Why Don’t He Just Shut Up?!?

19365_717013806513_9223634_39963040_868241_nI believe
That if you’re bristling
While you hear this song
I could be wrong
Or have I hit a nerve?

– Tears for Fears

I know, I know…

I’ve been making a right nuisance of myself over the past few days. I’ve been harsh; I’ve been critical; I’ve been–dare I say it–a bit judgmental. Perhaps I’ve stepped on toes; perhaps I’ve gotten on a few last nerves.

Good.
That’s the idea.

On the other hand, perhaps I’ve come off as a tad superior, mayhap even condescending. That’s not good; also not my intention. Here’s the thing: I’m disappointed, more so than I remember being in anything in a long, long time. And when I’m this far down the rabbit hole, I get angry. And when I get angry, I get a little sharp.

I’m disappointed in my former faith: I see the likes of Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, spewing hatred disguised as theology from the pulpit of a major Southern Baptist church, televised, watched, listened to, thoughtlessly adored by who knows how many so-called Christians.

I’m disappointed in those who can’t understand the fact that Jeffress and his ilk, while louder than most and therefore more visible, do not represent the soul of Christianity, any more than the Paris terrorists represent the whole of Islam.

I’m disappointed in my country. Some of you may know I grew up in Argentina, and I have seen us through the eyes of others. Consequently, the grand rhetoric has always sounded somewhat hollow in my ears. But the events of this last week have fairly yanked whatever patriotic myopia I might have had left right out of my head.

I have seen comments by self-assured ‘Muricans, praising the magnanimity and generosity of spirit “for which we are known around the world.”

Here’s an example:

I wonder if situations were reversed and it was “the greatest nation on earth” who required help for millions of our people, I would be most curious to see the rush of compassion and outpouring of help, that we are known for. It’s classic though. You can rise to the occasion every time, but the ONE time you may have to withhold or proceed with caution, you are resented and all past acts of kindness are totally forgotten. Typical.

That would be such a good point, if it weren’t complete crap. There is a list of UN treaties and resolutions that we have “signed but not ratified” that is longer than the list of excuses we’ve come up with for ignoring the Syrian refugees. This includes, among others, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (which we helped to draft) and the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (which we signed knowing that, due to previously adopted domestic legislation, we lacked the ability to ratify). In other words, we want to police international law without committing to abide by it ourselves. We hold the purse strings to the IMF and World Bank, and have, time and again, forced other countries into near-bankruptcy through coercive, lop-sided loan agreements. Our domestic subsidies throw international markets out of balance, leaving farmers and small manufacturers without affordable sales partners. We force our multinational corporations on other nations, while refusing those nations access to our own markets. These things are not hearsay. They are well-documented facts…if we’re willing to listen. And they are not exceptions; they’re just another day at the office.

This time, though, in my opinion we have sunk to a new low. I’m not sure how much lower we can go, at this point. We have turned tail and run for this hills because of something that didn’t even happen in our country. We have abdicated whatever moral high ground we still occupied, and left thousands of our fellow human beings (human beings; not rabid dogs, or bad apples, or fans of falafel; not even potential terrorists) cold and alone and afraid, with nowhere to go and nowhere to turn.

A word of reminder: an isolationist stance did little to keep us out of World War II, and may have even contributed to the attack on Pearl Harbor. So, isolationism is no protection. Why not go down swinging? That’s the rhetoric, right? John Wayne, the OK Corral, High freakin’ Noon? Are our historical/fictional characters really the only brave souls among us?

At long last, I’m disappointed in myself. For writing this damn post while Rome is burning. For assuming that by taking time out of my day to do this, that I’m actually making a difference. For not getting off my ass and finding ways to actually address this situation with actions rather than words. For being one of the shrinking violets I’ve been criticizing so loudly for the last few days.

We–I–need less social media, and more social action.

But above all, we need to be the people we pretend to be when we’re trying to distract the world (and ourselves) from who we really are.

If we want to be the greatest nation on earth, we need to act like the greatest nation on earth.

Spread the word:
Open the doors!

FearMeneutics

Wasn’t it their Jesus who didn’t care much for this life? Wasn’t it their Jesus who said to love our enemies? Wasn’t it their Jesus who said to give the tunic off your back? What the hell was the parable of the Good Samaritan all about if not endangering one’s own self to help another?

– Ruth (Out from Under the Umbrella)

My good friend Russell, of Russell & Pascal, sent me this YouTube clip last night. As some of you may know, in a previous life I occupied pulpits for a living myself. Before I realized what was required of those, not to mention what was spewing out of those, who stand in that spot.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, Baron Lord Acton told us, and the authority ascribed to evangelical mega-church (and even mini-church) pastors is about as close to absolute power as clergy can get, short of being the Pope. It is also an extended exercise in electioneering: evangelical clergy are hired, not assigned, to fill their pulpits, which means they can also be fired. Which means they get very good at telling congregations exactly what they want to hear, to the point that it becomes difficult to distinguish between sermons and sound bites.

