Suspending the Rules on Compromise

Compromise? Compromise? Who said anything about compromise?
Donald Trump with Jerry Falwell Jr. — or is it Trump with a fundamentalist sTRUMPet?

Political Alliances, not Compromise

Strange political alliances are nothing new. Even if only a matter of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ pragmatism produces some odd relationships. This is doubly so when one party is sworn to shun foreign covenants [alliances] as the very epitome of worldly compromise.

Addressing the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, Jerry Falwell Jr. made several statements which some might regard as both odd and ‘foreign.’ Consider these two:

‘We have never met such a genuine and loving family; I truly believe Mr. Trump is America’s blue caller billionaire’ [2:57].

‘…we are at a crossroads were our first priority must be saving our nation’ [4:20].

The video suggests Falwell’s support for repealing the restriction of non-partisan speech for non-profits and churches. He seems to think that this is a ‘free speech’ issue. In reality, he can go political already. But if he does, that tax exempt status is forfeited. Mr. Falwell gave no indication of whether he wanted tax exemption revoked along with the prohibition.

The July 21, ’16 NPR ‘Morning Edition’ featured Steve Inskeep’s interview with Falwell. There, he offered this insight:

‘…if you poll that group and you look for where the traditional social issues fall, they used to be near the top. And now, they’re the last ones on the list  … Many pastors tell me that what difference does it make what happens with social issues if we lose our country? We’ve got to save our country first.’

Pragmatism at all Costs

It is certainly true that abortion and marriage rights no longer command the attention they once did. But Falwell’s statement tempts us to think that in times of crisis, we can suspend the rules.

But again, a host of issues never captured the evangelical/fundamentalist imagination. Yet these also suggest a nation undergoing collapse:

  • A 7.9% increase in deaths by police in 2015 over 2014.
  • US maternal death rate up 27% since 2000.
  • Food insecurity/poverty rampant in US cities.
  • Opioid epidemic [heroin deaths triple in 4 years].
  • Prison deaths — nearly 7,000 since ’05 in Texas alone.
  • 500,000 homeless [nearly 1/4th being children].
  • Militarized police and community occupations.

It is sad that the logic some would bring to the table would be to argue that the very conditions of social misery warrant ongoing attacks on civil liberties and enhanced police/political crime.

The Steve Inskeep interview with Falwell continues…

INSKEEP: In the “60 Minutes” interview the other day, Lesley Stahl said, in passing, you’re not the most humble person. And he broke in and said, I’m very humble. I’m humble in ways you’ll never understand.
FALWELL, JR.: Yeah. I’ve never seen any arrogance. I do think he is…
INSKEEP: Do you think he’s humble?
FALWELL, JR.: I do. I do. I think he’s very outspoken, and I think he is – what’s the old saying? If it’s true, it ain’t bragging.

In addition to the nation, something else is lost–a churchly witness to Christ. It is being lost because in the face of social disintegration and the rise of fascistic extremism and unbridled militarism, such alliances Trump and Falwell force upon our minds one, very simple question:

Is that the best Christians can do?

 

Revelation as a Circular Letter

An Epistle

RB’s discussion of Revelation as a circular epistle has some important and potentially mind-blowing implications. The writing is dense; much of what RB says here can’t be condensed. So I quote him extensively in this post. It is a lengthy post, but I am passionate about this and don’t know how to do otherwise. Interested parties are encouraged to get this book!


Revelation as an Epistle

Many misreadings of Revelation occur because it is overlooked that this whole work is an epistle, a letter written to then existing churches, and not to some far-off end-time/last-day generation.

While most directly concerning the seven churches, Revelation has interest to a broader audience. 1 Corinthians is very targeted to one church; but we all benefit from that epistle [cf. Col 4:16].

Meet the Seven Churches

John uses a unique strategy in Revelation. The body of his message is for all the churches. But he has very different, very specific introductions for each church. These are the famed ‘seven letters’ to the churches.

Seven Churches OrderThe churches are named in the order a messenger delivering this letter to them from Patmos would most naturally follow.

The churches faced very different problems, and they faced some common problems very differently. Each ‘letter’ is an ‘introduction’ to the whole book, in which Jesus addresses that specific church.

God Sanctions Other ‘Interpretations?’

The Revelation as a whole is a circular letter written to seven churches. But John intended for it to be read from seven different perspectives. [This seems to be to be HUGELY liberating to fundamentalists who are bound so very slavishly to the ‘one’ reading allowed every passage!].

Churches in turn are promised future salvation ‘to him who overcomes!’ This is the call to eschatological [future] battle. But what is victory? What does it mean conquer? The letters don’t explain that; but that is explained in the central chapters of this epistle. Likewise, our eschatological destiny is described at the end of the epistle.

John’s World, Ours, or Both…

John lived under Rome’s worldwide tyranny. He wanted the churches to see how that tyranny related to the issues they faced. He wanted them to see how their struggle on the issues fit in God’s great battle against tyranny, and how it served God’s purpose to establish his kingdom.

RB observes that not all Christians were poor and oppressed by Rome’s tyrannical system. Many were affluent and compromised with it. For them, the judgments described in Revelation came not for consolation but as stern warnings of the danger they incurred. It was not only pagans, but many of John’s hearers/readers were tempted to or actually did worship the beast [as those who listened to Jezebel at Thyatira].

