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“If I can’t make America great by living the way of Christ, then I want no part in that greatness. And I don’t think God does either.” We should all shout a hearty AMEN! to this comment from Pastor Chris Gilmore on the Huff Post blog.
There is a time for everything under the sun, including a time for national humility. I’m afraid, this is that time.
Even so, enough with the insinuations of a rising fascism because Donald Trump wants to Make America Great Again. There is nothing wrong with that aspiration. The path to greatness is what is important to scrutinise, not the ambition itself. Living on this side of the pond there is little toleration for any sense of American greatness. Certainly I understand but usually it smacks of some ingratitude to me. America has been generous in internationally-unparalleled ways and paid dearly for freedoms people enjoy all over the globe. And yes, sadly America has fallen so so so far from her height and she is dead wrong if she thinks greatness has anything to do with great military strength. But my point is patriotism and national pride don’t always equal fascism. I enjoy Scottish national pride, and Irish pride, and Greek national pride, and the pride of wherever else I am. My family has wonderful memories of sitting late at night with friends from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe laughing at their jokes about how much better they are than the Oglala Sioux Tribe on Pine Ridge. National identity and pride aren’t necessarily bad things.
No, we shouldn’t baptise patriotism and replace the cross with the flag. However if the church is to be a House of Prayer for Nations then carrying nations to the altar for mercy and blessing is what we are called to do. Really, it is no different than the high priest of Israel having twelve precious stones representing each tribe on his breastplate as he goes into the Holy of Holies.
When I read the passages of the Bible that speak of all nations bending their knee before the Lordship of Christ I don’t see anything that would indicate they must first give up their national identity, calling and culture. Like the Twelve Tribes that made camp each under their individual banners around the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, national identity is part of God’s beautiful diversity in the earth. Each nation has redemptive gifts, purposes and callings.
The promise to Abraham was national greatness: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:2) And the promise wasn’t just for one nation; from Abraham’s great nation would come a company of great nations (Gen. 17:5-6; 35:11). Where it gets really fascinating is in Genesis 49 where Jacob blesses his twelve sons and speaks prophetically about who they will become as great nations at the time of the end of the age (Gen. 49:1ff).
Through migrations over four thousand years these blood descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are now scattered all over the earth– God even promised their sons would sit on the thrones of nations, would possess the gates of their enemies –both things identifiable even into the modern age. God’s promises to the descendants of David came true. They did and still do sit on the thrones of nations and historically they have and still do control the main geo-political gates of the world; Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Singapore, and Hong Kong to name a few.
I’m sitting in Aberdeen, Scotland as I write this only 55 miles north of Arbroath. In the fifteenth century, Mary Queen of Scots traced her royal lineage back to King David and this was made evident in the Scottish Declaration of Independence, also called the Declaration of Arbroath, which expressly states:
Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that… the Scots… journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long time in Spain… Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they live today… [The Scottish Declaration of Independence reprinted in The Declaration of Arbroath, The National Trust for Scotland, 1970.]
It is apparent that five centuries ago the Scots considered themselves blood descendants of Abraham and were aware of the specific migration routes that brought them to their new homeland. Elsewhere I’ve written on how we have lost any awareness who we really are; just like Hosea 1:10 said would happen. More on that from me here: I call it Recognition Theology. Yep, I made up that term and others are now using it.
With regard to America, of particular interest is to look carefully at where the people of Joseph ended up (vs. 22-26). Later Joseph’s blessing was divided between Ephraim and Manassah, making a 13th tribe, if you will. The prophetic fulfilment and end time placement of the nations in Genesis 49 is one of the most exciting Bible’s studies one can do. You’ll never look at world news the same.
Whether or not any of that is agreeable to you, or even makes sense, at least get the point of this post which is to say God blesses nations to be a great blessing. Greatness should be an aspiration because greatness is God’s intention for nations that call on his name. The opposite of greatness is mediocrity or worse. The path to greatness is humility and servanthood.
Using other people’s material is what lazy pastors do every week.
Back in my seminary days in Chicago I took a class on African American Preaching. Loved it. One of our texts was this book: Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Its Sources.
From the book jacket: “…argues that King’s language and imagery comprised a skilful blending of the oral tradition of the Afro-American folk church and the style of the printed sermons of white, liberal preachers.”
I remember being shocked at how much wasn’t original to him, including I HAVE A DREAM: “the source King raided for this was a speech given to the Republican National convention of 1952, by a black preacher named Archibald Carey.”
In my field we call this Redaction and Source Criticism. Did you know Matthew and Luke drew heavily from Mark? And Mark drew heavily from a Source we only know today as Q. And while I’m at it should I mention the Golden Rule in my beloved Sermon on the Mount wasn’t original to Jesus?
