Category Archives: Prophecy

GOD RESCUED. GOD IS RESCUING. GOD WILL RESCUE.

I heard someone recently say that they were anxious for “things to get back to normal.” God does not want us to “get back to normal.” “Normal” often means self-indulgent greed. “Normal” in much of North America has too long meant racialized. For far too long, “normal” has been the systemic institutionalized legally sanctioned oppression, poverty, marginalization, and disenfranchisement of people of color designed to empower the (mostly white and mostly male) rich and powerful.   

Isaiah 35 speaks of restoration during Isaiah’s time, during the time of the Medo-Persian Empire, during this kingdom age (between Pentecost and the Second coming), and in the eternal age to come. Isaiah 35 is literal and it is symbolic. There are deserts where only cacti can grow, and there are deserts in hearts lacking empathy. Lions and jackals can kill you. So can poverty, racism, depression, and loneliness. 

After the death of King Solomon, the nation of Israel split into two countries. The northern part was called Israel and had its capital in the city of Samaria (not to be confused with the region of Samaria in Jesus’ day). The southern kingdom was called Judea. It’s capital was Jerusalem. Assyria violently crushed Israel in 722 BC and subjected most of Judea, but not Jerusalem, to bondage. Assyria also brutalized and conquered all the nations that surrounded Israel and Judea. Isaiah lived during this time.  Through him, God predicted the fall of Israel, and, later, that Jerusalem would not fall to the Assyrians. 

Eventually, (circa 612 BC) Babylon rose up and defeated Assyria. Babylon destroyed Judea and Jerusalem in 586 BC and carried away the remaining Jews into slavery. The Medo-Persian Empire in turn conquered Babylon (circa 539 BC) and slowly allowed some of the Jews to return to their land as subjects of the Empire. Isaiah chapters 40 through 66 were written about this period. 

Coming back to chapter 35, Isaiah predicts the restoration of all those who had been, or would be, oppressed by powerful empires. Regardless of whether the oppressor is Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Syria, Greece, Rome, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, American civil-religion, or the deep-seated racism of imperialist occidental culture, deliverance will come. 

Regardless of whether the oppressor is religion, white supremacy, capitalism, communism, addiction, greed, narcissism, anger, hatred, violence, depression, mental illness, poverty, marginalization, or political disenfranchisement, deliverance will come. 

The oppression may be my own fault. It may have unjustly imposed upon me. It may come from my past. It might be woven into corporate and political structures. It may be enshrined by law and championed from pulpits. Regardless, deliverance will come.

Isaiah 35 opens with a declaration that God will fully rescue, redeem and transform the natural world – deserts bloom, snow-fed springs like those in Lebanon will flow, the mountains will be lush like Mount Carmel, and radiant like the coastal plain of Sharon. Joy and singing will erupt.

In verses 3 & 4, we learn that not only will nature be renewed, but (being part of nature) humankind will be as well. Fear and anxiety are banished.

Then comes the central theme – the latter half of verse 4: Our God will come and save us! God’s great rescue operation! All of creation, all of humankind, redeemed and transformed. Perfect love descends into hell and rescues the damned.

Like a symphony, the melody repeats – humankind rescued (verse 5-6a) – nature transformed (verses 6b-7).

Salvation is past, present, and future. God saved us. God is saving us. God will save us. Justified. Sanctified. Glorified. 

The Kingdom of God is then – it came in a manger. The Kingdom of God is now – God is making all things new. The Kingdom of God is not yet – Jesus will come again.

God rescued. God is rescuing. God will rescue.

God did all the heavy lifting. The victory was won at the cross. Everything changed on Good Friday. The strong man is bound.

God invites us to participate with him as he makes all things new.

God beckons us spoil the strongman’s house. The gates of Hades cannot stand under the onslaught of the church. Setting captives free, declaring liberty to those who are bound, delivering the oppressed, making the world a gentler more just place through cruciform love – this is our calling and our privilege. 

How? Prayer, fasting, loving service, resisting empires, nonviolent resistance to injustice, loving enemies, forgiving others, washing feet, taking up the cause of the weak, willingness to die for Christ – we overcome the evil one by the word of our testimony (our testimony is what we do, how we live), and the blood of the Lamb (our willingness to live and die like Christ). Our sacrificial lives mingle with His, and freedom rings. 

Finally, here are some practical ideas from some of my African-American friends:

  1. Search your heart and ask God to help you love others – all others.
  2. Ask God to show you where you’ve been racist. Be honest. Admit it and make amends. 
  3. Don’t patronize, but ask where you can come alongside and help.
  4. Learn from African Americans. Learn African American history. Read books by African American authors. Learn about systemic racism. Listen.
  5. Hire black people, especially black men.
  6. Support black-owned businesses.
  7. Speak up and object whenever you hear a racist or disparaging comment made about a person of color.
  8. Attend marches for justice and equality.
  9. Donate to organizations supporting racial justice 
  10. Vote for candidates who will advance the cause of justice for all

Joining God in Making All Things New: Isaiah 35

Chill Out, Isaiah

We love the book of Isaiah. It is filled with beautiful messianic prophecies and visions of the coming kingdom age when God has renewed everything. In between those visions, however, is a lot of judgment. 

Assuming the prophecies are in chronological order, the book begins with five chapters of sin-blasting prophetic preaching. 

A shift occurs in chapter six when Isaiah finds himself in the presence of YHWH and is suddenly cognizant of his own sin. 

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is an unbiblical cliché. Closer to scripture would be to say, “Love the sinner; hate the sin in myself.” “Judge not that you be not judged,” said Jesus. Judgment is God’s work. Mine is to love others. All others.  

It’s about 742 BC. Uzziah has been a good king, reigning for over half a century. Now he’s dead. What’s to become of the nation, especially now that the Assyrians are on the move? Tiglath-pileser III is already brutally destroying city after Neareastern city. Many of their citizens preferred mass suicide to falling into his tortuous hands. 

