“Destruction,” from The Course of Empire by Robert Coles
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
–from “The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats, 1919
What a sad, hard week for America; the People’s House breached, lives taken, pandemic ratcheting up and up. Never in my lifetime have the words of Yeats’ most famous poem felt so achingly true. Words written in the wake of the “blood-dimmed tide” of World War I when the Spanish flu was rising, infecting Yeats’ own pregnant wife.
Big decisions are being made today, tomorrow and in the next four years about the future of our country, and the results may permanently change America. I’ve included how I’m praying about these issues, sometimes fasting, and encourage you to do the same. Especially this week. You’ll find one time-sensitive action step recommendation at the end.
#1 Will we be able to have free and fair elections in the future?
In a December post I wrote about the danger of the media’s suppression of the evidence of fraud in our November elections.
We will be alone this Christmas. Eleven hundred miles from any family. Distanced from friends who will take the risk to be with their grandchildren (as I would if we had them), but it means we won’t be visiting them either. Ah, Covid. You are such a joy stealer. Such a prime example of the curse of sin in a fallen world.
This week I wake up thinking of the distance and the empty calendar ahead. Today, as I play my Christmas music, I’m fighting back a few tears. Maybe you’re fighting for joy too. How can we reclaim the joy of this Advent season?
I’ve been surprised how our fall Bible study of the book of Revelation has helped. As I’ve reflected on the first and second advents together it has lifted my spirits so much.
The angel’s announcement of the first Advent, “He has come!” invites us into a story of great joy, but also great sorrow. An almost-divorce over an out of wedlock pregnancy, no room in the inn, Herod’s slaughter of babies in his search to destroy Jesus, Simeon’s prophecy that Jesus will cause the rising and falling of many and his postscript to Mary that “a sword will pierce her heart” certainly proved true. What a reflection of our own Covid Christmas–celebration fraught with sorrow.
But expanding our Advent celebration to Jesus’ second advent taps into our future sorrow-free joy. Jesus’ second advent stands in stark contrast to his first. Consider how they are similar but wildly different, and how the second advent magnifies our joy:
In his essay, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis went on record snorting at “the cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone” of his own age. And yet, if a Christian felt called to journalism and broadcasting, I think he would say, as he said of philosophy, “Good [journalism] must exist [because] bad [journalism] needs to be answered.”
And bad journalism is multiplying exponentially, er, algorhithmically, out there. The election of 2016 changed journalism. The line between reporting and advocacy has all but disappeared.
The New York Times vs the Truth
Not long after the 2016 election The New York Times launched a new subscription campaign featuring hooks like, “We’re passionate about the truth. Are you?” and “Truth is what we do better” and “Read news that values the truth.”
How do you respond to that pitch?
When Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016, I could hardly believe I would to have to choose one of them in order to make my vote count. I know, many people made a vote in principle for a third party candidate. But I couldn’t do that.
I believe that casting a vote that helps determine the outcome is being the best steward of my citizenship and my vote. Even now, in 2020, I know people who will not vote for either candidate on principle. And yet the candidate they are backing is not even on the ballot in my state.
That is a political statement. A theological statement. Not a truly meaningful vote. I respect them and know that this is their choice in good conscience before the Lord. But in my opinion there is too much at stake in this election to cast a vote that is meaningless to the outcome.
This is a worldview election. We are voting to strengthen one worldview and weaken another. How so?
Courtesy of Story Block
The LBGT community has asked hard questions of us in its struggle for acceptance: “Why do you care what we do in our own bedrooms?” So state courts struck down laws against sodomy.
“Why can’t we have the civil right to marry whom we please?” In 2014 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage.
“Why should any employer be able to fire us because of our sexual orientation or gender identity?” In June 2020 the Supreme Court ruled they cannot. One of the cases litigated was that of a funeral home whose biological male employee transitioned to a woman. The court insists that bereaved clients should not discriminate against him/her, even if they feel uncomfortable.
Now, in this run up to our election, is a good time for Christians to ask hard questions about the LGBT community and our vote.
No woman I know wants to look unattractive. As fall ushers in sweater weather, we’re in the stores seeking styles and colors that make us feel good. For many of us that means finding clothes that are new and trendy. (Long cardigans!) Or comfortable. (Joggers for millions who never jog!) Or even beautiful, although beautiful is more elusive.
