The Five Pillars of My Disconcerting View of My American Christian Brethren Today
Some of my Christian friends think that I may be a little too critical these days of my fellow American Christians and paint with too broad of a brush, and they may think that I need to focus on my own spiritual inadequacies and shortcomings. They may well be right; I certainly criticize Christian behavior for which I myself have been guilty, and neglect important Christian work and ministry I should be about right now. It is easy to be a critic, and sit in the “seat of scoffers” as a judge and spectator, while others are “in the arena”.
Having said that, while I have been raised in the “bullseye” of the Bible Belt both culturally and geographically, and benefitted from its solid Christian worldview foundation and been blessed by its security, hope and sacrificial love from others toward me, I have been developing some type of angst or unsettled gut feeling about the culture itself, and how it expresses itself in some of its most “edgy” manifestations such as the “culture war”, political interactions and even Bible prophecy/foreign policy popular perspectives. This “symptom” has emerged ever since I began opening my mind to asking long-overdue questions and finally considering long-disregarded perspectives in the midst of my Future Quake radio show production era (which shows the blessing from even considering the “far out” topics such as Nephilim, UFOs and conspiracy topics then, if only as an essential mental exercise in free thinking). I need to reassure my fellow Christian leaders that I have not been shaken at all in regard to my committment to Jesus Christ or His teachings, or that of His apostles as expressed in the Bible; if anything, they have only become more solidified and in focus, which has ironically made them a central cause of my recent misgivings, particularly when I see so much now of my accepted “Christian culture” that does not line up with them. In a way I am catching up to younger Christians with far less experience as practicing Christians, and with a far smaller and more recent “cloud of witnesses” than I have been blessed to marinate in for over fifty years; in other words, my re-thinking is long overdue, and I have much to account for in this age of readily-available information and perspectives, if we only pursue them.
Future Quake listeners know that I began to ask some of these questions, often spurred by the guests of the week, news stories we discussed, the comments of my wise hosts Emmett and Tom Bionic, and even emails sent from listeners. I have also been blessed to be influenced by a circle of “merry men”, such as Adam Sayne at Conspirinormal, Tim and Andrew at Revelation Radio News, Chris White, other friends like “Paul from Texas” and particularly frequent guest (and mentor) Robert Heid of the Sycamore Three blog. One of my problems in this vein is to take all this disparate information and thoughts over the years and in the future and somehow “corral” it into some type of lucid and constructive framework and line of thinking; I read once that a measure of “genius” was “the ability to see relationships”, which can also be “cause and effect”, I suppose. The effort over the last several years of trying to write a coherent and organized book series The Holy War Chronicles – A Spiritual View of the War on Terror has helped somewhat in that regard, by necessity (in fact, I recommend the process to everyone), and in some way it touches on many if not all of the topics of my concerns, and disciplines me to express it logically and clearly (at least as a goal). I also will write brief (sometimes longer) position papers on related topics or new ways of considering them, and share them with my friends like those mentioned above – I am now going to try to express such ideas in this blog directly, to everyone, and hope they know that sometimes they are just “bits of undercooked potato” and temporary insanity that I will deny any association with later, and always just exercises in “thinking out loud”. However, in many respects they are still scattershot and not sculpted into a framework to identify important associations.