Isaiah now realizes he is complicit in the national sin. He is humbled and repentant, but Isaiah’s message is still not comforting in the short term. Utter destruction is coming to the northern kingdom of Israel and to most of Judea as well (c. 722 BC). Jerusalem alone will be miraculously spared, but not forever. Another even more powerful kingdom will arise. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon crushed what remained of Judea and Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Why is all this bad stuff happening to Israel and Judea? Are these not God’s chosen people?

Isaiah answers plainly, as do all the Old Testament prophets. Read through the book. Look for what the sins of Israel were.

What sorrow awaits the unjust judges
    and those who issue unfair laws.
They deprive the poor of justice
    and deny the rights of the needy among my people.
They prey on widows
    and take advantage of orphans. 
(10:1-2; NLT)

  • These religious people have not only been unjust, they have used religion to justify their injustice. 
  • They have not cared for the poor, the refugees, and the oppressed. 
  • They have not stood up for the marginalized and disenfranchised against the oppression of the powerful. 
  • They have accepted, even supported, corrupt leaders filled with greed. 
  • They have been characterized by haughtiness, pride, consumerism, and opulence.
  • They have championed militarism and the official use of violence. 

Listen as well to Amos:

“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
    I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
    your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
    your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
    When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
    I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
    That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

(Amos 5:21-24 The Message)

Does this apply to us, to me?

Some definitions are necessary:

  1. White supremacy is simply the dominant culture in North America. Euro-Americans hold most of the wealth and power.
  2. Nationalism (not to be confused with patriotism) is exalting one nation over all others and seeking to impose the culture and values of that nation on others. 
  3. White privilege is not individualistic. It refers to the reality of natural benefits and mechanisms. It means your skin color is not held against you. Privilege includes what you don’t get (followed, surveillance, redlined, pulled over, assumed guilty, etc.)  
  4. Black lives matter. No one is saying other lives don’t matter. Black lives matter means black lives also matter, just like other people. (And, by the way, there is no coalition that supports rioting, looting, and violence, but if I am more concerned with looting than with a police officer murdering an innocent man, something is amiss with me.)
  5. Systemic racism is the maintaining of the dominant culture via policy, law, and structure. It is usually not overt. 
  6. Race is a human construct. There’s only one race – the human race. God created us of one blood. There is no such thing as a “white” or “black” race – those terms were invented to justify chattel slavery. 
  7. Ethnicity is how we see ourselves.

I live in the wealthiest most militarily powerful nation on earth. It was built on land stolen from native people with the sweat of people kidnapped from Africa. Native American/Indigenous people and African Americans have been and are being oppressed, targeted and abused consistently by those in power.

Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, dedicated Christian George Floyd, … the list goes on. Killed by officers of the law.  All but elderly Ms. Johnston unarmed. 

A Harvard graduate bird watching in Central Park … faux panic that could have gotten him killed for asking a Canadian white woman to please leash her dog. 

But it’s way more than this.

It’s not just a few rogue cops or an occasional racist.

It is a dominant white culture that uses its power to oppress and perpetuate injustice. 

It is lynching, Jim Crow, KKK, segregation, red-lining, gentrification, lack of affordable housing, lack of access to healthcare, food deserts, and responding to “black lives matter,” with “all lives matter,” and “blue lives matter.” 

It is political promises without any systemic change. 

It is a freeway system purposely designed to cut off black communities from jobs and transportation. 

It is monuments honoring those who were in active, open, armed rebellion against the United States of America for the purpose of maintaining slavery. It is Confederate battle flags. It is neo-Nazi rallies. It is “Make America Great Again.” America has never been great for African-Americans. Since European invaders arrived with their guns and smallpox, it has not been great for the native peoples who had lived here for 10,000 years. 

It takes 11.5 generations of African American families all doing the right things to build the intergenerational wealth Euro-Americans have in one generation. 

It is not by chance that COVID-19 has hit the black and native communities harder than anywhere else. 

It is lack of inclusion in places of power. It is C-suites and church boards void of people of color. It is lack of opportunity.

Every empire oppresses. Every dominant culture seeks to retain power by pushing down others. Religion is used to justify dominant power. 

Not so for those who follow Jesus. Kingdom of God power is expressed in service: 

42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10, ESV)

Isaiah cries out with predictions of devastation and ruin. That’s not the end, however. Messiah is coming. A new world is coming,

“Come let us reason together …”

“A virgin shall conceive …”

“Unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given.”

“Wonderful. Counselor. Might God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.”

“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHWH as the waters cover the sea.”

Swords become ploughshares; spears are forged into pruning hooks; children play safely in the streets; wolves and lambs cuddle; lions and ox graze side by side. Peaceable Kingdom. The Beloved Community.

The Kingdom of God is future and not yet. It is here and now. “Behold, the Kingdom of God is in your midst.” 

How does this new kingdom come about?

By the cross. By the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And, what is that good news?

Jesus begins his ministry quoting Isaiah 61:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

(Luke 4:18-19 NRSV)

If it’s not good news to the poor, it’s not the gospel.

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it (Ephesians 2:13-16 ESV)

No divisions. No more Jew, gentile, male, female, black, white, liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, socialist, or market capitalist. All one in Christ, just as Jesus prayed we would be (John 17). 

One Body of Christ – one multinational, multilingual, multicultural, intergenerational Body of Christ. The church universal.

Jesus died to tear down the walls that divide humans and to create within himself one new humanity (Eph. 2:11-18). Reconciliation is just as essential to the atonement as forgiveness of sins. If we omit racial reconciliation from the Good News, what we preach is simply heresy.

Anti-racism lies at the core of the gospel. As long as we truncate the gospel into “accept Jesus and you’ll go to heaven when you die,” and relegate justice issues to an optional add-on, we miss the entire point of the Bible.

Jesus did not come just to save a few souls. Jesus came to rescue and redeem the entire cosmos. Jesus came to make all things new. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus came to create a new humanity based on cruciform love. This new humanity is the church, the people of God. They are drawn from every conceivable nation, language, culture, and ethnicity. The church transcends all social, religious, gender, and national boundaries and ideologies. It is the Beloved Society. It is just. Equity reigns. The greatest serve. Power is displayed by self-sacrificial lovingkindness. 