At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week, Melania Trump hit a home run with her speech however it turns out 50 words were lifted from Mrs. Obama’s 2008 speech. True to form in castigating conservative women, the Left pounced with full-scale cast-the-first-stone-political-plagiarism faux-outrage and foolishness.
Who do we really think has been behind our Teleprompter President?
The Dirty Jobs guy, Mike Rowe, had some interesting comments on his Facebook page which made the news.
I don’t know about common sense, but here’s my analysis of the situation. (I hope to God someone hasn’t already written this.) Regarding the charges of plagiarism, I really don’t know. All I know for sure is that Mrs. Trump is absolutely, positively guilty of standing before the country and reading words she didn’t write as if they were own. I also know that Mrs. Obama is guilty of doing the same thing. Both women – along with their husbands – have stood proudly before a national audience and pretended the words they read originated with them – knowing full well they did not. Let’s consider for a moment, the weird reality of speechwriters in our political discourse. Why do we tolerate them? Why do we permit our leaders to pretend that someone else’s words are theirs? Moreover, why do we allow them to stand before us and act as if they’re NOT reading from a script, when we know damn well they are? Why – in this – “age of authenticity” – do we accept the artifice of a Teleprompter, and all the other pretenses of earnestness that enable candidates to present themselves as something other than who they really are? I always thought the obvious answer was because we’re a lazy and shallow species who value style over substance. But now, it seems I was mistaken. Today, half the country has risen up in righteous indignation because the words of an anonymous speechwriter – words once read by Mrs. Obama as if they were her own – have been co-opted by another anonymous speechwriter, and given to another aspiring First Lady – who also read those same words as if they belonged to her! Did either one of them believe what they read? Beats me. Does anyone even care about such a thing? Who knows? No one is talking about what was said. Only about how they said it. What we know for sure – is that neither one of them wrote the words they spoke. The real question is, do we truly care? Personally, I do. But not as much as I care about the underlying Kabuki that now informs the whole election process.
Once I was told that we voted about 2000 times each legislative session. There were many instances where we’d vote ten times on the same bill and on various versions of it. Each year I lost count of how many times I voted while holding my nose.
People in South Dakota will remember the Governor’s controversial 2011 education reform bill, HB1234. Wow, did I wish voting for it was as easy as one, two, three, four.
For six weeks I went back and forth on how to vote, was lobbied hard by schools and teachers and was taken by the Governor behind the mansion for a “chat” in his woodshed. Ultimately I voted for it, and nearly cost myself re-election. In my public statements on the bill I said it was “my least favourite bill of the session.” My angry critics marvelled and scoffed at how I could vote for a bill I disliked so much.
Welcome to the world of important and hard decisions.
Sometimes a vote either way has huge negatives and fall out. And, unlike former Illinois State Senator Obama, we couldn’t just vote “present” on everything and magically –poof– two years later sit in the Oval Office. A legislator has to decide which negatives they’d rather live with, and hope some of the promised positives will realise. With every vote I made and lost both friends and support, and with every vote I both created and solved problems.
So, now we come to Trump or Hillary. Here’s how I have come to view it.
Jesus is not running this year.
Hillary is corrupt and apparently above the law and all of us little people. She does the bidding of the worst people in the world. People who oppose her, die. She viciously attacks women her lurid husband sexually exploits. Aborting children is to her, a sacrament. The enemies of the American people are not her enemies. I have nothing positive to say about her and can’t name any accomplishments. She assumes the Presidency is her next entitlement. The large sums of strings-attached money that went to the Clinton Foundation from foreign interests while she was Secretary of State is a story that is yet to be fully told.
No secret, Trump is addicted to his own greatness, has failed marriages, adulteries, a track record of womanising, has bought politicians on both sides of the aisle including the Clintons, has a few bankruptcies, and like Obama, he’s not a man of peace. He’s a bully with an unbridled tongue. My son can’t stand him and asked me to name something good about him. In Trump’s case I do note some positives…
Trump leans toward sound money policy, wants to audit the Fed, and Wall Street hates him. These are very good signs. He has given signals that he’s an anti-corporatist though people dispute it. He says he will quit paying the bills of foreign and enemy armies or make them pay for US support. He supports the Second Amendment, and unlike Obama/Hillary and others clamouring out one side of their mouth for gun control, Trump say he won’t secretly give our enemies weapons as the Clintons, Bushes and Obamas all did. Trump has given assurances he will choose pro-life judges, and picked a VP who has long advocated for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Maybe Pence will soften him into a more compassionate position on immigration. He has a track record of working easily with all races, including Jews. He supported Brexit which speaks volumes for him not being a globalist. He was born in America. hahaha .
