Note: This post was originally used as a sermonette for Freedom Life Church’s Good Friday service. The topic of the night was the Seven Last Words of Christ. I was asked to speak on one of Christ’s sayings that depict his vulnerability, his humanity, and anguish in the face of unimaginable horror enacted upon his body on crucifixion day some two thousand years ago.
Our Lord, The Crucified Christ
Two Thousand Years Ago…
Last week, Jesus entered the small village of Bethpage on a donkey. Those present welcomed him with opened arms, waving palm branches, saluting Jesus as the next best thing; as the long-awaited Messiah sent to oust the oppressive Roman Empire and restore Israel to its former Davidic glory.
Jesus then spends his week focused on a series of adventurous events, cursing fig trees, and sharing parables about children, tenants, wedding feasts, virgins, and talents.
He encourages religious leaders to pay their taxes. He expounds on the realities of the resurrection to men who deny the possibility of an afterlife.
He issues seven woes, public condemnations levied against the corrupt religious leaders of his day. He speaks fondly of Jerusalem, weeping over her as if the city were a helpless orphan, and then proceeds to prophesy its imminent destruction. He spoke authoritatively about his second coming, the end of the world, and the final judgment.
Jesus then disappears from the limelight to a more private setting in the home of Simon, a former leper who Jesus had healed earlier in his ministry, and in that house, he is honored and anointed by Mary, who pours a priceless balm over his head, to his disciples’ bewilderment.
One of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, the treasurer, plots against him, and in return, Jesus washes Judas’ feet and then feeds him a satiating Passover meal.
The Lord’s Supper is instituted, promises of fealty and loyalty to Jesus are made by Peter, only to be broken hours later. Judas Iscariot is possessed by the devil to finalize his betrayal of our Lord. Jesus then leaves Simon’s home and settles in Gethsemane where he wars with the spiritual world in prayer, and struggles with thoughts of discouragement, at the horrors to come.
Judas arrives with armed men in tow, a kiss is exchanged between the Rabbi and the traitor, and in return, Jesus calls him “friend.”
An arrest takes place, a beating, mockery, spit, and harassment follows Jesus as he is dragged into a kangaroo court in the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest. He is then tossed at the feet of the Romans, and a demand for his execution is made before Pilate. Pilate resists and tosses Jesus to Herod where he is humiliated further, and once done, they send him back to Pilate where he is flogged with a lead-tipped whip in hopes of appeasing the bloodlust of the Pharisees. A choice is made, Barabbas goes free, and Jesus is forced to carry his cross to Golgotha where he is to be crucified.
After hours upon hours of suffering, beatings, floggings, abandonment, nakedness, hunger, thirst, and pain, Jesus now hangs on the cross, the shame of his day, for all to see.
It is here, upon unimaginable pain and horror, after hanging on the cross for at least three hours, Jesus experiences debilitating loneliness, however minute, however indecipherable to us it may seem, he feels, under the weight of asphyxiation and impending doom, isolated from the joy of the presence of the Father, his heart is given to absolute destitution.
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
The Hebrew-Chaldee pronunciation exclaimed by Jesus from the cross was the first few words of the twenty-second Psalm, a song of David. Both David and Christ had exclaimed that which simmered in their hearts in a time of utmost desperation in the face of insurmountable odds. In a moment of utmost anguish, Jesus utters words only those familiar with the local language would understand. Some presumed he was calling out to Elijah, the prophet, or perhaps, Jesus’s throat was so dry and his body so weak that his words were unintelligible to those present at the foot of the cross.
“Why?” Jesus asks from the cross. “To what end? For what reason?” Was he deserted and left to feel so helpless and vulnerable to the mercilessness of man? Jesus’s humanity was in full view for all to see.
Dualists, Gnostics, and Manichaeans would have us believe that Jesus was a spirit who worked through the motions of a man, who only resembled a human being on the cross, thus making him unaffected by the cruelty of a crucifixion. But the gospel narratives inform us that he bled, he wept, he felt pain, and here, at this particular moment, after hours of torture and excruciating pain, he felt anguish. He was under severe physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual duress.
“We have here, however, the purely human feeling that arises from a natural but momentary quailing before the agonies of death, and which was in every respect similar to that which had been experienced by the author of the psalm. The combination of profound mental anguish, in consequence of entire abandonment by men, with the well-nigh intolerable pangs of dissolution, was all the more natural and inevitable in the case of One whose feelings were so deep, tender, and real, whose moral consciousness was so pure, and whose love was so intense.” – Heinrich Meyer
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15
Our Lord, the crucified Christ, demonstrates to his audience then and us now the frailty and fragility of his human nature on the cross, reminding us that we are free to express our hearts to God in the most honest ways possible because he understands our brokenness.
David uttered the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And God rescued him from his enemies.
Jesus uttered the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And on the third day, he rose from the tomb, resplendent and triumphant, as Christ eternal, King of the Jews, King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Jesus teaches us from the cross that we must not be weary nor afraid of approaching him with our brokenness for He hears us.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18
I recall spending hours upon hours of my free time either consuming Left Behind books, second-guessing who Nikolai Carpathia was intending on killing next, or listening to Grace To You sermons and teachings. I was twenty or twenty-one, highly impressionable. I’m still impressionable today. You place bacon in front of me and I’ll eat it. It doesn’t take much to convince me. But things were different then. I had little to my name; not that I have much more now, but I was fine-tuned to be led somewhere by someone because I had nowhere to be and no one to go ‘there’ with. What does a religious-minded twenty-something do with his or her free time? There were no summer camps to attend. Some of them were far more expensive than I could afford and the nightlife did not suit me. I thought alcohol was an avoidable pitfall that needed forgetting so life became rather glib. Hard drugs were never an option either so I threw myself into learning more about God and the Bible. Little did I know, the man from whose biblical foundation I intended on learning from was a religious sycophant who belittled Christians, mocked Catholics, maligned Muslims, and disregarded the plight of the oppressed and disadvantaged for the sake of preaching heaven-onlyism to avoid confronting the issues of the world, and had a personal mission against homosexuals. An obsessive agenda against homosexuality to the point of auditory discomfort.
After years of listening to his teachings, I became like him. Not like Jesus, of course, because Christ was and is different. Christ ventures into murky waters to seek and save that which is lost. He does not distance himself from the filth of sin for the sake of clout. Jesus dives in headfirst to deliver. This man, on the other hand, seemed more willing to stand aloof, above it all, supercilious and unapologetic, deriding the failings of others, to the point of becoming famous in Christian circles for doing so. After listening to his teachings for as long as I had, I began to exhibit the same behaviors as a means to accomplish the same level of status and respect in my Christian circles.
My tone changed. I would go from curiosity about other religious groups and their teachings to showing contempt for them. I was no longer willing, in my heart, at least, to sit down with these wonderful unknown people and their concepts, philosophies, and ideas to discuss life, love, joy, and soccer. I wanted nothing to do with their ideas and the worldview that made them who they were because, I was taught, I was informed, I was trained to believe, without wavering, that to associate with them in peace and fellowship, absent my public and outspoken denigration of everything they believed, was a sin.
I was so incensed by this new desire for God, or so I thought it was God, that I went out of my way to seek more of this man’s teachings. I tuned in to his radio show on my way to work, I listened to his ministry’s podcast while I worked, and I looked up YouTube videos of him publicly confronting or shaming other public figures, Christians and non-Christians alike. I spent well over one hundred dollars on the purchase of a study bible he published (New American Standard Bible) with his notes along the bottom of each page. I craved his intellect on so many passages of scripture as if he were the only reliable source of biblical truth outside the bible and the Holy Spirit. I also bought his bible commentary, which espoused well over one thousand pages of his notes and thoughts on biblical knowledge. While at the register at the Christian bookstore, the clerk asked me why I was purchasing a bible with MacArthur’s notes and a commentary written by MacArthur since they’re essentially the same thing. I simply said why not? I was too ecstatic about the possibilities, the opportunities, the chances I would get to devour this bible teacher’s ideas and concepts so that I could regurgitate them to the Mary worshipping Catholic next door, the hellbent homosexual at work, or the satan oppressed Jehovah’s Witness from school, and the bomb-strapped radical Muslim who attended mosque every week. I couldn’t wait.
And I didn’t.
I went through my social media accounts spewing every which type of condemnation against just about anyone who believed differently from me, or rather, from MacArthur. I publicly condemned gay people and engaged possessed dissenters in the comment sections of my posts as if I were a crusader on a mission from God. I joined Meta (then Facebook) groups that espoused satanic ideas. What I didn’t know was that those Satanists in the group I joined were not the theistic kind of Satanists that American media and sensationalist Christian circles had taught me about. They were atheistic Satanists who only used the dark prince’s name or title as a means of philosophical rebellion against institutionalized religious and irreligious systems. I am not vouching for the concept, I’m simply stating that I was misguided about their intentions and their philosophy. I proselytized to these random faces and names on my screen as if I were the spawn of Billy Graham, wishing every which one of them a gospel-filled weekend, hoping that at least one would venture onto Christ’s path for my sake, or rather, their sake. Hubris, you see, had hijacked my intentions. Knowledge, however, crippled by hate and youthful zeal without guidance, had dominated my mind, and with it, corrupted my heart.
Perhaps my heart was already corrupt and I just so happened to find a medium through which I could disseminate my corruption further.
I met some lovely people in those groups. People who love gaming, metal, and movies. We argued a lot. I have private messages that could, with a bit of Hollywood glamour and TBN cringe, be turned into a classic Christian movie that would rival the unlovability of the God’s Not Dead movie series. I was living, in my mind and my social media life, the certified rottenness of Rotten Tomatoes movie rankings. I was living the life of a Christian superhero, damning one pagan to hell via Facebook at a time.
Damned was every person who challenged me. And I damned them. Laughing through it all, of course. Amicable, of course. Because I was taught to share the truth with people even if it meant leading them to existential suicide and philosophical implosion. I mean, didn’t Christ disrupt apostle Paul’s life in the same way by blinding the man on his way to Damascus? Who was I to present a different way? If I had to burn every bridge to tell someone that they were going to hell then I burnt the bridge with a smile on my face.
Granted, my fundamentalist upbringing within the Brazilian Assemblies of God (Bethlehem Ministry) did not help. Fundamentalism in any state, philosophy, political group, or ideology is problematic, and in many cases, deadly, so it did not help to listen to the likes of MacArthur, at all.
I mean, I consumed just about everything made by Grace Community Church, Grace to You, the Master’s Seminary, Strange Fire conferences, and Q&A sessions, and its partnerships with other churches, like that of the great late R.C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries. (Still fond of R.C.’s work)
By the way, there are 72 million registered Democrats in this country who have identified themselves with that party, and maybe they need to rethink that identification. I know from last week’s message that there was some response from people who said, “Why are you getting political?” Romans 1 is not politics. The Bible is not politics. This is nothing to do with politics; this has to do with speaking the Word of God to the culture in which we live. It has nothing to do with politics. It’s not about personalities. It’s about iniquity and judgment. And why do we say this? Because this must be recognized for what it is: sin – serious sin, damning sin, destructive sin.
You say, “Well, our society cultivates tolerance, and you’re giving hate speech.”
What I’m saying is not hate speech. What the Democratic Party is saying is hate speech because they must hate the homosexuals if they will allow them to go the direction they’re going, affirm that, knowing that it’ll take them to hell. That’s hate speech; this is love speech. You either warn them or you affirm them. And Romans 1 warns them. And any faithful Christian warns, “This is dangerous; this is deadly.” It’s better to warn them than to affirm them. You might be the nice guy to affirm them, but that’s not love speech; that’s hate speech.
I would listen to MacArthur for hours on the topics like the bible’s authority, inerrancy, sufficiency, primacy, and immutability as it relates to Divine revelation. I listened to him speak on creation, the Godhead, providence, sovereignty, Calvinism, baptism, glossolalia (or rather, his derision of anyone who practiced the gift of speaking in tongues), the crucifixion, and the virgin birth of Christ. I would spend eight-hour workdays, sometimes longer, listening to him speak on sexuality, single life, engagement, marriage, homosexuality, manhood, womanhood, and how to raise one’s children. He spoke authoritatively on the value and benefit of a family unit where the man of the house obeys Christ, the woman obeys the man, and the children obey their parents; but the man’s decisions ultimately trump the woman’s decision in any matter every single time. Always. Anything other than this God-given hierarchy of submission in the Christian household was considered demonic. Women were never allowed to speak over a man, and God help the church where a woman was allowed to teach and preach to men. It was likened to the devil’s work, MacArthur espoused. Anti-biblical heresy.
Nearly all the teachings distinctive to the Charismatic Movement are unadulterated mysticism, and nothing illustrates that more perfectly than the way charismatics themselves depict the gift of tongues. They usually describe this gift of speaking these ecstatic syllables that have no meaning as a sort of ecstatic experience that has no equal. They would tell us that it’s a way to experience an emotion and a feeling that is beyond anything else that you will ever experience.
Well, on the one hand, there really isn’t anything particularly evil or immoral about it. If you just disassociate it from the Bible and disassociate it from Christianity, and if you get some pleasure out of standing in a corner all by yourself, or sitting in your room alone and talking gibberish to yourself, and that does something for you, then I suppose in and of itself, from a psychological standpoint, that’s – it’s not a moral issue; it may be harmless. If something makes you feel good, or makes you feel somehow better in control of your life, or like you’ve had some warm experience, so be it. But don’t call it intimacy with God; don’t say it makes you spiritually stronger; don’t say it makes you delirious with spiritual joy.
I learned about angels, demons, and the devil, about dispensationalism at work, and how it was the only way I ought to teach eschatological events in scripture. Any other interpretation of end-times texts was heresy. Seldom were varying ideas discussed authentically. Mid-tribulation or post-tribulation teachings were never tackled honestly, nor were the adherents of those teachings, reliable teachers trained to discuss those interpretations in a professional setting, ever quoted within context. The hearer was simply taught to believe that dispensationalism was taught from the book of Daniel, through the gospels, through Revelations, and up to date. Whoever veered from this teaching was better off facing the Anti-Christ himself.
Regret lives in my heart over just how much contempt I held for Muslims and other Christian sects. I recall listening to MacArthur, in my mind conjuring the model of an archetypal Muslim in arms, ready for jihad, Qur’an in one hand, the decapitated head of a Christian in the other; Allah, the mysterious deity of the faith, ever distant and hate-filled, calling his servants into submission through fear and intimidation. I recall mocking Mohammed. I cannot recall whether I mocked him on social media or from the pulpit, but I spent so much time mocking him. I, of course, knew little to nothing about Islam other than what was taught to me by MacArthur and a select few other prominent figures, all Christian, of course. I couldn’t reconcile the hatred of Muslims I held with the select few Muslims I had met and befriended. They were amazing human beings, better than me, in many ways. But, without cause, illogically, I always suspected they were one step away from converting me or killing me. I mean, Islam was Christianity’s mortal enemy, was it not? I had no idea that the geopolitical structure of Islam in antiquity was not hostile to Christians but to Christendom. The two are radically different ideologies, but I was never taught that. Christendom sought to use Christ’s name to conquer the ancient world through violence. I was never taught the difference. I was never taught, well, MacArthur is no historian therefore he never ventured into contrasting biblical Christianity and the nefarious geopolitical nightmare that was the Holy Roman Empire and its colonialist grandchild, imperial Europe. But here I was, destined to win a war, by debate or martyrdom, against the Muslim girl on my friend’s list who had no idea I viewed her in that light, and the way she treated me as a friend instead of as a mortal enemy, made things more complicated than I wanted to admit.
Ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the already ecumenical climate in America has reached new heights. In an effort to distinguish between the extremist Muslim terrorists and the mainstream Muslim population, the media has called for an even higher level of tolerance and acceptance of the religion of Islam than usual.
Sadly, the influence of this sentiment can be seen even in the church. In fact, in a relatively recent Christianity Today article, Wheaton College professor James Lewis recommends that Christians “seek Muslim prayer partners and together beseech the true, one and only God to have mercy on us” (“Does God Hear Muslims’ Prayers?” Christianity Today, February 4, 2002, p. 31).
When evangelicals capitulate and attempt to soften the offense of the gospel in this way, they blur the lines between the god of Islam and the God of the Bible. But now is not the time for blurring lines. Now is the time to draw lines—lines between truth and error, and between the one path to heaven and the many paths to hell.
It doesn’t make sense to me now but it sure as hell did back then.
MacArthur spoke with authority, an unchallenged and what seemed like divinely inspired attribution of homiletic anointing to do just what he did. He is the nephew of the great white American World War II general Douglas MacArthur who helped tilt the war in the Pacific against the Japanese in America’s favor. So the spirit of strength, grit, pride, and ‘nobody gone tell me nothing’ runs through his veins. And this astuteness would cost him, his listeners, myself included, greatly very soon.
He taught against charismatic movements, once saying he was forcibly removed from the pulpit at a charismatic church he was visiting for telling them that speaking in tongues was mumble-jumbo fool’s talk. Not sure if that ever really happened. Here’s why. He spoke about participating in Civil Rights marches and gatherings. Many people have called his accounts into question considering where he was, his age, and his sentiments toward the continual struggles for Civil Rights to this day. So if one story does not add up you begin to question the man and his integrity with it.
MacArthur maligned the emerging church, prosperity movements, seeker-sensitive church environments, word of faith movements, and the young, restless, and reformed craze that swept America in the 2000s. And I was there with him, condemning the living and breathing essence of everything around me if it didn’t match up with how I saw the world, through MacArthur’s lens.
Psychology, Mormons, Muslims, Catholics, Christmas, abortion, racism, feminism, crime, and just about anything you can think of, MacArthur covered it and I consumed it like a seminary student on Adderall. I was a disciple of Jesus but a graduate of MacArthur’s biblical interpretation school. Unapologetically so. Deplorably so.
I recall moving to Canada and befriending my boss at my first job in the Maple leaf country and experiencing an existential crisis. My boss was a Muslim fella, my age, just about, and one of the most down-to-earth personalities you will ever meet in your life. I mean, he was chill. Great family, wonderful wife, and now they have a beautiful little daughter and he has a sense of humor that rivals mine. We were meant to meet and annoy each other. And this friendship helped me better understand that a lot of what MacArthur had been saying about Muslims was in fact nonsense. It was white American folk religionist hysteria amplified by the presence of innocuous immigrants and brown people mixed with religious rhetoric, Jesus sayings sprinkled in between, and nationalist propaganda regurgitated as godly patriotism. I had generalized an entire faith and grouped an entire race of people, well, now looking back, I hadn’t realized that Muslims were white, black, brown, Asian, and Latino as active terrorists or terrorists in the making. Muslims were everywhere, in every facet of life, living and striving for a better life, just like me. But I hated them for existing… not entirely sure why.
The facade began to break but it hadn’t shattered entirely until 2019-2020. Listen, my religious fanaticism goes back a long time, and my newfound faith in Christ, aside from its flawed fundamentalist foundation, is rather new and recent. I was a slave to Christian fundamentalism of every stripe for a great deal of my life. I had learned to hate (not people, per se, but everything they believed) from my religious leaders, and that hatred shaped much of my interactions with people of other faiths and people who do not subscribe to any faith at all.
I was fortunate enough to have the personality of an amicable individual so I was blessed with the grace of maintaining so many of the friendships my fundamentalism worked hard to destroy. Atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, agnostics, Muslims, and more, all amazing people (not all, some were jerks, but that had little to do with their beliefs and more to do with their personalities) who I had met, befriended, cherished, and still converse with to this day. Many of them quite forgiving of my religious idiocy in its most fervent and damaging phase, whereas others were, rightly so, offended by my bigotry at work.
I regret it. I regret so much of what was said because it came from a place of ignorance, on my part. But little did I know then was that much of it came from a man, a man with an agenda, a religious empire, who used his platform to indoctrinate people into hate, suspicion, ignorance, and tribalism, all in the name of Jesus.
And listen, as to my Christianity? It is firm in the person of Jesus Christ. I am more confident in the work of Jesus today than I was then. Living in religious fear, want for control, want for religious dominance, believing I was sovereign enough to tip someone else’s eternal scales and my failure to do so would fall back on my head was a cyclical waking nightmare.
I’m not there anymore because I have come to the assured realization that Jesus has more knowledge, more power, more know-how, and a better grasp of how to convince someone of His love for them, in his own time, in his way… without the presence of a cantankerous fundamentalist to interrupt his beautiful process of inner transformation and redemption.
I am not Jesus. Thankfully.
Today, I can look back at MacArthur and see him for what he is:
A privileged old man, a white man, of wealth and prestige, who was smart enough to master a craft, use it for hubris and financial gain, and continues to deny the efficacious redemptive work of Jesus Christ in his life by refusing to repent of his many, many, many, many wrongs done as a pastor, bible teacher, counselor, and seminary president.
MacArthur is now in hot water because in the early 2000s he excommunicated a woman from his church, shaming her from the pulpit, quite publicly. After all, she refused to reconcile with her husband and refused to accept the man back into her and their children’s lives.
A woman at GCC was living in sin, MacArthur alleged. And though shaming her publicly was “sad,” MacArthur said it was necessary to maintain fidelity to God and His Word.
So, as men were distributing the elements for communion, MacArthur stated: “I want to mention a sad situation, a person who is unwilling to repent. And the church bears responsibility before God to be the instrument of discipline. . . . This is what the Lord wants. He wants discipline . . . to be put out of the church, to be publicly shamed, to be put away from fellowship. In this case it applies to Eileen Gray.”
The problem is that her husband was a prominent figure in the church who, for years, had abused his wife and also abused his children. Police reports were filed. Confessions were made. The man was eventually arrested for his criminal conduct and is now serving twenty-one years to life sentence for his violent behavior against his wife and kids. This same man is the man MacArthur and his staff wanted this woman to go back home to so that he would continue beating the living hell out of them. Her refusal to accept the man back unless he dealt with his issues professionally, was seen as a spiritual rebellion on her part and the church excommunicated her for it.
Grace Community Church paid for the abuser’s bail, and his legal fees and they continue to assist him, in many ways, even now as he is behind bars, a convicted felon who abused his wife and kids.
MacArthur also attempted to violate local health and safety state mandates by opening his church and maintaining the usual steady flow of programs and services in the middle of a global pandemic. His attitude toward the virus is that of a man who is unafraid and unaffected by the coronavirus. Members of his church were hospitalized, some possibly died, others were in critical conditions as a result of the virus, possibly acquired at his church, but MacArthur refused to adhere to measures that could have kept many in his congregation safe. Having one of the world’s most advanced television and online teaching networks, it would have been the easiest thing for MacArthur and their church to progress with their programs via online/virtual settings. But hubris keeps a man before his people because he feeds off of them. Not to mention the money made from it all.
“Our pastor and the conference team is committed to your health and safety at all the conferences we host,; consequently, we want to update you concerning the 90-year-old Shepherd’s Conference guest who recently passed away. The doctors confirmed that he passed away from COVID-19.”
MacArthur also contracted his son-in-law’s audio-visual firm to run his church’s AV team. This creates an aura of him and his church favoring family members in a setting where doing so only creates more problems. Financial and ethical problems for the church as a community and Grace Community Church as a business.