Judea and Israel were crushed because they failed to care for the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and discounted.

When he came into the presence of YHWH, Isaiah cried, “Woe am I, I am a man of unclean lips …”

Humility involves being teachable, learning from others, listening.

Am I a racist?

My knee-jerk answer is “of course not!” I was raised in a progressive, educated, lower-middle class home where we supported civil rights. Some of my ancestors fought to end slavery.

But … the culture I was raised in was racialized; our neighborhood was all white; I had my first black teacher in junior high school; I was never taught the true history of American genocide of the indigenous, nor of the brutality of slavery. I didn’t know what redlining was, or that police forces were first formed to capture run-away slaves, or that poverty produces despair and breeds violence. I had never heard of the Tuskegee syphilis or the University of Cincinnati radiation experiments. I had no idea how prevalent lynching was and that it occurred into the 1960s.  I was ignorant of the middle passage. I had no conception of what it would be like to have no healthcare or to live in neighborhoods where you can’t buy healthy food. Until I was in high school and tutored children with missing ears nibbled off by rats when they were infants and developmental delays from eating lead-based paint chips in a desperate attempt to assuage hunger, I had never seen real poverty. 

I have benefitted from the twin evils of stolen land and stolen people. I am not responsible for the sins of previous generations, but I have been complicit. I have white privilege. I have never worried about being shot during a traffic stop. I have never been suspiciously followed in a store, or had women jump abruptly off an elevator when they saw me approaching, or had someone call the police on me when I was bird watching. I didn’t need to give my son “the talk.”

What to do?

 “Come now, let us reasontogether, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool. 
(Is. 1:18 ESV)

I lament, crying in prayer on behalf of those victimized and for those who oppress.

I repent. Repentance simply means to change your mind. 

Humility means I listen. I listen to the voices of African Americans and Native Americans. They really do have worthwhile things to say. I read the theological, historical, and sociological works of Afro-Asiatic scholars. I try to be teachable. I try to listen.

I use my relative lack of melanin (which oddly gives me privileges) to speak up against injustice.

I purposely nurture friendships with people of other ethnicities. 

I ask the Holy Spirit to guard my heart and fill me with love.

What Was Isaiah’s Complaint?

Loving God in the Garden

Two Varieties of Spiritual Grapes called Mishpat & Tzedakah

Isaiah 5:1-7

You’ve heard of zinfandel and chardonnay. God’s garden also has several varieties of fruit. 

From the Reformation to modern times, the state church of most of Scandinavia has been the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The story is told of a 19th century Swedish Lutheran priest who preached on the teachings of Jesus. The congregation was so convicted that many were left crying. The minister, feeling for them, sought to console them with, “Don’t cry children. The whole thing could be a lie.” 

Kierkegaard said that true worship consists in simply doing God’s will.

“Why do you call me Lord and don’t do what I say?”

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

How do we express our love of God?

Isaiah 5 gently begins as a sweet love song to God. Now I will sing for the one I love, a song about his vineyard… 

Who is it I love the best? Have I been singing love songs to my Jesus, my beloved God? Isaiah sings to YHWH. Songs sung to God have always meant more to me than ones sung about God. The best worship leaders are not putting on a show – they are singing love songs to Jesus. 

In his song, the prophet emphasizes the effort YHWH went to in establishing and caring for God’s garden. God chose a place with rich fertile soil, ploughed, disked and raked the soil, and cleared it of weeds and stones. Then, God enclosed it with a stonewall and built a watchtower so an eye could be kept at all times on the vineyard, the approaching weather, and predators.  A family of raccoons can desecrate your crop. 

God carefully hewed out a winepress. In biblical times, winepresses were often chiseled out of solid rock. They had two levels – one where the grapes were crushed and a lower level that collected the grape juice. A winepress such as this indicates a permanent commitment to be in this place and care for this vineyard. Clearly God was in this thing for the long haul. 

God prepared everything in advance to optimize success. Then, God planted the finest, choicest vines money could buy.

YHWH waited patiently for the grape harvest, but the grapes were wild, bitter. An alternate translation says they were “stinking things.” 

Now the song shifts. Isaiah is no longer singing. God is speaking, singing, chanting, pleading, poetically weeping:

Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah,
    you judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could I have done for my vineyard
    that I have not already done?
When I expected sweet grapes,
    why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes?

Other than turn us into robots, mere puppets void of volition, what more could God do for us?

We were lost. Creation was ruined. 

God became human. Lived amongst us, walked in our shoes, resisted every temptation known to humankind. He served us, washed our feet, told us not to fear, and that our sins were forgiven. He healed us of our afflictions, set us free from the forces of evil, and taught us, in word and by example, how to live a new way as citizens in a new kingdom.

Then, he willingly went to Calvary. As he was accused, sentenced, mocked, whipped, humiliated, spit upon, slapped, punched, abused, crowned with thorns, stripped naked and nailed to a Roman gibbet where he was left for his diaphragm to squeeze the air from his lungs, he forgave his enemies. 

All the sin, evil, misery, corruption, violence, hatred, inequity, and transgression, not only of all humankind, but of the entire universe, coalesced and focused on him like a laser beam. He absorbed it all.

It killed him. The devil laughed. The disciples wept. The religious felt vindicated. The Romans felt exhausted. Religion and Empire killed Jesus. 

Unbeknownst to any of them at the time, everything had already changed. It was indeed Good Friday.

Death couldn’t stop him. The grave couldn’t hold him. Hades swallowed him, only to vomit him out. Up from the grave he arose.

All sin forgiven. Off the table. Gone forever. Power to set every captive free. Good news to the poor. Kingdom come. A new age. A new beginning. The entire cosmos rescued. All things new. Age-abiding life. 

King Jesus crossed an infinite divide to become sin with our sin so we could be the righteousness of God in him. 

