A HOUSE DIVIDED CANNOT STAND

This just in…

The winner of last night’s presidential debate by a landslide:  CHINA!

Oh… wait…

Make that: CHINA and RUSSIA!

Oh … wait…

(sorry about this folx… the telegraph keeps clattering away on this…)

 

Okay, It is official now.

The winner of last night’s presidential debate by a landslide is…

EL DIABLO himself!

 

Consider this a call to CHRISTIANS: Pray.  Pray for our nation – pray for the enemies within!  Come with a healing word and a healing touch to someone with whom you disagree politically.  Do it TODAY.

 

Please.

 

Otherwise, the DEVIL wins.

 

Thanx for reading here.

 

Now please go vote I mean, pray!

“HIS” COUNTRY

I grew up hearing people use phrases like “his country” in what seemed a slightly awkward way.  For the longest time, I thought this was something spiritual, something religious in nature.

“He fought for his country.”

“He served his country.”

“He died for his country.”

If you swim in this kind of language from youth up, never quite questioning it, then it’s possible to think this is one of those English language idioms.  The phrase is always used so reverently, as if it is sacred.  Does the “his” in this idea refer to God?

But then one day the phrase was used for “her,” it gave cause for a double take.

 

Ohhhhh!  So the phrase means this person was devoted to their own country.

 

Well that sounds almost seditious then.  Why not fight, serve, give your life for THIS country?  What about OUR country?  Wouldn’t that would be a bit less lonely?

No.  We use this sacred sounding language to subtly tear ourselves and our country apart.  THIS country, OUR country, is not God’s, it’s his or hers.  You might even have one of your own too.

 

Maybe that is why I could watch a presidential disaster – ahem – debate like I saw last night and clearly see the one who presented himself as the most responsible, reliable, and ready for this important job and think the choice is so obvious!  This guy won and the other is terribly unfit and will only bring destruction with him.  But then when I stop and listen, really listen, almost half the nation thinks those exact same things about THE OTHER guy.

 

Wow!

 

I watched that exchange, and I just think OUR nation needs Jesus.  (I never heard that name appealed to by either of these condidates.  (Yeah, you read me right.)  And we need him to cast out the demons!

 

Are you Christian?

Are you American?

If you are currently carrying a cross and following Jesus, as a disciple (one of the defining marks of discipleship, btw), then please pray for the losers in this election.  Pray they find comfort in the winners and not scorn, not gloating, not glib celebration, not contempt.

I don’t even care which condidate gets the most votes, “winning” is not possible like this.  “Winning” is another word that needs challenged in this mess.

I wonder now if by “HIS” we don’t just mean “Legion,” and I would hate for this country to be his.

Birthday of the gods vs. Christmas

Wow! September is almost over, and I forgot August Caesar’s birthday again this year. I bet you did too. That, actually, is a great way to celebrate it – or to begin celebrating Christmas. Let me show you what I mean. Please read my reblogged post.

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

(The following is copied from a previous post on this blog.  However, today is Augustus Caesar’s birthday (bet you forgot), and so is a good time to copy/paste and start thinking about Christmas.  Please meditate AND ENJOY the world under Lord Jesus rather than Lord Caesar this year!)

Check out this quote from Caesar. Let it bounce sparks off your Christian imagination. If you have not studied Roman (and/or early Christian) history, this will likely be new for you.

An ancient inscription unearthed by archaeology:

The providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving to it Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease…

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Archangels and local prophets

Look into the Stranger’s eyes and see if you don’t find Jesus. Or go read Steven’s post today and look at the Stranger through his eyes, and then tell me who you see.

Thoughts from the Catholic Cave

Today is the feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael the archangels. My post today isn’t directly about the archangels, but I would like to take the moment to encourage devotion to St. Michael. I’ve written about the Chaplet of St. Michael, a devotion I’ve absorbed into my prayer life and have found beneficial. The rise of hatred, fear, and extremism in our society is evidence of the Devil’s increased activities among us, including within our churches. It would behoove us to draw close to our intercessors and guardians among the heavenly host, and cultivate devotion to Our Lady and the Divine Mercy.

In Hebrews 13:2 the Scripture says, “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” Earlier this year before COVID-19 became a big thing for us, I had an experience that made me think of this verse. I was floating the idea of…

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CHRISTIAN MONEY

(I probably should write a whole series of posts with this title.  I think I won’t, but even from this humble blog, the observations skipped are more than those analyzed.)

I want to consider money for a moment in two different categories: 1) Money, in God’s hands and 2) Money, in our hands.

Have you ever considered a downwardly mobile lifestyle?

To be honest, I never had consciously considered the notion until I read Walsh and Keesmaat’s book Colossians Remixed.  I gave away two or three copies of that book over the years, and so I don’t currently possess one or else I would quote and cite them.  As it is, I will just mention that until I read their book, I never consciously considered downward mobility as a purposeful lifestyle option.

