Wayne Grudem Says “BUILD THE WALL!!!!!!!!!”

Today I give you the latest offering from everyone’s favorite systematic-theology-professor-turned-Donald-Trump-hack, Wayne Grudem.

Evangelicals have long been in the habit of diligently researching/analyzing chapter and verse when the answer is staring you right in the face, and this article is an example of that par excellence.  Grudem argues that Donald Trump’s plan to build the wall is not only good and sensible but also biblical and therefore morally justifiable because the Bible speaks positively about cities with walls.

This is what passes for biblical thought/analysis in evangelicalism:  Identify the issue at hand.  In this case, a border wall.  Get out your Strong’s Concordance and look up every instance of the word “wall”.  Do a word study on the word “wall” in Hebrew and Greek.  Collate and analyze all the relevant verses and come up with a definitive statement of what the Bible has to say about walls.  Apply said statement to the issue at hand:  namely, should we build the wall?

I am something of a realist on immigration, and I actually think that much of what Grudem says makes sense.  I believe that lax immigration policies typically favored by those on the left are a luxury we simply cannot afford.  In our present economic state, we need a more skilled immigrant pool and many of those who come via the southern border are not a fit for that.  Improvements to the border fencing have long been discussed, and have actually been made in certain areas of San Diego and El Paso.  These improvements have improved the safety and security of those areas.  I will not argue with Grudem on that.

But sometimes it is possible to be completely right and yet completely in the wrong.  This is one of those times.

In this cultural moment, building the wall is the wrong thing to do.  The wall has been and is being used symbolically by our current president as a means to energize the worst elements of his base.  He is using this to pick a fight over something that had been a non-issue until he made it an issue.

Grudem’s biblical analysis fails to take into account that in our age, walls are a symbol of repression.  Walls have been built by repressive regimes to keep people out or to keep people in.  The memory of the Berlin Wall and all that it represented is still very much alive and well in our collective consciousness, even though it has (thankfully) been gone for almost three decades.

There may be good reasons for making improvements to the fencing along the southern border.  But in this cultural moment–when the wall has been seized upon as a symbol of hatred and repression and flung in the faces of certain people groups–people for whom Christ died, I feel compelled to note–by people who call themselves Christian yet believe the exact opposite as far as these people groups are concerned–building the wall is the wrong thing to do.  You don’t need chapter and verse for that.

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When Saying Hi to a Homeless Person Becomes an Act of Political Defiance

Face it, people:  We now live in an age in which saying hello to a homeless person on the street is an act of political defiance.

What people who lived under repressive regimes, like Hitler’s Germany and what Donald Trump’s America is in the process of becoming, remember most is how their neighbors treated them.  When neighbors looked them in the eye and said hello and/or made small talk while passing them in the street, they felt safe and included, as if they belonged.  But when those same neighbors would avoid eye contact or cross over to the other side of the street to avoid passing them, they felt fearful, isolated, and vulnerable.  And with good reason.

So if you wish to protest the current regime, then say hi the next time you pass someone on the street who is different from yourself.  Someone whom the current administration, the madman in the White House and his jacked-up Neo-Nazi thug supporters, consider undesirable.  Show them that you do not consider them undesirable.  That is the surest way to push back against those who would turn us into a repressive regime.

Evangelicals: Just Shut Up About Sex Trafficking

My fellow evangelicals:  You have just forfeited every last shred of moral authority that you ever had to speak on the issue of sexual slavery/trafficking, which remains one of the greatest and most profound evils of our generation.

You just nominated Dennis Hof as the Republican candidate for a seat in the Nevada state legislature.  Hof owns a strip club and five brothels, and is the bestselling author of “The Art of the Pimp”.  What’s more, several women, including a former sex worker of his, have accused him of sexually abusing them.

Yet you supported him without even so much as batting an eyelash.  An influential pastor in Hof’s community closed his eyes and prayed, giving thanks to God when his victory was announced.  “We have politicians, they might speak good words, not sleep with prostitutes, be a good neighbor. But by their decisions, they have evil in their heart. Dennis Hof is not like that”, he said.

So just shut about sex trafficking.  You have nothing to say to anyone, anywhere, about this grave injustice.

Shane Claiborne Is A Menace to Your Children

This is real, people.  This is happening.

Shane Claiborne and other evangelicals like him are a menace to your children because they are not wholehearted, unmitigated supporters of Donald Trump.

ICYMI:  Shane Claiborne and a group known as “Red Letter Christians”, so called because they attempt to follow as closely as possible the words of Jesus, which appear in red in many Bibles, held a revival service this week in Lynchburg, VA, home of Liberty University and a bastion of unmitigated support for Donald Trump.  The university and its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., one of Donald Trump’s most vociferous evangelical supporters, banned Claiborne and the Red Letter Christians from campus, threatening them with a $2,500 fine if any of them dared to set foot on Liberty University property.  They forbade the student newspaper from covering the event.  Falwell refused to answer any correspondence from Claiborne.

