Pray First, Criticize Second

In the target-rich environment that is the Trump Presidency, and as the honeymoon with our charming Prime Minister fades, it is easy to lapse into a posture of constant criticism. There is so much to be upset about!

Meanwhile, the Christian world has its own controversies and scandals, of course—most recently, the removal of the senior administrators at a leading Christian college in Chicago. There is so much to be upset about!

The Bible doesn’t discourage criticism, particularly of leaders. In fact, much of the Old Testament is devoted to prophetic warnings to political and religious leaders of God’s people to shape up or face certain and awful judgment. The sins of such leaders are listed and denounced both specifically and graphically. There is so much to be upset about!

I have offered here earlier a defense of my own public criticism of others, and particularly of fellow Christians. Naming things for what they are is part of telling the truth. And telling the truth to power, and about power, is a deeply Biblical thing to do.

But so is love.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Did God Choose President Trump?

[This is a re-posting of my contribution to “Context with Lorna Dueck” from February 24, 2017.]

The inauguration of President Donald Trump was replete with prayers, scripture readings, exhortations, and benedictions by clergy from various Christian denominations and other religions besides. But the question remains:

Did God ordain the Trump Administration?

Religious News Service interviewed theologians of differing theological and political stripes. Not surprisingly, some said yes and some said no. But the conversation would have been improved if they had recognized a more complex idea of Providence.

At the highest level is God’s overall responsibility for creating and sustaining the world as it is. Since God could have created a different world, and since God could terminate this one in a moment, it can fairly be said that nothing happens that God does not allow.

So is God responsible for the election of Donald Trump? In this important sense that God made the world in such a way that such a thing could happen, then yes.

But that’s not the level at which most people seem to want to address the issue.

The lowest level, we might call it, is the immediate level of God’s acting directly to produce a particular outcome because God likes that outcome and determines to have it, no matter what. Chief examples of such action would be God parting the Red Sea for the exodus of Israel from Egypt, or raising Jesus from the grave for the redemption of the world.

Almost every preacher or theologian I have seen interviewed, even those firmly in Trump’s camp, allows the obvious: It simply cannot be that God selected Donald Trump as the most godly and capable person in America to take the world’s most powerful office. (Those who try to whitewash Trump’s failings and extol his virtues quickly make laughingstocks of themselves.)

So no, it isn’t God’s will that Trump be president if by that you mean God is thrilled to see such a person occupying such a position.

But did God yet guide people and events to place Donald Trump in the White House?

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Successful–or Merely Popular?

[Alas, my friends over at “Context with Lorna Dueck” haven’t come up with an archive yet of my posts there. So I’ll keep posting them here to “catch up” over the next month or so–almost a year’s worth. This one was first published on February 21, 2017.]

The new season of “Black Mirror,” a “Twilight Zone” TV program now produced by Netflix, opens with an episode nicely terrifying for our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram times.

Starring the adorable Bryce Dallas Howard, the show depicts a near-future dystopia in which everyone and everything is evaluated all the time. People rate on their phones every encounter of their day—from picking up coffee to going on a date—and one’s status rises or falls like a stock price. Indeed, one’s actual worth rises and falls affecting everything one does, from what level of car one is allowed to rent to what privileges one has at the airport: You are your popularity.

This is the world trying to keep up with the Kardashians. This is the world in which a 26-year-old mother of two makes upwards of a million dollars a year merely arranging her life to be photographed, and then puts it up, hour by hour, online.

This is the world in which the most remarked-upon feature of our prime minister’s first post-inauguration encounter with the American president was the optics of the arm-wrestling of the first handshake.

We need a way out of this preposterous hall of mirrors, this relentless quest for “likes” so that one’s vacation, one’s wedding, even one’s suffering must be validated by one’s “friends” one click at a time.

So who would be the opposite of Kim Kardashian, a person I understand to be famous for contributing precisely nothing to the world but the entertainment of a posh, silly life?

The easy answer is “Mother Teresa,” right?

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