Saturday, March 26, 2016

daring to lose fear

This is an odd Easter weekend -- bracketed by terrorist attacks in Europe and juvenile name-calling in the American presidential race.

While reading articles about the bombings in Brussels, the déjà vu klaxon went off in my head. Skulking operatives blowing up their enemies. Safe houses. A sense of urgency. All in the name of God.

This week, it was IS. But in the 1990s, it was the Tribulation Saints of the Left Behind series -- people, left behind on Earth following the rapture, doing God's work by blowing to smithereens the evil forces of the Anti-Christ.

I read the series because most of the people in my church were reading it, and I wanted to be able to discuss it with them. The theology and the tone of the books horrified me.

What horrified me more was that a large number of my fellow congregants passionately followed the antics of holy terrorist "Buck" Williams, who in each novel would suffer some sort of head injury on about the same page in each book of this terribly-formulaic exercise in hack writing.

The novels purport to be Christian. They aren't -- an argument Ross Douthat methodically destroyed in Bad Religion: How we became a Nation of Heretics. Somehow Jesus seemed to elide over holy terrorism in his Sermon on the Mount.

During the South Carolina primary, a pastor of a large church stated he was supporting Donald Trump because Trump was the only candidate standing up for Christian principles, like opposition to immigration.

Now, you can say a lot about immigration. And people have. But claiming opposition to immigration is a Christian principle falls dead center into Anne Lamott's bon mot: "You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."

That pastor must have skipped over the ten verses in the Bible that abjure us to show kindness and justice to widows, orphans, and aliens (Deut. 10:18; 14:29; 24:17, 19, 20, 21; 26:13; 27:19; Jer. 7:6; Mal. 3:5). Christianity is a faith that empowers the powerless and teaches the powerful, as the prophet Micah put it, "to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

The Tribulation Saints must have missed Sunday school for those lessons. But they certainly were kindred spirits to the safe house loonies of IS, who will go on creating widows and orphans while they abuse the lives of aliens.

My theology takes Jesus' words seriously that we are to build God's Kingdom in our lives every day. That is what Easter is about. Hope. Resurrection. The fact that our lives can be set right with God and that we can do his will right here and now by turning the Beatitudes* into a reality for ourselves and our neighbors.

And that may be the best way for us to fight the evil that stalks this world -- and our hearts. Laurie, over at A Gumbo Pot, challenged us all last April with Who Would Dare to Love Isis?

She was certainly far closer to evoking the spirit of Easter than the Left Behind books. Maybe we should stop worrying about being left behind, and start moving forward in the spirit of the resurrected Messiah.

I wish you all a blessed Easter.

* -- 5 Matthew

3 "How blessed are the poor in spirit! for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 4 "How blessed are those who mourn! for they will be comforted. 5 "How blessed are the meek! for they will inherit the Land! 6 "How blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness! for they will be filled. 7 "How blessed are those who show mercy! for they will be shown mercy. 8 "How blessed are the pure in heart! for they will see God. 9 "How blessed are those who make peace! for they will be called sons of God. 10 "How blessed are those who are persecuted because they pursue righteousness! for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11 "How blessed you are when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of vicious lies about you because you follow me!" 

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