Archive for January, 2013

Women In Combat

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

The Church is abuzz with despair over Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s decision this week to allow women to serve alongside men in all combat positions in the military, although the men and women who serve will tell you that women have been on the front lines in varying capacities for years.

The Deuteronomic prohibition against men and women dressing in the clothing of the other sex has been invoked, along with an acknowledgement that the military exploits of Deborah and Jael in the Old Testament are the exceptions that prove the no-women-in-combat rule, and I suspect that tomorrow morning will feature grave pronouncements lugubriously pouring over the nation’s pulpits that our daughters are mere legislative steps away from being forced to abandon their search for matching tableware and don the fatigues and AR-15s of the menfolk.

All of which, however, seems to ignore a perhaps more important concern that the Church ought to grapple with:  Is it Biblical — is it in any way justifiable — for any Christian, male or female, to be forced to fight in our country’s wars, particularly those that, like the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, were based on lies, sinful and profit-oriented motives, and a general desire to “get” Muslims in retaliation for Sept. 11?

Rather than worrying that our menstruating, emotional, and skirt-wearing daughters might someday be forced to fight, perhaps we should step back and see if any of our Christian children should be in the battlefield-killing business. 

It’s a tougher question to answer, and that’s why, I suspect, it won’t come up in the hue and cry over ladies in combat.  And it’s a pity it won’t, because the greatest offense to the Scriptures and to the message of Jesus Christ isn’t that people with lady parts will be on the front lines.

Oh, The Persecution Of The American Church …

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

I don’t often check in with the Huffington Post — not for political or cultural analysis, and it never would occur to me to see what HuffPost has to say about matters of faith.  But this article, about the double-standard hypocrisy of those who cry “persecution” every time a door is closed to them in the civic arena, is worth a look:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/24/religious-liberty-double-standards

It’s interesting to me that as we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., last week — and by “we” I meant clear-thinking, progressive, neighbor-loving people and, sadly, not very many evangelicals — we’ve developed, as a society, a strange-but-convenient understanding of Dr. King’s work and mission.  Secularists rightly hail him as a civil rights hero without grasping the Biblical Christianity that undergirded and enlivened his message, while conservative Christians have been wary to embrace him and the legacy he left because it was informed by the same Biblical foundation.  Dr. King was not this nation’s “best-ever liberal,” as many non-religious people might prefer, and he WAS one of this nation’s “best-ever” examples of a Biblically prophetic disciple of Jesus Christ.

And while this causes little to no real discomfort among the secularists, it’s been a tough pill over the decades for the conservative, evangelical Church to swallow.  After all, the Biblical foundation of Dr. King’s message convicts not only the segregationists and bigots in the American Church during the civil rights era, but those who even today accommodate and defend societal inequality and injustice.  White Americans have always benefited from racism, and few are those in the Church who seek to humble themselves by first acknowledging their privilege and then using it to empower and advocate for those left behind because of it.  Worse yet are those who, after ignoring the racial and class-based oppression around them for all of their lives, have suddenly co-opted Dr. King in their fight to keep gays and lesbians from enjoying Constitutionally-protected rights and, sickeningly, use his name and covet his legacy in their obscene fight to keep America armed and violent. 

Dr. King was murdered for his faith.  That’s persecution. 

Your kid’s Bible Study Club having to meet off-campus, or your legislature’s refusal to allow teachers to teach the Bible in their charter school, or your being yelled at and insulted when you wave banners with dismembered fetuses or anti-gay slogans are not. 

The Christian Church in the United States has done precious little prophetic, Biblical, loving good to merit persecution for the sake of righteousness.  Frankly, I long for the day when the Body of Christ in this country lives out the Gospel in such a way as to make persecution inevitable.  Until then, let’s stop whining when we’re inconvenienced, and let’s stop behaving in such a way that within the marketplace of ideas, ours are rejected because of the buffoonery and arrogance that accompany even the occasional good one.