So, what. to. do? Not voting is to vote for the worst one.
If you lived centuries back, and had a vote, would you vote for the ruler who might bring less suffering for the little people even if they went through various wives, owned the clergy, and lived high on the hog with ornate feasts? I’m not saying the Trumpster is a people’s king but he does seem to be an enemy of the real bad people in the world who have zero regard for the little people on the planet. There is something in Trump that the working class sees. It’s quite the irony that a billionaire is somehow a friend of cabbies….
“The people that I do best with are the people that drive the taxis – you know, wealthy people don’t like me because I’m competing against them all the time, and I like to win. The fact is, I go down the streets of New York, and the people that really like me are the taxi drivers and the workers…” – Trump being interviewed by Larry King at the 1988 GOP convention
We learn in the New Yorker that Donald Trump ends every phone call with “You’re the Greatest!” If I had time and inclination to write a biography of Trump perhaps a good title can be adapted from an old Charlie Brown book;
You’re the Greatest, Donald Trump.
Greatness, it seems, is his highest ambition.
Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for one of Trump’s best-selling books, The Art of the Deal, has just given the New Yorker a tell-all:
Trump only takes two positions. “Either you’re a scummy loser, liar, whatever, or you’re the greatest…. There is no private Trump…. All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’—recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular… .”
Writing in Trump’s voice, he explained to the reader [in The Art of the Deal], “I play to people’s fantasies. . . . People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”
Schwartz now disavows the passage.
“I don’t do it for the money,” Trump declares. “I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it…. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
…Of course he’s in it for the money,” Schwartz said. “One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that ‘I’m richer than you.’ Schwartz saw Trump as driven not by a pure love of dealmaking but by an insatiable hunger for “money, praise, and celebrity.” Often, after spending the day with Trump, and watching him pile one hugely expensive project atop the next, like a circus performer spinning plates, Schwartz would go home and tell his wife, “He’s a living black hole!”
And now Donald wants to take us all into that black hole with him and Make America Great Again. [And, yes I still think Hillary is a far worse choice. Both have deep character issues, but as I’ve written elsewhere…. Hillary has become a stunningly corrupt, bought and arrogant tool of those who give the world’s bad guys free weapons and the rest of us bloody war– the elites, Wall Streeters, globalists and central banksters who for centuries have made war to make more money.]
Friends on this side of the pond gristle ungratefully at any notion of America’s greatness (or goodness), or any country’s greatness for that matter. Paul gave good advice in Romans 12:3… “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…”
Yet, national greatness was a promise God himself made to godly nations. It’s in Genesis 12:2… “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” And it wasn’t just a promise to Abraham on into Israel then and now. In Genesis 35:11 that promise was extended greatly: “A nation and a community of nations will come from you... .” It is the promise of God that Judeo-Christian nations will be a blessing to the rest of the world and great in God’s eyes.
But what makes us great is where Mr. Trump has it all wrong.
Jesus said those who practice the Sermon on the Mount will be called greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:19). The Sermon on the Mount is the standard of greatness by which God will measure kings and nations, and you and I. In the halls of academia we speak of a coming eschatological reversal where the first will find out they are indeed, last. Trump still has time to figure this out and that is my prayer.
“But as far as his worldview, Trump’s worldview, you know… I was debating an evangelical professor on NPR and this professor said, ‘Pastor, don’t you want a candidate who embodies the teaching of Jesus and would govern this country according to the principles found in the Sermon on the Mount?’ I said, ‘Heck no.’ I would run from that candidate as far as possible, because the Sermon on the Mount was not given as a governing principle for this nation…. “Nowhere is government told to forgive those who wrong it. Nowhere is government told to turn the other cheek. Government is to be a strongman to protect its citizens against evildoers. When I’m looking for somebody who’s going to deal with ISIS and exterminate ISIS, I don’t care about that candidate’s tone or vocabulary. I want the meanest, toughest, son of a you-know-what I can find. And I believe that’s biblical.”
Trump is as much a Christian as Obama, in my view. Regarding an issue very important to me, to all the other little people like me all over the world, and to Jesus, neither Obama or Trump are men of peace. Hillary has become a stunningly corrupt, bought and arrogant tool of those who give the world’s bad guys free weapons and the rest of us bloody war– the elites, Wall Streeters, globalists and central banksters who for centuries have made war to make more money.
Lance Wallnau made a comment recently that we should all think long and hard about; “Christ in you is the hope of glory, not Christ in the White House. What do you think, should we really give up hope on any sort of notion of a Christian (Christlike) nation? The Sermon on the Mount is what Christlikeness looks like.
