Last week, a category 3 hurricane swept toward Maui, where I am living at the moment.  I have experienced only one other hurricane in my life, in 2007, during my first-and-never-again time on a cruise ship.  The ship’s captain had to negotiate with Cuban authorities to shelter us behind, but not too close, to their island. Still, we experienced rough seas; the rolling deck reminded me vividly of Titanic films, as we hid in our bunks and prayed.

 

That’s what I do when a hurricane is headed toward me.  I pray.

 

Last week, about four days before the hurricane was predicted to make landfall, I received a text from my friend Shelley. Shelley lives in a faith and prayer life that I hope I can one day emulate. When she tells me something she’s heard from God, I take it very seriously. She has lived on Maui for many years. Like most Hawaiians, who have seen many dire predictions come and go, Shelley knows some people will hoard emergency supplies and others will do little to prepare.  It is a big ocean and Hawaii is a small chain of islands surrounded by cooler water.  The likelihood of a hurricane directly hitting land at top speed is small.

 

Still, it has happened.  So we prepare.  We watch the radar readings, we gather our supplies, we decide when it is time to drag in the patio furniture, when it is time to board up windows.

 

When Hurricane Douglas was still over 2000 miles away, when there was not much of a nod toward concern, Shelley sent out the following text: “There is a verse in Genesis (18:32) that is prompting me now. I am asking that ten of us will stand in the gap for Hawaii…certainly there are 10 of us willing to pray…specifically for forgiveness and repentance of hard-heartedness, fearfulness, unbelief, idol worship, apathy, spoiled-ness, being unlovely and unkind.  This prayer of repentance is for Christians first and not unbelievers. Praying the Lord will mercifully turn the storm.”  

 

What was amazing to me was that the night before, I had been on my face before God repenting for these very things in me.  I had just watched Ava Duvernay’s 13th and I was (am) facing my own hard-heartedness, my own apathy, my own willingness to believe what was convenient for me instead of looking into uncomfortable issues that stirred my fears.

 

I joined the ten and prayed for Hawaii and for the church.  I prayed for us who know with such certainty, who are so quick to judge.  I prayed for my friends who saturate themselves in a single viewpoint, who see the investigation of other opinions as dangerous and compromised.  I prayed for my sisters and brothers who rush to repost “proof” of the others’ conspiracies. My heart broke over the smiles of our triumph in the face of others’ suffering.  Our closed minds and our closed hearts.  The church divided not only along red and blue lines.  Christians using Scripture to condemn other Christians, using faith and Jesus as weapons to win an argument.

 

I’m not sure who coined the term first, but both meteorologists and software project managers use a visual aid called “the cone of uncertainty.” In tracking the trajectory of a hurricane, analysts forecast the most likely path of the storm; with constantly changing data, they acknowledge the factors that may change its course.  The cone of uncertainty is a predictive model reset at certain intervals to more accurately adjust expectations.

 

On Saturday, the day before Hurricane Douglas was expected to arrive, I ate breakfast under a beautiful deep blue sky graced with only a few puffy white clouds and a gentle breeze.  Before stacking the patio furniture, I sat with my face to the sun. Michael commented how blissfully unaware we would be without weather-tracking technology.

 

On Saturday night, the storm was 300 miles away.  It had not dissipated as much as anticipated; a wind speed of 90 mph was still predicted to “pass dangerously close to the islands.” We were smack in the middle of the cone of uncertainty.   I went to bed, cognizant that I was on a small rock in the middle of a big ocean.  What had felt like a place of safety from the troubles on the mainland was in reality, by its very isolation, vulnerable. 

 

“In this world, you will have trouble.”  No matter where you live, no matter how you try to insulate yourself from it, trouble will come.  It sometimes seems to me that we in the church spend a lot of our time and energy trying to rid ourselves of trouble rather than welcoming the growth that comes through it.  We haven’t been taught how to value our mistakes.  We haven’t celebrated our failures.  The tares of the enemy have grown up in our churches, tares of perfectionism and shame, pride and shunning.  We don’t know what to do with leaders who turn out to be human instead of the epitomes of piety we expect them to be. (Has there ever once been a church that has repented in this scenario, taking responsibility for failing to pray for and support a leader who fell to temptation?) Friends, we have carried such a burden for such a long time, this striving to be the light in a dark world, this striving to be godly in our every word, thought and deed.