Dr. King and the Church . . . And I’ll Have More To Say Tomorrow

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
“But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before.  If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity , forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.  Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”
 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Honor Of Our Brother, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 21st, 2013

LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL
April 16, 1963

MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.
Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants — for example, to remove the stores humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.
As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves : “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct-action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.
Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoralty election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run-off we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run-off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct-action program could be delayed no longer.
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.
The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken .in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor. will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may want to ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all”
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I-it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. Paul Tillich said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression ‘of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.
Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?
Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.
I hope you are able to ace the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.
We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.
I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this ‘hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.
You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”
I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do-nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.
If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble-rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides–and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some—such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle—have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.
Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative .critics who can always find. something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of Rio shall lengthen.
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; an too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.
I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious. irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”
Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.
Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it vi lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jai with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.
I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, ham and all over the nation, because the goal of America k freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation-and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.
It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handing the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”
I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. There will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. There will be the old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” There will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?
If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.
I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wise Pastoral Council Cloaked As Another Titty Reference

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

This, from Doug Wilson’s “satirical novel” Evangellyfish — a little blurb that is apropos of nothing other than to offend and, perhaps unintentionally, reveal a little about how his pastoral mind works:

From today’s Blog and Mablog:

“She walked briskly up to them, her blouse bouncing provocatively, as much as to say in stereo that we dare you to do anything but look at our forehead” (Evangellyfish, p. 57).

Now, THERE’S a man who ought to be counseling lust-filled young men, abused and victimized women, and couples whose weddings he plans to officiate.

Lord, have mercy.

The Tyranny Of Guns, Glory, And The False God They Represent

Monday, January 14th, 2013

It’s been hard to write about my views about gun violence and the Christian support that not enables but encourages it.  It makes me angry.  It fills me with despair.

And it makes me tremendously sad — not just thinking about the first-graders massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary last month, but remembering the half-dozen friends of mine growing up who have been killed by bullets, most of them when we were still children. I didn’t grow up with guns in our house.  In fact, my parents hated guns only a little more than they hated people who owned them.  But guns and guns violence were a part of my life in Tucson, Arizona, during the 60s and 70s, because of how it affected the kids I went to school with, played with, lived near, and sometimes called friends.

Marvin, though, got to grow up.  But as an adult, he was stricken with cancer and undergoing chemo. But he struggled out of bed one night to go to a 7-11 for a Coke.  He had rims on his car that evidently were quite valuable; in his  bathrobe and slippers, a man I’d known since we were five was shot to death in the parking lot because he wouldn’t give up his car.  The first funeral I ever went to was Georgie’s. He was shot and killed in a hunting accident; at 15, he was a year older than I was.  Georgie’s smile is as clear to me now as it was back then; I doubt that his brother Alex ever recovered.  Gary was the brother of a boy I was determined to marry when in first grade; John was the half-brother of the man I still, after more than 40 years, refer to as my “other brother,” not related biologically but every bit a member of my family, every bit as much my brother. 

I was still in elementary school when Pam’s dad got drunk and shot her; if she’s alive now, she’s probably still on crutches after her spinal cord was severed.  The year before, Martha accidentally got shot in the leg by a careless adult.  What happened to her was a little too weird to make her a hero and way too scary to allow us to continue to  not like her.

We were just in second grade.

And a few times every year, the neighbors’ son would run to our house screaming that his daddy had the gun out again.  My dad would call the police, they’d talk him out of hurting anyone, they’d leave, and a couple of months later, it would happen again.  They lived next door to us; it was the house two doors down that was sprayed with gunfire once because of the politics of the man, my father’s close friend, who lived there with his wife and two children.  And we all knew the drunk guy on the house on the corner down the street from my not-so-tidy culdesac had an arsenal in his home, a point cemented in our memory when his son nearly shot his hand off while cleaning one of his handguns. 

Curtis was in high school when he went out in the desert because there were too many losses and too few victories in his young life, a decision that immediately became the conclusion — because he had a gun with him.

I’ve known so many people whose lives were ended or horribly altered by the careless use of guns and the even more reckless gun culture of a violent Southwestern town wracked as much by explosive growth and demographic upheaval as by poverty, drugs, and violence. All of them would still be alive, or still be whole in body and possibly in spirit, if there were no guns in their homes or no guns available to those who shot them when they left their own homes.  Yes, they could have been stabbed.  Poisoned, I suppose, or just beaten up.  But guns bring with them a fierce finality.  That’s what they’re made for, and that, or the threat of a violent, fierce final end, is exactly why they exist.  The NRA doesn’t agitate, in its bloated, obscene braying, for the right to bear weapons that shoot rubber bullets or dense beanbags.  They covet the kill shot, the ability to stop someone — we call it “dead in their tracks,” and we mean it — by use of a handgun, pistol, hunting rifle, or high clip-count magazined assault rifles.  With silencers, please, and armor-piercing, internally-exploding bullets.

