Personal Narrative

A confession, a call to ministry, and you ain’t gonna like it

Whale tail after dive - Jonah and the WhaleThis jeremiad’s for you, babe

I don’t want to be arrogant enough to assume that anyone is familiar with my writing. A few are, and I love you folks for that, but I’m just some schmo. A rando on the internet. There’s no reason anyone should be familiar with my work. When I’m feeling poetic, I confess that I like to think of myself as Everyman. One day I should get off my behind and write the book that would explain why and why I think I could make it matter if I could figure out how.  That said, some are familiar with some of what I’ve written, and it’s probably no surprise to them that I have anger issues.

My confession is that I’m aware of how my anger probably does at least as much to cloud my persuasive ability as my florid style does. About the only thing in my defense is that I’ve drunk my own Kool-Aid for a bit longer than was healthy. It’s one thing to conduct the unsolicited public service of reflecting the ugliness of the world back at it and yelling, “don’t like it, do ya?!” with the occasional grim determination that comes of doing dirty jobs. It’s another to revel in it.

There’s times I enjoy that anger just a bit too much. It feels good sticking the knife in and twisting while screaming “and furthermore!” from a blood-engorged rage face. Cathartic, even.

You have no idea how superior I am after one of those outbursts.

I have anger issues, and they have become utterly counterproductive.

If they’re not counterproductive, then I just haven’t yet figured out how to make this persuasive:

“Listen up, you moral dungheap. Everything about you is wrong. It’s a wonder you don’t strangle yourself each morning trying to change your underwear, assuming you do that at all. You align yourself with just about everything wrong with humanity.  You get basic reading skills wrong. You aren’t qualified to know an expert if you saw one, but you sure have a lot of them who are wrong for a living. Your failure at basic thinking would be bad enough on its own, but your moral compass is also utterly discombobulated. You’re beyond redemption. Basically, you’re a trash person, but it’s not nice to wish death on you so I just wish you’d shut up already. ”

It seems no amount of explanation of that afterward ever really seems to get its point across. It’s the damnedest thing. I’m pretty sure that verbal blast should act like a Maul of Enlightenment +5 or something.

On the bright side, it doesn’t work for them, either. Pick any them you like.

Or is that a bright side? We can’t talk to each other, and when we do, we talk past each other, each side absolutely certain they have the right of it.

I know I’m guilty of that. I’m the bigger jerk for it because I throw down a gauntlet. Show me I’m wrong. I don’t feel the usual retort works well with me. “No need to rebut that presented without evidence.” I present what I think is reason. Its reason is its own evidence. It may not be persuasive, but demanding that it also be persuasive is just moving the goal posts into the next county. I can’t compel rebuttal, but dismissal also doesn’t count as refutation. Either that, or I have this whole logic thing wrong. That is entirely possible.

I don’t even try to move beyond the most fundamental principles. I don’t see much need. I posit simple things. I make simple connections. I try to make sure one thing follows from the next. I question my own conclusions. I ask how I might be wrong. I ask if there are other possible explanations. I try to detect trends and patterns and separate correlation from causality. I’m fallible, so error could certainly creep in.

Maybe I should take a different tack. Don’t prove me wrong. Just count on me being persistently wrong and muddying the waters earnestly because precious few have taken up the gauntlet and fewer have succeeded. I pride myself on admitting error and learning from it. I welcome correction. I just make it a pain in the butt, because I know that not every correction proposed will of necessity be correct itself. I might not know a right thing, but I like to think I’m pretty good at spotting wrong things, except perhaps my own. Argument from authority won’t do it. Show me how my case is either invalid or unsound. Otherwise I just have a habit of plowing ahead, thinking I’m correct on a thing.

Believing I’m right, I charge into battle with the Wrong with all the zeal of a crusading inquisitor. Let me tell you, I can type super fast when I’m that full of zeal.

The greater the disparity between how absolutely right I am and how absolutely wrong they are, the greater my zeal.

And boy howdy, are they wrong. The tragedy here is that my rage isn’t misplaced. It’s just misapplied to no effect. As it turns out, when it comes to this battle I lack a critical piece of equipment.

Faith.

