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Archive for April, 2015


“They’re all animals anyway”

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

— Jeremiah 29:7

“Teach your children well”

I saw this reaction to the rioters on Facebook from a friend of a friend:

    “Their (sic) breaking the law and ought to be shot down. Their (sic) all animals anyway.”

Which wouldn’t be so heinous if it weren’t the reaction of so many Americans who aren’t a bit interested in hearing from all sides on how it came to this in a neighborhood and so many other neighborhoods where people have been “kept down” and brutalized (like animals?) for God knows how long.

Just remember that your children and grandchildren are seeing and hearing (and reading you on Facebook???) and internalizing how you react to events like the rioting in Baltimore.

If your response to the news is peppered with nastiness or bitterness or hatred or condemnation or fear and racism and a sense of moral superiority, your kids and grands are feeding on it, digesting it and growing in the image of something other than the God of true justice that Dr. King lifted up so well when he said:

    “Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

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Belize has actual “Dollar Stores.”
If you like the garment and want to try it on behind the hanging curtains and it fits, the cost is an actual dollar.

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I watched the axle break on this car as it turned a corner, an event that’s not at all uncommon in a country where most of the cars are pre-historic and most people don’t have enough money to buy cars anyway.

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Speaking of broken . . .

I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be MINISTRY of Works & Transportation (and that door’s been broken since I arrived in town three years ago):

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This is what the locals call “super” fruit, which is ripe and abundant this time of year on small trees along the rivers. You pick off the golf-ball size balls, take a sharp knife to remove the shells, boil them over a pit for two hours, remove the water, add more water, throw in 4 pounds of sugar, cinnamon sticks and tiny, sweet spices, stir and stir like, a lot, put five in a small bag and sell for a dollar (50 cents U.S.), or pass around at the party or group occasion.

It’s muy, muy tasty.

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That’s my good and very good friend Jan, or as I call her, “Jan the Mennonite Yogi Lady.”

She and two of her daughters, who chose to be Mennonites, unlike most of the five or children of her and her late husband (a tour guide who was not a Mennonite) have a 70-acre dairy farm just outside of town called “Cool M Farms”). I buy four quarts of homemade yogi (yogurt) and pure milk right out of the cows from them at market every week, but they also sell great cheeses, breads, dressings, brownies and fudge and whatever they decide to make.

Jan was born and reared in very England but she and her husband wandered all over the place, including Mexico, where they heard about Belize, drove in one day many and very many years ago, and stayed with their first baby. She was so impressed by warmth of the members of one of the many Mennonite branches here that she converted even though her husband wanted none of it. One daughter lives in the States but the whole, extraordinary family is known and highly regarded around these parts.

The bed-and-breakfast cottage at their farm is on Trip Advisor, btw, if you want to look it up–the reviews are great.

Jan’s husband once survived alone on an island for months, but that’s a whole other, long story I need to get briefed on to share some day. Her life is the stuff of movies.

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Cool M Farm products at market.

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Speaking of market, mango wine is fairly popular but nothing is as popular with Belizeans as cashew fruit wine, which is definitely an acquired taste.

And one I’m pretty sure I will never acquire.

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Until next time, buckaroos . . . live large wherever you are.

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In reading the words that follow–which I hope you will take some time to read and especially if you “identify” as a Christian–I would urge you to come back to these questions and think about them:

    How is bashing, trashing and labeling a homeless beggar or some poor person, who may be stuck in government dependency and generational poverty, as “a scumbag” or “welfare queen” or “loser” or “worthless piece of (you-know-what)” conducive to evangelism–to paving the way for people to come to a new and productive life in Christ?”

    How is such bashing and trashing and labeling in any way advancing the kingdom of God on Earth as it is in heaven?

    How is it that Christians, so many of whom are guilty of such language, don’t consider the language of trashing, bashing, labeling and demonizing as obscene?

If you passed by the guy with Jesus in the front seat with you, would you call the guy a scumbag or a “worthless piece of (something)?” When did Jesus ever say anything remotely like, “Don’t be like the scumbags?” Or, “Look at those bums, too lazy and worthless to lift themselves up by the bootstraps?”

“God don’t make no trash,” the old saying goes.

