Could we face the literal cross, as Christ prepared to do? Many of us can’t even face the most minimal, the most trivial pressure. We’ll stand around and laugh with people cussing up a storm, smoking dope, drinking. We’ll patronize barber and beauty shops where filthy language is tossed around, bring our children there. We let degrading and oppressive shows blare from our TV sets, dumbing down our children who make idols out of foul-mouthed idiot rappers and half-wit reality TV "stars." Could we face the cross? We can’t face the cable guy. The school house. The workplace. Our testimony is so weak, the name of Jesus is utterly devoid of power because we won’t stand up for anything. We keep silent, laugh along, mind our business. Could we face the cross? Check your mirror.
I don’t get Christians who are afraid to fly.
People who claim to know and to love and to trust Jesus, but who
are nevertheless afraid of airplanes. Bold, finger-pointing,
pulpit-thumping prophets who shriek and holler at you, telling
you how to live and chew gum, who absolutely will not board an
aircraft under any circumstances. This puzzles me, Christian who
are afraid to die. Dying is the entire essence, the whole point,
of Christianity. In order to be a Christian, we must first die
to sin. We must first give up our lives, our family, our
friends, our security. The big problem with modern Christianity
is this doctrine of inclusion, wherein we practice Christianity
without sacrifice. We keep the same friends, maintain the same
habits, go the same places, all within the context of grace.
Which is a distortion of that doctrine. Grace is not a free pass
to do what we please. Grace is about the shed blood of an
innocent man Who took the hit for us. Grace means Jesus took the
punishment we deserved. Our flagrant, habitual, ongoing practice
of sin dishonors that sacrifice, spits on the cross. We become
nominal Christians—Christians in name only—who claim faith in
Jesus Christ but are too afraid to buy a plane ticket.
Conversion is about death. It is about killing off old behaviors, old possessions, the old lifestyle. It is about moving out of the familiar and into the unknown. About making a determined right turn on the road of life, leaving everything and everyone we knew behind to follow Christ. This is rarely preached nowadays. Most of what I hear preached is utter nonsense. Intensely bad and poorly constructed polemics on how God wants to bless ya and how we can achieve victory. Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey. 90% of preaching I hear these days, from my local churches, is utterly useless. It’s some guy rambling for an hour about nothing. The preaching teaches nothing, confers nothing, demands absolutely nothing.
There is no injunctive demand, no call to action. Conversion, salvation, is no longer a life-changing event. No longer a choice that literally divides families, that sets brother against brother, husband against wife, father against son [Matthew 10:16-26]. It is what it has become: an add-on. An ineffective, impotent sweater we wear on cool days and tie around our waist when things get warm. Our Christianity is a claim we make idly and in passing only when absolutely forced to, while otherwise going about our lives in exactly the same way we did before we knew God. And why is that? It’s because that is the standard of the day. Because the conversion process itself has been so watered down and discounted that many of us don’t actually even know if we are in fact born again or not. We think we are. We hope we are. But I doubt many “Christians” are going to their pastors to ask. We assume we’re saved, the pastor assumed we’re saved. Everybody’s just playing church.
Could we face the literal cross, as Christ prepared to do in John Chapter 12? Many of us can’t even face the most minimal, the most trivial pressure. We’ll stand around and laugh with people cussing up a storm, smoking dope, drinking. We’ll patronize barber and beauty shops where filthy language is tossed around, bring our children there. We let degrading and oppressive shows blare from our TV sets, dumbing down our children who make idols out of these anti-intellectual nitwit singers and actors. Could we face the cross? We can’t face the cable guy. The school house. The workplace. Our testimony is so weak, the name of Jesus is utterly devoid of power because we won’t stand up for anything. We keep silent, laugh along, mind out business. Could we face the cross? Check your mirror.
Taking a stand has real consequences.
Evangelical Christians tend to take political stands, attempting
to achieve through legislation what they've failed to accomplish
from their pulpits. This is the wrong kind of stand; a stand
that makes Jesus seem irrational if not ugly. For God did not
send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save
the world through him. [John 3:17]
Kim Davis, an elected county clerk in Kentucky's Rowan County, went to jail for her stance against same-sex marriage. On its face, this seems both noble and right. It is, in fact, neither. "I never imagined a day like this would come," Davis is quoted as saying, "where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of scripture, and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage." This is a woman who has been divorced three times and married four. She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband, the twins fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second husband.
It remains unclear to me why "Christians," both white and black and of all denominations, seem to take divorce so casually. Divorce rates among Christians are comparable to those among non-believers. Evangelicals love to thump the bible and condemn homosexuals—of whom Jesus said nothing—while routinely affirming second, third, fourth marriages, which Christ condemned. It amazes me that I am routinely chastised and thought suspiciously of because, at my advanced age, I am not married. I don't believe in remarriage. I take marriage seriously, as I take Christ and His words seriously. But far too many pastors—white and black—are on their second or third wife, while shaking their fist at homosexuals.