In 2017, the auditor highlighted as a “significant deficiency” that there were several instances of management overriding or circumventing controls that were in place to process payments or contracts outside established policies. Further, the report noted that there was the appearance of conflicts of interest with the President’s son-in-law supervising a contract from which he benefits, as well as institutional aid being awarded to related parties exceeding typical award amounts, but there was no evidence at the time of the visit that these concerns had been addressed in more than a cursory manner…
MacArthur told prominent bible teacher Beth Moore to “go home” because one, she was a woman; two, she was a bible teacher; and three, she was a female bible teacher willing to challenge the unbiblical teachings in the church that portray women as second-class Christians. His anti-women teachings, sentiments, and pride, (mind you, he said this in front of a packed conference auditorium) are more reasons that his idea of Christianity is shaped more by white American toxic masculinity than it is shaped by the proper biblical interpretation that honors members of both sexes instead of pitting them against each other with improperly interpreted texts from scripture.
He was speaking at an event meant to honor his 50 years of ministry called the “Truth Matters Conference,” but things took a turn when the panelists—including MacArthur—were asked to a play a sort of word association game. They would each be given “two words” to which they had to react to. The first words given to MacArthur were “Beth Moore.”
MacArthur responded, “Go home.” The audience laughed. Another man on the panel accused her of being a narcissist because of her preaching style.
MacArthur then launched into a diatribe about how “the church is caving in to women preachers.” He went on to compare her to a TV jewelry salesperson and then went on to criticize the #MeToo movement.
MacArthur admitted to failing to study for his many teachings, multiple times. Pride is evident in his speech, because, according to him, he is so comfortable with bible knowledge that he could stand in front of a crowd and preach on just about any topic for an hour without breaking a sweat. Not the fruits of a spirit-filled man whose reliance is on the Spirit of God but the fruits of a man who has perfected a craft for personal gain and clout.
News later came out from a former member of his bible commentary team that MacArthur never edited nor added much to the commentaries and books he landed his name on. In some meetings, he was seen entering, looking over notes other scholars put together, agreeing to the structure and content therein, and then taking all the credit for the entirety of the commentaries in question. The commentaries I spent all those dollars on wasn’t even put together and written by the man whose name was on the cover and that’s embarrassing.
Its a well known fact that John Macarthur’s books are not written by John Macarthur, but by Philip R. Johnson at GCC.
I don’t see anything wrong with having research assistants or with making a concerted effort at marketing a book, that’s fine. I have students proof read my own stuff, I ask friends and colleagues for feedback, and get advice from editors. I also work hard at promoting my work on the blog, you.tube, social media, and the like because I hope what I have to say will influence and help others. However, there should be limits.
If you’re name is on the cover, then it means you wrote it, not your staff, secretary, assistants, lieutenants, executive officer, or minions. If you had help in putting the book together, then at least acknowledge the hard working men and women who worked so hard to make you look good.
If you’re book gets on a best seller list, its because people other than you, your church, and your lackey’s actually went out a purchased a copy for themselves.
MacArthur also hired ghostwriters to write his books. Not all of them but some. This creates an idea that MacArthur is a pastor, teacher, president, counselor, and scholar who isn’t much of any of those things at all.
John MacArthur, the man who I had shaped my biblical formation for years, nearly a decade of my life, was himself a ghost of something or someone else. Perhaps he is a victim of his own doing, a victim of his pride.
Or, he is as culpable as the rest of them, those who take from widows, orphans, abuse victims without remorse. Trample the weak, malign the immigrant, minority, and women. Who mock and deride theologians who hold to different interpretations of the same texts. Who belittles media personalities because they’re famous. He stands tall above the church to inform his congregants that to mask up, social distance, receive a life-saving vaccine, and attend virtual services is to give in to fear.
As if Christ did not inform the woman at the well that worship is done in the Spirit and in Truth, not in a temple or an edifice.
But hubris is a hellish thing and MacArthur thrives on it.
This isn’t necessarily a case against MacArthur because he is simply one of the more prominent figures in a line of men just like him. And his disciples are everywhere. I mean it. Unapologetic brute force in the name of Jesus is the strategy and damned be anyone who thinks different.
Had I not distanced myself from this man’s anti-Christ teachings and habits, I would have possibly lost my faith in the true Christ of scripture and tarnished the image and name of my Lord even further with my unabated, unrepentant, unapologetic, unexpected, and unnecessary religious fundamentalism, which, thanks to MacArthur’s teachings, was sharpened just enough to cut everyone out of my life.
Jesus saved me. No doubt. MacArthur’s teachings, however, helped amplify my fears and my ignorance, pushing me onto the path of destructive hate for people that God loves and cares for.
The hate you teach, MacArthur, is not of God.
And if it’s not Godly, then it’s… well… I’m sure you know.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” – Matthew 17:22
On Palm Sunday Christ entered Jerusalem with one goal in mind: the cross. Short on sleep, high on stress, and seated on a donkey, Jesus enters the city on a hill to the shouts of jubilee, joy, and celebration as Jews welcome him with open arms. They wave palm branches the same way Jews generations before waved them for Judas Maccabeus who organized a successful rebellion against Seleucid tyrants and demigods, ousting them from Israel. This sign, this extended branch, was a show of hopefulness in the face of oppression. A desire for national sovereignty in the face of Roman imperialism.
“Hosanna!” They shouted. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!”
What the Jews signaled to Jesus on that day was that they were eager for him to be their messiah, the deliverer who would take on the Roman empire and free the Jews from an oppressive regime. A Jewish leader who would restore Israel’s glory and national splendor. A man sent by God to wage war against the Roman fiefdoms of the day.
Little did they know, the same people who were waving palm branches on Sunday would soon be deriding and cursing Jesus on Friday, as he walked, bloodied and bruised, carrying his cross out of Jerusalem and onto the destitute calvary hill on which he would die.
“It’s such an interesting experience to sing happy songs and songs of celebration even on this side of resurrection when we know that Jesus entered Jerusalem with the shadow of the cross-bearing down on him.” Dan
Those are the words of my friend and brother in Christ, Dan, who struggles with the realities of the cross (as do I) and our posture to it this most important week of the year. Our culture has made Holy Week into Dollars Week, in the sense that we have industrialized religion for the sake of capital. Bumper stickers, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, leatherette bibles with initials engraved into them, personalized bedazzled “Jesus Lives” jean jackets, and the ubiquitous presence of the cross on just about everything marketable and sellable.
We’re like the money changers hanging around temple grounds, selling commentaries instead of pigeons. Anything to make a buck off of God’s people for the sake of Mammon.
But how are we measuring our understanding of this event, the crucifixion of Jesus, the Son of God, with our very limited perception of pain in light of festivities and celebrations that only last a week. Things that distract us from the brutality and finality of death. Why have we made the greatest event in human history, according to Christians, at least, only something we focus on for one week out of the year. For some of us, we only think of the Via Dolorosa, that dreadful walk from Jerusalems center to the outskirts of the town, the path Christ walked to be crucified, on a Sunday morning for forty minutes. That’s if we don’t doze off for twenty of them.
What must we do with the grandiosity and the tenebrous nature of the cross?
The shadow of the cross stretched over him, a reminder that death had a bounty on his head.
I cannot imagine his mindset then. Having traveled with his disciples for three years, covering a great deal of Palestine on foot, ministering, teaching, sleeping outdoors, or having to lodge at a stranger’s home for safety and security from exposure and low temperatures without pay or recompense. Jesus healed, preached, operated miracles, restored sight to the blind, stopped hemorrhages, brought men and children back from the dead, and forgave sins. He fed hundreds, and another time he fed thousands. He spoke to the masses from a boat that sailed easily along the shore so that all could hear. He sat with widows, welcomed children, embraced the diseased, and uplifted those caught in sin. Jesus spoke lightly to those whose burdens were heavy, asking that they let them go and take on his yoke, his burden, which was light and consisted only of love and the transformation of the heart. He spoke firm words of rebuke to religious clerics whose goal was power, dominance, and control. He chided them for their hypocrisy which led them over land and sea to make more disciples who would only resemble hate and bigotry. Jesus reprimanded priests and high priests, informing them that their religion was their food and their god their gut. They fed on the destitute and produced misery in the process. Unwilling to lift a hand to help the widow and the orphan, only demanding of them more subservience under the threat of expulsion and derision.
Jesus was, in all, God in the flesh, standing up for the forgotten and abandoned people of Israel.
But here he stood, past the gates of Jerusalem, under the shadow of the cross, looking forward to nothing more than death.
We mustn’t run from this painful scene, Jesus didn’t. We have the habit of slithering our way out of the gravity of the pain on the cross. Pain in general. And this is not something we ought to fetishize either, as some fundamentalist churches have done. Nor is it something we use as a cultic indoctrination tactic, fearing people into heaven, as Great Awakening preachers attempted to do.
We must look at the horror of the cross because the cross begs us our attention. Knowing that death was imminent, looming over him, as people celebrated his ascendence, must have been tormenting for Jesus, yet Jesus walked toward his destiny, not away from it. He confronted the cross, even though in the garden of Gethsemane he asked if there was a better way, a way in which to maintain the constant awareness of the presence of the joy of the Father without interruption was possible, for the cross did interrupt that presence, even if for a split second. The cross would sap Christ of joy, it would ruin his body, it would wound his soul and pierce his heart. The cross would show the world who was a devout follower of Christ and who had abandoned him. The cross demonstrated to the Romans that no one, not even an innocent man, would survive this monstrous machination of execution. Not even the so-called Son of God, the King of the Jews, would evade the painful flesh-tearing realities of the wooden cross. Christ did not shun the imagery of it, he welcomed it. He did not run from the height of this task, he walked toward it, breaking bread with a traitor and deceiver, teaching Olivet discourses to spiritually corrupt clerics, and healing people as he went, ever so humbly, to the cross.
The shadow of the cross has not disappeared. It echoes through eternity.
The cross is the constant reminder that Christ could have walked away from it all, from us all, and he would have been justified in doing so. The cross is there to remind us that there is no distance Christ will not travel to prove his point, his mission, and his love for humanity. The cross stands tall, bloodied, bits of flesh glued to its structure, fixated on us as much as we are pulled to its enormity, to remind us that we deserve its punishment.
A reminder that God opted instead to make us vessels of his love.
Shadows never shift but we do.
Love will remind us of Christ’s commitment to this grotesque act of inhumanity, namely, the crucifixion. Love will remind us that the shadow of the cross now whimpers in the light of the resurrected Christ. We needn’t worry about the presence of the shadow that killed our Lord. We must confront it, we must walk toward it, we must see it for what it is, it is ours, it has our name on it, and yet, it does not.
I pray we spend more time ruminating on the consequences of Christ’s cross. The instrument on which Christ’s life was extinguished.
It is perfectly fine to mourn the beginning of the end of Christ’s life on earth. We needn’t focus on the resurrection just yet, per se, for we are the product of the resurrected Christ already. We are transformed, quickened in the spirit because of his selfless love.
But for now, we can live in the morose reality of Christ’s impending lynching.
We too must consider walking in the shadow of the cross for it is only there, in that paradox of life for death and death for life that we truly understand the love of God for the world.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see.” – Lamentations 1:12
It was brought to my attention that yet another wave of systematic violence was enacted upon yet another group of innocent, non-combative, civilians. The town of Bucha, in the outer regions of Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv, has become another name on a long list of city-towns that has fallen prey to men’s susceptibility to animalistic behaviors. We needn’t blame the devil for this. This is man’s doing. The one pulling the trigger was not a spiritual being. The force behind the man tying up women and children before shooting them in the head was not metaphysical. It was a physical force driven by a physical need, a chemical need, an interpersonal need on the part of a soldier and his compatriots to kill. But this was not the ordinary killing we witness on the battlefield. No. This was not a mortar bomb that mutilates the body and soul of a soldier mid-combat. This was not the sort of killing spree where men in uniform gun down other men in uniform, bullets ricocheting from bunker walls, tank impediment structures, and dirt. Not the kind of killing where man faces man, grit visible, rage present, teeth bare, and bayonet bloodied. No. This was not that kind of killing. There was no trench warfare here. No bunker, unless, that is, you consider a home a bunker. Its drywall and wooden frame protecting its resident from wind and rain showers. But what of bullets and bombs?
These killings were done by men, soldiers, the youth turned violent killing machine ready warriors aimed at bystanders, civilians, grocers, salesmen, chefs, custodians, dads, moms, daughters, and sons, who just so happened to exist on one side of a field at the wrong time. Their crime is their geography.
What do we say of this? What can we say of this? What words are wordy enough to explain away this horror? Are words only useful for us to explain horrors away? Are we to use them to then accept horrible deeds? Perhaps. But if we do not want to accept these egregious horrors are we to then understand them? But what is the point in attempting to understand the mutilated body of a child, mutilated not by teeth of wild beasts in a forest or a jungle but by bullets from the guns of domesticated beasts in uniform? Are we to produce bookcases worth of information to help us categorize, stylize, name, organize, timestamp, and geo-stamp these events, the belligerent party(ies), antagonists, victims, method(s) of death, method(s) of torture, method(s) of desecration, and method(s) of burial or cremation simply for us to understand what happened at site A to group B?
Where do we store this information? What library, what cloud provider service, what server room, or what entity is responsible enough, ethical enough, mature enough, selfless enough to manage this information?
What will we do with all of this horror?
My wife and I got into an argument over whether we should call Russian soldiers guilty of crimes against humanity Nazis. Are they Nazis?
My wife said yes, she believes they are. The killings were systematized enough. The tying up men, women, and children, then rounding them up on city streets or in dank basements, not far from torture chambers to shoot them behind the head was cruel enough to liken these killers and their acts to that of Nazi SS soldiers from World War II. The indiscriminate killing of civilians is likened to what the Germans did in Poland, Russia, France, and more.
But I disagreed. I do not think the Russians are like the Nazis. No, of course, I understand just the same way you do. My wife is German. She was born in that majestic country, she was raised in it, educated there, and formed by its Teutonic culture. She knows the history connected to her native land, she was informed of the societal guilt and shame that once lingered but has since dissipated from the German social conscience. Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung! They’ve worked off their past. My wife is aware of the responsibility she bears in knowing that history but not being guilted by it. There is no collective shame or guilt in her heart about it but there is a collective responsibility of making sure what the Germans of yesteryear did will not be forgotten nor excused, ever.
Yet, I disagree.
I do not believe Russian civilians want this war, this, what shall I call it, waste of resources, and the international debacle that Putin has enacted upon the Ukrainian people. Russian citizens disdain their military’s conduct in the Kyiv Oblast region whereas others have come out in protest of the entire series of events, many facing arrests, torture, perhaps, too. There is not a collective sentiment in Russia to eradicate Ukrainians. Ukrainians are not seen as sub-human, although many of them have been treated as such by Russian soldiers. Russian civilians do not attend university to learn about the facial structure of Ukrainians and how they might resemble rats. They’re not taught that the Ukrainians are responsible for Russia’s financial woes. They’re not taught that to woo, romance, date, court, wed, or sleep with a Ukrainian man or a woman is a crime punishable with imprisonment on top of hefty fines because to mix with them is a moral offense. One cannot visit St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, or Kazan and find concentration camps where Ukrainians are held as enemies of the state and forced into back-breaking manual labor. One cannot find death camps in the remotest regions of Russia’s snow-covered tundras where Ukrainian nationals are tossed into industrial ovens and burnt to a crisp, their ash littering the sky above. There are no mass graves consisting of Ukrainian bodies in Russia nor are there people in Russia digging up holes for Ukrainian corpses to fill them.
What happened in Germany in the 1910s and 1920s made what happened in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s possible. What I mean is that Germans who survived World War I and dealt with the shame of their loss and financial ruination were ripe in body, mind, and soul for what Hitler offered them in the 1930s. The nation, collectively, voted in a demagogue and followed him into hell. Those who made it back alive were still stained with the soot of the devil’s work on their lives. Germans came together to make what happened in Europe possible. It would not have been possible if only the Gestapo set out to arrest Jews, political dissidents, homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and people with mental health issues. It required a national and cultural effort on the part of German citizens of every stripe.
The Nazi regime existed because the German people as a collective made it possible. Germany’s politicized Christianity, its state religion, its sciences, its cultural make-up, its racial make-up, its ethnic composition, and its mythical understanding of itself made Nazism as we understand it today, as it was understood then, possible.
Russians, civilians at home and abroad, do not want to harm Ukrainians.
Their soldiers, the ones who are committing these crimes, are not acting like Nazis because before Nazis existed, soldiers killed civilians this way. We must be wary, cautious, even, of thinking the pinnacle of evil existed for a quick and short-lived period of thirteen years in Germany alone. The Schutzstaffel (SS), Gestapo, Luftwaffe, and the Wehrmacht are not the only exemplars of human cruelty and evil.
They’re just our easiest scapegoats.
The greatest indicator of human evil stands tall in the mirror, gazing back, hoping not to be seen in the limelight of opportunity and intent. Seldom are we placed in the same positions, under the same conditions, infused with the same intentions, driven by the same social-cultural motivations, and incensed by opportunity, impunity, and heroism no matter the act we’re asked, no, obligated to achieve for God, king, and country.
So we stand, looking at the mirror or rather, being studied by he or her who looks back, hoping, praying, begging, that we are never given the same graces to murder because God knows we would, with impunity.
I say these things not to excuse the horrors perpetrated by Russian murderers. No. Their acts are damnable. Their crimes will not go unpunished. Should they die on the battlefield, they will then face God. Should they die in a prison cell, they will then face God. Should they live a long, hearty, and fulfilling life after this war, moving on to attain wealth and prosperity, fathering many children, and becoming members of high repute in their communities, they will, at the end of their days, face God for their crimes against humanity.
God will not allow a person to pierce a child through with a spear or a bayonet and escape judgment. God will not allow a man to ravage a woman and not face consequences for such a vile act. God will not allow men who sit in rooms pointing to maps and nodding commands, as bombs drop on residential buildings mutilating some and displacing uncountable others. God will not sit idly by as thousands upon thousands of people are erased from the face of this earth for the sake of lucre and land.
That is without question, Bucha. That is without question.
Your men, women, and children are not forgotten dear city. Your corpse-ridden streets have not gone unseen. Your blood-soaked gardens are not invisible. The basements you harbor where bodies were tied up and shot dead are known to us. We know. We have seen. We are witnesses to your demise.
But you are not alone.
The same way Abel’s blood cried out to God from the earth so does the earth beneath Bucha cry out to God for justice! Justice! Justice!
Bucha, your daughters will not have died in vain. Their sufferings, their screams, their catatonic fixated faces are not in vain. Their ravaged bodies, assaulted and violated, their souls violated, also, are not forgotten.
Your children, burned alive, executed in cold blood, tossed and desecrated as if they were filthy rags, are not forgotten. Their last moments of life, moments of fear, uncertainty, shattered dreams, shattered hope, tears, and wet diapers, will not, will not, cannot be forgotten.
Your elderly, your brittle, your infirm, your wise ones, who were killed by bombs, others killed by exposure as they fled those same bombs, are not forgotten.
Those gaunt faces who stare into infinity seek and cry for justice, their bloodless appearances begging for a reason, a cause, a purpose, an explanation for all of this senseless violence that took from them that which was most precious, life. They beg for words, for a meaning to it all.
Bucha, we have looked upon your misery and we see you. One of many, many in one. Your horrors are here to stay and we will gaze upon them.
We will gaze and we will weep.
God will act on your behalf.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
If you grew up in an evangelical setting, you must have heard of white American globe-trotting evangelist Billy Graham. If you are unchurched but alive today, chances are, you’ve heard of Billy Graham. Graham was for the white American evangelical world what Elvis Presley was for white American Rock n Roll in the 50s. A myth, a legend, a star, and also, many forget, human.
Billy Graham traveled the world over speaking about the restorative and redemptive work of Jesus Christ and preaching a gospel of personal transformation. You too, he would say, can be born again. Your sins will be forgiven if you will accept Jesus into your heart.
“Come as you are.” Was quite the famous line in his crusade. Always a welcoming environment for people seeking change, seeking religious reformation.
A very personal gospel message that beckoned the individual to turn her life over to Christ for eternal security and reconciliation between the person and God.
Graham’s sermons were beautiful and if you listen to them today you’ll find they are just as convincing and powerful as they were then. If the man had anything he had conviction.
Thankfully, I am not here to discuss Graham’s gospel preaching or his evangelistic efforts. For that, the man deserves credit because his ministry has produced a plethora of testimonies, many of which, we shall only understand and rejoice over in Glory.
But I am here to discuss how white American culture, more so, how white American 1950s and 1960s culture and its understanding of gender norms and expectations formed a set of social rules then that impact us in the evangelical sphere to this day — negatively so. Around the same time, Billy Graham and his team, assisted by Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea, and Grady Wilson, met in Modesto, California to develop a ministry morals standard for themselves and other evangelists and leaders in their vocation. This was put together to reduce the number of scandals in the evangelical world and produce an inner and outer appearance of moral rectitude, which had been missing or compromised by felled religious leaders of the day.
Now, considering the acceleration of Christian circle scandals that riddled the news, it seemed appropriate for a group of believers to come together with a better understanding of what is required of them in modern times throughout their ministerial undertakings and personal responsibilities. And in this meeting, the men came up with four ideas or metrics by which to judge the health of their ethics and ministry.
The Modesto Manifesto
The first was financial transparency in an age of Christian greed; the second, sexual purity in an age of sexual liberation; the third, ecumenical efforts in an age of fundamentalist tribalism; and the fourth, the accuracy of events, numbers, and credentials in an age of duplicity, lying, and dishonesty for popularity’s sake.
Again, these are honorable efforts put forth by the group to make sure that their ministries, and their personal lives, were above scrutiny, as the Bible demands of followers of Christ.
But sometimes, not always, sometimes, certain corrections, without nuance or clarification, when they generalize and offer little explanation as to how those corrections were formed over cultural and traditional, national and racial lines, can become over-corrections, thus, creating even more problems for those who adhere to them.
The second rule in Graham’s Modesto Manifesto deals with sexual morality, or rather, one that grapples with the temptation of sexual immorality. It is the rule that this entire segment became known for, a rule Billy Graham followed to the very end, if it was up to him, while he was in control of his mind. This rule would be followed by numerous evangelical leaders and ultimately make national headlines again when Donald Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, would celebrate it from the White House.
“We all knew of evangelists who had fallen into immorality while separated from their families by travel. We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than my wife. We determined that the Apostle Paul’s mandate to the young pastor Timothy would be ours as well: “Flee … youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 1:22, KJV).”
It’s interesting to note that from that day forward, Graham did not travel, meet, nor did he, according to him, eat alone with a woman other than his wife ever again. This is revealing, one, because of the level of commitment, it takes a man to avoid being alone in a room with someone of the opposite sex, whose sex estimates well over three billion people on the planet. There being three billion of anything is cause enough for awareness, but isolation and separation? Impossible.
Graham’s second rule, where a man is not to be alone with a woman other than his wife, is ripe with condemnation without even knowing it.
One, this rule generalizes women as sexual deviants who, left alone with a man in a room, no matter the room or the setting, work, campaign trail, lunch meeting, or as a nurse in a doctor’s office, will, without that man’s consent, ravage him. This notion is asinine because it portrays women as agents lacking self-control, moved by licentious desires, unashamedly promiscuous, according to those who adhere to Graham’s line of reasoning.
Women are not vessels of unrestrained lusts. Women are entirely in control of their thoughts, actions, compulsions, and desires. They’re not animalistic brutes who descend to sensual madness at the opportunity of being alone in a room with a member of the opposite sex.
What a farce.
