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This was Tolstoy’s favourite painting, by his artist friend Nikolay Ge. It is called What is Truth? – “showing a solid Pontius Pilate and a fiery-eyed Christ in conversation.” The Russian censors stopped its distribution because it depicted religion as a challenge to government. Christ is defiant here, not submissive, and Tolstoy loved the philosophical implications. Tolstoy had no taste for traditional church art, mostly Madonnas and Saints, that people kissed with devotion.
Tolstoy considered Ge’s work (spelled Gay outside Russia) to be “a new epoch of Christian art…. taking a simple motif… Christ and his teaching in conflict with the teaching of the world… depicted with complete historical accuracy the moment when Christ… after being tormented, beaten and dragged from one jail to another and from one official to another, is brought before the governor… Christ sees before him a deluded man bloated with fat, but he decides not to spurn him… and so begins to express to him the essence of his teaching. But the governor is not concerned with this. He says ‘What is truth?’ and goes away. And Christ looks sorrowful at this impenetrable man” (Tolstoy’s Letters, Volume II, pgs. 460, 462, 467 and 508).
In Tolstoy’s time the typical Russian peasant home had a couple pictures on the wall that they adored each day. An icon of a saint and a picture of the tsar. The one they believed to be God in heaven and the other god on earth. Tolstoy challenged all that, and believed Jesus’ teaching was politically subversive. I agree.
Tolstoy (who loved America but never visited there) had this to say about American politics, American prosperity and America’s salt and light destiny in the world:
“Prosperity, prosperity! What a shameful plea that is, which you American platform-makers address the voters. They do not say, ‘we will give you an honest rightful government,’ but they say, ‘We’ll make you fat and sleek. If you vote for me, you will have a double chin!’ And no one rises to say, ‘What will your full dinner pails profit if while gorging your bellies you lose your immortal souls?’ The fall of America, when I see the deserted shrines of your forefathers, I think it will come more swiftly than came the fall of Rome… [Yet] I know the salt has not yet lost its saver. Listen: ‘We who know the truth, must first change the world in ourselves internally, before the world can be changed in others externally. If we know the truth of life, and do not live it, we are as a lighthouse set upon a hill in which the light has gone out. Forgive me if my judgments have been harsh, or have seemed so. Only remember that you live in a light-house set upon a hill, and that in the last few years, it has seemed to many watchers that the light which was once the light and hope of the world, whose rays penetrated into the uttermost parts of the world, was about to be overwhelmed by shadow. Pray that your Americans would see to that light, and keep it day and night. It is the flame that their fathers lit, and it has become the light of the world, as well as yours. It would be a dark world without it.”
– In “Tolstoy Prophesies the Fall of America” by Stephen Bonsol, New York Times, 7 July 1907.
In response to the above a friend said he wondered what Tolstoy might think of Putin. My reply was: The T-man said he hated three things in this world: Autocracy, Orthodoxy and Militarism which he deemed the three pillars of Russian government. He would NOT be a fan of Putin or the Donald. But then again he rejected all forms of earthly government and pioneered a version of what is considered today Christian Anarchy.
I think God loves the Olympics, especially the opening ceremony.
This whole anti-nationalism, pro-globalism thing Christians are arguing about right now needs some clarity. Christ tearing down the dividing wall that separated Jews/Greeks, Male/Female, etc does not mean the distinctives between us must be melted into one happy pot. The text does not mean you are no longer a man, and you are no longer a woman but instead you are a Christian. No, you are a woman who is Christian and a Christian who is a woman; and a Greek who is a Christian, and a Scot who is a Christian, and an American who is a Christian.
God never told his people to renounce their tribal identity– Judah, Issachar, Benjamin, Dan or whatever. No, with the Tabernacle of God at the centre, they camped around it by tribes with their tribal flags posted in place. I can imagine there was friendly jesting between the tribes much like my native friends back home who jest even bitingly about being glad they are from Oglala Pine Ridge not the Rosebud Sioux Tribe about who still eats puppies or lines up faster on commodity day; or, my Hutterite friends the Hofers who joke that Deckers in the other colony apparently get up and start working until ten in the morning. Of course, the jokes can become racist. But the point is God doesn’t ask us to renounce our race. There is a revelation of his glory in our diversity. Scripturally I can make a case that there are destinies for nations, divine callings and redemptive gifts for nations, even angels/demons with bordered geo-political assignments.
