I Still Say and Honestly Believe…

CSLewis

Last night was really hard for me folks—for several reasons—some of them personal that I would rather not go into here.  It is sufficient for me to say only this.  I still say and honestly believe that:

The only truly effective means to deal with the outrages of the Trumpites and the persecution of LGBTQ Americans is for every American citizen to identify the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical business owners who support Trump and LGBTQ discrimination in your community—all across America—and simply refuse to do business with them. Throw all of your corporate business and family business to their nonfundie-owned competitors in your city, town, or rural village. When you do so, be sure to tell them that their support for Trump and their favoritism toward LGBTQ discrimination and persecution are a matter of personal conscience for you, and for that reason, you are no longer going to do business with them.

Sometimes people just need a wake-up call.  That would be the perfect wake-up call—one these hard-hearted people would finally listen to and take seriously.

If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the fundie “cakeshops” and other similar  businesses that refuse service to LGBTQ Americans, YOU and YOUR personal conscience will be the last line of defense these people have against discrimination and persecution. That court ruling is coming in just a very few weeks. If it is a ruling that favors discrimination and persecution against LGBTQ Americans, the Trumpites and fundies will celebrate with great joy and feel that they hold within their hands an official greenlight to pursue such discrimination and persecution with a vengeance.

Such discrimination and persecution will not be limited to LGBTQ people. As demonstrated repeatedly over the past two years, many of the Trumpites and fundies are prejudiced against African-Americans; Latinos; law-abiding American Muslims; women; and those Jesus loved and called “the least of these” (poor people, sick people, hungry people, imprisoned people). They are even prejudiced against nonfundie Christians—who they regularly call apostates, publicly denounce as evil, and condemn to the fires of Hell. God only knows how much they hate nonbelievers (atheists, agnostics, and “nones”) in the name of Jesus—all the while claiming that they love them.

All you have to do is remember. Remember.  Remember.  Always remember the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller, a German Protestant Christian who barely survived seven long years in a concentration camp during World War II:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

YOU, right there in your home or business, are the last line of defense many of these outcast people are going to have as we go forward in time. Never forget that Jesus was an outcast in this world, too.  He knew what it feels like—no one spoke up for him—and no one came to his aid.  We can all do better—much better. It is up to YOU.

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Another Divorcing Evangelicalism Article by Peggy Wehmeyer (Part II)

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Famous former ABC News religion journalist Peggy Wehmeyer continues her deliberations about divorcing evangelicalism in this new article, which is essentially the Part II article in her journey for answers.  This time she attended a recent evangelical leader’s meeting held in Chicago to gather information and perspectives. You may read this new article in the Dallas Morning News by clicking on the following safe link:

Church Leaders Wonder if Evangelicals Can Recover from Their Identity Crisis

 

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A Criticism of the “Flee from Christian Fundamentalism” Blog

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Recently, on another blog that we visit with some frequency, the Flee from Christian Fundamentalism blog was criticized for being too harsh on Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism. We were portrayed as a sledgehammer and were urged to lighten up—be more kind—be more gentle—and if we did that—-we would be more effective.

We stepped back from this criticism for a moment and looked at it closely as a whole. It spurred a mental picture that fully captured this comment and how the commenter was thinking. She obviously viewed us as an evil blacksmith. A huge steel anvil was present in front of us, and a 9-lb sledgehammer was in our right hand. We had Scotch-taped a naughty and annoying little church mouse—all cute and fluffy—to the anvil. In a few moments, we would lift the sledgehammer with our hands, pour all of our upper body strength into it, and slam it down with maximum force onto the poor little mouse. In other words, the mouse was indeed naughty, annoying, and plundering—doing all the bad things rodents do when let loose inside a building—but it did not deserve the sledgehammer treatment.

As we viewed the matter, we saw the key disconnect in this woman’s criticism of our blog. Militant Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism (seen as one overall entity like eggs and bacon) in the United States today is not just a naughty, annoying, and plundering little mouse. It is something different entirely. The adjectives cute and fluffy in our mental picture in no way apply to it.