Two, this rule, again, places the blame on women. This is age-old escapist nonsense men have plagued women with for centuries, if not millennia. If something does occur between the two individuals who are left alone in a room, it must have been the woman’s fault. As the only one able to consent or resist — because men are unable to restrain their boyish desires — if they fail to scream out for help or fail to stop things from progressing, they are solely at fault.
Once the ministry leader’s sexual scandal makes the airwaves, he’ll peg the woman as a “seductress” whose “promiscuous” advances were too powerful for him to resist. Resembling the work of a “she-devil” she entrapped him, grabbing him by the “unmentionable,” and from there, it was all history. And that’s why we are taught to forgive the man because he’s the victim here, his assailant, a 110 lbs sex witch that caught him alone in the lunchroom and proceeded to violate him while he sipped his tea and read his Bible.
It’s nonsense. I’m using sarcasm and humor here because blaming women for men’s inability to control themselves is a sad and resilient virus that refuses to die in our culture. So to cope, I make light of a grave and grievous situation.
Three, a man ought to be in control of his moral compass. In control of his faculties. If a man, especially a man of the cloth, cannot control himself when alone with a member of the opposite sex, then, by God, he ought not to be in ministry. He should not be in a position of influence, power, or authority ever again. He’s a predator in the making.
I cannot imagine Jesus, meeting the Samaritan woman at the well and thinking to himself, “Maybe I should wait for my apostles to get back before conversing with this woman. I mean, she might trip on that bucket l and land in my arms, where we kiss, romance, wed, make dozens of babies, until, the next woman I meet at the well comes around and trips on something else.”
That’s so stupid. No, I’m not sorry.
Jesus met with that woman alone because He had integrity, even if, EVEN IF she did not, He would have remained integral. And I’m not suggesting she was a sexual deviant or a saint, she could have been one or the other, it would not have changed Jesus’ posture toward her while the two sat and conversed by the well about faith, God, life, water, worship, and relationships. Jesus upheld His part of the ethical bargain, independent of the same being reciprocated or not.
Therefore… therefore… there… fore…
As I conversed with a friend via Instagram about the Billy Graham Rule, specifically rule number two, we got into discussing that the rule would have been more helpful and wise if it required individual integrity over distanced suspicion and isolation.
You see, when someone is integral, they’re complete, whole, satisfied, undivided in their attentiveness to honoring people made in the Image of God. They’re honoring, just, and kind, in the face of someone else’s vulnerability.
“If you, being a pastor, are counseling a woman who is experiencing a great deal of trouble in life and in the middle of a counseling session she stands, begins to undress, is nude and vulnerable before you, and the two of you are alone, where does your mind go? Where does your heart go?”
The question, I admit, is answered in two different places.
One, we answer this question publicly and openly, “I would tell her to dress up and get out of my office! That temptress! Damn her!”
The other, we answer in our hearts, in the place no one but us and God can see, and God knows what our answers tend to be. Too often, we have read reports, cover-ups, and lawsuits concerning what happens in these situations. Men in power, men with influence, men with authority, instead of portraying the likeness of Christ in the presence of the vulnerable, become the devil, ravaging and devouring people looking for help.
“Come to me,” Says the morally complicit pastor counseling the vulnerable woman. “And I will give you rest. But keep this between the two of us or else…”
So we must admit that Billy Graham’s Rule is problematic. It’s an over-correction, not a solution. It’s an escape, not a confrontation. It displaces blame, shifts blame, and generalizes women as sexual deviants, who, as I said earlier, given the opportunity, according to Graham’s rule, will devour men whenever alone with them.
There is, of course, wisdom in not placing oneself in a situation where, without a doubt, it seems suspicious.
Houston, We Have A Liquor Problem
Hillsong’s main pastor, Brian Houston, has been caught in hot water because he attended a meeting of some sort and after this meeting, he went for drinks and after drinking himself nearly blind, he went up to his hotel room for the night. Once there, he either misplaced his room keycard or was unable to properly use the keycard he had in hand to access his room. Under this fog of inebriation, Houston proceeds to a church colleague’s room, a woman, knocks on her door and then enters. There they remain alone for more than forty minutes. Both denied anything happened. And we have no evidence of anything having happened, because, no evidence was ever produced. Nor has the woman admitted or come forward with the fact that the two engaged in anything even remotely sexual.
But this scene, of course, is the extreme any married AND single person has to avoid because it does create an aura of suspicion. I mean, considering our current hook-up culture and the history of evangelical sex scandals, Houston should have known better. It is without a doubt that it was possible, in those forty minutes, that one’s moral compass could have wavered, their ability to resist temptation, dissipated, and there, a sexual act or several, could have taken place. And the truth, no one knows.
Brian admitted to the idiocy of his choices that night, having drunk too much, and then mixing sleeping or anxiety pills with his liquor, before proceeding to his coworkers’ hotel room. The two of them alone. His wife was nowhere in sight.
The curiosity here, and I’m being frank, not critical, even if I do end up sounding critical, for that I apologize, because there are certain things I do not understand and that’s fine because my intelligence is limited and finite. But here’s the thing, why blame moral failings on alcohol, drugs, anxiety, mental illness, and the opportunity of that woman being there.
“Abusers and abusive organizations may concede the basic reality of the wrong—“Yes, this happened”—but quickly add statements that either soften their responsibility or promote their integrity: “We value all people and only want what is best for everyone involved.” If these concessions do their job, the accused will stay in power, stay in favor with the community, and stay far from the shame their actions deserve.”
And listen, I’m not here to say that people are beyond redemption and reconciliation, but we must better understand what those things mean when people fail, morally, I mean.
One, take responsibility for your failings, instead of, say, blaming some agent or narcotic. Or worse, blaming your victim.
Here’s a healthy, albeit imperfect example I’ve come up with in my mind:
“Listen, everyone, I was sexually repressed or sexually uncontrolled and I enticed my coworker (or classmate, students, etc), under the guise of trust, bypassing the reality of our power-dynamic relationship, and I engaged in what I now understand as a non-consensual act with her. I am now resigning from my position to seek counsel, professional counsel, and I do not look forward to returning to leadership, but to fellowship, in God’s time. I’m sorry to all, and most all, I apologize to the victim of my uncontrolled passions. You did nothing to deserve this. It was my fault.”
Now, that sounds dreamy, almost, to consider someone admitting to the reality of their intentions and the gravity of their actions with such brevity and transparency, and that would do wonders for us instead of covering our mistakes over with alcohol, Ambien, seductresses, etc.
Graham’s Rule would and could be revised to state:
“No matter what situation you are in and who you are with, for however long, you must reflect the character of Christ in that environment. If the person you are with fails to live up to Christ’s calling, more so, His admonishments on sexual ethics, that is not an excuse, nor a vote of confidence, for you to forego your integrity. In every situation, interaction, relationship, friendship, and meeting, whomever you are with, man, woman, or child, reflect Jesus.”
That seems more prudent. More wholesome. That way, whenever someone does step out of line, should they ever, it will not be a woman’s fault or society’s healthy understanding of social interactions’ fault.
Every woman we meet, no matter the situation, deserves to see Christ reflected in us. And this does not mean we proselytize or evangelize every woman we meet, say, a woman stopping by a vending machine for grape soda only to have Mr. Jenkins show up to ask her if she has sipped from the fountain of life yet or not.
No. That’s creepy.
It means we reflect Christ’s integrity in every interaction. We befriend, we respect, we listen, we learn, and we… well… we act like normal people. There’s no need to sexualize everything in the world, conversations with co-workers, colleagues, classmates, and strangers of the opposite sex.
If you’re afraid that any or most interactions with a member of the opposite sex will devolve into a sexual act, then, my friend, the issue here is within your heart, not with socially acceptable interactions and meetings between two people of the opposite sex.
You need professional counseling and spiritual advice to help you determine why you see women (or men) as sexual objects to be perverted and abused by you. From there, professionals will guide you further toward recovery.
And we must, at all costs, as Dr. Diane Langberg states, combat the notion that we must return flawed characters to power. We must strive and strain to hold wrongs and sins accountable in hopes of restoring that person to fellowship, not power.
We’re often plagued by this lust for power and results that once our most talented advocate succumbs to a scandal we want nothing more than to see them forgiven, celebrated, and restored to their position of mass production. It’s the temptation of the evangelical industrial complex.
But that is unbiblical and to be honest, it fails to bring that person to a state of true repentance and change. They’re just re-platformed and given a new license through which they will abuse and tarnish the sheep again.
In all, allow Christ to be in your heart and mind when with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Do not, under any circumstance, use that situation as an excuse to compromise your morals, ethics, and faith, for the sake of fleeting passions, only to then blame a substance or a woman for your very personal and spiritually compromised decisions.
“Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters with all purity.” 1 Timothy 5:1-2
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
“The Nazis were not the first to burn children. God’s people did so long before.” – Dr. Diane Langberg, Redeeming Power
“Then the Lord said to me: ‘Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go! And if they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ tell them, ‘This is what the Lord says:
‘Those destined for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity.’
‘I will send four kinds of destroyers against them,’ declares the Lord, ‘the sword to kill and the dogs to drag away and the birds and the wild animals to devour and destroy. I will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem.’” Jeremiah 15:1-4
Those of us familiar with Old Testament literature understand the tragic history surrounding Jewish monarchs who ascended to power only to squander their name, leadership, and faith in hopes of attaining favor with local sovereignties or in pursuit of fleeting pleasures.
King Manasseh began his rule over Judah at the age of twelve. A boy, an adolescent, with the keys to the kingdom. The son of a popular and well-liked king Hezekiah, whose honorable religious reforms had spread throughout Judah had died and left the young boy-king with large shoes to fill. Set on leaving behind his distinct legacy, Manasseh set off to accomplish the necessary tasks required of every Jewish king since David. Love God, learn God’s laws and commandments, observe those laws, protect God’s people, the Israelites, more so, those belonging to the southern kingdom of Judah (and Benjamin), and under no circumstance break any of the edicts listed under the Ten Commandments.
When Manasseh began to instill the opposite of everything required of a Jewish king, his legacy would be riddled with wickedness. He incensed the people’s desire for idols, gods, and spirits that other nations worshipped and sacrificed grain and animals to for the continuance of blessings over land, wealth, and fertility. The young king went on to rebuild the “high places” his father, Hezekiah, had torn down during his reign. These hills, mountain tops, and cliffs served as prominent places of worship, where people would visit them, build structures, and serve at their altars and the feet of obelisks erected for Semitic deities, Baal and Asheroth. They worshipped the “host of heaven,” more firmly, they worshipped spiritual entities, celestial beings, spirits, and wraiths, serving them however the spirits influenced them.
Understanding Jewish theology, you must remember that the only place in which the Jews were allowed to worship God or at least offer sacrifices to the Creator God was in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. Anyone who dared worship anywhere else was considered an outcast, a heretic, a pagan. So the fires that littered the horizon of Judah; abhorrent symbols of worship and service to other gods in the land of monotheism, were an affront to everything the Abrahamic faith and Mosaic laws stood for.
Manasseh went on to further incense the pious clerics he was sworn to revere by erecting altars for the “host of heaven” in the two courts in the Solomon’s Temple, where sacrifices and worship were offered to the omnipotent Yahweh. A sacrilegious act, forced upon the people of Judea at the hands of their king. Unchallenged and relentless, the young king would not listen to his pious counselors, nor the priests in the temple they ministered in.
What came next was, at the time, previously unheard of, even for a morally compromised Judean king.
Manasseh, the young king, would grow, would wed, and father many children. A number of these, the Bible does not state how many, were offered as a sacrifice in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. Although historians question the explicit meaning of “offering one’s children to the fire” we can understand that whatever process that ensued was not for the benefit of Manasseh’s children. Other historians dictate that a particular sect in that region would start a fire in a pit, and at the mouth of the pit stood a bronze bull or a statue with its arms extended over the fire. Once its extended arms turned red hot from the heat emitted by the flames, a child was tossed on them, burned, and then rolled into the pit as a sacrifice to the deity in question. This process, the barbarity with which religious zealots killed their children seems a bit far-fetched if we didn’t have evidence of similar grotesque sacrifice rituals taking place in other, more recent cultures as well.
It seems inconceivable that the leader of Judah, the people after God’s heart, selected from the many, reduced to such a small, albeit very powerful and geographically strategic location in Palestine, could be known for worshipping the God of deliverance and protector of life whilst sacrificing children in the fires of paganism in the valley of death.
Manasseh went on to seek seers, fortune tellers, omens, sorcerers, and mystics as if there were no prophet of God in the land, nor words etched in stone by the fingers of God for guidance and encouragement.
The young king sought the spiritual advice of mediums and necromancers, people who delved into the dark arts, the mysterious aspect of conversing with the dead to gain influence over the living. A practice punishable by death in some cultures, the Jewish one included. But who could challenge the young king? Who would dare speak up against the monarch whose power and influence was unmatched and rarely questioned?
If he was willing to throw his children into the fire what then could he do with a serf? A peasant? A religious cleric?
The last knowable defilement Manasseh brought to his name and his people was instilling a carved image of an idol in the temple of God. Previously, he had left some altars, however large or small, in the outer courts of the temple, but here, he progressed, not just in depravity by killing his children, but also killing his spiritual well-being but outing Yahweh from the throne of his heart and substituting the Divine with something less, something mundane, handmade to suit his desires.
Again, Dr. Langberg’s quote rings true in history and haunts us in the present.
“The Nazis were not the first to burn children. God’s people did so long before.”
Those of us who are students of history, however amateur our endeavors may be in the science, understand that what Nazi Germany accomplished via the Holocaust will stick with humanity for eons, until, that is, something more nefarious and systemic replaces it in our history books.
Is it too difficult to believe that what happened under the Nazi regime will never happen again under a different regime? Are we so blind to our humanity to believe that we are beyond that level of hatred for a neighbor today?
We want to believe that what the Nazis did was unique to Germany in the 1930s-1940s. No other civilized group has ever devolved to such a horrendous sequence of murders to that scale. But to understand human beings we must understand the perpetual human potential for violence and that it is never beneath us to devolve or perhaps evolve to that level of violence again.
Dr. Langberg makes an accurate observation that we want to avoid at all costs.
“God’s people did so long before.”
The people of God would never!
We always say.
They would never harm children! But they offered them as a sacrifice in the fire to Baal.
They would never harm the poor! But they exploited them for the sake of wealth.
They would never harm women! But they raped them, in the village, in front of a house, in the king’s palace.
They would never harm someone of another faith! But the European crusades.
They would never harm someone who believed differently! And the Catholic inquisitions.
They would never harm a mystic! But they burned them at the stake, drowned them, threw them from buildings, and stabbed them where they fell.
They would never discriminate based on race or ethnicity! Sir, have you not studied the doctrine of discovery, manifest destiny, chattel slavery, Reconstruction, or Jim Crow? Better yet, have you not studied the last four to five hundred years of European imperialism and Western colonialism?
They would never harm women! What of the hundreds, if not thousands of years of sexist traditionalism that has become canon in the church? The numerous cases of protecting wife beaters by not believing women when they come forward with the stories of their abuse?
They would never harm children! Have you not studied the abuses of the Catholic church? The Houston Chronicle’s investigative report on the Southern Baptist Convention’s willingness to hide, protect, and platform predators? Have there not been volumes upon volumes of lawsuits against religious institutions for hiding the criminal conduct of sexual predators against children?
The Legacy of Burning Children at the Altar
Yes, Manasseh’s series of depravities indeed forced God’s hand into destroying Jerusalem. He used the Assyrian kingdom to lay waste to the ten kingdoms of the north, known as Israel. And then he used Nebuchadnezzar and his nearly indomitable Babylonian army to decimate the two kingdoms to the south, Judah and Benjamin, and take their remaining survivors into captivity for seventy years. One king’s efforts, his collective influence, Judah’s gullibility, and their religious clerics’ lack of integrity, and the overall national embarrassment of being known as God’s chosen people only to behave as the opposite would be the legacy Manasseh left behind.
God’s people were people who burned children alive.
But we burn people on the altar too.
Fair, we aren’t bowing before beasts made of bronze, silver, or gold. Those are the idols of the ancient world. No. Today our fires burn in the pits of systems, institutions, and celebrities. We sacrifice our women at the altar of male leadership, our children at the altar of predatory youth ministers, our corporate integrity at the altar of political syncretism, and our evangelistic outreach at the altar of doctrines formed by culture and geo-political events.
Like the young Jewish king, we seek the advice of mediums and necromancers, but we don’t use those names, we call them secular humanist life coaches spewing pantheistic teachings for gain and astrologists keeping the masses idiotized by looking up instead of forward, whose varied advices usher us toward a search for meaning and purpose in a finite universe with nihilistic philosophies.
In her book, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church, Dr. Diane Langberg mentions the sad events of the Rwandan genocide. She visited Rwanda to help, assist, and be part of the recovery process which followed the nightmare situation that unfolded in Rwanda as nearly a million people were slaughtered in less than one hundred days.
The world stood by and did nothing as thousands were hounded, rounded up, and massacred, at times, in front of cameras.
She mentions how churches opened their doors to victims only for those refugees to be slaughtered inside. The church, the safest place in a community, second only to a police station or a healthy home environment, became a tomb for people seeking refuge from bloodthirsty machete-wielding mobs. Church leaders considered the victims subhuman (cockroaches) and an unworthy, filthy ethnic group that deserved annihilation. Clergy and laity sanctioned the killings while others participated, some in their churches, lifting axes and machetes or whatever sharp utensils turned to weapons they could get their hands on to destroy the lives of innocent neighbors whose only crime was being born a Tutsi.
The church became a slaughterhouse and not just one church in an isolated event. Throughout the one hundred-day massacre, multiple church sites were used as entrapment areas to lure people seeking safety to their doors only to kill them when they arrived. If machetes did kill them from within, up close and personal, a barrage of bullets would pepper them from without, at a distance.
The sanctuary was a place where men, women, and children were offered up to the fire.
What I want us to be aware of is the ease with which we can offer our neighbors to the fire today.
Manasseh sacrificed his children to Molech, Baal, Asherah, or the host of heaven. He stood and watched as his offspring, the babies made of bone, flesh, blood, and life, filled with potential and a future, body covered with nerves and skin, perfect in their development and their progress, thrown in a pit of flames, its yelps and screams swallowed by scorching flames.
A man responsible for overseeing the nation God, this man, this leader, in the most influential position of the land descended to the darkest stretch of Jewish history for the sake of religious blessings. False religion to be exact.
So what makes us believe that we are not just as capable of committing such atrocities within our circles? We have created our fiefdoms with our varied denominations. We have gatekeepers watching for who is in and who is out depending on how one interprets a select passage of scripture. Others use ex-communication as if it were the only tool in the box of church disciplinary action.
The church is ripe with abuse of power and new idols.
Systems that invoke power, influence, dominance, and control. Systems that were produced initially to benefit some have been used to exploit others. Church bodies become oppressors instead of siding with the oppressed, just to get a piece of the power pie. To challenge political systems, policies, and concepts is to challenge the very church because the line between the two systems is non-existent now. Those who speak up are called anti-this or contra-that. Iconoclasts and disgruntled apostates. Not realizing that the very existence of the system-hungry church is apostate in theory and practice.
Institutions, colleges, seminars, faculties, and colleges that do no wrong. Teachings and teachers who hold on to their traditions and doctrines formed in one region of Europe are held as the only sound method of interpreting and understanding theology, killing anyone on the altar who dares challenge those precepts. The killing, here, isn’t done with sword or gun, it is done with derogatory statements, degrading comments, dismissive tones, and mockery.
Celebrities, in form and habit, take center stage, their victims not far behind. Bodies pile up beneath the altar, as worship bands play louder, smoke machines work in overdrive, and song bridges are repeated ad nauseam to dampen the lucidity of the sheep. Churches are plagued with the idolization of talented men and gifted women. Favoring the results-driven ministries over those focused on discipleship and integrity. Number build churches into megachurches, and megachurches become empires in their cities and states. Buildings and churches are made in the image of their teachers, following their every word as if it were the words of God. And when the truth of their misconduct, their wrongdoing, their coverup comes to light we cover for them because their giftedness supersedes their flaws.
In the same breath, we are more willing to restore broken men and women to power than we are to restore them to fellowship.
Damned, be power. It corrupts. Those who are corrupt already and take on the mantle of leadership further corrupt everyone around them.
The churches they lead become mass graves, spiritual mass graves as abuse runs rampant behind celebrity leaders.
From apologists to hipster Manhattanites to Quiverfull proselytes and televangelists hucksters, the cult of personality, celebrity status pastors and teachers, the Jesus 2.0 apostles, are surrounded by corpses.
They stand knee-deep in the blood, suffering, and spiritual disillusionment of the people they were called to serve but who they have delivered to the fires for the sake of power, influence, network time, conference seats, book deals, and front-page newspaper exposure.
What is a celebrity leader without a scandal? Who is the celebrity leader without a very public failure by which to round up the most ardent and loyal disciples around him? If failure will not unite the corrupt, success will. And a redemption story rakes in cash and new friends does it not?
Rwandan churches had compromised their integrity for political and cultural gain, but what is to be said of the German church that existed comfortably throughout the Nazi regime’s reign of terror?
What is to be said of the church in Germany where Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, wanderers, and those struggling with mental illnesses sought refuge in the church only to be loaded into train carts instead by clergy and laity?
The connection between the German church and the Nazi party was so well established that many avoided the church for fear of being apprehended by clergymen with ties to the Nazi regime.
Can you imagine men and women fleeing the church because it represented capture, imprisonment, torture, deportation, and extermination?
Before Hitler asked that children be burned in the fire, God’s people were burning people in the fire.
Things have yet to change, except, how we kill one another has advanced to the point of perfection. Our hands are often absent of ash and blood but still, the trail of bodies stretches behind us.
The young girl who was subjected to volleys of sexual assault by the talented youth leader is told to keep quiet because she probably deserved and enjoyed the “interaction” between them. The youth leader will be protected from law enforcement, vindicated by the church board, and later re-platformed as a champion of Christian ethics because look at the spiritual assault here endured! Consider how the youth program has swelled with new and fresh faces over the years! Should we now hamper this progress?
Consider the young woman who is the victim of constant battering and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, a choir director at their church, who will come forward with her abuse and be thoroughly silenced by the church board. How dare she go against her husband so publicly. Plus, the bruises she incurred were probably self-inflicted. Who are we to believe? The successful and charismatic choir director or the reclusive and embittered wife who seldom attends church anymore? The church will side with the husband when the wife contacts law enforcement, the church will even pay for his lawyer fees and bail. The church is here to care for those behind bars is it not? So it will financially support the wife-beater, pray for his soul, pray against his disgruntled wife, shame her from the pulpit before the congregation, and finally excommunicate her for not forgiving her husband as a godly wife is expected to.
Consider the young black minority member in the church, who, after enduring years of overt and covert racial animosity from fellow church members, is asked to leave the church or shut up about racial inequities in the world. The church does not condone such divisive talk. Anything that references racism is most likely a Marxist ploy to undermine the church anyway. Therefore, that member will be ostracized and blamed for the racial uproar in the church, although their only sin was believing a church-run by racists was capable of repenting of its hatred. Racist church members will grow fat with hubris as they pat one another on the back, explaining to everyone how there isn’t a racist bone in their body, nor one of racial animosity toward any member of a minority group. They say these and other things, of course, from the comfort and safety of their racially monochromatic church body. White pastors, white teachers, white choir directors, white board members, white worship band members who sing worship songs written, produced, and recorded by white people who live in white people’s havens. They will claim ignorance because they are ignorant and damned be the colored person who dares accuse them of racial awareness. To them, being color-blind, blind even to their race, is their safest bet in the world. Should anyone point it out, they will have to deal with the reality of their surroundings and the many people they have kept away from their church.
