31 Days of Feasting on Theology: Bonus Post

31 Days 2017 Large

Gentle Reader,

All right.

I don’t usually post when I’m angry.

But there’s an emotion we call righteous anger. The kind of fury and frustration that arises from a broken heart. The kind of pain that makes you want to tear your clothes. The flush that splashes your cheeks at the sight of injustice. The sort of chest-constricting, goosebumps causing, I’m going to throw things while I cry if this isn’t made right feeling.

That’s what I felt when this made its way across my Twitter feed:

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I don’t know who painted this.

I’m not sure it matters.

This painting is the fruit of bad theology. It’s the result of sprinkling a little Jesus on the salad of life. This painting exists because of blind, unthinking nationalism. It is a shining example of everything that’s wrong with believing that America and Americans are special (it isn’t and we aren’t). But first, foremost and glaringly – this is a portrait of idolatry. Trump will make everything right again. Trump is Jesus’ special guy. I’ll put my faith in Trump.

Stop it.

Just stop it.

I’m nearly halfway through this series. My heart hurts. Unbidden tears roll down my cheeks. Come on, people! Come on, church! How can we, who are so privileged, who possess multiple Bibles, who can listen to thousands of sermons at any time, who are the wealthiest and best-educated (comparatively speaking) be this stupid?

In the Old Testament, we read about the Israelites and their fondness for Baal and other ancient Canaanite deities. We think, “Wow, they were so dumb. How could they worship some hunk of stone? I would never do something like that.”

Except we do.

It’s not about Trump. He’s just the latest, loudest example.

The president, whoever he/she is, will never be your savior. He’s not going to make anything great again. She can’t fix you. He can’t provide for you. She doesn’t even have a clue who you are.

Oh, dear reader! Lay down this burden of placing your hope in people who are as frail and flawed as you are. Let go of the desire to “Christianize” the nation through law. If the perfect law of God as handed down at Sinai couldn’t save, then how can imperfect law imperfectly enforced by imperfect people save? Make like Gideon in the good days of his life and topple the statues that lurk in your heart. Prostrate yourself before the Holy King and beg forgiveness. Ask Him for a new perspective, eyes to see and ears to hear.

Please, please, for the sake of your soul, your heart, your mind, your life – read the Bible. Really read it. Study it. Ask questions. Learn things. Get to know the truth so you can spot the lies. Pray for the president, yes. Support him/her within the boundaries of faithful Christian ethics (i.e., follow God and do as He says first and always). Never, ever, idolize the president (or this country).

God doesn’t take kindly to that sort of thing.

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For all entries in the 31 Days of Feasting on Theology series, go here.

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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

Five Minute Friday: Depend

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

The scent of sawdust fills the air. I hear the mechanical whine of the blade as it slices through wood. My husband, self-taught carpenter that he is, labors over another project. Only it isn’t labor for him. It’s joy. Release. Relaxation.

Occasionally it’s a swear word and throwing something.

Kate says: depend.

Go.

I have a post written. I’ve cut it from here and pasted it elsewhere. Attempting to decide if it should be published. Gone back and forth for a solid 20 minutes.

This is far longer than the usual FMF entry. And it might make you mad.

Here goes.

********

In light of the command to go and share the Gospel, does this matter? When you are on your face before the throne in Eternity, will this matter?

Two questions that came to mind early this morning as I lay on the couch, bemoaning my existence. (To paraphrase Jon Leguizamo as Tybalt in Baz Lurhman’s amazing adaptation of Romeo & Juliet: “Migraine, thou art a villain”). Normally I cannot think deeply when in pain. In fact, I can barely think at all. But clear as a bell, these questions rang through my mind, adding their noise to the discordant symphony already in progress.

The overall, highly generalized answer to both: It depends.

So some dudes who make a lot of money to play a game have been kneeling before said games while the “Star-Spangled Banner” is performed. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing so on September 2, 2016, after a conversation with Nate Boyer, a former Seahawk and Green Beret. Before then, Kaepernick sat on the bench during the anthem. Boyer understood the Kaepernick wanted to protest police brutality against African-Americans, but encouraged him to take a more respectful posture while doing so, which Kaepernick did. Others have since followed suit.