I am a proud none/other. It would take a second book to explain how. For now, what I wish to convey is that for all my none/otherness, my view on things is sympathetic to, possibly even in deep agreement, with the best of most religions, but most especially with Christianity. That may be a function of cultural dominance. Perhaps I’d align more closely with Sufism were I to live in the Middle East for fifty years. I’ll never know.

When I look at just how incredibly, systemically wrong the opposition is on so many issues of major import, I can’t help but take a radical view and look for the cause of their systemic error. I believe that it is thanks to that error, some key, critical, fundamental error, that those who are so wrong are not merely wrong, but monstrously and gleefully wrong while claiming the right of it. But for the monstrous part, I could as easily be describing “our” side, whoever we are. It’s the monstrous part that especially matters.

I don’t care if a person is wrong about the order of operations.

I don’t care if they are wrong about how many electrons are in the outermost shell of H.

I don’t care who groaned just then.

I care that they are literate enough to check themselves. Most of the opposition that I encounter seems to have trouble at this point.

I care that they are equipped and prepared to reason.

They are not.

Here’s a shocker. That is okay. None of that is actually damning. There are perfectly fine people in every corner of world who cannot read or write. I hope they are the happier for it, in their way. I would wish literacy on them for self-improvement, but coupled with principle and reason, literacy can be as much curse as blessing for the underclass. Learning may bring joy, but knowledge is not happiness. I should hope happiness takes precedence over knowledge, else we may never attain it.

There are completely irrational people in the world who believe all manner of things not borne out by reason even a little. There are many perfectly fine people in every corner of the world who cannot or will not reason. I hope they are the happier for it, in their way. The same caveats apply, just substitute reason for literacy and vice versa.

Neither of those conditions is a guarantee of stunningly rotten character, and yet, there is it, front and center, every day in our news.

Trump is in office.

His goons are in their offices.

His mouthpieces uncritically repeat his lies.

False teachers lend him the credibility he had to have to finally win the rabid masses over. I don’t just mean people who are modestly wrong about scripture. I mean people armed with rifles because they feel it is their G-d-given duty during the end times to pump as many holes in you as needed to help Jesus clear out the wicked because they do not understand the very passages from Revelation they use to justify their bloodlust.

Trump rose to power on the votes of people who, as a cohort, will reliably and predictably land on the wrong side of the moral issue du jour.

There is something far more insidious at work here than a lack of education.

There is something far more insidious at work here than a lack of reason.

This is a fundamentally a moral issue. And if we don’t figure out how to resolve it, this moral issue could well blossom into a moral catastrophe. If you think I’m exaggerating, then I think we’re reading different news about nuclear proliferation, climate change, economic and political corruption, permanent war, humanitarian crises, and how all those various trajectories converge. I welcome your correction.

Because it’s a moral issue, however enraged I am at the monstrosity I see paraded for my casual inspection even when I don’t set out to look for it, I am rendered effectively voiceless. We’ve already discovered how ineffective rage is, so I might as well be mute. Worse, I probably only cause some of the worst to dig in their heels, and they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and now more people are worse than before. They do not take moral upbraiding from SJWs, because somehow in their hate-clogged synapses justice isn’t worth fighting for, and people who try are the evil ones.

Without faith, I’m just gas on a fire. Or I’m complicit in silence. I’ve found no middle ground because the errors we face are ultimately moral in nature. The most monstrous voices in our midst are seemingly immune to facts. They cannot see reason. I think they have to be met on moral grounds. They are culturally hidebound. The only moral terms they will even pretend to hear must be wrapped in their favored symbolism, however much they profane it. No Muslim will reach those who most need it. No Jew will reach them. No Unitarian will reach them. No Buddhist will reach them. It will take someone who is unashamed to embrace the name of Christianity.

So I’ll confess this, too. I will not play-act at being Christian to reach them. It’s not that I would be ashamed. It’s that I would be lying, if only by a complex web of omissions and caveats. Besides, it’s not my job, not in that way. By the same token, I have, in the past, tried fine tuning my approaches to people to see what, if anything works. Sometimes, not always, some of the worst just trying out the waters and not yet fully gone over to darkness are actually amenable to Scriptural correction.

I’ve seen this go two ways.  Every now and again, I point out to someone that, for someone who professes Christianity their own demeanor makes for lousy witness. At the end of the day when they’re getting right with Jesus, will they still think it was worth trashing the quality of their witness and making it harder for other Christians to witness just for the sake of being spitefully monstrous to score political brownie points and get their little shot of Facebook like-induced euphoria from a bunch of strangers who are all-too-eager to see them stray far from Christ in their anger?