Today militant Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are, in reality, dangerous monsters that falsely masquerade as authentic, orthodox, 1st century Christianity. The following creature captures what they are really like and what they do to numerous people in the long run. We think dealing with a dangerous creature like this requires a verbal sledgehammer:

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Peggy Wehmeyer Considers a Divorce from Evangelicalism

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Once upon a time, Ms. Peggy Wehmeyer was a famous religion correspondent for ABC News in New York City. The late Peter Jennings personally hired her to cover religious affairs for ABC News back in the 1980s. She is an excellent journalist, and I remember watching a number of her television reports on the ABC Evening News in those days. Today Peggy lives and works as a writer in Texas. During her time at ABC News, she was a devout conservative evangelical, and at the moment she still is. However, today she is seriously considering filing for a divorce from Fundieland. Her adult Christian children have already done so—and their lives and choices are a major factor in her current deliberations—along with a bit of angst about conservative evangelical support for that abomination of desolation that sits in the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.  In the Dallas Morning News, she has written an excellent new article on her deliberations about fleeing from conservative evangelicalism. I think you will enjoy her fun and easy-to-read article below.

If you are a pastor, deacon, elder, or member of a Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical church, this article by Ms. Wehmeyer will give you a brief look at what your future and the future of your fundie church looks like as you watch the backsides of your young adults walk out your church doors—and never come back again. Yes, we have seen your own horrid statistics. We have also read several of your articles containing all the bullshit reasons you have conjured up in your heads as to why your fundie youth are leaving and never coming back. It appears that many of you prefer to conjure up fantasies and invent your own facts out of thin air—rather than actually listening to your late teens and young adults when they tell you the precise real reasons why they are leaving and never coming back. And no—it is not always because they want to bathe in lurid sex and sin beyond the judgmental eyes of the fundie church.

Many are leaving—as this article by Peggy Wehmeyer plainly implies—because you are spiritually blind, your fundie church is spiritually blind, and your support for Donald J. Trump is even more spiritually blind. In short, you and your fundie church are not like the Jesus of the New Testament—and your youth—who have learned Holy scripture well in your Sunday school classes—plainly see it—and want out. Many of your youth are actually leaving you to find Jesus, emulate him in their own lives, and do his work in this world—not work as you would do it—but work that is important to Jesus—based on his Holy words and deeds in the New Testament.

You may read this important article by Peggy Wehmeyer.  Just click on the following safe link:

Is It Time to Divorce Fundieland?

Is it time for you to seek a divorce from Fundieland? If you are unhappy with your fundie church; you cannot see Jesus himself alive in it; you get verbally, physically, or sexually abused at your church; your church is thinking and behaving stupidly; or you feel that your fundie church only deepens your mental illness (e.g., clinical depression), then it may be time for you to file for divorce from your fundie church. That is a decision only you can make. Please just remember that you can divorce your fundie church without divorcing Jesus himself. They are not one and the same.

Many people divorce their fundie church to go find the Jesus of the New Testament for the first time. Why? It is because the view of Jesus they were taught in their fundie churches often turns out to be a false or highly distorted view of Jesus.

You can learn about the authentic Jesus of the New Testament—but it takes hard work to do it. Read all of his red-colored words in the New Testament. Apart from just his words, look closely at the things Jesus actually does in the New Testament—his behavior and actions. Watch for the word love throughout the New Testament—and take it seriously. Love Jesus. Love your fellow man and woman. Follow Jesus. Emulate Jesus. Have the mind and heart of Jesus in all that you do in life. Always remember and serve the poor people, hungry people, sick people, mentally ill people, lonely people, imprisoned people, and the other outcast people no one else wants. Jesus stands as one of them every day—so much so—that if you fail to help them—then you are failing to help Jesus himself—who was also an outcast in this world.

Take an objective, good, long, and deep look at how nonfundie denominations and churches understand Jesus and his mission on Earth. Dig in and do some in-depth research in Christian reference sources and books that were not written or compiled by Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals.  You will not find such books in your local Christian bookstores because the vast majority of Christian bookstores in the United States are strictly fundie enterprises that are careful to stock books that contain only fundie content. Instead, we recommend that you talk about your research with pastors at nonfundie churches in your community. Ask them to suggest books to read and begin your research in their church libraries. A good place to start would be with your local Episcopal Church, a United Church of Christ (different from the fundie Church of Christ—look for the word “United”), or a United Methodist Church (UCM) that does not have a pastor with a fundie mindset. Unfortunately, a few United Methodist Churches are highly conservative and are run by pastors with a fundie mindset.  You can ask around in your community and quickly find out which UCMs to avoid.

