The Truth about Hateful Rhetoric and Violence

HateSpeechNoHateSpeech

Following two mass shootings over this last weekend, social media is raging with denunciations of hateful rhetoric, and President Trump is the target.  So let’s talk about hateful rhetoric.

We all know Trump’s rhetoric against illegal immigration, and we remember those infamous words about Mexico during the campaign, “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re [their*] rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Someone who might be a white supremacist goes on a killing spree in El Paso, and as the USA Today reported, “[i]nvestigators are reviewing writings shared online in connection with a possible racist motive in the assault, the officials said. El Paso police are investigating the shootings as a possible hate crime.”  And so, he may be a white supremacist, we have no idea if he has any interest in Trump, but we’ll find out.  He’s still alive, and he has a manifesto published.

Following this tragedy, most of the major Democratic Pres. candidates were as quick to blame Trump as to express their sorrow.  Buchanan with TAC covered all of these responses.  The one that stood out most to me was the very first one, from Beto O’Rourke:

Trump “is a racist and he stokes racism in this country…and it leads to violence. …We have a president with white nationalist views in the United States today.” He called Trump’s language about Mexican immigrants “reminiscent of something you might hear in the Third Reich.”

Several others followed suit, and naturally, internet land was raging with similar rhetoric.

So what about that other shooting?  Toledo?  No, Mr. President.  It was Dayton, Ohio.  This time, the shooter described himself as a “pro Satan leftist” who supports Elizabeth Warren.  As of now, we have no idea what his motivation was for the shooting.  He’s dead, so the police can’t interrogate him, and they have not found any kind of “manifesto” so far.

 

The Consequences of Hate

Buchanan’s TAC article explained how hateful rhetoric could backfire on the DNC candidates.

“Yet blaming the massacre in El Paso on the rhetoric of Donald Trump is a charge that could come back to bite his attackers. Neither the right nor left has a monopoly on political extremism or violence. And the hate-filled rhetoric of the left last weekend exceeds anything that’s been used by Trump.”

A pretty good point, but I think Buchanan didn’t consider their plan B, the “Guns” argument as shown in my Flow Chart earlier.  Don’t underestimate the ability of neoliberals to spin, nor the gullibility of their rank-in-file.  So far, most of the corporate media has kept their heads on straight.  They probably don’t want another “Covington” embarrassment.  We’ll see, however, if that continues as hateful rhetoric towards the President escalates.

What’s far worse is the continued violence.  MLK once said “A riot is the language of the unheard.”  He said this while repeatedly and consistently denouncing violence.  Hence, he did not advocate violence, but acknowledged what was driving it.  In a modern context of lone-wolf white male killers, I could reword this as “A mass shooting is the language of the unheard”.  Blacks are an oppressed community.  Lone white males are unheard individuals, socially isolated.  As more young people connect to the internet, rather than to their neighbors, people are dehumanized, and emotional outrage is amplified.  Spewing hatred towards Trump does just as much to fuel this as white supremacy!

Unlike many religious leaders, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, resisted the temptation to get impeded in partisan and ideological interests.  He looked to his moral and spiritual compass, the Christian Orthodox faith, and got to the root of the problem:

His All-Holiness strongly condemns every act of hatred –  racial, religious or social, and also any form of violence and fundamentalism, wherever they come from. Hate and violence, he points out, cause a great deal of pain and fear, and are sometimes the cause of further acts of violence in the form of revenge. In the face of this soaring, dangerous and bloody phenomenon, he notes, every good-natured person must display strong spiritual resistance. He calls on everyone to work, through dialogue and in a spirit of mutual respect, to preserve the good of peaceful coexistence and cooperation, against practices that reinforce fear and the division of society.**

Like Dr. King, the EP knows that hate begets hate; violence begets violence.  His All Holiness, in calling for “mutual respect” and “peaceful coexistence and cooperation”, is stating in more specific detail what Dr. King already stated a half century ago:

“Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

 

Note(s):

*This quote is from a speech, not a transcript, so we don’t know if Trump was saying “they’re” or “their”, but it could be an important distinction. Was he saying that Mexican immigrants who come ARE rapists “they’re rapists”, or is he saying that Mexico is sending their (possessive) rapists?

** As the EP’s comments were originally in his native tongue, the above is a paraphrased summary of the content from the Greek Orthodox Church of America.

Advertisements

Can Christians “Build That Wall” in Good Conscience?

Leonine Wall

Yes we can!  Here is why.

What would Jesus do?

Naturally, Christians should start with the Gospels when trying to answer questions such as these.  There are plenty of verses one might cite about helping the poor, loving thy neighbor, whatsoever you do to the least of these, ye do unto me, etc.  Regarding that last one, it’s even inspired comics of Jesus being deported by ICE.  However, nothing in the gospel addresses anything close to situation at the US/Mexican border.  Jesus never dealt with massive immigration, thousands upon thousands, from a different country into Judea.  Jesus sent His apostles to spread the word, and they went to nations as far as they could reach.  St. Thomas even made it to India!  But they went in small numbers; they did not immigrate by the thousands.  Hence, the Gospels don’t give us a clear answer to this question.