I think that is the way of greed in our world and in the modern church.  It is so thoroughly accepted as good (except maybe for the most hardcore expressions of it) that it gets a pass – even more so that porn.  (Oh yeah.  Ever stand there in the checkout line eyeing the “swimsuit” issue with the hot vixen “wearing” a painted on swimsuit?  Yeah, as a red-blooded, American male who just happens to be Christian, I content myself with the notion that looking at that, pondering it very carefully, as I am apt to do, is not looking at porn at all.  But I would find something wrong with a hardcore porn magazine on that rack.)

Yeah, I grew up thinking it was only natural and right, really, as an American especially, to make money and “get ahead.”  My grandparents had created a much better financial situation for themselves than their parents, my parents had exceeded my grandparents, and it only seemed natural that I would exceed my parents too.  I even anticipated my kids would exceed me.  This wasn’t greed.  This was just “God bless America.”

I just didn’t ever question it.

Then I read Walsh and Keesmaat.

Then not only did I question just how “natural” and “God blessed” all this was, but I began to see greed in it.  This seemed to be “the American way,” but it surely didn’t seem to be the “The Way” of Scripture, of Jesus, of God and God’s will.  It wasn’t panning out like this for the rest of God’s creation.

 

This brings me to a good place at which to transition into that first category I mention above:  Money, in God’s hands.  

My analysis here is in no way exhaustive.  I don’t even know if I am picking the best representative bits of Bible to analyze this stuff with, but I figure on the blog… we need to start somewhere.  This is as good as any… to get the discussion started.

So… the rest of God’s creation.

Well, that has me thinking about when God created it.  I don’t think we modern people of faith give enough, or even any, thought to the fact that in six days of creation, God does not create a single dime.  No dollars, no dimes, no pennies.  No Denarii.  No money.

The very earliest currencies that human cultures used were largely based on salt.  I am guessing it was just straight up bartering before that.  I am not an expert historian, but the studies I have done in the past give me this general idea.  Point being, God didn’t make this stuff we call cash, and therefore money does not, in fact, make the world go round – contrary to popular wisdom, I think.

Fallen humans invented this stuff.  Fallen humans stockpile it.  And if you really, REALLY, really think about it, greed is about fear.  There won’t be enough to go around and/or the haves won’t share it with me.

There is more to it, but when reduced down to its bare essence, greed is about fearing the need.

God, of course, will supply the need.  (Matthew 6:19-34 anyone?)  This, of course, is not a direct attack on wealth itself, per se, but you have to be nuts to not see how greed and wealth go together like a hand in a glove.  They are like smoke and fire – almost.  The instances of wealth without greed are exceptional.  But of course the converse is true; you don’t actually have to be wealthy to be greedy.  But we seriously need to stop excusing our greed willy-nilly based merely on the fact that there is a distinction between wealth and greed.  We have been driving big rig trucks and freight trains through the eye of a needle for all we are worth doing that, and yet just common sense (when sobered up) a bit, makes this quite plain to see.

However, most people of the modern world have little or no appreciation for the fact that from the earliest times, money – coinage – also carried “images” on it.  We still do this today also.  But in ancient times, money was the only place you would likely see an “image” except among the super wealthy or in pagan temples.  And, of course, graven images are prohibited with God.

Already, I can sense my American readers driving trucks and trains through the eye of this needle too.  Graven images are not the same thing as greed, but in the ancient world they went together hand in hand, and we may as well see them that way now too.  This likely plays a role as at least one important feature in the exchange Jesus has in the temple when his interlocuters attempt to trap him in a statement about paying tax to Caesar or not.

Go look up that story and refresh yourself, if you need to (Mark 12:13-17).  Notice that Jesus isn’t carrying this blasphemous currency around in his pocket, and so as the Pharisees and Herodians attempt to lay out their little trap, he forces them to produce one of these coins.  (Apparently, they have some of it in their pockets, and so as Jesus ascertains one from them in front of the crowds, they are already getting caught in their own trap.)  And immediately, Jesus turns the question/discussion around to that “image” imprinted on the coin.

Oh, yes.  There are other dimensions to this than just “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  These idiots are losing at least two arguments with their little trap, if not more.  But that is all the more I need to bring up for our purposes here.

Jesus, who is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), is talking about the “image” on the coinage AND demonstrating that he doesn’t have any of that filthy lucre in his pockets.  Jesus who is God incarnate doesn’t keep the stuff on hand.  It’s also worth giving passing mention to the fact that one chapter before these Pharisees and Herodians lay their trap, Jesus cleared out the temple by turning tables of the money-changers.  It seems Jesus just doesn’t have the same soft spot for money as we modern Americans do.