And no, the Christian faith is not all about fat-bellied, pastel-suited fundie preachers wearing white shoes and bearing names like Floyd or Buford—all saving souls evangelistically under a sweaty revival tent or in Hell-melted pews on a Sunday morning. The Christian faith does include saving souls, but the Christian faith is far bigger than just soul-saving and that alone. With regard to Jesus and the Christian faith—if you have been listening only to your fundie preacher or you have not been reading your New Testament wholly and carefully—you have probably missed out on the authentic Jesus of the New Testament and the authentic Christian faith.

If you think the New Testament wants you to be a Republican voter and do some version of this cartoon with your life, you have really, really, really missed the whole point of the New Testament, the Christian faith,  and the mission of Jesus:

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Fundies: Your Rapture Might Draweth Nigh…Nah!!!

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We have a lot of chatter in the news media today about a potential military clash between the United States and Russia over the recent Assad nerve gas attacks on Syrian civilians. President Trump issued a wildly provocative tweet this morning, directed at the Russians, to let them know that an American attack on Syria is definitely coming. Everyone pretty much agrees that such an attack will be much larger and wider in scope than the previous American attack on Baby Assad’s southern airbase last year. Certain low-level individuals in the Russian government are indicating that if Trump launches an attack on Syria, Russian armed forces will respond by attacking the U.S. Navy ships and overseas U.S. Air Force installations from which the attacks are launched.

All I know is this. If this were October 1962, the U.S. armed forces would already be at DEFCON 1, and the Russians would already be at their equivalent of DEFCON 1. Trump is a crazy man in the White House, suffering under enormous emotional pressure from his own personal demons—all related to the Mueller investigation. Whacko people under enormous stress have an unfortunate tendency to make bad mistakes and do rash things.

Trump’s new national security advisor, John Bolton, reported for his first day of work in the White House yesterday.  He is now fully on the job with this strike on Syria. If you know anything at all about John Bolton, you know he is a severe war hawk with a General Curtis LeMay mindset. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, General LeMay was doing everything within his power to trigger World War III with the Soviet Union. John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy had their hands full trying to restrain him and a few other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I have no idea where this Syria thing is going in the next few days, but I do sense one thing troubling. Our government and the American news media are being way too nonchalant about what is happening here. The Cold War has been forgotten by far too many people, and we seem to have this misplaced attitude that any leader can do anything he or she wants on the world stage—and World War III as a consequence is not even possible anymore. In my opinion, with players like Trump, Bolton, Baby Assad, and Putin in the mix, anything is possible. Once a foot is set onto a certain path, it often becomes impossible to control the journey down that path. One thing leads to another…and then…boom!!! Terrible wars are often bumbled into by simple misunderstandings and extreme miscalculations. That is how World War I began in 1914. In World War II, Adolf Hitler miscalculated that the United States would remain isolationist and that the British Empire would not honor its military alliance treaty with Poland. Hitler attacked Poland.  Great Britain immediately declared war on Germany. Japan attacked the United States by surprise, and the United States declared war on both Germany and japan.  Boom!!!  The heat was on!!!

It is my understanding that the hearts of all “true” Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals yearn for an event they call The Rapture. With the whole world standing on the edge of some incredible worldwide human calamity like World War III, they believe Jesus will rip open the sky above the Earth, step through the hole, float around in the air, and cause all “true” Christians (i.e., the fundies only) to suddenly disappear from the face of the Earth and float by the millions in the sky with him. This is The Rapture—Jesus rescuing the truly faithful from all the horrors of the worldwide calamity that is about to ensue. Then suddenly, Jesus and all his fellow sky floaters will go off to Paradise to live forever in unimaginable bliss while those left behind on Earth will undergo enormous suffering the likes of which are barely even imaginable by humans.

Of course, you get the classic underlying fundie theme here:

We fundies are God’s exclusive little clique, and you are not—so F-bomb all of you.