There is no “Christian virtue” to owning guns.  There is no Second Amendment promise that you can buy and shoot anything the gun manufacturers make.  And there is no effort on the part of the federal government to take all of your guns.  Tyrants prefer an unarmed populace; paranoids and fear-mongers see tyrants all around them — just as they see a violent street thug in every unarmed young Black man, every suspect Latino immigrant, and every down-on-his-luck, rough-around-the-edges man on the street. 

If you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.  If you cling to your guns, every encounter, every new bit of information, every change in the political or cultural winds, is a threat that could require, with provocation unknown and unquantified, the discharge of firepower.  Your firepower, your guns, your ammunition — because when you’ve convinced yourself that you need a gun to protect you from Those You Do Not Know, you see them all around you.  It’s a tragic, horrible way for the gun-idolator to live, especially when the Church is far more likely to see him not as a focus of evangelistic concern, but a brother-in-arms and co-belligerent in the fight against tyranny, whether from the Feds or from the scruffy-looking kid down the street. 

Christians who hunt aren’t trusting in their guns to help them find, make, or keep their way in the world.  Even those Christ-followers who have a shotgun or pistol for protection in their homes aren’t necessarily given over to blind allegiance to the false promise of power and patriotism that guns too often represent.  But they aren’t the ones who holler and bellow about tyranny at every turn, hoping for civil upheaval while they cravenly pretend to fear it.  They aren’t the men who strap on their snub-nosed revolvers or Glocks for a stroll around town, presumably because the penis they carry with them isn’t visible, legally, to sufficiently prove their toughness.  And they sure as hell aren’t the ones who pretend to mourn for the children of Sandy Hook and intone that “now isn’t the time” to talk about gun laws — as they immediately begin to bash liberals, socialists, pacifists, and limp-wristed poofters for their calls to take action against the violent, gun-saturated culture that is 21st-century America.

Those Christian gun zealots who worry that a socialist, secular government might try to take “In God We Trust” off of our coins or take “One nation under God” out of our Pledge of Allegiance needn’t worry.  They themselves have announced, clear as a Liberty bell, that they trust not in God.  They have shown ours to be a nation in rebellion against the God of the Gospel.  They’ve done the work they fear the secularists are doing.

And damned if they haven’t done it very well indeed.

Eisegesis, Or "I So Don’t Get How A Pastor Can Use Scripture To Make Jesus A Gun Advocate"

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Any good Bible student knows that when she extracts what she believes to be the true understanding of a passage of Scripture, she is engaging in exegesis — the “pulling out” of the meaning of a text before her.

Theologians have coined the word “eisegesis,” or “isegesis” less commonly, for the process whereby a Bible student adds into the text what she or he believes it says, or must say, or should say to promote a particular point of view.  I think it’s easy enough to see why “exegesis” is applauded and “eisegesis” is not — because inserting our opinions and perspectives into the text does damage to it.  Of course, all of us come to Scripture with background, experience, knowledge, biases and other baggage; to pretend not is silly.  No one just “comes to the text,” and the way to tell an honest exegete is when he or she acknowledges that.  Still, by the time a minister commands a widening network of enterprises — churches, publishing houses, colleges, presbyteries, etc. — he has generally been deemed by his peers and his teachers to be an honest expositor of the Word of God, an honest teacher of the message therein.

But some fall through the cracks.

For example, when a man ordained in a church and denomination of his own creation is named pastor of his church and makes a name for himself in, say, Reformed theological circles — even as that name is as much by the notoriety of his odd teachings and his bad behavior — those who sit at his feet will occasionally hear some fairly jolting stuff.  Some of the stuff will be obviously wrong, although most of his followers will accommodate it, however awkwardly, because to disagree would be too risky to their businesses and their family lives.  Defending slavery in the American South, with its reliance on the Scripturally-condemned practice of manstealing — kidnapping — and its violent, family-destroying, race-based qualities, would be one example.  Another would be a “Biblical” defense of using slurs and making jokes about homosexuals.  That one goes down a little easier, I’m guessing.