The bodies pile up. Their scent festers. Their rot is laid bare for the world to see.
Is this what the church does to people? Is this what God’s people are capable of, in the name of Jesus?
What To Do With The Bodies
The church sites in Germany where many were carted away from, led, usually, under the threat of corporal punishment if not death, were either destroyed by allied forces firebombs or demolished after the war. Those that survived the war were rebuilt and remodeled. Some that were razed to the ground were rebuilt. There is seldom a memory of the horrors that occurred within them because those sites are either home to new churches that have different goals or they have become visitor centers where services to God are seldom held but tourism and picture taking are welcome. A sitting priest or cleric welcomes all in, to gaze at the marvels of ancient cathedrals, walking to and fro, from stainless glass window to spire, in awe of a structure that once represented lofty piety and later horror and now ambivalence and distant memories.
German churches have moved on from their horrid complicity of yesteryear.
Church sites in Rwanda, however, have remained mostly untouched. Some of them house pyramids of skulls within. Bones of the deceased litter the inside of the church, piled up, some, five bodies high.
Their gaunt, skinless, lifeless structures gaze back at us as we look at them. We, of course, walk into the church, watch them watching us, and we leave, minding our next destination, not caring much for the gravity of the mass grave found within the church.
It’s easy, is it not, for us to move on from such a sight. How we look on, our minds barely touching the surface of the screams, the blood, the severed limbs, ruptured skulls, and crushed bones. Did boots stomp on those tiny skulls to deform them? Were those tiny skulls deformed before they died? How about the bones that are split in half. Did that violent act take place before that poor soul expired or after? What about the bullet holes found in the back of skulls? Were those mercy killings, to save the person from the horrors of rape that often took place before the altar? Did that bullet, hurling faster than the speed of sound, fired from no more than several feet away from the victim’s head, travel across that bridge of space and time in an act of love? Bullets travel with love too, you know. Love of country, family, race, and political party. They travel to stop the evil-doer next door. Evil with a name and a face, a family, and a future. Evil, of course, is a minor ethnic difference, in this case. One that doesn’t elevate nor diminish, it is something, well, determined merely by local leaders and national politicians. A whim. They determined who was evil and who deserved a hug from the projectiles launched from their guns over several days.
What do we say in the presence of such horror? More so, what does such horror say in the presence of God?
If one looks to the walls in these churches they will see pictures of saints, crosses hanging from nails, and the occasional scripture etched into them but in the center of the room you find bodies, dead, long dead, but still speaking.
Who will speak for us? If not God’s people then who?
If fact, I ask the same. If God’s people, the ones who have been ushered into the world with a message of hope, love, restitution, conciliation, redemption, and more, fail to live up to those admirable virtues only to turn on them, taking up instead, the mantles of hate, violence, power, oppression, armaments, machetes, and rape, what then?
If the children of the light are more depraved than the children of darkness, what hope has the world?
If the church, a symbol of hope, of love, of Christlikeness is hellbent on murder, rape, assault, abuse, and coverup, where are we headed?
Where Will God Go?
I’m reminded of the sequence of events in the Old Testament where Israel’s perpetual backsliding leads God’s Spirit to exit the sanctuary because God would not tolerate the worship of a wayward and corrupt people. He would not sit idly by, sanctioning intrepid idolatry, male prostitutes offering their services from the temple grounds, the poor growing poorer, the wealthy growing fatter at the poor’s expense, the Laws of Guidance and Fruition serving no other purpose than enslaving the masses and empowering religious autocrats.
It is to our benefit that God distances himself from the corruption of the soul.
He will either annihilate us all or distance Himself from us for a time, for our benefit.
Hope In The Face of Desolation
A strange thing happens in the life of the young king. Toward the end of his misery, the life of wickedness no longer suits him. The sin that festered in him began to chip gnaw at his soul.
After living with such depravity for so long, a person learns that there is no glory, no fame, no existential fulfillment at the end of it. The seeking after the wind, pursuance of sounds in the shadows, and the hope that the dead speak back to us are all, in the end, futile ventures.
Manasseh had sold his soul and his children to Mesopotamian spirits, searching after something only Yahweh could provide: rest for a weary soul.
He prays a prayer we have no record of, recorded only in the “records of the seers” and some presume the recorded prayers that have withstood the test of time are apocryphal, thereby not authentic and extra-biblical.
We have no resolute and accurate idea of the prayer but attempting to reach his mind in that state of repentance, we can come up with an idea of what his prayer might have sounded like.
What Have I Done? – A Prayer by Manasseh
“O, God, my God, Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Creator and Deliverer, Life-Giver, Rescuer of my soul. How I have sinned against you, My misery fills the air around me, Wickedness chokes the joy from me. Where will I go to find relief? Who will hear the complaint of a murderer? I have sought the death of my children for gain, And have lost more than I ever dared and wanted. I sought the council of witches, seers, and the dead. I have yet to hear the truth. I have yet to see light. O, God, my God, What have I done? Is there forgiveness left for me? Am I destined for the end I surely deserve? No matter how harsh, how grim, how destructive, I have merited it, and more! Destroy in me the me who sought after idols, Those of stone, wood, silver, gold; Of jade, ruby, and pleasure. Burn up from within me the lust for power, The greed for control, the haste for disobedience. My children, my children; How I wish I could join you in that fire, That the flames would consume me and deliver you, How I long to be by your side and you by mine. Will there be an end to my suffering, Lord? I hope not, for I surely deserve more. Forgiveness, I need it, but I am undeserving of it. Hear the rending of my heart, the failing of my soul, And relieve me, O, Lord, of the burden of life itself. From you, from all, I deserve woe. I deserve woe.”
We know not what it was Manasseh said but prayers, however intelligible or not, lucid or mumbling about, baby-like, are heard by God. He seeks and searches the depths of a man’s heart; He understands the wallows, fright, and desperation found in a woman’s heart; He comprehends the unspoken-ness of brokenness derived from sin and He bends down toward us and heals.
Where God finds it in His being to forgive such ills, I do not know. I cannot know for I am not God but I know that I seek this love, this selflessness, this giving of liberation, daily in my life.
God restored Manasseh to glory, respect, and honor. Not without temporal consequences, of course.
And God can restore the church too, you know.
The residence of bones and dried blood can be a residence of restoration and hope, again.
The structure where babies were massacred can be revitalized as a place where babies are saved and protected.
They can, yes, they can, if we dare, if we will, if we decide to return to God.
And this isn’t a televangelists’ call to open air-tent preaching with hell-fire and brimstone invective.
This is an opportunity to see the church be that which we all expect of it. To behave as the world demands it. As Christ commanded it.
Outside of this, outside of this hope, namely, Christ’s love reflected on His people, we will see nothing more, nothing less, than bones and death in the church of “god.”
Not Yahweh the Deliverer, the I AM, but the god of death.
If we change not, we will be servants in the slaughterhouse of god.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Have you ever met a Christian who speaks fondly of a place he or she has yet to visit? Say, heaven?
And no, I am not referring to the place Americans go to get hefty tax cuts; avoid communing with brown immigrants; where they get to sip diesel cocktails and bathe in nuclear waste just because they can.
No. That’s Texas, sir.
I’m referring to the people who attend religious gatherings at least once a week all around the world, lifting hands in worship, singing their hearts out to God. Those people. The ones who carry Bibles, read Christian literature as if it were the news, and listen to contemporary worship music as if it were canon.
Have you ever heard them speak about the glorious hope that awaits the faithful once they step into the void of death and cross the bridge of hopelessness into everlasting light?
Yes. Christians. More so, Western Christians.
And by “Western” I mean North, Central, and South American.
We (western Christians) sometimes discuss heaven like kids discuss Disney Land or Disney World. Or the way parents discuss upcoming holidays and steakhouses and burger joints we want to visit. You know, “I can’t wait to try the triple-deck bacon extravaganza at Honkies. It has sixty thousand calories and that’s just the burger. The onion fries are fried in bacon grease! O, the heart attack! Honey! Bring my Tums tablets. No, the extra strength ones!”
Listen, I’m not dismissing the beauty of heaven. I’m not dismissing the undecipherable blessings that await us in the beyond either. I very much look forward to the day in which I will no longer have to pay taxes to a government that seldom assists the disadvantaged with the funds it deprives me of. I will no longer have to see people go hungry because of greed or famine or drought. I will no longer be a witness to the horrors of cancer, AIDS, plagues, war, and genocide.
I mean, no more death. That is amazing.
What a beautiful hope. A dream, almost, to live in a place where suffering no longer exists. We become immortal hedonists. At least that’s what some Christians make it sound like.
But seldom do we reflect on the direct cause and purpose of heaven: Christ.
I want us to consider the validity of a Christocentric understanding of heaven and life here on earth instead of a heaven-centric understanding of existence.
What I mean is that far too many of us succumb to an idea that heaven will just become a hangout, a place where we kind of, well, just hang out. Where we can walk over to a celestial ice cream parlor or a sanctified bar (no alcohol for the Baptists) wherein which we get to indulge without gaining weight or suffering through hangovers the day after. But this line of thinking is ludicrous. We have turned heaven into an eternal amusement park whereas others have turned it into an eternal choir show where we’re compelled to worship God, together, forever.
The issue here is the compulsion, not the fact that we’re worshipping God or lack of time involved in it. Also, yeah, the concept of time won’t even be a thing once we cross over the threshold of life and death, and time into eternity. There’s no such thing as time in a place where time does not exist. It’s strange, really, but frightening. I won’t know whether I’ve rested for an hour or six centuries. It’ll be something new to us but we will adjust… without time.
Our understanding of the beyond, of heaven, has been warped by medieval artwork, American consumerism, pop culture, and the seeker-sensitive evangelical industrial complex (EIC) mania.
This myopic view of heaven prioritizes our comfort over our relational posture toward God, not just that, but it diminishes the value of Christ in our theology. The collateral damage from this line of thinking also diminishes our willingness to focus on temporal matters, namely, our neighbors and our environment.
I recall listening to minister, John MacArthur, I cannot recall which series it was but I recall his sentiment about environmentalists, condemning their efforts to stymie pollution and stall environmental disasters caused by human activity because, according to MacArthur’s interpretation of eschatology, the world was going to be incinerated by Jesus someday anyway. So, considering the finitude of our planet, in MacArthur’s mind, there was no point in attempting to stall current events or endeavor at a combined venture to make things better for people now or the next generation because the planet, as he saw it, was doomed.
Others have avoided the push for racial equity because racism, in its interpersonal and its structural state, would only be remedied in heaven. Some have thwarted efforts to dismantle exploitative systems that historically disadvantage the poor and racial minorities. They believe, and erroneously so, that because Jesus said to his disciples a week before his crucifixion, “You will always have the poor with you,” that by that we needn’t strive to end world hunger and poverty.
Theologians and ministers have shunned the idea of combating sexual abuse in the church and sexual abuse outside of it because sexual deviancy will only be corrected if not outright annihilated in the afterlife. What’s the point of pushing for policies, laws, cultural and systemic changes to our institutions here on earth if they will always fail because of man’s sinful nature? Shouldn’t we focus on heaven and heaven alone where these problems will cease to exist?
Man’s sinful nature is only corrected by supernatural transformation therefore the complete redemption and transformation will only take place in heaven so until then we need to focus on the gospel message and that alone.
Forget about poverty. Forget about racism. Forget about sexism and misogyny.
I understand this escapist and apathetic (also pathetic) line of reasoning because I lived it. I used to disseminate it. Again, as you read above, I used to listen to John MacArthur and his cadre of heaven-onlyists for years, thinking that any attempt to remedy current problems was a waste of time. A waste of “God’s time.”
I believed that because this world would one day cease to be and I would escape its demise and destruction that the only thing for me to focus on was to get as many people into Noah’s Celestial Ark as soon as possible before a world-altering cataclysmic event unfolded. Anyone unfortunate enough to get stuck outside of that cosmic redemption carriage was, well, lost. Not just lost in eternal separation but also lost in their current state here on earth.
“Damn the earth,” I thought. “It’ll be reborn anyway.”
The poor would remain poor, because, well, heaven was better.
The battered and sexually abused woman would remain, well, battered and sexually abused because heaven was her only hope. I mean, her abusive husband would soon dispatch her to heaven, along with her kids, (thank domestic abuse for that one) so there wasn’t much to worry about. She’d have cake, beef stew, and another patriarch to rule over her in heaven.
The black teen who was racially profiled by police, handcuffed, beat, and tossed behind bars on false and trumped-up charges, with an unnecessarily lengthier sentence than his white counterparts, would not need to stress about the system that disadvantaged him because heaven has no racism. All the racists from earth would then become race-loving Teletubbies in heaven. The policeman who beat him with a club on earth would greet him with cake in heaven.
The absurdity of this mindset, which removes the focus of our life and goal from Christ and places it in a place instead is such a perversion of the gospel yet we endure it. We drink its filth, swallow its bile, and defecate its heresy for millions to follow.
Heaven-onlyism turns us away from the blind, the naked, the battered, the prisoner, the downtrodden, the outcast, the immigrant, the refugee, the widow (and widower), the elderly, the sick, the vilomah, and the orphan. It creates an escapist mindset where we’re not that much interested in Christ nor that interested in people created in His image but focused on a place where we are delivered from our responsibilities for our neighbor and our planet.
We’re more focused on getting the ‘hell outta dodge’ than we are on living as Christ lived. More focused on allowing the ship we’re on to sink to the throes of misery because we believe we’re promised safe passage through murky waters, unstained by obligations of selflessness.
The problem is… and what many people fail to understand, is that God commands us to care for our neighbor and our planet. He commands us to care for our land, the land we share with our neighbors. He commands us to be the good Samaritan, well knowing those in our care may never pay us back. He demands that we visit the “least of these” lest we be forsaken on Judgement Day.
We need to focus more so on Jesus than on WHAT Jesus will do with the planet and WHEN.
No one knows the day nor the hour and until then, we need to work. We need to move mountains. We need to open seas. Part them in half with what God has given us as gifts and talents to help our neighbors. We need to care for our surroundings and our environment not as if we idolize or personify nature but because God has given us this bucolic planet for us to enjoy, not exploit.
There’s a difference.
God does not bless exploitation and He does not merit individuals the grace of salvation AND the right to exploit. Once saved, our responsibility to live like Jesus is immediate, from here through eternity and that will demand we confront the wrongs of our time.
“Jesus never confronted the Roman empire, nor did he abolish slavery.”
But Christians did. Real Christ-followers refused to bow a knee to imperial power, greed, and exploitation.
Heretics and exploiters bent the knee at the river of exploitation by enslaving men and women in the name of Jesus and then telling the same groups to expect relief and redemption in Heaven only.
“Endure your chains. Save your soul!”
That’s a damnable offense in the eyes of God and His people.
Be wary of ministers, pastors, theologians, and clergymen who speak so lofty of heaven and its many gifts but turn a blind eye to God’s people here on Earth. Admonish them to focus on Christ and not on escapism, because, as we have seen through history, many of them have come to faith in Jesus not for the love of the Lord but because of their fear of hell.
The fear of eternal separation, whatever that may entail, has done more damage to the Christian psyche than it has led people into a loving and eternal life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.
Heaven may be full of people who will wander the streets of gold not knowing who exactly it is they’re there to meet.
And that is an embarrassment. Of course, I’m exaggerating, playing coy, but please entertain this next thought for just a moment.
Image a man named John entering heaven, having suffered some calamitous death on earth, and now he graces the fields of the beyond the same way Maximus dreamed of walking through his field of grain. He wanders here and there, seeing joy-filled faces, laughter, peace, tears of relief, and restfulness everywhere. He watches people who have made a perilous journey from one end of the universe to the other, losing thousands, if not millions of their numbers, having since reached safer shores in God’s eternal rest.
John comes across this blinding light, a man, or at least someone in the shape of a man walking toward him, surrounded by resplendent glory.
“Welcome, John.” Says Jesus. “Oh, uh, hi.” “I’m glad you made it. I’m so happy to have you here.” Jesus continues. “Yeah, uh, hey, where’s the fluffy cake stuff we were promised back on earth?” “The what?” “Excuse me. I think I see a poutine waterfall over there.” John bumps into Jesus on his way to what he presumes is a waterfall spewing gravy, cheese curds, and french fries.
How daunting a sight.
But that’s how many of us see heaven and operate as such.
Others yet see themselves dressed in white robes singing, for ions, possibly innumerable songs.
“When will we get a break from this singing to finally grab some cake or something.” Said Sandy, in singsong. “Not sure, but here’s the 1,045,095th repetition of the bridge.” Said another heavenly apparition, in falsetto. “Right. Sorry. ‘And on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…” For eternity, they sang.
Our minds are so fixated on sanctified mundanity that we may be shocked when we get to heaven and realize that we’ll still be required to relate to one another and also with the Principle Host of it all, Jesus.
Granted. Our newness will remove from us the selfishness that is so prevalent in us here on earth but I cannot imagine the face of thousands of redeemed folk looking around expecting plush couches, white robes, and cake everywhere until they realize that heaven is much more, more than what we think, more than what we can comprehend.
But heaven’s main focus isn’t the place, the timelessness, or the absence of pain and suffering.
Heaven will be Jesus. Jesus will be Heaven.
And if we’re not focused on Jesus here on earth, not in the sense that we want to escape from the troubles of the world kind of mindset. No. No one wants to be in a relationship with someone who is just with them because the alternative, namely, singleness or some less entertaining lover was the option or whatnot.
No. We want to be the focus of their love and adoration. Their time. Their friend, best friend even.
But we’re not focused on befriending Jesus. We’re focused on the benefits that relationship grants us. No different from friends with benefits here on earth. Except, instead of trading up sexual favors we want to trade up for celestial cake.
And damned be everyone left behind.
Please, for the of Jesus and your neighbor. Direct your attention to Christ and you will then be forced to confront the issues still happening here on earth. The people still need food, shelter, medicine, rescue, and love. Be sure that you develop of healthy and evident relationship with Jesus while here on earth. That relationship, or rather, the health of that relationship will be evident in how you treat Earth’s citizens and the planet they inhabit.
Now go and some eat cake.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Words of desperation uttered in a moment of resolute despair and distress, spoken from the deepest well of depression, disrepair, and dissolution toward whoever could hear them.
Job’s wife is left unnamed by scripture, therefore, I will give her a name: Samira.
Several women are named throughout the Bible. Some are listed as triumphant generals, warriors, prophetesses, and rulers. On the other side of the coin, many are mentioned as social failures, religious tyrants, murderers, and more.
But for some reason, we are not given the name of this woman who we know only as Job’s wife.
We must consider how we read and view scripture and the people mentioned in it. Their names, their placement in history, their ecological circumstances, whether war ravaged their neighboring towns, whether famine, pestilence, and drought sifted life in their communities or not. We must inquire, if possible, about their diets, their muscle mass, and body fat percentage, or if they were emaciated pescatarians who drank beer and wine daily.
When tackling the book of Job, or rather, the story of Job’s redemption, we focus primarily on Job, if not singularly, on Job. We read of the heavenly wager for Job’s religious integrity. We read of the successive disasters that fall upon Job’s family, his industry, and eventually upon his health.
Our focus is directed toward Job’s calamities which arrive all on the same day or around the same time, without a pause in between each. Job, is left nearly speechless. Four calamitous scenes take place in chapter one which, if we rush through them, we miss the gravity of loss and ensuing panic that must have taken Job and his contemporaries by storm.
“One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
“While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
“While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
We dare not dismiss the resounding wave of grief experienced at the news of the first scene.
Imagine the presence of marauders in a neighboring town. You hear of the violent crusades, of men razing buildings to the ground, killing men, and kidnapping women and children. Collecting whatever booty and spoil they manage to find. Leaving behind nothing but burnt huts and tents, blood-drained corpses, and empty fields. Now, these same raiders visit your family member. This isn’t just news disaster in a far-off country, some misfortunate that overtook an unnamed people or a faceless family. No. They’re attacking a family member’s home. They raid the place, taking with them oxen and donkeys, which, to today’s estimates, would be equivalent to semi-trucks and pickup trucks. Crucial elements of our industrialized society, without which, we’d be catapulted back to the stone age within months.
Their family members’ workers, their faithful employees, and servants, people whom they loved and came to trust, we all murdered but one.
And while news of this calamity burns through Job and Samira’s ears, another servant rushes in testifying to the fact that lightning (fire from heaven) rained down on their livestock and servants, killing both. Their apparel and textile industry burnt to a crisp in the middle of the field. The smell of burnt flesh, that of men and beasts, rises from the distance attracting mountain lions and other savage beasts of the field to their next meal.
Job and Samira’s family business, their collective agreement between local systems of economics has just been shot in the foot. Oxen, donkeys, sheep, and servants, have all perished in a matter of moments at the hands of marauders and now of nature.
As they attempt to take in the gravity of this situation, the loss of resources, the loss of income, of winter provisions, and the loss of life, another lucky or unlucky bearer of bad news arrives at their door to deliver more calamity upon their calamity.
The Chaldeans, another ethnic group has encroached upon Job and Samira’s land and stolen their camels, their means of transportation, and killed every servant managing them, save one, the messenger.
Job and Samira are down oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, and servants.
This cannot possibly happen to a man whose entire existence is devoted to moral aptitude before God and men. Whose character and conduct is so widely known that once news of his calamity spreads through the region, friends, from distant lands travel through war-torn cities and towns to sit at his side to help him grieve.
Yet, their nightmare is far from over because as these three survivors of war, these refugees, possibly tired, dusty, injured and bleeding, or possibly maimed and carried to Job and Samira’s footsteps with the help of another servant, arrives to deliver the death knell to this financially secure and religiously minded family.
“While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, ‘your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
Words cannot explain just how much pain Job and Samira must have felt at this moment.
Losing oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels is financially ruinous. It may take years to recover from such a disaster. Family members may endure times of famine due to a lack of supplies and goods.
Losing servants is almost like losing family members. People you commune with every day, assisting with oxen; pushing donkeys; fleecing sheep; and traversing long stretches of desert lands together while seated on camelbacks. These are relationships and friendships developed with those we work with. Connections that become inseparable over time. The hurt of losing these friends and workers must have cut through them like when we lose our best friends to car accidents or drug overdose.
The disaster was ripe and they had bitten from its fruit.
But nothing compares to the loss of family members. Nothing compares to the loss of your children!
We can imagine Job taking this in, Samira by his side, while both of them fell to their knees, perhaps, seeking to better understand, better comprehend, rationalize, or give existential meaning to why this would happen to them, of all families in the region.
Had Job not informed his children of the high wind speeds, the tornadoes, the chinook winds, and thunderstorms? Had he not informed his children of the questionability of the establishment they would dine within? Had he not mentioned that they ought to celebrate, dine, and party, elsewhere? Did Job know that wind speeds, at such speeds, could topple edifices made of stone, nonetheless those made of wood and cloth, held down by rope?
Whether the structure was sound and nature was not; whether nature was sound but the structure was compromised it mattered not in the end.
What happened to Job and Samira was a cluster bomb of pain, loss, and death. Each explosive violently falls over their perfectly stable life, incinerating everything before their eyes.
Parents aren’t meant to bury their children, you know. Yet, here, this lovely and God-fearing couple would have to bear the brunt of locating, carrying, and burying the carcasses of servants, friends, and children.