Why?  “An organization has a duty to the parents to protect their kids”, said Rev. Jonathan Falwell, Jerry Falwell’s brother.

Only about 350 people attended the event, including a dozen or so Liberty students.  (Some of you might be curious about that.)

From the New York Times writeup (“FAKE NEWS!!!!!!!!!” cried all the Donald Trump supporters who have long since left the room):

Mr. Claiborne still wanted to lead a group onto the Liberty campus and hold a prayer vigil — or at least leave a gift for Mr. Falwell, who had just opened a new $3.2 million gun range on campus. Mr. Claiborne had ready a hand plow that he made from a melted-down handgun, a literal following of the Bible’s instruction to “beat swords into plowshares.”

They decided instead that the Liberty police would not dare arrest an 83-year-old. So that afternoon, the Rev. Tony Campolo, co-founder of the Red Letter Christians, entered the front door of Thomas Road Baptist Church, and left a red box with the bewildered receptionist.

Inside the box, tied with a ribbon, was a stack of prayers, written on index cards, from the participants of the revival.

“Dear Liberty, I am praying for your campus,” said one. “The Jesus in the Bible speaks of love and acceptance. I hope you learn to speak of this too.”

Evangelical Trump Supporters: You Have a Choice to Make

Today I give you an instance of the Church being taken to task–hard–and very much deservedly so–by the world.

By this point all of the Donald Trump supporters have long since left the room, so I feel reasonably safe in sharing this.

Evangelical Trump supporters:  You had a difficult choice this past election.  I will grant you that.  I wish there was some way both those jokers could have lost.  Some of you may have had legitimate concerns–economic concerns stemming from the loss of American manufacturing jobs and the devastation this has wrought upon certain areas of the country, national security concerns stemming from the Paris terror attacks of 2015 and other similar incidents and a fear that lax immigration policies like those typically favored by Democrats could lead to similar incidents here on American soil.  I could go on.

But an alarming number of you are still with Donald Trump, still hanging on his every word, still very much in his corner.  I will be honest:  If you are still with Donald Trump after Golden Showers, Stormy Daniels, shithole countries, grab ’em by the %@#!!* and all the rest, then you have completely and totally forfeited every last shred of moral authority you may have once possessed to tell me I can’t cuss, have a beer, or kiss a girl before I’m married to her, or that I am a godless liberal atheist who is bound for hell if I do not believe in a literal six-day creation.

This MSNBC video (all the Donald Trump supporters who have long since left the room would scream “FAKE NEWS!!!!!!!!!!”) lays it out there plainly:  You can continue to hang on every word of Donald Trump, or you can believe the words of Jesus Christ.  The choice is yours.

 

“Biblical” Christianity vs. Basic Humanity

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.

–Luke 14:1-6

Jesus and the Pharisees were frequently at odds with each other.  The Pharisees were a renewal movement that emerged sometime between the return from Babylon and the first century AD.  They believed that strict observance of the Law would bring about the national salvation of Israel:  God would send the Messiah to deliver Israel from her foreign oppressors and establish His kingdom for eternity.

In this interaction, and in many others as well, the Pharisees’ primary concern was the sanctity of the Sabbath.  Failure to keep the Sabbath was one of the primary reasons why Israel was exiled to Babylon; the biblical writers refer to the exile as a time during which the land had rest from all those missed Sabbaths.  When the Israelites returned from exile, they basically said, “Never again!!!!!  By God, we are going to buckle down and get this Torah thing right even if it kills us!!!!!”  Somewhere along the line, the Pharisees emerged as the vanguard of this effort.

Keeping the Sabbath was a big deal to the Pharisees.  At some point they went through and spelled out in painstaking detail all the specific types of “work” you could and could not do on the Sabbath.

It is commonplace to criticize the Pharisees for being hypocritical, for elevating their own man-made traditions above the Word of God, or for adding a multitude of man-made rules in their attempts to interpret Scripture.  All of these criticisms are legitimate, yet they miss the point.

You see, the Pharisees were the most “biblical” people in all of Israel.  They made their living by studying and interpreting Scripture (their Scripture would be our Old Testament).  The expectation was that their superior knowledge of Scripture would help them recognize the Messiah when he came, and under their guidance Israel would welcome him.

In this instance (and in many others) they were “biblically” correct, yet completely and totally bankrupt when it came to real life.  They had a real, live human being in desperate need of healing standing before them, but their concern for the sanctity of the Sabbath blinded them to his need and made them unable to celebrate his healing when Jesus did heal him.  It made them unable to answer simple questions of basic human care and concern.