Of all the places we might expect to find beauty, we’ve come to expect less and less of it at fashion shows. Or the pages of fashion mags. Watch the shows online or pick up a copy of Vogue magazine and I have rarely seen pictures of so many women who look like they absolutely do not feel good.
They look bored. Depressed. Starving. Androgynous. They look like Dr. Oz has diagnosed them with anhedonia– the inability to experience pleasure.
But then, if I had to wear what they had to wear, I would probably feel (or not feel) the same way. What is going on?
Now that it looks like another conservative justice will be appointed to the Supreme Court, does it matter so much if my vote for President is pro-life? Why is a candidate being pro-choice such a deal breaker for some Christians? Can’t we put aside our belief about abortion for the sake of unity?
(Note: this is a frank discussion and depiction of abortion) I wish that every election season each voter would take the time to watch or re-watch the movie Unplanned. It begins with real empathy for those who seek abortion and those who help them. It’s the true story of Abby Johnson who joined the staff of Planned Parenthood to help women in crisis—the women who called and walked through their doors–tender, upset, weeping. Having experienced two abortions of her own, she wanted to offer support to those women who didn’t think they could care for their child.
The next two months until the election will be full on cultural and political war. How can we engage in that conflict, especially as we respond to the our political opponents, and still follow Jesus, living with his love for people? Here are three good questions to consider as we check our motives and make our choices…
- Will we choose retribution?
Suppose you are a salon owner and one of your independent stylists wants to bring in a high-profile official for a shampoo and blow dry. Suppose this official is your political enemy. Not just any enemy, but the highest official of the enemy party. The party responsible for shutting your salon down.
Protesters set fire to County office in Portland, August 18, 2020
America is hurting. Angry. Burning. As we watched George Floyd die under the knee of Officer Chauvin, the outrage in the Black community finally reached the tipping point. Demonstrations spread across the country. The outrage has been deeply felt in the White community too. In this unique moment of our cultural history, both sides seem united in empathy for George Floyd and a desire to see change.
Why are we hearing a new vocabulary of “white fragility,” “whiteness,” “intersectionality,” etc? Why are we seeing peaceful protests continue weeks after George Floyd’s death; police, their precincts, courthouses, monuments and now churches still targeted by rioters and looters, and people losing their jobs if they don’t adhere to a new race-oriented orthodoxy? The short answer is…because we are seeing a shift at the worldview level. A view of oppressors and victims that originated in (and has been percolating in) the Academy for decades is reaching the tipping point. Rising into the mainstream with surprising speed.
Jefferson statue toppled in Oregon
The wrenching death of George Floyd has energized the cancel culture to the tipping point. Statues of Confederate generals, even our Founding Fathers have tumbled down while police stand down from “sanctioned” protests.
The leader of one grass-roots group, Take-em-Down NOLA, said after the Charlottesville protest, “We recognize the original sin was the genocide of the Native Americans and the enslavement of the Africans. People bring up the fact that [slave masters] were Founding Fathers. That’s people’s opinions, but for us what disqualifies you is the slave-owning.”
Now, after Floyd’s death, this claim is boiling into action and in blue states and cities critical masses are embracing this perspective: slavery and racism are the “original” and unforgivable sins of America. As we recently heard over the July 4th holiday, many protesters cannot join in the celebration of the founding of what they believe to be a racist state. As followers of Jesus, how should we respond to this claim?
It’s easy to lose your mojo. It’s summer…when we normally downshift anyway. But more than that, we are weary of life with masks and distancing and non-stop news of the heart-breaking injustice, violence and loss in our cities. The stock market goes up and our hopes rise, only to plummet again.
To make matters worse, our election-aggravated culture war is starting to ramp up for five long months of political assault on our hearts. Hopes of returning to an economic or daily “normal” are sinking and for many a feeling of low to high-grade anxiety is settling in. Or perhaps a roller coaster of both.
There is much talk of how to cope. That is not what this post is about. Coping with all the issues mentioned above carries the idea that we are using strategies and methods to merely survive. Riding the roller coaster of news, events and emotions, but managing our fear and anxiety enough to stay on the rails and not launch into the abyss or crash at the bottom.
But interestingly, the word “cope” is not used in the Bible.
Growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s and reading what the book of Revelation says about the persecution of Christians in the end times, I could only imagine that such apocalyptic scenarios must be way, way off in the future. Surely beyond my lifetime. We didn’t know anyone who didn’t go to church. I couldn’t fathom how our culture could change that deeply and rapidly.
photo by Ben White at Unsplash
We are so used to fake news we usually simply sigh and move on. But every once in a while, the “news” is so egregious and the manipulation of the truth so blatant that it’s worth sharpening our critical thinking to see exactly how logic and reason are being flayed and boiled in oil.
Atlantic Monthly writers offer in-depth reporting that I often appreciate. But they jumped the shark when they published a piece by former evangelical Jonathan Merritt: Some of the Most Visible Christians in America Are Failing the Coronavirus Test: In place of love, they’re offering stark self-righteous judgment (April 23, 2020).
Here is a simple summary of Merritt’s case:
Many Christians’ response to Covid is cruel. Instead of choosing to respond with love they are “choosing to emphasize judgmental messages.”
They are “shrugging their shoulders at mass death and heaping pain on the grieving”
Merritt offers 5 examples: author John Piper, First Things editor R.R. Reno, a megachurch billboard, White House Bible study leader Ralph Drollinger*, and pastor Robert Jeffress.
This judgment and hypocrisy makes nonreligious people despise Christians. It’s costing the religion dearly—people are walking away.
But what should we expect? These are the same people who support Trump because he is a “shit talker and a fighter.”
Christians should be known by their love. Some need to go back to Sunday School and discover their roots.
I’ve been feeling a bit like a prisoner in my own home lately. And you? Tired of reading article..article…article…article…, I knew I needed a shot of bigger perspective.
So I picked up a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time–One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
Written by Russian Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn and based on his own experience in the Gulag, Siberia’s network of “corrective labor camps,” I thought it might afford me a bit of a reality check on what it really means to feel like a prisoner.
And it has. But not by pounding me with horrific word pictures of torture, despair and madness.
Rather, with the artistry of understatement, irony and even wit, One Day, while written in big print and prison slang, offers great thoughts and deep meanings that gently percolate in my mind throughout the day–so different from the jangle of texts, Facebook posts and articles that leave us feeling over-stimulated and unfocused.
One Day is an easy read with a psychologically gripping ending I never saw coming. It makes me think. And give thanks.
Researching it a little more online, I discovered that when a movie based on the book was released in ’76, the narrator of the trailer hooked me with exactly what I was looking for: “This movie will make you feel better about your life.” So will the book. Much better.
from Robert Doares’ Immanuel: The Life of Christ
It just feels wrong to spend Palm Sunday and Easter at home. I wished I’d been on my way to church yesterday instead of listening to a sermon on line. I so missed seeing our kids waving palm branches. Singing praises and hosannas in a room full of voices blending so strongly that my own is submerged in a sea of praise.
My morning began with a silent reading about a day of praise. Jesus riding in, gently, peaceably down the Mount of Olives through the Beautiful gate and the streets of Jerusalem.
What was missing yesterday was the crowds.
Can you imagine lining up behind Jesus 6 ft. apart? Walking down the Mount of Olives in single file? It really puts a damper on the joy. Sucks all the energy out of the scene. We were meant to worship in crowds. Multitudes. Singing loudly to our God and king.
It was just not the same singing along with the TV. Or even with a few neighbors on our decks/balconies.
As I write this there’s a chance that Jack and I have been exposed to Covid-19. We were already starting to wind down non-essential outings, but when friends asked us to meet them for lunch last Wednesday, we agreed. They mentioned that their son had just returned from the Caribbean where he worked with a water purification project for a local ministry. When he left here there were no recorded cases in the Caribbean basin.
Two Fridays ago I attended a bona fide Bernie rally here in Columbia, South Carolina. Having seen Bernie in person, even though it looks like he’s on the ropes in his fight to become the Democratic nominee, the rally showed the power of his message to shape our political future.
Vice-President Biden has looked so intermittently confused and muddled over the course of his campaign that many have wondered, Is he mentally fit for the most challenging job in the world? Well, last night in CNN’s debate he certainly went toe to toe with Senator Sanders and proved that on a good night he looks almost as strong as Bernie, although he faded a bit in the second hour.
What we see happening is that Bernie’s message is so strong that Biden is adopting key points with moderation, such as free public college for everyone whose parents make under $125K. How strong is Bernie and his appeal to voters? Here’s what I heard from Bernie and his dedicated supporters…