Saturday, January 16, 2021

No Peace

It is “a date that will live in infamy.” Those words spoken by FDR were about the attack on Pearl Harbor by a foreign enemy on December 7, 1942. January 6, 2021 will live in infamy as the date the U.S. Capitol was besieged by a domestic enemy during a joint session of Congress. To make matters worse it was an attack incited, watched and cheered by a sitting president.  

People died. Many more could have died. Weapons, pipe bombs, and Molotov cocktails were found when the mob retreated. The crowd shouted for the Vice President to be hanged for not overturning the presidential election. The same fate awaited the Speaker of the House. A noose was erected on a gallows. A week later on January 13, President Trump was impeached for “incitement of insurrection.” That is another day that will live in infamy.

The consequences of his actions on that day will be with us for a long time. Any hope that Trump might fade from the spotlight after Inauguration Day seems unlikely. It is possible that the ex-president could stand trial in federal court. If this happens, his supporters would undoubtedly respond with more political violence. Violent action has already been planned for the days leading up to the Inauguration according to the FBI. I expect a sharp rise in domestic terrorism in 2021.

What word does a pastor speak into this chaos? My first instinct is to speak a word of peace. God knows we need peace at this time! But such a word seems disingenuous. In a tumultuous time in the history of ancient Judah, the biblical prophet Jeremiah spoke against preachers who prematurely spoke words of peace. He compared it to a person applying a superficial bandage to a deep wound.

He proclaimed: “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” I agree with the prophet. This is not a time to comfort people with words of peace. The wound of the American people is too deep. This is a time for surgery. The cancer must be removed before healing can begin.

There is disease at the heart of America. It is rooted in racism and xenophobia. It is expressed as homophobia, misogyny, and Christian nationalism. It is articulated as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Its source is fear voiced as hate. 

Sadly this disease resides deep in American culture and religion, including the American church. A religion that should be expressing truth, love and forgiveness is fueling fear, lies, and hate. The only cure is heartfelt confession and repentance. Unfortunately I do not see much of it.

This is not a time to speak words of peace. Not yet. As the chant says, “No Justice, No peace.” During the American Civil War, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the following words, which were put to music and found in many hymnals today. “And in despair I bowed my head; "There is no peace on earth," I said; "For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

I only hope that one day in the not too distant future we will be able to sing the final stanza of the hymn: “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Sad Legacy of Christian Trumpism

The presidency of Donald Trump is coming to an end. It’s not a moment too soon. One of the saddest parts of these sad four years is the role that Christian religious leaders have played in Trump’s disgraceful presidency. They have dishonored the name of Jesus Christ by their support for this ungodly, immoral and seditious president. They have done immeasurable harm to the cause of the gospel.

Conservative Christians have shown the world that they will willingly believe and repeat lies, all for the sake of worldly gain. That any Christian – much less a Christian leader – could believe the outrageous conspiracy theories put forth by the president tells the world that Christians are incapable of distinguishing truth from falsehood.

What does that tell people about the reliability of the gospel? If Christians cannot discern truth from falsehood when it comes to easily disprovable claims of election fraud, how can anyone believe anything they say about theological claims, which are impossible to verify?

It tells the world that Christians are either liars or rubes or both. They can be easily duped by the most outrageous lies, even to the point of betraying their country. If Christians are so obviously deceived when it comes to Donald Trump, how can they be believed when it comes to Jesus Christ? If Christian leaders cannot be trusted in worldly matters, how can they be trusted in spiritual matters?

The sad truth is that these partisan Christians cannot be trusted. There was a time when clergy were the most respected and educated persons in a community. People came to them for knowledge, wisdom and advice. Now clergy are often poorly educated and wallow at the bottom of every national poll on honesty and trust.

The inability of conservative Christians to recognize truth is obvious in their skepticism toward public education and science. Their rejection of the coronavirus as a hoax is nothing compared to their rejection of geology, paleontology, evolutionary biology, climate science, historical science, and just about every other science.

Too many Christians interpret biblical stories literally for no other reason than because a preacher told them to. Against all scientific evidence they believe in a six-day creation, a 6000-year-old earth, a 969-year-old man, Noah’s Flood, as well as talking serpents and asses (the equine as well as the political kind). This confirms that Christians have no common sense and are easily duped by authority figures.

It is no surprise that such people have been so easily taken in by a con man like The Donald. Anyone who believes that Noah’s Ark is waiting to be discovered on Mount Ararat in Turkey has no trouble believing that 11,780 additional votes for President Trump are waiting to be discovered in Georgia. Those who think evolution is a hoax have no trouble believing that Biden’s election victory is a hoax.

A gospel coming from the mouth of such gullible people will not be believed by anyone but the equally gullible. To sensible people the “good news” of the gospel will be dismissed as more “fake news.” The Bible says the gospel is by nature offensive, even when it is presented by credible witnesses. When it comes from Christians unable to discern truth from falsehood, it will not be granted a hearing.

That is what is so sad about the current situation in our country. Not only has our democracy been undermined, but the church’s reputation has been compromised. A whole generation will be immune to gospel preaching because of the unfaithfulness of Christian Trumpists. People come to church seeking spiritual truth, and they are fed nonsense and lies. No wonder people are leaving churches in droves! I mourn for the country. I mourn even more for the Church.