So, God never made this blasphemous stuff to begin with, and Jesus, God’s perfect representation on earth, doesn’t have any, criticizes it at existential levels, and encourages his disciples to trust God rather than wealth anyway.

The only place I can think of in the Old Testament where God seems to be collecting wealth is with the tithe (Deut. 14).  God makes provision for those traveling long distances to convert their assets into cash in order to make traveling more manageable.  The cash there is a concession of sorts.  But I have Tony Campolo to thank for drawing my eye to the rest of that chapter where we notice how this massive pile of wealth is disposed of.

Yes, one tenth of the gross national product of Israel is brought in sacrificial tithe to God, and every three years it is used to throw a giant party where the guests of honor are the widows, orphans, and sojourners (the poor, basically), thus it in no way gets invested for grand and greedy, capitalist schemes.  No. It all goes up in party flames shared with the poor and needy.

That is a quick breeze through Money, in God’s hands.

 

Let us now turn to Money, in our hands.

At this point, I must take care not to suggest that having money in your hand or in your pocket is somehow inherently wrong.  Based on what I have said thus far, it seems like the proverbial dominoes are stacked up to fall in that direction, alright, but stacked up to fall and falling are not exactly the same thing.  I don’t want to start driving trucks and trains through this narrow gap, but I cannot join what I don’t find joined by God either.  I notice that, if no where else, at least St. Paul raises a collection among the churches.  I presume, until someone produces credible research demonstrating otherwise, that such money was good, right, and holy – if sanctified first.

Actually, I expect that as the psalmist and prophets of old describe the nations bringing tribute to Zion (Ps 68; Isa. 60; Zech. 14 for instance), St. Paul’s collection fulfills such future hopes of the Old Testament.  If this is the case, then it appears we have money placed in God’s hands alright, but it is in that willing, worshipful tribute of the whole world offering her treasures to the Creator.

This is money in God’s hands, so to speak, filtered through the Christians.  And I did entitle this post, “CHRISTIAN MONEY.”

(I’m sorry, but I just gotta say it:)

WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET???

(Okay.  That was fun.  Now back to the serious post.)

Yes, the Christians, as we find them in Jerusalem according to Acts 2 and 4, are selling their wealth off, giving the money to the church, and the church is redistributing the wealth in such a way that no one has need.  (Yes, this is godly communism (as opposed to godless communism), and it’s in the Bible!  It’s in the church!)

I can’t help but think of that passage in Mark 10 where the rich man asked Jesus how he might inherit eternal life, and after some discussion, was directed to sell all he owned, give it to the poor, count his treasures in heaven, and come follow Jesus.  It appears that meal Jesus shares with Zacchaeus leads to a very similar place (Luke 19), because after they eat together, Zac says he will give half of his wealth to the poor and pay restitution for his greedy sins on the order of four times what he took!  (That would leave Zac wiped out!)

You see, I didn’t give much thought to downward mobility over the course of my American life because I haven’t really considered these things very carefully – certainly not without a lot of American style distraction.

Hmmm…

Yes, in Luke 4, Jesus announces that his whole mission is about launching the long awaited, never fully realized Jubilee!  In his kingdom, all boats rise together when all knees bow together.  There is no need for greed in that abundant life.  It’s not even an addendum we gladly overlook as part of our American experience as Christians.

No.  Your upward mobility was always meant to serve God.  Is it your money?  Or his?  If it isn’t sanctified and made holy for him, then it is obscuring your image as an image bearer.  That filthy lucre in your pocket is deforming the image of God in you, and taking away from the abundant life God has for all of his creation.

I am thinking us modern, American Christians need to rethink Christian money.  When we do, we will have some devastating questions, I think, for Steve Corbett, Brian Fikkert, Robert Lupton, and Dave Ramsey – among others.

Let’s talk…

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT AMERICA AND . . . GOD?

Did you ever see that bumper sticker with the stars and stripes and phrase “God bless America” on it?  What do you think about the pledge of allegiance to a flag?  Is that okay with God?  Did you ask God?  Do you think as long as it includes the phrase “one nation under God” that it’s okay with God?  What do you think about America killing her enemies?  What do you think about America rebelling against the king of England with a Tea Party?  How does that sit with God?

Do you have a Bible verse for any of this?  Or just the bumper sticker?

Yeah.  I been thinking on these things a bit.  Just sitting here cogitating.  I do that a lot.  I think about a lot of things.  Different things on different days.  And what I think is of little consequence.  I mean, I once had a car driving down my street and past my house, and suddenly the driver slammed on the breaks and came to a screeching stop.  The driver got out and frantically ran up to my door and began ringing the doorbell over and over and banging on the door until I got there to answer it.  And just when I did, a whole chartered bus of philosophers from some university in Indiana pulled up and everyone piled out and came up to my  door, and just then some sky divers began landing in my yard and all these people were here to ask what I was thinking about.

