(Warning: Foul language actually printed out in this post. Not something I usually do with this blog. Read at your own risk. Sorry, and thanx.)
I posted last week about our recent COVID camping trip out of town and painted a lovely little picture of our family’s little victories amid growing pains. Every bit of that post was honest, but they certainly were not the whole story. That post was more introspective, and looked inward at our family’s spiritual life. However, I felt like a foreigner in a foreign land too. I felt like aliens had abducted me, zapped me to an earth in a parallel universe where everything was recognizable, but where everyone was just off a cog. My country is sick and went out and got seven demons worse than the first. We need Jesus desperately.
We took our family on a little trip to the mountains in eastern New Mexico, a part of the state I personally call New Texico, since in my estimation for the last 3 decades, despite the fact that the majority of New Mexico repeatedly votes Democrat, the people of eastern New Mexico always seem to me to envy Texas and Texas conservatism. In fact, they seem to me to out Texan the real Texas. The fervent, gritty, rugged individualism, independence, and pride of these people are so thick you can smell it in the air. And this has been my personal assessment for the last thirty years.
I never lived and kept an address in the state of New Mexico, but over the course of my life, I have lived multiple times in Arizona, Colorado, and Texas (in addition to California and Missouri). I have kin folx who live in New Mexico as well. So even though I never lived there, I have crisscrossed that state more than even the ones I lived in and more times than I can count. However, I have not visited the state in the last two years (thanx largely to COVID). So, the level of fervent conservatism I found last week at every stop and every bend in the road along the way was just more than I ever dreamed.
Especially the cult of Trump.
We have that cult here in Texas too, but eastern New Mexico is plastered with it. “Trump 2020” flags blowing in the wind on nearly every fence post, it seemed. Many of them old and tattered and blown to mere ribbons. Many of them joined by new ones, by Old Glory, and by “Don’t Tread On Me” and other patriotic flags.
(Now… Let me pause my thrust right here a moment and discuss a side note. I want to make sure and stop short of arguing against Donald Trump or against Second Amendment Rights – per se. I will come clean and say that I am not FOR either one of these things, but I fully recognize that according to the laws of our land, both are completely legal and culturally acceptable. Either one or both are completely appropriate for the wider culture, in a secular cultural sense, and I have no desire to pressure a congressperson or a judge to limit either one. However, their appropriateness for Christians is another thing, and I am interested in preaching the limits of both among disciples, and I am interested in praying for Jesus’s lordship to extend over both. (Ask questions if I need to clear that up more.))
So, I am driving up the twisty mountain roads chugging a camper along behind us and seeing all these flags flowing in the wind, when suddenly near the gate at one ranch we observe a line of flagpoles with their flags unfurled, as they are apt to be in the breeze, and the first one, in bold colors and letters reminiscent of a Trump 2020 flag, says, “FUCK BIDEN.”
That’s about as contemptuous as you can get.
I complained a couple of years ago about a Trump supporter posting a “No More Bullshit” Trump flag in the yard around the corner from my home. Gotta love a message like that right out the car window for my kids to see, right? The “FUCK BIDEN” flag wasn’t in my neighborhood, but right there in the mountains of God’s country.
Not exactly the spiritual vibe I was looking for with my family.
That one flag, of course, was the single worst sign I found on our little trip, but there were others, others that when taken all together conveyed an unmistakable message about the anger and bitterness palpable in the wider community. We are not done with this pandemic yet, and I personally have suffered bitter feuds with family members and friends who want to come to my home and visit me and my kids without wearing a mask. My house, not theirs, mine! They just aren’t satisfied coming to visit without a mask and putting our home at risk of infection.
When it gets to that point, there just is no reasoning with people.
And it seems that there are plenty of people who don’t want to reason or be reasonable about much. Again, seven demons worse than the first! How it is that we haven’t killed more of each other, is hard to explain at this point.
So, when I found a small mom -n- pop shop at one village with a sign saying they had “new owners” and “now all are welcome,” I sensed some bitter developments that little town had only recently resolved – if in fact they actually have. I am betting it was a dispute about wearing masks there which led to new ownership.
That’s gotta be a painful story.
I was able to take snapshots of a handful of other signs which added to this story in vague ways, but again emphasized for me the politics of rugged individualism which has become a rather hostile form of freedom. I am sure if it was me expressing sentiments of this nature, people would say I have a bad attitude.
Ever so often, amid the towns and countryside (as I have seen in this country ALL MY LIFE), I would find more traditional signs announcing “The Church of Christ Welcomes You” or “First Baptist Church two blocks ->” or just “Church.” These kinds of signs still look the same as they always did, but under the shadows of all those steeples, amid all the people those churches minister among, are all these other signs – newer, more caustic, gritty and hostile and pissed off.
I can’t help but think: What is the message of Jesus in these churches for this community?
Does the pastor ever preach about how to forgive a liberal? Does the church seek to beat weapons into plowshares? Do the good Christian neighbors ever approach their neighbor with the “FUCK BIDEN” flag out at the edge of the highway and say, “That’s not language that reflects our meek, Christian community”???
Where’s the salt and light?
Or does the church of eastern New Mexico pretty much hitch their wagon to this culture of hostility and hope in one politician while hating another?
(I hate to point this out, but that sounds like Pharisees from Jesus’ day.)
I am dreadfully sad to see such sentiment overwhelm the lovely mountain forests. But I am far more alarmed at the impotence of the Body of Christ in this community to have the sway it once did to temper this kind of stuff. Love for enemy certainly is not the overriding message I get from these mountain villages, and I wonder if we don’t have yet another new mission field right here in America.
Who wants to Make America Christian Again?