As I understand tribe, it’s beyond people group. Gen. 49, the prophecies about the tribes at the end of the age reveal God’s intention was for them to become self-governing nations. The promise of God is a nation and a company of nations. At Pentecost, all the national identities were represented and went home filled with the Spirit to reach the people within their national borders. All the flavours and families (that become nations) are part of his created beauty and diversity. It’s okay to have pride in who you are, and stand up for it, and protect it. Doesn’t Acts 17:26 tell us God is the one behind the border boundaries of nations? And it would appear he wants us to respect them… “cursed is the one who moves his neighbours boundary stone” (Deut 27:17.)
Eschatologically, the day is coming when every tongue and TRIBE will bow before Him. Tribal and national identity isn’t anti-Christian. In fact, there is greater anti-christ suspicion in globalism as the world seeks to unite but not around the Lordship of Christ, but rather against the Lordship of Christ. Of course we are all one human family, but these texts on tearing down the dividing wall are not about one humanity under globalism. Only the Gospel transcends the national animosities and brings reconciliation. Globalism doesn’t tolerate Christianity, we have to repudiate the exclusiveness of the Gospel to belong.
Of course, nationalism can become idolatry. But celebrating and protecting your Tribe isn’t idolatry.
[Reposted here from my Facebook page.]
(Selectively) Fiscal conservatives never want to cut the defence budget.
I do. (Actually it’s far more than a defence budget. America is on the offense more than not.)
Time to close Ellsworth Air Force Base and shudder half our overseas bases.
A politician in South Dakota who wants to close Ellsworth commits political suicide by saying so. When I was in elected office my private commitment to myself was to be willing to commit political suicide once a year to support the right thing.
Many of my Republican colleagues in the legislature were “fiscal conservatives” and would get loud and vocal about Washington DC’s inability to balance the budget. Yet we seemed so oblivious to the depths of cuts it would take to balance the national budget and what that would mean to a little dependant state like South Dakota, and of course an income tax would never be considered. Never was there talk of cutting Defence spending in DC, ever. And never would anyone support closing a base in our state that brought MONEY and JOBS and PEOPLE into our state – like it’s the Federal Government’s role to provide us any of those things.
Say goodbye to Ellsworth if you are truly a fiscal conservative and figure out how to wean South Dakota off Federal Dollars. It was established in 1941 in the ramp up to a World War and is no longer a spending priority.
Fifteen years after 9/11 and we are still bombing seven countries and only the oligarchy really knows why. How many Americans have died, and for what? Do we even know who we’ve killed, or the real reasons why? Is there anyone on the right side of the political aisle in South Dakota who is confident our Commander in Chief is even on our team? Why aren’t we impeaching the Nobel Peace prize President for all these unauthorised drone wars?
All this spending and all this war in the last couple decades and the world isn’t safer and there aren’t fewer people who hate us mobilising to harm us. In fact, there are more, far more. Maybe a total shift in foreign policy is in order because what we are doing is making all our problems much worse.
UPDATE #1: A Facebook friend points out how having the drone and bomber base makes our state a target for terrorism… “But you know what scares me? Someone from Yemen, Afghanistan or somewhere rolling a truck bomb into Rapid City Central High School or the School of Mines after an Ellsworth-based drone pilot targets a wedding party or religious service.
UPDATE #2. This, made me think to pen this:
FROM THE DESK OF STEVE HICKEY
Yep, I do miss serving in Pierre– the people, the issues and the process. I’m still following the issues in our state closely and trying to stay as connected as I can. I offer the following to the new legislators who were elected in November. I’d welcome additions to my list. (My list has grown from a list former legislator and present lobbyist Matt McCaulley gave me a few weeks before my first term) ….
ON BECOMING A GOOD LEGISLATOR
- Morning prayer is more important than any other meeting of the day. Every day you’ll need a chill pill and morning prayer is just that. A few early, quiet moments with a passage of Scripture and a prayer will centre and focus you for the day, fill you for the day with the graces you’ll need that day, and keep you mindful of, humble before, and dependant on the One who entrusted you to govern in His stead. Remember, Solomon’s prayer his first day in office was for wisdom, not power or wealth.
- “Out do one another in showing honour” (Romans 12:10). When Rep. David Lust was Republican House Majority Leader he set this passage before the Caucus as the Scripture to guide our entire Session. Memorise it.
- Remember the block of wood. Your first day in office it is like you’ve been handed a block of wood. Each time you go back on your word, take the low road or a cheap shot, bend rules, treat people poorly… a shaving or chunk is cut away from your block. Some have left Pierre with only a toothpick remaining. Try to end your term with your block of wood in original condition.
- Have principles and try to vote consistently on those principles.
- Try not to take anything personally and don’t get personal in opposing others. Never question the motives of others and be careful making any assumptions about people.
- If you are a jerk on their bill, they won’t be friendly later with yours. It’s human nature. You will need everyone else there at some point or another. Remember this.
