No — The Nation HASN’T Lost Its Soul

Sometime early this morning, Canada’s Immigration website crashed …

A Perspective on the 2016 Election:

The elevation of an obscene charlatan and fascistic demagogue to the Oval Office parades to the world the terminal crisis that US democracy is. Under Trump, America will not be ‘great again;’ it will be driven into the dirt.

Why It Happened — Sentence Version:

Trump prevailed because as the working class said for generations, it has ZERO REPRESENTATION in the official United States political system.

Why It Happened — Paragraph Version:

As eight years of ‘hope’ and ‘change’ promises collapsed into war, and living standards eroded, the vast majority saw itself betrayed. It saw a Democratic Party that represents the most privileged, upper-middle class layer and otherwise appeals to identity politics [race, gender, etc.]. Trump voiced and therefore channeled mass public frustration/outrage at this societal decay/crisis into his campaign. That is what demagogues do.

Why It Happened — In Metaphor:

Email revelations, sexual indiscretions and palace intrigues didn’t effect this end. More important is that just weeks ago, we learned that Obama’s signature domestic program, the ‘Affordable Care Act’ faces double-digit cost increases in ’17. Far more than FBI Director, James Comey’s utterly stupid e-mail II scandal, this mattered. It mattered by underscoring in a very tangible way the alienation between the ruling and working classes.

Other Factors:

Two other issues to consider. Since the 70s, trade unions have suppressed class struggle even as they channel support into the Democratic Party. This strategy is faltering. Rank and file committees are gaining popularity for independent leadership in existing unions.

Then Sen. Sanders’ craven capitulation to Sen. Clinton ensured that the political right would monopolize opposition to the status quo. It is no accident that Trump’s most significant upsets came in states where Sen. Sanders defeated Clinton by large majorities in the Democratic primaries.

The Last Word on Identity Politics:

The ultimate ‘identity politics’ irony may be that the Democrats lost not only in areas that are poor and white; they also saw lowered voter turn out in majority black regions. Youth and African Americans see no reason to support an obvious ‘status quo’ candidate who runs on ‘tough on Russia platform. They know this means more social misery. They know that it is they themselves who will be sacrificed in coming wars.

Looking Ahead:

Trump has naught to offer but more wars and tax cuts for the super-wealthy. This ever increasing burden will shift onto the working class.

Working people, including those who voted for Trump, will soon discover what they have in a president Trump. Shock and outrage will follow. So will increasingly bitter struggles arising from the deep divisions that this election revealed. New and increasingly vicious state violence will be used more and more routinely against the people.

Political shock is being felt around the world. Germany is facing a massive rearmament in anticipation of an increasingly independent line in a post Obama world. This has potential to divide Germany. It also means less US political clout in Europe. The post-WW II system of alliances is finished. This puts everything up for grabs. Don’t be surprised if some European allies gravitate toward Russia. That would compromise the drive to global hegemony and create ever more instability. America, consider your ways.

Faith and State:

The church must find grace and strength to address class issues if it is to speak the truth about poverty and privilege. No less than the children of Israel who under Pharaoh’s hand cried out to Yahweh, the poor and needy in our own time and place cry out for deliverance. But Donald Trump is no deliverer. And by siding with power rather than with the wage slaves all around us, the church ensures that it also will be removed when the coming sociopolitical explosion purges this system from the earth.

The nation hasn’t lost its soul. But unless the wage-slave class unites and takes its place in society as the only true wealth producer, America is lost.

Friday Challenge — Find the Freedom in the Gospel

Key to Freedom

Church and Kingdom

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” [Mt 16:18-19].

Good dispensationalists [which Independent Fundamental Baptists are] reliably push kingdom into the future. They are well aware that that any interest in social justice likely means theological and spiritual rot. People who are interested in kingdom eventually question a system which values profit over people and wealth over work. This means they question the Good News of Capitalism and its false promise of infinite growth. So it is for good reason that God’s kingdom has no place in your local IFB sect.

But kingdom was the theological core of Jesus’ preaching. If you push that into the future, wouldn’t that make a markedly different church? That ‘difference’ may be behind yesterday’s cartoon at the Naked Pastor.

My observation suggests that IFB preachers are very clear that kingdom concerns Israel and the future. God brings the kingdom in his own good time. Our concern is with building the church. As you know, that means building the IFB pastor’s fundamentalist empire.

What’s curious is that Jesus appears to have gotten it backwards. Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’ and ‘YOU get the keys of the kingdom.’

See the difference?

We can now dispense with those pesky questions about hungry masses, closed schools and failing communities while our allegedly cash-hungry nation blithely poured nearly 5 trillion into wars over the past 15 years.

Where’s the Freedom?