He ascended to heaven and poured out his Holy Spirit on all flesh, flooding us with the power and graces we need for life in his Kingdom. 

What more could God do?

We love him because he first loved us.

Isaiah 5 identifies the vineyard with the nation of Israel:

The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
    The people of Judah are his pleasant garden.

Now, we – Jews and gentiles, of any and all nationalities, ethnicities, and circumstances – we who pledge our allegiance to Jesus – we are his vineyard. “I am the vine; you are the branches; my Father is the vinedresser,” says Jesus to us. 

And he looks for fruit. When we bear fruit, God prunes and supports so we can bear more fruit. He snips off the dead branches that never bear fruit.

The fruit for which God looks comes in two varieties.

Mishpat: Justice.

He expected a crop of justice, but instead he found oppression. (v. 7)

In English, mishpat means “justice.” We sometimes think of justice in terms of punishment, arresting officers, incarceration. God’s justice is not violent, vindictive, or punitive, but rather always restorative. God aims to make us just, ethical, moral, people of equity, people who treat others with dignity and respect, who live by the Golden Rule. 

Strict equality is not enough.  If a short person and a tall person are both given identically equal stools to sit on, the taller person is still taller. 

I’m a landlocked sailor. If every sailboat is exactly like every other in a race, they just race around a pre-set course according to pre-set rules. If, however, you have an open-class race in which boats of all different kinds are racing, the race has to be handicapped in order to be fair. Mathematical formulas are applied and time is added to the fastest boats to compensate for the ones that have no choice but to go slowly. So the old catboat takes three hours to complete a course the catamaran finishes in an hour, but when the formulas are applied and times adjusted for equity, the catboat wins. It sailed faster than expected. The human race is rigged in favor of white people. Flying about the Internet are misused statistics about race and crime, akin to pointing out that, clearly, the catamaran is faster. 

Equity means the playing field is leveled. It means reparations. It means affirmative action. It means black people and white people being treated the same by police officers, judges, juries, human resource departments, and landlords. Some people are trying to run the race with weights attached to their ankles – weights like intergenerational poverty and oppression, for example.

Had George Floyd been white, he would not have been on the ground with a callous knee squeezing the air out of his lungs. The race-hating white perpetrator of the Charleston Emanuel AME church massacre who killed nine people attending a mid-week prayer meeting was treated with respect, even taken to get something to eat by police. 

What applies to whites does not apply to blacks in this country. Government and institutions are saturated with unconscious systemic racism. It’s the water we swim in. We inherited a racialized society. 

Mishpat demands equity, honesty, listening to voices unlike ours, being open, teachable and willing to learn, and taking special care for the marginalized, disenfranchised, vulnerable, oppressed, and voiceless. It means social justice – equality in housing, healthcare, job market, education, and availability of services. 

God is looking for mishpat.

God is looking for tzedakahTzedakah means righteousness.

He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of violence. (v. 7)

Tzedakah is most often used in contemporary Jewish communities to mean charitable contributions.  In the middle ages, Rabbi Maimonides said the highest form of tzedakah is to give enough money to a stranger so they can live freely and independently for life, like setting someone up in a business, for example. The next highest, according to the good rabbi, would be a significant anonymous gift to someone you don’t know. 

Biblically, tzedakah means much more than generous charity, although that’s included. It is an ethical obligation, an essential behavioral feature – it implies being a person characterized by charity, understanding, nonjudgmentalism, generosity, tolerance, compassion, and liberality.

It means being teachable. It means listening to the voices of the lowly, the vulnerable, the alien, the sick, the incarcerated, the victimized, the oppressed – those Jesus called “the least of these my sisters and brothers” in Matthew 25. 

African-Americans really do have something to say. The rest of us need to listen.  

Turn off the white dominated media and listen to the voices of our black sisters and brothers. 

Lectures, sermons, writings and blogs by Doctors John M. Perkins, Bernice King, Drew G. I. Hart, and Dominique DuBois Gillard are great starting places.

There’s a poetic play on words here. God looked for mishpat/justice, but instead found mishpach/oppression; God looked for tzedakah/righteousness, but instead found tseakah/violence. 

In Isaiah 5, God cries woe on those who get rich at the expense of others, who are motivated by greed and consumption, live in opulence while others go hungry, who perpetrate injustice, who cheer cruelty, oppress the vulnerable, blame victims, or incite violence.

Judgment is God’s reluctant, strange work of stepping aside and allowing the natural consequences of evil to implode. Finding no justice, nor any righteousness, but instead injustice, oppression, violence, and inequity, God steps aside:

Now let me tell you
    what I will do to my vineyard:
I will tear down its hedges
    and let it be destroyed.
I will break down its walls
    and let the animals trample it.
I will make it a wild place
    where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed,
    a place overgrown with briers and thorns.
I will command the clouds
    to drop no rain on it.

Jesus will not stay in a church, a community, a city, a nation void of love. 

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”– Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Isaiah 5 New Living Translation (NLT)

A Song about the Lord’s Vineyard

Now I will sing for the one I love
    a song about his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
    on a rich and fertile hill.
He plowed the land, cleared its stones,
    and planted it with the best vines.
In the middle he built a watchtower
    and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks.
Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes,
    but the grapes that grew were bitter.

Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah,
    you judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could I have done for my vineyard
    that I have not already done?
When I expected sweet grapes,
    why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes?

Now let me tell you
    what I will do to my vineyard:
I will tear down its hedges
    and let it be destroyed.
I will break down its walls
    and let the animals trample it.
I will make it a wild place
    where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed,
    a place overgrown with briers and thorns.
I will command the clouds
    to drop no rain on it.

The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
    The people of Judah are his pleasant garden.
He expected a crop of justice,
    but instead he found oppression.
He expected to find righteousness,
    but instead he heard cries of violence.

Loving God in the Garden: Isaiah 5:1-7

Weep. Wait.

