Apocryphal Illustrations

Apocryphal Illustration

The Tale is Told

A preacher ascends to his pulpit to tell the story of a missionary.

A young man answered God’s call to preach the gospel in foreign parts. The congregation was ecstatic. God’s praises were proclaimed loudly. He enrolled in Bible School, took the required courses. He built his life on prayer and study of the word. On completing his studies, he returned to his home. Again, it was all celebration. A week of food and festivities.

On the eve of his departure, there was a final service of prayer. He was commissioned with the laying on of hands. This young man implored the home congregation to prayer for him — every day, and every Sunday. Pray specifically for him, his ministry, and the tribe with which he would work. Promises of faithfulness in prayer were made. And with that, he left.

Ten years later, an unknown man visited this place for a prayer meeting. His breathing was haggard, he coughed frequently. Like his health, his body was broken. He walked with a limp. After service, he stood and in a rasping voice asked to address those gathered. He explained.

‘Ten years ago, I left this place with promises that you would pray for me and for my missionary labors in a far-off tribe. Now I have returned. Tonight, I heard my name mentioned not one time. There were no prayers for me, for my health, my ministry, or the people among whom I labored.’

His disfigurement made him unrecognizable, and when he told them his name, the congregation was stunned. Weeping followed. Many confessed their prayerlessness. Revival broke out all over again.

Apocryphal Illustrations

An apocryphal illustration is a fictitious story that is told as though it were true in order to achieve a spiritual end. Some may call this manipulation, and others may call it lying. But in fundamentalism, it is beyond doubt that apocryphal illustrations and stories get people recommitted to the Lord and perhaps even outright saved.

If your heart is right with the Lord, who is going to complain about that?

The Fundamental Focus

the-fundy-focus

When in worship services, fundamentalists know where their focus is supposed to be. You’re sitting up, shutting up, and listening up to the guy in front. Or you’d better. You would be the first person ever to be called out if you were caught dozing in service. But then as the song says …

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it …

And we’ve all been there — there and elsewhere — while in service.

What Happens In Others’ Heads

Many fixate on afternoon activities — the cookout, the youth event [please Lord — let that cute guy/girl notice me]! On Superbowl Sunday, there are many fantasies about that great play they hope is coming.

There is the project that must be turned in Monday morning. Another dreads and plans strategy for the talk with a spouse they know is coming. Another prays that his bid on that motorcycle will prevail. A guy just given a new fishing reel spends service at the lake, enjoying the action of that wondrous device and catching fish.

Plenty of things happen in service beside worship. We all know it and all do it. And even though we know that we’re not supposed to practice our righteousness to be seen by men, we ourselves may have offered up an appropriately timed ‘a-men’ or ‘preach it’ lest Reverend begin to wonder about their glassy-eyed look.

Then there was that amusing time Reverend got carried away with his own lucidity and backed himself into literary corner. What began as a great point wound up as a sentence that couldn’t be finished. You just have to wonder what did it.

Thanksgiving Day

thanksgiving-day

Good Memories in Fundyland!

Fundyland’s trials and low-points don’t take the genuine enjoyment that life brings. One of the good memories is Thanksgiving. With the obligatory fundyland worship service out of the way, family gathers for festivities. Older siblings return home for the holiday. Aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and grandparents swell the family ranks. And there was food. Good food. And there was plenty of it. As a child, I imagined that this must be a bit of what heaven would be.

For some, Thanksgiving can mean certain challenges. Kitchen trump-noble-clownmiracles don’t happen by themselves, and women have long born the brunt of the work load that stands behind the culinary marvels being revealed across the land.

Moreover, some will find themselves at odds with still-in-fundyland relatives.

Religion is a touchy subject that some people just can’t leave alone. This year, there is President-elect Donald Trump to be discussed. Visions of this man vary widely, and I’d be surprised if he isn’t the focus of at least one or two conversations.

I have no fool-proof plan for those who love their families but loathe their politics and/or religion. Some advocate making a mental list of relatively innocuous alternate topic such as sports, work, projects around the house, what the kids are doing at school [drama club, science project, swim team], vacation stories, etc.

Navigating those conversations isn’t easy, especially since the most dysfunctional may be the most dogmatic. Arguably, the same thing that makes fundamentalists ‘fundamentalists’ is also what makes them difficult dinner guests.