 

I believe God is inviting us to lay that burden down.  He does not need us to appear godly.  He’s already God, He has that covered.  God doesn’t need us to be crusaders and warriors.  He wants us to be real.

 

I believe this pandemic isolation can be a gift for the church. (Please know I’m not saying Covid-19 itself is a gift. It is a devastating virus, the source of so much anguish.  My heart goes out to every person and family who has suffered from it; we must never minimize their pain.)  Right now, church leaders are reimagining what church will look like post-pandemic.  (Many educators and families are doing the same.) Some, I know, just want to return to “normal” ASAP.  But many are taking the time to examine why we do what we do.  With church, so much of our time and energy has revolved around a large gathering, with all its programs and performances.  I’m beginning to hear some mature leaders confess a relief in the interruption of ceaseless activity.  Others are starting to wonder who exactly our services have been serving. How much of our budgets are used for ourselves?  When did caring for the poor and lonely among us get relegated to just another line item or outreach activity? Just because we’ve traditionally encountered God in church services, is He not greater than these? Can God not bless new ways of being church?  Is it He or us so tied to these traditions?

These are uncomfortable questions.  But God loves a good question, especially one asked in humility, with the willingness to hear whatever His answer contains.

 

When I woke up on Sunday, the hurricane had passed just north of Maui. (I had actually slept through the tsunami sirens.) Michael showed me the radar picture which showed the storm literally skirting the islands.  “Looks like the hand of God to me,” the words escaped my mouth unbidden.

News commentary throughout the day ranged from relief to nonchalance, from “Twenty miles south and it would’ve been much different; hopefully, we’ve learned to be prepared”  to “It always happens like this; no big deal.”  I wondered, “Does it even matter if anyone else believes God’s hand turned the storm?”

 

Pondering this question, I recognized that while I did have a sense of urgency leading up to the hurricane, I didn’t have fear. (Except for that moment of anxiety when I realized we still haven’t gotten around to writing a proper will. Darn.)  I trusted that we were in God’s care no matter what happened, so I wasn’t surprised as the sense of urgency dissipated somewhat throughout the day.  I was surprised, however, when it returned the following day, along with the radar images in my mind.  

“What’s going on, God? The hurricane’s over.  Why do I still feel such a sense of impending doom?”

 

The image that came to mind was that cone of uncertainty. Except in the place of Maui, the American church was sitting directly in the path of a storm.  The church I had been praying for.  The stubborn, unrepentant, convinced-we-are-right family of Jesus-believers.

 

And the storm?  I think the storm is the consequences of our behavior.  I’m not talking about Judgement Day or the Apocalypse here.  And I’m certainly not talking about politics, although I suspect it will be dismissed as such.

 

I think what Jesus is indicating is that there is a brewing storm directly tied to the consequences of our behavior.  The unkindness, the angry rants, the satisfaction at others’ misfortune, the lack of compassion, the apathy, the pride…  we have let our fears drive our words and actions.  We have listened to men who claim to speak for God but who do not know His heart.  We have chosen what is easier over what is better.  We have not believed Jesus.  We have not listened to His whispers.  

 

I don’t know exactly what the storm will entail.  But I can imagine.  I can read the signs, even when it is still a beautiful sunny day.  I hesitate to write what is in my mind, because I fear that dismissal that comes with partisan politics.  Please know I’m not writing out of a concern for ballots right now, but out of a concern for souls.