This we know because Jesus and the Bible tell us so.

“Trash” ain’t created in the image of the Creator.

So here’s an idea, fellow Christians:

Let’s stop bashing and trashing those we deem unworthy, which include, but is not limited to:

so many of the poor among us, the “welfare queens,” the “scumbags,” the “losers,” the homeless “bums” on the corners who “oughta get a job,” undocumented immigrants, the “other” and whoever that despised “other” might be in our superior judgment.

That is, whomever in our biased, godless judgments that we dismiss as unfit for our love, or unworthy, perhaps, even of God’s love.

God’s will for us is to see all the aforementioned through the corrected vision that Jesus gives us in salvation.

And mind you, I’m not saying this is easy. We all have our prejudices and biases. We all are prone to making snap judgments, or rigidly remaining comfortable with our harsh, judgmental and longstanding prejudices.

It takes some hard, spiritual work to love others as we love ourselves, to do unto all the “others” as we would have them do unto us.

But we can begin this spiritual discipline by dropping all that demeaning and dehumanizing language that even we Christians so casually slap on people that we see or so much as hear or read about.

Might I suggest that we need to work hard and then harder at dropping all those demonizing labels that we as Christians use (trash, scumbags, welfare bums, parasites, losers, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.)

So many among our Christian lot deplore the fact that nasty, obscene language is now part of culture and public discourse, and I’m in with that. My parents would be appalled at the casual, widespread use of vulgarity, especially the “f-bomb,” everywhere we turn.

But all the aforementioned words (trash, scumbags, bums, etc.)–is this not equally “nasty language” from our lips to God’s ears?????

Would we use such vulgar labels in front of Jesus, the “Prince of Peace?”

Jesus could be fiery and harsh and righteously indignant, mincing no words in his condemnation of hypocrites.

But when did Jesus ever say anything remotely like, “Don’t be like the scumbags?” Or, “Look at those bums, too lazy and worthless to lift themselves up by the bootstraps?”

I ask again:

How is the language of such bashing and trashing of the poor (especially those who’ve known nothing since birth but government dependency and the deadening cycles of poverty), the homeless, the beggars, the outcasts, the marginalized, the downtrodden and the down-and-out–the very people that Jesus attracted and desired to attract–how is that conducive to evangelism?

How does such labeling and isolating pave the way for showing anybody the way to new life in Christ?

Christians, everyone we see with our supposedly Christian eyes–no matter how dirty or “trashy” we see them as being–no matter how ugly or shiftless or lazy or violent, whether it’s the prisoner on death row or “those people” across the tracks or down on the city’s toughest side . . . even they are what John Wesley described as “the offspring of God” and “candidates” for eternal life with God.

The dirt-poor beggars, the shunned and despised outcasts, the alleged “losers” of the world–John Wesley was about as good a friend outside of Nazareth as “those people” ever had.

Wesley believed that when we genuinely attain new life in Christ–when our blindness is cured in salvation and we can see as if for the first time–we see anew because salvation comes with what he described as spiritual eyes.

Wesley himself certainly saw everybody and everything in life through very spiritual eyesight:

    “A poor wretch cries to me for alms: I look, and see him covered with dirt and rags. But through these I see one that has an immortal spirit, made to know, and love, and dwell with God to eternity. I honour him for his Creator’s sake. I see through all these rags, that he is purpled over with the blood of Christ. I love him for the sake of his Redeemer.

    “The courtesy, therefore, which I feel and show toward him is a mixture of the honour and love which I bear to the offspring of God; the purchase of his Son’s blood, and the candidate for immortality. This courtesy let us feel and show toward all and we shall please all men to their edification” (“On Pleasing All Men”, Works, VII: 145).

If there was anything in this world that John Wesley hated it was slavery–an institution that he denounced and fought against with a fierce passion. This at a time, of course, when it was considered a biblical given that slavery was sanctioned from on high, and African slaves were considered less then human.

Wesley looked at the slaves he saw being traded through his spiritual eyesight and didn’t see the slaves as sub-human, but instead saw men and women created as much in the image of God as he was:

“Are not these [slaves] also the work of thine hands, the purchase of thy Son’s blood? . . . Thou Savior of all, make them free, that they may be free indeed!” (“Thoughts Upon Slavery”, Works, XI: 79).