Most Americans do not know about this, so I will let you in on a little secret. A faction within Fundieland believes that they actually have within their human hands the power to—do not miss this term—Force the Hand of God.

What does that mean?  It means the fundies still alive on planet Earth today should be praying and working hard each day to ensure that a worldwide calamity will indeed come as quickly as possible. Their job is to intentionally do everything within their power to speed up its coming. Man-induced climate change and its terrible future destructiveness are a perfect example. It is the job of these fundies to ensure that the government of the United States and other world governments take no action against man-induced climate change. This will ensure the environmental destruction from global warming will come on more rapidly than it otherwise would. If a fundie is ever in the right place at the right time to prevent a worldwide nuclear war, it is his job to instead sit on his hands and do nothing so nuclear Armageddon will be certain to occur as quickly as possible.  If a fundie is in a unique position to actually trigger a nuclear war or release a man-made germ warfare agent that will kill half the people on Earth, the fundie should go ahead and take that action. You get the picture here—I hope.

Why would anyone pray for or try to bring about such awful things—especially people who claim to be Christians? This is the mindset of a small fundie faction within the much larger overall fundie community in the United States. Being the loving entity that Jesus is, these fundies think their Lord and Savior will one day look down from Heaven onto the Earth and say:

Oh my goodness!!! Someone on Earth just did something that will cause a worldwide nuclear war to break out tomorrow at 5:14 p.m. EST.  I better get down there fast and rescue all the “true” Christians before this happens!!!  I had the rapture planned for October 17th, 2980, but it looks like I need to do it now instead.  Let’s go!!!!

These peculiar fundies believe they can Force the Hand of God so their so-called Rapture and their blissful entry into Paradise will come more quickly than it otherwise would.

How do these fundies deal with the obvious moral problems posed by this little Forcing the Hand of God adventure? I do not know for sure because I have not read the book on this subject. However, I have read and heard people (Christians and nonChristians) talking about this faction of fundies for many years. What? You think this is a silly conspiracy theory or a fantasy?  No.  There is a really serious book on this subject. You may buy a copy and read all about it.  Here is the safe link to Amazon where you can buy it:

Forcing God’s Hand

This fundie faction might deal with the moral issues related to Forcing the Hand of God —intentionally praying for or triggering events that would kill billions of people and destroy the Earth to gain Paradise sooner for themselves—in a couple of ways. We can see these two potential ways:

Fundie Calvinist Participants Could Say:

We triggered this terrible calamity because God predestined us to do it. It was part of his Divinely willed plan from the foundation of the world. We were just bit players in a Divine play. We will escape punishment for all of this because it was not us who did it. Not really.  God did it.  He just used us as part of his plan.

Fundie Baptist Participants Could Say:

We triggered this terrible calamity. Yes, that is true. However, you have to remember that each one of us honestly and truly repented of our many sins and accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior decades ago. As the Bible says and as all good baptists have always believed: “Once saved, we are always saved.” Nothing can snatch our souls from the hand of God. Therefore, God will not punish us for this infraction. Besides, we  have the Bible and its words right here. If God tries to punish us, we can open up the Bible and show him these scriptures. He will be boxed in by his own words and will not be able to touch us.

With the United States and Russia standing on the precipice of blows over Baby Assad’s recent use of chemical warfare agents in Syria, do we know where this handful of two-bit fundie buzzards is tonight? Are some of them friends of John Bolton? Are some of them members of Donald Trump’s Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical advisory team? Are some of these fundies influential American friends of highly placed Russian oligarchs or people in the Vladimir Putin government?  As the Dixie Chicks might say, now…

Many millions of devout Christian people around the world do not believe in this so-called rapture these fundies want to trigger—and they have never believed in it. The Roman Catholic Church (1.2 billion people) does not believe in the rapture. The Eastern Orthodox Church (300 million people) does not believe in it. When combined that is an incredibly large slice of worldwide Christendom. First century Christians in the Middle East did not believe in the rapture  Why, you say?  There is a really good reason for that. The rapture was invented in the year 1830 by a British preacher (John Nelson Darby), and American fundies later latched onto it for some odd reason and made it their own.