But those examples, however hideous (and they are hideous), aren’t IMMEDIATELY dangerous.  And, while the cowardice and compromising of the Christian Church in America is rampant, most clearthinking Bible students and Christ followers will disregard any such teachings, knowing that at their core they are simply wrong and simply the product of a man grasping at straws to defend the indefensible for his own purposes, whatever they may be.  It’s unlikely that anyone will call for a reintroduction of chattel slavery in 2013 because of them, and no one who doesn’t already crack hateful jokes about gays and lesbians will suddenly decide to do so because their pastor says it’s OK.  Not just OK, but praiseworthy.  Still, homophobes aren’t likely, in most cases, to graduate to actual violence against their LGBT neighbors because of some “Bible teacher’s” justification of his own bigotry, although God knows it happens.

However, we live in a cultural zeitgeist that makes some of his teachings utterly and immediately dangerous in their indefensible understanding and application.  Douglas Wilson’s recent Blog and Mablog assertion that Luke 22, for example, reveals a Savior, Jesus Christ, who urges his followers to pick up the sword as they go about on their mission in His name is an example.  I called it “filthy” in my most recent blog post.  I believe it to be so — not just wrong, not just misunderstood, but foul, coming from Wilson’s own love of guns and gun culture and his contempt for “sentimentalists,” liberals, and lackeys of what he refers to as a tyrannical regime headed by a shady, shadowy, socialiast usurper to the Presidency.

The filthiness that enervates his exegesis is quite simple, really.

Wilson, who in his post set forth the correct hermeneutical notion that unclear passages of Scripture must be interpreted in light of the clear ones, immediately violates his own purported exegetical method.  Luke 22:35-38 reads:

He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?”  They said, “No, not a thing.”  He said to  them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag.  And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.  For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’  They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”  He replied, “It is enough.”  (NRSV)

This takes place right before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, when, in fulfilling the Isaiah 53 prophecy He refers to in v. 37,  He says He will be “counted among the lawless,” meaning that He will not only be crucified among two criminals, but will be killed because the people will consider him a bad guy — to the Romans, an insurrectionist looking to subvert the “divine rule” of Caeser, and, to the Jewish establishment, a blasphemer sinfully equating himself with Yahweh.  The goodwill the disciples had enjoyed among the people previously was the goodwill that made their carrying provisions unnecessary; they could depend, as followers of the One they announced as Lord and Savior, upon the generosity of those touched by His message.

But times change, people are fickle, and the tide would very shortly turn against Jesus.  The loving, healing, miracle-working Teacher would within hours be arrested, beaten, tortured and crucified, and not because, to his assassins, he was a loving, healing, miracle-working man.  He would, in fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12, be considered a criminal.  That well of generosity and public affirmation would dry up just as surely as autumn leaves dry up, die, and decompose.  The disciples would have to provide for themselves, it appears.

What, then, of his admonition that they sell their cloaks and buy a sword?  Did Jesus, knowing the depth and strength of the Roman army, really think two weapons among the Twelve would be enough?  Was His “It is enough!” an assessment of their military preparedness — or, as every commentary I’ve consulted says, was it a table-pounding, irritated rebuke along the lines of “That’s enough out of you!” or “Knock it off!”?  How does a responsible teacher and exegete deal with a verse that, if understood literally, has the Prince of Peace counseling His followers to ignore the Sermon on the Mount and every other bit of His message that calls for His followers to practice peace, refuse to resist evildoers, love their enemies, and trust in God?

Well, he doesn’t, given the hermeneutical rule Wilson, I, and every other Bible student holds to.  That interpretive rule — the unclear understood in light of the clear — cannot allow us to conclude that Jesus steps way out of character here and suddenly embraces violence as a solution to the disciples’ persecution.

The Bible student should look to the other Gospel accounts, which, if he, like Wilson and like myself, is a theological conservative, he believes to be in utter harmony with one another.  Matthew 26:51-13, for example, the authorities coming to arrest Jesus — likely, just hours after the Luke 22 words He spoke.  In this account, one of the disciples whips out his sword — one of the two previously accounted for in Luke — and shears off one of the arresting authority’s ears.  The NRSV relates:

“Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you not think that I cannot appeal to my Father and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? . . .”