With those thoughts in mind I repeat:

“God don’t make no trash.”

“Trash” ain’t created in the image of the Creator.

So let’s stop with the trashing and start up some conversations about how to build more bridges and fewer walls.

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Would you vote for this man for President? Here pictured with his friend and wealthy, 1 percent political supporter “Thing” from “The Addams Family,” who retired to Belize but retains American citizenship.

From the grand old New York Times, the newspaper that ultra-conservatives hate except when hating the great Times doesn’t reflect their biases, comes this:

    The Times reported in an explosive piece on Thursday that Canadian records show the chairman of Russian-owned Uranium One gave over $2 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation, which the Clintons’ didn’t disclose. (My italics for emphasis.) At the same time, Russia pushed for control of a Canadian Uranium company.

    A Kremlin-connected bank promoting stock in the company also reportedly paid Bill Clinton $500,000 for a speech in Moscow. Eventually, the Russian-Canadian uranium deal was approved.

    “Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown,” the Times writes. “But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.”

I wanted to bring this to your attention, you of the Jitterbug Cult, because the only person I can see me voting for, for President, at this point in time, is me.

If one of you followers of the Jitterbugger wants to give me the money and resources it takes to run for President, and wants to join me in voting for me, pls contact me.*

Thank you very much for your consideration and, as American Presidents and potential presidential candidates are obliged to say with a straight face nowadays:

“God bless you and God bless America.”

Picture me with a straight face.
—–
*If you were to support me for President, I would promise to buy an assault weapon for shopping at Safeway. Think about it.

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Photo by Tony Rath, Dangriga, BZ

Ride like the wind, young man. Photo in Dangriga, BZ by Tony Rath, a resident of Dangriga, BZ

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And finally, from the man who is one of the top 2 or top 3 best and most influential theologians alive, the Anglican N.T. “Tom” Wright:

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In remembrance of growing up close to the sun and the shade and the healing water from the hose and the grass and the trees and dust and the grasshoppers and the crickets in the hot old Texas summertimes, here’s a poem by John Keats (1795-1821):

“On the Grasshopper and Cricket”
The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,–he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

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It's a sad commentary on our times that Katharine Hayhoe, a conservative, devout Christian and scientist at ultra-conservative Texas Tech University routinely gets threats from other Christians who don't want to accept the science of man-made climate change. "I personally get much more hate mail from Christians than I get from atheists, probably by a factor of 10. And I’m a Christian!" she says.

It’s a sad commentary on our times that Katharine Hayhoe, a conservative, devout Christian and scientist at ultra-conservative Texas Tech University routinely gets threats from other Christians who don’t want to accept the science of man-made climate change. “I personally get much more hate mail from Christians than I get from atheists, probably by a factor of 10. And I’m a Christian!” she says. PHOTO CREDIT: Ashley Rodgers/Texas Tech University

    “The people that I go to church with and the people who live in the place I live, in West Texas, are the people who are most doubtful that [climate change] is a real problem, and who are being targeted and misinformed by the people whom we trust.

    “I felt like it was my responsibility to say: ‘Here I am, and here is what I believe. Here are all the values that I share with you, and here is what I, as a scientist, know to be true.’ I felt it was important to be that voice in the wilderness.”

    — Katharine Hayhoe, devout, evangelical Christian and Texas Tech University scientist

The Christian digital magazine Plough has a great interview with the Texas Tech University climate-change expert Katharine Hayhoe, a much-respected scientist with the peppy, engaging personality of front-desk clerk at a beach resort.

Like most of the masses who have come to know her, I came to know Hayhoe via the actor Don Cheadle when I watched the “Showtime Channel’s” documentary “Years of Living Dangerously.”

Few scientists are as adept at explaining at the grass-roots level how we are changing the climate–and how dangerous it really is right now and to future generations, too.

And thank God for her willing to stand up to the abuse she takes from other Christians, who bombard her with astoundingly hate-filled e-mails.

And yet it’s not surprising considering the utter contempt that so many people in politics, the news media and the oil & gas industry influential–people with clear political and financial agendas–have for scientists like Hayhoe, Christian or no Christian.

