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I was having a conversation with a fellow that happened to be white he brought up the game barrel full of monkeys. I mentioned I never let my kids play that game because of the racial connotation associated with it. I told him about the time when barrels were strategically place so that blacks couldn’t laugh in public, they had to put their face/head in the barrel in case they laughed in public. I also said I’m not sure if the game was based on that concept but I did say it would have made sense when you look at the negative associations by calling blacks monkeys. Simply look at the words picnic and nibs. He usually calls me pessimistic which I find funny. History is an odd subject based on who’s teaching it, but black history is a different matter. Because someone doesn’t read or study that is their fault and theirs alone. It’s the single reason why people vote the way they do or associate themselves with others. The main reason history is so mangled and misaligned! I also mentioned to him about women and laughter in public…that really set him off…to my pleasure off course. Then magically I came across this article…enjoy. Last thing, don’t prove shit to people allow them to be their authentic selves. 

 

On January 10 2017, Desiree Fairooz, a 61-year-old Code Pink protester, was forcibly removed and arrested for laughing at Jeff Sessions during his Attorney General confirmation hearings. Fairooz’s eruption was provoked by an extremely laughable punch line, when Republican Senator Richard Shelby stated that Sessions has an “extensive record of treating all Americans fairly under the law,” adding that this claim “is clear and well-documented.”

As a description of a man who was once denied a federal judgeship due to concerns about his racism, who openly advocates anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ policies, and who casually jokes about the Ku Klux Klan, Shelby’s utterance was patently absurd and very deserving of public mockery and voluble laughter. For her protest, Fairooz now faces up to a year in jail and $2,000 in fines.

Her conviction in early May elicited a viral storm of outraged responses, including headlines such as “A Woman Is on Trial for Laughing During a Congressional Hearing,” “Activist’s Giggle Leads to Conviction,” and a piece authored by the Medusan disruptor herself, “I’m Facing Jail Time After Laughing at Jeff Sessions. I Regret Nothing.

How unprecedented is Fairooz’s indictment? Women are held in contempt of court all the time for laughing out loud at devastatingly inappropriate moments. In February 2017, a woman was sentenced to 93 days in jail for her voluble mirth at the gruesome details of a man’s death in a DUI accident, while the family members of the deceased were present in the courtroom. Laughing in disrespect of the dead has a legacy of retributive punishment: in 1862, a Confederate woman named Eugenia was arrested for laughing at the funeral procession of a Union soldier (she had also encouraged her children to spit on the uniforms of Union officers).

However, it was not the fact of Fairooz’s laughter that caused her arrest, so much as what it signified: to “impede and disrupt then Senator Sessions’ confirmation hearing by drawing attention away from the hearing itself and directing it instead toward the Defendants’ perception of the nominee’s racist views, policies, and voting record” (from a government motion filed against her). Her laughter evokes the anti-patriarchal outbursts in the classic feminist film, A Question of Silence (Marleen Gorris, 1982), in which three unruly women laugh exuberantly at their own murder trial, in response to the prosecution’s outlandish pretense that they live in a post-sexist society. (The women are on trial for killing a male boutique owner, whom they beat to death in an unpremeditated outburst of joyful fury due to his harassment of a female shoplifter.) In the film’s courtroom, this “question of silence” refers to the tyranny of lacking a voice against routine injustice, which then can only be articulated through defiant and disruptive laughter.

Laughter, and the power to dictate its meaning and address, has always been at stake in the law—at least since the Ancient Greek demos. In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle associates laughter with the expression of scorn. He warns: “Most people enjoy amusement and jesting more than they should…a jest is a kind of mockery, and lawgivers forbid some kinds of mockery—perhaps they ought to have forbidden some kinds of jesting.”[1] Indeed, God’s laughter in the Old Testament distinctly stems from anger and hostility, and is intolerable when enjoyed at His expense. In the Book of Kings, a group of children laugh at the bald prophet Elisha (just imagine their reaction to a dyed yellow comb-over), and God punishes the children by sending two she-bears to kill them: they “came out of a wood and mauled forty-two of them.”[2] Thomas Hobbes viewed laughter as a warlike tactic: a weapon for asserting political power. He argues in The Elements of Law that “men laugh at the infirmities of others…For when a jest is broken upon ourselves, or friends of whose dishonour we participate, we never laugh thereat.”[3]

If we’ve come a long way with our laughter since the English Civil Wars of the 1640s—learning to laugh in empathy, in playful recognition of absurdity, or out of sheer muscular relief—this message has since been lost on Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. Catharine A. MacKinnon, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan and long-term visitor at Harvard Law School, has offered comment:[4]

Criminally charging and potentially sentencing Ms. Fairooz for a brief spontaneous injection of political laughter as ‘disruptive’ when it, at least, so clearly was not looks like an overly thin-skinned reflex reaction to a woman appropriating what is usually a masculine form of power: ridicule, public humiliation by humor, in this case political speech against racism.

Trump’s Administration has been particularly paranoid when it comes to female mockery—evidenced by Trump’s repeated Twitter rants against feminist comedian Rosie O’Donnell, his avowal that “Americans will thank [him] when Lena Dunham moves to Canada,” and condemnation of the very idea that Sean Spicer would be burlesqued by a woman in drag (i.e. Melissa McCarthy). Like many authoritarian personalities, Trump associates laughter with weakness. His pandering to delusional fears that America’s participation in the Paris Climate Accord will make it “the laughingstock of the world”—that the “world is laughing at us”—is part and parcel of his warlike mania for never landing on the wrong side of a punch line.

Histories of Female Laughter and Criminality

Although Fairooz’s case is singularly unjust and ridiculous, she is not the first woman in U.S. history to be criminalized for laughing in the face of injustice. In Puritanical New England, laughter (especially during fasting or prayer times) could be used as evidence to prove women’s sinful covenant with the devil. Susannah Martin, who was executed for, among other things, breastfeeding Satan with her “witch’s tit,” laughed at “such folly” during her own juridical interrogation. As Thomas Brattle remarked in his 1692 letter condemning the Salem Witch Trials, “such folly” would make Salem the laughing stock of the entire world: they “will laugh at the demonstration, and conclude that the said S.G. [Salem gentlemen] are actually possessed, at least, with ignorance and folly.”[5]

That female laughter would be litigated as Satanic in Puritanical New England is not particularly shocking. (One woman was executed on evidence of her awkwardly hemmed coat.) Since the founding of America’s constitutional republic, the criminalization of female laughter has for the most part remained rare and exceptional. Modern societies have other means at their disposal for establishing female guilt and censoring anti-patriarchal pleasure. For example, etiquette manuals and advice columns widely instructed women to inhibit their laughter—lest they exhibit uncouth decorum or, even worse, uncontrollable physical convulsion. Women were even terrified into believing that their laughter could kill them.