Jesus asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?”  The answer is as obvious as the nose in front of your face.  Of course you would.  If you are a decent human being–or a human being at all–you don’t even have to think about this.  You already know.

Yet the Pharisees were speechless.

Some things, you don’t need chapter and verse for.

Some things, you already know.

If you are a decent human being–or a human being at all–you already know.

And now we come to a post which appeared on Mere Orthodoxy this past week.  It is an article about how the #metoo movement is coming to the SBC.  The jumping-off point is Paige Patterson and some excruciatingly wrong-headed counsel he gave to a woman in a troubled marriage.  Thankfully, the author recognizes it as such and takes Patterson to task for it, as he–and any other decent human being–rightly should.

But the whole thing goes south from there.  Faced with Patterson’s excruciatingly wrong-headed counsel, the burning question then becomes, “And yet can he be proved wrong using Scripture?”  What follows is a lengthy theological analysis of the biblical grounds for divorce.  Does physical/emotional abuse qualify as “abandonment” according to the relevant texts?  What if one spouse is a believer and the other not?  How does that change things?  What if we saw the abuse as unrepented sin requiring church discipline?  If the abuser persists, does he now, in this sense, become an unbeliever, thereby allowing the relevant texts on divorce to come into play?

Some things, you don’t need chapter and verse for.

Some things, you already know.

If the child or ox falls into a well, get them out and get them the medical attention they need.

And if a woman shows up at your church with black eyes and says that her husband has been beating her, tell her to get the hell out of there.  Find her a safe place to stay.  Advocate for her.  Get law enforcement involved.  Get her medical help if she needs it.  Help her get a divorce if she needs it to keep herself and/or her children safe.  Be with her and be there for her over the long haul, however long it takes.  Help her heal and put her life back together, to whatever extent that is possible.

You don’t need chapter and verse for this.  You already know.

If you’re a decent human being–or a human being at all–you already know.

Does Highpoint Get It?

ICYMI:  Andy Savage, teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, resigned last week.  This was the culmination of a two-plus month investigation into allegations that Savage had sexually abused a student while serving as youth pastor at a Houston church twenty years ago and that church leadership covered it up.  These allegations surfaced back in December 2017 as part of the #metoo movement.  Savage had stepped down as teaching pastor while the investigation was ongoing.

Savage issued a statement via the church website upon resigning, from which I quote:

Your passionate opinions on this important matter have truly helped me to gain perspective that I simply could not have achieved on my own. I have come to understand Jules’ vantage point better, and to appreciate the courage it took for her to speak up.

When Jules cried out for justice, I carelessly turned the topic to my own story of moral change, as if getting my own life in order should help to make up for what she went through and continues to go through.

Church leadership issued a statement as well, in which they said they had “come to recognize that it was defensive rather than empathetic in its initial reaction to Ms. Jules Woodson’s communication concerning the abuse she experienced, and humbly commits to develop a deeper understanding of an appropriate, more compassionate response to victims of abuse.”

Larry Cotton, one of the church leaders involved in the cover-up, resigned last month.  He had since joined the staff at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX.

Stories like this hit me in a special place because, when there is a beautiful young woman on the horizon of your world and you’re trying oh so hard to be the very best you that you can possibly be because she’s oh so worth it…well, stories like this hit you in a special place.

As the Church, we should be leading the way in regards to being a safe place for victims of sexual abuse.  We should be way out in front of this whole #metoo thing.  Yet clearly we are being dragged along kicking and screaming by the secular culture.

I don’t have it all together. Every woman (not related to me) who has ever gotten close enough to me to see this is now happily married to someone else. (Which is why I am still with my imaginary wife and 2.6 imaginary kids.) My last two attempts to connect romantically with a woman ended badly:  each time with the woman in question telling me that I was making her feel uncomfortable around me and would I please back off and give her space. One woman said I was a distraction in her pursuit of a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. I had to do the hard work of genuine contrition and repentance and humble submission to the consequences of my social/emotional misdeeds. This included making myself scarce to these women so as to provide the requested space, watching them go safely and happily into the arms of other men, then enduring a lengthy season of life in which it seemed as if God had hidden Himself from me behind an impenetrable wall of anger and wrath, filling my days with anguish and distress to (I believe) give me a taste of what these women must have been feeling as I was attempting to pursue them.

Thankfully my sin was only social and not sexual.  At least I don’t have that baggage to carry around.

At any rate, while I was going through all this I would not have wished it on anyone, not even my worst enemy.  But I am wishing it on Andy Savage.  I want him to feel everything I ever felt, to experience everything I ever experienced during that season of life, in hope that it might bring him to a place of genuine contrition and repentance.  Based upon what I see in his public statements, it appears that at least he is on the way, and that is a start.