 

Here goes: 

Some of you, my dear friends, believe that Covid-19 is, if not entirely a hoax, a matter of grossly inflated statistics and part of a conspiracy to withdraw support for President Trump by devastating our economy.  You may believe that any proposed vaccine will be used to erode your rights at best and at worst, become the very “mark of the beast.”  You may believe there is a cure, a simple, inexpensive protocol being censored off social media by big pharmaceutical companies.  You may believe masks are muzzles, a sign of compliance with overreaching government.  You may also believe that people who disagree with you are either foolishly deluded or actively harmful.

 

Or perhaps others’ disagreement doesn’t phase you. “What has light to do with darkness? The foolish things of the world will confound the wise,” you are assured by your church friends.  “The world has never respected us.”  

 

When you are offered a mask, you respond with, “If you die tonight, do you know if you’re going to heaven?”  You see yourself as agents of truth, standing against a sea of lies.

 

Except, dear friends, the world doesn’t see you as agents of truth.  They see you as incredibly selfish.  They see you shouting about your God-given liberties while bodies pile up outside morgues.  Maybe you don’t believe the statistics, but the world does and they see you as being callous in the face of others’ suffering.  They see you disbelieving empirical evidence, facts proven in laboratories by nonpolitical scientists, and embracing simplistic (sometimes ridiculous) claims and lies that are immediately disproved by minimal investigation.  Have you ever considered how your “witness” for Jesus is damaged by all the brazen claims you lump in with Him?

 

The world has lost respect for you, dear friends.  You’re right, it was never much to begin with.  You were always that quirky neighbor who spent so much time at church.  But you did help at community events and you were kind to children.  Maybe there was something in those prayers of yours…

 

But now.  For the past four years, your credibility has been deteriorating.  Back when Bill Clinton was caught in a sex scandal, you railed about accountability and personal integrity.  Now, when the same media reports increasingly outrageous moral failings of this president, you rail against the media.  You have traded your own integrity for political power.

 

True or false, this is what the world sees.  

 

And why should we care what the world thinks?  

 

Because, dear friends, Jesus cares about the world. 

 

Because, dear friends, you are wearing Jesus’ name when you belittle and mock and spread gossip.  You are wearing Jesus’ name when you turn your backs on asylum-seekers who want nothing more than to live.  You are wearing Jesus’ name when you shake your heads over Black Lives Matter protests, shrugging off any notion that it may have anything to do with you.

 

And lest my friends on the left get too comfortable here, you are wearing Jesus’ name when you  distance yourselves from your brothers and sisters.  You are wearing Jesus’ name when you are dismissive and refuse to listen.  You are wearing Jesus’ name when you are arrogant, when you use your education (or any gifts you have received) to assert your power over another.  

 

Our Creator loves variety.  We are each born into a personhood of inestimable value. When that personhood is not esteemed, when lies uproot the truth of our belovedness, we begin to treat one another as less than. We disrespect, are unkind.  We group into camps of us and them. We blame and allow falsehoods to grow. And we don’t acknowledge the wrong of any of it, not until a steely-eyed glare stares into a camera over the neck of a dying man.

 

Our differences are not dangerous in themselves.  We are created different, every one of us.  The danger lies in our discomfort with difference.   So, let’s listen to each other. Let’s talk about vaccine damage, about the role of government, about the role of the media.  Let’s talk about who is qualified to speak for us, if we don’t feel our individual voices are being heard.  Let’s talk about socialism and welfare reform.  Let’s talk.  And let’s listen.  It is only in the conversations between us that we can truly see where we actually agree and where we differ.

 

A storm is coming, dear friends.  Unless we repent, all of us, for how we have treated each other (Christian or not), we will bear the consequences of our behavior.  What has been kept in-house will be shown to the world.  It is a reckoning that will not pass us by.

 

Pray with me?

 

I can remember when Republican politicians realized there was untapped potential in the suburban white church. In the 1970’s, my parents were more concerned with raising our family on a blue-collar salary than what was happening in Washington. They voted, watched the Watergate hearings and my dad occasionally got into political discussions with my uncles. But union strikes, job security and rising inflation costs due to the energy crisis were their most pressing issues.