As a Christian, I do not believe in this rapture. If World War III breaks out in a few days, the surviving members of Fundieland are no longer going to believe in it either. Like The Walking Dead, they will be too busy moving around in a daze with horribly burned skin and small intestines rotting from radionuclides—all crying out to the sky:

Oh Lord!!!!  Where is thy rapture? Why hast thou forsaken us?

Maybe some of them will have been forsaken simply because they believed in the words of a renegade British preacher in 1830, and they believed strongly in the sinful and unloving act of praying for or creating the worst disaster in human history—and they did it in the name of Jesus. Such is the leaven of some irresponsible fundies who want quick Paradise for themselves—and are willing to obtain it by inflicting great suffering on the rest of humanity and by destroying God’s green Earth in the process.

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Mainline Christian Pastors Finally Speak Out Against Trumpism

Faulkner

 

A CONFESSION OF FAITH IN A TIME OF CRISIS

We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.

It is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography—our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. We pray that our nation will see Jesus’ words in us. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

When politics undermines our theology, we must examine that politics. The church’s role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ. The government’s role is to serve the common good by protecting justice and peace, rewarding good behavior while restraining bad behavior (Romans 13). When that role is undermined by political leadership, faith leaders must stand up and speak out. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.”

It is often the duty of Christian leaders, especially elders, to speak the truth in love to our churches and to name and warn against temptations, racial and cultural captivities, false doctrines, and political idolatries—and even our complicity in them. We do so here with humility, prayer, and a deep dependency on the grace and Holy Spirit of God.

This letter comes from a retreat on Ash Wednesday, 2018. In this season of Lent, we feel deep lamentations for the state of our nation, and our own hearts are filled with confession for the sins we feel called to address. The true meaning of the word repentance is to turn around. It is time to lament, confess, repent, and turn. In times of crisis, the church has historically learned to return to Jesus Christ.

Jesus is Lord. That is our foundational confession. It was central for the early church and needs to again become central to us. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar was not—nor any other political ruler since. If Jesus is Lord, no other authority is absolute. Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God he announced, is the Christian’s first loyalty, above all others. We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Our faith is personal but never private, meant not only for heaven but for this earth.

The question we face is this: Who is Jesus Christ for us today? What does our loyalty to Christ, as disciples, require at this moment in our history? We believe it is time to renew our theology of public discipleship and witness. Applying what “Jesus is Lord” means today is the message we commend as elders to our churches.

What we believe leads us to what we must reject. Our “Yes” is the foundation for our “No.” What we confess as our faith leads to what we confront. Therefore, we offer the following six affirmations of what we believe, and the resulting rejections of practices and policies by political leaders which dangerously corrode the soul of the nation and deeply threaten the public integrity of our faith. We pray that we, as followers of Jesus, will find the depth of faith to match the danger of our political crisis.

I. WE BELIEVE each human being is made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). That image and likeness confers a divinely decreed dignity, worth, and God-given equality to all of us as children of the one God who is the Creator of all things. Racial bigotry is a brutal denial of the image of God (the imago dei) in some of the children of God. Our participation in the global community of Christ absolutely prevents any toleration of racial bigotry. Racial justice and healing are biblical and theological issues for us, and are central to the mission of the body of Christ in the world. We give thanks for the prophetic role of the historic black churches in America when they have called for a more faithful gospel.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. We, as followers of Jesus, must clearly reject the use of racial bigotry for political gain that we have seen. In the face of such bigotry, silence is complicity. In particular, we reject white supremacy and commit ourselves to help dismantle the systems and structures that perpetuate white preference and advantage. Further, any doctrines or political strategies that use racist resentments, fears, or language must be named as public sin—one that goes back to the foundation of our nation and lingers on. Racial bigotry must be antithetical for those belonging to the body of Christ, because it denies the truth of the gospel we profess.

II. WE BELIEVE we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class (Galatians 3:28). The body of Christ, where those great human divisions are to be overcome, is meant to be an example for the rest of society. When we fail to overcome these oppressive obstacles, and even perpetuate them, we have failed in our vocation to the world—to proclaim and live the reconciling gospel of Christ.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God. We lament when such practices seem publicly ignored, and thus privately condoned, by those in high positions of leadership. We stand for the respect, protection, and affirmation of women in our families, communities, workplaces, politics, and churches. We support the courageous truth-telling voices of women, who have helped the nation recognize these abuses. We confess sexism as a sin, requiring our repentance and resistance.