The Early Church

As the Church was established by Christ and his apostles, we can look back to the earlier church for guidance, as they were closer to Christ, and had not yet fallen into schism and heresy.  “Civilization” as a concept was Greco-Roman, and pagan before it was Christian.  As Rome was Christianized, so was civilization.  What was outside of Christian Rome was barbarian.  Some of the “barbarians” actually could be considered civilized, such as the Persians.  Some were not particularly dangerous, such as the Slavs.  Others were terrifying, such as my Germanic ancestors.

So to paint a picture – several centuries AD, you have a now fragile Christian Roman Empire, divided in half East and West.  The West is centered around Rome, and the East around Constantinople (modern day “Istanbul” in Turkey).  This Roman empire is made up of olive-skinned Mediterraneans, brown skinned Semitics in Arabia, darker skinned, some black Africans.  Some speak Latin, some Aramaic, some Copt (hence, the Coptic Church centered in Egypt).  These ethnically diverse, well educated Christians, heirs of an empire built by pagan conquerors, now faced a terrifying threat from pale skinned Germanic pagans who worshipped gods with names like “Thor” and believed they would get to Valhalla if they were brave and merciless to anyone who stood in their way.

We white people used to be barbarians!  We were brutes!

So did the civilized Christians turn the other cheek?  Did they interpret Jesus’s teaching to mean that they should build bridges, not walls?  Of course not!  And as a modern day Anglo-Christian*, I’m glad they did not.  My barbaric ancestors would have slaughtered every last one of them!

They built walls!  They built towers!  They built anything that could protect them from the hoard!  From the time Christianity was legalized in Rome, the Christians relied on walls that were already there, and built many more to protect themselves from barbarians.  Constantine legalized Christianity (though paganism was still allowed through his reign) and built the “new Rome”, Constantinople.  Rather than “building bridges” to the barbarians who would slaughter the innocents, they built walls.

Pope Leo IV built the Leonine wall around the Vatican, that stands to this day, to protect the church from Islamic invaders.

The Irish Christians built round towers to serveIrish Round Tower

both as belfry, and as security for when the Vikings came.  (See image to the right)

This did not mean that they were cutting themselves off from the barbarians.  They were only protecting themselves.  There’s nothing just, or compassionate, about letting your people get invaded.  But Christians did CHOOSE to risk their lives to bring the faith to the barbarians.  But in no cases, did the Christian leaders subject their own people to the slaughter.  To do so would be to fail in their most basic duty.

 

So what about those migrants?  Are they barbarians?

Migrant Caravan

The caravans of Hondurans and Guatemalans are not as clearly vicious as my Germanic ancestors, clearly.  They are a mixed group.  Some of them peacefully approach our ports of entry, in large numbers, to request asylum.  Some of them sneak across the border any way they can, and then request asylum when they find a border agent.  And some of them, like the Germanics, storm the border fences, attacking border agents trying to force their way in like Visigoths trying to sack Rome.  Some have also approached the border demanding a payoff, like barbarians demanding tribute so that they won’t sack the city.

Not all barbarians are brutes, but the term “barbarian” pretty accurately describes these caravans.  The ancient Greeks saw barbarians as primitive people lacking culture and lacking organized polity; the Romans would also apply the lack of “rule of law” to the definition of “barbarian”.  Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador – these are countries with weak, unstable governments, no real sense of civic duty, where gangs rule and might makes right.  However, as they are not like the organized Germanic barbarians that plagued ancient and early Medieval Christianity, many of them are basically good people who simply lack civilization.  The term “barbarian” is not meant to dehumanize them, demonize them, or even make them seem like the enemy.  It is simply an acknowledgement that they are uncivilized, and would need to become civilized to be suitable for America.

So how to Christians respond?

Let’s start by learning from the mistakes of the recent past.  Orthodox Christianity, over the last two decades, has resurged in political power thanks to successful independence efforts against centuries old Islamic rulers.  Greece won its independence, along with the Slavic peoples.  Consequently, some of the Islamic peoples, who seem to be slipping into barbarism**, have used more deceptive means of retaking some of their former possessions.  When Yugoslavia was under a communist Croat leader, Marshall Tito, the majority Islamic Albanians immigrated in hoards to the historic Serbian province of Kosovo.  Once there were enough of them, they claimed it was theirs, launched vicious terrorist attacks against the Serbian people, causing Serbia to respond in kind.  Serbia retaliation was merciless, no doubt, and the Serbs often failed to distinguish the innocent from the guilty.  The Albanians then pleaded with the “international community”, convinced western powers to back their side, and ultimately took Kosovo, and declared it an independent Republic.  Kosovo is now a ripe recruiting ground of Islamist terrorism in Europe.