They might have done all these things on their own; their servants fearing for their lives might have fled, thinking that the couple was cursed. Who would want to spend another minute beside a man and a woman whose investments went up in flames within minutes, whose servants were murdered, and whose children suffered calamity at the hands of nature, all, on the same day?
Here, at this moment, we hear Job speak for the first time in this story.
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’”
To rip one’s robes, shave one’s head, and mingle with dirt was culturally accepted as a sign of utter repentance and humility before God and man. Like a book coming undone at the spine, glue and paper detaching from one another, was Job at this moment before anyone left around to watch his demise.
We can imagine Samira, who was moments ago standing next to her husband, watching and wailing. This act of humiliation she never thought she would see her husband perform is now a sight she wishes she could forget.
The man she married was righteous. She knew that he offered sacrifices for himself and their family, just in case they had sinned. He went out of his way to place himself as a priest and mediator between his family and God. Their wealth had given them financial protection and peace; their leadership had provided them with expansion and diplomatic leverage; their marriage had granted them love, security, companionship, and children.
They had everything to be envied by others yet here, before her eyes, she saw not a man but what was left of a man when life was kicked from under him. She saw tears, snot, weakness, uncertainty, poverty, depression, and survivor’s guilt.
She saw Vilomah, which is what we call a parent who has lost a child or their children. The word is new to our vocabulary and not entirely known nor used very often because we rather not describe a person who has lost a child. We call parentless children, orphans. Husbands or wives who have lost their spouse, widowers, or widows. But what then do we call parents who have lost their offspring?
She saw it and perhaps did not recognize the man she loved so dearly because this new person was sapped of everything she had once known and loved.
What was there for him to repent from? What sin could he have committed that would cost them their livelihood and their children? What unholy alliance had he made with the devil that cost them this much? What could he have done to anger God to this extent?
Perhaps she had sinned, too. Maybe it was her fault because she had not fulfilled a vow, perhaps not honored a rite, not followed a ritual, dismissed a tradition, abandoned a commitment between her and God. Perhaps. But she knew not. She did not recognize her husband and in this moment of complete existential implosion, she may not have recognized herself either.
Was there hatred present in her heart? Was she experiencing that which Holocaust survivors speak of? The moment where, in the presence of gas chambers, mass graves, and of industrial furnaces where bodies are turned to ash; in the presence of heinous evil, an unspeakable crime against humanity and reason that goes unpunished, unmentioned, and unchallenged, the person then gives up on the possibility, on the believability of God.
Had she given up on Divine Providence since Divinity had purportedly taken everything from her except this man who now sits in the dirt, destitute and outcast? And if Divinity did not sift her treasures, namely, her children, then surely God did nothing to protect them from their disastrous end.
Was she embittered? Embittered people become so because of perceived injustices they have endured and have yet to find a resolution for. No finish line in sight for their redemption. No one to petition restitution for their cause. No friends. No understanding shoulder to cry on.
The heart grows cold. Worse. It boils and spills over, day after day, draining the heart of its substance and killing its owner, one bitter beat at a time.
Where was her heart?
We know not the answer to these questions but we know what her first and final words were in this sad story.
The serpent of old returns to Job’s life after he, the devil, fails to convince Job to abandon his faith and curse God. This time, however, God allows the serpent to take even more from Job, save his life and that of his wife. And take the devil does. It’s the only thing he’s good at. Giving you fruit in one hand whilst removing the ground from under you so that you fall into depravity, sunken, and hopeless were it not for the grace of God to deliver you from his schemes.
And so, we get the rest of Job’s calamitous story:
“So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!’
He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
Job is now left disfigured by a skin disease. His health is gone, his upstanding stature reduced to that of a street wanderer, a vagabond with skin fissures and sores, whose only consolation is scraps of clay which he uses to scrape at his lesions. He sat, no one knows how long or how often, in a pile of ash, yet another cultural sign of repentance for wrongdoing, although the book of Job does not give us, the readers, any reason or sin Job must have committed to deserve such a fate. Yet, there he sat, bubbling at the mouth, praying, perhaps, tirelessly weeping without tears, suffering the cuts of grief time and again at the memory of laughter, jokes, running children, and a noisome home.
Hope, at times, is a man’s worst enemy.
“Are you still maintaining your integrity?”
When clouded by depression and grief, the last thing we want to see is joy and gladness in others. When angered, what angers us further is the sound of laughter. When burdened by worry and stress, what complicates our circumstances further is the sight of people enjoying peaceful and worry-free lives. Debt-free lives.
It would be foolish of us to look upon Job and think of him enjoying anything or celebrating anything.
But Samira might’ve seen something in Job she might have lost or was in the throes of losing in herself.
Her inner spiritual integrity and love for God might have been waning.
And how can we judge her sentiment? She had been faithful in all aspects until calamity of apocalyptic proportions reached her door. She had prayed, sacrificed, humbled herself, worshipped, followed rituals and traditions, burned her offerings, and tithed unto God. Yet in all of this, she still lost everything.
In a moment like this, we might assume she connected her faith to her calamity or vice versa. It is not rare of us to do such a thing as well. If that which we value most ends of being connected to that which brings us most grief, we might end up finding that item loathsome. Reprehensible!
We might love visiting a particular ice cream parlor on a particular street with our loved ones but should we suffer some traumatic harm at this location that ends up taking the lives of our loved ones, that location and its previous meaning will cease to exist as a place of good memories. It will become a place we avoid at all costs for fear of reliving our greatest sadness again.
I cannot assume she found God loathsome but I may presume that the desire to seek Him became muddled in her pain therefore she thought of nothing more than to stop seeking God for fear of reliving her trauma. Maintaining spiritual integrity in a faith system that wrought calamity and grief, seems Nietzschian, at best.
What was the point?
I see her question and ensuing suggestion less as accusatory and more as a desperate plea for meaning in all of her pain.
Because if we can derive meaning from our pain it makes the process of dealing with pain more bearable, nobler, and worthy. But enduring pain with no end in sight nor ultimate goal is hell on earth.
If being on God’s side got them into this situation, perhaps, she thought, walking away from Him would help them recoup all that was lost and also break the unseen curse hanging over their heads.
Samira sought answers for their calamitous situation in a man whereas Job sought meaning and purpose in God.
Samira wanted back the blessings God had initially given them whereas Job had graduated from a benefits-focused relationship between him and God and found refuge in the character of God more than in the things God could give.
“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
The New International Translation of this verse inputs an exclamation mark at the end of her suggestion, perhaps with the idea that Samira might have been spiteful or angered. But perhaps she was exasperated and drained. Completely drained of her willpower and drive; her drive to live.
And in this moment of existential lapse, she beckoned Job to join her in her desperation to walk away from a God she believed would take everything from them. And after committing Deicide, they could join hands and walk into the afterlife together to see their children once again.
We are so quick to judge Samira, stating that her faith was in the wrong place or perhaps it was not as strong and mature as that of Job’s faith.
But truth dictates that most of us would have committed Deicide at the first mention of oxen and donkeys gone missing and workers being lynched.
Not many of us have a character as noble as that of Samira.
Samira was herself a valiant righteous woman who Job fell in love with. He married a friend and a person with whom he could worship God, raise a family, and lead a business. She was a Proverbs 31 woman and beyond that because scholars believe the book of Job, this narrative, precedes the writings of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
And so, Samira reaching a breaking point might not have been as an egregious act as that of Judas Iscariot or likened to Korah’s rebellion against Moses in the desert.
Samira was at this moment rending her heart to Job, God, and us, displaying a vulnerability easily found within many of King David’s pain-riddled psalms.
God is not afraid nor is He shocked at the sight and sound of the midnight of the soul.
He not only sees it, but He also welcomes it. He also allows such inquiries to reach His throne daily. He isn’t shy of difficult questions and inquiries. He isn’t afraid of insults launched hailed at Him in moments of fear and anger. He isn’t surprised by anything or anyone.
I value this book so much because Job and Samira were blessed, abundantly so at the end of this story. A testament, less so of Job’s moral and spiritual aptitude and more so about God’s redemptive and restorative disposition.
“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.”
This book, this tale of loss and reward, of wagers and bets, of disease and death, of conversations about behemoths and whirlwinds, of resurrection, of broken and restored friendships and relationships, of one man and his God, can be lost in the hum buzz of cultural blindness.
We see God. We shun the devil. We sympathize with Job. We scold his wife. We chide his friends.
But let us not forget that Samira, the woman whose select few words were added to this story to be told time and again for thousands of years to come after its happening, was equally blessed by God even though initially, it seemed as if she would have been cursed and damned for eternity.
She may have advised Job to abandon his integral character, but Job did not. It would be daring of us to suggest that she had lost her integrity through it all.
Job did not curse God. We know he did die but long after this incident. So it is equally wrong of us to suspect that Samira had cursed God and died because they went on to have many more children together later in life.
I am sure the bible would have referenced her demise as it has mentioned Jezebel’s fall and the ensuing sustenance her corpse provided to the beasts of the field.
The bible is seldom shy of describing someone’s demise. Especially when that someone challenges God, curses Him, stands against Him and His people, only to face a catastrophic end.
But there is no mention of Samira suffering some supposedly deserved retribution at the hands of an angry God. No hint that she would have been the target of divine anathema. Not even a mention that God allowed the devil to touch her life after her problematic admonition.
I believe that Job, a man of integrity, stood by his wife, Samira, a woman of equal integrity, although human and subject to failure, as we all are, until the very end.
And I believe that God blessed them both, equally.
With more oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels.
More servants and workers and friends.
And yes, God restituted to them children, posterity, which, at that time, as it is today, worth more than all the world’s treasures.
Samira was me. Samira was you.
In a moment of extreme deprivation of joy and overwhelming grief she did what any of us would have done; she was transparent.
Thankfully, Samira did not curse God and die.
Samira was blessed by a God she came to better understand and love through pain and suffering. A God who wasn’t God based on the number of blessings He dispersed over curses.
A God who supersedes gifts and blessings.
A God who walks amongst us. Feels what we feel. A God raises the dead.
A God who saw Samira as she was and loved her still.
Samira blessed God.
Follow in Samira’s steps, as you also follow in those of Job.
In the midnight hour of your soul, do not be afraid to approach God with your heart and your hurt laid bare before His feet.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
I launched this blog one year ago today. It began as a medium by which to better understand a craft, understand how I think and how those thoughts come out on paper (or on-screen), to better develop my prose, and practice just enough to the point where I don’t feel miserable when writing my first book.
By the way, I’m almost halfway through that first book. More to come about that in the future.
Looking back I am so happy that I started this page. It helps me think and perhaps it confuses me even more. Tackling history, church history, theology, faith, and relationships often lead the inquirer to more questions than answers.
And from time to time, that’s okay.
We were never to have all the answers all to ourselves. We learn best in a community and we grow better in a healthy community. And this blog is one of many communities.
I hope to improve my craft not only for myself but for you, dear reader, as well. Stories shape us. Great stories encourage and inspire us. I hope to inspire not just you but my girls. So that one day, when they decide to read their dad’s shenanigans they can understand the man I am, the man I was, and the man I aspire to be, through my writings.
108 posts down. Here are some of my favorite ones since Olivet Theory officially launched one year ago today!
The “Gospel+” Movement: Why Simplicity Matters
“The simpler the gospel becomes the closer we are to it. Whenever we add an idea, belief systems, a depraved ideology or rules by which to attain that which Christ has already accomplished we are lightyears away from the truth.”
MTD vs Christianity Proper
“MTD isn’t a religion, like Islam or Judaism. It is more of a disintegration of one particular faith, namely Christianity, that melts into ideals that have been spiritualized and inculcated into American religious circles.”
Marital Advice for the Uninitiated
“Far too many problems arise in marriage because people want so much to live like, behave like, be empowered by, attain the same level of status like, promote a sense of stability like and be unimaginatively in love like power couples they see on social media or in their community.”
How “Policy Over Character” Destroys Our Christian Witness
“White evangelicals within the United States have lost their witness to the world by voting for a vile and abusive bully who paid a porn star hush money to keep his affair a secret.”
Avoiding Extremes: A Word of Caution From a Former Fundamentalist
“Therefore, an extreme effort was undertaken by the male-led authoritarian ministers’ caste to shame, denounce, vilify, and destroy people into submission to modes and methods to separate the church from the world.”
Giftedness vs Fruitfulness: The Hidden Dangers of Following Gifted Church Leaders
“Check and see if what you seek, who you follow, and what you promote is reflective of the biblical Christ or if it is but a dim and dreary shadow of our savior poorly illustrated by gifted leaders.”
My Top Ten Rules for Girl Dads
“Love, be patient, listen, play, and yes, mess up from time to time so that she can see that dad is human and that dad knows how to humble himself enough and apologize for his mistakes.”
“We cannot allow truth to die in darkness for fear of losing influence and money. That was lost the day we decided to trust in the influence and giftedness of man over the eternally restorative and transformative power of Christ.”
A Painful Rediscovery: A Look Into Where My Heart & Mind Are Today
“Mumbling some sort of prayer up to God, not sure if I asked for forgiveness for my feelings, my words, my rage, or if what I felt was a fear of these words making their way on to the screens of the very people who had hurt me. In my fear I wanted to avoid offending them, for having offended me.”
The Burden of History & The Curse of Heritage
“It is easier to remove a commandment from the law of God than it is to distance Southern Baptists from their southern heritage of racism, hate, and evil.”
Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice Series: Chapter 3 – How to Talk About Race and Racism
“Disregard those notions. Go ahead and say what you have to say however you want to say it. Interrupt their conversation and speak as loud as possible. Do it all without the slightest urge to listen to anything they might have to add to this discussion.”
I Am A Neo-Evangelical
“I am a neo-evangelical and God has rescued me from fundamentalism and delivered me from stagnant middle-stance, middle-class centric Christianity that accomplishes much while it accomplishes nothing in mainline evangelicalism.”
Here Is Why We Left Mill Creek Christian Assembly
“t would be foolish to think that racism was the sole reason behind my family leaving a white church. It was a lack of compassion that led me to an irrevocable decision. A decision that brought me angst.”
Here’s to another year of blogging, story-telling, craft-development, book reviewing, and trouble-making!
I cannot emphasize this enough therefore I will allow the words of the King to re-emphasize it for me: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Fox News opinion casters have been re-demonizing Muslims and Christians from Afghanistan because there’s an unfounded theory that undocumented brown refugees will begin to flood into the United States of America because of this Taliban crisis.
Most of the people who watch Fox News adhere to some form of a Christian or Judeo-Christian moral framework where they believe that God exists, Jesus walked this earth, that we should live by high ethical standards, sexual standards, and respect our neighbors.
Something like that.
But at the same time, these same viewers will swallow a building-sized gnat of hatred that Fox News spews against, you named it, immigrants.
And the darker their complexion the spicier the vitriol gets.
I don’t care if you watch Fox News to further numb the dead or dying heart inside of you. I don’t mind if your soul is so dark that the only thing that brings you warmth is watching millionaires discuss their hatred for the disenfranchised, poor, colored, and immigrants but if that’s the case I hope you’re not at the same time ascribing to a worldview that espouses love, kindness, redemption, and holiness.
The crisis in Afghanistan is so complicated and the United States of America’s participation in the formation and the financial backing of the Taliban in previous proxy wars has only made things worse. The United States does not walk out of this situation with clean hands.
I understand that this crisis is more complicated than we dare admit, collectively speaking. Some of us will blame Muslims for the bloodshed. Others will blame Russia. Others yet will blame Americans. And Americans will blame the Afghani people for not developing quickly enough to defend themselves against an insurgency like the Taliban.
The blame game works itself into a wheel spin that is hard to slow down once it’s in full steam. I’m concerned with the catalysts, yes, I’m concerned about the agencies that led this nation and its surrounding communities to such dire straits. Insurgents only become insurgents because every other way of life has been taken from them by bombs dropped by other insurgencies or government agencies.
American ones included.
It’s perfectly fine to feel overwhelmed by not knowing what to do or how to do what needs to be done in a situation as problematic as this.
We’re all on the same boat when it comes to this stalemate, this uncertainty surrounding Afghani lives still in Afghanistan, who, at any moment, might be massacred for whatever reason by Taliban foot soldiers.
We’re in agreement there! We’re all worried about these vulnerable people.
But what disturbs me greatly is the ever virulent diatribe that ebbs and flows from Fox News and like-minded news stations about these unfortunate souls.
If 30 million (the actual number is somewhere around 2.5 million) Americans watch Fox News every day and they believe half of the stuff that spews out of that channel then we have 30 million Americans who have little to no compassion for immigrants seeking refuge in America, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, and so on.
We begin to see people as animals and from there we then view them as insects. It isn’t far fetched to then believe that their decimation and massacre at the hands of Taliban terrorists is equal to that of cockroaches under our boots.
The rhetoric surrounding immigrants, especially brown immigrants coming out of Fox News, Newsmax and One America News pundits or whatever other hyper-nationalist news stations are is a rhetoric of hate.
Hate the immigrant. Say you’re sorry for their demise. Tell them they’re not welcome in your country and then smack their backside as they move on to another humanitarian crisis camp that you will call dirty, filthy, and deserving of the people who settle there.
And then go on about your life telling everyone how much your country needs Jesus because Jesus is love, kind, just, merciful, and holy.
People, for the love of God, love one another.
Love the men who are fleeing for their lives so they don’t fall under gunfire or the sword. Love the women fleeing for their lives so they do not become breeders for a terrorist organization and their sex-deprived lunatic foot soldiers. Pray for the children, boys, and girls, who are petrified and will possibly be traumatized for life because of it.
Love them. Love them because they are people.
Instead of complaining about immigrants coming into your country to take your jobs look at them, not through them, as extended family members who need rescue and help.
Canada is a nation large enough to possibly fit the population of the planet in it twice over. Just don’t send people to the North West Territories because there’s nothing up there but land, bears, moose, and the occasional horror story stalker.
But fill Canada with people who need help. The United States of America, too.
Why we’ve come to think of them as undeserving of our resources because they were not born here is insane and cruel. I understand nations have national sovereignty and borders but we’re all on the same planet, sharing the same air, eating the same foods, and drinking the same water, albeit, cleaner water in some places than others.
We’re all one race stemming from one place. People with an intrinsic value whose worth supersedes international and national borders and laws.
We need to love our neighbors and help them in their time of need. Not because one day we’ll need them; because we might, but because it’s the right thing to do.
We cannot settle for news stations whose personas non grata proclaim faith, liberty, freedom, the pursuit of happiness, humanity, love, and yes, supposedly, a Christian faith, but then say and report everything contrary to it.
Love your neighbor.
Be on the side of compassion and empathy. Gun powder and sword are great at making soldiers of children but love and compassion are better at making people of character, principle, and morals.
If we want to see fewer insurgencies then we might try and start by extending a friendly hand to our neighbors.
Even when that love isn’t reciprocated, we love them. We love them well.
I’ve placed a few photos of Afghanistan in this post. Bucolic settings, breathing taking ones, just to remind the reader that there’s more to a land when it is not constantly bombarded with terror attacks. More to it when it isn’t portrayed as a forgotten wasteland occupied by dirty brown immigrants who worship a different god. (I’m talking about you, Fox News).
Afghanistan is an extension of our land and our land an extension of theirs. Same planet, beautifully full and fully beautiful in all of its parts.
An argument can be made that there is an unhealthy level of hypocrisy in the pro-life movement concerning its response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Now, to our western mind the portmanteau pro-life means that the person values life from conception all the way through to the grave. Conception through birth, through life, and so on.
And there’s disagreement on why some of the most adamant pro-lifers fail to appreciate life as much once the person is struggling to pay bills, find lodging, facing eviction notices, in need of healthcare, education, unemployment assistance, and whatnot.
That’s not my argument here. That hypocrisy is evident in these areas and more before all. I needn’t argue the case there.
My beef is with pro-life American and Canadian Christians who use their faith and their freedoms during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote a lifestyle that is antithetical to a God and neighbor honoring ethic. They use their faith and rights to promote unwise habits which lead to the death of others.
“The Christian motive for hygiene and sanitation does not arise in self-preservation but in an ethic of service to our neighbor. We wish to care for the afflicted, which first and foremost means not infecting the healthy. Early Christians created the first hospitals in Europe as hygienic places to provide care during times of plague, on the understanding that negligence that spread disease further was, in fact, murder.”
Again, in his words, understanding that negligence that spread disease further was, in fact, murder.
I am shocked by every news article or tabloid post that informs the general public that another Covid denier, Anti-Vaxxer, and anti-establishment extremist with a Bible in one hand and the American constitution or the Canadian charter in the other has passed away from Covid related complications.
Stone, again, reminds us of just how far Christians and their Christ-centric ethics have come through the years whenever faced with moral or natural evil:
“During plague periods in the Roman Empire, Christians made a name for themselves. Historians have suggested that the terrible Antonine Plague of the 2nd century, which might have killed off a quarter of the Roman Empire, led to the spread of Christianity, as Christians cared for the sick and offered an spiritual model whereby plagues were not the work of angry and capricious deities but the product of a broken Creation in revolt against a loving God.
But the more famous epidemic is the Plague of Cyprian, named for a bishop who gave a colorful account of this disease in his sermons. Probably a disease related to Ebola, the Plague of Cyprian helped set off the Crisis of the Third Century in the Roman world. But it did something else, too: It triggered the explosive growth of Christianity. Cyprian’s sermons told Christians not to grieve for plague victims (who live in heaven), but to redouble efforts to care for the living. His fellow bishop Dionysius described how Christians, “Heedless of danger … took charge of the sick, attending to their every need.”
Christians have often been at the forefront of disaster without the push from government entities, without the assistance of political agencies, without funds from wealthy corporations and yet they ventured past the green zone and into the circle of death to assist those most vulnerable, motivated by nothing more than love of God and neighbor.
The history of altruism found within Christian communities is so imitable. Their love for the destitute, the sick, the broken, the diseased, without much care for their own well-being was quite the example to follow. This nonpareil altruistic movement is what attracted so many, to the faith to begin with.
The difference, however, is that something has shifted our Christian witness. We have gone from petitioning for the sanctity of life to petitioning for the rights and freedoms of selfish living, which, in turn, and as a direct consequence of, has caused the spread of the coronavirus in so many communities that could have gone without it if we had been more Christ-like to begin with.
In ancient Israel, in the book of Leviticus in particular, the Jews required anyone with an infectious disease to quarantine away from the camp for seven days or more. Some, having a very infectious disease, would live outside the camp indefinitely so as to preserve the wellbeing and life of both parties.
And somehow, somewhere along with the development of the western Christian mind, this altruistic selflessness has gone out the window, and with it, compassion and empathy for neighbors.
Modern medicine has shown us how diseases work, how they spread, how they affect the body, disrupt certain bodily functions, and from there, how some of them can lead to death. We now know chemists can develop antibodies in the form of a vaccine to counteract the spread of diseases or the damage these pathogens wreak on society.
And one of the mechanisms we have developed over time and learned how to use better is the victimless tool of quarantine; which helps reduce the rate a pathogen transfers from one person to another by isolating and caring for the sick. On top of that, we have been blessed with access to masks, which have also proven to reduce the transmissibility of infectious diseases.
Social distancing and masks.
These are the two crosses we have been asked to bear by our society and even these have become steps on which we tread to cause the death of others.
Distance and face coverings are too heavy a burden for us to carry.
How does that make any sense?
