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[A friend wrote to me the other day, asking as a Christian if I had any advice for not letting the evangelical support of Donald Trump color our views and feelings on religion. The following is slightly expanded from my response to them.]
It’s going to be a long haul. I was reading Jeremiah the other day, looking up a particular verse. Basically Jeremiah had been warning the Israelites they were going down hard if they didn’t repent, but once they were conquered and taken away in captivity, his message changed from one of dire warning and criticism to one of compassion and encouragement. Here’s the verse, and I think one can find words of wisdom in it regardless of what one believes:
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” — Jeremiah 29:4-14
We are going to face a tough number of years. Figure we’re going to be fighting for a generation: 20 – 22 years. I’m not wholly convinced by the Strauss-Howe hypothesis but it’s not a bad model to keep in mind (the period Jeremiah cites above would fit into that cycle).
We are in a Crisis period; we will follow that with a High period, one where the country prospers materially but is stunted by conformity. Then comes an Awakening, then (alas) an Unraveling, followed by another Crisis.
So what do we — both as Christians and as individuals — do? Well, we need to take the long game view. We must endure the Trump years. They will be bad, but hopefully if enough people call him and the GOP on their bullshit the worst of it can be blunted. We’re not entering a Nazi era (the country is much too diverse for that, regardless of what the alt-right says) but we are entering a period of corruption and exploitation that’s going to last until the next generation has its fill and decides to turn the rascals out.
When that happens, some promise will arise, some progress will occur, but it’s not going to be as much as we would hope for. But we have to get through that to get to the next phase, the Awakening, in which the real progress will be made.
And real progress will be made. As bad as things are going to be in the next few years, we have already made tremendous steps forward that cannot be undone or taken back, simply delayed and hindered for a while. Go back in history and you will see this ebbing and flowing, this generational change in all times and places and cultures…and while it may go retrograde for a short while, it always returns further ahead than it was.
But that’s 40-44 years from now. I probably won’t see that coming Awakening in full flower; you may and I hope you do. What we are to be today are the encouragers and the helpers and the mentors of those who will carry through the Crisis era into the High that follows. We need to be telling people hedged in by this society and culture that they can make a change, that they can restore the promise and dignity of this country.
We are like the old school folk singers of the 1920s and 30s, the Woody Gutheries et al who carried the message around under the noses of those on top until it eventually sank in and permeated the culture. We’re not going to be the Dylans or the Beatles or even NWA; it’s not our time, not our moment. But we can make a mark and be a positive influence.
As for specific things to do as Christians, there I’d say we have to find like minded people — not necessarily in churches but online or in non-traditional venues — and lift up and encourage one another. Even now we’re seeing some evangelicals starting to have buyer’s remorse, and when Trump fails them and then disappoints them and then finally turns on them, they’ll start coming apart as a church culture.
That’s when the real church (i.e., the body of believers as opposed to any denomination) will need to step forward, to carry the message of love, justice, and compassion instead of judgementalism and a thirst for power.
It ain’t gonna be easy.
One thing we cannot do, however, is give up. There’s is an ancient Jewish teaching found not in the Old Testament but in the Pirkei Avot, one of the many Talmudic commentaries, which says “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work [of perfecting the world], but neither are you at liberty to desist from it”.
God bless you and keep you and give you peace of mind and soul in the days and months and years to come.
 There’s an old word we don’t use much any more — “jeremiad” — derived from his earlier prophetic fire and brimstone utterances. There’s a nice, polite way of defining what a jeremiad is but I think the modern paraphrase is more to the point: “To carve someone a brand new asshole.”
 “The Strauss–Howe generational theory, created by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, describes a theorized recurring generation cycle in American history. Strauss and Howe laid the groundwork for their theory in their 1991 book Generations, which discusses the history of America as a series of generations.” — from Wikipedia
This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labors to others,
Hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
Have patience and indulgence toward the people,
Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
Or to any man or number of men,
Go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
And with the young and with the mothers of families,
Read these leaves in the open air,
Every season of every year of your life,
Reexamine all you have been told,
At school at church or in any book,
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul,
And your very flesh shall be a great poem,
And have the richest fluency not only in its words,
But in the silent lines of its lips and face,
And between the lashes of your eyes,
And in every motion and joint of your body.