But then it occurred to me that the whole thing was just a stupid fantasy of mine. 

 

In fact, I rarely get more than a dozen people to visit my blog each day, and I am almost always offering my thoughts to the world free of charge!  So, if that observation tells you anything, rest assured, it’s lost on me.

Thus, with just a pinch of humility, I ask my nosey questions.  I invite you to think about these things with me.  You certainly don’t have to think the same way I do.  There isn’t a law about that, and if there was, we’d be sure to break it.

But seriously.  I have church friends and family who believe that the USA is a “Christian nation” and that our laws are based on “God’s law” and … you know… stuff like that.  And, well, this being an election year and everything, it seems like a good time to ponder this stuff.

I can see how the description “Christian nation” MIGHT apply in SOME respects, alright, but I can also see how that PROBABLY is just some wishful thinking or even a kneejerk reaction in the real mix of things.  We most definitely are not specifically Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu.  So, almost by process of elimination, and in some very loose sense, you might speak of America as a “Christian nation” and get away with it like that.  But there is nothing specifically and inherently or even uniquely “Christian” about our nation by which to specify us as such.  Certainly, there are no Bible passages that proclaim it, and actually with the founding fathers very purposeful insistence on a “separation of church  and state,” as an argument, the idea just falls flat.

 

Best left to the bumper sticker mentality that doesn’t face too much real scrutiny then.

 

What of the Bible?  It does talk about God and his purposes for his creation.  We get a LOT about that stuff.  But the U.S. Constitution makes no provision for these things – biblically speaking.  In fact, the Constitution limits God, something the Bible makes no space in creation for creatures to do.  I mean, when you get right down to it, the Constitution comes very near blasphemy, don’t you think?

Wow!

Some bumper sticker.

Our nation is about to go to the voter’s booth and choose a leader.  By far, most of my church friends and family believe that one of these candidates for “leader of the free world” represents God’s will.  And my friends and family overwhelmingly are NOT referring to the one who endorses abortion rights.  No.  They mean the one who claims when he meets a woman he feels attracted to, he just “grabs them by the pussy,” and that it’s okay with them when you are famous.

I wonder… Do you know that the Bible no where speaks out against abortion per se?  Oh, I don’t mean to give abortion a pass by pointing this out, not one bit, but I don’t think what the Bible says really matters to my friends and family.  If it did, I don’t think they would be so eager to endorse the pussy grabber either.

In fact, this is not really the most important election ever.  (They said that about the last one and the one before that too.  So, if we are honest about it, that is the talk of someone drunk on the spirit of the age, I think.)

No.  God, the supreme leader of the free world and, actually, of just THE WORLD, created this world in which we put this kind of culture to bear on it all, and when he first made it, he put naked, vulnerable image bearers in charge of it and made them male and female.  (This stuff is actually in the Bible.)  When he made the world, practically each day of creation, he paused to pass judgement on it all and said it was “GOOD” each time!

Today, so many of us Americans think under the current pussy-grabbing leadership either things are just so bad we need to change leaders OR we think the pussy-grabber-in-chief will “make America great again.”  Either way, things aren’t going so hot at the moment, but get this election settled the right way, and it will all be good again.

But neither candidate is even aiming at the “GOOD” world of Genesis 1 and 2 (from the Bible) at all – much less the new heavens and new earth we find at the end of Revelation.

Of course, if I just leave it there, then I am not being quite fair about it.  After all, some bad things happened in Genesis 3 which has left God’s world not as “GOOD” as it once was.  And even God himself had to bring SALVATION to this world in order to get it back to being “GOOD” again in time for the next Judgment.

It’s a long story to be sure, but it all culminates and climaxes with Jesus getting crowned King of the Jews at Golgotha, the edge of town at Jerusalem, and he takes that crown, the same dominion and rule given to Adam and Eve at the start of creation, in naked vulnerability all over again.  (Seriously.  It’s in the Bible!  The Bible actually talks about this stuff!  If you want to find God’s will for his creation, you can’t do better than to look into the Bible to find it.)

And so when I look around at America and how it’s going and all that, to say something like “God bless America” seems very naïve at best and extremely out of kilter to say the least.  But that is just a bumper sticker. 

Is pledging allegiance to a flag even biblical at all?  Got a verse?

How about rebelling against the king?  How does that jive with being subject to the governing authorities in  Romans 13?  It’s one thing for an American governing official to whip that passage out on American subjects today, but if we started this nation with a Tea Party in Boston Harbor and an enemy-killing fight, then by what authority does that governing official quote from Romans 13?  Likewise, appealing to our founding fathers is like appealing AWAY FROM God and Jesus who would tell us to love our enemies and pray for them.

