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American nationalists wrap themselves in the flag and claim to be all about individual liberty, complete with freedom from government meddling and control.

How ironic it is that they embrace government control with open arms.

They can’t seem to get enough government meddling.

And Donald J. Trump — who thrives on keeping paranoid American nationalists ever more scared of enemies real and imagined– is certainly willing to oblige them.

“Give me liberty as long as there’s another dollar to be conquered.”

The nationalists live in fear of an America in which all Americans would be left alone in their love life, allowed to love or marry or live with whomever they wish, without fear of government interference or of being demonized by the bedroom police.

With their lips, the patriotic white nationalists pledge allegiance to an America sustained by “liberty and justice for all.” But they are perfectly willing to accept injustice for many, and no justice at all for a president clearly guilty of treasonous behavior and any number of white-collar crimes going back to a fraudulent “university.”

The nationalists, who think of themselves as America-loving patriots, live in fear of a truly free America in which women would have the freedom to make decisions about birth with their conscience as their guide instead of Uncle Sam thinks he knows what’s best for the ladies.

The good Christian nationalists fear the thought of an America in which people of all faiths (and no faith) are allowed to practice faith (or not) without hostile government leaders who pose and posture as followers of Jesus while passing ludicrous religious-liberty laws and heaping scorn on faiths not Christian.

The patriotic nationalists want law and order — for some; for the president and so many others, not so much.

The patriotic nationalists live in fear of an America in which Americans of many and various beliefs and philosophies — of various skin colors, faith traditions, economic stations in life, and sexual orientations — would be truly welcomed with seats at the tables of leadership in government, business, religion and civic life.

They fear an America in which Americans will no longer have scores upon scores of enemies — real and in many cases simply perceived — to conquer or dominate and dictate to in countries around the world.

They fear an America in which freedom of the press is allowed to flourish anywhere outside of the cool-blue studios of Fox “News” Channel in Donald J. Trump’s home turf.

The patriotic nationalists are fine with freedom of the press as long as the press is Fox News.

The white-right nationalists fear an America in which people are allowed to vigorously exercise their right to protest — unless the protest is against abortion and a woman’s right to let her conscience be her guide.

The Jingoistic, Sword-Rattling, Might-Makes-Right nationalists and the leaders they worship want a United States military that is the greatest in the world and they wholeheartedly support our brave troops — especially at sporting events.

Just don’t expect them or their sons and daughters to put their lives on the line for liberty and justice for anybody.

In short, the mostly white, supposedly patriotic America-first nationalists are too scared of genuine freedom and liberty to allow it to naturally bloom into a true democracy.

The only thing they don’t fear (which in Christian language means revere) is the God they see as having created America to be exceptional.


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Federal prosecutors keep trying and failing to make cases against Christian and humanitarian people and organizations who provide food, water or humanitarian aid to immigrants…..

Recently in Texas, a resident of a small town was arrested and charged for taking a dying immigrant to the local hospital. Such horror stories keep coming.

This is a story about just one such case from Tuesday as reported in TheHill.com:

    An activist charged with illegally offering food and medical assistance to migrants suspected of illegally crossing the southern border had his trial end Tuesday in a hung jury.

    NBC News reported Tuesday that Scott Warren, who was charged in late 2018, thanked supporters of his legal defense outside a courthouse in Tucson, Ariz., following the announcement of the jury’s inability to reach a decision.

    “Today it remains as necessary as ever for local residents and humanitarian aid volunteers to stand in solidarity with migrants and refugees, and we must also stand for our families, friends and neighbors in the very land itself most threatened by the militarization of our borderland communities,” Warren said, according to NBC.

    A spokesperson for the Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment as to whether the Trump administration would seek to retry the case.

    Warren faced up to 20 years in prison for what he said was providing food, water and lodging to migrants who were in medical distress.

    Prosecutors, meanwhile, contended that those aided by Warren were not in distress and that instead Warren conspired to provide them with safe housing and help them evade U.S. authorities.

    No More Deaths, an organization seeking to address humanitarian concerns along the U.S.-Mexico border and with the Trump administration’s immigration policy, tweeted Tuesday that Warren’s court victory was an example of Arizonans “standing their ground for justice and kindness.”

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It’s time for us to support our troops again.

Down on the California-Mexico border, scores of our brave American military troops are hard at work during the month of June painting a one-mile section of President Trump’s wall.

Sadly, these military heroes — not to mention the president — are given scant attention and credit for the commander-in-chief’s beautification project.

Think about it. A one-mile section of the small but perhaps important section of a 30-foot wall that Trump has erected requires a lot of military manpower.

It’s tough duty and somebody’s got to do it.

But, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the expense in taxpayer dollars for the paint and the show of United States military strength is worth the money.

Here is a quote from a recent article in military.com:

“The Department of Homeland Security said the primary purpose of the paint job is ‘to improve the aesthetic appearance of the wall’ but noted that the new color could make it easier to spot migrants trying to blend in against the fence.”

It could maybe do that, but that’s not all.

“The government also says a painted fence could make it harder for immigrants to scale, likely because the new coat made it more slippery.