Both of my parents had a wary distrust of the federal government.  My father’s family had lost their Tennessee land, twice, to eminent domain claims.  The first was the 1933 Norris Dam TVA project which removed them from their fertile river farmland to a rocky hillside in Oak Ridge. Then, in 1942, “the gov’mnt” once again claimed the bulk of their land for “the war effort.”  The Manhattan Project representative assured my grandmother, recently widowed with six children and two elderly parents in her care, that even though they were paying her much less than the land was worth, her land would be returned to her when the project ended.    It wasn’t.

https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/civilian-displacement-oak-ridge-tn

 

My mother grew up in the poverty of Appalachia. On her father’s Kentucky farm, she witnessed how federal regulations influenced their choice of crops – tobacco – and the resulting tax battles.  She saw how the government backed coal companies’ targeted media campaigns against Appalachians in pursuit of strip-mining their hillsides. She felt the sting of those slurs and stereotypes. As kids, we watched the Beverly Hillbillies and Hee-Haw, not understanding how our laughter was enabling the ridicule of our heritage.  Strip-mining not only devastated my mom’s beloved homeland but the resulting waste and flooding yielded no response from government representatives but empty campaign promises.

(If you’re interested in more on this subject, http://hillbillymovie.com/ is an excellent resource.)

 

 In my teen years, between Vietnam and the Brady Bunch, we were told the Christian American family was under attack.  We were wooed and frightened in turns by Christian leaders enamored with rising political power. The civic unrest of the 1960’s questioned long-accepted social hierarchies; the civil rights and feminist movements in particular were viewed as threats in our white denominational church.  People were frightened by the anger displayed in protests, upset by sweeping change.  

Sound familiar?  

In April 2020, a woman held a sign proclaiming, “I want a haircut!” in a protest against coronavirus lockdown. The woman seems apparently unaware of her white privilege or how self-centered and short-sighted her message would appear to viewers. Like those people in my 1970’s church, she wanted things to go back to “normal” because that is where she feels confident.  

For the past 26 years, since the dawn of our own Tower of Babel (the Internet), our world has shrunk and increased in a dizzying way.  Living in Silicon Valley, I had a front row seat to rapidly-changing technology and I felt the anxiety that accompanied people who moved faster than their souls could keep up.  Pandemic precautions have afforded us time to breathe, time to look.  Similar to the 1960’s, our looking has revealed the cracks in our society.  We were too busy to pay attention, we didn’t want to see… but now we do.

And now we have a choice.  Do we choose to join those movements for social justice — even if they were begun by people who make us uncomfortable — because it is right, because it is what Jesus would do? Does Jesus agree that Black Lives Matter? Is Jesus concerned about the immigrant, the poor, the stranger?  Does Jesus care for children (and grown-ups!) without regard to the color of their skin or gender or sexual choices? Does Jesus care about the born as well as the unborn? (if you’re struggling with these questions, I direct you back to the gospels.)

As a Christian beginning to lean toward progressive positions, I’m feeling called to move toward the front lines of these battles instead of the back (or even the opposition).  The conservative foundations in which I was raised are actually the principles pushing me forward — to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

I also have the advantage of living history.  My 1970’s denomination that forcefully denounced women in ministry as heretical, today has women clergy.  The changes have been soft and slow, over decades, but their understanding has grown.  This isn’t compromise, it isn’t loss.  It is recognition of greater truth.  The church which denounced the “heresy” of heliocentrism (the earth orbiting the sun) is no longer threatened by this idea.  We have gained a wider view of both the universe and our place in it in the past 400 years, and it has enlarged, not diminished, our awe for our Creator.  

In 1979, the Moral Majority movement filled convention centers. Nixon’s “southern strategy”  had been countered by the election of Jimmy Carter, a southern Democrat and actual Christian. Republicans, desperate to convert southern white voters, found a willing partner in Jerry Falwell and his growing Christian right movement.  Falwell ground into dirt the line separating church and state, justifying his actions as necessity due to evidence of impending “moral peril” — Nixon’s impeachment, Ford’s pardon, the crumbling economy, and Carter’s disagreement with him on key issues.  