When the Turks ruled Greece, they also ruled Cypress.  A portion of Turks settled in Cypress during the Turkish occupation, but the ethnic Greeks remained as the majority.  When Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike agreed that it was time to declare their independent from the British Empire in 1960, the plan was for them to have an independent Republic.  While there was talk of Greece taking over, it never happened.  The Turks, however, annexed part of the island, and established the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cypress”, which no country in the world recognizes except for?  You guessed it!  Turkey!

So, there are two lessons here for us.  First, don’t let large numbers of people of the same ethnic group overwhelm us.  And second, spare the innocent among them as much as possible.  Be merciful, but be prudent.  There is nothing un-Christian about a government defending its own citizens, but purposefully subjecting innocent people to suffering or death is certainly un-Christian.

Christian Obligation to the Peaceful Migrants

So let’s start with the peaceful, law abiding migrants.  As a nation, immigrating here is a privilege, not a right.  As Christians, we should encourage our government to take reasonable steps to help those in need.  But while the Gospel does compel a Christian to go the extra mile, to give also our cloak, etc. this does not translate to giving away our country.  Nothing in scripture commands our governments to take from their own people by force and give to others.  Until these last few decades, it was never questioned by anyone, anywhere, that a government exists primarily to govern its own people.  Crazy huh?!

So, our government needs to balance taking in refugees as they can with protecting American interests.  They need to ensure that they don’t take in so many that the migrants can’t adapt and assimilate, and learn the basics of civilization.  So our government should take in some peaceful migrants, but is not morally obligated to take in every last one.  Remember, they are fleeing Honduras, Guatemala, etc.  They are not fleeing Mexico.  As they are currently in Mexico, they are away from immediate danger.

To the Border Jumpers

Open border advocates have used a series of absurd arguments to justify letting people just barge on into our country, and get released into the public without ever being vetted.  They say things like “it’s not illegal to enter a country requesting asylum”.  They might have a point if they were fleeing Mexico, but as explained above, that is not the case.  They’ve already escaped immediate danger, so that legal principle no longer applies.

Those who cross our border illegally are invading our country, even if they mean no harm.  Even if they are unarmed, have no intention of stealing from anyone, etc.  If a homeless man climbs through my window and takes a nap on my couch, he has invaded my home.  That he harms neither me, my family, nor my property doesn’t change the fact that he invaded my home.

As Christians, we look to our civil authorities to protect us, as Romans 13 explains.  It is at this point that open borders advocates make the even more absurd argument that the Nazis used that argument too!  Do you remember how the Jews kept sneaking INTO Germany, requesting asylum?  Neither do I.  The Nazi comparison is ridiculous and they know it!  We are not committing genocide!  There are no crematoriums!  People of a certain ethnicity are not being rounded up and put into concentration camps.  People who sneak into our country illegally are being put into detention centers because they have requested asylum using suspiciously similar stories, knowing that it can get tied up in courts for years, and they can just disappear into the population long before their court date and never show up.

This is the reality, and we do not have a Christian obligation to help people LIE to our government who want to sneak into our country illegally.

The Violent Ones

There are actually some people defending those migrants who have attacked our border agents!  I don’t think I need to explain why our Christian faith does not compel us to lay down our defenses and be overrun by modern day Visigoths.  But I will point out that some of them are indeed violent, and that is why our government has a responsibility to vet them.  Don’t tell me that Christian compassion requires us to put American people in danger.  There’s nothing compassionate about that!  If you choose to risk your life, for example, to go to Somalia and feed the hungry, God bless you!  But you are not Christian if you take by force your fellow man and drop him in Somalia!

As a Christian, you are doing the Lord’s work if you risk your life to help others.  You are not doing the Lord’s work if you risk other peoples’ lives, even to help others.

Those Little Ones

When Obama was President, he often made the case for the Dream Act by saying that children shouldn’t be punished for the decisions of their parents.  Now we watch today’s Dems contradict Obama by saying the adults are innocent too, as they decry separating children from their criminal parents.  But yes, crossing the border illegally is a crime, and therefore the parents are criminals.  When you commit a crime with you child present, typically, you lose your child.  That’s not inhumane; it’s civilized.

Sadly, those who sneak across our borders use these children as human shields.  They come with children thinking they’re less likely to be deported.  Often, the adults aren’t even the parents.  They tell border agents “suspiciously similar stories” as CNN’s Fareed Zakaria has explained, and tie it up in courts as they disappear into the populace.  Detention is an unfortunate but necessary means to temporarily protect these children until better arrangements can be made.

But whatever your views on border security may be, I would hope that ALL civilized people, especially Christians, can agree that these children should have the provisions they need, including clean clothes, food, water, and caregivers.  Rod Dreher made this case very effectively in his TAC column a few weeks ago.