If all else fails, you can expect that some future Friday Challenge will afford opportunity to share this familial disaster to the world.

Blessings and a Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Elevating the ‘Christian Nation’ Heresy II

trump-if-im-president-christianity-will-have-power-in-the-us Compromise

‘Christianity will have power’ — The Donald
‘I will give you all this authority’ — The Devil

Yesterday I commented on a post by Dr. Ray Rooney Jr. with an American Family Association project, ‘The Stand Daily.’ In lingo evoking multiple, Biblical imagery, Rooney describes ‘The Stand Daily‘ as a ‘wall of defense, champion of freedom, and beacon of light.’ In reply, I noted the folly of tying church to partizan agendas. That conforms church to this world and presses the Christian story into an alien, Gospel-incompatible narrative.

British missiologist [theology of mission] Lesslie Newbigin spent decades in India. He retired and returned home to be shocked by the discovery that in his absence, England had become a mission field. As he had it, dialogue between the Gospel and British culture was impossible UNLESS the church used the strategies and tools missionaries employ in utterly foreign lands.

Focus on the Family, the American Family Association and similar outfits sold to Christian leaders, pastors and churches [as if they needed it] the idea that it was critical to elect a conservative regime that would appoint conservatives to high positions in government and the Supreme Court.

What would Lesslie Newbigin say?

The problem with church involvement in brazen partisanship is not only that it does not ‘Christianize’ the state; the problem is that it prostitutes Jesus Christ. No less than J. Dobson’s Focus on the Family, Ray Rooney’s AFA article pimps out Jesus to solicit for political interests. We don’t need to speculate as to what Newbigin would say about this. He gave us this:

lesslie-newbigin

Shape of Things to Come

We begin to see the kind of ‘appointments’ which fundamentalist and evangelical Christians believed made the election of an arch-conservative regime so imperative, and for which they now thank God.

Secretary of State

Under consideration for this crucial job is Mitt Romney. Romney advocates increased aggression by the United States military.

Attorney General

Tapped for Attorney General is Alabama Senator Jess Sessions. Sessions is no civil rights supporter. He supports intense government spying invasive even beyond what intelligence agencies want. He calls for expanding the militarization of police, and ferociously denounces immigrants. Sessions also has ties to white supremacist groups.

CIA Director

Mr. Trump’s favorite for this job is Mike Pompeo. Like Sessions, he also advocates unconstitutional spying. He has also called for the execution of whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Pompeo is also pro-torture. Presumably this qualification matters for employment as CIA Director. I wonder why…

National Security Advisor

This position goes to General Michael Flynn. Flynn is a former military intelligence officer and a current anti-Muslim fanatic.

Homeland Security Department Secretary

Trump has interviewed John Kelly for this position. Kelly defended the abuse of military detainees. Trump has yet to interview the Kansas State Secretary, Kris Kobach, who is also under consideration for this job. It was Kobach who designed the plan to register all Muslim visitors to the US and all Muslim immigrants already residing in the US.

Defense Secretary

Marine General James Mattis seems to be the favorite. Mattis oversaw some of the most heinous war crimes in US imperial history. He led the atrocious 2004 slaughter of Fallujah, including mass killings of civilians, the physical destruction of Fallujah [using white phosphorus and depleted uranium munitions], and other war crimes. Mattis said ‘it’s a hell of a hoot’ and ‘it’s fun to shoot some people.’ When 42 [including women and children] were killed in what cameras clearly revealed to be a wedding party, Mattis refused to apologize for his troop’s actions.

Education Secretary

Trump met with two candidates for this job. One is Michelle Rhee. As chancellor of the Washington DC public schools, Rhee attempted to destroy the teacher tenure system. The other is Betty DeVos. Her organization, American Federation of Children, seeks to defund public schools and invest those monies in charter schools, privately owned schools, and in religious organizations.

Chief Strategist

As many know, this position goes to Stephen Bannon, former head of Breitbart News. The white nationalist organizations in the orbit of the so-called ‘alt-right’ have praised the elevation of Bannon and Sessions.

Bannon’s aim is to ‘build an entirely new political movement.’ He adds:

‘With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything…We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.’