As a teenager, I watched my pastor’s proclamation of Jimmy Carter as savior sour.  In 1976, we celebrated the nation’s bicentennial; I can still sing a few lines from our youth choir tour’s rousing anthems to the USA (and God, of course, of course…ahem.)  The world darkened in the following four years.

Perhaps it wasn’t all my own adolescent angst. As I entered the adult world after high school graduation, I noticed it was not nearly as stable as in my childhood perception.  Adults seemed frightened, cynical, wary.  Reporters anxious to break the next Watergate, made scandal a household word. Disillusioned voters had lost confidence in government ethics. The civility and manners my mother tried to instill in us was ridiculed.  Disrespect abounded; televised humor was primarily mocking insults.

My parents had always been proud to say “Independent” when asked about political affiliation.  To me, it denoted a strength of character to look at each issue, each candidate individually, regardless of party.  But now our devotion to God was being equated to our voting choices.

Jimmy Carter’s presidency was attacked daily, both by scandal-hunters and other Christians. Carter later wrote, “that autumn [1980] a group headed by Jerry Falwell purchased $10 million in commercials on southern radio and TV to brand me as a traitor to the South and no longer a Christian.” (White House Diary, 2010). White House Diary

It seems to me now that the people who filled those Moral Majority conventions were looking for the same kind of stability I desired as a young adult.  I was a spinning planet and even though I knew God was my sun, my orbit needed to be realigned.  The Christian right provided philosophers and theologians, educated thinkers, to assure me of God’s backing. Some even proclaimed another “manifest destiny” of Christian dominance over American political and social life.

Sound familar?

Republican Christian conservatism was all about preserving our family values. They made it simple without making us feel stupid for our political illiteracy. In fact, they courted uneducated voters like my parents.  “Book-learnin’” paled in the struggle to survive the Great Depression. My parents were educated in the ways of nature, in solid, black-and-white reasoning. They had an experiential intelligence, a wisdom hard-won, and were not easily persuaded. They found safety in absolutes; relativism was seen as a leaky boat on a stormy ocean.  They listened, but they didn’t join in.

I wasn’t as wise.

With an assurance of preserving “our values,” I was told which issues deserved my attention and my vote.  I didn’t see that “law and order” politics was a cover for maintaining white supremacy (and white votes). I believed that chaos was around the corner if my vote didn’t forestall it.  Rising feminism was challenging the claims of patriarchy (the idea that women should be subjugated to men) in every area from job markets to church leadership roles to sexual desires.  I was told this was an affront to God’s design of “Biblical patriarchy,” (Biblical accounts interpreted – by men – from the creation of Eve to Paul’s instructions on church discipline).  The fact that Jesus himself often broke societal norms to speak with women as equals, the fact that His ministry was largely funded by women, was never mentioned in any sermon I heard in those days.

 

I’ve sometimes wondered if some of the misogyny of 1970’s evangelicalism was in retaliation for the civil rebellion of the 1960’s.  After all, it was the 1950’s housewives (that epitome of white men’s  “good ole days”) who were solely responsible for child-rearing.  Did their implied incompetence lead to those rebellious young people who flagrantly disregarded societal expectations and refused their duties of military service and celibacy until marriage? Was there an uncomfortable awareness that, as head of the household, the “failure” was shared by the husbands? 

 

The vehemence of the church doubling down on traditional family values suggests that fear of loss of control had taken hold.  “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” was applied liberally (pun intended).  Faith was brought into the foreground of politics, dividing what had been liberal and conservative elements within both parties into single identities. In God’s name, faith leaders effectively dumbed-down civil discourse (oh, God, forgive us!).

Independent Christians like my parents were disdainfully confronted with Revelation 3:15-16: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hotI would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (KJV).  

There was a lot of spueing going on in those days.  The Christian Right said if you identified as Christian, you needed to be Right. It was Us or Them. Right or wrong.  “They” had bumper stickers that said, “Question Authority.”  We were told the authority they were questioning was God and His church. 