III. WE BELIEVE how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. (Matthew 25: 31-46) “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” God calls us to protect and seek justice for those who are poor and vulnerable, and our treatment of people who are “oppressed,” “strangers,” “outsiders,” or otherwise considered “marginal” is a test of our relationship to God, who made us all equal in divine dignity and love. Our proclamation of the lordship of Jesus Christ is at stake in our solidarity with the most vulnerable. If our gospel is not “good news to the poor,” it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18).

THEREFORE, WE REJECT the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God. We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the “strangers” among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34). We won’t accept the neglect of the well-being of low-income families and children, and we will resist repeated attempts to deny health care to those who most need it. We confess our growing national sin of putting the rich over the poor. We reject the immoral logic of cutting services and programs for the poor while cutting taxes for the rich. Budgets are moral documents. We commit ourselves to opposing and reversing those policies and finding solutions that reflect the wisdom of people from different political parties and philosophies to seek the common good. Protecting the poor is a central commitment of Christian discipleship, to which 2,000 verses in the Bible attest.

IV. WE BELIEVE that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives. Truth-telling is central to the prophetic biblical tradition, whose vocation includes speaking the Word of God into their societies and speaking the truth to power. A commitment to speaking truth, the ninth commandment of the Decalogue, “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16), is foundational to shared trust in society. Falsehood can enslave us, but Jesus promises, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). The search and respect for truth is crucial to anyone who follows Christ.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life. Politicians, like the rest of us, are human, fallible, sinful, and mortal. But when public lying becomes so persistent that it deliberately tries to change facts for ideological, political, or personal gain, the public accountability to truth is undermined. The regular purveying of falsehoods and consistent lying by the nation’s highest leaders can change the moral expectations within a culture, the accountability for a civil society, and even the behavior of families and children. The normalization of lying presents a profound moral danger to the fabric of society. In the face of lies that bring darkness, Jesus is our truth and our light.

V. WE BELIEVE that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (the world) lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). We believe our elected officials are called to public service, not public tyranny, so we must protect the limits, checks, and balances of democracy and encourage humility and civility on the part of elected officials. We support democracy, not because we believe in human perfection, but because we do not. The authority of government is instituted by God to order an unredeemed society for the sake of justice and peace, but ultimate authority belongs only to God.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. We believe authoritarian political leadership is a theological danger that threatens democracy and the common good—and we will resist it. Disrespect for the rule of law, not recognizing the equal importance of our three branches of government, and replacing civility with dehumanizing hostility toward opponents are of great concern to us. Neglecting the ethic of public service and accountability, in favor of personal recognition and gain often characterized by offensive arrogance, are not just political issues for us. They raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority.

VI. WE BELIEVE Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples (Matthew 28:18). Our churches and our nations are part of an international community whose interests always surpass national boundaries. The most well-known verse in the New Testament starts with “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16). We, in turn, should love and serve the world and all its inhabitants, rather than seek first narrow, nationalistic prerogatives.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ. While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal. We reject domination rather than stewardship of the earth’s resources, toward genuine global development that brings human flourishing for all of God’s children. Serving our own communities is essential, but the global connections between us are undeniable. Global poverty, environmental damage, violent conflict, weapons of mass destruction, and deadly diseases in some places ultimately affect all places, and we need wise political leadership to deal with each of these.

WE ARE DEEPLY CONCERNED for the soul of our nation, but also for our churches and the integrity of our faith. The present crisis calls us to go deeper—deeper into our relationship to God; deeper into our relationships with each other, especially across racial, ethnic, and national lines; deeper into our relationships with the most vulnerable, who are at greatest risk.

The church is always subject to temptations to power, to cultural conformity, and to racial, class, and gender divides, as Galatians 3:28 teaches us. But our answer is to be “in Christ,” and to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable, and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

The best response to our political, material, cultural, racial, or national idolatries is the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Jesus summarizes the Greatest Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind. This is the first commandment. And the second is like unto it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:38). As to loving our neighbors, we would add “no exceptions.”