Christians who try to force open borders

I can’t see into the soul of every Christian who is claiming we have a Christian obligation to let them all in without question and just give them a court date and hope they show up.  I hope that they at least mean well and just are poorly informed.  But human beings are capable of all manner or wickedness, and Christians are no exception.  We are all (yes, me too) guilty of manipulating the teachings of our faith to push some kind of personal agenda.  Aware of this, I’ve become more and more reluctant to say with any certainty that something is “God’s will”, for too often, it can be my own will.

I won’t tell you what you, as a Christian, must believe on border issues unless it is absolutely without a doubt crystal clear.  And the one thing I can say with that much confidence is that if we have no compassion for the children in those detention camps, if we use them to push our own political agenda, whether to force open the borders, or to deter border jumpers, we do so unto Christ.  I’m guilty of this too.  I won’t deny that many times, those evil thoughts have gone through my head – Well maybe their parents will think twice before barging into our country!  But those who deny help to these children because they want to exploit their plight to force the closure of these facilities are no better.

Christ never gave us a border policy in the Gospels, and the early Christians saw no contradiction between their faith and protecting their own borders.  So unless the early Church was wrong AND Jesus never mentioned it, then our faith does not command us to “build bridges” instead of “building walls”.  Those few liberal Christians who have worked up the courage to form “love caravans” and actually meet the migrants with food, water, etc. are commendable.  But those who simply use the border crisis to make their fellow Christians with the MAGA hats feel unwelcome are not doing the Lord’s work.

Yes, Christians can build walls, and yes, governments have not only a right but a responsibility to first and foremost protect their own citizens.

 

Note(s):

*Formerly Anglican, now Eastern Orthodox as I discussed in my last post

**To keep this in perspective, there have been times in history when Islam has been remarkably civilized, and put the Christian world to shame

 

Embracing Orthodoxy For Good This Time

OrthodoxJesus

As a high church, very devout, but not particularly conservative Christian, I’ve wavered back and forth between Anglicanism and Orthodoxy.  The Anglo-Catholic approach was long how I viewed Anglicanism.  The Church in England goes all the way back to Joseph of Arimathea; the Archbishopric of Canterbury was established by St. Augustine of Canterbury (not to be confused with St. Augustine of Hippo).  I embraced all seven sacraments with scarcely any difference with the Roman Catholics.  I saw the Pope as the Bishop of Rome and hoped for some kind of Anglo-Roman reconciliation, and I saw the Eastern Orthodoxy Church as our exotic brothers to the east.

I spent a year in London, and long story short, it was miserable!  But in my darkest hour, I met a group of Greeks who were very kind to me.  There were some others too, but as Orthodoxy was, in my view at the time, acceptable theologically, I became more curious about.  When I returned to the US, I wanted to put my bad experiences far behind me, and so I visited a Greek Orthodox Church.  I LOVED the worship!  The chanting was not only beautiful, but transcendent.  Particularly during the Eucharist, the chanting was hypnotic.  I’ve long been more of a thinking Christian than a feeling Christian, but in the Orthodox Church, I felt our connection to Christ and His Apostles.

Leaving Anglicanism the first time

While I was not renouncing Anglican theology, Anglo-Catholics had long been a loud minority in the communion, and while I enjoyed the theological warfare for a while, I was tired.  Between that and my new found love of Orthodoxy, I decided to embrace it.  On some level, I knew the truth, but I was compartmentalizing it.  When I was confirmed Episcopalian, somehow, I felt empty.  The theology of it made sense, but something was missing.

When I learned about Orthodoxy, something was right before my eyes.  As a catechumen, I regularly approached the chalice during communion and asked, “Father, may I kiss the chalice?”  “You may.” And my lips touched very close to something.  Then the day came, and I was chrismated.  As a baptized Christian, I did not need to be re-baptized*  I then received my first communion.  I was at peace.  I’m normally an over thinker, analyzing every sermon, every chant, questioning it, sometimes arguing with it in my own mind, but I was as a child when I received communion.  My first thought?  “Tastes like English Trifle”

Though there were moments when I knew that Anglicanism is heterodox, intellectually, I denied it.  I regarded the Anglican Communion as the long lost half brother of Orthodoxy.  I thought only culture and geography kept us apart.  I was wrong, and I knew so in my heart.

Matrimony, And My Great Sin

When I had found the true church, I also wanted to find love.  I figured I’d probably marry some Greek girl.  I did briefly date a member of the church, but it didn’t go anywhere.  I dated around a bit, and eventually met the woman I love.  She is a Christian, and pretty solid, but mainline Protestant.  She’s a Methodist.  She did agree to be married in the Greek Orthodox Church, but had/has no interest in converting.  Our priest was a young man full of optimism and easy to like.  So my wife was certainly comfortable with him officiating the wedding.