Hmmm…

You know?  The more you really think critically about this stuff, the more clear it becomes.  America doesn’t really care about God much.  That bit about “one nation under God” – well that’s just lip service and smoke -n- mirrors…. huh?  That makes liars of us, huh?  We get all fervent about putting those words in there, but we have really no ambition or desire for that in reality.  Not in the slightest.

Wow!

And my mom and dad were afraid if I ran off and joined a rock band when I was a kid that I would grow up and finally one day realize what a sham that whole lifestyle really is.  It promised so much, but delivers so little – and in fact just delivers me right to hell.  And the whole time, they were sending me to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades where the first thing I learned each day was to pledge allegiance to that flag.  If that pledge were honest, it would have said, “a splintered nation with God as an afterthought” instead of “one nation under God.”

Someone please explain to me how we didn’t all get took in with that!

Or… better yet…

Someone please explain to me how we might ever repent and make this right!

MY FIGHT IS WITH YOUR FLESH AND BLOOD, NOT THE POWERS AND PRINCIPALITIES OF THIS AGE (I am splitting your hairs)

Do I sound like a heretic?

I reckon I do.  If you read St. Paul, you know that what he says about us (Christians) is almost diametrically the opposite of my title in this post.  I betting that one or two of my readers, which might make up maybe 150% of my readership, does read Paul and does find my title troubling.  I bet you are itching right now to leave me a comment directing me to read Ephesians 6:12.

Yes.  I am familiar.

So what could I possibly be doing with this post?  Am I just blatantly wrong and I just don’t care?  Do I claim St. Paul is wrong?  How dare I???

 

No.  None of that.

But I just might be trying to have it BOTH ways, and I bet you will argue that with me too.

 

Here’s the thing:

There is a lot of context and meaning surrounding a given text of Scripture, and we do well to set the bits we pull out to analyze in those settings.  Otherwise, we can just lift them out and do whatever we want with them.  In that case, we can make the Bible say just about anything we want it to, and unless we adhere to some kind of very careful rules for reading and preaching, we almost certainly will.

But maybe we hear it wrong too.  I mean, maybe it echoes through the halls of time and we only make sense of it in our own context(s), and I think that happens too.

What I am describing now is really just a thin variation off the first observation.  We might make the Bible say whatever we want it to, but we might hear it how ever we want also.

My fight is not actually with flesh and blood.  If it were, I would go get a handgun or an assault rifle and start killing.  I am not doing that. 

If my fight were actually against flesh and blood, I might resort to mere insults and character assassinations.  But I am not doing that either.

I am, however, arguing with YOU about the idols to which YOU give your allegiance.  And that does, actually cut kinda deep.  Right where you live.

I am learning, I hope, from reading Lee Camp’s latest book, to speak my prophetic voice INSIDE.  I tend to critique conservatives a lot, but I also claim to be one.  I find my fellow conservatives to be right on some issues and deadly wrong on some others.  But I speak as a critic from within.  I am a white, middle-class American man.  I hold to many – maybe most – of the values that seem to go with that.  I certainly have reaped the blessings that have gone with that.

But Camp has me getting my focus a bit cleared up here.  I am not actually critiquing the larger world of conservatism, I am critiquing those taking the Name of Jesus and attaching it to conservatism.  What do I have to say to those outside the church who are either liberal or conservative, except primarily “WELCOME sinner!”?  But to those who already bear that name and who behave, talk like, and advocate for those principalities and powers of the conservative persuasion, I hold forth critique.

I would, in theory, have about as much critique for those Christians beholding to liberal powers.  But of course, I don’t know very many of them.  I live among the “conservative” kind – of which I believe I am one.

WE are getting it wrong on a number of fronts that is taking Jesus’s good Name in vain.  Everywhere WE advocate fear, hate, suspicion, advantage, over against the poor, the vulnerable, the needy, we are getting it wrong.  WE are getting it wrong.

 

This is my very loud INSIDE voice!

 

To be honest, in the final analysis, I believe I am honoring St. Paul’s words in Ephesians.  I just think that if you are hearing me, it SOUNDS like I am not.  I think it sounds like I am attacking you with mere insults and maybe threats.  But I am not.  No more than Jesus or Elijah.  And I have never drawn a weapon against flesh and blood.  I have not doubled up a fist to swing it at a nose since at least the seventh grade.  That is NOT what I am doing or advocating, but in the hostile atmosphere in which I speak, I think you see me that way.  And if you don’t, it is because you are not listening.

Yes.  If I connect conviction to your allegiances which you swear to idols, then I expect it will cut you to the quick.  I expect you will feel some anxiety and pain.  But, if I do it well, it is not actually me doing it, and it is not your flesh and blood that actually suffer from it, but rather God making real and tangible changes in your life.

You really might find it hard to distinguish between your own flesh and blood and your allegiance to your idols.

The Curious Case of Mohamed Noor

Stark!