This opened a ginormous can of worms.

But oddly, a year later.

President Trump chose to cast these peaceful, lawful, respectful protests as being anti-American and anti-veteran. (I don’t know what’s in his mind, but could this sudden battle have been waged to distract everyone from what’s happening – or not happening – in Washington, D.C.)?

Some believe that these rich, privileged men have no right to protest anything, no right to draw attention to injustice. (Because you have to be poor to protest? Or you have to experience a bad thing in order to say the thing is bad? Or you can’t care about the “little guy” when you’re famous)?

Others say that, instead of protesting, they should give time and money to organizations that will make things better. (I don’t doubt that some are big talkers, but I also don’t doubt that more than a few of these men do just that. We simply don’t hear of it. And if we did, we’d probably skewer them for their pride in parading their good deeds for all to see, because we, the public, are quite fickle and impossible to please).

Another set desires new laws to be made, laws that enforce displays of commonly-accepted patriotism. (That’s what North Korea does. Aren’t we not fans of that kind of thing)?

It boils down to: First Amendment, sure, but not like that.

Parts of the above remain within the realm of “I can sort of see your point” but certain folks take it a step farther and conflate standing for the anthem with worshiping God. In order to be a good Christian, you must be a good American, in the way that the majority understands being a good American. Hot dogs and apple pie and all that. Because Jesus loves America more than other countries.

It bothers me more than I can express to see “render unto Caesar” and “let every soul be subject to the governing authorities” abused in order to prop up American civil religion, a belief system that cannot and will not save. The Bible does not command anyone to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” If that’s what you believe, then, in order to be consistent, you have to be angry with the Amish, Mennonites and other religious groups who neither sing nor pledge. You have to stop reading this blog and shun me forever, because my convictions on this run very contrary to popular opinion.

Do not mistake me: I judge no Christian who stands for the anthem or says the pledge. That is between the individual and God. (To be perfectly honest, I don’t care if anyone stands, sits or kneels. This is genuinely not something that’s an issue to me, which is why I’m perplexed at the passion this has aroused in so many). What causes me to tear my hair out is when Christians scream about those who do not stand or pledge, particularly fellow Christians who do not stand or pledge, as if they do not have the freedom, enshrined in the Constitution we all claim to love, but most especially within the confines of the intelligence and the will that He gave each person, to make a different choice, a choice that is neither unlawful, immoral or disrespectful, despite being discussed in such terms.

(Note here before continuing: Dear reader, I am a pacifist. I have not, do not and will not support violence. I do not believe in being nasty to those with whom you disagree. I have family members in the military and on the police force, and so I know that the majority of people who enter these professions are doing so out of a genuine desire to do what they believe to be right and not because they are hateful, awful people).

I don’t know if protest is always the right way to address anything, but I support the right of these men to take a knee. They aren’t yelling at anyone, or spitting on graves, or shooting at people, or burning buildings. They’re just kneeling for two minutes or less. They are quietly drawing attention to a real problem.

You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to like what they’re doing. You can choose to never watch football again.

Isn’t it nice to have that freedom?

What you can’t do is say that they don’t have a right to do this – the NFL makes the rules regarding player conduct, not the viewers or the government. You can’t say that they hate America or soldiers – those interviewed consistently and clearly say that their protests aren’t about any of that. You can’t say that Christians who support these men or who do not choose to sing or pledge are any less saved than you are – salvation is found in Christ alone, not Christ and patriotism.

But let’s get back to the questions that began this post: Does this matter? Will it matter?

I don’t want to present a false dichotomy, a trap I unknowingly fell into earlier this week when discussing these things. You can be upset about the protest and the devastation in Puerto Rico and a whole host of other things that are going on. You’re not required to pick and choose. But, again, does nail-spitting anger over 2 minutes or less and quiet kneeling matter right now and will it matter later?

Or is it all just a distraction?

Now go and read this other long thing, written by someone far smarter than me.

Stop (was a long time ago).

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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)