After we were wed, we continued going to separate churches.  We were living in her apartment, and had no children, so it wasn’t a big deal.  When we planned to move to Chattanooga, we knew we would also some day have a baby.  With that I mind, I wanted to find a way for us to go to the same church.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

It was my suggestion, therefore, that we compromise on an Episcopal Church.  They’re sacramental, I figured.  They maintain the Apostolic Succession, so that’s good enough for me.  And for my wife, the liturgy was a little more high church than her Methodist comfort zone, but not too exotic.  It was good enough for her too.  So, we tried a few and found the most Anglo-Catholic parish we could find.

I could write several paragraphs now on everything I see wrong with the Episcopal Church, but doing so would be an exercise in vanity, and the bitterness I feel is something I need to work past.  So I’ll just sum it up in one sentence.  The Episcopal Church has undermined the holy Gospel with many worldly causes, which they have convinced themselves are the will of Christ, but it is their own will they follow.

Orthodoxy, All the Way

I admit, that during my previous experience with Orthodoxy, I was not fully committed.  I was very lax on the fasting, I never gave a proper confession.  And on this I would add, to any Orthodox Churches who do not regularly practice the holy sacrament of confession, you should.  Not only during Lent, but regularly throughout the year.  Emphasize the importance of coming truly humbled, simply stating your sins, and not explaining them or justifying them.  Then, the confessor should not judge or question.  Maybe, maybe offer a piece of advice if they are struggling with something.  But if the confession is humble, then as the father embraced the prodigal son, and as Christ calls on us to be quick to forgive, offer absolution.

When I finally listened to the voice of God calling me to return, I looked up two Orthodox Churches in Chattanooga.  One was the Annunciation Greek Orthodoxy, and the other was called St. Tikhon.  I contacted the Greek Orthodox priest by email, but didn’t receive a response.  He may not have received it, but while I was planning to follow up somehow in the back of my mind, I decided to see what St. Tikhon was about.  I had heard they were of the “Orthodox Church of America”.  The night before, I had a dream about this place.  It was in a small room, with wooden chairs making a square around the middle.  The walls were white and lacking decoration, and the priest was in the middle, talking to us like in a seminar.  This was the dream.

When I visited the first time, I pulled up to a house!  Is this the right place?!  I hope this isn’t just where the priest lives.  It was the right place.  On the outside, it just looks like a one story house, with a church sign in the front.  But then I went inside.

It is amazing what they have done with this house!  There were icons everywhere, a beautiful sanctuary, and a bold blue color scheme.  There were indeed wooden chairs, in a square, but leading up to the sanctuary.  I sat in one of the chairs, and next to me was a nice, older lady with a veil**  She is S. Korean, and has been Orthodox for about half her life span.

It Took Less Than A Week

I had no intention of taking communion on my first time back in six years.  I knew that I had fallen into heresy, and would need to make amends first.  When I asked one of the parishioners about this, he responded, “Of course, Fr would want to hear a confession first.” And he explained to me not to worry about what to do during communion.  Everyone is in different places in the Church, and those who are taking communion simply approach one at a time.  Nobody notices who doesn’t take communion***  The nice Korean lady I mentioned gave me a piece of bread, which all are welcome to.  The bread you’ll see in the bowl is not the communion, but symbolizes Jesus feeding the multitudes, and anyone who visits is certainly welcome to it.  The first time I had seen this, when I visited that Greek Orthodox Church in Jacksonville, I was confused.  But this time, I knew exactly what it was, and I knew that I was returning home.

This OCA church follows basically the same liturgy as the Greek Orthodox Church, but ironically, we are actually more eastern in our worship style.  Many Greek Orthodox Churches in America look very similar to Catholic Churches, in that they have pews, and kneelers****  I had heard that more traditional Orthodox Churches do not have pews, as the worship is a full experience of the mind, body, and spirit.  When we gesticulate, we often cross all the way down to our feet.  It’s still a little uncomfortable for me (physically that is) but I’m starting to get used to it.

When I spoke to the priest after the mass, we talked about what I would need to do to be in communion again.  Of course, it would be my first confession.  Only once had I attempted confession before, at the Greek Orthodox Church.  The priest there was less formal about confession, and I was not prepared.  While I would recommend that he talked to all of his flock about the proper way to confess, it is still my fault that I was not truly penitent, and came to him as though I were going to go through some sort of ritual with my mouth and receive absolution, without genuine penitence in my heart.

Not this time.  My new priest recommended that I spend the week writing down all of the things I wanted to confess.  He also gave me something concise to read on the subject, a pamphlet on confession by Jim Forest.  I dug deep, and even dug up sins from when I was 10 years old.  One of my sinful patterns is judgment.  I’m knowledgeable of history and theology, am quick to say I know what’s right, and to hold it over other people’s heads.  Many of us who cling to religion are guilty of this.  The sacrament of confession may be the greatest check on this.  When we dig deep into the darkest corners of our souls, and are completely honest, open, and humble, we see what we have done, and that can lead to our judgement, being replaced with compassion.