Obituary columns were populated by reports of women’s “DEATH FROM LAUGHTER,” such as the woman who went to the theater “to enjoy a comedy, and [instead] furnished a tragedy” in 1902, when she “became convulsed with merriment.”[6] In 1908, the widow Mrs. Anna Ferrer attended a dinner party where she was told a funny joke: “unable to stop the laughing paroxysm” she reportedly “died before a physician could be summoned.”[7] (The exact joke was withheld from printing due to concerns about public safety.) Miss Barbara Barr could consider herself lucky when, in 1907, her uncontrollable laughter at a romantic suitor’s joke about dentistry was finally subdued with anesthetics. (She was unable to remember the joke the next day, and fortunately no one repeated it to her—though it was divulged in several reports: “A man went to the dentist to have a tooth pulled and it hurt. ‘Oh, doctor,’ the patient said, ‘If only humans were born without teeth!’ The doctor replied, ‘they are, you know.’”)[8]

While women infiltrated the public sphere—as shoppers, workers, theater-goers, and amusement-seekers—the spectacle of their bodily pleasure posed repeated crises for social governance. Even women’s hats were subject to prohibition in the theater, in church, and at film screenings—though, to be fair, the “Merry Widow Hat” was nearly a foot high, and made it virtually impossible for spectators in the rear to see anything beyond the towering fruit baskets, flower arrangements, and avian taxidermy that adorned female millinery at the time.

Despite the obsessive social regulation of female bodies in public spaces, the rule of law was rarely deployed toward the specific end of suppressing female laughter. There were exceptions of course—in 1899, two women in Chicago were arrested for their laughter and disorderly conduct. “The trouble was caused by caused by a new joke on the kissing bug,” a local newspaper reported, quoting the arresting officer: “‘And then they both laughed so loud they awoke the entire neighborhood.’”[9] The presiding justice, who had a much better sense of humor than the judges of the Salem Witch Trials, observed: “Well, I guess it certainly is a joke to arrest a person for laughing.” Both defendants were subsequently discharged.

The Terror of Female Laughter

If you have never heard of gelotogynophobia, it is because I just made it up. But what is it? Well, if gynophobia refers to the extreme and irrational fear of women, and gelotophobia to the terror of being laughed at, then gelotogynophobia would be a handy (if not slightly clunky) term for designating the overwhelming fear of women’s laughter, or of being laughed at by a woman. As Virginia Woolf remarked in 1905, men so fear women’s laughter because, “like lightning, [it] shrivels them up and leaves the bones bare.”[10]

Tracy Thomas, Seiberling Chair of Constitutional Law at the University of Akron, suggests that being laughed at by a woman is perhaps “one of [men’s] greatest fears.”[11] In a correspondence with her, Thomas referenced a survey from Nancy Dowd’s The Man in Question, “where women report their greatest fear is rape and murder, while men’s greatest fear is being laughed at.” Or, as the Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood has put it, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” To this point, the journalist and American humorist, Helen Rowland, wrote in 1922 that “a man will forgive his wife for committing robbery, or murder, or breaking the Ten Commandments, yet threaten to leave her for laughing at the wrong moment”[12]—should she be so fortunate that he doesn’t beat or kill her. In 1893, a New Haven court heard the divorce petition of Emma B. Phelps, who described the time “she laughed at her husband…and he ‘knocked her senseless’” (another time he threatened to kill her with a carving knife because she would not give him her watch).[13]

In 1897, the Baltimore Sun reported a suicide in which a man blew himself up with dynamite after a woman rejected his marriage proposal by laughing at him. He “had a dynamite bomb with him and threatened that if the woman refused him he would blow himself to pieces. She laughed at him and he went to the stone yard, a block distant, and killed himself.”[14] Lucky woman to have escaped the fate of Alice Henninger, who was murdered by Frederick Strube in 1903: he beat her “with a monkey wrench because she laughed at him when he pressed her to marry him.”[15] (He was later arrested after burying her body.)

As Jacqueline Rose notes in Women in Dark Times, there is no positive correlation between women’s attainment of equal rights under the law and their protection from domestic violence and secret abuse. If legal punishment for feminist laughter remains exceptional, it is unknowable how many private laughs have resulted in sexual assault, violent beating, and gruesome murder.

Intersectional Laughing Politics: Race, Class, and Masculinity

While women’s laughter is censored through any number of means (including the fear of death and threat of violence), it is the laughter of white men and people of color that has been explicitly criminalized. White male laughter was often viewed as predatory, exemplified by the case of a white man in Chicago who was fined $25 in 1894 for laughing at a woman in bicycle bloomers.[16] Such laughter was regarded as a symptom of profound anxieties about sexually integrated public spaces that could make white women physically unsafe while potentially undermining the financial interests of businesses that thrived on female patronage.

Though the expression of laughter carried strong class implications (the coarse guttural laughter of the working-class vs. the refined melodious laughter of the bourgeoisie), it was often gents of the upper crust whose public laughter posed a special nuisance. Men were frequently ejected, and sometimes arrested, for laughing too boisterously at the theater. In 1929, four white teenage boys, all sons of prominent families, were arrested and forcibly removed from the Varsity Film Theatre in Evanston, IL when the manager felt that “they laughed at the wrong time…and in a tone he didn’t like either. The show was not a comedy.”[17] The decorum of laughing off genre was a highly controversial issue, and widely debated among journalists, critics, and social reformers.

The New York Times published an editorial on “The Right to Laugh”[18] in 1907, after a man was arrested and fined for laughing too loudly during a tragic play. The author considers the extent to which genre prescriptions should dictate an audience’s entitlement to enjoyment, weighing the pleasures of collective tears against the man’s individual reaction of amusement. As he observes pithily, “recent experiences on Broadway go to prove that the serious plays are often the funniest, and that the comedies are very often nearest tragedy.” In the author’s account, women’s presence at these shows is implicitly culpable for their topsy-turvy genre advertising. Against the somber ladies, who take excessive pleasure in tears (“women’s sobbing clubs” were incidentally a thing during this time), the author asks: “Could not the prisoner have urged with equal justice that having gone to the theatre for a pleasant evening of laughter he had a right to be protected from the depressing influence of snivelers?”

