Whatever is True, Whatever is Noble, Whatever is Right

So, I’ve been trying to get back to writing and posting regularly —kind of an unofficial New Year’s resolution. When my family headed back home, I started to reorganize the house as well as my approach to writing.  It was right then that January 6th happened.  All these months, while I’ve been home, I tried to stay out of politics, but I’ve become one of those folks on social media. You know, the one who tries to knock some sense into perfect strangers who are happy living in their irrational state of mind.  It’s hard to ignore the rhetoric when you care about our country and have seen social injustice grow stronger and unchecked in the last 4 years. I try to keep it down, to limit my posts and tweets, but quite frankly, that doesn’t work very well for me.

I thought about starting a second blog dedicated to the events of our time but decided there are already many others doing a fantastic job with that topic. My blog would probably be little more than a rant. I don’t mind putting my thoughts about politics out there, but I don’t want to get caught up in that madness. I have many friends and extended family with very conservative views, and I find that I am always careful about what I write. Being cautious though, has no substantial value because it takes away the freedom to say what is honestly on my mind.  Even with a self-censor, I’ve had to take social media vacations from some people that can not accept that I will never be a fan of DJT. The break usually starts with me saying, “Let’s shake on it, and peace be with you.” In my mind I add, “hopefully, we can regroup after the election.”

However, after President Biden and Vice President Harris’s Inauguration, I’ve decided to write at least one blog post in response to all the gloom and doom that I found on social media the day after. Just for the record, I thought the Inauguration was impressive considering all the limits well-defined by recent events. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of music, which highlighted the message of unity, diversity, and of course, the tradition of peaceful transition of power.  I felt President Biden’s address to the nation was heartfelt and sincere. 

Many other Americans, though, were devastated. I saw posts of people grieving, afraid of the unknown, questioning their faith, questioning our democracy. The broadcast of this time-honored tradition was put out there for the world to see. It was as if watching it was anathema; many could or would not hear the message of hope and healing transmitted for hours across the networks.  

Sadly, the narrative playing in their heads was that DJT was pushed out of the White House by socialists and communists. They “stole the election.” What happened to the promises, the prophecies? In the other world of DJT, I read that the “Proud Boys” were mad because he gave up too soon. Reports are that they call him “weak,” “a total failure.” The truth is that after the call to arms, the threats, and violence, DJT rode off into the sunset apparently without looking back. He provoked their toxic patriotism, then just walked away, and left them holding the bag. He went back to his 128-room mansion, back to his golf course, back to his exclusive club where these “patriots” are not welcomed.  He never conceded, never told his supporters that the lies about election fraud had been another of his smoke and mirror stunts to confuse his followers and stay in power. I read that instead, he appeased them by declaring that he would be back with a new party – The Patriot Party.  In doing so, he sent a veiled threat to the GOP for not supporting his “Stop the Steal” agenda and confirmed to his followers that he was not done.  As of today, it seems to have worked. 

But really, before I get carried away, this post is not about DJT. Neither is it about the extreme radical conservative, white supremacist movement, for which he proudly takes full credit. Far be it for me to tell him that he is just a symptom of this movement, like a cold sore or herpes. This post is for people who may have gotten caught in the crossfire, if you will. 

It’s for the people I grew up with, people who stood by my side after my kids’ dad died. It’s for people in my family who continue to carry the conservative, fundamentalist values that our parents taught us. It’s for those, like the widow at the Temple, who give generous offerings of what little they have because they believe. It’s for those people who have genuine and pure faith in the God of the Bible but are so confused by what they hear, which is often in contrast with what they see.  

I am reminded of many Bible passages where Jesus is recorded to have given warnings to those who would lead his followers astray.

Mathew 7:15-20

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire… Therefore, by their fruits, you will know them.

Last Thursday, I started to see negative posts and comments on social media in response to my optimistic expressions about the inaugural activities. I don’t fool myself to think that we are creating heaven on earth or a eutopia. I didn’t expect everything was going to be Peachy Keene on the morning after. Nor did I imagine I would sing Kumbaya with my gun-toting, confederate flag bearing neighbors. However, I didn’t expect the genuine level of sorrow and despondency from some of my Christian contacts.