I’m a hospital chaplain. I’ve been around grief. Some people deny what is happening. Others get angry and lash out, blaming, for example, a physician. Those of northern European decent may try to keep a stiff upper lip. Those of African or Latin decent may fall on the floor in loud wails. The only wrong way to grieve is to try to force yourself not to grieve. 

The iconic painting by Norwegian Edvard Munch that he titledThe Scream of Nature[1]depicts the blending of uncertainty and uncontrollability in nature with human anxiety. The chaos of nature has invaded the human psyche. The painting perfectly depicts a panic attack. 

Today, nature appears to have run amok. 

The United States leads the world in COVID-19 infections and deaths. At last count, there have been about 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the USA.[2]The US has 4% of the world’s population and over 25% of the COVID-19 deaths. One hundred thousand souls; 100,000 moms, dads, sisters, brothers, children, parents; 100,000 souls created in the image of God; 100,000 human beings for whom Christ died. And that’s just in this country. 

The most vulnerable are the hardest hit. The homeless, those living in poverty, those who must go to work at jobs where they have to be around others, those who live in crowded spaces, those with underlying health conditions and little or no access to healthcare. The 22% of US counties that are predominantly African-American have 52% of the COVID-19 cases and 58% of the COVID deaths. Systemic institutionalized racism. 

If my heart does not break, if I am not deeply moved by those statistics, I must question whether I am in touch with Jesus at all. It is time to grieve. It is time to lament. It’s the only way to get to hope. There are no shortcuts. 

Had cities and states not been practicing public health measures (wash your hands, stay social distant, wear a mask[3]), the situation would have been far worse up to this point. Out of 331 million people, only 13 million have been tested. The virus is airborne and easily transmitted. Simply by saying hello, a person with no symptoms can infect dozens of others. 

As much as we long to “go back to normal,” we never can. We are in a liminal space. 

“Liminal” comes from a Latin word meaning “threshold,” so liminal space is that place we get into when we have left the familiar, but we haven’t yet entered the new thing ahead. It can lead to disorientation, anxiety, confusion, a feeling of displacement, and depression. A woman has worked her entire adult life when advancing technology makes her job skills obsolete and she is unemployed. An unwanted and uninvited divorce occurs. A baby dies in utero.  A man becomes a widow at the age of 60. The economy that was humming along is suddenly in depression. Many find themselves unemployed. The shop goes bankrupt. A deadly virus is all around us with no treatment and no cure. Anxious feelings arise. “What’s next?” “Now what?” Without hope, humans fade and die. 

It is a mistake to despair; it is a mistake to latch onto simple answers; it is a mistake to sink into self-preservation at all costs. But we cannot jump directly from liminal space to hope. First, we must lament. A lament is a passionate expression of grief, sometimes set to music, or expressed in poetry. It is the wail of The Scream.

Richard Rohr writes: “Liminal space, or the place of waiting, is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run … anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.”

We try to flee that “cloud of unknowing” in various ways. We scheme and plan. We call on all our resources to get us out of this liminal space. We distract and deny. Some of us go numb. Some of us pretend the whole thing is a hoax. Some of us promote magical cures. Some of us try to exploit the vulnerability of others to make a buck. We are tempted to try and pin the blame on somebody somewhere. Some of us get depressed. Most of us feel anxious, like we’re living in The Scream of Nature.

Jewish people have been forced into liminal spaces at various times in their history – the Babylonian exile (circa 586 BC), the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 AD, wholesale slaughter at the swords of crusaders, the Holocaust. Displaced from all that was familiar – homes, families, friends, careers – where was God? 

Jeremiah wails in the Book of Lamentations. In the first four chapters, he speaks in the first person. His is a personal lament. In chapter five, the pronouns shift to plural – he is lamenting with the entire nation. 

There are many psalms of lament in out Bible. Some are individual laments, like Psalm 22 – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Others are psalms of communal lament.[4] Communal lament is entering into what our neighbors are feeling, putting ourselves in their shoes, feeling their pain, expressing their pain, weeping with this who weep.

Here’s the kicker:

We hate being in liminal space. 

We will try anything to get out.

Distract. Deny. Blame. 

BUT…

God always leads us into liminal space.

It is only there that we learn that God is all we need. 

Without hope, we perish.

There is hope on the other side of liminal. 

BUT, we can only get to the hope by going through first individual, then communal lament. 

Lament is gut-wrenching. Lament means weeping, wailing, pouring out our hearts in complaint. Lament means reviewing what God has done in the past, expressing regrets, asking for answers (that rarely come), and crying for relief. Lament means venting to God. Lament can never be rushed or bypassed. 

Most of us seek to avoid, deny, distract, blame, ignore, or despair. Pop a pill. Have a drink. Buy some stuff. Defy the authorities trying to keep you safe. 

God has a better way. We so want to do something. God says, first, join with your sisters and brothers and pour out your hearts in lamentation, wailing. Let yourself grieve deeply. 

Then, do nothing. Nothing but look at Jesus. Just look. Wait.

Wait. Wait. Sit with the uncertainty, the ambiguity. 

“Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (Psalm 80:19)[5]

He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)[6]


[1]https://www.edvardmunch.org/the-scream.jsp

[2]https://epidemic-stats.com Accessed 2036 hours GMT on May 23, 2020. Source: World Health Organization

[3]The reason to wear a mask is not to protect us. Face coverings other than medical grade PPE like N-95 masks do little to protect the wearer. The reason to wear them is because it protects others from a virus you may have without knowing it. Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing is a way we love our neighbors like Jesus told us to. 

[4]Psalms 12, 44, 58, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 90, 94, 123, 126 & 129 are community lament psalms. 

[5]The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. 

[6]New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Lament. Wait. Trust. Wait. Psalm 44

The Scream of Nature by Edvard Munch

Why Am I Following Jesus?

“God is so good! He answered my prayer!” Yes, but God would still be good had God not answered your prayer. God is good all the time. 

Why are we following Jesus? To escape hell? To have a happy life? Gain inner peace? Answered prayers? Deliverance from troubles? What is our motive?