Comfort or warning, the application of Revelation turned on the group to which hearers belonged, and their relationship with Rome’s tyranny. Asia Minor had more churches than seven. But the wealth of perspectives John provided allows all the churches to find analogies in his representative sampling of churches.

POLITICAL CYCLONITE

Thus read, Revelation becomes a devastating critique of much Christian profession. They are not alone, but even some very ‘fundamentalist’ sects uncritically endorse US militarism, war, foreign interventionism, plus domestic repression [law-and-order] and poverty [austerity, wage cuts, medical/benefits cuts, interest rates favoring the wealthy, etc.].

The Revelation identifies that as spiritual alignment with and worship of the powers of Death. We have the means to address the enormous social, economic and political crises besetting nation and world. But we surrender this by pushing the theology of the Revelation into the future. And it is done PRECISELY to allow us to profess Christ AND sell out to the world.

“Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues’ [Re 18:3-4].

What’s Compromised, We Rebuke

Christianity Looking for And Excuse to Rebuke. Or else, just delivering rebuke.

Today’s post is a different. It’s something of a rant that replies to a post on another forum. But I decided to publish it here rather than elsewhere.

We Rebuke Compromise

Compromise. It’s the fast track to vilifying rebukes from Independent, Fundamental Baptists. Few things make any IFB uglier and happier at the same time than an excuse to ambush another congregation for its many sins. Likely, Fundamentalism’s most cherished slur is, ‘weak on sin’ followed closely by ‘worldly.’ Hence the words on today’s photo.

But those words may be a little too true, particularly if one digs into what ‘worldliness’ entails. Because brother-sister, it ain’t about hair styles or wearing blue on boys and pink on girls. Beware the political overtones.

Where We’ve Been

I’m astonished.

As part of an Indo-China military buildup to base 60% of US warships and aircraft in that region by 2020, the US Mitchell Institute just provided details on fifth-generation stealth aircraft to be used in any future war with China. This, followed by the freshly issued Chilcot inquiry which offers devastating confirmation of the Blair-Bush crimes of war against the Iraqi people, for which as many as 1 million perished at our hands.

Where We’re At

At home, we face a Presidential election proffering a choice between one candidate with openly fascistic tendencies, and another that is a war criminal. Militarized police arrest hundreds nationwide. A police assassin is killed by a drone [essentially] on US soil. As tensions escalate, relations erode and an exhausted public is increasingly alienated from their own processes of state, the ruling class loads their Winchesters for the social upheaval it knows its policies will evoke.

Where We’re Going

So what’s next? Will it be disappearances? Or bullet-riddled bodies found on roadsides at dawn? Or the proliferation of Chicago-type Homan Black sites? Will torture and execution at police stations become routine policy? Or more forced feeding of inmates as seems to be Wisconsin’s policy? Will hitherto rotating martial law become the rule everywhere?

What We’re Doing

Studiously excluded from discussion are enormous crises including our inexorable march toward WW III and thermonuclear war. We talk endlessly of the heinousness of abortion [which is true] neither knowing of nor caring to acknowledge that the US-backed Iraqi regime has trapped some 50,000 in Fallujah, without food or water. We prattle over Planned Parenthood, discuss others’ inward state of grace [or the lack of it], yet routinely reduce this to sectarian partisanship. It’s astonishing.

Rather than offering a robust ‘kingdom of God’ critique of the powers and principalities of this age [which is what the Revelation does], we align with this or that earthly/secular/heretical power. Twice a year, we give lip-service to God and proclaim Jesus the prince of peace [Advent] and the victor over the powers of death [Easter]. The rest of the year, we are virtually indistinguishable from the world. Then we wonder why the world doesn’t take us seriously. I’m astonished.

What We Should Be Doing

Imagine if the church everywhere preached ‘give us this day our daily bread’ before the blockade of Fallujah. Imagine the Christmas/Easter message proclaimed each Lord’s Day in the face of every attempt at usurpation of social justice. Imagine proclaiming the prince of peace every time the call to rearm was issued. Imagine reconciliation in God preached every time the state bore down on the lowly in the interests of the great.

When Rebuke Boomerangs

Ironically, the IFB movement does not object to all this. It rallies beside earthly powers and vindicates them in God’s name under the banner of ‘conservatism.’ In so doing, the IFB movement brings on its own head the indictment of the words on the photo.

On a superficial level, the IFB would cheer those words. But as soon as it is clear what those words mean in light of God’s kingdom, Fundamentalists decry kingdom interests as insidious attacks on the left on godliness and the nation. Thus Fundamentalism stands with both feet planted firmly in ‘the world,’ cheering for the principalities and powers of this age.

The Greatest Hypocrisy

Accusations of hypocrisy are heard among believers and they cut deeply. In truth, all of us do it some degree. We do better to admit this than not.

But the greatest hypocrisy may be to pretend that Christ is for us when in fact Christ is for the world. And as Christ offered himself for the life of the world, we are called to do the same. Then again, we know what the world did to him. That’s the rub. We’re reluctant to follow.

Yet he bids us follow. That should be all the rationale we need.