Inaugural Prayers

inaugural prayers

During the revolutionary war, a cleric delivered a fiery message about liberty. At the conclusion, he threw off his black clerical robe to reveal a uniform. He led his congregation out the door to join the patriots in fighting united empire loyalists.

For all the talk about church/state separation, faith leaders and politicians in the US have always looked to each other for support. Of course, that is different from the church forming a constitution or government for the state. It is also different than the state forming a creed or polity for the church. But the symbiosis has always been there.

The coming invocation of President-elect Donald Trump is no different. The word is that there will be a plethora of ‘faith leaders’ on hand to bask in the earthly glory of the event. No doubt, good, ‘separated’ [whatever THAT means] fundamentalists will cheer this as a good thing.

Friday Challenge:

Today’s challenge is to offer a few thoughts as to WHAT should be prayed at the upcoming Presidential inauguration. Earthly power, wealth and glory? Victory and the destruction of all our enemies? The establishment of US freedom/hegemony? Peace and Justice? The grace of God’s kingdom?

Perhaps clergy should boycott the inauguration.

In this context, what does faithfulness ‘look like?’

Standardizing the Narrative of Violence

liberty-university-gun-range. There's no violence here, I can assure you.
Real Liberty students, real guns! What could be better?

So Liberty University will let students pack heat on campus. As ‘The Blaze’ reports:

“As Liberty built more residence halls, our residents were having to park further from their rooms,” David Corry, Liberty’s general counsel, told Yahoo, adding that students said they “would feel safer if they didn’t have to leave their weapons locked in their glove compartments when walking from their cars to the residence halls, especially at night.”

It makes perfect sense that fundie students should pack heat, especially if they feel less than safe in the dark. The Washington Post adds:

Falwell said that one of the reasons for the university’s aggressive posture on carrying firearms is so that the campus will be prepared in the event of an “active shooter” scenario.

Thinking This Through

A shot rings out and twenty people simultaneously draw a sidearm, how do you know who was the original shooter? Maybe the first shooter a good guy who meant to stop someone [s]he thought was a real mass shooter. It seems to me that the split-second outcome such situations depends on whatever heat-packing person in the vicinity is least stable.

However ‘safe’ this makes some feel, I’d not want my daughter or son there. Still, Falwell reports strong support for LU’s Second Amendment direction. If this seems weird, remember that this is Liberty University.

Colloquial Translations

Others have their thoughts on allowing guns on campus and in residents. this also. These may or may not reflect student attitudes:

liberty-university-dead-end-shooting-range

liberty-university-locked-and-loaded-shooting-range

liberty-university-place-your-bet-shooting-range

Liberty’s Counter-Kingdom Perspective

Mr. Falwell may see himself as an informed expert on Islamic terrorism and how to end it, but not everyone wants to return to the Wild West. And I for one certainly do not want overlaid on the Gospel the sick narratives shapong the direction of LU. Some of us fail to see how the weaponization of society in any way resembles the teachings of Amos and Micah. Some don’t even see how the elevation of Emperor-elect Caligula in any way enhances the Glory/Presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

All around us, weaponry/conflict/militarism/redemptive_violence are normalized and standardized as the central narrative of the life, heart and soul of American civil religion. This all looks much more like conformity to the Rev 13 beastly powers and principalities of this age, than it does the kingdom of God in Christ. I question the wisdom of Liberty’s decision as a means of keeping the campus community safe. And given the poverty that can be found in the region, this seems a poor use of money.

The Heart of It

But my real problem with the Liberty decision is that it offers no challenge to what I see as the rise of beastly powers, and no challenge to overlaying a very backward, reactionary and divisive social-economic political agenda on top of the Gospel message. This obscures the Glory of Christ. What I see is rank conformity to the powers of this age even as the beast/Christ brand is sold as faithful Christian practice under the banner of fundamentalism.

In the apocalypse of Jesus Christ, Saint John the Theologian places the Spirit’s Seal [which is baptism – Ep 1:13, 4:30] and the Mark of the Beast in parody. So it is one or the other. To concur with the existing earthly order of demonic powers bears that mark on the forehead. To labor for the existing earthly order of demonic powers bears that mark on the hand.

Separation that Isn’t Separation

From where I sit, what is often passed off as fundamental faithfulness means paying lip-service to evangelical christology while the incarnation negligibly shapes Christian faith or practice. This is not fidelity to Christ; it is a Gnosticized and therefore blasphemous [per]version of it.

Liberty and the broader culture of which it is a part are tied far too closely to the principalities and powers of this age to make a credible profession of faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ however their ‘orthodox’ their paraded christology and soteriology otherwise claim to be.

Friday Challenge — Separation by Degrees

separation-are-3-degrees-enough

Defining Separation

Separation is a Bible word. So every Bible believer believes something about separation. But how much separation is enough?

Were fundamentalists everywhere coerced to pick one issue that defined them, ‘separation’ would likely take first, second and third place.

Fundie infighting is well known. So the question of how much separation is enough is far from a purely academic one.

dexter-statelySometimes, ‘separation’ [with implicit denouncement/scapegoating] looks rather like a ploy to mark boundaries of a pastor’s ecclesial ‘kingdom.’ The handsome boy to the left marks his territory every time I take him on a walk. But pastors do it for another reason.