Like far too many evangelicals and us Black Church Folk, Kim Davis is more than willing to "violate a central teaching of scripture" as it suits her. Her "moral" stance on same-sex marriage is mostly a product of some right-wing group trying to put her face on a milk carton. There'll likely be some cash in it for her down the line, some civil suit or book deal where she'll cash in on her fifteen minutes of fame. Like most large-platform "moral" political fights it's just all nonsense.
The absurdist notion that a ditch digger, while still drawing pay, can't be compelled to dig ditches if digging ditches is against his religious convictions just further underscores the crisis of Fox News tribal ignorance in this country. If my religious convictions prohibit me from working in a whorehouse, I wouldn't work in a whorehouse. I wouldn't take the whorehouse job and then refuse to do it.
Davis clearly doesn't actually know scripture so much as she knows Stuff She Done Heard Someplace. Jesus never said a word about same-sex marriage or homosexuality in any context. What He did, however, was condemn divorce [Matt 19:3-12] and warn against judging [Matthew 7] and taking proactive stances against other peoples' sin [v. 1-5]. Sister Davis misses entirely Who Christ is and the example He left us.
I don't endorse same-sex marriage either, which means I will not be performing any such ceremonies. Issuing a marriage license is a pro forma administrative function but, if my convictions would prohibit me from doing so, I would not serve as County Clerk. Rather than disobey the law, Sister Davis' protest should have been to resign. I presume she needs the money, but, if her convictions are that strong, she's taking soiled money and lying; being paid to do something she's sworn an oath to do but is now refusing to.
Worse, ridiculous evangelical and right-wing pundits are defending the ludicrous idea that an elected official has no obligation to actually follow the Constitution. I'm not sure what bible these people are reading, but they make all followers of Christ seem ignorant, irrational and extreme. She is taking a stand, but it is a bogus stand, a Fox News Channel stand; all rhetoric and completely unhinged from scripture or sound doctrine. This is not the kind of stand God wants us to take.
God wants us, us black Church Folk, to stop buying pirated DVDs at the beauty shop. God wants us to stop cussing like sailors. He wants us to set proper examples for our children—to stop paying for the violent, profane, God-denying misogynistic filth we "saints" pay through the nose to have beamed into our children's bedrooms and smartphones—instead of hollering and rioting after they've been shot dead. "Black Lives Matter." If they did, we'd stop feeding our children this steady diet of violence and filth.
God wants us to take a stand; not a ridiculous stand like Davis's, but a real stand. He wants us to take the risk of being ostracized at work because we won't play games with our ethics—not in an irrational Madea Church Lady sort of way, but with quiet dignity. God wants us to make it known there are things we won't do and won't approve of.
God wants us to talk to our children about Straight Outta Compton. Not forbid them to see it—which would be a waste of time—but discuss it with them, ask questions: what are the central themes? Does it seem realistic to you that there's not even one single decent police officer in the entire film? What are the consequences of living that lifestyle? How do you feel about the treatment of girls and women in that movie?
Don't judge; provoke discussion. Get them to think. By, God, this is something we do precious little of: think. Analyze. Examine. Deconstruct. This is how change is achieved, not by forcing your kids or forcing your neighbors, but by provoking their own moral center to grow.
There seems to be almost no moral center whatsoever to Church Folk, while white evangelicals are, for the most part, reactionary lemmings parroting their double-chins in leadership and awash in racism like an old lady stinking of cheap perfume. And, like the old lady, most of these people can't smell the racism that abounds—in noxious clouds of obvious, perceptible, visceral fumes—from their churches and organizations. They position themselves as morally superior and invest hundreds of millions in political efforts to force their view—including their racism—on society at large; giving Jesus a black eye in the process.
The stand God wants us to take
has nothing to do with politics.
God wants us to deny ourselves, just as Jesus denied Himself. He
wants us to not simply say, "My trust is in Christ," but to live
a life that reflects that stand. That means cancelling your
cable or satellite TV. That means not allowing violent video
games or profanity-ridden misogynistic "music" to be played in
your house or on your child's smartphone.
At age 33, with His whole life ahead of Him, Jesus willingly went to the cross. Many of us can't even stand up to our own kids or take a stand in front of our friends or co-workers. Could we face the cross? Obviously not; we can't even stop paying—yes, paying—to have this filth beamed into our homes, all this media that denies Christ in every kilobit. We pay for that—pay through the nose. But, we're "Christians."
Could we face the cross? From what I routinely observe: no. We're nowhere near that. We can't even face our co-workers. Our kids. Our husbands or wives. We are, in so many ways, an embarrassment to the cross; a people who won't stand up for anything and who, therefore, will fall for anything. "No Justice, No Peace," we bellow. "Black Lives Matter," we shout. If they actually did, we'd be better examples not just of Christ, but of humanity.
This week, read John Chapters 10-21 to learn what taking a stand is really all about.
Christopher J. Priest
10 April 2011
7 September 2013
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