Confession and Absolution

In my confession list, I listed everything from sins against God, sins against other people, and against myself.  I did include in this my fall into heresy, but in the original version I wrote, it included a few harsh words about the Episcopal Church.  However, I spoke to the priest that morning before my confession, and he tried to tell me (and I saw it and told him he could just go ahead and say it) that I was guilty of wanting to point my finger at them, rather than to look inside myself.  He then reminded me of what Jesus said that I can’t remove the thorn from my brother’s eye when I have a beam in my own.  I’ve quoted that very same verse in arguments with Episcopalians!  It looks like we both have beams!

So, when I was reading my confession, I left out some of the words and simply asked for forgiveness for falling into heresy.

I was finally ready for communion, and I took my first communion in six years, this morning.  I’m now back in communion, but I shouldn’t get comfortable.  This is only the beginning of a new spiritual journey.  Because I like the Greek culture, and was originally Greek Orthodoxy, I’m sure I’ll visit Annunciation at some point.  But I love what I see at this OCA, and I want to be a part of it!

Orthodoxy is for everyone, but we all have free will.  Only those who are open to it will embrace it, and those who embrace can easily fall into sin or heresy.  In Orthodoxy, nobody is infallible, and so even our most revered patriarchs and saints have fallen many times, and have repented.  If you find the truth, don’t think for a moment that you can finally rest.  It’s only the beginning of a new journey.

 

Note(s):

*Different Orthodox Churches do not agree on this, but my current priest has informed me that in the early days, even Arians who had been baptized as such, were recognized as having received a Trinitarian baptism, and therefore only needed to be chrismated.

**This is not to be confused with the Islamic veil which covers the face.  In Christian Orthodoxy, the veil is simply a head scarf, and it loosely goes over the hair, not covering every strand.

***Those who come from protestant traditions need not be intimidated if you plan to visit an Orthodox Church.  I know that in most Protestant Churches, people approach in a very orderly way one pew at a time, and it can be a little awkward if you’re not taking communion.  But in Orthodoxy, even the Orthodox sometimes do not take communion.  We have our reasons for only offering communion to those who are chrismated, but it is not our purpose to make you feel unwelcome.  You can simply observe and I think instead you’ll find it fascinating.  You’ll be able to simply watch how each of us approaches, and you’ll see the care that the priests and pastoral assistants put into the holy sacrament.

****There’s nothing wrong with this of course; I’m just making a comparison.

El Diablo is a Nevertrumper

El Diablo Nevertrump1

I can’t believe it took me two and a half years to think of this!  But seriously, when MSNBC, and CNN, and other corporate media outlets bring on war criminals from the Bush era to lament the rise of Trump, this is what they look like!

I’m thinking of doing a short fictional work on here – El Diablo 2020!  We’ll see if I find the time, but essentially, the plot is that nevertrumper El Diablo runs as a Democrat to be the first Otherkin President, and to defeat Trump, which of course is the most important thing of all.  #anybodybuttrump  He’s Satan trapped in a man’s body, and thinks of himself as LGBTQ+ because of the whole “Otherkin” thing.

Political Correctness of the Right

IlhanOmarAtCair

Over the last half decade, I’ve found myself sympathizing more with the right.*  One of the main reasons for this is that many of my classically liberal principles (freedom of speech, religion, thought, expression, etc.) have been championed by the political right, while the left has become increasingly hostile to these core liberal principles.  However, while the right seems to be a better guardian of these principles, I’ve always know that there is one big fat asterisk next to those principles in their ideological platform.  Next to that asterisk, you’ll find “except for Muslims!”  This is also coupled with a double-standard when it comes to political opponents.

Since Trump’s rise, this hypocrisy hasn’t been more evident than with the recent vitriol directed at Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Except for Muslims

I saw this ugly side of the right plenty of times during the Obama era, but with the rise of Trumpian populism, being moderate on LGBT issues, pro-working class, pro-free speech, protective of religious freedom (asterisk!); I figured right-winged political correctness was on the back burner.  It has been.  But now they’re pulling that pot back to the front burner.

Omar gave a speech to CAIR in late March, stating that following the 9/11 attacks, all of Islam has been held accountable by society, and it has become socially acceptable to strip Muslims of basic civil liberties.  Her exact words that have earned her so much hatred were “some people did something…”** by which she explains that it was some Muslims, and consequently, all Muslims are being held accountable.  But that “something” was not the best choice of words, admittedly.  But that has been taken out of context to slander Omar and claim that she is trivializing the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks.  Memes are circulating showing Omar with her hijab smiling, and people fleeing for their lives from the falling towers in the background.  This is absolutely despicable!