“The government made that determination after Customs and Border Protection earlier painted sections of barrier in Arizona. Some sections there were painted bright white.”

We now have 2,100 active-duty Marines and Army troops on the border, along with almost 1,000 National Guard members sent there by governors around the country.

Because the apprehension of immigrants crossing the border illegals is a domestic job for Customs and Border Protection agents — and not a job for military troops trained to kill hostile enemies in war zones — our troops are helping the agents to spot illegal immigrants.

So don’t be thinking this paint job is a complete and total waste of your tax dollars or our military might. Our troops are spotting for law enforcement when not painting and transporting more paint to the beautification front.

People, it is time to pull out those old Support Our Troops stickers that proliferated on American vehicles during the Iraq invasion in the Bush-Cheney era.

Please, let’s keep our brave men and women involved in the President Trump’s beautification project — and their families back home — in our thoughts and prayers.*

*But seriously, read the whole article from military.com here.

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Sixty-one percent of Americans have seen at least one “Harry Potter” film. Given that just 45% of us [Millennials] — and a barely higher 50% of American Christians — can name all four Gospels, it’s no stretch to say that Gryffindo and Slytherin… are better known than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”

— TARA ISABELLA BURTON, PhD, millennial Christian scholar

Is the Harry Potter series an entire theology? (Photo by Lozikiki/Creative Commons)

Imagine that Christianity has finally been declared dead due to lack of believers.

Imagine that most churches and cathedrals have become Harry Potter Centers, where “Potters” go for fellowship and study.

Tall-steeple Christian sanctuaries have become museums. Copies of Bibles, which the people known as Christians used to study and live by, are displayed as relics of yesteryear.

In the future, these Potters who worship at the altar of Harry will drop off their little Potters every day for two weeks in June — for Vacation Potter School.

The deification of J.K. Rowling’s answer to Jesus will be complete. Dress up in your finest costumes and come worship with us any Saturday, Potters. No baptism required.

The irony of Potter Theology is, clergy draw on the books for sermons every Sunday.

Now, you may say I’m a wildly imaginative dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

Tara Isabella Burton, a millennial who holds a PhD in theology from Oxford, makes a strong case in the online Religion News Service that millennials and Gen Zs use the Harry Potter books as sacred texts.

Burton notes that “Harry Potter” isn’t the first 20th-century cultural property to have doubled as a quasi-religion:

    “As early as the 1970s, ‘Star Trek’ — among the first ‘fandoms’ in history — offered its devoted fans a vision of morality and the human condition rooted in the humanist, positivist secularism of its creator, Gene Roddenberry.

    “Likewise, in the 1990s hundreds of thousands of nones identified themselves as Jedi, the priestly class of space samurai in the ‘Star Wars; movies, on national censuses in the U.K., Wales and Australia.”

The 1990s in America — I remember them well. Stars Wars was all the rage, but so was the church in America.

In the wake of the Christian-friendly Reagan years, many Christians even in mainline churches felt there was a new Reformation sweeping the God-blessed USA. One only had to look at all those pious people highlighting their Bibles in the popular megachurches.

It was by no means only conservative Christianity. The progressive brand was on the rise as well; Jim Wallis and his Sojourners magazine and bestselling books were all the rage.

In the future, churches will be “Potter Centers.”

Christianity in America ain’t dead yet, even if it’s been terribly Balkanized — and bastardized by a president who undoubtedly could not name even one of the four Gospels. (See my definition of Trumpianity here.)

But the future of Christianity is looking like something we can’t imagine. The enormous irony being that Rowling’s books are like theological magic dust for preachers and priests: they will be preaching sermons based on Harry Potter characters and stories this Sunday and every Sunday till our Lord sets things right. (As we aging true believers in the traditional God believe.)

Read TARA ISABELLA BURTON’s take on where the worship of Potter is headed, here, and let me know what you think.

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“Let us go through the open door” and stand without embarrassment with the resurrected Christ, John Updike wrote in his gorgeous Easter poem.

The late John Updike’s famous poem “Seven Stanzas at Easter” gets right to the heart of his belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ in the first few striking lines:

    Make no mistake: if he rose at all

    It was as His body;

    If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,

    The amino acids rekindle,

    The Church will fall.

Wow. Take that, you liberal, sophisticated churchy globs of molecule-and-amino-acids who want to take the reality out of the empty tomb.

Before I explore the great Easter poem further, I want to share some of Updike’s background with readers who may vaguely know the name John Updike, but know nothing about his amazing body of work.

I mentioned in yesterday’s posting about Karl Barth that Updike, the sophisticated, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for literature, was among Barth’s greatest admirers.

Known for some of his novels that explored sex in famously raw and graphic but non-gratuitous ways, Updike, who died in 2009 at age 76, was a devout Christian and regular churchgoer, Episcopalian Div. He wrote three great American novels about a regular American guy known (and lost soul) named Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. Rabbit was a high school basketball star who peaked early and went downhill in life fast.

Updike wrote three popular novels about a lost soul, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, who peaked in high school as a hoops star and went downhill fast. We’ve all known those guys.