Please… both of my readers… pay this post a visit.

Thanx

The Roofless Church

Remember when Mohamed Noor was convicted of murder when he mistakenly shot Justine Ruszczyk. I knew he was going to go down because of how it is. And notice that I didn’t define “it”. Because most of us who have to live with “it” know how “it” is. That’s why even though they say their hands were tied in Louisville, ________.

And yes, I know they are different states. But are they really?

I know I’m going to fail miserably at articulating this. But, here it goes.

We don’t matter. We never have. Not in the way that many of us are asking to matter. (I’m not asking by the way.) The reason why I can say half the things I do is because I realized at an early age that I was playing a different game with different rules even though it might be on the same court. I’m…

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I WANNA KNOW WHAT LOVE IS; BUT I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR

At the risk of getting all cornball, in this post, and taking an unnecessary stroll down amnesia lane, I will join the aching harmonies of pop music to Jesus.  And why not?  I am a red-blooded American-Christian living in two worlds.  What if these worlds were to collide?

Oh, man!  I just can’t stop myself.

This is starting to feel sappy.  (I am not really into “sappy” – truth be told.)

I am, largely due to the time and place of my birth (the culture in which I live), a pop music fan, in particular (for the purposes of THIS post) a Foreigner fan and a U2 fan.  (Neither of them being personal favorites, but – yeah – I am a fan.)

Like all pop music groups and each of their pop hits, these band’s songs are unique.  I once read a music critic say that the one thing every number one hit song has in common  is TIIMING (and they can be, and usually are, quite diverse in style).  Actually, it doesn’t have to go all the way to #1 for this to be true.  Even lesser hits are hits due in no small part to their timing – the moment they come up for cultural review and enjoyment.

In 1984, I was a teenager and a “long time” fan of the rock band Foreigner.  By the standards of pop music in the 1970s and early 80s, Foreigner had established themselves as one of the harder rocking rock bands.  Songs like Double Vision and Hot Blooded were considered a bit edgy and “hard” in those days.  I never thought of them as anywhere near the hardest (nothing like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest), but they seemed to skate that fine line between hard and pop which afforded Foreigner higher charted hits.

 

(I think I am analyzing this stuff more than I really need to, but bear with me.)

 

However, even before their 1984, biggest hit song ever, Foreigner had a big hit with the very soft-rock song, Waiting For A Girl Like You.  That slow song, I presume, was a huge commercial success for the band, but I also suspect that many fans (like me) felt a bit betrayed by it.  A completely OTHER artistic direction that rakes in the cash like that is what we call “selling out.”  But nothing could prepare us for I Want To Know What Love Is.

I Want To Know What Love Is was a great song.  It hit the cultural mood like an A-bomb.  I liked it too, though I wished it had come from a different band.  This was not at all the hard rock genre, and I hated to see hard rock groups caving to certain pressures.  But I must admit, the song is gripping.  Contemplative.  Stirring of the soul.

I presume the writer/performers intended the song to be a “love song” in the tradition of romantic soft-rock songs.  But this one was transcendent.  This one not only showed the soft side of a bad-boy rock band, it went plumb spiritual – with a church choir sound and a subject matter joining together ideas that seemed almost divine.  It had the feel and the sound of church, of God, of angels as well as romance.  All of these things became fused together to make the song and sentiment actually seem important at cosmic levels.

This song might have you contemplating life and love in new ways.

That’s a lot of freight for a pop song.

 

And then it happened again just a few years later.

 

In 1987, the band U2 dropped yet another spiritual, gospel-choir sounding pop song on the radio-listening public called I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

Was it a love song?  The romance element seemed muted.  Perhaps I expected that of it initially, and perhaps the song teased the notion a little, but by the end we had plainly come to church.  U2 had achieved something special that is harder still to categorize and put into words.  They had already established themselves as a hard rock band for a number of years previously, but the hard edge was not their real thrust.  They had been pushing political and moral buttons with their music more than the hard rock sound.  In fact, to my young teenaged mind, they simply had not pushed the hard rock buttons enough to really grab my attention – since that was much more my taste.

But here U2 was moving in on some very deeply spiritual ground.  They came with a break-through album that put several of their songs and the band in a very bright spotlight for award show programs and constant radio air play.  This song was only one of several, but it was one of the truly big ones for them, and for the culture.  In fact, their longevity and success puts them in league with the Beatles and Elvis.

The U2 song has had better staying power too, than Foreigner’s big song.

But the funny thing about it, U2 took us to church alright, but when we got there, we also got deeply satisfied, at least for a moment, with the notion that we had not found what we were looking for there.  In all it’s soulful longing and beauty and rapture of a seeker’s imagination, in the end, U2 had merely validated a lost feeling.  We were lost in church, and now we had an expression of our hearts for this sad condition.