If a pastor can make the ‘compromiser’ stick, the ministry of his ministerial rival will be crippled. This in turn will make the prevailing pastor’s financial future all the more secure. It’s a bit like rival business interests suing over rights to brand a product. The irony is that this itself make the church look … well … highly secular.

Friday Challenge

Today’s challenge is simple: How many degrees of separation is enough.

Do we separate from the unconverted?
Do we separate from the disorderly brother?
Do we separate from the guy with differing views on last things?
Do we separate from the guy who doesn’t do altar calls?

What exactly does ‘separation’ mean?

Have fun!

Your Faith Has Made You Well!

Separated Faith Made You Well

Independent Fundamental Baptist preaching has an astonishing ability to take a text into so many odd directions. Take the ten cleansed lepers. One returns to give Jesus thanks. Clearly, it’s a message about soul-winning. On the other hand, this can be a message about the ten converts, only one of which joins the church and becomes a good tither. Or, perhaps this is a message about the ten people whose lives are changed, but whereas nine become critical of the pastor’s failings, only one supports him as he ought.

It occurs to me that the ten healed lepers account holds insight to how Independent Fundamental Baptist preachers handle the canonical text. From Lu 17:11-19, we find the following themes [Large, bold text].

Keeping their Distance:

And so they should! No one actually wants Hansen’s Disease. Separation is always in order! And keeping their distance obeys Is 65:5 which says:

‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’

Is it just me, or does this sound much like IFB ‘separation’? Of course in Is 65:5, the separated, ‘holier than thou’ ones are described as a stench in God’s nostrils. In fact, Is 65 says a number of less than flattering things about people who have been compared to IFBs. But this sermon concerns Luke 17, not Isaiah 65. So Is 65 doesn’t matter this morning…

Show yourself to the Priest:

Because this recognizes the pastor’s authority and wisdom. The pastor is the one who knows and must therefore be heard on all matters of faith and practice. Pastor is the decider. Don’t you forget it!

Turned Back:

This one is good because it gets you coming and going. You can ‘turn back’ TO the pastor. You can also turn back AWAY FROM the pastor. Of course it is always best if you return TO the pastor. But it’s good to know that the pastor has you covered either way.

Prostrated Himself:

No arguments. No exemptions. No excuses. No explanations. No conditions or strings. This establishes a right relationship WITH the pastor. And a right relationship with the pastor becomes a picture of your right relationship with God. The reason your pastor looks so much like God is because your pastor is so much like God.

Get up and Go:

It’s time to win the other nine! Somebody must have counted those ten lepers. They noted the one who returned. And they noted the nine who went blithely on their way, without a word of gratitude [or offering] for the pastor. Since God counts numbers, so do we.

Now go and tell them that your faith has made you well.

Separation

Biblical SeparationSeparation

You can’t hang with fundamentalists and not hear about separation. And if you were a convert to a fundamentalist sect, there’s a good likelihood you heard about separation before you heard about Jesus.

With 2Co 6:4-18, 7:1 as his text, Pastor Lee Stauff of Grace Bible Church in Orwigsburg, PA preached ‘Biblical Separation Defended‘ this April past. Stauff’s stuff was as typical as his selected text.

— Don’t be yoked with unbelievers (14)
— Come out and be separate (17)
— Don’t touch (17)

Grace Bible Church, Orwigsburg, PAThis was followed with yesterday’s message, ‘Distinguishing Right from Wrong.’ Presumably, this is something Independent Fundamentalist Baptists alone are able to do. Against this theory are the multitudinous splits and factions which arise among Fundamentalist, Baptistic sects. But in any case, all IFBs insist on separating from worldly believers. In that, Pastor Stauff is clear — don’t be yoked, be separate, don’t touch.

Except when you must join it.

Joining the World

Brad Cranston

When he isn’t on the campaign trail, Pastor Brad Cranston serves or perhaps is served by the Heritage Baptist ‘Church’ of Burlington IA. Pastor Brad Cranston appears to be no stranger to political endorsements. Five years ago, he stood behind other candidates.

Lest the word, ‘endorsement’ seem to overstate the case, consider Mr. Cranston’s words from a more recent post on his twitter account:

Trump endorses men using girls bathrooms. Cruz responds with the truth. Wake up Christians! Vote Cruz!

And this week past, Lee Cranston gave us this:

Brad Cranston for TrumpIt begs to be asked why people like Brad Cranston belong in ministry at all. If their political convictions are so critical to them, they might resign their position and run for office.

Also pertinent — if Mr. Cranston continually attaches his name to political endorsements in venues which also publish his ministerial credentials, why should his church be granted tax exemption?

Again, why does Mr. Cranston mar the witness of his congregation and endanger its financial stability by openly breaking our laws?

Lastly, if Biblical separation matters enough to Christian Fundamentalism that they must separate from Christians that are worldly, WHY do they associate God’s direct action with secular political campaigns?

Leaving the World…of Fundamentalism

This isn’t separation at all. This is the epitome of worldliness. And it stands unchallenged in the Independent, Fundamental Baptist movement.

If fundamentalism doesn’t believe ‘don’t be yoked, be separate, don’t touch,’ it seems odd that the rest of us are held to that standard. It seems that separation would require us to leave fundamentalism.