You Reap What You Sow

Trump supporters don’t like it when they’re treated this way, and neither do I.  Trump’s words have often been taken out of context and twisted around.  Trump supporters have also been targeted by politically correct SJW’s who want to ruin peoples’ lives over poorly chosen words taken out of context.  Roseanne lost her show because she issued one bad tweet with reference to “Planet of the Apes” about a multi-racial woman who worked for Obama, who is partly African American.  At first glance, most people probably wouldn’t know that she is partly African American.  But the twitter mobs relentlessly pursued her, and ABC, like the cowards they are, cancelled her highly rated, pro-LGBT, pro-racial equality, sitcom.

A few months ago, the Catholic Covington high school boys were targeted by the SJW twitter mobs.  Some of them we wearing MAGA hats, and they had a difficult confrontation with a group of native Americans.  At first, they were accused of bullying these native Americans.  People were demanding they be expelled from school; they were being compared to 1950s segregationists; memes were circulating with one of the boys’ face calling it “punchable”; and then the truth came out.  The boys had actually been harassed for hours by a small group calling themselves the “Hebrew Israelites”, and they were subjected to racial and homophobic slurs.  The native Americans came along late in that confrontation to diffuse the situation by playing their drums and chanting.  It was an awkward situation for these teens, and some of their behavior deserves a reprimand.  But they did nothing to deserve the backlash they got.

Trump supporters hate it when this happens to them, and I’ll continue to defend the right of my dear deplorables to express their grievances in this free country, in the face of Antifa savagery, twitter mobs, doxing, deplatforming, etc.  Free speech is not “white privilege”; it is an American right!

Ilhan Omar’s Rights as an American Citizen

I know there are some who simply don’t see Muslims as Americans.  I hear comments like, “I don’t wish them any harm; I just want them to go back from where they came.”  However, many are natural born American citizens.  Others, like Omar, are naturalized American citizens.

Twice now Ilhan Omar’s words have been twisted around and taken out of context by Trump supporters who are rightly angry when this was done to Roseanne, to those Covington High School teens, and to Trump himself.  First, Ilhan Omar dared to question the influence that AIPAC has on American foreign policy.  Questioning AIPAC has been equated with “anti-Semitism”, because they represent the state of Israel, and if you question a lobbying group that represents the views of about half of Israel’s population, that apparently makes you an anti-Semite.  Omar’s hijab likely only adds to the stigma.  However, as old time conservative Pat Buchanan rightly stated in Omar’s defense, Omar’s questions of dual loyalty are very consistent with American tradition and past leaders.  Questioning the influence of AIPAC does not equate to hating Jewish people any more than would questioning the influence of CAIR equate to Islamophobia.

And now, Omar again is having her words twisted around to suggest that she doesn’t think the 9/11 attacks were a big deal.

As an American citizen, Omar has every right to expect religious freedom, and every right to peacefully voice her grievances.  She has every right to question American foreign policy, as well as the influence of any foreign nation on that policy, including but certainly not limited to the state of Israel.

I hope nothing happens to Omar

Omar reports having received death threats as a consequence of this.    As a public official, her words and actions are subject to scrutiny, but this should remain peaceful.  She has done nothing to deserve death threats, or worse!

Aside from that, there’s a second reason I hope nothing bad happens to her.  I can already see how the PC left will use any harm against her for their own agenda.  They will hold it up as further evidence that “hate speech” is not free speech, and claim that a peaceful society has an obligation to suppress such speech.  They’ll repeat their circular arguments that tolerance doesn’t mean tolerating “hate” because “hate” is intolerance, and you can’t tolerate intolerance.  The rights the PC left rightly demand for Omar, they will deny to my dear deplorables.

I hope that those on the #trumptrain will heed Mr. Buchanan’s wisdom, and defend Omar’s basic rights as an American.  Continue to criticize her policies as you see fit, but please stop standing by while her words are twisted around and she is treated the same way that so many of us have been treated.  Let’s be better than that!

Note(s):

*I’m still an old school progressive, fellow traveler on the #trumptrain unless and until the Dems start representing working people again

**You’ll find the remark in question about 15 minutes into this video

Does Jesus Love The Pharisee?

Pharisees

Why was Jesus fully human?*  Jesus was tempted by the Devil.  Jesus knew hunger, pain, frustration, anger, compassion, betrayal, and death.  Before betrayal and death, Jesus turned our understanding of righteousness on its head.  He would, to the dismay of the Pharisees, go among the sinners, the tax collectors, the prostitutes.  Why would he even touch her?  The Pharisees would ask in disgust!

Jesus taught us to love even our enemies.  It’s easy to love those who love you.

Jesus sure loved to preach, didn’t He?