“Biblical authority.” Yet again, God’s design (interpreted by a select group of white men)  imbued power to parents, husbands, pastors, civil leaders, etc.  Biblical authority meant you responded to that person as to God, with unquestioning obedience and respect.  (I had even heard a British revivalist insist that America still needed to repent for its rebellion against England.)

For someone so steeped in this teaching, I still hesitate to acknowledge how questioning authority is actually deeply woven into the fabric of American society:

 

“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” – Benjamin Franklin

 

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” – Theodore Roosevelt 

 

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” – Albert Einstein

God’s authority? Unquestioned. By right of being our Creator and Sustainer of life, absolutely yes.  But should any human, even if he claims to speak with God-given authority, be given unquestioned obedience?  Church history is filled with despicable actions perpetrated by those who twist God’s words to suit their own agenda.  We need leadership, of course. I’m not promoting anarchy; I understand the co-operative value of social hierarchies and the need for governance.  However, a person who claims to represent my interests must earn my allegiance and respect; he must be questioned, especially when his actions are in opposition to my beliefs.  

 

My parents were both brought up with the medieval proverb, “children should be seen and not heard.”  It is horrible parenting advice (as was much of the parenting advice popular in my Christian homeschooling circles.) Authoritarian parenting seeks to break a child’s will; it emphasizes obedience over thoughtful conversation. (Authoritarian pastoring does the same.) It primes a person to disregard what they may feel is right in deference to a strong authority. When a person is raised with such contempt, without permission to have a voice, this self-disrespect does not disappear at age 18.  Long before adulthood, these children have learned to internalize disrespect, directing their anger both inward as shame and outward in rage.  (For those who still do not understand the anger in a Black Lives Matter protest, consider how four centuries of subjugation and disrespect cumulate in a person’s genes. That’s a glimpse.)   

 

When I, and many like me, were told by educated spiritual authorities that we mattered, that our votes were needed to fight a war against drugs, a war against family values, we stepped up to fight. And it didn’t take long for an enemy to be named:

Abortion.

(see next post)

It has been two months since my last post.  Two months in which life in these United States has become even more seriously altered.  And what has become clear is something I’ve long suspected:

I am the center of the universe.

Here’s the evidence: last year I was becoming more concerned about my health issues.  We get a global pandemic.  This year, I’ve been commenting on the division within the evangelical community on political issues.  Now far-right no longer just incorporates neo-Nazi’s and “Christian” nationalists, it has drawn in Orange County suburbanites and Texan mega-churches.  Now faithfulness means denying the seriousness of Covid-19 and protesting “government overreach” (stay-at-home municipal orders) which are part of a plot to upend the economy in an effort to sway voters from re-electing President Trump.  In my last post, I mentioned my jr. high experience in being bullied during the first years of racial integration.  Less than a week later, George Floyd was killed, sparking Black Lives Matter protests throughout the nation.  This week,  protesters in Portland are being attacked by border patrol troops.  American citizens being tear-gassed and shot by American federal agents.

I’m afraid to write anything else.  I don’t want to be responsible for the world blowing up any further.

 

“Um…,” you venture, “perhaps…perhaps these events were not caused by your thoughts and words.  Perhaps the protests, for example, erupted because of centuries of racial inequality and brutal white supremacy…?”

“Ridiculous!” I answer.  “Is it just coincidence that the things that concern me concern the world? Clearly what I say and do affects everyone. The simplest answer wins, Ockham’s razor and all that.”

“Um…..”

Before you pick up the phone to call Michael to inquire about my mental health, let me assure you that I do not, in fact, believe I am the center of the universe.  Yet this week, after multiple conversations and web searches regarding “proof” of liberal left conspiracies, I feel as wrung out as a first-year Philosophy major.  The leaps in logic, the certainty insisted upon, the disturbing lack in Christian political theology…. Has it always been this way?  Or is it only my awareness that is growing? 