There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish — which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.
The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,
So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or in the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St. Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):
So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By “eightieth” meaning whichever is last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.
for the tip off
- He spoke in stories, parables and riddles.
- He usually answered questions with questions.
- Even his most intimate disciples didn’t understand him.
- He was frequently frustrated by our inability to comprehend him.
- Those in authority who did understand him silenced him.
- The rest who understood were marginal and are mostly forgotten.
- He didn’t have a scribe write down what he said when he said them.
- It wasn’t until years later that Paul et al tried to systematize him.
- However, Paul et al didn’t systematize what he said, but his significance.
- Church authorities rejected tons of Jesus material according to their theological perspective.
(found at nakedpastor dot com)
Bob Dylan probably did more to spread the message of Christ than Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, or any other famous evangelist.
Want me to prove it?
Quick: Quote any sermon you’ve ever heard.
Okay, ever hear this?
How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
We got so much in common
We strive for the same old ends
And I just can’t wait
Wait for us to become friends
I feel a change coming on
And the fourth part of the day is already gone
Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony
Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”
You thought they were all kiddin’ you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’
Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin’ that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone’s tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D.A.
Look out kid
Don’t matter what you did
Walk on your tiptoes
Don’t try “No-Doz”
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows
Through many dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side
Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”
Oh, the leaves began to fallin’
And the seas began to part
And the people that confronted him were many
And he was told but these few words
Which opened up his heart
“If ye cannot bring good news, then don’t bring any”
You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Bob Dylan probably did more to spread the message of Christ than any evangelist even before he formally became a Christian and to people who would otherwise be resistant to the gospel.
All of his music, all of his lyrics were informed by a strong Biblical point of view, and it was clearly evident even before he formally announced he was a Christian that Robert Allen Zimmerman had spent a lot of time reading and meditating and thinking upon the message of Jesus Christ.
His songs stick in everybody’s head. They’re not the watered down papulum of Contemporary Christian Music, they are not the bland platitudes of Christian publishing, they’re not the soulless / gutless crap that represents most Christian attempts at pop culture.
They’re sincere. They’re raw. They’re from the heart. They’re searching. They’re yearning.
They’re not afraid of asking questions.
And they tell you the answers are something you have to seek for yourself.
And that you will not be excused for failing to search.
People take Dylan’s songs into their hearts, they echo through their lives. They sing them day in and day out.
Every sermon is dead and buried as soon as the congregation walks out the door.
The gospel — if the congregation was fortunate enough to have a pastor who could impart some of it through his plethora of words — lives.
Not in memory verses, not in concordances, not in apologetics, not even on the printed page, but in the heart, in the mind, in the soul.
They just gave Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize for literature.
You don’t get that for empty threats and pointless propaganda.
“Blowin’ In The Wind” © 1962 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1990 by Special Rider Music
“I Feel A Change Comin’ On” © 2009 by Special Rider Music and Ice-Nine Publishing
“It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music
“Like A Rolling Stone” © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music
“The Times They Are A-Changin’” © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music
“Subterranean Homesick Blues” © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music
“With God On Our Side” © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music
“Highway 61 Revisited” © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music
“The Wicked Messenger” © 1968 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1996 by Dwarf Music
“Gotta Serve Somebody” © 1979 by Special Rider Music
I’ll be at Alpha-Omega Con, the Third Annual Christian Comic & Pop Culture Convention to be held from 10AM to 6PM this Saturday (September 24th) at the Well Church in Artesia, CA. (New location! NOT the previous venue!)
We have a full schedule planed with numerous activities and guests on tap, including:
Mike Shields II – Townsend Coleman – Will Morton – Katie Leigh – Stephen Weese – Brett Burner – Mike S. Miller – Mike Kunkel – Eric Jansen – Pastor Fred Price – Dr. Thomas Parham – Clint Johnson – Kevin Yong – Scott A. Shuford – Carmi Fellwock – Buzz Dixon (Wot da — ? Sheesh, they’ll let anybody in!)
There will be three tracks of programming, and I’ll be on two panels:
Creating 3D Characters in a 2D World (moderated by Dr. Thomas Parham)
Gender Roles in Comics and related Media: Bias vs. Biblical (moderated by yrs trly)
See ya there!