In the onset of Christian monasticism, in the era in which Christian converts would disappear into the desert to seek God, and once there they would form communities that would open their doors to assist and house outcasts. It was there that many relinquished so many rights and privileges just to help their neighbor.
They would give up wealth, give up status, give up work, and yes, even safety to wander through the unknown for days and nights to reach a place where trauma existed, where abused and bruised souls needed refuge, a place where so many had lost family and friends and found a new family and new friends.
Christians for years upon years had given so much from their lives and personal comfort even if it helped someone else just a little.
However, the tides have shifted and today we’re trying to take as much for ourselves and even the little that would have gone to our neighbor and their stability in life as possible.
Had we been asked to give blood, relinquish the rights to our bank accounts, leave our jobs, turn in our citizenship and residency, face deportation and exile for the sake of Christ and the betterment of life of our neighbor we would.
But a vaccine shot, social distancing, and masks are too many steps too far.
Our pro-life stance is only pro-life when it deals with the rights of the unborn but let us not be challenged to protect the life and well-being of our neighbors who are already here.
Apostle Paul asked the first-century church in Galatia a question that I ask of our generation today:
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? […]” Galatians 3:1 NRSV
He confronted a church that began with the salvific gospel and ended up with traditional legalism. Paul was curious about where and who tricked them out of the gospel and seduced them into a religion of works.
I, too, ask the same question of our fellow western Christian minds today.
“You foolish Americans! You foolish Canadians! Who has bewitched you?”
Who has sapped your Christianity of empathy? Who has taught you to reduce your neighbor to a number on a board? Who has asked you to see dollar signs instead of the elderly? Who has robbed you of love for your neighbor and taught you to believe that minor inconveniences like social distancing and mask-wearing are persecutory aspects of a democratic society?
You’re living with a persecution complex in a hedonist society. You’re more in love with and entrapped by comfort and rights than you are with Christ’s character of selflessness.
If you’re asked to carry your brother’s burdens you not only refuse to lend him a hand but you castigate your brother for being in the predicament they’re in, to begin with. And, at times, you’re the direct cause of their troubles.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NRSV
We see so many people pass away from Covid and much of that spread is due to our gross negligence of brotherly and sisterly love.
Christianity has thrived through thousands of years of strife, persecution, famine, war, social ostracism, pestilence, and plagues and we have shown outsiders time and again just how much love God has placed in our hearts as we care for our neighbors.
But something happened. Something went wrong somewhere and we’re too unbothered or too preoccupied or too distracted to stop and think about what and why went wrong.
Stone compares our gross negligence in spreading a pathogen we could have helped combat and stop a year ago, saving countless lives in the process, as gross negligence equal to murder!
And I agree!
There are pro-lifers committing murder. Either as direct agents of death or co-conspirators with it.
When we fail to help our world through a time like this… through a pandemic like this one… we help kill it.
Welcome to Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice series where I, Mr. Theory, give you the worst advice imaginable on just about anything. I’ll cover topics surrounding your family life, parenting, romance, money management, faith, and social interactions. Advice that is so appalling that you’ll have no choice but to do the exact opposite of what is mentioned here.
How to talk about race and racism…
Now you’re probably wondering, Mr. Theory, why would you venture onto a topic as divisive and controversial as racism? And why do it so early into the ‘Bad Advice’ series? Why not discuss, say, the most practical way for men to eat bananas in public, or, the top 10 steps to follow when taking cold showers? Why racism?
Well, if you’re one of the three people I know who might ask such asinine questions then you can go take a cold shower without my top 10 steps to follow when taking cold showers and you can eat a banana while in there. Okay? This is my medium of bad advice and I’ll choose which subject to ill advise my readers on.
On Qualifying Statements and Denials
Have you recently been in a situation where the subject of race or say, racism was broached by a person of color and you felt embarrassed to interact for fear that you might be misunderstood or misconstrued?
Disregard those notions. Go ahead and say what you have to say however you want to say it. Interrupt their conversation and speak as loud as possible. Do it all without the slightest urge to listen to anything they might have to add to this discussion.
Also, no matter what, no matter how many times you have this conversation always start with the standard qualifying statement: I don’t mean to sound racist but…
This will help your audience understand where your sentiments, ideas, and concerns are coming from. It helps them understand you as an individual and just how much you know about the topic so far.
Your audience does not know that you’re not a racist even if what you’re saying sounds racist, so, be sure to let them know that the very racist things you’re about to say will not, by default, make you a racist person.
This qualifying statement is great for other controversial scenarios as well. Try it whenever you get the chance!
Not to sound Islamophobic but….
Not to sound sexist but….
No homo but…
Not to sound like a fascist nationalist but…
And 2020’s #1 Qualifying Statement and Denial:
Stop the steal…. But that’s not me on Capitol grounds. That photo was doctored.
Always start your conversations on race and racism with a qualifying statement and immediately reject the accusation of being what it is your statement or opinion portrays you of being. This works better the sooner you deny whatever it is you’re being accused of, and in this mindset, it’s racist. Deny. Deny. Deny. But speak your mind.
Scenario #1: Qualifying Statement and Denial
Junia: My black friend got pulled over by the cops for driving through an affluent community. When she asked the officer, ‘Why did you pull me over?’ He informed her that she looked like a suspect who had broken into several homes in that same community earlier that day. Can you believe it?
You: Okay, not to sound racist but what was she doing in that affluent community, to begin with?
Junia: She lives there! She was on her way to Uni!
You: Black people earn enough to live up there?
Junia: That’s racist.
You: No. It’s not.
Junia: Yes, it is.
You: No, it’s not because I’m not racist.
And walk away. That’s how you can successfully navigate a conversation about race with an emphasis on your non-racism whilst saying something, that, according to everyone else, is racist. But you know it’s not and that’s all you need to know. Great job!
Your integrity lies in how confident you sound about this topic not in how accurate or inaccurate your statements sounds.
Tokens and Tolkien
Have you been accused of being a racist? Has your race-but-not-racist private Reddit, Parler, and Gab accounts come to light? Are you facing the brunt of social justice warriors because the racist content you’ve created and disseminated on these platforms has now become public knowledge? Have hackers broken into your hard drive and disseminated pictures of you wielding confederate flags, saluting friends with Sig Heils, dawning the ominous Hitler mustache, and wearing white robes with crosses on fire in the background?
Fret not, my dear non-racist friend. You have the ignoble the privilege and access to a superpower unlike anything other on this planet. Use it whenever all elsewhere fails! It’s Tokens and Tolkien!
If you’re ever caught red-handed, your innermost sentiments about people who look different from you are made bare and everyone sees you for who you really are, just pull the Token card.
Mention to adherents that you follow several people of color who share the same ideas you do. They are literate, successful, and wealthy blacks who believe the world is the best it could ever be and that you listen to their enlightened opinions as if they were Bible.
Tokenism is key to your survival. You must always keep a select few prominent minority figures on conversational speed-dial and ready for use in case your debased intentions are ever brought up.
And if anyone ever accuses you of using minorities who share in your supremacist ideas by the use of Token minorities just sit back, smile, chuckle a bit, and let them know you love Tolkien’s work as much as anyone else.
If you get yelled at for being ignorant just laugh louder and attempt to discuss the Lord of the Rings series. Never admit to using Token voices. This is a no-no. But share your thoughts on Tolkien to avoid a public and viral beating.
Scenario #2: Tokens and Tolkien
Devonte: Hey man, your opinions on black people being intellectually inferior to whites is extremely racist. That’s considered scientific racism that began in the 1600s with a Swedish scientist named…
You: What? No, no. I’m not racist. Look <opens YouTube> here’s <fill in token black person> who agrees with the science behind black people being intellectually challenged because they’re generally lazy, prone to violence, and criminal behavior. I know it sounds racist but it’s not. It’s science.
Devonte: Dude, that’s racist. That’s straight up Tokenism 101. How many hundreds if not thousands of black voices did you have to scroll past to find that one voice that you agreed with?
You: I’m not racist. <Smile> And Tolkien? I love Tolkien’s work! Did you know that Arwen and Aragon are cousins?
Devonte: What? Why are you referencing Lord of the Rings? I said tokenism. You know, when you use the voice of one minority to reinforce a false narrative by a white majority to dismiss the thousands, if not millions of voices from the black community? You sought out one black person that agreed with you and you think that one person speaks for all of us. That’s tokenism.
You: Did you know four horses died in the filming of the LOTR trilogy? I know, insane!
See how it works? Perfect! Now try this highly effective technique at weddings, social gatherings, barbecue parties, sporting venues, and to increase your chances of overcoming societal ostracization, keep a beer in hand. Always, if possible, half full.
If all else fails, claim the ‘I had too much to drink that day/night’ or the just as effective ‘my blood sugar was off’ coupon and your societal pardon is not far behind.
Statisticians and Data Analysts
Are you a numbers-minded person who views minorities as problematic to the fiber of society? Are you looking for more ways to degrade people of color without publicly admitting to the fact that it’s what you’re doing? Look no further, I have found the best avenue for you to broach and conquer discussions on race and racism. You, my friend, are a non-racist statistician.
Any time someone discusses racial disparities and inequities in minority circles you are more than ready to jump in to inform those who listen that numbers don’t lie and that anyone who is unwilling to submit to the data you just produced is truly unwilling to tackle disparities and inequities.
Scenario #3: Statisticians and Data Analysts
Taylor: My God. Cops killed another unarmed black man and it’s all on video. When will this end?
You: <Checks phone> You know, there’s data that supports the fact that more white people are killed by the police than black people.
Taylor: Yes, because there are tens of millions more white people in this country than black people. And you’re okay with that?
You: Did you know that black people are less than 40% of the population but they commit more crimes than 154% of the planet? Plus, not to sound racist, but black people are better at committing crimes they’re just bad at getting away with them.
Taylor: What? That’s asinine and not true.
You: <Hides phone> Also, did you know that fewer than twenty unarmed black people are killed by cops every year. So that narrative the media is painting is false.
Taylor: So how many unarmed black or white people need to be killed by the police for you to care? For you to call for changes in policing methods?
You: <Checks phone again> Did you know black people have a higher college dropout rate than any other race group? Also, they have the highest rate of fatherless homes which makes them more prone to commit crimes.
Taylor: That’s appallingly false and you ought to know better. Those numbers have been distorted to promote a narrative that black people are responsible for systemic issues, police brutality, being shot by police while unarmed and not a threat, and also being given harsher sentences for petty crimes.
You: Well, it’s data…
Taylor: It’s wrong data.
You: And if you disagree with the data then you’re unwilling to better the black community.
This works like a charm every single time. It’ll shut down social media threads, increase the probability of canceled outings, and you’ll fewer and fewer people of color in your proximal community circles. This in turn reduces the chances of a conversation surrounding race and racism taking place.
Do you like to use the N-word when barking along to a DMX track? Has a coworker overheard you shouting the N-word at black clients? Has a video of you surfaced recently where you shout the N-word at passerby’s who, according to Divine Providence, just so happen to be black?
You have come to the Holy Grail of all racist-but-not-racist terminologists, the Black Friend coupon.
Let me explain.
So you’ve been caught red-handed, again, using racial slurs, again, sharing racist-but-not-racist materials online, with a fresh tattoo of a swastika on your neck, and you were pictured at the latest Unite The Right rally. Now, this ‘getting caught’ or ‘being exposed’ behavior has become a common event in your life since you never face repercussions for your racist-but-not-racist actions and comments. But now you face the possibility of losing social capital as your boss, who was well aware of your extra-vocational activities, is now under fire because local and national media has discovered that you’re employed. You see, your boss is okay with what you do just as long as no one else finds about it. But now millions of negative comments plague your company profile, reporters are amassing outside your workplace, and your boss wants to keep on making money so he advises you to resign because he can’t fire you for being racist. No. He can fire you for being lazy but racist? Never. That goes against your constitutional or charter rights. You have the right to be, or sorry, not to be racist, while only saying things that can be misconstrued as racist.
So while you’re typing up your resignation letter your HR team also advises you not to speak with reporters on your way out of the building as you’re not trained to speak publicly and they don’t want you saying anything that could connect the company to your peculiar activities, even though your boss and this HR persona has attended several rallies with you. Those pictures have yet to surface, but they will in due time.
You’re done typing that letter. You hand it over to your boss and HR personnel. You’re compensated for your early leave. Handsomely so. A severance package hearty enough to keep you out of work with bills paid for the next six months. Horrific. I know. Because you asked for twelve months got six instead. Your belongs are all stuffed into a banker box and you’re out the front door where you’re berated by a hive of fake news promoters who ask you the reason behind your continued racist-but-not-racist sentiments.
Your response here is crucial and you have to understand how powerful this message will be to the surrounding audience. Whether it be true is not the issue but that you must, at all cost, speak it public is for your own safety and continued dominance as a cultural and societal majority.
Always, as a last resort, as your most powerful and useful weapon to engage, navigate, and champion conversations about race, racism, and to dispel any accusations of racism use this card:
“I understand my comments were hurtful. I now know the history behind them and I meant no harm. Those of you who know me know that I love everyone.” Of course, this is untrue, but you mustn’t stop there. “And what is irrefutable is that I have a black friend. A good one, too. The good kind. And I wouldn’t dare hurt their feelings with these words, images, rally attendances, and dissemination of racist-but-not-racist materials if I knew just how bad they were. I’m a good person!”
We all understand just how many ways there are for you to conquer conversations on race and racism, and listen, I’m here to help. Today, we covered four different tactics you can use to overwhelm liberal snowflakes, social justice warriors, and trained university professors, with coordinated and well-landed blows to their false narratives about race and racism.
We have yet to cover the more covert tactics but we will someday. The more people talking about race, the more chances you’ll have to deflect, project, displace, erase, censure, and mock because there’s nothing more painful in the world than to admit that you are racist.
And if all else fails, I mean, if the qualifiers and denials fail; if the Token and Tolkien strategy falters; if the data is proved wrong with accurate, peer-reviewed, professionally published statistics from trusted and neutral sources; if the imaginary black friend coupon falls dead on its head you have one option left.
It’s the nuclear weapon in your arsenal that works every time.
Snot dripping, cherry red-faced, unkempt hair, open mouth, knee hugging, curled into a ball crying.
The greater your exasperation the higher the chances your accusers will fold their arms and the remaining complicit audience will come to your rescue.
Your racist-but-not-racist tears will always save you.
So try these tactics out and let us know how things turn out! We can’t wait to hear just how successful your future conversations about race and racism will be.
And remember, no matter how bad things get for you, they will always be worse for them. By them I mean minorities.
Thank you, once again, for reading another edition of Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice series. Now go and do the exact opposite, or don’t.
Welcome to Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice series where we give you the worst possible advice on just about anything concerning your family life, parenting, romance, money management, faith, and social interactions. Advice that is so poor that you’ll have no choice but to do the exact opposite of what is mentioned here.
On Friends and Friendships…
If you think I’m here to talk about the poorly made, bland, and unfortunately well-circulated show, FRIENDS, I am not. That show has done enough damage to its own reputation by going on air for as long as it did that I don’t even have to go out of my way to disparage it.
But I will, just for a bit. It’s a guilty pleasure. FRIENDS is horrible. It’s unfunny. It’s bland. It looks foggy. The cast is very talented, as are the writers, but its reception, say, compared to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, In Living Color, 30 Rock, The Office, or Walker, Texas Ranger, was just subpar. If there were ever a show that could topple FRIENDS from the list of poorly made and unfunny shows it would be That ‘70s Show.
Hate me. Love me. I don’t care. These shows were horrible. Please, stop watching them. Watch, I don’t know. Like, watch a Richard Simmons aerobics video. There’s more humor, energy, and substance in one Simmons workout video than in the entire series of FRIENDS.
There. I said.
Now, Back to Friends and Friendships…
Do you have friends you can rely on? Are they readily available to take your call? Do they respond to a text within the hour?
Friends are worth nothing.
You need help moving? Do it yourself. Break the bank a little and hire movers.
Are you low on cash and unable to qualify for a loan? Rob a bank. Try not to get caught.
Thinking of having friends over for Thanksgiving dinner? Forget about it. Why host a dinner when you can eat your meal alone and save on the bill?
Are you emotionally unstable and need someone to talk to? Someone on the other end of the phone who can listen and admonish you further? Someone who can advise you on what steps to take next? Someone to advise you on what changes you have to make to help life along? Advice that can help you understand yourself in a new light? Or someone who will just sit, listen, and weep with you in your struggles?
Disregard them. Suck it up. Hold it all in. Push those emotions and thoughts deeper into your subconscious because no one needs to hear what is going on in your mind.
Chances are you’ll bore them with that sob story.
The shorter a friendship is the better. Fewer are the things you have to reveal about yourself and fewer people around to make sure you’re not a serial killer or serial kidnapper or serial organization freak. They’re all one and the same thing.
And if you suspect someone is trying to befriend you, that someone is trying to approach you with an air of kindness and amicable fraternization, please shun them. Mock their looks. Mock the way they speak. Mock their talents and aspirations. Disparage their ideas and opinions. Criticize their political ideology, mock their faith, demonize their heroes, and denude them, verbally, in front of others.
There’s no better way to lose those pesky friends than to be the most anti-social individual in your workplace, church community, public library, public restrooms, private restrooms, and social gatherings.
Lose your friends. Get rid of them. You can do life, love, and marriage without them. Also, if your spouse is tempted with the idea of becoming your good friend or a relatively okay friend throughout your marriage, you may need to oust them from your friendless circle and keep them in the acquaintance/sexual partner zone. There’s no need to befriend your spouse. They will serve their purpose in money-making, bed-sharing; albeit, avoidable as well, inconvenient sessions of copulation, and yes, the disgusting event where you have to interact and converse with one another.
It is preferable that you allow your spouse the benefit of continuous and almost uninterrupted monologues. Should the conversation become dull just chime in from time to time with hmm, yeah, no, sure, exactly, okay, and the all too dangerous but at times necessary, did he or she really say that?
Under no circumstance should you ever ask your spouse how they really feel about (fill in the blank).
Never entertain a conjugal monologue with a question. This is a trap. This makes the recipient spouse believe you are finally open enough to engage in a dialogue. This is unacceptable.
Therefore, do not answer calls from familiars found in your contact list. Do not return text messages. If so, keep them in one-word or one-sentence responses. Do not allow yourself to interact, divulge, elaborate, or engage with people who would dare enter your circle of one.
Friends are overrated and useless, really. Internalize everything. If at all possible, whatever emotional distress you experience from this internalization and compartmentalization must be repressed time and again. You may visit a professional, so they’re called, these word-holes that take what you say and bounce it back to you with questions.
Psychologists, some of them are called. Avoid them. They learned to deal with humans from dealing with insolent dogs and loud bells. If possible, ask to speak with a psychiatrist. Speak slowly, these sixty-minute meetings can seem like an eternity so allow only one part truth and one part falsehood to come out of your mouth so you’re prescribed with the most potent downers and barbituates on the market. Take these as often as possible so you’re less likely to respond to people.
You have no friends. You are no one’s friend. And should a friendship ever develop allow it to be between yourself and your misery, which, no one should ever suspect you of having because no one will ever know who you are.
Slip in and out of meetings, functions, social (yuck) gatherings, and networking events without the slightest suspicion that you were ever there. Work. Breathe, quietly. Eat, alone, of course, your spouse allowing. And then die.
The fewer the people at your funeral, the better.
Pay the church ahead of time and let the priest or minister; or gardener for that fact, know that your funeral service is canceled and that no one ought to speak on your behalf because no one knows who you are and you don’t care to have anyone there in the first place.
You will come into this world, with the assistance of a woman you do not care for. You will live in the world with the assistance of people you do not need. And you will die, hopefully, yes, the only hope desired and sought after, the hope that you will die alone.
Banish your friends and end your friendships. There’s no need for them in this life and God… pray you, there is no afterlife where in which you’ll have to interact either with angels or with devils.
Note: This journal entry was originally posted to Facebook on May 26, 2020. A minor edit was made to this post by replacing a quote originally attributed to late Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias with a similar quote by another late Christian apologist, G.K. Chesterton.
A Journal Entry
The Old Testament prophet Haggai designated a word of admonishment for the Israelite people who had recently returned from exile. He reminds this religious nation that their temple, their main place of worship which was razed to the ground by the Babylonians remained in shambles, dilapidated to the point of shame. Mind you, to the Jew, the temple was second only to the Laws of Moses so forfeiting their attention to this structure meant they had forsaken their love for their divine law and their God.
The purpose of this post-exilic book is clearly stated in the first paragraph of chapter one from verses 2-6:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”
Haggai reminds the Israelites, from the king to the priests and the people, that no matter how great their harvest, how much food they stock up on, how much drink they consume, how much clothes they have, or how much much they earn from their work, it will never be enough.
Like a man forced to repeat the same feat over and over without cause or ultimate purpose were these people who were fattened by the luxuries of life but could not enjoy these delicacies because their attention had shifted from God to the telluric, the mundane, the materialism that corrupts and vanishes with time.
Their ardor for God had diminished so God allowed their pleasure of life to dissipate with it.
How telling of our times.
Today we replace our relationship with God with just about anything that would distract us from our need for Him. In a sense, we have replaced worship with entertainment to dull our sense of God’s greatness with an amplified repetitious uproar mistakenly called worship music. Instead of melodizing orthodoxy, we are content with mind-numbing, cultic-like rhythmic cycles of man-centered songs that accomplish not the humbling of man in the sight of his Creator but self-glorification. We’ve transformed our worship of God into the amplification and gratification of human emotions.
Our politicians have become our priests, our political party is our religion, our primer ministers, presidents, and monarchs are our demi-gods. And none of these has to date been able to do away with the uneasy feeling in our gut that we are one term or one policy away from catastrophic doom.
Advancements in our technological age and the age of information have given us the ability to eradicate many maladies and diseases whilst creating new ones in the human heart.
We are a wealthier nation, people, and society today than any other that has ever existed yet we struggle with the reality of income inequality, corruption, bribery, bankruptcy, and homelessness.
Our affinity for life is blasted through social media but our forests, closets, rivers, and more are filled with the bodies of people who have resorted to suicide. For them, life was too painful to deal with or perhaps too dull to live through.
We are everything for everyone accomplishing all things in the name of life but are unable to determine when life begins, who gives it value, why it exists, and where it is destined to go once we close our eyes for good. This conundrum has caused more anxiety in the morally upright atheist who aspires to live a better life but doesn’t know why he should than it does the immoral cleric who thinks he understands the purpose of life but fails to live up to it.
G.K. Chesterton put it this way in his book The Everlasting Man:
“Pessimism is not in being tired of evil but in being tired of good. Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy. It is when for some reason or other the good things in a society no longer work that the society begins to decline; when its food does not feed, when its cures do not cure, when its blessings refuse to bless. We might almost say that in a society without such good things we should hardly have any test by which to register a decline; that is why some of the static commercial oligarchies like Carthage have rather an air in history of standing and staring like mummies, so dried up and swathed and embalmed that no man knows when they are new or old.”
We are fat. We are full. We are rich. We are bold. But all in all, we are empty because we have forgotten about the temple of God.
As God told the remnant of Israel then He tells us today: Consider your ways.
It is true that we need not visit a temple, a structure, a church by which to reach God for He is above and beyond the temporal establishment.
The new temple in which we worship God is in our heart, mind, and soul and we continue to ignore not just this new temple but the God who created it. This philosophical complacency irrevocably wrests our life in the plain of meaninglessness.
