Tag Archives: unity

rainbow after the storm

“Nothing to shout about”, or, my four-month break

It was July 4th. That was when I decided I needed a break. Four months. Important things have happened in that time. Much of it never made the news.

  • We found a new church home. My daughter was hugely relieved as she gets attached easily and “church dating” has been really hard on her.
  • I returned to Yosemite for the first time since my childhood best friend was killed there in a rock climbing accident in 2005. It was even more beautiful than I remembered.
  • In Monterey, my wife and I spent 10 hours battling seasickness in a tiny boat to see an actual, live albatross in flight overhead, something I had wanted to do since I read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner at age 12.
  • Within three days in late September, two of my favorite bloggers each posted that they are hanging it up, one for a break, and the other, for good.
  • My family witnessed, together, an outcome in the World Series unprecedented since before my daughter’s great-grandparents were born.
  • And yes, our country chose a new president, and I have sat with various friends through all their different reactions: some elated, some terrified.

I have posted before about sabbath: how important, and yet how little valued it is in our day. Especially for those who believe in their work, it is easy to justify the never-ending, bit-by-bit deplenishment of spirit that comes from doing just one more small thing.

Important things have been happening in our society. I know what I’m supposed to do if I want to be a successful writer: I need to write about what’s hot. I need to tap into the zeitgeist. I can only be relevant by connecting with an audience, and if this is a hard, cynical age, marked by division and mistrust, then I need to toss a coin, choose my side, and start shouting.

That is what I could not bring myself to do. As I stood on the sidelines these past four months, witness to all the sound and fury, I could not help remembering the words from Shakespeare’s King Lear: “What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.”

I care passionately about what is happening in our society. I believe this is a historic moment. And I believe, at a time like this, that some things— like how we treat those who disagree— are more important than which side wins.

Some hear me calling for reconciliation and mutual respect, and they hear only the voice of white privilege, brimming with complaisance and naïveté. Some hear the voice of betrayal. Some hear nice words but with no real power. But I do not believe that Christ was complacent or naïve, or that bipartisanship equals betrayal, and as for those “nice words”: history has shown they are the only words with any real power to heal.

What Google says the Bible advocates

Correcting what the World thinks “the Bible advocates”

I’m depressed. Go to Google, type “Bible advocates”, and see the popular suggested searches that appear: “violence”… “killing non believers”… “slavery”. You can’t even get “love” to appear. Type an L to try and prompt it, and you won’t get anything. Google just sits there, confused, not suggesting anything. Same with F (for forgiveness) and J (for joy). P (for peace) just gives you “polygamy” and “death penalty”.

So today, I am fixing it. Some of that stuff is treated in the Bible, but none of it is what the Bible is about. Here is what it is about:

Google suggestionWhat the Bible is really about
A“abortion”, “child abuse” Abundant life, Atonement
B(no suggestions) Baptism, Begotten son
C“child abuse” Christ, Carry your cross
D“death penalty” Divinity
E(no suggestions) Eternity
F(no suggestions) Forgiveness, Freedom, Father
G“genocide” God, Grace
H (no suggestions) Holy Spirit
I“inc” Incarnation
J (no suggestions) Jesus
K“killing” King of kings
L (no suggestions) Love, Lord
M (no suggestions) Mercy, Messiah
N (no suggestions) All things new
O (no suggestions) Only begotten son
P“polygamy”, “death penalty” Peace, Prayer
Q (no suggestions) Quiet
R (no suggestions) Redemption
S“slavery”, “stoning”, “socialism” Salvation, Sacrifice, Son of God, Sabbath, Service, Freedom from sin, Defeat of Satan
T“the bible advocates slavery, violence, genocide” Trinity, Truth
U (no suggestions) Unity
V“violence” Virgin birth
W (no suggestions) Worship, Will of God
X (no suggestions) Example of Christ, Crucifixion
Y“yelp”, “yale” Pray
Z (no suggestions) Zion
Can Christians vote for Donald Trump?

Why this white Christian male can never support Donald Trump

I am breaking my rule. Normally I never write about politics because (a) it’s a divisive topic, and (b) others incorrectly equate faith and politics, and I don’t want to be part of that. But the politics themselves have become so divisive now. That— more than any specific policy or candidate— is today’s topic.

The Christian Science Monitor summarized it perfectly. Reflecting on the previous night’s GOP debate, it asked, “Does GOP debate show Donald Trump has already won?” and observed that, “Belligerence was the order of the night. Trump himself said he would ‘gladly accept the mantle of anger.'”

Spoiling for a fight

I have many church friends who are ardent supporters of The Donald. To them, Trump channels their frustration and anger over losing twice to Obama— one describes it as “an 8-year reign of terror”— as well as a deeper anger that their values are being taken away: planned parenthood, same-sex marriage, etc. In Trump’s fiery rhetoric, they see the strong medicine that they feel our country needs.

But I cannot number myself among them. Something in me rebels against the notion that Christlike ends can be achieved by such un-Christlike means. Consider the warnings of scripture:

  • “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11)
  • “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8)
  • “Blessed is the man who does not sit in the seat of the scornful.” (Psalm 1:1)
  • “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)

There are dozens more.

Some counter that righteous anger is the appropriate response to the apostasy of our times, and point to the model of Jesus getting angry at the temple merchants— and not only angry, but violent as well, fashioning whips and overturning tables. But even including that episode, I do not believe there is any honest comparison between the public persona of Donald Trump and the example and the teaching of Jesus Christ.

In a Republican field with a lot of very similar positions, Trump’s pugnaciousness has made him the stand-out among those who are spoiling for a fight. That instinct is perfectly natural. The problem is, scripture is often at odds with our natural instincts. For instance, there is nothing natural about forgiving our enemies, yet scripture repeatedly urges this, from Joseph reconciling with his brothers to Jesus praying from the cross.

Not-so-righteous anger

Jesus’ anger has this same element of reversing our natural instincts. The one thing that made Jesus angry was when the religious establishment, instead of leading people to God, used the weight of their influence to keep people away. (Clearing the temple was one example, the “woe to you!” verses of Matthew 23 are another.)

But today’s Christian anger is directed in a much more “natural” direction: not at our own religious establishment, but at all the outsiders, who are exactly the people that Jesus embraced. The central message of Christ’s life and sacrifice is reconciliation, and as Christians, we need to be striving toward that, not toward deeper division. Very closely connected to that is how we treat one another, and especially our enemies. If our society is sick, then “you who are spiritual should restore them gently,” urges the scripture; “gently” being the operative word.

Good governance, by these lights, is not about anger. It is all about seeking resolution of our differences. At its best, it is about functioning together as countrymen despite them. What we are seeing now on the national stage is nothing like that. Far from it: the personal insults, the battle lines, the ridicule— to the Christian, this is as close as I have ever seen, in my lifetime, to governance at its worst.