Despite this editorialist’s slippery logic, men continued to be disciplined routinely for laughing off cue or against genre, particularly at shows marketed to women. For example, a theater-goer in Pennsylvania “laughed so long and loudly at the performance of a melodrama that he stopped the play. After vain appeals to him to cease he was arrested and fined.”[19] The humorous trigger involved a Saint Bernard dog who had been cast to save a woman’s life, but the dog had to be replaced at the last minute by a smaller terrier, and “the contrast sent the spectator with too keen a sense of humor into hysterics.”

Like the suspicion of women’s laughter as evidence of sin or immorality, the prohibition of laughter at tragedy was a Puritanical inheritance. From the transcription of a “1734 Theatrical Notice,” that was widely re-published in 1894: “The audience are absolutely forbidden to laugh during the performance of a tragedy.”[20] Second to the scandal of inappropriate laughter at the theater was the crisis of disruptive hilarity during church services. In 1868, national newspapers covered a series of incidents in Indiana involving multiple arrests of men who laughed aloud in church—and a similar cluster of episodes resulting in arrests afflicted Shasta County, CA in 1885.

The church of Zion was actively bedeviled by uncontrollable male laughter that required juridical intervention. A notable example occurred in 1891, when Thomas Blount, “overcome by laughter…and prolonged merriment,” was vigorously removed by church officers “with such violence as to tear the clothes from him.”[21] Revealingly, the laughter erupted during a visiting Yale Law Professor’s lecture on “Frederick Douglass as a Diplomat.” (Who could have imagined the mirth that Douglass would still provoke in 2017, though in a very different context?) A reporter for The New York Age remarked that “any person who disturbs a religious meeting should be punished to the extent of the law,” adding that “the only way to abate this evil, which has a tendency to render the church unpopular, is to place in office good, intelligent and Christian men.” Notably, the journalist refrains from commenting on the lecture topic at hand (i.e. Douglass’ work and legacy), instead emphasizing the violence of Blount’s forced removal. The central problem of re-instilling the dignity and authority of the church is thus put into direct conflict with the speaker’s discussion of anti-racism and abolitionist diplomacy.

The racial politics of making laughter a crime bear special emphasis. The African-American newspaper, The Washington Bee, put it bluntly in 1898: “It is against the law [for a Black person] to laugh at a policeman in the street.”[22] In 1899 in Trenton, NJ, “Louisa Roberts, a colored domestic” was fined $2 for “being disorderly on the street,” after “Patrolman Hutchinson arrested her for ‘sassing’ some white women.”[23] Echoes of Roberts’ unruly laughter reverberated in 2015 when 11 women were forcibly ejected from a Napa Valley wine train for laughing out loud while participating in a book club (“Sistahs on the Reading Edge”), which spawned the viral Twitter hashtag #Laughingwhileblack. (For more on the racial politics of Black female laughter, see Brandy Monk-Payton’s excellent article in Feminist Media Histories.)

Ralph Ellison writes of the Southern mythology of the “laughing barrel,” which was literally a public barrel into which African-Americans were told to deposit their heads whenever they felt a laugh coming on. This laughing barrel was meant to purify the civic sphere of the primitive irrationality assigned to Black laughter in the segregated Jim Crow South. In this same essay, “An Extravagance of Laughter,”[24] Ellison recounts his own experiences being harassed by the Phenix City police force while an undergraduate at Tuskegee College in Alabama, emphasizing the “homeopathic power” of laughter to make “grotesque comedy out of the extremes to which whites would go to keep us in what they considered to be our ‘place.’” He adds, “Once safe at Tuskegee, we would become almost hysterical as we recounted our adventures and laughed as much at ourselves as at the cops.” However, Ellison admits, “My problem was that I couldn’t completely dismiss such experiences with laughter.”

Laughter has always been a double-edged sword when enlisted as political recourse against minoritarian oppression. This is particularly true of Black laughter, given the racist imperatives for African-Americans to perform as burlesque minstrels, Zip Coon dandies, and happy-go-lucky Sambos for white entertainment. The unthreatening idiocy of permanent Black laughter was meant to assuage white terrors of any malice or resentment lurking beneath the surface. Yet, to invoke Ellison again, even denigrated laughter can become indiscriminately contagious. At the scene of the Jim Crow laughing barrel, the abject absurdity of Black bodies laughing uproariously with their heads stuck inside of whiskey casks became irresistible, causing whites then to “suffer the double embarrassment of laughing against their own God-given nature while being unsure of exactly why, or at what specifically, they were laughing.” As Ellison puts it, this “meant that somehow the Negro in the barrel had them over a barrel.”

Beyond the small-town square and back into the court room, an African-American man named Sam Johnson was jailed in Gulfport, MS in 1916 for laughing out loud in a circuit court during a seduction and adultery case. As the Gulfport Daily Herald commented, “Sam Johnson is a negro but he has never let his color bother him and believes in putting in a laugh on each and every occasion. But he misjudged the occasion this morning and had to pay the penalty of indiscretion.”[25] As this report suggests, Johnson’s laughter, not unlike Fairooz’s, appeared menacing not as such, but because it revealed itself as overly intentional. “First, he laughed when he thought Judge Neville was not looking at him. Then he grew careless and laughed anyway.” Unlike the rowdy white boys in Evanston, IL or the tormented theater patron who took too much comedic delight in melodramas, Johnson laughed on cue at the details of the seduction case. It was not the noise or even presence of his laughter that caused disruption, but the threat of what it might signify in a courtroom attended by “a number of other colored people.” The article concludes: “The negro [when jailed] could not have been more dumbfounded had a ball hit him from out of the blue, and if he ever laughs again it will be because he does not know it.” In other words, Black laughter must remain completely guileless and unknowing (i.e. “out of the blue”), lest it render its laugher all black and blue.

Just Laughter or Humorless Injustice?

Arresting Someone for Laughing Might Sound Funny, But It’s No Joke,” as James Bovard has put it in a recent Washington Post article. Bovard compares Fairooz’s arrest to his own forced removal from the press box during a 1995 Supreme Court case. The case involved police no-knock protocols during drug busts (i.e. what conditions can permit the police to forego knocking on the front door to avert the destruction of evidence). Bovard recounts the audience’s laughter at a derisive quip that Justice Rehnquist made in mockery of one of the lawyers’ sneaky tactics—a laughter explicitly sanctioned by the power hierarchies of the highest court. In contrast, at one point Bovard laughed out loud in response to the defense lawyer’s reductio ad absurdum (i.e. use of absurdity to dismantle an irrational argument): so “the more drugs you’ve got, the more right you have to an announcement,” the lawyer remarked. Unlike Rehnquist, Bovard found this comment hilarious, and was soon ejected on a weak pretext for failing to comply with the dress code (he was wearing a Lord & Taylor dress shirt, but not a coat and tie).