It pretty much bothers everyone who reads Jobthat the book depicts satan in God’s presence making deals and bets with God at Job’s expense.

In the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) satan is not equated with our concept of a personal devil. The word “satan” is a Hebrew word (שָׂטָן) that means adversary. It is not a proper name. The figure here in Jobis more like a challenger who is invited into God’s presence. This satan does do some very bad things, however. 

No one knows who Job was. No one has definitive proof he existed or did not exist. However, it would be quite rare for Jewish writers of the Hebrew Bible to simply make up nonexistent people, so the safest assumption would be that he was a real person.

According to the text, Job lived in southern Arabia, probably in the southeast corner of Mesopotamia somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 to 2000 BC, perhaps in the area that is now Yemen or Ethiopia. We gather that from the references to the Sabeans and Chaldeans in 1:15-17. Jobis included in the Dead Sea Scrolls, so it must have been written prior to the second century BC. It belongs to the genre of Hebrew Wisdom Literature, and, therefore, most scholars agree that it was most likely a very old legend about a real man who lived centuries prior, whose story was written down a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus. 

Jobis wisdom literature. Wisdom literature was written by Jewish sages to instruct. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are also wisdom literature. Village wisdom records short, pithy sayings, framed as parental instruction, as in Proverbs 20. Royal wisdom deals with palace politics and instructs bureaucrats on how to conduct themselves. Proverbs 23:1-3 is an example. Theological wisdom often deals with controversial topics, such as the existence of God. (See Ecclesiastes 3:19-21.) Unlike the prophets, who received their messages directly from God, Jewish sages gained wisdom by observing nature and wrestling with why the universe does not always seem to make sense in light of having been created by a good and loving God. 

Much of Proverbs is based on the retributive principle, i.e., the belief that righteous people are blessed and the wicked are cursed – a cause for every effect. In Proverbs the theme arises often – be righteous and God is pleased and will bless you. That is generally true, but not always. Which brings us to the book of Job. Job is theological wisdom.

The retributive principle works fine as a generalization, but can easily lead to a quid-pro-quo transactional faith – following God, obeying God for what we get out of it. The contemporary prosperity gospel is an example. The motive is wrong. I give in order to get; my faith is based on bargains with God. My obedience is conditional. 

The promises made in the context of retributive wisdom literature are not guarantees. They are observations about how things can be expected to normally go. For instance, Proverbs 29:14 promises, “If a king faithfully judges the poor, his throne will be established forever.” That may be true in some heavenly eternal sense, but that’s not what the author had in mind. The author was observing that, generally speaking, when a ruler cares for the poor, God blesses his or her reign. But that may not always pan out. There are exceptions. 

Job’s three friends assume the retributive principle. In their minds, there must be a reason why all this bad stuff has happened, so they seek to ferret out the sin, the errors, the cause. Like the apprentices of Jesus, the friends of Job assume a causal connection for the tragedies. In John 9, Jesus’ followers ask, “Who sinned that this man was born blind? Him? His parents?” Jesus doesn’t answer the question. Jesus is not interested in “why;” he is interested in what we do now. Do not look to the past for reasons, but rather to the present and future for purpose. It is far more godly to relieve suffering than to assign blame. 

Proverbs assumes that if you’re a good person things will go well for you. Now enter Job’s world. Here’s the godliest man you can possibly imagine, yet he suffers unimaginable tragedy and loss. 

The satan, the adversary, the challenger, asks the central question: “Does Job fear God for no reason?” Why is Job a God-follower? Is he following God for what he can gain? Is he following God because doing so is the way to prosperity and blessing? Is he doing so because it leads to having a happy family? Is his a transactional faith? 

How many sermons and sermon series have been preached with the implied message, “Follow Jesus and you’ll have a great marriage, wonderful family, financial success, inner peace, joy, a guarantee of eternal life?” Am I following Jesus only so that I can escape hell? If there were no hell, would I follow him? What is my motive for being his?

The central question: What is my motive? Why am I following God?

Job is entirely innocent. His friends sit with him in bereaved silence for a week. That, by the way, is the best thing we can do when loved ones suffer loss. Ministry of presence – just be there – don’t say anything. Weep with those who weep; don’t lecture them. Let the suffering person speak. Just listen. 

Then Job’s friends started talking. That was their mistake. Long poetic dialogues take up most of the book – three friends locked into the retributive principle, assuming Job must have done something to cause all this suffering. In their minds, there has to be a reason. 

Job’s responses are in the form of lament. God never rebukes or challenges lament. Even Jesus prayed a prayer of lament in the garden and quoted a Psalm of lament on the cross. It is never wrong to weep, to grieve, to feel the weight of loss. 

Out of nowhere, a young know-it-all punk named Elihu pops up. He rebukes everybody and insists that all suffering, all evil that can befall a human, is divine justice. He insists that God causes everything. Job’s three friends ignore him. Job ignores him. God ignores him. The best thing you can do with a theological know-it-all is ignore him. 

In chapters 38 and following, God speaks. Surely, God will supply the answers to the riddles of theodicy. No such luck. 

Ancient Neareastern people saw the natural world as lacking order. It was neither good nor evil. It was amoral, without will-power. God brings order into the natural world. God is moral. There are, however, evil forces at work – the devil, fallen angels, principalities, powers, spiritual wickedness. Those evil forces seek to disrupt God’s order with disorder. They are immoral. 

God’s message to Job (and his friends) demonstrates that there are many things beyond their understanding, the universe is more ordered than they know, things are not as chaotic as they seem from the human perspective. God does not imply that God causes everything. God is not depicted in the book of Job as doing anything to hurt Job. But, at least for now, this is simply the way the universe is. It is moral, amoral, and immoral all at once. The long historical arc may bend toward justice, but injustice remains. Bad things happen to good people. The question for us is not whybad things happen, but howwe respond to them. 

Some of the bad things that happen to us are our own fault. If I drive drunk and cause an accident, I am to blame. If I smoke a pack of cigarettes a day and get lung cancer, I’ve no one to blame but myself. 