 

 

Both songs, really, are “seeker-friendly.”  (That is what we started calling our churches in those days, and now I wonder if that designation wasn’t influenced by pop music.)  Searching for love.  (I recently posted on that awful (sorry if you like it, but I really hate it) country music song (also from the 80s) called Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places.)  I am taking us on this little tour of radio play time-capsule because I think it shows the pop culture trying to speak to the church in meaningful terms.  Plus, I think people my age are now in positions of authority and need to reflect on lessons that could have/should have been learned.

And so with U2, the culture came, like a spy plane, to church (in some respects spring boarding off Foreigner’s invasion) wanting to know what love is, but did not find what we were looking for.

 

Seeker friendly.

Yes.  A foreigner and a spy plane came to church – looked around – and found the place empty.  Like a page out of Roman/Jewish history.  Like the day the great General Pompey enters the Holy of holies, looks around a moment, can’t find anything or anyOne there, walks back out (alive) and announces to the world that the place is empty.

Every good Jew (and even all the nots-so-good Jews) there watching that day had to be expecting, even hoping, that this uppity pagan was gonna find himself confronted by YHWH, God, who will not tolerate such infidels in his house!  Even the high priest did not enter that place, except once a year, and did so with great precaution since he was a sinful man in the presence of such a Holy God.  But Pompey walks out alive, which is the first tip-off that something is wrong, and announces the place is empty too, and thus sends shockwaves through the spiritual universe!

(Actually, it’s not really JUST the “spiritual” universe, but that terminology makes my point a bit sharper, I think.)

After all these years, round about 35 now, who is still listening to these songs?  Who is still talking about them?  Some DJ on the oldies station?  One or two pop culture historians?

 

And me.

 

The pop music/pop culture, once (or twice) upon a time, brought the larger culture to church saying, “I want to know what love is” and “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”  The church became “seeker friendly” at least for a while.  However, I am in no way convinced that just because pop music and pop culture occasionally teases matters of faith or “get’s deep” in a sense from time to time that the depth or sincerity is really all that potent.  I am also not convinced that the modern church was really prepared to show the foreigner what love is or the spy plane what it was looking for.

 

What did the seeker find in the “seeker friendly” church?  Some effort to be trendy?

That’s not love.

It’s not what the world is looking for.

 

Seekers…

We still have seekers today.  Maybe you don’t see them.  I don’t hear the pop-Christian culture talking nearly so much about them in the last 20 years as I did before.  But we have them.  Actually, we have seekers TONIGHT.

They don’t generally call themselves “seekers” nor do the rest of us.  We usually call them “homeless” when we are being nice, but we also call them “bums” and “beggars,” when we aren’t being so nice.  And they don’t generally come “seeking” to find “love” or anything else you might expect they are “looking for” at church.  So, the modern church, at least as expressed in pop-Christian, church culture, might be excused for not realizing this.  (However, God says, “Woe to the shepherds…” in Ezekiel 34… so that doesn’t mean we are off the hook.)

No… The homeless are seeking a “spot” to lay their heads for a few hours.  A physical location, where it is relatively quiet, peaceful, and “safe” to do so.  They seek the dead level minimum, in that regard.  That’s not asking what love is.  That’s just asking for a chance to catch their breath… to get a little shut eye unmolested by legal entanglements, criminals, or hecklers.

In fact, the poor, it seems, ever more have a sense they do not belong at church.  See my post here for more on that:  https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/covert-op/ .

There is nothing trendy about this.  It’s not enraptured in a pop song lyric or church choir.  So if you want to be a shepherd of God’s sheep, you might have to physically get in your car (or better yet, the church van) and drive down to skid row and make a formal invitation to come and get some warmth, maybe a slice of cheap pizza, a song and a prayer, and a place to rest for the night.

It’s still not the LOVE Christ wants his flock to know, and it’s still not the abundant life Jesus offers to those who come looking for something, but it is a start.  A sacrificial start.  Sacrificial, because if your church really does this, it stops being YOUR church, and starts being Jesus’s.  It stops being a social club for the rich Americans, and starts offering LOVE to the world.  It stops being a group, a place, a building you can be proud of, and starts being your humble service.

And if you ever heard the foreigner sing how he wants to know what love is, or if you ever heard the infiltrator lament that he still hasn’t found what he is looking for, and if you ever sensed they spoke for you and found your heart humming along with their blues, then you just might find out what LOVE really is and what your soul is looking for too.  Assuming you stay with it.

Look.  I am in my 50s now.  When I talk about pop music this old, I am talking to people who are old enough to be church leaders now.  You are in positions of authority, now, and can make important decisions about such matters.  Don’t you think it’s time you know what love is and find what you are looking for?

 

Revelation 3:20

 

2 CANDIDATES, 4 VOTES & A LORD NOT ON THE BALLOT

I don’t vote.