- Try to listen, understand and appreciate – the other view, the other person and other factors and dynamics at play.
- Stopping a bad bill or repealing a bad law is as important as passing a good one. Our law books are fat enough.
- Be careful co-sponsoring. Don’t be quick to sign on to a bill as for various reasons you may regret it later.
- Colleagues and lobbyists will try to nail down their vote count. Be careful in promising to vote a certain way unless there is no doubt your mind won’t change. Lobbyists talk among themselves about the legislators who are flippers and who can only be counted on to vote the way of the last lobbyist who spoke to them.
- Avoid signing pledges in the off season for how you will or won’t vote on issues. In doing so, you are in effect committing yourself to vote for or against bills you haven’t read yet or that haven’t even been written yet. For example; every “repeal Obamacare bill” isn’t strategically the best way forward or carefully drafted. You don’t want to be in a position to vote for a bad bill or the wrong bill to accomplish something.
- Avoid bills that seek to solve problems we don’t really have. Avoid reactive legislation– i.e. when something happens nationally and a flurry of bills are drafted in the states.
- Blogs and media- yes participate, but have a blind eye and deaf ear to what is said about you.
- Cracker Barrel’s – attend and engage.
- Alcohol and food in moderation. Course joking, flirting and gossip are beneath you.
- Interest group receptions – go to as many as possible and get to know the issues and the people.
- In your first year find, or ask for, one relatively easy bill to prime sponsor to help you learn the process.
- Remember you don’t report to the Second Floor.
- Make sure the juice is worth the squeeze.
- Be aware of being overheard or leaving things visibly on your desk.
- Don’t speak on every bill or people will soon roll their eyes each time you stand up to speak. As they say, keep your powder dry. Pick your battles. Be like E.F. Hutton, the one who brings the hush over the room when you stand to speak because you’ve earned respect for what you say and how you say it.
- Personally answer every email that comes from your legislative district. It’s okay to read and not reply to the others; though having a prepared short paragraph on heavy public feedback bill/vote to cut and paste as a reply for the rest is worth the effort.
- Publish your vote rationales.
- Return media calls.
- Breath mints. Hand sanitiser. The “Capital Crud” hits every year as people from every corner of the state bring their head colds with them as they come to champion their cause and shake your hand.
- Baby steps. Be strategic with legislation. Ten pro-life bills in a session may work against the pro-life cause.
- Reject poorly drafted bills even if you agree with what they are trying to accomplish. (Not every gun bill is a good gun bill.)
- Spend the off season studying issues and winning support for a bill among the stakeholders. Don’t surprise stakeholders with your dropped bill.
- Education by legislation is generally not a good thing. However, changing minds and turning the tide sometimes take multiple tries and multiple years and all is not lost in the years your bills die an early death.
- Smile and laugh, greet and be friendly even toward the lowliest people walking around or working around the Capital. Think of ways to remember and serve them.
- Reach across the aisle, especially if you are a member of the supermajority. Remember that the public is turned off by hyper-partisanship.
- Distance yourself from those who conspire.
- Distance yourself from those who are indifferent and hostile toward natives in our state.
Violence doesn’t settle anything, make anything right or change any minds. It is only about anger and hate – the very thing they protest against – and does nothing to heal, it widens the divide. We need the leaders of these groups from the President, elected officials, media, and Hollywood on down to rise up and tell people to contend in other ways besides burning cities down, killing, beating people up, vandalising property, or anything vile like this.
Where are the MLK Jrs. and Gandhi’s? By the fears I’m hearing you’d think America elected one of those stone’em/hang’em Saudi Princes. The media made Trump into one of those monsters. His entire public life is far more inclusive than they are reporting.
My three point plan if I were Trump to start off on the right foot…
1) Come out this week and acknowledge the emotion against him and assure all that he will be a President to all. Announce that right now he is inviting black, hispanics, LGBTs and women to serve high in his Cabinet administration. Assure people his comments in the past were about national security and toss the blame on the media for exploiting them to further divide the nation.
2) Join Russia in issuing an arrest warrant for George Soros for financing his plans to destabalize American cities and incite violence resulting in lives lost and property damaged.
3) Announce the formation of a presidential commission on inclusion and national unity to commence his first day in office to help his administration better understand our differences and bring the nation together again in ways only war has in the past. Our common enemy this time is each other, and even without using his name this commission can seek to model Jesus’ strategy of winning a war against enemies by loving them.
Is trophy hunting okay for a Christian?