The influence of Karl Barth’s Christian theology is obvious in all 61 of Updike’s books, which included novels, short stories, poetry, essays and criticism, all of it sharply eloquent. Updike’s enthusiasms included golf (a sport he played and wrote eloquently about), literature, God, the church and Karl Barth and Barth’s theology, not necessarily in that order.

His “Seven Stanzas at Easter” challenges the church and its believers to let go of any shame or embarrassment we have about Christianity’s defining event.

Own your faith or take a nice Sunday hike, the poem says.

Updike suggests that if we reduce the whole thing to a metaphor or analogy and “sidestep the transcendence,” we mock God. The many implications of that are obvious, the fall of the church being one (and it’s falling fast).

And anyway, if we don’t believe what we purport to believe, why are we wasting so much of our limited lifetime practicing dreary old worn-out rituals and rites?

Why do we even pray in the name of a Jesus Christ who (seriously?) came back from the dead in an event that defies the correctives to miracles and superstitions and primitive thinking that we embraced with the Enlightenment and science so long time ago?

We could be playing golf on Sundays or drinking Bloody Marys at Brunch or taking our kids to soccer games on Sunday mornings, in Paul’s words, eating, drinking and being merry.

All of which, you may have noticed, we increasingly do, while we proclaim to be Christian because we are baptized and because we do church every Christmas and Easter, faithfully.

Updike, hardly one to buy into mindless, superstitious thought, challenged Christians with his typically gorgeous words to “walk through the open door” of the tomb and stand tall in the glowing light of church life with the resurrected Christ, without shame or embarrassment.

With these challenging words…

Make no mistake: if he rose at all

It was as His body;

If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,

The amino acids rekindle,

The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,

Each soft spring recurrent;

It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the

Eleven apostles;

It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes

The same valved heart

That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered

Out of enduring Might

New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,

Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded

Credulity of earlier ages:

Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,

Not a stone in a story,

But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of

Time will eclipse for each of us

The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,

Make it a real angel,

Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in

The dawn light, robed in real linen

Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,

Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed

By the miracle,

And crushed by remonstrance.

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On this day in 1962, Karl Barth — a Swiss theologian and preacher who famously resisted Hitler and the rise of the Nazism — was featured on the cover of TIME magazine.

That tells you everything you need to know about what an influential man of God that Barth was and will always be.

Lately I’ve been revisiting some of the Lenten and Easter sermons and other prolific writings of Barth. He churned out theology books by the volumes–his Dogmatics was an astounding 6 million words!

But I had forgotten what a heart he had for the poor and vulnerable, like the inmates he routinely preached and ministered to at the prison in his hometown Basel, Switzerland.

In fact, one of his many books, Deliverance to the Captives, contains 17 of his Sunday sermons to prisoners. It was endorsed by one of his greatest American admirers, the novelist and all-around man of Letters John Updike.*

Barth, incidentally, was a lifelong socialist. Even as a young parish minister he was known as the “Red Pastor” of Safenwil (Switzerland).

But I hasten to add that even though he regarded Jesus and the gospel as inherently political (as do I), he had no truck with those who wanted to reduce the gospel and theology to political ideology (same here).

Barth (like me) was all for government assistance, but believed that, at the end of the day, it was the duty of Christians and the church to … well … be the church, to be Christians … and not abdicate Christian duty to government with all its cold bureaucracy.

He wrote:

    “Christ was born into poverty in the stable at Bethlehem, and He died in extreme poverty, nailed naked to the Cross.

    “He is, then, the companion, not of the rich men of this world, but of the poor of this world. For that reason He called the poor blessed, and not the rich.

    “For that reason He is here and now always to be found in the company of the hungry, the homeless, the naked, the sick, the prisoners.”

Among the many religious leaders of many denominations he met, Karl Barth met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who admired him (as did the great sophisticate and novelist John Updike).

God only knows how Barth–who made a much ballyhooed trip to America where he met, among other people, Dr. King and Billy Graham (whose preaching style turned him off) would feel about the ways the hungry, homeless, naked, sick and imprisoned are detested and scapegoated for all of America’s woes today.

Barth was on his extended American tour when TIME interviewed him for the cover story. He was shocked at the awful conditions in American jails and prisons and the treatment of the have-nots in general.

Mind you, all in all, Barth loved and admired America. But his pointed criticisms of her obviously did not sit well with everybody. In a letter to a friend, the great wit and Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor cracked:

“I distrust folks who have ugly things to say about Karl Barth. I like old Barth. He throws the furniture around.”

I leave you with what this great man of God said about the Church with the question: how is your church doing in this regard?

    “The Church is witness of the fact that the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.

    “And this implies that … the Church must concentrate first on the lower and lowest levels of human society. The poor, the socially and economically weak and threatened, will always be the object of its primary and particular concern.”

Come back to the blog tomorrow, Easter Sunday, for something fascinating that the late Mr. Updike — a “man of the mind” if ever there was one — had to say about the bodily resurrection.

Karl Barth: He wrote volumes upon more volumes of great theology (6 million words) –and yet was a down-home preacher and pastor who loved the poor and vulnerable that Jesus loved.

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