My friends on the Christian Right (who BTW consider me a grand disappointment) have long been saying we need to elect people who represent “Biblical values.” Apparently we now learn from Pastor Jeffries those are not the values of Jesus. Apparently it is okay with Pastor Jeffries if governments more reflect the values of Genghis Khan than, say, Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount, he believes may work on a micro level but not in a macro application.
In Pastor Jeffrees re-reading of the infamous Sermon on the Mount he in so much imagines Jesus ascended the Mount to say: “These are some strategies that I commend to you for little matters. Honestly, for the more complex conflicts I have nothing for you in terms of heavenly wisdom or strategy so go ahead and ‘do unto them what they’ve do unto you’ and I’m okay with whatever response seems and feels right for you at the time. Not to worry, forgiveness comes easy with me, and grace cheap.”
When will the Christian Right wake up to how inconsistent they are in valuing all human life? Bombs away, Jesus love you!
Ya, ya, ya… here comes someone to remind me of Romans 13 (someone who apparently has never read Romans 12: if your enemy is hungry, feed him… overcome evil with good, etc).
How many times do I have to say this?… In Romans 13:4 Paul was writing to believers in Rome saying they need to revere Roman authority as God gives governments even the authority of the sword. He was not telling Christians that they are justified to forsake the mercy path when they one day get in power. Why then are so many Christians today defending the values of the Romans and the ethics of Nero?
For those genuinely conflicted on the application of the Sermon on the Mount to anything beyond an individual Christian life I offer the following (which will soon appear in a book I’m now putting the finishing touches on: Tolstoy’s Novel Idea: Obey the Sermon on the Mount).
From chapter seven of my forthcoming book:
The two main interpretative questions for the Sermon on the Mount, again, are; Is it liveable? and; To whom is it for? Over the centuries, very few interpreters of the Sermon on the Mount have given the Sermon application beyond the individual believer. The contention is that the ethic was given to individuals, not to nation-states. Yet, Tolstoy challenged this entirely and sought to settle this centuries-old ambiguity with a simple appeal to the words Jesus actually used in Matthew 5:43-44 (and what they would have meant to his original hearers); “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies…” Tolstoy explained: [N]eighbour in the Hebrew language meant, invariably and exclusively, ‘a Hebrew.’” Considering the lengths he went to describe the thoroughness of his study of these words, that he seems to imply Jesus spoke this originally in Hebrew, not Aramaic, is peculiar. His justification may be it is the same word and meaning as in Luke 10:29 where the “neighbour” is a Samaritan– someone a Hebrew would have clearly not regarded as a neighbour. Finding the same meaning in Acts 7:27, his conclusion is “‘neighbour’ in Gospel language, means a compatriot, a person belonging to the same nationality. Therefore the antithesis used by Jesus in the citation, ‘love thy neighbour, hate thine enemy,’ must be in the distinction between the words ‘compatriot’ and ‘foreigner.’” Tolstoy contended his supposition was further confirmed when seeking the Jewish understanding of enemy. “The word enemy is nearly always employed in the Gospels in the sense, not of a personal enemy, but, in general, of a ‘hostile people.’”
Based on the words Jesus used, Tolstoy’s conclusion is that it is not possible that Jesus intended his teaching to be applicable only on the interpersonal level. Jesus never differentiated between loving a neighbour and loving a neighbouring nation. Tolstoy spoke of “the widening sphere of love” and believed a nation could be loved too…. Tolstoy believed obedience to the teachings of Jesus worked on both the micro and the macro level. Goodness on a small scale does not somehow become badness on a larger scale and he decried the notion that badness on a small scale could be construed as goodness on a larger scale…
I’ve always been proud of you and taken keen interest (and even supported in various ways) the incredible things you’ve done, even though you’ve come now to a hostile tone in your activism for civil justice. Knowing you, I believe it to be a righteous anger though my letter here is about a new commitment to non-violent strategies instead of violent aggression.
Ya, ya, all lives matter, like all bones in the body matter. However, we agree our nation has circled back around in the present day to an opportunity to tend a vital bone that is presently bruised and broken. In America right now, yes: Black Lives Matter.
My appeal in this short letter is to your Christianity; a true Christianity that is perhaps more true to Christ in the Gospel tradition of Black American History than in White American History. The time is now for Dr. King’s non-violent mantle to be picked up. If not by you, then who? The Sermon on the Mount strategy works on both the micro and the macro scales when it is lived. My prayer is that you rise up in the days ahead as another King for this leg of the civil rights march.
There is no reason for me to doubt you still consider me friend and hopefully you share my warm sentiment for the season our lives and work more directly overlapped. Consider my letter here an invitation to join again in working together, this time as champions of a Sermon on the Mount-style activism that made the other King, and the King of Kings, so great.