 

I understand that in a world of diverse opinions, overwhelming amounts of data and deeply divisive politics, we want simple answers, simple solutions.  We want to know who we can trust and who is trying to manipulate us.  So, we hear a Christian doctor who claims God has shown him the cure for Covid: it is a simple inexpensive protocol that has cured one hundred percent of his patients.  He says we don’t have to worry, we don’t have to wear masks or social distance, we can get back to work and school.  He says that early treatment is the key, with nebulized asthma medicine, an antibiotic and zinc. Another Christian doctor includes hydroxychloroquine in his regimen but echoes the “don’t worry” message.

 

Here’s what plays to the evangelical audience.  We have the secret, the cure, straight from God as an answer to prayer.  This follows in line with what I heard in church every Sunday: we have the cure to the world’s ills.  It’s Jesus.  The Bible holds all the answers, if only you know how to interpret it correctly. 

 

Now, if you know me at all, you know I love Jesus.  I do my best to submit to the Spirit in my pursuit of wisdom and truth. I believe Jesus’ good news – the kingdom of God is here, now.  I believe Jesus Himself is the living and active word of God. I believe nothing is hidden from God’s sight and He offers us mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.

 

I also believe Christianity was birthed under oppression –  judgment, ridicule and incredibly real persecution. Palestine was the backwater post of the Roman Empire, Galilee was the backwater of Palestine and Jesus, born into poverty, was under the plague of rumors from his birth to his death.  For its first 400 years, that identity of oppression undergirded Christianity’s growth.  Belief in Jesus wasn’t merely a cognitive assent, it was fully acknowledging your decision could result in being burned as a human torch.  The language of the New Testament is fraught with the language of the oppressed, letters filled with encouragement to persevere, to overcome, to love beyond persecution.

 

White American evangelical Christianity still carries that identity of oppression, even where none exists. Even when we ourselves have become the oppressors, when our “God-given liberties” rob the poor among us, when others suffer for our privilege.

 

Still, some of us insist we are the victims of the left-leaning media, of liberal conspiracies.  My conservative friends share on Facebook “proof” that not only are Covid-19 policies designed to destroy our economy, they are a precursor to the Apocalypse, paving the way for Bill Gates’ vaccine, complete with 666 invisible tattoos and GPS trackers.  And woe to any who refuse this “mark of the beast”.

 

Again, I get it.  Anyone who didn’t grow up in 1970’s youth groups may have missed the tracts and end times films designed to scare the hell out of us  – literally (for years, I had nightmares about that guillotine.)  Long before Left Behind, a generation of Christians were frightened into conversion experiences.  I sometimes wonder if this combination of fear and Jesus is a deliberate strategy as I scroll past Fox News headlines.  It’s as if paranoia, fear and hatred have finally been given permission to thrive in the open, like the open keg at a freshman’s first fraternity party.  

 

A conservative friend recently remarked that it’s difficult to know who to trust.  For several generations in white evangelical churches, “they” have been the Democrats.  Did you know the initial platform for the Republican party (in Lincoln’s day) was created as the “antislavery party?”   How those roles reverse over time. Would Lincoln be appalled to see it is his fellow Republicans who are now denying that black lives matter?

Why are we, as evangelical Christians, the last to concede on social justice issues?  Shouldn’t we be leading, as champions of Jesus’ blessings (Matthew 5-7)?  Why have we allowed the rancor of politics to stand between us and mercy, between us as followers of Jesus?

Republican or Democrat, we continue to view the other party’s members as either deceptive or deluded:

https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/coronavirus-conspiracy-theories-and?fbclid=IwAR1MyhD4vjqEYnmGADCbHT1HmBB5WzL8arUd884dUsFv6NGekJfEoDShIpM  

 

 

 

 

 

I agree with many points made by David French in the above-referenced article.  One conclusion, in particular, has stuck with me – “we have to realize a sad failure of the church. They do not see because they were never taught to look.”

How did we get here?  (see next post)