I am now going to take the first “kick at the can” in this vein, and now express an idea of such a framework I blurted out to my good friend Robert Heid when he dropped into town to visit yesterday, with a little more amplification I derived in the wee hours of last night. It is certainly inadequate and hopefully will at least jump-start a conversation on the topic – you can’t sculpt a masterpiece until you throw a hunk of clay up there, can you? I am attempting to categorize the basic categories of my beefs or disconcerting subjects into five “pillars” for the time being. I chose “five pillars” because I can view them as five in number, I thought it was clever, and it is a playful poke at my brethren in the “anti-sharia” crowd. Here’s my first crack at identifying the five broad “pillars” of my concerns (I also want to remind the reader that I know many Christians are not culpable for the attitudes I will reveal as being commonplace in the community in my perspective, including the far-sighted leaders in my own church and close friends of mine):
- Lack of Empathy: I see a widespread lack of empathy in many Christians today, particularly in their conspicuous public leadership as well as rank and file, which is sad since i see this as essential to being an effective disciple and witness for Christ. They are so easily led by their leaders to distrust anyone slightly different from them – even those who also profess Christ as well – and assign to them the worst (and usually unproven, or even unevidentiated) motives. They cannot even see the merits, much less exhibit the ability, of seeing the world and its events, and in particular the interpretation of the acts of Christians, through the eyes and perspectives of those raised in a different spiritual, geographic, ideological or ethnic culture. They are in such a rush to prove the “superiority” of their cultural views that they run roughshod over others. I don’t think most of them that I know have ever known was it felt like to be a minority in some sense – racially, ethnically or culturally – in a society with a hostile majority, and the vulnerability it produces, and sometimes radical actions in desperate reactions. They do not, and care not to know what it feels like “in another’s shoes”, unlike Jesus with the Samaritan Woman and other Gentiles, or Paul appealing from a Greek mindset on Mars Hill. Just a few minutes to intentionally try to view things from the “enemy”‘s view could accomplish much to calm physical or verbal hostilities, maintain a constructive dialogue and promote societal tranquility.
- No Ability of Self-Introspection: I know I have dwelt in this tent many times, as it stands strong in its assurance of its “rightness” and in the ability to point out the inadequacy in others, particularly camps with different views. It seems to not have the desire or ability to look inward at its own motives and blind spots, or myopia of what is going on. It does not consider the “dirty laundry” of its own history, be it the nation of the United States, the Christian community there or its leadership and actions, its religious denomination or political party, or even ethnic culture. It cannot see the “beam” of its own culture and “debts” it owes others that have not been paid, and for which restitution is probably the remedy to re-secure God’s blessings in our communities, but sadly being a recipe never considered by “proud” Americans. If we could only do this after learning what the West has done to the Middle East and its inhabitants over the last century or more, I am certain that it would greatly enhance peace and prosperity for all parties, regardless what the doom-and-gloom “Bible prophecy crowd” (I say lamentably as a life-long “prophecy buff”) and Christian Zionists of every stripe allege.
- A Disdain For Quality Research, Reading and Diverse Education: I suspect this problem can at least be traced back to the 1925 Monkey Scopes Trial, or even the Church and Galileo. In circumstances like the Scopes debacle, the Christian community, rather than revisiting what views for which they truly needed to “circle the wagons” around while being creative and open-minded in how to interact and converse with others, chose rather to adopt a “siege mentality” and become totally inward looking, and viewing with suspicion, fear and/or paranoia everyone on the outside, and any thoughts or views they might have. As a classically-trained scientist and seriously practicing Christian myself, I am often embarrassed to see the foolish and uninformed ways that Christian groups lash out at others – even those groups who have their own blind spots and mal intents as well at times, I admit. I did not recognize this so much until recently, but now I understand other Christian professors, professionals and “thinkers” who would cringe when the fundamentalists would pontificate on subjects for which they knew little to nothing legitimate about. It is easy to ridicule American Indians who were afraid that photographs would “steal their souls” or similar things in other cultures, yet not see it in one’s own. Other Christians have long criticized the Catholic Church for its persecution of Galileo for his assertion that the Earth circled the Sun, yet now it is making the rounds in other Christian circles that the earth is flat (I wonder if this is perpetuated by God to show how ludicrous some Christian communities have become, like Donald Trump and his embracement by much of the Religious Right). See how many Christian schools teach hard sciences and careers such as engineering and medicine – I assume most of these schools are content to consign members of these communities to Hell, and refuse to send bright Christians to interact with them. I routinely lament even close Christian friends who have no attention spans to read serious Christian, much less secular literature that espouses important ideas that exercise the mind. I find that many Christians I know do not want to be “bored” with reading any literature that considers a topic for more than a few pages, yet while they do not want to take the time to study an issue and its history from various perspectives, they are more than willing to invest time getting “educated” from talk radio and its Christian variants, as well as take time to frequently (and LOUDLY) express their draconian views against others based upon hearsay and unsubstantiated accusations, and reflect the same mindset at the ballot box. The Christian book stores of today are candy stores of intellectual and spiritual “bubble gum” by and large, with little regard for history, citations of others’ works and ideas from those outside their own myopic spheres. And they wonder why the world does not respect them any more! Hint, hint – the disrespect has nothing to do with Jesus or the BIble!