Now and then, I trigger a silence. I can’t pretend to interpret silence. Make of that what you will. As far as I can tell, Satan got himself hence.

I’ve also been called some kind of twisted Calvinist because I suggested Jesus wasn’t joking when he said love thy neighbor as thyself and pointed someone to Matthew 25.

It can go both ways with these people.

So I’m angry at them, and I’ve found something that might even work, but I rebel at the thought of lying to use it, and there’s a whole other group of people out there who could maybe do this thing, and do it honestly, and do it with far more love, and grace, and kindness, and compassion than I could ever bring to bear.

Now we get to the invitation.

I invite you, Christian reader of good character, to take up a gauntlet or two, if you will. If you can. If you dare. If you are called.

First, convert me. Tell me something for which I haven’t already read the commentaries. Show me something I didn’t learn as a youth in an SBC congregation outside of New Orleans. Do something that full submersion didn’t accomplish in the heart of someone who was yearning for it to work.

But first, show me something.

Do you know what I see when I read the comments on Fox News posts on Facebook? [Note: I pick on Fox News exclusively here, but it’s not just them. Want more? Just click on a person’s profile in Facebook that you see spewing hate and see where else they congregate. So many places. So many.] I see a lot of very angry, hateful, ignorant, morally compromised victims of the poisons they’ve been fed. And I see other angry, hateful, sometimes intelligent, morally compromised victims of different poisons firing back, me included. Gotta get that cheap shot in. Gotta inform some !@%#$ what an !#%!# they are. I see calm people offering knowledge ignored at best, derided viciously at worst. I see rational people trolled into oblivion but feeling superior at the end of it, like me. Gotta get those likes and obviously unironic not-mocking laughs. Hit me in the feels with a ❤ because I was just a superlative jerk in my own right and pwned some racist, bigoted Nazi-lite with an AR fetish and a Bible of which they have no understanding.

Do you know who I do not see?

I do not see clergy.

I do not see true evangelists truly evangelizing.

I see people who have been poisoned, possibly since birth, who think they have some special discernment, and they are trashing not only their witness, but yours. For every verse spoken by God made flesh, they will have a retort, as though any other human somehow trumps the word of God from his own mouth made flesh. Apparently it requires a special spirit of discernment to read the words of Jesus and understand them correctly. As I have seen in this special discernment of the spirit which takes people over in their explanations, all one really has to do to understand what Jesus means is ask, “what would Satan say instead?” and conclude with a shaming shake of the finger that’s what Jesus would have preferred. Easy peasy. Challenge them on that and just watch the good Christian bile roll down like waters, just like Jesus said in Jesusians Eleventy:Never.

For reasons, let’s just say I have feelings about things like spirits, and being moved by them, and what evil ones feel like, and what good ones feel like without getting into the weeds of it. Whatever I think of them, others certainly appear to think them real and believers operate in the world as though they are, and that’s what matters, especially where knowledge is lacking, reason is absent, and faith is poisoned at the well. The mentally superior who know with an irrational certainty that no such things exist might do well to go back to epistemology and let me know when the philosophy is settled. Besides, they will absolutely never make any inroads with the cohort that most needs improvement, because the improvement they need is moral, and I assure the cocksure intellectual atheist that the fields of morals, ethics, even axiology, remain as unsettled as any other. You might be right, but in this context, you are utterly beside the point and so is your correctness.

I’m telling you, this is not a good spirit that grants them this discernment, when they even think they have it. As a person just a hair too close to evil myself, I think I’m a pretty decent judge of the evil I see at play, and most of these loudmouths say discernment but couldn’t point to a favorite verse in the Gospels that is reflected in their character. I should think that would be fairly evident to a minister, or even to faithful laity who do a better job of getting any of this right than I do.

When I go into these comment sections filled with publicans and sinners, I see derangement. Spiritual derangement.

Now, I’ve been told that one reason one might not see witness in action in these circumstances is because we’re instructed not to judge.

So, don’t judge.