I know a number of pastors personally, and the fact that they are pastors with congregations they need to serve buys them a certain degree of protection.
As pastors, they have responsibilities far beyond doctrinal / moral / ethical / political disputes. There are real people who can suffer if those pastors are rebuked for some bullshit they say / write / post publicly.
So I tend not to beard those particular lions in their particular dens. The satisfaction of exposing their errors is dwarfed by the potential harm that could be visited on their congregations in the process.
I won’t name names or confront them on their home turf…
…but by God I will expose their errors to the rest of the world so even if they are not called out by name, their arguments will be exposed to much deserved shame, ridicule, and approbation.
Case in point:
The continued hypocritical defense of North Carolina’s hideous anti-transgender restroom ordinance.
I’m not going to argue that law.
I don’t have to.
I’m cutting straight to the chase:
FAR MORE CHILDREN ARE RAPED BY PASTORS, MINISTERS, AND RELIGIOUS WORKERS IN CHURCHES DURING ANY GIVEN MONTH THAN ALL VICTIMS OF DISGUISED SEXUAL PREDATORS IN PUBLIC RESTROOMS EVER!
Stew on that one a while.
Take all the time you want.
To pass laws against innocent transgender people when politicians have been committing far more sexual crimes and offences against children, to support those laws when far more pastors and public scolds have been raping men, women, and children is an abomination in the eyes of God and man.
Remember Matthew 7: 3–4 ?
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
People pushing the transgender discrimination bills have flippin’ sequoias in their eyes!
It kinda goes with the territory:
Any group that gathers large numbers of broken / weak / naïve people together is also going to attract predators of all stripes…and despite the best efforts of those institutions, there are still going to be far too many who slip through (“too many” = “greater than none”).
But this is a major ongoing problem facing all churches today.
And as noted, it dwarfs the tiny number of incidents of sexual predators attempting to disguise themselves as members of the opposite sex to commit assaults, much less the number of those attacks that occur specifically in public restrooms.
As if sexual predators, already committed to raping someone, will somehow be dissuaded from that crime by threat of misdemeanor prosecution if caught wearing ladies’ clothing.
And tragically, as often as not when a child or woman or even a man is raped or abused by a religious leader in a religious setting, the organized church’s response is to blame the victim and / or deny any crime occurred and / or protect their leader / organization.
Jesus is really very, very, VERY explicit on this:
You need to do something about the ungodly high number of rapes by pastors and / or in religious settings before you can ever hope to have the moral authority to start criticizing innocent people for crimes they did not commit.
Go get some laws passed that regulate who can set themselves up as a pastor and / or start a church, or how the children and youth ministries in same will be supervised by outside monitors for their protection and then we can start talking about your getting the vapors over transgender people using the bathroom.
Before we begin, let me state for anybody who thinks anything that follows is a back-handed reference to those in my own family — immediate and extended — who are ministers: NO. None of them have crossed this line.
I understand the concept of “hold your nose” voting and why many people find it distasteful. It is possible for people of goodwill to look at two or more flawed candidates for office (and gawd noze they’re all flawed to some degree) and come to entirely different choices about who should fill a particular office. A farmer who thinks Candidate A has a better grasp on agricultural issues would need some pretty compelling evidence that they’d be terrible at everything else to vote against his own self-interest. A city dweller who thinks Candidate B would be harmful to urban areas would need compelling evidence they’d be so much better at everything else as to be worth voting for.
As Robert A. Heinlein famously observed, you may never ever find anybody you want to vote for but I guarantee you’ll always find somebody to vote against.
And I understand that most people make choices for ultimately irrational reasons — and by “irrational” I do not mean “insane” but “emotional”.
“I do not like thee, Doctor Fell
The reason why I cannot tell
But this I know and know full well
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.”
So, as much as I might disagree with their reasons, I can understand a person deciding to vote for Donald Trump.
No, my peeve is with those so-called minsters of God who proclaim Trump is God’s anointed.
There is a precise theological term for this sort of thing and it’s called bullshit.