As she tells Plough:

    “Every time you stick your head out of the ivory tower and tell people in the real world that climate change is real, that scientists agree, and that it’s affecting us now and we need to do something about it, you will get attacked. Unless maybe you’re doing it in Berkeley.

    “The attacks come in waves. When you become visible in the public arena a bunch of people write you nasty notes or blog about you, and then it kind of dies out until the next time. But the next time, all of those people are still there, plus you have extra people who just noticed you. Now it’s to the point to where, for some people, I am a regular source of blog fodder. They are building a career out of following me and making stuff up about me. I’ve discovered that the healthiest, most sane thing for me to do is to not even look at that stuff. A lot of the nasty emails come in through my website. I don’t read those emails; my assistant goes through them. Anything that she needs to report to the police she does, and I don’t see it.”

What a sad commentary on our times that quote is.

At any rate, I commend the whole interview with Hayhoe to you, which can be accessed by clicking here.

Also check out videos of her like this one, or others on you tube you can access here:

Or you can take the word of climate-change deniers like Newt Gringich or Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly or most of the people running for currently running for President, who apparently don’t believe that NASA scientists put Americans on the moon.

I think I’ll go with the Christian expert at the great university in the western climes of Texas Our Texas.

——
Here’s a good resource for climate-change skeptics taken from one of Hayhoe’s own recommended resources. Click here.

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At age 69, this retired Arkansas nurse is feeding seniors who sometimes have to decide between spending money for medicine or a hot meal. (Photo from NBC News)

At age 69, this retired Arkansas nurse is feeding seniors who sometimes have to decide between spending money for medicine or a hot meal. (Photo from NBC News)

Allowing the generation that raised us to go to the point that they’re eating cat food and dog food, I can’t imagine that. I think it’s a forgotten population.”

— Charolette Tidwell, retired Arkansas nurse using her pension money to feed the hungry in Fort Smith, Ark.

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Years ago, when I was in pastoral-care ministry in Dallas hospitals, I used to make it a practice every three or four months to get away from the grind by going on spiritual retreats at the St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Ark. The nuns there were incredibly hospitable and gave me much needed spiritual direction. And the monastery’s Sister Macrina Wiederkehr is a renowned spiritual writer (click here).

Fort Smith is a nice and really nice and pretty and pleasant Arkansas kind of town and I liked it. And the nuns there at the landmark monastery have a long history of being active in local social-justice work.

So I perked up a while back when NBC News teased a report about a woman in Fort Smith who is making an impact in her community.

Her name is Charotte Tidwell and here’s the report from the NBC News digital page(and note that she gives a nod to the nuns!)–plus a video about Miss Tidwell on the occasion of her receiving an award.

And may her tribe increase:

    Charolette Tidwell’s plans for retirement aren’t like many others: The retired 69-year-old nurse is using her pension to run a food pantry she started and is working there – unpaid – six days a week.

    “The community that I was raised in did this. My mom did it. The folks at the church did it. The nuns at the school that I went to elementary school did it,” she said. “We were mentored into this kind of work. Service was something that I’ve always been involved in.”

    Tidwell feeds 7,000 people a month in her hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas – handing out 500,000 meals a year through her Antioch for Youth and Family group. The town has suffered from the closures of factories, layoffs at the chicken factory, and low wages, and Tidwell said she sees the elderly and families showing up for help.

    “I was raised in poverty and I understand all the issues that go along with not having enough money,” she said.

    She started the charity in 2000 after retiring and learning that seniors in her community were eating cat and dog food – a cheap way to get protein.

    “Allowing the generation that raised us to go to the point that they’re eating cat food and dog food, I can’t imagine that,” she said. “I think it’s a forgotten population.”

    People come and go on a recent food giveaway day, with some bringing wagons to carry home the donations. Others just come on bicycles. They scoop up vegetables, fruit and meat.

    “We thank the Lord for this lady here, Mrs. Tidwell, for helping us out in a time of need, said Sherri Warren, a client of the food pantry.

    Tidwell said she saves enough from her pension to get by, economizing on utility bills and figuring out the best deals on food to maximize what she can give. For more than 13 years, most of the group’s funding came from Tidwell and a few small donations; now that’s been supplemented by some small grants.