The same account in John 18:10-11 says, “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear.  The slave’s name was Malchus.  Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into the sheath.  Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”  (NRSV)

I grant that, despite the overwhelming theme of enemy-love and reconciling peaceableness present in Jesus’ message, neither of these passages has Jesus explicitly condemning the use of the sword — just the disciple’s apparent attempt to forestall Jesus’ arrest.  Neither, however, do they endorse “redemptive violence.”  Even Luke, in the same chapter Wilson so badly mishandles, illustrates both the swordplay and Jesus’ rebuke, only a few verses after His apparent instructions to deny everything He’s ever taught them and go out and buy arms to violently defend themselves.  Luke 22:49-51 says:

“When those who were around Him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?”  Then, one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus said, “No more of this!”  And He touched his ear and healed him.”  (NRSV)

No more of this.  Jesus said, referring directly to the use of the sword to defend him and attack his enemies, “No more of this.”  Then, as Jesus is prone to doing, He goes one step extra to heal the damage wrought by the disciple’s aggression; He heals the slave’s ear.
It seems, in light of the immediate Lukan text, that whatever Jesus meant, He did NOT mean that they should really buy up swords, take up arms, or use violence to defend themselves and protect Him.  The other Gospels make Jesus’ dislike of violence even more clear, while just a few verses from Luke 22:35-38, we have a clear account of the Lord’s insistence that there BE NO MORE OF THIS — that violence, swordplay, and, we can safely presume, assault weapons and gun proliferation are not the answer to the persecution, conflicts, and struggles believers go through.  That message constitutes the entirety of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, echoed again and again in the Epistles and in Acts.  In Luke 22:35-38, we may not understand what He did say — but a proper exegesis will surely tell us what He didn’t.

(Another note is that if Jesus, in Luke 22:35-38, truly meant “That is enough” in assessing the strength — two swords — of the disciples’ armory, as in “Yes, that’s sufficient,” our Lord was a miserable military strategist, as evidenced by the fact that most of the disciples were martyred and that two swords protecting a dozen men in the face of the ferocity of the Roman Legion clearly would predict that outcome and no other).

Wilson wants, because he thinks there is a “Christian virtue” to owning guns, for the One he calls Lord and Savior to be on his side, counseling  his disciples even today to arm themselves and knock intruders back down the stairs and rely on firepower to keep themselves safe.  I’m sorry he wants that.  I grieve for that kind of hardness of heart, and I grieve for that kind of blind, willful ignorance.

But in a violence-saturated world, in a community of testosterone-saturated angry men with more guns at home than I have Bibles, any man who sounds the bell for tyranny when there is none, promotes strife and division, and comforts and appeases the gun idolaters and gun-trusters AS A MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL is a sad, sorry, sickening excuse for a pastor.  And his turning the Word of God into an apologetic for anti-Christian behavior is beyond unfortunate, beyond shameful, beyond dangerous.

It’s filthy.  And that his congregants and elders let it stand is, too.

Christians, Guns, And The Sinful Alliance Between Them

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

(All quotations are from James E. Atwood, “America and its Guns:  A Theological Expose’,” 2012)

Over the last couple of weeks, since the Connecticut school shootings, Moscow’s premier ministerial entrepreneur, Douglas Wilson, has proved himself as shameless as he is shameful — by talking about the “Christian virtue” of owning guns.

And, just in case you have any doubts that a putative man of the cloth is speaking of “guns as prevention,” check out his recent blog post (Blog and Mablog) that lauds the homeowner who shoots the intruder right back down the staircase. 

I’ve immersed myself in the Word, I’ve studied commentaries, and I’ve talked to other mature believers about Wilson’s beliefs, especially — see below — his filthy exegesis of Luke 22.  And while the Religious Right in America has utterly prostituted itself in the service of the violence-mongers from the Gun Lobby and Firearms Culture that funds it, responsible scholars and devout believers refuse to prostrate themselves before the idol of the Second Amendment and deny the “redemptive power” of gun violence in righting social wrongs and protecting individuals. 

And I intend to sound the alarm as far as this blog will take it.  This is some of the most putrid counsel ever given by a man for whom the putrid is delectable.

First, some wise words from Presbyterian minister and gun-control advocate James E. Atwood, which I would direct toward any Christian who applauds the proliferation of guns in society and, specifically, the ownership and use of guns, including semi-automatics, by those who worship the Prince of Peace.

Don’t snort, all you hearty men of chest. 

God identifies Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace in the Book of Isaiah.  Why do you persist in explaining this away while embracing the convoluted stupidity of your pastor’s eisegesis — reading into, not extracting from — of Luke 22, in which, Wilson insists, Jesus is not engaging in any irony at all when he tells the disciples to get swords?  Your pastor says that the passage then, and unbelievably if indeed taken literally, has our Lord deciding that two swords found between the 12 would be quite enough as they face the Romans.  Do you ignore every evangelical commentary, every qualified and not self-ordained teacher, by agreeing with the man you all are in so many cases financially dependent on?  Do you so easily dismiss the body of teaching on the life of Jesus Christ, and do so in favor of the craven machinations of the Sandbox Potentate?