In his temptation, Jesus refused to align himself with the powers of this age — War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. He formed a kingdom in which we would be freed from the domination of demonic powers. That truly was/is Good News. But it isn’t ‘Good News’ you’ll hear in IFB sects, or in many broadly evangelical congregations for that matter.

The truth is, we’re far better at locking people up than setting them free. And we enlist many ‘present age’ narratives to rationalize it. You can’t help those people. The only thing they understand is force. If we cut them off, they’d learn to fend for themselves and become stronger.

Today’s Challenge

But sometimes, people are better than their theology and better than their stated convictions. Today’s challenge is to tell/find a story of genuine redemption experienced in an IFB setting.

This does not mean substituting one form of death [addiction/slavery/etc.] for another [legalism/hypocrisy/etc.]. It means that despite its theology, some IFB sect somewhere used the keys of God’s kingdom to redeem a situation and set someone free to the praise of God’s glory and grace.

Nurturing Dependence or Spiritual Empowerment

Nurturing Dependence or Spiritual Empowerment

This post is a reply to an inquiry from a reader.

Hedging your Flock

IFB pastors assure us that other churches don’t ‘preach it’ as they do. How they know that isn’t 100 % clear since they’re in their own pulpit Sunday mornings. But most fundies aren’t that deep. And why would IBF pastors want it otherwise?

Openly defaming other pastors and churches, reminding us that many other preachers get this wrong, telling us how tricky this passage is, or warning of the importance to be under faithful preaching, IFB pastors have many means to teach hearers to distrust their spiritual and biblical instincts. There are stories of shipwrecked faith and spiritual seduction.

The picture of a dark, scary world freshly impressed on their minds, IFB congregations are now thoroughly prepped to lean heavily on the superior wisdom of the IFB pastor. Ignore the other voices and perspectives. They are the winds and waves Peter ought to have ignored outside the boat.

Things to Note

There is some truth in this. Not all preaching is equal [and some IFB preaching is very unequal]. Christians are well advised to hear better preaching than not. Spiritual dangers do exist [including IFB sects].

If no real, spiritual dangers existed, no credible case could be made for hedging the flock. So how does one distinguish IFB pastoral efforts at manipulation from the call to grow into genuine maturity where our spiritual instincts develop as God would have them?

Nurturing Dependence

Answering this question begins with understanding why IFB pastors do what IFB pastors do.

IFB pastors may speak of ‘guarding the flock of God,’ or of their charge to ‘protect’ sheep entrusted them. And those tasks are mandated. But often, their concern is not to ‘guard’ or ‘protect’ sheep, but to guard and protect their standing in the flock that pays the pastor’s salary. Controlling and insecure pastors isolate and insulate followers from other believers as a means of job security. And the easiest way to do it is to invalidate the faith commitments of other pastors, churches and faith traditions.

Fear is extremely debilitating for believers. But that weakened condition is very empowering for IFB pastors. Why would they want it otherwise?

Nurturing Empowerment

There is a another way to approach this question, and it is this: healthy churches/pastors/faith_traditions develop parishioners’ spiritual and biblical instincts. Instead of keeping members pastor-dependent, every effort is made to liberate and empower the laity for ministry.

When believers want to develop their spiritual instincts, leaders in healthy churches do not tremble. They rejoice. This is not a thing to be avoided. Church leaders delight to assist them in this development.

To be continued…

Friday Challenge: Provide Examples!


Example is Important!

We’ve all heard that sermon! Set a good example, be a good example, etc.

Remember those picture puzzles? Two pictures are presented. They are very similar, but as you study them carefully, you begin to notice subtle differences. The ‘challenge’ was to find as many ‘differences’ as you could.

Today’s ‘challenge’ has but one picture. But in it are both Christ and the church. They are SUPPOSED to look the same. In reality, they seem to have very little in common.

Today’s challenge is to illustrate differences between Jesus and church. Examples:

Justice or No?

Jesus’ ministry manifesto proclaimed release to captives, restored sight to the blind and freed the oppressed, etc. That is, justice!

But church is often reactionary and is an obstacle to justice. Some churches opposed slavery, but others supported it. Ditto on civil rights in the 60s.

We’ve heard, ‘all [or the best thing] we can do is save souls and hope people act better. The pictures of Jesus and the church are more than a ‘little’ different … Jesus says ‘yes’ to justice. The church … well …

Here is another example of differing pictures.

Church and Kingdom

Church:  Kingdom is future and Jesus will bring it when he comes. Your concern is the build the church. So get busy!

Jesus: I will build my church, but to YOU I give the keys of the kingdom.

See the difference? Somebody gets church and kingdom backwards! Anyway, this challenge is to provide examples of the cartoon’s point.

Have fun!