Bovard warns us of the dangers of censoring laughter in official spaces:

While my ejection, and Fairooz’s case, may seem funny, it’s a dangerous precedent to permit the Justice Department to prosecute people who laugh during official proceedings. Will applause and raucous cheering be the only legally permitted noises that citizens can make while listening to politicians?

Laughter, like the right of the people to peaceable assembly, is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. To admonish laughter through the rule of law is not only unjust, it is absurd. Even if Aristotle and Hobbes (and in a very different vein, Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump) equate unwelcome laughter with pointed malice, who is to adjudicate the laughing threshold between involuntary eruption and intentional disruption? Fairooz’s laughter was both things simultaneously: automatic and motivated. But really, who could have resisted laughing at such an absurd punch line? (I would have howled!)

Fairooz was charged on two counts with “Disruptive and Disorderly Conduct” and “Obstructing and Impeding Passage” on U.S. Capitol Grounds. The government has since petitioned to enjoin Fairooz’s case with that of Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, two other Code Pink protesters who were arrested for dressing up as Klansmen and waving banners, “KKK #1” and “Go Jeffie Boy.” Barry and Bianchi were also arrested on a third count of “Parades, Assemblages, and Displays Forbidden.” According to this government motion,[26]

Defendant Ali-Fairooz…let out a loud burst of laughter, followed by a second louder burst of laughter. Capitol Police Officers then attempted to quietly escort Defendant Ali-Fairooz from the room, however, she grew loud and more disruptive, eventually halting the confirmation hearing. Her disruptive behavior included yelling that then Senator Sessions’ “voting record was evil” and waving a sign that read: “Support civil rights, stop [S]essions.”

Ariel Gold, the Code Pink campaign director who was sitting next to Fairooz at the time, has adamantly contradicted the government’s accusation. Gold describes Fairooz’s laughs as “merely a reflex” and “fainter than a cough.” Evidently, her laughter did not interrupt Shelby’s speech (just watch the video), so much as undermine its authority for anyone within earshot. Her behavior does not become actively disruptive to the proceedings until her forcible removal from the building (when, it is worth noting, Shelby’s comments had already concluded and Senator Susan Collins was then speaking). Evoking the mass arrests of suffragette protesters, who compared President Woodrow Wilson to the German Kaiser in 1917, Fairooz shouted: “I was going to be quiet and now you’re gonna have me arrested? For what?! For what?! You said something ridiculous.”

The priority of transgressions becomes murky here, because these charges against Fairooz could only have applied after the fact—to her behavior upon forcible ejection, once her guilt had already been established by the security guards who were humiliatingly dragging her out of the room.

By either way, it is a slippery slope to tyranny when any laughter against the grain of state power can result in punitive arrest, unjust indictment, and unforetold sentencing. To invoke Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose forceful testimony against Jeff Sessions was also silenced when she attempted to read aloud from a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King, “They can shut me up, but they can’t change the truth.”

By Maggie Hennefeld/LAProgressive

Comment/Posted by John The Revelator

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Grip

Posted: April 1, 2018 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

After listening to the Unbelievable Podcast; I have a grip. Why do christians always announce  the guest who may be an atheist or agnostic as so and so who has lost their faith. That is so fucking insulting as well as smug! Here’s the reason why I find it insulting…faith is a choice!

Written by John the Revelator

You!

Posted: March 25, 2018 in Religion, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

As I’ve said so many times before and will continue to say “we live in a ready made world.” So many thoughts aren’t new but a continuation of something that came before but more fully realized today. With that said I wanted to briefly look at life and kinda simplify it if I may. While not going into the background, lets take an honest look at Ecclesiastes 8:15 So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their toil through the days of life that God gives them under the sun.

We spend so much time being pleasers of others while trying to figure out how we fit in this world. What comes next is a mystery, no one has died and come back and said “you won’t believe what happens next.” The old adage is “what we don’t know we assume.” Life is hard enough, so why make it more difficult. What we have is a choice, a choice on whether “you” choose to be in the present and aware.

This scripture can be looked at by the secular and non secular alike. As for me the secular, I look at it as Smelling the lavender, making love to my wife, listening to jazz and drinking a single malt scotch, cooking gourmet meals, painting and making art as well as being involved in the world…since I live in it. The non secular may see it a bit differently, their is a deity involved. We have too live in the moment and enjoy the moment. We don’t know when that moment will end. So for now “eat and drink and enjoy your life.” While continuing to self evaluate who you are as a human and how you fit in this finite universe.

Written by John the Revelator

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

By Langston Hughes

Posted by The NON-Conformist

HERITAGE

Posted: January 27, 2018 in Poetry, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

What is Africa to me:
Copper sun or scarlet sea,
Jungle star or jungle track,
Strong bronzed men, or regal black
Women from whose loins I sprang
When the birds of Eden sang?
One three centuries removed
From the scenes his fathers loved,
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,
What is Africa to me?

So I lie, who all day long
Want no sound except the song
Sung by wild barbaric birds
Goading massive jungle herds,
Juggernauts of flesh that pass
Trampling tall defiant grass
Where young forest lovers lie,
Plighting troth beneath the sky.
So I lie, who always hear,
Though I cram against my ear
Both my thumbs, and keep them there,
Great drums throbbing through the air.
So I lie, whose fount of pride,
Dear distress, and joy allied,
Is my somber flesh and skin,
With the dark blood dammed within
Like great pulsing tides of wine
That, I fear, must burst the fine
Channels of the chafing net
Where they surge and foam and fret.

Africa?A book one thumbs
Listlessly, till slumber comes.
Unremembered are her bats
Circling through the night, her cats
Crouching in the river reeds,
Stalking gentle flesh that feeds
By the river brink; no more
Does the bugle-throated roar
Cry that monarch claws have leapt
From the scabbards where they slept.
Silver snakes that once a year
Doff the lovely coats you wear,
Seek no covert in your fear
Lest a mortal eye should see;
What’s your nakedness to me?
Here no leprous flowers rear
Fierce corollas in the air;
Here no bodies sleek and wet,
Dripping mingled rain and sweat,
Tread the savage measures of
Jungle boys and girls in love.
What is last year’s snow to me,
Last year’s anything?The tree
Budding yearly must forget
How its past arose or set­­
Bough and blossom, flower, fruit,
Even what shy bird with mute
Wonder at her travail there,
Meekly labored in its hair.
One three centuries removed
From the scenes his fathers loved,
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,
What is Africa to me?

