Reviled, Reinvented and Rediscovered

MLK

Five decades ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior made a crucial decision to combine the struggle for democratic rights in the United States, with principled opposition to imperial war abroad. King very courageously did so in context of opposing the war on Vietnam.

Many try to cloak themselves in King’s mantle. Some are some outright charlatans who actively oppose what King died defending. But in either case, these opportunists share not one shred of principle among them.

Over the weekend, tanks, artillery, armored vehicles and 4,000 US troops descended on Poland. They are to be deployed over seven East European countries. Around October, another unit will replace them. This is the first, permanent deployment of US troops on Russia’s border since the Cold War. In coming months, NATO plans to deploy four battalions on Russia’s border. And US annual military budget for Eastern Europe is quadrupled to $3.4 billion over last year’s $800 million.

Poor People's Campaign Brochure, Spring 1968
From the last campaign on which MLK worked.

King understood that poverty is very much a civil rights issue. He saw poverty and powerlessness as mutually reinforcing realities. And he saw the need to break the power that they hold over us.

Dr. King’s last planned protest was the Poor People’s Campaign. He was planning this when he was martyred. This excerpt from a prepared leaflet is as relevant now as it was the day King died. It merits careful study by us all.

King saw the obscene levels of military spending in his own day. The base shamelessness of budget plans is made clear in his work.

Today, total military spending is in excess of $905 billion. Soon, it will top 1 trillion. Every year.

There’s more.

Dr. King also addressed extremes of income discrepancy. But in his wildest dreams, Dr. King could not have imagined the extent to which the level of income dependency would rise even in the lifetime of his peers.

On the eve of the Davos Conference, Oxfam reports that 8 people now control as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population. And of those 8 people, 6 are in the US.

There is no gracious way to put it: such levels of militaristic commitment and social inequality are fundamentally incompatible with a free society.

As social misery rises and political conditions degrade, it begs to be asked where today’s church leaders are. Often, they most stridently support such arrangements. They certainly do not stand beside Martin Luther King Jr., even if they claim to respect and honor that legacy to their own advantage.

Some who know King’s legacy revile him. Others would co-opt his legacy for opportunistic ends. The one alternative of integrity is to recover that legacy for our own time. And if we desire to avert war and revolution, we would be most wise to do so — and soon.

If any churches are prepared to go there, few are fundamentalist.

Patriot Pastors and Strange Alliances

Meet the Patriot Pastors

Days before the November 2006 election, Christianity Today published a piece on ‘Patriot Pastors.’ Authored by Nate Anderson, this CT focuses in good measure on the Ohio Restoration Project [ORP]. And the ‘Holy Ghost invasion’ rhetoric plus the ‘man your battle stations’ with the ‘lock and load’ stuff is no SFL invention. People actually say things like that.

Anderson continues:

Their top policy concerns are (1) the right to life (i.e., an end to abortion), (2) maintaining a godly definition of marriage, (3) preserving a parent’s right to discipline and educate, and (4) defending the rights of Christians and their churches to “teach biblical values in the public square.”

Anderson mentions mailing lists and online accessible prayer warriors [only 100,000 of them in ’06] described as a ‘”mighty army” ready to do battle.’ The rightness or wrongness of these or other issues is not the concern. At issue is the propriety of the attaching purported Christian witness work to modern partisan campaigns.

Paul who referenced soldiery by way of spiritual analogy [1Co 9:7; Phi 2:25; 2Ti 2:3-4; Phm 1:2] also stated the weapons of our warfare are not physical but spiritual [2Co 10:3-5]. Despite Biblical analogies to military matters, militarized language doesn’t express the heart of the Gospel.

Anderson’s dated article shows that the terminology of secular jihadism has been in fundamentalist culture for some time. And we saw the result of such thinking as many aligned with the powers of this age during the most recent US federal election.

And final page of this five page piece acknowledges that the IRS has contacted ORP. Interesting language describes the relationship between ORP and Russell Johnson’s Fairfield Christian Church.

‘While legally separate, the ORP and Fairfield Christian overlap significantly.’

Fundamentalists would never tolerate such unbiblical blurring of lines IF they existed between churches. But where politics is concerned, fundyland throws the rules out the window. Anything becomes acceptable, and we have the President-elect to prove it.

It’s amazing that people supposedly so spiritually attuned to God can at the same time be so dead to things of God. But since this is ‘politics,’ they can get away with anything.

Friday Challenge — Reveal Your Secrets!

