Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Christian "persecution?" Pul-leez!

About 30 years ago, when I was watching the 700 Club on a regular basis, host Pat Robertson once made a comment about an "anti-Christian conspiracy." Considering that Jesus said that "if they hated me they will hate you," such a statement would be understandable.

But that's not what Robertson really meant -- the context was that we Christians were losing our privileged status in American society. Trouble is, that isn't something to be concerned about because when you are you often end up becoming a persecutor in your own right.

Let's remember that this took place arguably at the height of what I refer to as media evangelicalism, where the message of the Gospel often ended up being muddied because programs needed to stay on the air -- and the easiest way to do that is, of course, to identify an enemy and try to defeat it. Muddied because the message of the grace of God through Jesus Christ was pushed aside of favor of a more lucrative "culture war."

And that's an issue of theology, as it demonstrates a lack of trust in God for anything except "fire insurance."

Furthermore, political freedom simply isn't addressed in the Word of God; Christians in other countries understand this, so they simply do what they do regardless of what the authorities say. The church in mainland China is growing as an astronomical rate -- in a climate that's hostile to any form of religious faith. (Indeed, it seems to thrive in those conditions.)

On top of that, if American evangelical Christians were undergoing legitimate persecution they would back anyone regardless of faith affiliation that also suffering. I can't think of one instance, however, in which we have.

A couple of generations ago a social movement, inspired by prayer and revival meetings in churches, arose, in the process changing an entire region of this nation. The opposition became so fierce that participants were being killed, churches were being bombed and pastors were being jailed -- and yet the movement stayed strong and prevailed. Most "Christians," however, in that day ignored it, many even opposing it.

I guess you know by now that I'm talking about the civil-rights movement, challenged not just because of racism but that the movement threatened -- yep -- some folks' privileged status. It's one reason for the racial divide in the church.

Early in my Christian life I learned the acronym JOY -- Jesus, Others, Yourself -- as to where our focus should be. Also remember that He said that persecution is inevitable, so we shouldn't worry about it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Quinn & Rose: Has hate reached its limit?

In 1996 a then-coworker challenged me to listen to Jim Quinn, then a morning-drive DJ at a local classic rock station, give his opinions about politics in general and President Bill Clinton in particular; I did, for one solid week, and became nearly physically ill. It wasn't just that he was a conservative; after all, I had listened to some Christian radio a few years previously and knew what to expect. But the vitriol and the insults that he delivered just didn't sit well with me.

Years later, I realized why: I might have well been listening to the devil himself.

It wasn't merely his ideological agenda I had problems with; more to the point, it was the plainly mean things he said about people he disagreed with. There was no grace or peace in his speech, just pure bile. He actually made Rush Limbaugh sound sweet and kind.

Last week Quinn and sidekick Rose Somma Tennent -- whom I met a few years previously at a local Christian radio station where she was on staff and I was doing commentary -- lost their jobs as commentators at a local talk-radio station in what I suspect to be a contract dispute. Their show had been syndicated to seven other stations around the country and even on Sirius XM satellite radio. (I didn't bother to find out what they were saying about President Barack Obama because I knew it couldn't be good.)

My reaction? "Thank you, Jesus."

Two things come to mind.

One, if you want to find the reason there's so much political polarization in this country, start with folks like Quinn & Rose, who stay angry seemingly for its own sake. No solutions, no addressing issues in depth -- just rage against a "them." We know just what they were against, but we never knew just what they were for; and God help anyone whom they targeted. I understand why they did such -- for the sake of ratings because they had to know that people were hanging on their every word. They likely became fairly wealthy in the process; after all, hate sells. (You can't blame "liberals" for this because -- and the conservatives will tell you this -- left-wing talk-radio has never taken hold.)

Two, not forever because eventually people are going to react if you keep treating them like piƱatas. Around 2005 I noticed that a progressive populism was becoming evident, initially due to the war in Iraq going bad but ultimately a backlash against the conservative enterprise, and it was fighting fire with fire. By last summer, around the time of the Sandra Fluke controversy, it developed enough clout to cause sponsors, I understand about 70 in all, to drop Limbaugh's show. That wouldn't have happened even five years ago.

But there's also a spiritual principle afoot here. You see, listening to Satan's lies and accusations deadens sensitivity and leads directly to a decline in discernment. Again, the actual agenda doesn't matter; it's the idea of scapegoating people for who or what they are or what they believe that God cannot tolerate. That's why such contempt isn't perpetual; it wears you out and down. In other words, attitudes and behaviors are ultimately more important than worldview, and when you refuse to be confronted about them communication breaks down. Even with God.

I have been saying for quite some time that an awakening is taking place in this country, and one of the signs of such is a rejection of the world's way of thinking. Quinn & Rose's show was definitely "of the world," and they are now receiving the world's reward for their actions. I haven't seen Rose in a while -- I don't know Quinn's religious leanings -- but when and if I do I will remind her that God calls us to a better, more excellent way.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Name-calling -- the result of bitterness, envy and resentment

My mother left my father in 1983 because of emotional abuse; after she had remarried she told me that she had heard that he was going around calling her a lesbian. That was confirmed to me when he called me one night and made that same accusation. After I listed to his rant for a while I hung up on him. (And he never called me again.)

I understood just what was behind that: His identity was wrapped up in having her; when that became no longer possible he tried to find someone to blame. The trouble is that he never looked in the mirror to find the true culprit as to the demise of the marriage.

I bring that up because in light of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act I see the same reaction to President Obama -- "incompetent," a "tyrant" and other names, some of them too vile to publish; the folks who make those comments don't appreciate that he was legitimately elected president. When I hear them, I always consider the source.

It's one thing to oppose a president's policies; after all, people do have that right. Let's keep in mind, however, that he did gain a majority of popular and electoral votes in both 2008 and 2012; as such, going out of their way to sabotage his constitutionally-mandated obligation to carry out the laws of this country is simply beyond the pale.

Well, we don't agree with him. Fine, but you didn't make your case in the election.

We think his policies are dangerous. A lot of people obviously don't agree.

We think he's leading this nation toward socialism. You'll have to do better than that.

If the media had just told the truth ... They did. You just didn't want to hear it.

We think he should be stopped. By any means necessary? At the cost of your own soul?

I mean that -- if you're that focused on defeating him you end up only defeating yourself. That was a major factor in his reelection last year despite the bad economy and a persistently unstable labor market.

Dad never remarried, as I didn't think he would, and likely harbored bitterness toward Mom to the day he died; that's no way to live and he didn't. Moral of the story, at the risk of sounding arrogant: If you feel that way about the president, you need to get over it and move on because you can't change the election results. Not doing so might very well kill you.