So I lie, who find no peace
Night or day, no slight release
From the unremittent beat
Made by cruel padded feet
Walking through my body’s street.
Up and down they go, and back,
Treading out a jungle track.
So I lie, who never quite
Safely sleep from rain at night–
I can never rest at all
When the rain begins to fall;
Like a soul gone mad with pain
I must match its weird refrain;
Ever must I twist and squirm,
Writhing like a baited worm,
While its primal measures drip
Through my body, crying, “Strip!
Doff this new exuberance.
Come and dance the Lover’s Dance!”
In an old remembered way
Rain works on me night and day.

Quaint, outlandish heathen gods
Black men fashion out of rods,
Clay, and brittle bits of stone,
In a likeness like their own,
My conversion came high-priced;
I belong to Jesus Christ,
Preacher of humility;
Heathen gods are naught to me.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
So I make an idle boast;
Jesus of the twice-turned cheek,
Lamb of God, although I speak
With my mouth thus, in my heart
Do I play a double part.
Ever at Thy glowing altar
Must my heart grow sick and falter,
Wishing He I served were black,
Thinking then it would not lack
Precedent of pain to guide it,
Let who would or might deride it;
Surely then this flesh would know
Yours had borne a kindred woe.
Lord, I fashion dark gods, too,
Daring even to give You
Dark despairing features where,
Crowned with dark rebellious hair,
Patience wavers just so much as
Mortal grief compels, while touches
Quick and hot, of anger, rise
To smitten cheek and weary eyes.
Lord, forgive me if my need
Sometimes shapes a human creed.

All day long and all night through,
One thing only must I do:
Quench my pride and cool my blood,
Lest I perish in the flood.
Lest a hidden ember set
Timber that I thought was wet
Burning like the dryest flax,
Melting like the merest wax,
Lest the grave restore its dead.
Not yet has my heart or head
In the least way realized
They and I are civilized.

By Countee Cullen

Posted by John the Revelator

I’m reading a book “There is No Messiah and you’re it.” I was hit with the phrase “our faith tradition” a phrase in which jews can hold onto firmly since they claim the Messiah is jewish following the lineage of David. Which in itself is problematic since we have no proof of his existence as a man of history. Not to get so far in the weeds, where is the faith tradition for blacks.

This is an uphill battle we’ve been facing. It can’t be in a religion we haven’t founded. If we say we must return back to some sort of ancestral worship the image of voodoo raises the ire of the black and white christian community. Anything with Jesus is the only truth. This raises another problem, while a man named Jesus may have existed and this can be debated, if he did exist, he wasn’t divine. He’s not in heaven sitting on the right hand of the throne. That belief is called theological, not historical.

Even in continuing this conversation, again where does it leave blacks? We are generally put out on the outskirts; “the culture that created the religion creates the god.” To keep it simple without confusing anyone. First-you can’t prove a god exist. Second-All religions are man made man inspired. While there have been many the only ones with the strongest following remains…simple. With that said you create how you want your god to be. He seems to have changed from the OT to the NT. This is the same god who made his prophets Ezekiel eat dung and human feces in the book of Ezekiel 4, of course there is a deeper message from the apologist. Im sure if that voice told you to eat “shit” you would without questioning.

Some may read this and fall back on the usual talking point, why does race have to come into everything. The answer is simple, your god put it there. The ideas of slavery, ethnic cleansing, separation of the races, no intermarrying. What makes me question “our faith tradition” is that blacks are taking on someone else’s tradition and trying to make them his/hers there own. Where are we in this, lets see, the OT=jews and the NT=Protestant whites. You may ask, how can this be. Protestantism was created or started by Martin Luther a racist who hated jews-OT. I wondered what he may have thought of Kemet today known as Egypt, especially with the passages of Jesus having to move in order to blend in in order to not be spotted. It only makes sense because of the meaning of Egypt, the land of the blacks. I’ll add this a caveat. If blacks want to hold onto the myth of christianity then at least make your “god” black. This is important. We have the Nation of Islam(NOI), that only makes good sense to make their god black, maybe this is the reason they are successful and are a nation within a nation. Create a religion that is black centered from the god on down and don’t be scared to be challenged. You have more allies than you will believe from jewish down to protestant sources, you also have history on your side. If they fade then so be it, we have each other.

We as individuals then down to groups must create “our own faith tradition” that isn’t obscured by others traditions and experiences. Remember we have a long varied rich history to choose from. If I have one mainline issue that would be to deal with human emotions in an ideal manner, not the cast your cares away to nothingness. We have real answers to real problems not answers from a book that was written for a certain group for a certain time. We have progressed in knowledge not relying a mute deity.

Written by John the Revelator

Thoughts

Posted: January 13, 2018 in Health, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

We’ve entered into a new year, thats the good thing, we are able to share in another year. The question remains, how will it differ from last year? For me I can say “thinking.” Their is a quote I’ve heard and use, the origin is sketchy “It’s good to read but better to think.” Without your pride judging it, it makes sense. The year in review is helping me to focus better for 2018. I have better clarity for projects I’m currently working on. My thoughts and intentions for those projects detoured quit a bit. That’s for the reason I mentioned earlier; “thinking!” As I look at certain subjects with plenty of source material, even if it differs from my (POV) it helps with balance and better clarity.

Health is always a concern as it should be for everyone. I say this as a diabetic, it happened late in life, 37 to be exact, type 1. I’m 48 as of now, it’s something that you think about most of the day, everyday. On the bright side, it keeps you focused on health and mortality. Health is wealth, we have to first do it for ourselves and secondly for others; in my case my wife and kids.

I enjoy working out 4 to 5 days a week mixing cardio/kettle bell/heavy weights. Most is for health but lets be honest, some vanity. Even with working out it has to be combined with good eating habits. One can’t cancel out the other, it has to work in unison to enjoy the overall benefit.

If you’ve made resolutions for the new year, thats a good thing. Especially in the area of fitness, start in small increments, don’t start to lofty, thats the failure zone. The best advise I can give is. It has to make sense too you, only when you have it etched in your mind will it be relevant. It has to be a part of your process, only then will you be successful. It doesn’t matter what self help speech you listen too or book you read.

I know talking about health is a bummer, it is necessary too talk about. While we don’t the sugar industry and big pharma are talking about it, in terms we wouldn’t like very much. I’ve heard because of poor health the current generation will live less, that is startling when you think about it, in the age of technology. The sugar industry says it is fat thats killing you but the real culprit is SUGAR.