(How many blog readers did I just lose with that opening?)

I am not going to preach against voting per se, but I will tell you that I don’t, convey why I don’t, and offer an alternative.  (Oh, and I don’t need to vote in order to have the right to complain!  Nor do I need the right in order to complain! -Just sayin’.)

Let’s keep this as generic as possible.  I don’t want to endorse a candidate in the presidential race or a party which they represent.  Yes, I have a preference, but no, I won’t even go so far as to promote that one.

For the one or two readers still here, let’s get into this:

The political process has now narrowed the election down to just 2 candidates:  Candidate A and Candidate B.  One of these two will be the elected winner.*  It will not be both.  It will not be someone else.

As put, the process sounds deceptively simple.  However, the reality, that to which we reached at this point, has already proven that it is anything but simple.  Yet, even in the hypothetical nature of analysis, as I am using now, the simplicity is deceptive.  Though there are 2 candidates, there are actually 4 votes.  As long as humans have any kind of spirit, the human spirit will dictate as much.

Here is what I mean:

A vote cast for Candidate A might be either a vote FOR Candidate A or AGAINST Candidate B.  A vote cast for Candidate B might be either a vote FOR Candidate B or AGAINST Candidate A.  The outcome of the election, theoretically, is simple enough, but the motives, desires, and will of the people all packed up in this A/B choice is far more complex.

 

That said, the complexity is only just begun.

 

As most of the elections of the last 30 – 40 years have shown, with few exceptions and largely with increasing tensions, roughly half (notice carefully I said ROUGHLY half – cut me a little slack here) of the voting public comes away from these elections very unhappy with the results.  The cynicism and bitterness has grown tremendously in recent elections, but the waffle back and forth between parties and ideologies should be enough to prove my point.  Both sides keep racing further and further to the extreme fringes of their ends, and the middle seems abandoned.

This is America!  The Greatest Nation On Earth!  At least that is what I was raised to believe, and you would have to be an idiot to argue otherwise – even if you were from Germany, China, India, Iraq, or pretty much anywhere.  Americans need only point to the envy of the world to shut your argument down.

And yet, as good as we have it (by whatever measure we were using), we are coming closer and closer and closer to outright hatred and contempt for our neighbors in this great, “God-blessed” land, and the hate and contempt keep blindly seeking resolution in every next election.  But instead of resolution, we keep coming back to more tension which seems to increase with every vote.

 

I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said, the problem with Hell is the neighbors.  And sure enough, if you can’t stand your neighbors, you will not like the neighborhood nor enjoy your home.

Jesus tells us to love God and neighbor and THUS fulfill the law.  That might make for a good Christian, but not a good American.  And according to Jesus, this is more important than any other commands.  (That includes voting, btw.)

 

So, there is this OTHER 4 votes type thingy we might consider:  A vote FOR Candidate A is a also a vote AGAINST Candidate B and vice/versa, but a “winning” vote makes a loser out of a neighbor… and that’s NOT LOVE.  

 

(Somebody, please quote me on this!)

 

Hold one another’s interests as more important than your own.  (I think I read that somewhere… (hint: Philippians).)  As a Christian, how might I do that?  As a voter, how might I do that?  Which am I primarily?

 

You are, of course, welcome to make of these things whatever you wish.  But for those who are of the faith, who count themselves as disciples of Jesus, we are beholding first and foremost to YHWH, God.  He was not well represented by Caligula, Nero, or even Augustus.  These men were blatantly pagans, and no Jew worth his salt had ANY interest in seeing these men come to reign over the empire.  St. Paul did not campaign for any of them.  Neither did Jesus.  But Jesus came to be crowned King of the Jews – and he was.  This made him Lord of lords and King of kings.  This inaugurated the Kingdom Come.

 

Our citizenship is in heaven.  From THERE we await our Savior.  

 

I in no way think that “voting” per se is a sin.  Especially not voting for dog catcher or class president.  But considering the contempt and hate and other demons swarming the presidential vote in this land, I will ask my brothers and sisters to think twice about voting.  Consider very carefully what is in YOUR heart.  And whatever the outcome, give it to God!  And then do your part to mend some breaches in the neighborliness of our land.  In fact, DO that part whether you vote or not!

What this land needs more than your vote is prayer.  Prayer and neighborly love.  In addition to thinking twice about voting, I ask you, my brothers and sisters, to seek the peace of the nation in which we find ourselves and conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of our Lord.

I will be working on that in my own life too.

Thanx

 

 

*By “elected winner,” I am using simple terms for what hopefully will be a simple process.  I am mindful that given the last election, that term would need to be qualified, like it would need to be in the 2000 presidential election, since the candidate with the most popular votes did not actually win.  But I am not desirous of getting bogged down in those matters for the purposes of this post.