Monday, October 31, 2016

American Jesus

It’s been a difficult time for friends on Facebook. And beyond.

We had an election four years ago, but I don’t remember the preponderance of political posts in 2012. Perhaps it’s because the election was more of a foregone conclusion then (or it became foregone much earlier than this one). Perhaps everyone, of all political stripes, believes there far more at stake.

My Facebook friends represent just about every political persuasion: Democratic, Republican, Independent, Socialist (I can’t think of any Communists, or any who are willing to admit to it). And those labels are general and often vague. Republicans, for example, can include the so-called “alt Right,” supporters of Donald Trump, #NeverTrump, temporary Democrats because they’re voting against Trump. Democrats can include Hillary supporters, Bernie Sanders supporters (and those two groups are not the same), disaffected Millennials, the Progressive Left, traditional liberal, and others.

Just about everyone is expressing their opinion. And that’s good, in one way. We live in a country of free speech and free expression, at least for the foreseeable future.

What seems different to me this election cycle is the level of hysteria and the level of what I can only called authoritarianism. And it’s particularly notable for the Christian community, which (among my Facebook friends) runs the gamut from left to right.

I have one Facebook friend who is borderline hysterical at the thought of Donald Trump being elected. I’m not exaggerating. Post after post is filled with exclamation points, capital letters, attacking people who disagree. She runs a business, which depends upon good will. Over and over again she says she doesn’t care.

I have another Facebook friend who is an authoritarian juggernaut. Any post or comment that even slightly disagrees with his posts is instantly countered. (One of the campaigns is actually employing people to do this on Twitter and Facebook, but this individual is doing it on his own.) If he can’t address a concern, he changes the subject and talks about something else.

Everyone has what’s called confirmation bias – we think people whose position we agree with are wise and right, and those who disagree with our position are not wise, often stupid, biased, and prejudiced. My experience with my Christian friends on Facebook has largely been like my non-Christian friends. I’m hard-pressed to see a difference.

I can’t be a Christian and vote for Trump. I can’t be a Christian and vote for Clinton. A Christian can only for Evan McMullin or you’re a heretic. Or the only choice is Gary Johnson. (No one seems to mention Jill Stein of the Green Party very much.)

What I think we’re doing here is bowing down to our American Jesus.

Patriot Jesus believes the Constitution shares equal place with the Bible. America is the new Israel, and it’s being destroyed by globalists (that includes the Clintons, the Bush family, President Obama, Mitt Romney, neocon Republicans, corporate CEOs, and a few others).

Cosmopolitan Jesus has nothing but disdain for Patriot Jesus. Cosmopolitan Jesus knows he’s smarter, more informed, more intelligent, wiser, and certainly more deserving of governing than most of the idiots who call themselves Americans.

Social Warrior Jesus is going to correct every wrong of humanity in less than a generation, even those things that the vast majority of people don’t believe are wrong. He wants revolution, and he wants it now. If people object, then they’ll deservedly be categorized into hate groups. They should have their voting rights taken away anyway.

Bipolar Jesus is decidedly uncomfortable with all of these permutations. He behaves one way at church and the world’s way the rest of the time, because that’s how you have to deal with the world. And he knows how things work at work, and what business is really like, so that’s how you have to behave to survive and succeed.

There’s Atheist Jesus – who believes in redemption through things like science; there’s Green Jesus, who knows that the protection of the environment is absolutely critical for humanity’s salvation. And there’s likely half a dozen more variations of American Jesus.

But are any of them real? Or are they only cultural? The hysteria and anxiety we as Christians are experiencing and expressing is an indication of just how much the culture has captured the church.

Jesus had his own versions of Palestine Yahweh and Palestine Messiah. He had rich people who disdained him and everything he stood for. He had legalists who would rather see people starve than break a religious law. He had zealots who wanted to overthrow the Romans, and do it now. He had people who talked a good game but what he was saying was really only appropriate for the synagogue, not daily life.

His response to all of them was invariably the same. He showed kindness, compassion, charity, encouragement, hope, and love. A couple of times he became really angry, and turned over the tables of the moneychangers and read the hypocrites the riot act. Even then we might call his actions “tough love.”

Jesus didn’t get in people’s faces and shout hysterically. Nor did he try to show them how superior his understanding and intellect were.

Instead, he showed love.

Top photograph by Circe Denyer via Public Domain Pictures. Middle photograph by Kai Stachowiak via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

And we wait

After Hebrew 11:31 and Joshua 2:1-14

And we wait.
We can hear the sounds
of the multitudes approaching,
the feet of thunder,
the shields of cracking lightning.
The city is closed, tightly.
My house, filled with family,
family who shunned me before,
my house is tightly closed.
The sign hangs from the window,
the sign of red like blood,
the sign of thread to bind.
Our lives hang by a thread,
by that thread of scarlet.

And we wait
as the sounds of thunder
circle round the city.
the noose tightening.
I see fear in the faces
around me, the soft cries
of the children,
the fear of imminent death.
I hear my mother’s quiet sob.
But the thread hangs
from the window,
binding us,
binding them.

Photograph by Circe Denyer via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday Good Reads

People are beginning to grapple with life after the election, regardless of who becomes President. Michael Hamby considers the breaking of the magic spell of modernism, Martin Gurri sees the unraveling of both of our major political parties, and Rod Dreher gives a eulogy for the Religious Right.

The 500th anniversary of the Reformation is coming, and Jeff Robinson at The Gospel Coalition has five good reasons for teaching your children about it. Good poetry from Loren Paulsson and Jerry Barrett, and a good review from Mary Harwell Sayler. Photos of a fall garden. And a story about a passenger train that carried the dead.

One of the more moving vdeios I’ve seen is a video poem by a father of an autistic son. “A Reflection of Aching Joy” is a thing a beauty and a reminder of what’s important in this life.


Sukkot – Troy Cady at T(r)oy Marbles.

Peering Around the Legs of Saints – Aidan Rogers at Altarwork.

5 Reasons to Teach Your Kids about the Reformation – Jeff Robinson at The Gospel Coalition.


Remembering Softly: a life in poems – Mary Harwell Sayler at The Poetry Editor.

I Want to Live – Loren Paulsson at World Narratives.

Longing for an Ambush – Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.

Life and Culture

After the Fall – Michael Hamby at First Things Magazine.

Charred Ends – Amanda Hill at Hill + Pen.

The Religious Right: A Eulogy – Rod Dreher at American Conservative.

After the election: the great unraveling – Martin Gurri at The Fifth Wave.

British Stuff

The passenger train created to carry the dead – Amanda Ruggeri at BBC (Hat Tip: J of India).

Art and Photography

Fall Garden – Tim Good at Pics, Poems, and Ponderings.


The Masculine Case – Barton Swaim at The Weekly Standard.

A Reflection of Aching Joy

Painting: Room in New York, oil on canvas by Edward Hopper (1932).