Lets look forward too the new year and all its going to yield. Hopefully my pen game will improve. I enjoy talking about a wide range of topics, while religion is the main focus. For those that care, I’m currently reading “Emancipation of a Black Atheist” by D.K. Evans, PhD. Maybe we will talk about it. One other thing I will share is the Podcast is coming soon, still trying to find a name for it that works with the various topics. My motto is “I hope you leave smarter than you came.” Happy New Year

Written by John the Revelator

Cave paintings show instances of human spirtuality. (Patrick Aventurier/SIPA)

Rachel Newcomb is an anthropologist and the Diane and Michael Maher Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning at Rollins College. She is the author of “Everyday Life in Global Morocco.”

 

Author Reza Aslan’s “God: A Human History” is less a biography of God than a study of why and how humans tend to anthropomorphize the divine. As societies developed from small groups of hunter-gatherers to large, specialized populations supported by agriculture, ideas about God changed as well. At the core of all belief systems, Aslan observes a tendency to seek a “humanized God,” which has been “embedded in our consciousness the moment the idea of God first occurred to us.” Studies have shown that although most followers of monotheistic faiths believe God is an abstract force, they will nevertheless describe God “as though they were talking about someone they might have met on the street.” What we say about God, in other words, says more about us than about what God might actually be.

The basic religious impulse, Aslan suggests, is an evolutionary response to environmental stimuli. People tend to attribute agency to natural events (think lightning emanating from the fingertips of a gray-bearded man in the clouds), and our hunter-gatherer ancestors might have imagined that faces seen in trees meant that trees possessed spirits. Cave paintings found throughout the world, some dating as far back as 41,000 years, represent the earliest evidence of human spirituality and demonstrate our ancestors’ interdependent relationship with nature. The Trois-Frères caves of southwest France, for example, feature elaborate paintings of floating animals, devoid of hunting imagery, with a mystical creature at their center: part human, part stag and part owl. Aslan believes that these images do not represent actual animals but rather are “symbols meant to represent ‘the other world’ — the world beyond the material realm.”

As people formed agricultural societies, they began to see humans as dominating nature, and they envisioned gods who did likewise. Perhaps, Aslan argues, agriculture was invented as a response to religion. The elaborate stone temple of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey dates to the end of the last ice age, about 13,000 years ago, yet humans had not begun living settled agricultural lifestyles at this point, leading Aslan to conclude that agriculture was invented to support organized religion, not the other way around. A tremendous workforce would have been needed to build such massive structures, and those workers had to be fed, causing people to turn away from the slender offerings of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and toward the production of crops that could sustain larger populations.

“God,” by Reza Aslan (Random House)

With settled societies came writing, and cultures such as the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians and Greeks left more detailed records of their beliefs. “The act of writing about the gods,” Aslan says, “of being forced to describe in words what the gods are like, not only transformed how we envision the gods; it made conscious and explicit our unconscious and implicit desire to make the gods in our own image.” As people increasingly attempted to harness the forces of nature, the deities themselves became powerful and temperamental humanlike gods who vied with each other for control over their environment.

At some point, the gods became so humanized that the ancient Greeks began to question their legitimacy. Did gods, as depicted in Greek statuary, truly look like people? Creeping doubts led to a different proposition: maybe the gods were not many but one. Aslan lists the philosophers, pharaohs and prophets who first proposed this radical concept; however, none of these early monotheists found a willing audience since “one god conflicts with our universal compulsion to humanize the divine.” For instance, how could one god be capable of both good and evil? People were, however, beginning to accept the idea of one more-powerful god above a panoply of lesser gods, which mirrored the political hierarchies they experienced in society. “As more authority is vested in a single individual on earth, more authority is given to a single god in heaven,” Aslan notes.

It took a radical event for true monotheism to take root: the expulsion of the Jewish people from Babylon. Historical and linguistic evidence indicates that in the ancient land of Canaan, people worshiped two different supreme gods, El and Yahweh, as well as other, lesser deities. Early Israelites, including the prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, would have followed El. But the burning bush that the prophet Moses encountered in the desert is the first appearance of Yahweh, the god followed by the tribe of the Midianites, whose territory was believed to be south of Canaan (Moses had married into a Midianite family). As ancient Israel united into a nation, Yahweh prevailed, yet a defeat at the hands of the Babylonians led many Israelites to conclude that the Babylonian god, Marduk, was stronger. A small group of exiles continued to profess their faith in Yahweh, believing that “perhaps Yahweh was punishing the Israelites for believing in Marduk in the first place.” At this moment, Aslan says, we see “the first expressions of unambiguous monotheism in the entire Bible.” As Yahweh proclaims, “I am the first and last; besides me there are no gods.” To move from the idea of different deities responsible for good and evil to “a single vengeful god full of contradictions” required a great cognitive leap.

Although God was now without peers, many found Him to be too wrathful. When Jesus appeared, Aslan argues, He embodied those human characteristics of the divine that people still needed, while at the same time preaching the message that God was loving and forgiving. At first, not everyone agreed that Jesus Himself was divine, and it was not until 325 at the Council of Nicea, convened by the Roman emperor Constantine, that God and Jesus were declared to be “of one substance.”

Enter Islam, which arose in the 7th century “out of the deserts of Arabia to confront Christianity’s conception of the humanized God.” Yet even as Islam denounced the idea of the trinity and insisted on a God with no image, substance or form, there are still parts of the Koran that are “replete with anthropomorphic descriptions of God.” And some Muslims still had questions: How could God be one with creation yet separate from it? Such theological conundrums led to the rise of Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam that concerns itself with a direct and personal experience of the divine. It is this belief system that Aslan finds most sympathetic. “God is everything that exists,” he writes.

Aslan devotes significant time to the “big three” monotheistic religions but does not explain why other cultures have been able to follow religious systems, such as Buddhism, without a deity at their center. If the human tendency is to want a humanlike God, what explains the success of these other religions? Nonetheless, Aslan’s fluid writing style makes the reader inclined to drop any lingering questions and accept his assertions on faith alone. His use of scholarly sources from fields ranging from archaeology to neuroscience will introduce many readers to information that otherwise would be relatively inaccessible, and he combines these disparate sources in compelling ways. Whatever God may be, at the very least Aslan shows us the long history of how humans have made Him in our image, and not vice versa.