Edmund Burke The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

There’s a problem here, though. Not judging is a decent sounding reason. Scriptural, even. And good men and women, clergy, laity, or otherwise are absolutely doing good things, not nothing [sorry for the double negative]. You’re feeding the hungry, and giving drink to the thirsty, and caring for the sick, and visiting the prisoner, and clothing the naked, and taking in the stranger. That’s a tremendous amount of work.

But you are not going in among the publicans and sinners.

If you are, I don’t see you there.

I don’t see John 3:16 dropped by someone whose Facebook name begins with Rev.

I don’t see gentle admonitions to love thy neighbor from evident pastors.

I don’t see you there leading, by example and by Scripture, to love, not hate. To God, not Satan.

I don’t see you there. And I am there A LOT.

From over here, it looks like you’ve arrived at a different judgment, and maybe you aren’t even aware of it. Maybe that’s why I’m here in this damned internet whale and complaining so bitterly. These people are what, unworthy of your witness? These people most in need of it, who, if reached, could be equally zealous allies in your Christian labors? Who, their donations diverted to good, could help drain the coffers of the evil that leads them astray in a way that you never will?

There are few of these people I’ve ever come to truly despise. I am deeply angry at them. I am repulsed by the spirit that moves them. I blame them to the extent that they have moral agency and are ultimately responsible for the decisions they make. Yet I know them to be victims. Most of them aren’t meth-heads, or thieves, or murderers. Most of them are, outside of politics, the boring kind of banal good that gets no cookie for doing only what the heathen do.

In your absence, you leave them twisting in the wind. Worse. You know they spread poison that will only reach out to empower other evils. And there, in that battle, you do nothing. If you’re there, you’re out of sight, out of mind. I certainly don’t see the fingerprints of your work anywhere that I look.

This is my confession, and an invitation to ministry.

It is also a jeremiad, and it is directed at you, Reverend. You, Pastor. You, Deacon. You, Father.

To you the Father has granted a grave responsibility of stewardship for all his sheep, and I tell you that you are remiss in your ministry if the touch of it cannot be seen by one motivated to see it.

It should not be a once-off.

It should not be a fluke.

It should not be that I was looking in at the wrong time.

It should not be that I am unaware of private messages sent.

Prepare yourself, people of the cloth, because I am about to speak to you in a manner to which you are most likely not accustomed.

Where the ever living !@#%!# are you?!

I told you I had an anger problem, and now you get another confession.

Apart from the more direct “I lack faith because the Spirit has not yet seen fit to grace me with that gift,” I am not a convert because you fail me. I would be embarrassed to share your -isms.

I am not a convert because you will not do the work that needs to be done.

I am not a convert because I see what you will abet with your silence and your inaction.

Whatever my relation to G-d, and Christ, and the Spirit, it is my own, ineffable and incommunicable.

By your very ordination, you, however, have the special responsibility to be shepherds to these sheep. You leave them to wolves.

You have the responsibility to judge them arightly as also sick and in need of your care. You let them languish and spread their disease unchecked.

You have the responsibility to visit them in their prisons of lies and moral poison and worse, sacrilege and blasphemy committed in your G-d’s name. You’ve thrown away the key.

You have the responsibility to be fishers of men, but you have utterly rejected perhaps the most needful school of fish of the lot.

You’ve already judged them, but dare not judge them?

Your absence tells on you. You have judged them unworthy of your witness and of true ministry, else you would be there.

Prove me wrong. Pick up the gauntlet and do these things.

When you’re done reading this article, I want you to pray.

Get down on your damned knees and pray. Make no excuses for not doing it. What, something in my words gets between you and G-d? Get with G-d then. That’s how you fix it, right?

Ask whether I’m leading you wrongly in this, regardless of how you feel about my manner.

And I want you to get off your damned knees, and call two of your pastor buddies.

And I want you to pray.

And I want the three of you to call six more of your pastor buddies.

And I want you to pray.

I want you to pray for guidance on how best to immediately and without delay organize an ecumenical, non-denominational social media Evangelism Extravaganza or whatever you need to call it to draw in the donations to make it happen.

If you look at a typical Fox News post (I pick on them for being the most egregious example), for instance, you’ll note that most of their spew gets between 1,000 to 5,000 comments. More popular items, possibly at prime times for social media, might get upward of 50,0000. Shares can range dramatically, too. These are seemingly big numbers, but they are finite. Better yet, regardless of how big those numbers are, there are only 24  hours in a day. Something with 50,000 comments, on average (I know it spikes and various), is getting about 2,000 comments an hour, or about 33 comments per minute.