    “I think if they have a persistence or purpose to come here, I have the obligation to serve them,” Tidwell said. “And to serve them in a compassionate, respectful way.”

    There is a sense of community among the clients, the unpaid volunteers and Tidwell.

    “Many of our people are repeaters. They tell someone, and then those persons become repeaters. So it’s important for us to be not just a giver of food, but a giver of hope,” she said.

    Tidwell hopes to pass on her work to the next generation, and there is already one contender: a boy named Timmy who comes to volunteer with his mom.

    “It makes me feel good because I get to help people,” he said.

    “I want it to continue, if anything happens to me, Tidwell said of her work. “I just believe it will happen.”

And here’s that video from Fort Smith, produced on the occasion of Charlotte Tidwell being recognized for her giving back to Fort Smith:

And here’s your Jitterbug Thought for the Day:
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A powerful, healing song from one of the greatest duos ever at what was probably their greatest performance ever.

PSALM 69
For Those Seeking Deliverance From Persecution:

Lord in your mercy . . .

Hear our prayer.

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.

More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
many are those who would destroy me,
my enemies who accuse me falsely.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me,
O Lord God of hosts;
do not let those who seek you be dishonoured because of me,
O God of Israel.
It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children.

It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting,
they insulted me for doing so.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the Pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant,
for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.
Draw near to me, redeem me,
set me free because of my enemies.

You know the insults I receive,
and my shame and dishonour;
my foes are all known to you.
Insults have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Let their table be a trap for them,
a snare for their allies.
Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and make their loins tremble continually.
Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
May their camp be a desolation;
let no one live in their tents.
For they persecute those whom you have struck down,
and those whom you have wounded, they attack still more.
Add guilt to their guilt;
may they have no acquittal from you.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
But I am lowly and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, protect me.

I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy,
and does not despise his own that are in bonds.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah;
and his servants shall live there and possess it;
the children of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall live in it.

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"If elected, I promise to restore America to the Kingdom of God of which Jesus gave us a foretaste and left for us to advance on earth as in heaven!": Good luck getting elected on THAT political agenda.

“If elected, I promise to restore America to the Kingdom of God of which Jesus gave us a foretaste and left for us to advance on earth as in heaven!”: Good luck getting elected on THAT political agenda.

The Gospel of John tells us that the masses were so impressed by Jesus and his signs and wonders that they wanted to grab him and force him on top of a mighty, white steed wearing a King’s crown and swinging a big sword.

That, after all, was the kind of Messiah that people were expecting to come and forcefully and violently vanquish all the oppressive forces that ruled them.

But Jesus, sensing that they wanted to crown him as the kind of king they expected and so desperately wanted, ran hastily to the hills:

    “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’

    “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” (See John 6: 14-15)

It seems that many among us Americans want a King–or Queen–to “take back America” and the world, in the name of Jesus Christ, no less.

Progressives want an ass-kicking, uncompromising progressive King or Queen (preferably, at the moment, a Queen); conservatives want an ass-kicking, uncompromising conservative King or Queen (it’s gotta be a King).

Rigidly progressive and rigidly conservative Christians want a ruler who will rule in the name of a very progressive Christian or a very conservative Christian.

Back in the biblical day, the Messiah rode into town on a humble donkey, unarmed, and not on a big, white steed.

The Messiah wanted nothing to do with the world’s idea of a political, power-mad King.

But I would argue that depending on what side of the political dividing line we’re on, we aren’t really interested whatsoever in a leader who is Christ-like, however conservative or progressive we might think we are. Or how ideologically pure we think our ideal Kingfish (or Queenfish) would be.

We’re perfectly willing to be lied to by political office-holders and candidates who break The Ten Commandments with reckless abandon every day.

And we’re OK with their lying to us even as they finish every sentence with “God bless America!” or push to have the Ten Commandments posted all over schools and other government properties.

As Kurt Vonnegut famously noted:

    “For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

    “’Blessed are the merciful’” in a courtroom? “’Blessed are the peacemakers’” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

Standing in Christian solidarity with the meek, the poor, the merciful and the peacemakers and such–good luck getting elected with that party platform.

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