Other people cause some of the bad stuff that happens to us. They might injure us, cheat us, betray us, or pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Still other things are amoral. Viruses, for example, have no will of their own. Viruses don’t target sinful people specifically. So, we ask, why would God create viruses? Without viruses to control them, bacteria would wipe out all other life on earth. But, why not, if you’re God, create viruses that only target bad bacteria, not all the good bacteria and certainly not humans? 

Back to Job. The question of why is never answered. God simply describes some of the intricacies of nature. There’s more order than we realize. Nature is unfinished. Creation groans for completion. Jesus died and rose again to redeem the entire cosmos. God is rescuing all of creation, making all things new.  God’s kingdom will come to earth. Everything is not yet as it will be.

God references two ancient Neareast chaos monsters – behemoth, the land monster; leviathan, the sea monster. In the minds of ancient Neareastern people – both are part of the amoral non-ordered natural world, but here depicted as under God’s control as playthings. There is more order than you know, Job. It’s not all ordered yet, but it’s not as chaotic as you assume.

And Job repents. Of what? He did nothing wrong. He was as close to sinless as a person (other than Jesus) can get. He was falsely accused. What was his error? 

I think Job’s error was assuming that the universe should make sense to humans. 

But the essential question of the book is answered. Why is Job serving God? Is he doing so for the benefits? What is his motive? 

It turns out, Job is following God simply because God is God and Job is Job. Creator and created creature. King and subject. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” 

Obedience is where it begins. God is God. I am not. God speaks. We obey.

We circle back. What is my motive for obedience? Am I simply to obey because I have to, because the consequences of disobedience are horrific? In Job, God seems capricious. There may be more order in the universe than I’m aware of, but there’s still a lot that seems arbitrary. Where is God in all this? 

A transactional faith relationship won’t do. The retributive principle doesn’t always hold true. Some things have no answers, at least in this life. 

So, now what? Blind trust? Is God saying, “Just trust me, I know what I’m doing?” Is this a blind leap of faith? 

Fast forward. Jesus. God incarnate. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” “I and the Father are one.” God is exactly like Jesus. There is nothing unchristlike in God.

Yes, the universe still seems arbitrary, capricious, irrational, and at times, heartless. Yes, bad things sometimes happen to very good people. 

But the essence, the heart, the core, of all reality is perfect, unconditional, universal, eternal, impeccable, cruciform love.

I trust. I obey. Not for what I can gain. Nor for what I can avoid.

I trust; I obey because I am saturated with divine love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and kindness. I see the beauty in God’s face. I spontaneously respond in a love that trusts Love, that knows God tenderly cares for me, that I am God’s beloved, that nothing can separate me from God, that God’s will and way are not only what is best for me, but are the true paths of eternal joy. 

Why are we following God? What is our motive? 

QAnon

Poisonous Fruit

Conspiracy theories, both on the left and right sides of the political spectrum, provide abundant evidence of the devil’s subtlety and deceitfulness. 

QAnon is an elusive, hard to define, impossible to pin down, widespread, and highly influential source of extensive conspiracy and misinformation. It lurks on the fringes of the Internet and is disseminated by people of all ages and from all walks of life. Most of them are decent, moral, well-meaning folks. Many are unaware they are spreading lies. People tweet and re-tweet, post and re-post, without checking for truthfulness. In the 1960s a mantra was “if it feels good, do it.” These days, the mantra is “if it fits my preconceived ideas, spread it.”

An anonymous person, who calls himself (or herself) Q, drops cryptic hints, which are then interpreted and circulated by others.  Those hints provoke speculation but cannot be verified. “Q” is an allusion to Q-level security clearance, given only to those with top-secret nuclear authorization. The assumption is that Q is a person (or persons) with inside information about deep corruption in the government.[1]No one knows who Q is. Speculation includes Donald Trump[2], a top-secret government agent, a small group of insiders with special clearance, a succession of such people, or an invention of Russian hackers.[3]

To generalize, QAnon asserts that a person known only as Q is a US military intelligence insider who has proof that corrupt world leaders are torturing children all over the world, plotting the destruction of America, and are embedded within the so-called “deep state” of professional bureaucrats. QAnon believes that Donald Trump has been appointed by God[4]to defeat those corrupt powers, which, according to one Q post, “must ALL be ELIMINATED.” These corrupt powers include Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, and are enabled by many Democrats, political liberals, and some progressive Christians and people of other faith traditions. QAnon asserts that there is a worldwide cabal that must be resisted. QAnon maintains that this collection of corrupt officials is plotting to form a New World Order, but will be defeated and replaced by a “Great Awakening.”[5][6]The allure of special insider knowledge attracts devoted followers.[7]

QAnon often makes prophetic predictions about the future.[8]QAnon insisted that COVID-19 was fake, then shifted and declared it was manufactured in a lab by Barak Obama and Dr. Anthony Fauci[9]. QAnon maintains that “liberals” to defeat Donald Trump at the polls are exaggerating the coronavirus pandemic. QAnon was behind the extensively debunked “pizzagate” conspiracy.[10]QAnon claims that the worldwide faction of corruption will inevitably be destroyed with the support of “true patriots” who search Q’s postings for clues. Q predicted the arrest of Hillary Clinton and said that she and Barak Obama had a 16-year plan to destroy America with drought, disease warfare, famine, and nuclear war. Q predicted that the Robert Mueller report would fully exonerate Trump. None of that happened. When prophesies don’t pan out, QAnon shifts and adjusts as did the Millerites (now the Seventh Day Adventist denomination) who predicted the return of Christ on October 22, 1844, and as did the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who predicted the second coming in 1874 and again in 1914.  

In order to believe QAnon’s assertions, a person must reject the Enlightenment ideal of rational logic, abhor mainstream news outlets, mistrust “liberals,” reject mainline institutions (including traditional seminaries, churches, and universities), dismiss inconvenient science, label as “fake news” anything that would contradict the conspiratorial narrative, be suspicious of career politicians and bureaucrats, and battle apostates. If they are Christian, Q followers must reject the nonviolent cruciform message of the Lamb of God and replace it with an American warrior god. The gods of QAnon are militarism and national exceptionalism. Mars and Caesar. Civil religion. 