Such gibberish has never been heard at the height of US power. Best of all, this nationalist economic agenda is to be funded by debt-spending.

What All This Means

This administration will be unlike any the US has seen. Abroad, allies and foes are nervous reconsidering trade and military alignments and options. In Europe and Asia, nations hear calls to rearm, including development of nuclear arsenals. Alliances, including NATO, are increasingly strained.

At home, the attempt to tie populist rhetoric to economic nationalism is a fraud. Far from supporting the American worker, the whole ruling class is shifting toward unbridled nationalism and repressive, authoritarian rule. It is moving toward massive military spending increases and wars abroad. In blood and treasure, the working class will bear this toll.

This is why students across America have taken to the streets.

Back to Ray Rooney

The extreme gravity of this situation deepens the offense of Dr. Rooney’s reactionary rhetoric. Rather than developing a political balance sheet to address any of these issues, he slanders the student protests:

‘Spoiled liberals who didn’t even bother to vote have taken to the streets to protest Trump’s election.  They’re actually protesting the result of their own apathy!  Apparently, a rather large segment of liberals think they’re entitled to the candidate of their choice without even bothering to show up to pull a lever, touch a screen, or fill in a circle.’

Student protesters know that they have zero political representation. And whether or not they articulate it in these terms, those who refuse to vote commonly recognize that the campaign process itself is a political attack on the working class. Indeed, not one high level Democratic Party official appeared with them or gave voice to their grievances. Democratic Party officials are frantic to normalize a situation that’s anything but normal.

Contrary to Dr. Rooney’s slanderous statements, these supposedly spoiled brats are protesting the emergence of a genuine form of American fascism which will use ever more brutal means to repress and contain an already exhausted, disoriented, confused and distressed public. They see a day in which dissent will be criminalized and the state will gun down citizens.

Rooney assumes that said protests are momentary, sour grapes reaction to Trump’s election. In reality, an entire generation is entering the political process. If it refuses to be misguided into Democratic Party alignment by a Bernie Sanders-like charlatan, this student protest movement will become politically radicalized. We may yet see mass demonstrations the likes of which have not occurred since WW I.

Above all else, the ruling class [Republican and Democrat] fears just such a politically independent, mass protest/strike movement. Donald Trump’s rise and the collapse of all Democratic Party resistance before him reveals a ruling class uniting to crush every potential challenge to its privilege.

When those challenges [of which the student protests are a portent] come, I expect the likes of Dr. Rooney, Jim Dobson and fundie ‘law-and-order’ preachers stand firm for godly rule against protesting miscreants who refuse to buy the narrative or support the government America ‘elected.’

What Rooney doesn’t say about that ‘election’ is that 10 million fewer people voted for Senator Clinton than Senator Obama in 2008. Nor does he say that President-elect Trump lost the popular vote by 2 million votes. Trump lost the popular vote more decisively than any Electoral College winner. This puts the lie to the claim that he was elected because the public has adopted his ultra-right policies. Yet barely able to contain his glee, Rooney gushes that:

‘Americans were drawn to Donald Trump because of his fearless tell it like it is attack on what’s plainly and clearly wrong with the nation.’

Americans were driven to Trump because the Wall Street candidate, Sen. Clinton, represented the collapse of Obama’s Hope and Change presidency into endless attacks on jobs, wages, pensions, health care, schools, social repression, backed by universal spying and militarized police repression. In reality, the ‘Hope and Change’ candidate of the right will do no better. His supporters will learn soon enough that he has no alternative to offer.

Rooney offers that Trump’s vision was more Biblical than the alternative. He is entitled to his opinion. But to present Mr. Trump’s elevation as God’s blessing on Christian faithfulness makes one answerable for what that decision entails. That brings us back to Lesslie Newbigin.

To the extent it tries to embody the rule of God in the form of earthly power, the church ceases to be a sign of the kingdom. Gaining everything, the Christian fundamentalist and broadly evangelical community lost everything. To the extent that it aligns itself with the powers of this age and not the kingdom of God, it is heretical and in a state of in apostasy.

God’s people are bound by Scripture to separate themselves from that.

Making Babylon Great Again

Sister Sarah delivers a brief speech that some deem rousing, but others find and demagogic, demented and outright sad. This is a sub-Christian narrative. Confessing Christians who are deceived by it are not wise.