It is no surprise king Solomon alludes to the notion that life under the sun is meaningless, ad nauseam, in truth stating that life without God, without a Creator, purpose, meaning, morality, destiny; life without the Person who originates and culminates the reason for our very existence and pleasure becomes unequivocally without the slightest sense, notion, touch or idea of meaning.
I pray our people, our nation, our society may come to terms with this reality that replacing God with wealth, health, prosperity, pleasure, experiential bliss, spiritualism, Winfrey-ism, scientism, nationalism, socialism, capitalism, oligarchism, and you name it will result in nihilism.
The human heart is a vacuum and once you remove God from His rightful place in your life you replace that void with something else. Something less.
Consider your ways. It is time to rebuild your relationship with God.
I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. No, not that kind of stress. Not the kind of stress where one has six projects due at work before the end of the week, a flat tire, (though mine does have a leak), sick children who need to get into a doctor, marital issues, and whatnot.
No. Not that kind of stress.
Thank God our tire is somewhat alright and we’ll get into a shop soon enough to repair it.
Our girls are healthy as can be. Suspiciously healthy, actually. When kids are running around the place breaking things and laughing at your face when you confront them about it I suspect they’ll do just fine in the not-too-distant dystopian future world.
I’m married to my best friend and as amazing as that can be sometimes I bore my wife and other times she bores me but what is life if not boredom persevering? We’re content. In love. All that stuff that doesn’t happen on the Bachelor and Bachelorette. None of that drama.
Yes, of course, I annoy my wife, with frivolous consistency, and it’s second nature at this point but my marriage isn’t an area of stress for me. Not that kind of stress.
I’m stressed and this stress has welled up in me long enough for it to cause conflicting emotions.
I’m stressed and yes, I’m angry, frustrated even, at how much trauma I have been exposed to in my short thirty years of life, but more so, and in-depth, in the last five years.
Audible trauma, stories revealed in podcasts. Men, women, and children, hurt, and their stories haunt me still.
Situational trauma at the news of people I knew, people I learned to love, who had a full and healthy life ahead of them being swept away from our world by murderous intent. Homicide, so vibrant, alive, and efficacious, seeping into my circle of friends and family.
The trauma of having family members pass from cancer while others are incarcerated because they drink and then they commit domestic abuse. I’m glad they’re paying for their crime but they’re family so it doesn’t reduce the pain felt.
The trauma of being verbally diminished and spiritually reduced by a body of believers I had come to trust and love. My race, to them, a mockery. My hair, to them, a mockery. My past and continual hurt, to them, unimportant and dismissed.
Relational trauma of watching white, black, brown, and yellow bodies collapse under the weight of gunfire.
Gunfire in the streets from pistols, rifles, shotguns, and homemade bombs. Their bodies flopping to the floor, unable, though willing, to get back up.
Gunfire at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect them, those who patrol our streets ready at a moment’s notice to offer their help, their protection, their service are the same who give chase, then stop, then aim, then fire and kill.
I am traumatized, continually, by conversations, imagery, audio, and written material of people succumbing to violence and it is a dangerous place to be, mentally and spiritually.
I’m heartbroken by conversations I have with some, online and others, in person, where hostility is present in their stance and if not there, then in their words.
I’m more aware now of history and perhaps this awareness is killing the kindness in me.
The more I read, the more I venture to learn, to seek to find and be found by my history; by our history, our shared history, the more pain I feel.
I’m not sure how much longer I will be on this adventure, this escapade, this avenue of research and understanding concerning me, my people, my history, or western society’s history before I come to a point where I am either numb or incensed.
I try, as hard as possible to shy away from either/or scenarios but I am crumbling under this weight myself.
Numb or incensed.
Numb or enraged.
The danger in me becoming numb is that no matter how much more trauma I am exposed to or how much pain I am privy to I will act robotically, without sympathy, empathy, and compassion. I will be the product of time plus matter plus chance without a greater scheme or purpose other than breathing, functioning under the whims of my chemistry, and ultimately succumbing to my existential nothingness at the end of life.
Becoming numb, at times, can seem enticing. Feeling nothing in the face of pain and suffering is an escape, a defensive mechanism within me to protect the deeper me, the unrevealed me from further hurt.
Or, perhaps, I may find comfort in rekindling the flame of activism, movement, pressure, and force.
Will I become another name on a poster, a face on a shirt, a name on a list as the result of my rage?
Rage accomplishes much you know.
It was rage against the British tax that led to the American revolution.
It was rage against the encroaching Union that led the Confederacy to secede and then face an embarrassing loss in the American Civil War.
It was rage that led American souls westward of the pacific to nuclearize Japan in the name of life, liberty, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.
Rage pulled the trigger on the pistol that ended Hitler’s life.
Rage is the fire that burned Dresden, Berlin, and Tokyo to the ground.
Rage reduced an already reduced Middle East to dust under the thermobaric bombs of US Airforce fight planes.
And rage led nearly two dozen men to plot the world trade center terrorist attack.
Rage led young white men down Charlottesville streets with torches and violence coursing through their veins until one of them point the front bumper of his vehicle at a group of protestors.
I’m stuck in between numbness and rage in the face of continual abuse of power, denial of trauma and racism, denial of the legacy of racism and trauma, denial of abuse all around.
My head is throbbing from it all. A cycle of pain and then it’s denial by the same perpetrators.
I’ve been taught my entire life, taught by my parents, my faith, my literature, my bible, and its moral compass that numbness and rage are to be dismissed because there is more to life than these two alternatives which are no alternatives at all.
But I’ve seen nothing, in history that is, but rage from those who brought Christianity westward and numbness in those who were forced to come westward under the threat of death.
I trust that I will spend the year 2021 in this research, seeking, further, to understand why, when, and where it all went wrong concerning these things, these hostilities, the animosity from one group toward another, without cause or instigation.
And come January 2022 I hope that I find relief outside of numbness or rage duality I’m stuck within.
I don’t want to be paralyzed by numbness as a means to cope.
Nor do I want to be driven by rage as means to devastate.
Both lead nowhere. Both lead somewhere.
I pray for comfort in this pursuit but if comfort is lacking I pray for sustenance and grace to continue.
I know it is not in vain. It can’t be.
I know that I can rely on a Creator whose providence is more able to understand these things, these sequences, these events, these atrocities, and monstrosities, and I know that my limitations are evident.
But for now, as I learn and listen, as I watch and give witness to so much trauma I struggle with my emotions. And there are days, days like today, where I feel that my emotions will become the driving force deciding my next steps.
In light of the pain, the hate, the trauma, the loss of life, and the dehumanization I am continually exposed to daily, I find comfort in God. Comfort in my wife’s embrace. In my kids tearing our house down. In my newborn’s smile. In conversation with friends. In reading a forgettable book. And later, an unforgettable one. In Danish pop music and German hip-hop.
I pray I finish this task, unscathed. It’s impossible, really, because the wounds have already been made to my heart.
So at this point, I must simply finish.
Come 2022 I’ll study cheese. The history of cheese. Or maybe I’ll take a break from learning anything history-related for a time.
I recall our home group discussing this revelatory chapter from the ancient post-exilic autobiography of Nehemiah. This Jewish cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes was born in exile and later managed to secure a temporary leave of work in Persia to take on the role of construction manager in Jerusalem. With the king’s blessing, financial support, and minor military escort, Nehemiah found himself at the entrance of a dilapidated city-state where his task was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
He is faced with the level of destruction the city had endured under the wrath of a now-defunct Babylonian empire. That which he had heard from his parents in tales and stories he now sees with his own eyes. The land that was promised to his forefathers lay in ruins, stones and the remaining citizens within, shattered and scattered.
His first opposition arose from the wanton efforts of foreign rulers and leaders who had settled in and around the crumbled city of God, their might on full display as their intentions were laid bare before Nehemiah.
If you think you’re going to rebuild this city, dear boy, you are wrong. We won’t allow it. We’ll take your life if we have to.
And Nehemiah, unafraid of the taunts of a physical and present threat, reverberates opprobrium so harsh the malefactors disappear from the scene for some time. His rebuttal was divinely backed, morally sound, and characteristically prophetic.
Nehemiah then encourages the local Jerusalemites to rebuild the walls of the city and manages to convince local cities and minor-states to join this effort. The construction is underway and we now know that it comes to completion in a record-breaking fifty-two days.
But what we miss out on is what takes place in the middle of this building process. In the fifth chapter of this thirteen chapter autobiography, Nehemiah faces troubles from within the walls.
He is presented with a social and moral dilemma where a famine sweeps through the land, Jerusalem’s enemies encircle their trading routes, and interrupting and disrupting their much-needed logistics to supply food and military defense. To further complicate this national disaster, the wealthy within the city begin to demand interest from the poor, hold their fields hostage against them, take their daughters as slaves as collateral for their debt, and mistreat the less fortunate as if they were dung.
Nehemiah hears of these issues from the outcry of the people and his response is heroically commendable.
“When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.”
He set off to produce a case against his fellow countrymen before the general congregation of Jerusalemites. He demanded their immediate compliance, demanding they liberate those taken in as slaves, return the fields and livelihoods of those who were robbed of them, and repent of their avarice in the face of a national financial crisis.
Nehemiah does not allow injustice on a local scale; the secondary and possibly tertiary issues of the time, to prolong its stay in the hearts and minds of the Jews. He set off to immediately correct the wrongs his people faced and to restore and restabilize something that had lost its equilibrium within his society.
Wrongs were righted. Injustice lost its play to justice. Morale was restored. The poor cared for. The slave set free. And the reconstruction project for this great city was finished in less than two months’ time.
Murder Trial: Justice Delayed
What we can take from Nehemiah’s troubles in light of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial is that when presented with evil and wrongs our resolve is to demonstrate a posture of righteousness (doing the right thing and being just). This does not involve self-righteousness (gloating over one’s perceived good behavior) but one’s proclivity toward righting wrongs fairly and expeditiously.
We’re presented with a complex situation where a white police officer, sworn to serve and protect his community, is being charged with killing an unarmed, non-threatening, non-combative, hand-cuffed black man.
The world watched as George Floyd, the victim of this case, was brought out of a grocery store, hand-cuffed, manhandled into the back of a police car, and then pulled from it by four police officers and here cellphone cameras capture the moment where Derek Chauvin places George Floyd on pavement and places his knee behind Geroge’s neck and there it stays for the total of eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
The world watched and re-watched this grueling scene as George gasped for oxygen, begged for a moment of reprieve so that he might breathe through the arrest and his calls for help and statements of lack of oxygen went unheard and ignored by the four arresting officers.
What is of great import is that Derek Chauvin has been arrested for the senseless and unnecessary death of a man in handcuffs. What is of greater import is that Derek Chauvin faces a fair and just court system that will right this wrong.
Our expression should mimic that of Nehemiah in the face of a wrong or as we have seen numerous times within the United States policing system, systemic and systematic wrongs that have yet to be reckoned with.
Our expression should not be retaliatory but redemptive. In hope of restoring everyone’s humanity, that of the person whose dignity was violated and that of the violaters who degraded and denigrate their own humanity by progressing through their evil actions and later covering it all up.
Independent of the verdict that is given at the end of this trial our resolve should not alter. We are instructed by our Creator to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. We’re not factious zealots who are ready, at a moment’s notice, to take up arms, torches, and bombs to bring buildings down in the name of a good cause.
Nehemiah assembled a people who knew of the Laws of God, called upon their memory and conscience to consider the fear of the Lord (respect and reverence of God), and to consider the weight of their wrongs compared to the weight of God’s justice should they fail to rectify the wrongs committed against their fellow countrymen.
Our contemporaries function upon a secular and all-too pluralistic system but that does not stop us, nor them, from seeking justice. And should they fail to live up to the laws, morals, ethics, and systems we have all built together, that is not a case nor an opportunity for us to forsake our peacemaking efforts to riot and destroy in the name of love.
There are cases where we are called to act upon these things but this case is not it.
Nehemiah called for restitution, invoked God and priests to the public square to make sure every wrong was righted, and should the malefactors fail to correspond to the promise of reconciliation then there would be spiritual and social consequences.
Let our resolve be unique in a face of a world that seeks to crucify anyone who does wrong. Our Christ was crucified not only that we could seek justice and offer mercy and forgiveness, but also that no one else need be crucified in the wake of riotous fervor and rage.
This will be best demonstrated after Chauvin is convicted, as I believe he will be convicted, if not for murder then possibly manslaughter, and his sentencing of lesser consequence and weight than that of a tax-evader or say, a mom who lies about her address so her child can attend a better school in a different district.
Our nation is ready to erupt at the slightest mention of injustice but our resolve is to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with and before our God. Meaning, again, independent of the verdict and sentence, we will not stop rebuilding nor will we stop loving God with all our heart, mind, and soul; nor will we stop loving and fighting for our neighbor, whose justice was denied. Namely, the late George Floyd.
And to conclude, should the question be asked of us in light of this delicate and all-too painful situation, How Should We Behave? I hope we follow in the footsteps of the great and humble cupbearer, Nehemiah:
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Ch.1 v.4
Then I prayed to the God of heaven. Ch. 2 v. 4
To which he found a response from God and a response for his issues:
The God of heaven will give us success. Ch. 2 v. 20
And should our efforts as followers and children of the God of heaven mirror that of Nehemiah then rest assured that no matter what happens our contemporaries will know that we are children of the Light and Truth.
You’ve read a passage from the Bible. Great. You feel as if God is speaking to you from that passage. Greater yet. But is He?
Was it God or indigestion? Not sure? Let’s find out together.
Expository preaching genius, Dr. Steven J. Lawson defines exegesis this way:
“The word is a transliteration of the Greek word exegesis, which means an explanation or interpretation. […] It is a compound word, combining hegeomai, which means ‘to lead,’ with the prefix ek, meaning ‘out of.’ Literally, it means ‘to lead out of.’ The idea is to lead the meaning out of what has been said.”
Whenever we approach the Bible and we read a couple of verses or chapters, the tendency is to apply all of the wonderful things we read to our lives and attribute all the bad things to someone else. Especially, people, we do not like.
But we have to quiz ourselves on how we interpret scripture. How we understand the words we read and how our minds work when reading them.
Out of the passages listed below, tell me which ones you believe apply to you and which ones do not.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors youI will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:2-3
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.” – Isaiah 54:17
Take a breather. How we doing? 3-for-3 so far?
Feeling good? Are you sure? Cool. Let’s keep going.
“When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” – Genesis 4:12
“‘Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the Lord, ‘who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin;’“ – Isaiah 30:1
“Woe to you,[…], 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. […] Youserpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” – Matthew 27-28, 33
But that ain’t talking to me tho!
How did you do on our mini-quiz? Were you six-for-six or three out of six in applying these verses to your own life?
Why do we hold on to these beautiful verses and disregard the sad and gloomy ones?
I believe it’s because we’re interpreting scripture with an eisegetical approach (eisegesis, the interpretation of a text as of the Bible by reading into it one’s own ideas). This is a misleading practice, contrary to exegesis, where we bring the text out. We should not infuse ourselves into it.
Like, instead of placing our head through a window to look into a house to study the contents therein (please don’t do this, it’s trespassing and super creepy) we look at a house from a distance and make assumptions of what’s inside, who’s inside, and how the layout of the house is without ever stepping a foot inside. We believe everything in that house belongs to us. We claim its possessions for ourselves.
Like a man who claims to be a certified and experienced diving instructor but has never left the comfort of his home and computer to physically experience deep-sea diving. He studies the animals only from a limited and distanced approach, unaware of how these creatures move, how they feel, or how they react to divers. He is unaware of the temperature drop in these depths. His scuba-diving skills, expertise, and history are limited to a glass screen with very limited information. He may have studied the intricate network of coral reefs and their effect on the eco-system but he does not understand the awe and marvel of swimming with the creatures that live there.
We tend to approach the Bible in the same way. But why?
I believe it’s because, one, we’re selfish. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want all the promises, blessings, and booties of God’s marvelous works on earth? Shoot. I do! But it’s a selfish way to approach God’s divine book. Thus, it’s a limited way of reading scripture.
And two, we were never taught how to truly exegete, interpret, study scripture, and correctly apply the words or principles of the Bible to our lives.
Too many of us fail to realize how many layers the Bible really has and this limitation has left us wanting or with a distorted understanding of a biblical text.
Dr. Steven J. Lawson illustrates this best in his article on Embracing Exegesis (emphasis added by me):
“[…] the exegete must also take into consideration the cultural background of his passage. Rightly understanding its meaning requires that he know something of the customs in the ancient Middle East. Without the knowledge of the manners and customs of the ancient Jews and the surrounding empires and nations, it will be hard, if not impossible, for him to grasp what many texts actually mean. Consequently, it is incumbent upon the expositor to view Scripture in light of how the different aspects of daily life were conducted long ago.
This requires an understanding of life on many different levels in Israel, Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Asia Minor, Europe. This means researching the political environment of the day. This includes a knowledge of kings, pharaohs, caesars, tetrarchs, and centurions, such as understanding their jurisdiction and how they operated. There must be the knowledge of ancient social customs such as banquets, parties, meals, betrothals, weddings, and funerals. There must be insight into ancient economic policies such as banking practices involving loans and interest rates. There must also be an understanding of ancient military procedures, including battles, chariots, shields, swords, helmets, and the like.
In addition, the exegete must have a working knowledge of the climate conditions and weather in the Middle East. He must have background information concerning the agricultural procedures of ancient farming such as sowing seed, tiling soil, pruning branches, gathering grain, and enduring famines. He must know about the various native flowers of Israel such as myrrh, aloes, and cassia. He must also be acquainted with the minerals indigenous to Israel- brimstone, miry clay, mire, flint, gold, iron, and silver.
Bridging the cultural gap also requires a basic knowledge of zoological life in ancient Israel and the surrounding region. This includes accessing information regarding bees, dogs, badgers, doves, sea monsters, eagles, flies, foxes, sheep, horses, and more. He must also research shepherding practices in ancient Israel, attending to the importance of a flock, fold, gatekeeper, rod, staff, green pastures, still waters, wolves, and the like. In addition, he must know about hunters in the ancient world, who used bow and arrow, sling, snare, net, pit, and more.”
You’re probably wondering who invests this much time into biblical studies? Ha. Not many of us. But is it important? Absolutely.
I mean I cannot emphasize how important it is from laity to clergy, from church visitors to a doctor of biblical studies to invest this much sweat, brain thought, time, and rigor into their biblical studies.
When we fail to properly exegete, or rather, intepret scriptural texts we attribute certain passages of scripture to ourselves that God never intended for us in the first place. When scripture is taken out of context it becomes a promoter of all things and nothing at all.
We distort scripture we promote slavery.
We distort scripture to control women.
We distort and decontextualize passages to abuse those under us and promote a culture of secrecy where predators reign supreme.
We distort scripture we elevate prosperity preachers to millionaire status.
We distort scripture to promote genocide, infanticide, matricide, patricide, homicide, and good-television-shows-icide.
We distort the simplicity of a text to validate poor conduct in public office, sear our conscious to overlook character flaws, and feign repentance when we’re proven wrong but go on in our error.
We distort scripture to rationalize sin, downplay its effect on us, the potential for the collateral damage it has on our family and community, and use it to soothe our egos.
Jeremiah 29 was intended for a generation that was destined for exile because of their progressively insidious sins against God, God’s Laws, and against their neighbors. God first promised them a swift and complete judgment. God also promised them a future, posterity, and that He would redeem them from the nation to which they would be exiled.
Still, we willingly attribute that promise of prosperity, security, and goodwill to ourselves, disregarding the setting it was made in, the verses and chapters that precede that verse, and the verses and chapters that proceed it. We disregard the cultural, political, religious collapse, and Jeremiah’s ministerial purpose in Judah.
But of course, reading a verse like this, right before going to bed or right before a worship song in a Sunday morning service or right before taking that exam you didn’t study for brings you comfort, right?
When we remove the time in which a passage was written, who the author was, his audience, the surrounding conflicts, both military and religious conflicts we then violate the text and decontextualize it to mean just about anything we want it to mean.
This is dangerous.
How, then, should we study the Bible? How do we read our Bibles and know when God is speaking to us or when He was speaking to someone else?
Well, let’s consider the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, for example. When you open your bible to this book I assume you already know at least two things about it before ever reading a single word from it.
It’s a book from the bible.
It’s in the Old Testament.
Now, we must understand who Jeremiah is and where his book fits in the biblical canon. Join me, in the breakdown of the image below:
The author of the book is Jeremiah, and later in the book, we realize Jeremiah has a co-author, named Baruch, the son of Neriah. So first, it is very helpful to know who the author or authors of the book you are reading are.
We know Jeremiah is the son of Hilkiah. This helps us differentiate between Jeremiah the prophet and any other Jeremiah’s mentioned in the Bible. Imagine meeting Jake or Lisa in your new job and later finding out there are six Jake’s and three Lisa’s who work there. You learn to distinguish them on paper by their last names. Easy. But back then, men were distinguished by their father’s name and women by their father or husband’s name.
Jeremiah is the son of a priest. This gives us context into the household Jeremiah was born into. Imagine being raised by a religious man who upholds high moral standards, cares for his family and community, is surrounded by holy texts and scrolls, and takes prayer and worship seriously. The context of Jeremiah’s upbringing is crucial to understanding his tone and message.
Jeremiah wrote this book because of what God told him to say. So this is not a journal of his own thoughts. It’s what God has commanded him to say.
Jeremiah’s ministry as a prophet began during the reign of King Josiah (circa 640 BC). Imagine the geographical makeup of Israel 600 years before Christ. Imagine the great empires of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon on the horizon. Think of the clothing, the jewelry, the food choices, the desert, the mountains, the heat of summer, or the chill of winter. Think of the wealth of a post-Solomon empire and the poverty in which peasants who were forced to make their residence outside Jerusalem’s walls have to live with. Consider these things as you read this book.
Understand that Israel was a united kingdom under its first monarch, King Saul, then King David, and lastly King Solomon. After King Solomon’s death, Israel split into northern and southern kingdoms. The north, named Israel, with its capital city, Schechem, was reigned by an insurrectionist named Jeroboam. The south, named Judah, its capital city, Jerusalem, was reigned by King Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. The politics! The drama! The divided kingdom! This is Game of Thrones’ turf! There’s too much here to ignore!
Jeremiah began his ministry during King Josiah’s reign (c. 640 BC) and prophesied to the southern nation of Judah until the destruction of Jerusalem, by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (c. 587 BC). So Jeremiah ministered, preached, and prophesied fresh into his youth and well into his old age, where after the destruction of Jerusalem he sought refuge from the Babylonians in the neighbor nation of Egypt.
That’s an introductory view of the first three verses of the book of Jeremiah, folks! When we grasp the reality of these individuals, their upbringing, their cultural realities, the fears and threats of annihilation they faced every day, and the political, cultural, religious, and geological struggles they faced we can better understand the context of a passage and the book we are reading.
If we approach every passage we read by diving into the book as one dives into the sea to explore a life rich coral reef, we can indulge in the beautiful life and principles of scripture.
But when we stand on a boat and only squint at what may be at the bottom of the sea we miss out on so much. Our perception of what is down there is skewed, limited, distant, glassy, and murky.
We must dive into the text to meet the author of that book, the recipients of that prophecy, psalm, blessing or curse, and how God is glorified by the words written in that passage.
And what is more important than knowing the author of a book in the Bible is knowing the God of the Bible, who inspired these writers to pen these books in the first place.
Why should God be the focus of every passage we read in the Bible? Because we can learn more about His character, His conduct, His personality, His motives, His goals, and His ultimate purpose for creation: salvation.