For starters I’ll share my journey as it relates to the ethics of killing anything. Since my dad was killed violently and then watching my mom go painfully slow, and after countless death notifications with the police department and s many hard funeral in my decades as a pastor, and considering my lung disease and facing my mortality, and studying the senseless loss of innocent life in all our various war-of-the-day, my view on killing changed. It was fuelled also by a desire to take the non-violence of the Sermon on the Mount serious – didn’t figure Jesus was offering it as a suggestion, or optional for extra credit.
Over time I lost a desire to kill anything. So I started to push back against violence in society where ever I could – fighting cage fighting in the legislature, and as many know I entirely changed my mind on the death penalty and came to believe we ought to teach our kids it’s never okay to kill. It will increasingly become a topic I comment on how this whole red-state, red-blood, red-meat, Cross yourself and pile’em high, ammo and Bibles thing in our churches really is so unChristlike. God comes to the aid of those who are weak in battle not those who trust in their chariots and horses.
These days I marvel at animal beauty and diversity and enjoy their personalities and all that prompts me to turn to the Creator of Life in gratitude and worship. Jesus said look at the birds because they will reveal something about God to you. He did not say shoot the birds. My increasing love for life in its most vulnerable forms changed my view of hunting too. I’m not against responsible hunting for you or others, just saying that personally, I’m done with it. But I have come out strongly against safari hunting and trophy hunting as anything ethically justifiable for a Christian.
Deuteronomy 22:6 revealed to me the concern God has for animals: “If you come across a bird nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on her young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young…. so that it may go well with you and you may live a long life.”
I began to note the capacity in animals to respond to God… “Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths… [Praise the Lord] wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds…” Psalm 148:7, 10.
Small creatures and flying birds… like fox and pheasants? Note to self; that text is not one to pull out if asked again to give the breakfast devotional at the Fellowship of Christian Sportsman’s Pheasant Hunt.
A book also shifted my thinking on animal cruelty and animal misery and abuse in modern agriculture. It’s not some liberal PETA book. It was written by a Sarah Palin speechwriter. Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call to Mercy, Matthew Scully states: “Go to the largest livestock operation, search out the darkest and tiniest stall or pen, single out the filthiest, most forlorn little lamb or pig or calf, and that is one of God’s creatures you’re looking at, morally indistinguishable from your beloved Fluffy or Frisky.”
A longing in me to see God’s kingdom come on earth drew me to the passages that describe that time to come when we aren’t at odds with the animal world. I figure, why wait till then?? I’d think animals didn’t run away when Jesus walked by, shouldn’t they recognize Him in us when we walk by?…. “And in that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground; and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them lie down in safety. And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in justice, and in loving kindness, and in mercies.” Hosea 2:18-19
In his extensive Dogmatics on The Doctrine of Creation, Karl Barth reminded us God the Creator did not originally intend for animals to be our food; “Whether or not we find it practical or desirable, the diet assigned to men and beasts by God the Creator is vegetarian. This makes it clear that the supremacy given to man over animals is not one of life and death. Man does not enjoy any capital jurisdiction.”
Yes, that changed after the Flood, even after the Flood when killing animals for sacrifice and food was permitted, Barth contends “the prohibition of homicide and eating the blood of animals will be a reminder that the life of another being does not belong to other living beings but to God alone.” For Barth, “the introduction of capital jurisdiction between creature and creature, will not in any sense signify a kind of divine submission to creaturely degeneration.” In regards to the subsequent legitimisation of animal sacrifice, Barth says God now accepts “the surrender of the life of the animal for that of man” as “a substitutionary sign” in the “reconciliation thereby signified.”
David Clough writes: “…human beings may use their superfluity for food but should not wilfully destroy them; in relation to other animals, Barth says they can be killed only as a matter of necessity, and then as a sacrificial act with gratitude and repentance. In a modern context where few humans need to kill other creatures for food, this is a radical ethical stance.”
The reason I have all this handy is I have written on my love and regard for Animals in an essay elsewhere. Here are the opening lines of that essay….
Meet Gordon Howie. A visit to his United States Senate campaign website and you would first notice his campaign bumper sticker slogan; God, Guns & Gordon. Click on the tab for videos and up comes a god tube . com link to his video: “Take a World Hunting Tour With Gordon Howie.” The six and a half minute clip shows dozens of still photos of Gordon all over the world holding rifles or his bow, standing or kneeling, but always smiling next to the corpse of every conceivable animal one can legally shoot with a gun or a bow; deer, fox, coyote, rabbit, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, antelope, sables and roans, gazelles and African dik-diks, spiral-horned kudo, a half a dozen different bears, leopards, mountain lions, moose, plains buffalo, zebra, and various sub-Saharan wild boars.