Are you so given over — in the Romans 1 sense — to the protection of your own masculinity that you shy away from identifying with Jesus as the peaceful One who told us to turn the other cheek?

How desperate are you to please him?  Will his approval mean anything when the Lord chastens you?

Consider, please, these words from Atwood, a pastor in a real, historic Presbyterian/Reformed denomination:

“As the Gun Empire shouts ‘Guns save lives,’ they tell us their first priority is not to love their neighbor, but to defend themselves against their neighbor, and if the situation demands it, to kill him.” 

Can you see this?  “To have a concealed carry weapon permit . . . is to believe in redemptive violence.”  (Atwood).  

Does anything resonate in your arrogant heart when you read the words President John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson: “Power always thinks it has great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all of God’s laws.” 

Or perhaps your heart will be pierced by the Spirit through the words of theologian Walter Wink:

“The myth of redemptive violence is nationalism become absolute.  This myth speaks for God, it does not listen for God to speak.  It invokes the sovereignty of God as its own; it does not entertain the prophetic possibility of radical denunciation and negation by God …

… It misappropriates the language, symbols, and scriptures of Christianity.  It does not seek God in order to change, it claims God in order to prevent change.  Its God is not the impartial ruler of all nations but a biased and partial tribal god worshipped as an idol.  Its metaphor is not the journey but a fortress.  Its symbol is not the cross but a rod of iron.  Its offer is not forgiveness but victory.  Its good news is not the unconditional love of enemies but their final liquidation . . .

. . . Its salvation is not a new heart but a successful foreign policy.  It usurps the revelation of God’s purposes for humanity in Jesus.  It is blasphemous.  It is idolatrous.”

The blood of 20 little children cries out from the ground because Christian people and a Congress full of people who claim that precious faith care too much about their damned and faulty interpretation of a fallible Constitution.  They hold tight to their own “freedom” to own whatever they want to own that allows them to kill other people if they decide to,  not caring at all that their “freedom” has caused more Americans to die by gun violence than have died in every war ever fought by this country — and that, in less than the two decades ending in 1979. 

How does Doug Wilson justify a theology that calls individual gun ownership “a Christian virtue” when people — children, for the sake of Christ — are dying at horrific rates?

How, indeed? 

May God have mercy.  I’ll write more — and pray even more.

One Woman’s Story

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

My friend Natalie Rose posted this to her blog yesterday, relating her experience of repeated sexual abuse years ago by a young man hand-picked for ministerial training at Doug Wilson’s Greyfriar’s Seminary here in Moscow.

Natalie suffered tremendously; greater still is her victory over the forces of evil coming from the Kirk that not only perpetuated the masculinist recklessness of the rape as well as the sinister victim-blaming and cover-up that resulted.  I’ve known of Natalie’s story for years.  I share it now with her permission in the hope of shining light into why I work so hard to expose the deeds of darkness that emanate from Wilson, Inc., and poison the witness of the Gospel on the Palouse while destroying countless lives in its wake.

Here’s Natalie’s story, with my thanks for her courage:

http://natalierose-livewithpassion.blogspot.com/2013/01/perpetuating-abuse-warningexplicit.html?spref=fb

Confidential to "Jonathan" Regarding His Remarks On Blog and Mablog

Friday, January 4th, 2013

A man named Jonathan brilliantly responded today on Blog and Mablog to Doug Wilson’s defense of the “virtue of gun ownership” and, with it, his strained take on the passage in Luke 22 where Jesus counsels the disciples to buy swords if they don’t have them as they embark on their missionary work. 

Jonathan completely disarmed Wilson with a thorough, ten-point rebuttal.  And yes, pun intended.  I don’t know Jonathan, but if any of you recognize his B & M response to Wilson as the work of someone you know, please steer him my way.  I’d love to thank him in person.

My email is siyocreo@live.com.  I intend to delve quite a bit into a Christian response to guns and gun violence; not at all surprisingly, my conclusion is as different from Wilson’s as a pea shooter from a Sig Sauer.  I pray I do so as well as Jonathan, who deserves my thanks and yours.