In some of my debates with my brothers on the Christian left, I’ve found myself in the role of the Pharisees’ defendant.  They chastise the religious right for being much like the Pharisees.  They are judgemental, they love to point to this part of the Bible, and that part of the Bible, but they miss the big picture.  As Saint Paul taught us, the law condemns, but Christ has fulfilled the law.

But Jesus, can you practice what you preach?

Jesus loved to call the Pharisees hypocrites, and lecture us on loving even our enemies.  He loved to bring tax collectors and prostitutes into the light, partly out of compassion, but partly to show the failures of the Pharisees as spiritual guardians of the Jewish people.  But is Jesus any better than the Pharisee if he does not love the Pharisee?  Are my brothers and sisters on the Christian left any better if they love the world – the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the secularists, the globalists, the hedonists – and do not love the Pharisees of our time?

Jesus loved the Pharisees

St Paul the persecutor was a cruel and sinful man; Jesus hit him with a blinding light and then his life began – Rolling Stones (Saint of Me)

Hypocrisy?  Not Jesus!  Perhaps the greatest temptation was the temptation to hate the Pharisee, or to stand smugly over them when they come to the father.  But yet on the cross, Jesus even prayed for His crucifiers**.  “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do!”

Jesus loved not only the poor, the oppressed, the prostitutes, the tax collectors; Jesus loved the centurian who took part in His crucifixion.

Jesus’s love for the Pharisees didn’t end there.  Saul was one of the worst of those stuffed robbed Pharisees, not merely upholding the parts of the law that they were hung up on, but going to great lengths to persecute early Christians.  I wonder how many Christians, being fully human, but not fully divine, cursed Saul’s name.  But even after the crucifixion, even after the beard was ripped from His face, the crown of thorns placed upon His head, and the nails driven into his wrists; Jesus loves the Pharisees.

Instead of leaving Saul to pile sin upon sin, thinking he did so in the name of God, Jesus came to him.  Why do you persecute me?

On the cross, when Jesus prayed for His crucifiers, He overcame a temptation that is hard to imagine any human, not divine, overcoming.***  After His resurrection, He continued, and loved Saul, who became Paul.

Even Paul was still, in some ways, a Pharisee.  My Christian left brothers have their reservations about Paul, for as we know, the only mentions of homosexuality in the New Testament come from Paul.  Jesus never touched that issue, nor did His apostles.  As many on the Christian right focus on this issue, therefore, I’d remind my friends on the Christian left the great lengths that Jesus went to, to bring that lost sheep back to the flock.

I’ve been there too

If I sound preachy, rest assured, I’ve been there too.  I grew up on the edge of the Bible belt, in Jacksonville, Florida.  I’ve been preached at by my share of fundies too.  I’ve been ridiculed by a Baptist preacher for my Megadeth tee-shirt, and silenced in my effort to explain that the leader, Dave Mustaine, actually converted to Christianity.  Jesus dwells with the heavy metal bands, just as He dwells with the tax collectors.  I was only a teenager then.  This isn’t the only run-in I’ve had with Bible Belt Pharisees, but it’s the one I remember most vividly.

I admit, being fully human and not divine, I might not be able to do as Jesus.  If I met that Baptist preacher**** today, I’d have to pray for the strength to not just tell his self-righteous arse to get his robe stuffed!  But even Peter lacked the courage to go to the cross with Christ.  Jesus loves Peter, too.

We pray for forgiveness of our sins, known and unknown.  If we wish Christ to forgive us, we must strive to show the same forgiveness to the Pharisees.  We must love the Pharisee, as Jesus loves us.

 

I also recommend “Go Love a Pharisee” by Insanitybytes22.  This article focuses more on the hypocrisy of the Pharisee, but as you can tell by the title, draws the same conclusion.

Note(s):

*Jesus was fully human and fully divine.  I’m merely examining the human qualities of Jesus in this article.

** To my Jewish friends, some may take these references so many of us Christians make to the Pharisees the wrong way.  I know there’s a long history of self identified Christians taking the story of the crucifixion to blame the Jewish people and justify atrocities against the Jewish people.  But this is not the purpose of this story in the Gospels.  Our faith teaches that we ALL have crucified Him.  We say this on Palm Sunday.  Any who would use the story of the crucifixion to justify anti-semitism have corrupted our teachings.

*** Before find his way back, Dave Mustaine found it hard to believe that Jesus could truly be that forgiving, and in one of his first songs with Megadeth, “Looking Down The Cross”, Mustaine speculated that Jesus was internally condemning His crucifiers.  FYI, Mustaine later found his way, for Jesus loves the Heavy Metal singers too.

**** No offense to my Baptist brothers and sisters.  He was just one Baptist preacher of a rather small, but very loyal congregation.  But I do not see him as a reflection of Baptists in general.  In fact, my practice of referring to “brothers” and “sisters” I picked up from another Baptist I greatly admire, Dr. Cornell West.