But even more disturbing than what the pastor himself says in this video is the wild applause in the background. My friends, I give you The Lynch Mob, otherwise known as Sunday morning worship. It is emotion running on pure instinct: this is how the same group can applaud Jesus’ admonition to “love your enemies” and their pastor’s support for killing those same enemies dead, all within six minutes’ worth of a YouTube clip.

This is not love, in any sense of the word; it is hate, fueled by fear, encouraged by clerical authority. And it is why I got out when I did–from flag waving to male chauvinism to homophobia, all disguised as God’s love and all justified by way of Scripture, I just couldn’t be That Guy anymore.

But let’s be clear–That Guy isn’t what Christianity is about, not completely. There are many Christians–including many pastors–who believe Ruth’s words, quoted above, and live according to them both in and outside of the church. Lest we forget that, and treat them as the above congregation wants to treat our Islamic brethren, here’s a few quotes that I found yesterday in posts about the Paris attacks, and our national response to them:

Before I knew it I felt the emotions move from my stomach to falling out of my eyes as I prayed for the leaders of this country, our current President, the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces, for the prejudice in my heart, and the hate in my words-the words that I have only spoken to myself.

I prayed for the children sleeping in tents and on the road to safety, I prayed for the families that were destroyed and separated, both in Paris and Syria. I opened that prayer to every family, worldwide, that has been touched by terrorism.

The emotion made me pause as I began to pray for every mother or father boarding or placing a child on a boat in an act of love, making hard decisions, trusting the life of their child to both faith and chance; my pause provoked by both empathy and reality.

— — — — —

Act Justly: when faces of weary, worn and haggard refugees stream across my Facebook feed, I am reminded again and again that these are people. They have needs and desires. They require air to breathe, the same as do I. They have families and loved ones. They have felt love- feel love. Have been loved. Have known love. In justice, I must show love as well, offering what I have. Even though what I have might be small. It might be as small as a prayer. It might be even as faint as a fleeting thought or as fragile as the whisper of an image striking my mind in quiet, speaking to my soul. But to do justice, I must seek for the best for all human beings across this globe.

Acting justly starts small. If I cannot act justly to those I know and care for, how can I act justly for others in far-flung regions? It starts here. It starts now. It starts with me.

Love Mercy: I must cleave to compassion, strive to be kind, urgently aim toward benevolence. If I have, I must give. If I can share, I must allocate. If I can offer, so I must do. In considering others better than myself, I am showing that I love mercy. In placing others needs above my own, I am showing that I love mercy. In offering my life for the betterment of another life, I am showing mercy.

Our lives are not our own. Do we not believe that we have a Father that protects us? Is He not bigger than terror? Are we not held in the hollow of His hand? Whom shall I fear?

Walk Humbly: when we refrain from extending ourselves, there can be issues of pride involved. But so can they become intertwined in our motives when we give. We must continuously contend for humility in all aspects of our life. If we have been chastened, accept and move forward. If we have been convicted, act on our convictions. If we feel strongly, question the motive that has brought about the feeling. If we do not feel strongly, we can then ask ourselves: why not? In humility, we are made more in His image. We are more of what we could be. More of what we should be.

I ask each of us—myself included—when considering what our role is in the unfolding story of world history (whether that be a story told close to home or farther abroad: what would Jesus do?

Let it be what I would do too.

— — — — —

Dare I grieve for the misguided, angry and evil young men who convinced themselves that this was for God’s glory? Dare I grieve for the mothers of these men and wonder if this was their aspiration? Dare I grieve for those who hold their faith as preciously as I hold mine and see themselves disdainfully numbered amongst the criminally insane? I dare.

— — — — —

To be Christian is not, willy-nilly, to embrace hatred and xenophobia, as some who view the above video might want you to believe. That video is one expression (albeit unpleasant) of a wonderfully kaleidoscopic faith that takes in a multiplicity of views and beliefs, many of which are built upon the very teachings of loving action that Pastor Jeffress’ words so effectively undermine. Not all Christians respond to the hermeneutics of fear.

I no longer think of myself as a Christian, but I would be remiss if I failed to defend the many men and women in my acquaintance who still are, and who would be just as horrified as I am to hear Pastor Jeffress’ message of violence and hate. In the hearts of many, God actually is love, and to be a Christian actually means living that love in a way that transcends the legalistic and the literal.

So, before you judge too harshly the whole based upon the part, remember what we’re talking about this week: if it is unfair to turn our backs on the Syrian refugees because of what the very few among them may believe or desire, then it is equally unfair to reject all Christians because of what this congregation has done to the Christian message.

Hatred is a mirror:
the only person you ever see in it is yourself.