This is not Nirvana, but I am confident that it is an opportunity to continue working on the principles and the ideals that I believe were intended by the founders of this great nation. I consider that in the last four years, the country strayed from the fundamental principles of “we the people,” not to mention any semblance of honesty and decency.

I was not bothered by the social media responses but rather sad that people were so blindly disheartened by the election outcome. It seems unfortunate to me that honest, decent, hardworking people would be swept up in this “movement” of hate and destruction.  I keep thinking of a passage in the Bible where Jesus calls out the religious leaders.

Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but, on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

This uprising in the name of God and traditional values not come as a surprise to us who were paying attention. We have seen such history repeat itself for generations. After all, wasn’t it Caiaphas, the high priest in Jerusalem, that organized the plot to kill Jesus? Wasn’t it the council of the Sanhedrin that turned Jesus over to the Roman courts? Tradition gave these high priests lots of power and prosperity. They were charged with interpreting the ancient scriptures and keeping the law as they had done for centuries.

When they saw that Jesus had quite a following, outside of the Temple, they accused him of blasphemy because he taught the community that He came to fulfill the laws and the prophecies. He said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are My disciples if you love one another” [Gospel of John 13: 34,35].

Crowds followed Jesus for three years. The people received spiritual and physical healing. Yet, when Pontius Pilate offered to spare Jesus from death, the high priests incited the crowd to demand crucifixion for Jesus. Likewise, they called out instead for the release of Barabbas, an insurrectionist imprisoned by the Romans for his revolutionary activities.  And so, it was, that despite everything that the people had heard and witnessed with their own eyes, in that moment of pandemonium, that multitude in Jerusalem turned against Jesus and His teachings.  They forgot about the promises, about Jesus’ message of a loving God, and the beauty of the Spirit.

Let me pause a minute to review. “Picture it:” Jerusalem, AD 50-85, a group of powerful men in robes, afraid to lose their high paying jobs with benefits, plotted to kill a young Rabbi who was teaching the Children of Israel about God and the scriptures.  According to the law, the Jews had to come to the High Priest to reach God.  

Some of the charges as I understand them were:

  • He told a young man faithfully following The Commandments, that to inherit eternal life, he had to give ALL his money to the poor and follow Him. Not to the Temple or the High Priests, but to the poor.  
  • A couple of times, the High Priests caught Jesus healing the sick on the Sabbath!  One of those times, Jesus healed a lame man and told him to pick up his bed and go on his way, he was healed. Imagine, he told the man to pick up his bed – on the Sabbath! It didn’t matter that the man had been afflicted for 38 years, and on this day, Jesus came to him with compassion.  The Priests were the keepers of the Law.
  • Jesus stopped a legal stoning of a woman prosecuted for adultery. Then he dared to turn to her accusers and tell them “Let the one without sin throw the first stone!” One by one they left.
  • Jesus used a Samaritan as an example to teach them that our neighbor is anyone in need to whom we show love and kindness.  He encouraged his followers to visit the sick, those in prison, and to care for the widows.

There are many more examples like this, but these are enough for now.  You can always read more about this on your own.

 In the centuries that followed The Crucifixion, wars raged to secure the places sacred to Christian values and traditions. Since then, Christians brought with them the mantra of the “love the sinner, hate the sin” as they forced Muslims and Jews to accept Christ as Savior or else. These nonbelievers lost their lands, material wealth, and sometimes their lives.

When we remember Jesus’ words to Pilate, that if his kingdom had been of this world, his followers would have already physically saved him from this fate.  These wars and abuse were not in His plans. As a matter of fact, when Jesus was arrested, the story was that the Apostle Peter took up his sword and chopped off the ear of one of the guards. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Jesus had to complete his mission.

In the Sixties, we sang a folk song that said, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, by our love” – not by our sword – by our love.   We also sang, “Not by might and not by power, but by my spirit…” I still find comfort in these melodies that continue to lift my spirit.

How simple it is to believe that all good comes from God or the Spirit of a Higher Power.  And yet, in witnessing the past four years, it baffles me how people -Christians especially, can compare the 45th Administration to all that is good? Anything that appeared to be “good” quickly vanished in the light of the truth.