A person would really have to squeeze those numbers into small time slots to jack that per minute average up to 100 or more per minute.

Do you mean to tell me and, far more importantly, G-d, that of those 33 comments per minute, you cannot organize an effort to make a call to G-d’s love #34 and at least give it a chance to be heard? It would take fewer than a hundred ministers to divide the day into 15-minutes shifts. You can’t handle that?

Do you mean to tell me, but mostly G-d, that with all your seminary training and Bible study and quite likely some degree of education in psychology and counseling that you cannot look at a person’s very angry, diabolically inspired comment and decide whether the person has an anger issue to be addressed with Christian love, or a race-hate issue to be addressed with Christian love? Or some other issue to be addressed with Christian love? Is that it? Do you lack the competence I, a lowly sinning other-believer, assume you have?

This far into the contemporary history of the modern internet, do you mean for me and G-d to believe you cannot yet figure out how all the tubes and whistles work to start an online ministry to great effect? You can’t start a blog for your online Bible study and link to it in your profiles and in your comments?

Just what good are you, anyway?

Some of you, being human, will predictably launch into some kind of defensive mode. You just go ahead and do that. Then show me where I’m wrong.

And I will still demand of you, in no uncertain, and absolutely rude terms, because apparently small, still voices are lost on you in this urgent matter:

What the #%!#%$! !#%!%!$ is wrong with you people?

You have one job. Evangelize in word and deed.

Not only are you missing a golden opportunity for witness, you are, most certainly, not doing a critical part of your job. YOUR job, not mine. You are the only ones who can reach these people. It is your job to figure out how. And the quickest, easiest, most direct path is right in front of you, and you are not using it well enough for anyone to notice.

YOUR job.

And you are found wanting.

Fox News and its ilk should feel like they are under constant assault by G-d’s love. Evil people moved by evil will absolutely say evil things back to you. Get used to it. Nobody said it would be easy. You will be persecuted. You will be mocked. You will be derided. You will get talked to in far worse terms than anything I’ve uttered. You will get hateful private messages. You might even get death and rape threats.

Gee, it’s almost like maybe you should have heard all this before.

Maybe I’m not a Christian because the Spirit has no so moved me. Maybe I’m not because there’s hardly a one of you lot worthy of your collars and robes if you’re willing to let these people be poisoned and agitated without lifting so much as one loving Christian finger to do something meaningful, loving, and Christian about it.

Again, that’s not MY job.

That’s YOUR job.

And you should be #!@%!# ashamed of yourselves that I’ve been waiting 35 years to see leadership from your kind in this direction. 35 long goddamned years.

And me, of all the damned people, gets tapped to tell you in no uncertain, VERY ANGRY, EVEN WRATHFUL terms, that you are asleep at the damned wheel.

Now get on your knees, pray, make those calls, and fulfill your ministry.

Or don’t, and you can just sit there stewing and clutching your pearls and wondering why the None/Other category is the fastest growing in the country while Trump supporters make every diabolical excuse they can for why screw the sick, poor, hungry, thirsty, prisoner, and strangers is the name of their gospel game. We see your ministry of silent neglect while the forces of evil harvest souls to the greater detriment of the much, much larger world.

And don’t blame me if you won’t act because you’re offended. If you’re more hung up on my words and your delicate feelings and egos than you are on the call to action, I leave it to you to discern which, the sacred or the diabolical, is really at the root of your inaction.

What are you afraid of? Schism? You already have schism, and it is killing us at an accelerating rate.

What are you afraid of, revolution in your ministry? If you can’t handle that kind of revolution, what kind can you handle?

Besides, what’s the worst that can happen? They’ll complain that there’s too much religion in your politics? That there’s too much Jesus in the public square?

Then again, maybe you don’t want me to convert.

If I convert, I’m likely to be zealous. I’m likely to take whatever ordination I can get. I’m likely to use my G-d-given predilection for irascibility to be a constant burr under your asses.

Now get to work. I’m tired of the lot of you. Don’t make me have to do this again.

And furthermore…

…don’t neglect this ministry on your own side of the political aisle. There are plenty of folks like me there, too, and maybe, just maybe seeing you actually doing your jobs might take some souls off the fence.

 

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