- No Concern For The Impact Their Pursuits Have On Others: Many Christians (mostly right wing, I must recognize) love to “talk tough” as “macho” Christians, particularly in political rallies, or when co-opting America’s military to bolster their own reputations and agendas. In reality, most of them are “cowards”, and would never speak so brashly and threateningly if they did not have a military funded by a budget roughly greater than the next ten nations in the world combined behind it; they would never dream of going to meet with Muslim leaders in Iran or elsewhere (even their own communities) to have constructive talks and “listening tours”, like good old Saint Francis. They use euphemisms like a “strong America” and “American leadership” to represent “gunboat diplomacy” to enforce the will of America (and in particular its corporations) on the other peoples of the world, without regard for their wishes or interests, as a true expression of “social Darwinism” while consigning its sole dangers to its perspective on the origins of our planet long ago. It likewise embraces social Darwinism in the economic realm in an “anything goes” environment where exploitation of those economically vulnerable are exploited routinely, with no mention by most of the Church, unlike the majority of God’s teaching through Jesus and the Old Testament prophets. They do not care if the poor do not get justice in the courts, the “thumbs are on the scales” in the marketplace against them, or how they suffer in any other way. They promote the use of gas-guzzling vehicles as a blatant expression of contempt for God’s creation, while the majority of the world cannot afford such scarce energy resources to refrigerate their food and medicines. To them, “sustainability” is a “four letter word”, and they promote feel-good patriotic wars that run up unpayable national debts on their children and grandchildren. How can American Christians say they “love their neighbor”? When will they start asking questions when they promote their various views – “Who pays as a result?”
- A Lack of Duty to Be Their Brother’s Keeper: Christians here in America, by and large, seem to take the perspective of Cain, and show ambivalence to the suffering and persecution of others, as long as it is not them. They don’t mind who is “left behind” (maybe the “rapture mentality” helps undergird this?). They have adopted the view from their 30 minute daily committment to the issues from Rush and Hannity during their commute and Fox News over dinner that the “poor” are all “lazy, dope and sex addicted, child creating, welfare abusing” burdens on society and humanity – even if many come from homes with no father or any positive role models, or unsafe schools. They don’t care if people in Iraq or Afghanistan are thrown into Gitmo without trials or evidence, or legal representation, or kept there for years because the government admits they have no evidence on them, the release of which would expose. They do not care about people of low mental aptitude who are exploited in FBI-generated “terror stings” as harmless people who never originally intended any harm, to be incarcerated next to some peaceful dudes who were found with some joints in their car. They are ambivalent or skeptical that blacks or others in low income neighborhoods are profiled and scared that they will be victims of police abuse even when they are minding their own business, nor seem to care that police forces have invested many millions of dollars in “less than lethal” technologies like Tasers, and then seem reticent to use them on those they decide they need to “take down”, like guys selling individual cigarettes. They do not care about the rights of those with whom they differ – Muslims, gays, atheists, etc. – and don’t care if they have Christian views shoved in their face, but if they in turn receive the most modest of push back, the Christian majority shrieks and yells “Christian persecution!” at the top of their lungs. Can they be surprised when no one is listening? Will they always leave up to the secularists, government or those in cults to minister to people in need, while they are busy “soul winning” door to door?
There you go – Mike’s “Five Pillars” of Discontent. Don’t be surprised to read many of my beefs in the months ahead to be related to one or more of these; in fact, I might just cite the pertinent “pillar” when commenting on them! I may decide to add a few more if I think of them later, but I sure hate to mess up the elegant “five pillars”, don’t you think?
P.S. For all the exhausted readers of this new blog – most of the entries will be nowhere NEAR this long (particularly the goofy ones!)