Examples that “came to light” just over the last week were:

  1. Although DJT had used Warp-Speed to get vaccines out. The Administration misrepresented how much was actually in stock and how effectively the plan was rolled out.
  2. No matter how many court cases were brought to overturn the election, NOTHING in the reports reached a level of credibility.  Not even judges appointed by DJT for this very reason, were able to confirm widespread election fraud.
  3. These last two examples shed light on DJT’s character and his narcissistic patterns of behavior. Let me start by clarifying that I am not a fan of Mike Pence, but if anything, he has been loyal to DJT.  If Pence is the kind of Christian he has led us to believe he is, standing by DJT must have been quite a challenge. It almost reminds me of the Biblical account of King Saul and David. David, according to the story, knew he was to be king after Saul, but given the opportunity, he refused to take the life of God’s anointed.  In contrast, however, the moment Pence publicly disagreed with DJT about certifying the election, he sent his goons after him at the Capitol where Pence was doing his job. DJT’s people chanted in the streets and up the steps of the Capitol about death to Pence and even put-up gallows with a noose. All because DJT put his loyalty in doubt before this crowd of radicalized militant extremists.
  4. NOT ONCE DID TRUMP DISANNOUNCE THESE ACTIONS AGAINST HIS FAITHFUL VICE PRESIDENT.  WHEN HE SAW WHAT WAS HAPPENING, NOT ONCE DID HE CALL TO STOP WHAT HE HAD UNLEASHED ON THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Instead, watch it unfold on TV and dawdled, hemmed, and hawed in deciding if he should approve the National Guard deployment to the Capitol.  

 As I am writing, I can almost hear – “but this, but that.” I know I am only touching the surface with these observations.  Maybe in the days to come, I’ll continue with more in-depth commentary of how I see things in the light of “non-fundamentalism.”

I’ll just leave you with one last verse for your consideration. Perhaps it will help someone measure by faith what they are witnessing with their eyes. It is a verse from a letter credited to Paul and Timothy to the congregation at Philippi.

Philippians 4:8-9

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

(Photo from pixabay)

Cause to stumble?

This post is written with a sincere heart, but I realize it may be objectionable or even offensive to some.  For that, I apologize, but I did not have it in me to “self-censor” these thoughts.  The Bible is filled with warnings to Christians to be mindful of their actions so as not to cause another to stumble or fall in the faith. If at any point this post becomes too much, please stop reading and carry on with your life.  I will understand.  Since I started writing this, I have heard that a few Christian community leaders are speaking out against the Administration’s Family Separation policy for asylum seekers.   I am grateful, but it’s not enough, not yet.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

I sat at my computer several times over the last few days trying to write about what is heavy on my soul.   Each time I sat down to think about a way to start, an image presented in my brain.  It is the image from the Gospel according to Luke chapter 19 at verse 41.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

Luke 19:41 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                        41 He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it,

This verse talks about Jesus as he is approaching near to the city of Jerusalem.  He stopped to take it all in and then he cried.

Over the years I’ve heard different preachers give sermons about this verse.  Different people chose to interpret the chapter as they saw it in their hearts. Based on a cross-reference of verses, some people said that he was crying for the future of Jerusalem, others expressed that Jesus was crying because he knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem; others explained that Jesus cried because he knew the people of Jerusalem had hardened hearts.  I believe all three are correct, but given the circumstances of our own country today I feel that our leaders have hardened their hearts to the pain of humanity.  

Matthew 23:37 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                37  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!”

To love, then, is to obey the whole Law 

I was in a bit of shock the other day.  In response to critics on the Administration’s implementation of the immigration policy, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions got to the podium and “for our church friends” explained that the reason for coldhearted treatment of persons seeking asylum was because the Bible said so. Sessions, with a smirk, went on to read such scripture to support his claim.  He read from the book of Romans 13, the first verse, which as a side note was also used by the slave owners in their attempt to justify keeping slaves during President Lincoln’s time.

Romans 13:1 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                    13 “Everyone must obey state authorities because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.”

Even Steven Colbert pointed out that Sessions should have kept reading because verses 8-10 could have proved fascinating to hear.  

    8 “Be under obligation to no one—the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law. 9 The commandments ‘Do not commit adultery; do not commit murder; do not steal; do not desire what belongs to someone else’—all these, and any others besides, are summed up in the one command, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 10 If you love others, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.”