I was all prepared to call out specific offenders by name, but the sad truth is that there’s just too damned many of them. Unlike Albert Mohler and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention — two men with whom I typically can find precious little to agree with — who said they couldn’t endorse Trump without losing all claim to moral credibility, much less proclaim him God’s chosen candidate, we have numerous prominent fundamentalist and evangelical
media hogs spokespersons trotting out their hoary rationales why voting for a twice-divorced three time philanderer with a history of compulsive lying and a string of billion dollar bankruptcies in which he cheated business partners, employees, contractors, investors, and clients is not merely a justifiable act but rather a mitzvah, a righteous deed, and one ordained by God.
The political aspect of this is not my topic for discussion, at least not in this post. I cannot imagine the set of circumstances that would convince the average voter that Donald Trump would make a superior president than Jill Stein, much less Gary Johnson or Hillary Clinton.
Rather, it’s the God damned naked greed and avarice and lust for power of the so-called “religious right” that rouses my ire.
And I use the term “God damned”
in its correct theological context.
What these bozologists have done is to wipe their asses with the Bible.
If you’re a Christian, I want you to take all the time you need to let that image settle in deep within your psyche. Imagine your favorite old family Bible, the one with the scuffed leather cover that’s been handed down from generation to generation.
Imagine this fat pink perfumed crew of choir boys slowly and gleefully ripping those thin-thin-thin pages out of that Bible and cramming them between their fat cheeks to wipe the filth off their bottoms.
Got that image in your skull? Good.
I want it there, and I want it associated with them, because I want you to understand that they have just led millions of people away from Christ, away from the Good News.
I don’t care how many Bible verses they cite, I don’t care how many theological exegesis they execute, I don’t care how many hours in prayer they have spent on the matter.
They have demonstrated to the world that they are no different from the other greedy power mad rat finks out there, and are in fact more contemptible than most because they are such blatant hypocrites.
You might be able to rationalize Trump as being the least bad choice and maintain your integrity: Having a toe amputated is bad, but having a leg amputated is even worse; preferring to have a toe amputated over a leg may be Hobson’s choice, but if one of the two are going to happen, there’s no sin in preferring it to be the least traumatic.
But the people claiming Trump is God’s own anointed are not saying make the choice with the least potential harm; they are saying not only is losing your leg a good thing, it’s a Monumental Good Thing, and if you don’t cheerfully support said amputation, you are sinning against God and man.
You can sell that bullshit to the bigots and the cowards, to the fanatical and the fearful, but you can’t sell it to anybody with a pair of eyes and a pair of brain cells rubbing together.
They can read.
They can compare the actual teachings of Christ with the bogus crap issued forth from our contemporary Pharisees, and they can recognize the enormous disconnect.
This is not someone saying “hold your nose and vote for the candidate who will do the least harm” but rather a crowd of con artists telling us that the exact opposite of what Christ taught is what God wants us to do.
The unchurched see through that phoniness. There is no way to win them back by convincing them the con artists are really holy saints of God; there is no way to win them back to the old and failing mainstream denominations.
There is a way to unite them in the community of Christian believers, but you can bet the heart transplant money on this: Whatever that way is, it is not going to resemble church the way North Americans have been doing it.
 Fair is fair; I’m sure there are some people somewhere who have made similar claims about Clinton (in a country of 320,000,000 there has to be a few). But there aren’t as many and they’re nowhere near as vocal as the blasphemers on the religious right.
 I was originally going to type “media whores” but that would have been a gratuitous insult to sex workers worldwide, most of whom hold to a far higher ethical standard.
 Not “whorey” and certainly not “holy”.
 A con artist lying in order to steal your money is lying for a rational reason (i.e., profiting off your loss), they will cheerfully tell the truth if it makes them money. A compulsive liar will lie even when the truth will suffice!
 And these are just the things that have been proven in courts of law; I’m not even touching the really salacious stuff!
 You’d be wrong, but you could rationalize it.
 More and more this is coming to mean not those who have never been exposed to the Gospel message — because c’mon, who hasn’t been exposed to it through sheer osmosis if they live in the US of A? – but rather those who grew up in the Christian community and now willingly walk away from it. Contrary to what the con artists would tell us, they are not walking away because they have been seduced by the blandishments of sin, but because they have seen first hand how most Christians and most churches have made no genuine effort to live a Christ-like life.