Take Jeremiah 29 and read it within the context, the historical time frame, and the cultural significance is was written in and you’ll understand that God used the prophet Jeremiah to warn the southern nation of Judah that Babylon was going to destroy Jerusalem and take her citizens into captivity for seventy years. And here, in the twenty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah, God reminds the Jews that even though they will go into captivity He will not abandon them for He has a greater plan for this nation; a plan for their welfare, their future. As their city burns to the ground, along with their prized temple of Solomon and the walls that surround it, God reminds them that even though all hope is lost for them He will not allow this nation and people to be wiped from the face of the earth.
When we read this passage, within context, it makes more sense and it glorifies God!
And sure enough, seventy years later He kept His promise. Read 2 Chronicles chapter 14, then Daniel chapter 9, and then Ezra chapter 1.
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.“
“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.“
“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
Notice the continuance of prophecy, promise, fulfillment, and progression. There’s a linear pattern to how scripture progresses through time and God is both outside and inside that timeline. He steps in at times to hint on things to come. All in all that timeline ultimately focuses on the person of Jesus. From Genesis through to Revelation, all sixty-six books point to one person: Christ.
Not to us.
So the rule, well, not the rule but my personal suggestion for approaching scripture is the same I would advise someone who wants to scuba-dive. There better prepared you are to dive the better you can explore the oceans seabed.
Don’t stick to the surface of a text and apply whatever blessing you read to yourself and whatever curse you find to your cantankerous neighbors.
Explore the author. His audience. His world, geographically, archeologically, politically, religiously, topographically, romantically, prophetically, physically, spiritually, and wholly.
Take larger junks of text. Instead of settling for one or two powerful verses, spend time reading the chapter before and also the chapter after for context.
Sometimes we miss the meaning of a passage or who the audience is because we land in the middle of a story. We can’t truly appreciate the end of a story if we start in the middle of it.
God is greater
And discover the God who inspired that text. It is true that Jeremiah 29 may not be directed at you, specifically, but it’s comforting to know that our God is a Holy God who does not allow sin to go unpunished and at the same time He is a merciful God. He keeps His promises to His people. And when you read texts like Genesis 12 or Isaiah 54 you realize that God is greater than the blessings He bestowed on Abraham and He is greater than our suffering should we encounter it. We are not dependent upon blessings and comfort to understand and appreciate God’s redemptive story for mankind.
Through scripture, God gives us a front-row seat on how He works to redeem mankind to Himself through Jesus Christ.
So next time you’re wondering if that passage about milk and honey, blessings on blessings on blessings, the hedge of protection, and a prophecy of wealth is intended for you, well, spend more time researching the context of the passage you’re reading than trying to make that verse or concept about you.
This will help you understand if God is speaking to you from His character, which is revealed through scripture or if you’re just experiencing indigestion.
That warm and fuzzy feeling in your gut may just be the burritos you had for dinner last night. Not the voice of God.
Studying the Bible this way, with proper and contextual interpretation, will help you appreciate passages like the one below, much more:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” – John 17-20-23
“Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” – John 20:29
And these verses:
“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:9-11
And finally these:
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” – Revelation 22:12-13
With that in mind, with God in mind, with His face in focus instead of what His hands can give, you will better appreciate the Bible when you read it in context, of course.
Dive deeper than before. Read more than before. And look to the character of God. The Person of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And only then will you know if God is speaking to you or not. When you get to know Him personally.
Questions to consider
Why is it important that you feel protected? Does God promise everyone protection at all times?
Which book in Bible do you find hard to properly exegete/interpret?
When reading the Bible, are you an Exegete or an Eisegete? Which of the two do you think glorify God best?
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” – 1 John 4:20-21 NIV
When we turn our attention to the news we are caught off guard by the prevalence of images that demonstrate chaos, violence, disorder, injustice, and fire.
From burning businesses to police vehicles engulfed in flames, angry citizens who are driven by their thirst for vengeance or chaos are hellbent on destroying every institution that is connected to the image of the thing they hate.
If we spend ten minutes on social media we will be exposed to violence in the streets of Minneapolis, looting in Chicago, beatings in Los Angeles, vandalism in New York City, and sentiments of insurrection worldwide. From New Zealand to Germany and now, of all places, Montreal and Edmonton, we see people filled with anger taking to the streets to protest.
A Christian may stop and think about why this is happening? Why are these people so angry? Why have city centers become a battlefield between police officers dressed in riot gear and civilians armed with rocks and bricks?
In simpler terms, it is this: people are tired of witnessing injustice; racial injustice to be exact.
If you have been in a hole for the past week you might have missed the incident that ignited this global outrage, further damaging race relations in the United States of America; and to that effect, the world.
Minneapolis police officers were called to a convenience store because a cashier suspected a man of paying for his items with a counterfeit bill. This is not the issue.
His name is George Floyd, an African American man, loved and respected by his family, friends, and community.
George is then accosted by police, handcuffed, and later pinned to the ground by the same officers. What happens next is played and replayed on every video platform in the world millions of times.
One of the four officers involved in this arrest drives his knee into the neck of the suspect, whose only crime until now is being suspected of giving a store clerk a counterfeit bill. The bill was later proved to be real. The policeman continually kneels on George’s neck, compressing his spinal cord, restricting his ability to breathe which sends excruciating pain down George’s back.
George, as you may see in the video, is handcuffed and there are two officers kneeling on his legs, one is kneeling on his neck as his face is hard-pressed into the hot concrete street, and a fourth officer is attempting to disperse the surrounding crowd as George begins to complain that he cannot breathe.
He gasps for air, begins to bleed from his nose; he complains of pain everywhere on his body. At one moment, he calls out to his mother, who is deceased.
This officer kneels on George Floyd’s neck for a total of eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
Eight minutes. Forty-six seconds.
George closes his eyes, struggles to breathe, and then stops breathing altogether. That was George Floyd’s last moments on this earth.
An emergency medical team arrives on-site to attend to George and only then does the officer finally remove his knee from George’s neck. He is taken to the hospital where he is pronounced dead on arrival.
The officers then disperse the angry crowd who have witnessed the killing of this innocent man. They return to their precincts, still employed and protected by the shield and system that allows them to get away with such a heinous crime.
It wasn’t until days later that the four officers involved in this killing were fired. Only one of them was later arrested and then charged with a crime. A week later, all four had been charged with taking George Floyd’s life or aiding in the crime.
These killings are not uncommon in the United States.
According to the Southern Law Poverty Center, far too many people of color have faced prejudice, disfavor, and violence by a systemic institution that hates them simply because of the color of their skin.
Here are five sad stories that have immortalized this reality in American history:
April 9, 1962 · Taylorsville, Mississippi
Cpl. Roman Ducksworth Jr., a military police officer stationed in Maryland, was on leave to visit his sick wife when he was ordered off a bus by a police officer and shot dead. The police officer may have mistaken Ducksworth for a “freedom rider” who was testing bus desegregation laws.
September 15, 1963 · Birmingham, Alabama
Addie Mae Collins (14), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14), and Cynthia Wesley (14) were getting ready for church services when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing all four of the school-age girls. The church had been a center for civil rights meetings and marches.
June 21, 1964 · Philadelphia, Mississippi
James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner, young civil rights workers, were arrested by a deputy sheriff and then released into the hands of Klansmen who had plotted their murders. They were shot, and their bodies were buried in an earthen dam.
August 20, 1965 · Hayneville, Alabama
Jonathan Myrick Daniels, an Episcopal Seminary student in Boston, had come to Alabama to help with black voter registration in Lowndes County. He was arrested at a demonstration, jailed in Hayneville and then suddenly released. Moments after his release, he was shot to death by a deputy sheriff.
April 4, 1968 · Memphis, Tennessee
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, was a major architect of the Civil Rights Movement. He led and inspired major non-violent desegregation campaigns, including those in Montgomery and Birmingham. He won the Nobel peace prize. He was assassinated as he prepared to lead a demonstration in Memphis.
It would be a disservice to believe that these horrific and violent undertakings have stopped. American civil rights activists, many of them devout Christians, protested peacefully, suffered shame and bodily injury, and some gave their lives so that black and colored Americans could be seen and treated as equal, not just in the eyes of the law but also in the eyes of the white American church.
We cannot forget the sad and disgusting trail of slavery the United States was founded on. We cannot forget how the country was so divided on if they should or should not be allowed to retain the ability to own and abuse slaves. Black slaves. More Americans lost their lives during the four years of the Civil War than in any other war where Americans were involved. An estimated 620,000 men had to die so that slavery could be abolished. Let that number soak for a minute.
After African-Americans were liberated from their masters, many had nowhere to work, to live, or to go. Many if not most did not know how to read or write. Their body’s carried the scars and marks of years of abuse and rape. Their psychological framework was destroyed by the generational destruction of their identity. They endured three hundred and thirty-nine years of slavery only to be delivered from bondage to poverty. The reconstruction era allowed for free slaves to return to their former masters and work for pennies. Free only to return to a different form of slavery.
At the same time, shortly after the war, the south side of the country created a racist faction who called themselves Klansmen, whose sole purpose was to terrorize the black community and anyone who dared defend it. They raped, intimidated, beat, shot, hung, dragged people by their necks with vehicles and horses. These klansmen would lynch black Americans boys and men because they made eye contact with white women. Klansmen would bomb meetings, gatherings, churches, and peaceful protests. They would fire their rifles, shotguns, and pistols indiscriminately into homes, schools, churches, and public spaces where they knew black Americans would congregate.
Shortly after this era, Jim Crow laws were put into effect by local and federal institutions to prohibit the development of black Americans within their community. They were not allowed to ride on the same bus as white Americans and if they did they would have to sit in the back of the bus. They were denied loans from banks. They were denied the opportunity for jobs they were qualified for. They were denied entry into all-white schools. They were denied the opportunity to live in a better community simply because that community was an all-white community.
Thus the diaspora of the negro man, woman, and child into the United States through slavery, the war that was fought to keep them enslaved, the klansmen who were bent on their destruction, and the Jim Crow laws that prevented them from evolving and advancing led to the Civil Rights era where blacks and whites, mostly Christian people, walked side by side for a better world where one would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Slavery is gone. The American reconstruction era is gone. The klansmen have been outlawed and deemed a terrorist organization. Jim Crow segregation, red-lining, and discriminatory laws have been outlawed.
But what fueled all of these ungodly crimes against people of color in the United States of America is still with us and very much alive today.
It is called racism.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”
We would be dishonest with ourselves if we turned a blind eye to how the church has dealt with or better said, ignored the topic of racism in the past.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest accumulation of baptist churches in the United States admits to its past of prejudice, division, segregation, the not hiring ministers and clergy of color, intentionally and unintentionally excluding African-Americans from worship, membership, and leadership. They not only failed to support the Civil Rights Activists of the 1950s and 1960s but opposed their ideas altogether.
We would be remiss to think that sentiments of segregation vanished from our church gatherings at the end of the civil rights era.
First Baptist Church of Naples, Florida, had intended on electing a new senior pastor to their church in 2019. Marcus Hayes, a very much qualified minister was loved and accepted by FBC members and his name was cast in the ballot for the possibility of becoming their next senior pastor. Minister Marcus Hayes is an African-American man. Once votes were counted Hayes accomplished an 81% approval vote from the church body to take on the role and leadership of the church. But, because he failed to meet the required 85% vote count necessary he was not permitted to fill this ministerial role. 1,552 members voted “yes” whilst 365 voted “no.”
News later surfaced to the church board that there were sentiments, letters, online chat groups who made it their goal to vote against minister Marcus Hayes because he was an African-American man. A concerted effort by possible 365 members to fight against the possibility of being under the leadership of a black man.
FBC’s executive pastor, John Edie, when speaking about racial prejudices that were behind this “no” vote said he “wants to make sure this cancer is dealt with.”
This cancer permeates through Christom time and again because it goes unmentioned, hidden, ignored, and at times, suppressed from the pulpit. History has shown that the people who devoted their lives to Christ on a sweltering hot Sunday morning church services were the same people who were throwing rocks at people of color during the civil rights protests. Many of them brandished their leather bibles from the pulpit by morning and would later visit a radio station where they could brandish their venomous tongues against their colored counterparts.
It is not an easy past to admit but it is one we must revisit because we are seeing the residue of a prejudiced church resurface and that cannot exist.
We must understand our brothers and sisters of color. We must see our brothers and sisters of color. We must listen to their cries for help when they are oppressed by a system that sees them as less than.
We must acknowledge the value of their life for Christ did the same with us. When we fail to do so we fail our local calling. For when a brother or a sister mentions the brutal violence they experience at the hands of unjust authorities or when they share horrifying stories of being racially profiled we must listen.
The modern slogan “black lives matter” has faced more criticism, more opposition, more vapid anger, defamation, vilification than any other utterance to date. Many people attempt to discredit the root cause of this movement, by stating that “all lives matter” referring to every race or “blue lives matter” referring to the police force. But imagine a situation where your child has died and in trying to honor their life you are interrupted by people who say all children need to be honored.
Imagine your house is on fire and as you rush to phone for help because your house matters you are met with firemen, police officers, neighbors, city officials, and fellow church brethren who tell you all houses matter.
By turning the discussion to generalizations we remove the attention from the situation at hand.
We must call sin for what it is and racism, prejudice, discrimination, and ignoring these horrific realities is a sin.
Let us remember that Jesus tackled injustice and prejudice head-on by loving the very people everyone hated.
It was Christ that allowed the woman in sin to weep at his feet
It was Christ who explained to Jewish Scribes that “their neighbor” was worthy of love and honor, even if their neighbor was a Samaritan.
It was Christ who led Paul to Peter to confront him about his racism and prejudice toward outsiders.
It was Christ who visited a Samaritan woman, an outcast, a sinner, at a well to minister to her soul.
It was Christ who reached out and touched the leper.
It was Christ who restored a man’s sight.
It was Christ, God in the flesh, innocent of any crime, who was betrayed by his friend, arrested in the dark of night, tried by a kangaroo court where his accusers were his enemies and the witness were bought. It was Christ, not Barabas the insurrectionist, who was kept to be tortured, beat, mocked, to have his beard ripped from his face, smacked and punched for the crowd’s amusement. It was Christ who was paraded before kings and leaders for entertainment. It was Christ who was dressed like a criminal, whipped and punched, covered with his own blood, given a crown, and of thorns and led to a desolate hill outside Jerusalem to be lynched by government officials. His hands and feet were driven through with unclean nails so that when they lifted this cross from the ground he would not fall off. It was Christ who thirsted and was given gall to drink. It was Christ who hung naked on a cross for his spectators to gaze on and mock. It was Christ who struggled to breathe as He called out to His Father in His last moments on earth.
It was Christ, an innocent, colored, middle-eastern man from Judea who was executed in plain view for all to see and look on and laugh.
If there is one person in existence who is able to understand injustice, hatred, violence, and lynching, it is our Lord Jesus.
What was done to Him was horrific. It was wrong. We can say it was the heart of man at its best enacting its most glorious deed! They managed to string up and kill God!
And yet, today, we are comfortable ignoring the lynching of our brothers and sisters in Christ because of the color of their skin.
This should not be.
I pray our local church, with its vast reach, can in time be a beacon of hope in our small city for all people of all races. That it becomes aware of injustices taking place around it and that it takes an initiative in demonstrating the love, person, and presence of Christ in times like these.
We cannot sully our testimony in an all-loving God by allowing hatred of His creation to fester in our churches.
For the world will hate and learn and find ways to hate better.
But the body of Christ must thrive in love, protecting all people from all agencies that do not reflect or honor the sanctity of human life.
Because if we ignore racism in the church the end effect of this disease will be like that of ignoring cancer in one’s body. With time, you will stagger, you will succumb to the pain of a growing tumor and you will die.
Let us live in the Lord and let us love His creation. Let us stamp out the light of prejudice. Let us shine a light on injustice. Let us bring forth from darkness the oppressed that they are set free not only from the bonds of sin but also from the shackles of racism.
For if this generation fails to adhere to that divine demand, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” If this calling is ignored by the people who claim to have received so much love, forgiveness, grace, hope, and more, then we will be the most ridiculed hypocrites of Christian history, beating the slave owners of American past and the Crusaders of Europe past.
God will pass on from us like His shekinah glory passed on from the Ark of Covenant as it was taken captive by a Philistine army.
God is patient, not wanting people to perish, and He can wait for the next generation of believers who will take up this case against prejudice in the name of Jesus and fight tooth, nail, and in the Spirit.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12
God be with you, Church. May God strengthen your resolve to stand up for what is right in the face of opposition and adversity. The same Lord who gave Stephen the martyr, the boldness to stand at the threshold of eternity and finite reality, to see Christ standing beside the throne in one instance and men with stones in another, will embolden you. May our God intensify your sensitivity to sin, vileness, wrong, darkness, and racism so that you may shun all forms of evil. Not allowing a hint of it to singe your soul.
For facing this evil together we honor George Floyd. We honor Cpl. Roman Ducksworth Jr., Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Henry, Schwerner Jonathan Myrick Daniels, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the millions that have not been named.
In facing racism together, in Jesus’ name, we honor Christ and His creation.
“From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth….” Acts 17:26
“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.” – Psalm 24:1-3
This month the planet focuses its attention on celebrating or perhaps making mention of Earth Day. Fifty years ago several environmental agencies dedicated April 22nd to a global cause, which many of them believe betters our understanding of our planet and how our habits as people may affect our planet.
A Google search on how to better our planet will produce innumerable pages of information and suggestion including but not limited to shutting your faucet off when brushing your teeth. Wash your laundry and run your dishwasher using cold water to save on your light bill and avoid waste. Use a cloth towel instead of paper towels to save on paper. Ride your bike to work or school and leave your car at home. And invest in a bidet to save on bathroom tissue. A timely purchase in light of the current panic buying frenzy.
These efforts are virtuous in the sense that humanity is focused on its responsibility to the planet it lives on. In fact, nowhere in scripture do we find a verse where we are commanded to abuse our surroundings or misuse the land in which we live.
The author of Leviticus reminds the reader about a God-given practice of caring for the land we derive our livelihood and meals from. He states, as per God’s command:
“For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.” – Leviticus 25:43-5
God gave his people laws by which to honor Him, respect each other and also care for the land they lived on. The dangers of abusing agricultural rules and patterns can ultimately disrupt the natural cycle needed for the land to “heal” so it can produce fruit again. The effects of environmental abuse God wanted to prevent His people from instilling on the land then are the same we can see today if we’re not careful with our land. Overpopulation in small areas, continuous application of fertilizers, reduced agricultural land, continuous application of pesticidal substances will eventually lead to destructive ends. We can see deforestation taking place, soil erosion, soil degradation, reduced food production, flooding, health hazards, death of marine life, and more.
God calls us to be attentive to all things in life. Primarily our vertical relationship with Him, which when in good health leads to healthy relationships with our neighbors. And God always wants us to be watchful of how we care for our land and all that live on it. Failing to do so can lead to catastrophic natural disasters caused by us alone.
What modern-day environmentalists fail to observe is that the reason why we’re called to care for this beautiful planet we live on is that it belongs to God. Not just this planet but everyone who resides on it belongs to God as well. It is a form of honoring Him when we invest our time in caring for one another and also being responsible, planetary caretakers.
So when we set aside a day to observe the splendor of this breathtaking planet; including the naturally occurring black sand beach of Panulu’u, Hawaii. The white sand dunes of Lencois Maranhenses National Park in the state of Maranhao, Brazil. Bear, moose, and caribou inundated Jasper National Park in the province of Alberta, Canada. The daunting climb to the peak of Mount Everest, Nepal, and the expansive, nearly endless dunes of the Sahara desert. Whether you venture through bucolic fields and pastures of coastal Italy or settle on a cruise liner as it pushes south on the Danube river. It is all for God’s glory.
God has given us the gift of worship and relationship with Him, the gift of relationship and friendship amongst ourselves, and finally the gift of this unbelievably picturesque planet to live on. From every seed found on the surface of Norwegian strawberries to the oldest Quaking Aspen tree found in the state of Utah. God has given all of these things not for us to abuse and misuse but for us to use and enjoy.
Greater joy comes from knowing that one, we have a Creator God who allows us to relish and enjoy His creation. Two, He gives us the knowledge to care for His creation. And three, He partook of this creation when He became a man.
Our God commands us to love Him with all our mind, soul, and body and to love our neighbor as we would love ourselves. Let us continually make benevolent efforts to better cultivate the land God has given us. And let us not become anxious should news reach us of disasters and cataclysmic happenings from earthquakes to hurricanes to tsunamis. We understand that this planet, too, has been affected by sin and is in need of renewal. Paul mentions in Romans:
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” – Romans 8:19-23
Our world, just like our bodies, is subject to death and rot. But thanks be to Jesus who through the resurrection who will not only renew our bodies, transforming the corrupted flesh into uncorrupted beings but also our world.
We are not called to be environmentalists or social extremists but we are called to honor God, love one another, and tend to our lands; our world.
With that in mind, let us not become too attached to the temporal nature we are given for in due time God will give us a better one. A world untouched by sin. Imagine that glorious landscape.
“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” – Revelations 22:20-21
I find it irreversibly damaging an act when we dare to display our faith by placing fellow believers and unbelievers in harm’s way. What do I mean by that? In this unprecedented pandemic, we have been given directives such as better hygiene, social distancing, an increase in vitamin supplementation, stop hoarding grocery items, maintain civility and stay calm in light of possible chaos and financial disruption to our economy.
It is wise to follow these suggestions and not doing so to show our faith in times of difficulty is so spiritually immature. Our church does not exist within a building nor does it cease to exist if we distance ourselves physically from one another for 14 days, people.
Find the courage to seek God in your own lives, putting your faith into action by self-isolating, by social distancing, through quarantine if the need be so we stop this disease on its tracks.
A federal mandate to prevent the proliferation of an insidious virus is not spiritual or religious persecution so please do not make it one. This is a request from our governing body, both nationally and internationally asking that we do our part to save our local community, thus protecting the world we live in.
Your boisterous faith is best displayed in your secret room where you pray for one another. Do not expect others to join you in mass gatherings or small gatherings to display to the world how much faith in God you have and how big God is in your life.
God is the same no matter how many people a plague kills. No matter how many people live or die, God is God. (Black plague, Swine flu, mad cow disease, H1N1, Spanish flu and more to come). Do not allow pride to consume your heart because you want others to see how much you love God by putting yourself, your family members, your children, our elderly citizens and more in danger.
That is not faith, that is disastrous stupidity. Stop it.
And should you summon the arrogance to claim that the prayer of a righteous person avails much then please, by all means, pray for this disease to stop. If you’re as righteous as Elijah then it will. If your spiritual gifts are that of healing and/or being a conduit through which God operates miracles then go out and perform them, not for us to see but for the people who need them.
But we don’t need your supernatural falsehoods and pride. What we need is for you to sit down for two, maybe three weeks at best and be quiet. Think about the people who need help. Buy them food and supplies. Call your friends. Call the lonely and ask how they are holding up. Reach out via social media, privately, and mend those long lost friendships.
This is a time to quiet down and strengthen your faith, your mind, and your body. That’s it, Christians.
We know and believe that this is not the end of the world so our conduct in these times will echo into eternity. Hang in there and we will get through this, one boring day at home at a time.
Now, for some Bible references for those of you who are biblically literate but socially impaired.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” – Romans 13:1-7
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:14-24