 By Rachel Newcomb
Posted by John the Revelator

DALE B. MARTIN is a well-established New Testament scholar, a Professor of Religious Studies at Yale, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also, by his own confession, a post-modernist, a Marxist (to the extent of accepting Marx’s diagnosis of capitalism and of its pervasive influence), an “orthodox” Episco­palian Christian (greatly cherishing the Book of Common Prayer) — and gay.

These affiliations make him profoundly sceptical of the value of a purely historical-critical approach to the study of scripture (particul­arly the New Testament, his special­ism). “Biblical truths” cannot be derived from historical study alone: the gains from this depend on inter­pretation, which is necessarily influenced by other factors; indeed, any “biblical theology” would be moribund if it were not constantly engaged with the realities of a “post-modern” approach to Christian sources.

Accordingly, his book does not offer a “biblical theology” in the sense of exploring what the writers may originally have “meant” — which, in any case, is hardly recover­able apart from a consider­able degree of interpretation. Instead, he arranges his book in chapters dealing with traditional categories of systematic theology: God, Christ, Spirit, Church, etc. Under these headings, he seeks to demonstrate how the insights gained from mod­ern (in­­­deed post-modern) critical analysis may feed into the faith and practice of a contemporary Chris­tian.

He denies any need to harmonise the data or seek for a consistent “theology” in the New Testament writings; sometimes, indeed, their very variety and inconsistency can inspire creative modern theology. All depends on the assumptions that the critic brings to bear on the data, and these are legitimately influenced by a Christian lifestyle sensitive to the concerns of a person such as he declares himself to be.

This approach might seem to lay the critic open to the charge of considerable subjectivity: how is one interpretation to be judged more legitimate than another? What is the control that can be exercised to exclude heterodox or even heretical interpretations? If there is no at­­tempt to reconcile apparently con­tradictory propositions, how do we judge between them?

Here the author acknowledges his debt to modern theories of know­ledge, particularly to Wittgenstein as mediated to him through the recent work of Dominican scholars such as Fergus Kerr. These expon­ents of philosophical theology have the support of the Eastern apo­­phatic tradition, and of a school of West­ern mysticism — and, in­­deed, of St Thomas Aquinas himself — when they affirm that no pro­posi­­tion can be altogether “true” about God.

This means that two contra­dictory propositions derived from scripture may be equally near to, as well as far from, any “truth” about God, and may both be accepted as throwing light on the ultimate mystery of faith.

Rigour in historical-critical study is essential — but only for establish­ing history. A search for the original “meaning” may be worth while in itself, but is not decisive for its meaning for us today. “Biblical truths” are found only through inter­pretation; the interpreter is sociologically conditioned; the active exercise of Christian faith is the necessary context for interpreta­tion, and is nurtured by biblical study.

Certainly this rings true for many of us. But a nagging question re­­mains. What is to prevent a pro­liferation of false interpretations? Martin discusses a number of these and finds reasons to reject them; but his point of vantage is confessedly personal to himself. Readers with different backgrounds and interests may (if we follow his methodology) legitimately beg to differ.

By Canon Anthony Harvey is a former Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey

Posted by John the Revelator

This is all BS ol’ Roy has always been the man we all know and despise today. He’s always been an ignorant rep for christianity as well as a racist white supremacist. He never should have been a judge but senator, that’s out of the question. What it all comes down too, is winning…and winning at any cost! Because of Roy more non believers were created.

o matter the outcome of today’s special election in Alabama for a coveted US Senate seat, there is already one loser: Christian faith. When it comes to either matters of life and death or personal commitments of the human heart, no one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.

The race between Republican candidate Roy Moore and Democratic candidate Doug Jones has only put an exclamation point on a problem that has been festering for a year and a half—ever since a core of strident conservative Christians began to cheer for Donald Trump without qualification and a chorus of other believers decried that support as immoral. The Christian leaders who have excused, ignored, or justified his unscrupulous behavior and his indecent rhetoric have only given credence to their critics who accuse them of hypocrisy. Meanwhile the easy willingness of moderate and progressive Christians to cast aspersions on their conservative brothers and sisters has made many wonder about our claim that Jesus Christ can bring diverse people together as no other can.

The Hypocrisy on the Left

From moderate and liberal brothers and sisters, conservatives have received swift and decisive condemnation. They call these conservatives idolaters for seeking after political power. They call them homophobes for wanting Christian bakers to legally follow their conscience. They call them racists and Islamophobes for wanting secure borders. These moderates and liberal evangelicals are so disturbed by the political beliefs of their brothers and sisters that many say they don’t even want to be associated with them anymore; they seem to view these brothers and sisters in Christ as tax collectors and sinners.

In general, we have witnessed few Christians among these critics taking the time and effort to understand the views of their conservative fellow believers or to delve into the social and political realities they might be coming from. Some secular analysts, who frankly acknowledge being on the Left, have been doing this admirably. UC Berkley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right strives to understand Tea Party advocates in Louisiana, most of whom are evangelical Christians. And law professor Joan Williams’s White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America unpacks the class dimensions of much of our political divide. And then there is Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, which demonstrates the moral ground of advocates left and right. None of these writers could be mistaken for a conservative, but they each at least attempt to be charitable and fair-minded in trying to understand the views of those with whom they disagree. If only some leading evangelical progressive or moderate would do the same.

This is not to excuse some statements by conservative leaders that cannot be interpreted in any other way than as a slur against gays, Muslims, Mexicans, and others. Some conservatives are fearful beyond reason. Some conservatives clearly worship political power as much as they do Jesus Christ. But too often, we mistake the inarticulate groanings of certain foolish conservative leaders for the actual beliefs and behavior of the mass of evangelicals who vote for Donald Trump or Roy Moore.

When you actually talk to such supporters face to face, you often find more nuanced and reasoned political views, grounded in moral principles, combined with a ready willingness to condemn the immorality and verbal carelessness of these two men. These conservatives are of a view one can appreciate philosophically: Sometimes in a nation’s life, one must for prudential reasons cast one’s lot with a morally unsavory candidate. Sometimes it really is a choice between the lesser of two evils, and sometimes three. We can respect that while continuing to disagree with some of their prudential choices, as they disagree with ours.

Our concern here is with a cabal of noisy conservatives, whom the press has apparently (and unjustly) appointed as spokesmen for all conservatives. This group pretends that the choice for someone like Moore represents unalloyed godliness and refuses to unmistakably criticize immorality in other leaders they admire. To justify or ignore the moral failings of a politician because he champions your favored policies—well, that is to step onto the path of self-deception and hypocrisy, which according to Jesus, leads to no less place than hell (Matt. 23:15).