We commend this letter to pastors, local churches, and young people who are watching and waiting to see what the churches will say and do at such a time as this.

Our urgent need, in a time of moral and political crisis, is to recover the power of confessing our faith. Lament, repent, and then repair. If Jesus is Lord, there is always space for grace. We believe it is time to speak and to act in faith and conscience, not because of politics, but because we are disciples of Jesus Christ—to whom be all authority, honor, and glory. It is time for a fresh confession of faith. Jesus is Lord. He is the light in our darkness. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

  • Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore, President and CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Networks
  • Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director Emeritus, Christian Reformed Church in North America
  • Amos Brown, Chair, Social Justice Commission, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
  • Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
  • Tony Campolo, Co-Founder, Red Letter Christians
  • Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
  • The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
  • Dr. James Forbes, President and Founder, Healing the Nations Foundation and Preaching Professor at Union Theological Seminary
  • Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
  • Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA
  • Dr. Richard Hamm, former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Faith Community Organizer and Chairman, Community Resource Network
  • Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita, The Wesleyan Church
  • Bishop Vashti McKenzie, 117th Elected and Consecrated Bishop, AME Church
  • Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Co-Convener National African American Clergy Network
  • John Perkins, Chair Emeritus and Founding Member, Christian Community Development Association
  • Bishop Lawrence Reddick, CEO, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Richard Rohr, Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation
  • Ron Sider, President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action
  • Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
  • Dr. Sharon Watkins, Director, NCC Truth and Racial Justice Initiative
  • Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network; President, Skinner Leadership Institute
  • Bishop Will Willimon, Bishop, The United Methodist Church, retired, Professor of the Practice of Ministry, Duke Divinity School

Source: Reprinted from Sojourners Magazine

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The Church Itself Needs a Resurrection

Easter Sunday is upon us. After weeks of squabbling over school shootings and a week of what appears to be a sexual scandal in the Southern Baptist Convention, let us begin with a hymn from the true heart of the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches in the United States today. You may join in and sing along by clicking on the following safe video clip, turning up the volume, and then singing the lyrics below it (scroll down):

Outlaw Man

I am an outlaw, I was born an outlaw’s son
The highway is my legacy
On the highway I will run
In one hand I’ve a Bible
In the other I’ve got a gun
Well, don’t you know me
I’m the man who won
Woman don’t try to love me
Don’t try to understand
A life upon the road is the life of an outlaw……man
First left my woman, it was down in Santa Fe
Headed for Oklahoma, I was ridin’ night and day
All of my friends are strangers,
They quickly come and go
And all my love’s in danger,
‘Cause I steal hearts and souls
Woman, don’t try to love me
Don’t try to understand
A life upon the road is the life of an outlaw…..man
Woman, don’t try to love me
Don’t try to understand
A life upon the road is the life of an outlaw
Some men call me Abel,
Some men call me Cain,
Some men call me sinner, Lord
Some men call me saint
Some say there’s a Jesus
Some men say there ain’t
When you got no life to lose
Then there’s nothin’ left to gain
Outlaw man
Outlaw man.

 

Clearly, a reformation and resurrection of the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches in the United States must occur—or they shall surely die. Millennial children raised in these churches are fleeing from them by the millions when they reach the ages 18-24.

My on-line Christian friend, Ms. Emma Higgs in the United Kingdom, has some kind and loving thoughts on how such churches might begin the process of reformation and resurrection to bring them into alignment with the full heart of Jesus as presented in the New Testament. Will the “withered old screws” who run these hemorrhaging American churches listen to her and take action?  Nope!!!  Not a chance in the world!!! They are petrified with fear—have blinders on their eyes—have fingers in their ears—and possess too much personal pride and arrogance to be able to hear truth.

Nonetheless, Emma still has some great ideas about where they could begin—or maybe where you could begin in your church—even if it is not a fundie church.  You may read her great ideas by clicking on the following safe link:

How to Keep Millennials Engaged in Church.

Jesus has risen!!!  Much love to all of you and have a Blessed Easter Sunday!!!

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