An additional feature in the video is the background music of Gordon singing Christian country music songs, recording being another one of his pastimes, actually one of his ministries. The photos advance every three seconds and there are enough hunting pictures to require the entire audio of three of Gordon’s songs. While he sings “I’m going home to be with Jesus” the viewer sees dozens of animals who Gordon recently sent on ahead of him. It is not clear what putting a video compilation of decades of safari hunts on a campaign website is supposed to communicate about a political candidates’ philosophy of governance except perhaps it does communicate something of his understanding, or misunderstanding, of the dominion mandate of Genesis one.
Here is that video to which I’m referring: Take a World Hunting Tour With Gordon Howie
“The believer need not fear fate, even though it might be the devil himself.
The devil may plague and tempt and harass us… It is God that we must fear,
the God to whose Word the believer is directed and clings.”
– Karl Barth, Ethics, 301.
I’m reading Barth’s Ethics for discussion each Monday afternoon with other Ph.D candidates in the Divinity Department here. Some of the reading for today had to do with fate. Got me thinking about the fate of nations versus the choice of an electorate.
Reminded me of an argument I found myself in back in 1999 while eating fish on a beach in Gaza City with a Palestinian Christian friend named Ahed. Kristen and I were privileged on a humanitarian mission to stay as a guest in the compound of Yasser Arafat. Yasser’s rooster woke us up at five in the morning that week.
That evening sitting together at a wicker and wood beach table only a few feet from the Mediterranean Sea, an argument ensued. Actually, I wasn’t arguing, but something I said set Aed off and he stood and burst out angrily about how I don’t understand fate. My comment was in regard to how the first thirty years of his life were lived entirely within the land prison called the Gaza Strip (only 5 miles wide and 25 miles long – imagine living your entire life within a space that small and never being allowed to leave it) and my hope that things will change for the better and he can leave that place.
Basically Ahed said: “NO! This is my fate! To be born here, to live here and to die here is my fate. You Americans don’t understand fate. If you don’t like where you live, you move. If you don’t like how things are in the land where you live, you vote to change it. In America you are the masters of your own fate but here– fate is our master.”
What do you say to that?
Sucks to be you?!
I really don’t remember what I said. Probably something like, “Sorry I’ll give that some thought.” I did give that some thought. I thought about it for a very long time and it wasn’t until after I had left the Gaza Strip did I think of what I wish I would have said. I wish I would have put my arm around his shoulder and looked with him at the sea and said, “Ahed, my friend, our God still parts seas.”
I don’t believe in fate.
I believe in God and in His Sovereignty over the affairs of men. He still raises up kings and tears them down.
Nonviolence is inspiring and possesses an indomitable spirit. Few things are more unsettling, unpredictable and unstable as the mob spirit in the atmosphere of riot. And nothing neutralises a violent atmosphere more effectively than nonviolent gestures.
The world got to see this in full-color yesterday in the intensification of tensions at the Standing Rock No Dakota Access Pipeline standoff in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Riot police showed up to this peaceful event in Bismark as Native communities gathered to discuss recent court rulings and updates on the Dakota Access Pipeline. Tension was high at first and then this happened that changed the tone.
Note the language in this eyewitness report; tension was high at first, then this happened that changed the tone. Discernible hostility in the atmosphere is a reality. Some would say it is a sociological phenomenon. Others, me included, know it to be spiritual. There are demonic spirits behind violence, hatred and war. Those are only fed by responses of violence, hatred and war. When will we learn?
Demonic spirits are happy when both sides kill each other. Gestures of love and peace break their hold and neutralise them. Instantly there are discernible shifts in the atmosphere.
Black Lives Matter, please take note.
Chip in here to support their bail money fund: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/d19fAf
Craft day here at the old folks home. After breakfast and my nap, Kristen set out my paints for me. With the recent sainting of Mother Teresa and having just read an article on Trump’s supposed Catholic problem, I went with a religious theme; Agios Trumpoupolous – agios in Greek meaning saint or holy.
Cherubs nest in his hair. Sort of. (It’s more the case that he routinely gets all tangled up on Twitter.)
Saint Donald has done two miracles (besides going a whole day without putting his foot in his mouth). First, he has done a long, long overdue end-run around the media who think they get to decide for America. Second, he has been nominated entirely without the help of the political money players in both parties who traditionally buy the candidate they want us to have. Love seeing the political money machine so fit to be tied.
For the artsy people out there I’ll share that I created the halo with my cereal bowl. And, I blended my oranges to more perfectly match his skin color. His hair is modeled after the streets of gold.
Say your prayers that I don’t come up with an idea to depict Hillary. For sure it would be Dantean.
“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.