God’s kingdom is a spiritual realm

What has shocked me the most is that Jeff Sessions and later Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had the audacity to use the Bible to give credence to the current Administration’s policies and interpretation of the law.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but the United States of America is not a theocracy.   When the Founding Fathers wrote the constitution, they wrote: We the People.  They had come here to get away from a government-sponsored religion.  I understand that we have grown accustomed to the fact that everything in this administration is “unprecedented,” but we cannot be fooled to think God ordains this.  God’s kingdom is a spiritual realm.  We need to stop using religion to excuse bad policy or bad behavior.   

John 18 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                              33 Pilate went back into the palace and called Jesus. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.   36 Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!” 

Is God good enough?

I have often said that some Christians seem to create a God in their image.  If we take the Bible as a starting point, the Bible says that God created us in His image.  Where is the disconnect?  Is it faith?  I’ve noticed that the “conservative” movement feels it’s their responsibility to get God’s work done one way or another.  They think they can use the government to move God’s timeline.  When Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem, many Christians were posting on social media “even so, come Lord Jesus.”  I saw people posting things like “ok it’s done, we are ready for you to come.” Did they think that their God could not figure out a way to get things done? Did they think they had to elect Trump to do God’s work; to get things done? God wasn’t good enough to do it on his own? 

When Evangelicals support Trump, it seems to me that they are re-creating the story of the Passion of Christ when the High Priest in Jesus time, instigated the crowds to demand Barabbas be released.  If you have read the story of the Passion, you may remember that the crowds yelled and screamed asking Pilate for the release of Barabbas and to crucify Jesus.  The High Priests didn’t want someone who was going to take away their power and bring the people closer to God; they wanted someone who was going to get them out from under Roman rule. They wanted self-government which gave them the power and control over the people.

In my experience, whenever someone quotes the Bible for a political purpose, very rarely have I heard anyone quote something that Jesus actually said.  Trump’s entourage of evangelical advisors often quote the Old Testament histories or they bring up one of the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to one church of a specific place and time.  They don’t however, bother to explain the historical context.  If I’ve missed it, please do comment here, it is not my intention to spread wrong information.  There are many examples of Jesus teaching using parables.  One the most well-known perhaps is the story of The Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke chapter 10 verses 25-36. This parable teaches that spiritually is not bound by race, ethnicity or nation of origin but rather by a love of God and His creation.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan                                                                                                25 A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?  ”26 Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”  27 The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with your entire mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”  28 “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.”  29 But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”  30 Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead.  31 It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side.  32 In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side.  33 But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity.  34 He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.  35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’”   36 And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbor toward the man attacked by the robbers?”  37 The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.”  Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

To get the full meaning of this parable, one must understand that the Jews and the Samaritans did not get along; similar to racial and ethnic differences and tensions in our country.  According to the parable, while a priest and a Levite, saw the injured traveler, neither one stopped nor did anything to help (in a nutshell, a Levite was an assistant to the priests and caretaker of the temple). The Samaritan, however, was filled with pity and took action.  How does this passage compare to our current day issues? As Christians, how do we compare? Do we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan from the pulpits in this country?  The Samaritan used his own money to take care of someone in need; even though they were strangers.

The reason I bring these things up is not that I want to point fingers at anyone but to bring up one of the teachings I am most respectful of.  Throughout the New Testament, we noticed that new believers are compared to children; children in the faith. 

Matthew 18 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                   18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, asking, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”  2 So Jesus called a child to come and stand in front of them,  3 and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.  4 The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child.  5 And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me.  6 “If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.  7 How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such things will always happen—but how terrible for the one who causes them!

There is nothing more for me to add to this. There are plenty of verses admonishing seasoned Christians to take care of those struggling to believe, struggling to keep the faith. I hear it all the time, Christians who want nothing to do with organized religion because the image of Christianity projected in our society is not Christ-like.  I ask fellow Christians to do an honest self-exam.  I know there are true believers out there doing their best.  They are my friends, they are my family.  They radiate the love of God in their lives.  Is that you?  Are you careful not to cause your brother or sister to stumble, to lose faith?  Only you and God know if your life is demonstrating all the love of Christ. That love that makes people realize that God is real and a peaceful spirit can be found in Him. 

John 13:35 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                      35 If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

Peace be with you. Blog Jesuslove-1221444_960_720