “not yet” Kingdom clearly, glaringly shows.

That “we” gets me into trouble, too. I don’t have a problem acknowledging the corporate, communal nature of our problems and sins. This doesn’t mean that I own things that I don’t need to own or feel that I have to atone for a group. It just means that I see the Body as my family, my peeps, and we have problems, which means I have problems. We rise together and we go down together.

I have done what Paul says not to do. I’ve grown weary of doing good. I am so, so ready to throw in the towel on this blog, on teaching. I’m ready to delete all of my social media accounts and disappear. The worst part of it all is that the weariness washes over me following interactions with fellow believers. This should not be. Satan stands and laughs as the children of God rip each other to shreds.

We must do better.

But this is not all. The last drops of energy are drained from me by something personal, something that shakes me to my core and causes me to question whether I can write or teach or do anything of value at all. The sensitive places, the areas in which I struggle, are simultaneously hit, repeatedly. Violation, denial and then attack. I am, simply, vulnerable and discomfited and I hate that.

So, there you go. There’s the full truth, albeit with some vagueness that I believe to be necessary at this time. I have a lot to say, but right now, I need to say a lot of it privately, to God alone. My thoughts and words, coming from a place of exhaustion and anguish as they do, probably really only make sense to Him. They don’t always make sense to me.

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