Of course, this charge of hypocrisy cuts both ways. It has applied equally well to progressive and moderate Christians, who have in the past turned a blind eye to the moral failings and moral bankruptcy of liberal candidates they support and who have decided, at best, to whisper truth to power lest they delegitimize their candidate or office holder. Clearly, there are moments on the Left in which partisans are too weak to resist the temptation to entrust themselves to the power politics of the moment instead of “to him who judges justly,” to whom “the nations are like a drop in a bucket … regarded as dust on the scales,” who “brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing” (Isa. 40:15, 23).

Hypocrisy on the Right

As suggested above, some of the critiques by the Left and center (matched by a fair amount of critiques by leading conservatives, by the way), are hard to argue with. Hypocrisy is again the most salient charge.

As recently as 2011, PRRI found that only 30 percent of white evangelicals believed “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” But by late 2016, when Donald Trump was running for president, that number had risen sharply to 72 percent—the biggest shift of any US religious group.

The reason for the flip is not hard to discern. David Brody, a correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, has noted the desperation and urgency felt throughout much of conservative Christianity. “The way evangelicals see the world, the culture is not only slipping away—it’s slipping away in all caps, with four exclamation points after that. It’s going to you-know-what in a handbasket.” The logic is then inexorable: “Where does that leave evangelicals? It leaves them with a choice. Do they sacrifice a little bit of that ethical guideline they’ve used in the past in exchange for what they believe is saving the culture?”

Apparently yes. This is precisely why, when serious and substantial allegations of sexual abuse of minors were made against Roy Moore, many doubled down on their support for him. Within days of this news story in The Washington Post, polls indicated that not only would 57 percent of evangelicals continue to support him, another 37 percent said they were now more likely to vote for him.

As some have pointed out, many conservative Christians simply don’t believe the many news accounts and chalk it up to a secular, liberal, Democratic conspiracy against Moore. Others acknowledge that while the charges may be true, they are minor in nature or happened so long ago they don’t matter today. Some are simply Machiavellian, saying they are not electing Mother Teresa but a man who can look out for the interests of conservative Christians.

What is going on here? Among other things, there is this: Many conservatives feel marginalized by the culture and remember the days when a Judeo-Christian morality didn’t need explaining or defending. They know that a people without a vision of sound moral grounding will perish. They don’t want to perish, and to give them credit, they don’t want this nation to perish. They really do believe that this is a matter of life and death. To them, our choices are simple and stark: devilry or godliness.

They are right, of course, about moral decline in America. Yes, there are all sorts of qualifications and nuances to make, and our culture, in fact, champions many biblical values (the recent #MeToo campaign and the fight against racism are but two examples). But there is no question that from a biblical perspective, our nation has lost its moorings. Nearly everyone does what is right in his own eyes, which results in moral, psychological, and social suffering unheard of in our history. The gap between rich and poor, the number of abortions and fatherless children, the steady rise of drug addiction, the increasing sympathy with euthanasia—these are but a few indicators that something is deeply wrong.

The problem with many Christian conservatives is this: They believe they can help the country become godly again by electing people whose godliness is seriously questioned by the very people they want to influence.

They have forgotten that old evangelical idea (and, before that, a Jewish idea) of putting a “hedge around the law.” That refers to behavior that is not wrong in itself but is practiced so as to not give even a hint of wrongdoing. It is not immoral to drink alcohol as such, but many Christians refuse to do so because they recognize that drinking alcohol may impair their judgment about matters that in fact are moral. When it comes to choosing leaders and shaping our life together, we’ve rightly followed this biblical teaching: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22, KJV).

This attitude has sometimes nurtured legalism and self-righteousness, to be sure, but it has also helped us to lead lives that are often respected by unbelievers, even when they don’t agree with our choices. We have taken seriously these words of the apostle Peter: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Pet. 2:12).

When a public Christian is accused of some immorality, the honorable and moral thing to do has been to take a leave of absence until the matter of settled. This is precisely what Moore, who sees himself as a godly and moral candidate, has refused to do.

But what if this is merely a political ploy to remove a candidate from running for office, and what if it’s all a lie in the end? What if our godly candidate is merely being persecuted and harassed (by “the powerful Obama-Clinton Machine,” as Moore put it), and this is further evidence we’re not in just a political battle but a spiritual one (as Moore has repeatedly claimed)?

Well, how does the Bible say we fight spiritual battles when, for instance, people “falsely say all kinds of evil against you” (Matt. 5:11)?

By turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39).

By forgiving 7 times 70 (Matt. 18:22, KJV).

By doing good to our enemies (Matt. 5:43–48).

If we’re really anxious to help the nation become more godly, we have to act godly even when we think we are unfairly judged, even when the stakes are at their highest:

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet. 2:20–23)

Some have argued along these lines: We have the best chance in decades of reversing Roe v. Wade, protecting the religious liberty of the church, and reversing unjust and immoral laws! Let’s say for the sake of argument that such a political agenda could be enacted in the next few years by the means chosen—electing and supporting officials whose behavior is widely viewed as immoral. Will our political enemies be convinced of the righteousness of our moral agenda? Or will they think we are hypocrites who are using political power to force our wills on others? Will they more deeply respect us, or will they more deeply resent us and disbelieve our faith?

When combative conservative Christians refuse to suffer patiently in the public square, retaliate when insults are hurled at them, and do not refrain from the appearance of evil, they sabotage not only their political cause but the cause they care about the most: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Resisting the Temptations of Political Life

What events of the last year and a half have shown once again is that when Christians immerse themselves in politics as Christians, for what they determine are Christian causes, touting their version of biblical morality in the public square—they will sooner or later (and often sooner) begin to compromise the very principles they champion and do so to such a degree that it blemishes the very faith they are most anxious to promote. And one of the biggest blemishes—for it is an open refutation of Jesus’ prayer that we be one—is when we start divorcing one another over politics. Jesus said it is our unity in him that will, more than anything, help the world see “that you [Father] have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). No wonder few believe much of anything we say anymore.

The way forward is unclear. For to love one’s neighbor in a democratic society means that Christians must participate in the public square to seek the common good. We cannot forsake our political duty, and that duty will lead believers in different directions. It’s just that when we do engage in politics, we so often end up doing and saying things that make us sound and act like we don’t care about the very values we champion. Perhaps the first step is for Christians Left and Right, when they stand up to champion a cause, to stop saying “Thus says the Lord” and “Lord, I thank you that you have not made me like these other Christians,” but frame their politics with, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”

By Mark Galli/ChristianityToday

Posted by John the Revelator