Hidden Properties -- Reveal your Secrets!
No actual slight to Johnny Hart, Brant Parker, the King, or the Wizard of Id is intended…

Reveal Your Secrets!

Owing to their extraordinary spiritual perception, Independent Fundamental Baptist pastors frequently are able to discern the manifestation of dark powers in surprisingly benign sources …

Friday Challenge:

Where has your [or some] IFB pastor, writer, evangelist or speaker discovered spiritual evil in otherwise unsuspected sources? Have fun!

 

Preaching and Pastoring in Hard Times

kanon-the-preacher

Preaching Ain’t Easy

IFB sects are sometimes reminded that while preaching is neither easy nor popular, their preachers works hard. Very hard. And while I’ve absolutely no statistical basis for so saying, I’ll say some do. But fundamentalism being what it is, IFB preachers will never wrestle with some of the most perplexing and difficult issues other pastors face every week.

M. Craig Barnes is no Christian fundamentalist. But his freshly published article, ‘The Pastors I Worry About’ [Christian Century, Jan 4, 2017] names a number of difficult issues no fundamentalist pastor should ever face.

The Princeton Theological Seminary President points out that having the President-elect they wanted, many are now stuck advocating for someone whose private life and public policies contradict much of what preachers should say in their pulpits. I would suggest that other than protesting supposed lack of support for Israel, few IFB pastors will chafe much at that lack of morality.

That is a hard problem, but few IFB pastors will face it.

Then again, there are preachers who denounced Mr. Trump, who said that the center would hold, that churches would remain sanctuaries for Muslim-Americans and that harassed women would still be protected? What are those preachers now to say to their congregations?

That is a hard problem, and few IFB pastors will face it.

Barnes’ article shows special concern for pastors of politically divided congregations. In our much conflicted vision, he perceptively sees a tearing at our churchly mission. Undoubtedly this is more so where churches understand and take seriously their calling from God to be Jesus Christ to the poor, the hungry, the stranger, the marginalized, the uninsured, the undocumented, the outcasts and more.

That is a hard problem, and few IFB pastors will face it.

Barnes understands the need to unite congregations while being prophetic on issues that matter, to attend deep wounds without special pleading to ‘be nice,’ and to preach into cultural divisions while also transcending opposed political platforms that shape those divisions. Barnes does not say so, but preaching requires the wisdom of Ahithophel.

That is a hard problem, and few IFB pastors will face it.

Perhaps the most trying challenge many preachers will have is to fulfill their calling and promise to love all the members of their congregation, including those the pastor believes committed grave error of judgment when they went to the polling station.

For all they may say about the pastorate being a tough job, they should have to try to navigate these political minefields, along with all the normal stuff encountered in the pastorate. The fact is, plenty of pastors are faithful while struggling every week with issues of conscience.

That is a hard problem, and few IFB pastors will face it.

FWOTW — Bibles for Blood and Devastation in Iraq

bibles-for-iraq

Bibles Matter Most

‘We are grateful for all those who have given to this important work of reaching Iraqi and Syrian refugees with audio Bibles.’

The most important thing we can do when Iraqi or Syrian home are shelled and their locality is bombed is to put Bibles in their hands.

Remember: most of these people will be Muslim. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they came to see the devastation of their homes, businesses and families as a picture of what awaits them at death unless they are saved!

Suffering Matters Least

‘Our hearts are deeply grieved by the ongoing devastation in Iraq…’

By extension, this could include those suffering from ongoing devastation in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and any number of other countries we have bombed in past years.

But lets get one thing straight — our grief at your ongoing devastation does not mean that we’re going to oppose continuing intervention in your lands, or that we will find a peace candidate to fill our highest offices. So long as conflict is profitable, conflict it will be — however devastating the consequences may be for you, your family, your community and country.

Defending the Narrative

‘ISIS will stop at nothing to kill every last man, woman and child who do not submit to their barbaric Islamic practices…’

We fully support our government’s official narrative. We deny that the ‘Islamic State’ is largely backlash against our presence and decades of interference in your affairs. That The Stylus reports that a poll of 1,365 Syrians conducted by WIN/Gallop affiliate, ORB International revealed that 82% believe that ISIS is a Washington creation simply doesn’t matter.

Of course your family members are just as dead whether they die at the hand of ISIS or a US made missile. But in either case, this is your chance to hear the gospel.

Missiles and Missions

Will you stand with us against the bloodshed, and in compassion for the displaced refugees by making a donation to bless and impact the lives of many with the words of Life?

Bibles for Iraq