But QAnon is not just a fringe group of crackpots. One of its most prolific promoters is David Hayes, a former paramedic and evangelical Christian in Arizona. Better known as PrayingMedic, the handle he uses when he posts, Hayes has over 300,000 followers on both Twitter and YouTube. One of his videos has been viewed over a million times, and his books are selling well. It is also a mistake to assume QAnon is aligned with the Republican Party. Some Republicans in office promote and follow Q; others do not. 

Adherents resist being pinned down. Some are armed militia “patriots,” others are Tea Party Libertarians, still others are white supremacists, aging proponents of the John Birch Society[11], struggling factory workers, Sunday School teachers, or ordinary grandmothers baking cookies. Some are members of evangelical churches; others are not. As near as anyone can tell, they appear to be predominantly white, suburban or rural, and strong supporters of Donald Trump.[12]

A few QAnon followers have turned to violence, which is why the FBI classified QAnon as a domestic terror-threat in 2019.[13]A white evangelical father of two named Edgar Welch gathered an arsenal of guns and drove from his home in North Carolina to a pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong in suburban Washington, DC where he blew the lock off a door expecting to find a basement (the pizzeria has no basement) where Hillary Clinton and company were trafficking in child pornography.[14]It was all lies. And it all came from QAnon. In 2018, a QAnon adherent in California who planned to attack the Illinois capitol was arrested with bomb-making materials. Another heavily armed man in Nevada blocked traffic to the Hoover Dam with an armored truck demanding the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails. On line messages posted by QAnon adherents are sometimes grotesquely violent. 

Conspiracy theories are nothing new in America, but this one is exacerbated by the availably of technology that allows for the dissemination of unchecked assertions. Social media has handed a megaphone to everyone. It would be a mistake to simply call it a far-right conspiracy. It is more of a “don’t trust any political, academic, scientific, or media elitist” conspiracy. It sees Donald Trump as a messianic savior but goes beyond Trump. In 2016, Russian hackers, having spread disinformation to divide the electorate, assumed Hillary Clinton would be elected president and were ready to proclaim the results “rigged” and “fake.” Armed vigilantes stockpile ammunition and weapons in case Donald Trump loses the 2020 election. Regardless of who is in office, QAnon asserts that the downfall and violent destruction of this assumed worldwide collection of corrupt officials is certain. This is presented as prophecy.

What makes this movement different (and in my opinion, more dangerous) from past conspiracy factions is that it has strong elements of being a new religion. Once people accept something as religious truth, the game changes and violence often becomes inevitable. Misplaced religious fervor has caused some of the most horrific violence in history. The assertion that followers of Jesus were unpatriotic atheists led to crosses, stakes, and lions for the first three centuries of Christianity. Islamophobic conspiracy theory led to the crusades during a rash of millennial madness that interpreted biblical prophecy to conclude that the second coming would occur somewhere around 1000 A.D. The Black Death was interpreted as prophetic judgment in the 16thcentury and led to scapegoating and persecution. Antisemitic and end-times conspiracy theories were behind the rise of the Third Reich. 

According to historian Norman Cohn,[15]all end-time movements have in common the fact that they arise in places experiencing rapid social and economic change where there is highly visible spectacular wealth unavailable to most people. That defines American culture in the mid 21stcentury. Billionaires with more wealth than most nations are living lives of unimaginable opulence while millions have no health insurance, and 50% of citizens in the USA have no savings and are living from paycheck to paycheck. Wide acceptance of same sex marriage, large numbers of immigrants seeking refuge, the shifting abroad of low-skill jobs, mass exodus from traditional faith communities, demographic changes that assure that conservative white Christians will inevitably soon be a minority, and the insistence on the availability of abortion for anyone who wants it at any time during pregnancy – these things threaten the status quo and create fear in those who have traditionally held power. 

The language of white evangelical Christianity has come to define QAnon. Q fairly regularly quotes scripture. The QAnon narrative is woven into the kind of apocalyptic biblical interpretations I once taught. Couple a misreading of scripture with societal upheaval, shifting mores, wealth inequality, and perceived threat to those who thought themselves in the driver’s seat, and you have a culture ripe to latch on to the blatant lies and unverifiable assertions of QAnon. Add guns, armed “patriots” claiming to be Christians, and a toxic political environment that demonizes those with opposing views into the mix, and the situation becomes explosive. 

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16) The fruit of QAnon includes suspicion, anger, distrust, lies, scapegoating, violence, division, disunity, jingoism, and generalized paranoia. The fruit of following Jesus includes unconditional forgiveness, nonviolent resistance, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. 


[1]Corruption that goes beyond the United States and includes a worldwide faction of powerful politicians, financiers, academics, scientists and religious leaders united for the purpose of destroying American ideals.

[2]Trump has re-tweeted QAnon postings over 100 times and used language associated with Q. 

[3]See, The 2016 Election Was Just a Dry Runby Franklin Foer in The Atlantic, Vol. 325- No. 5, June 2020.

[4]Most of the white evangelical followers of Q who support Donald Trump are under no illusion that he is moral. They know his history of underhanded business deals and sexual immorality, but they claim God has put him in office to defeat this alleged worldwide consortium of corruption. Trump is likened to Cyrus the Great, the pagan king of Medo-Persia who protected the ancient Jews. 

[5]“Great Awakening” is a reference to two historic revivals in American history, one in the 18thand another in the 19thcentury. 

[6]Nothing Can Stop What is Coming, by executive editor Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic, Vol. 325- No. 5, June 2020

[7]Biblically, special insider knowledge known only to the enlightened is the stuff of Gnosticism. 

[8]The stuff of divination

[9]World-renowned immunologist and physician, and, since 1984, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases.

[10]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizzagate_conspiracy_theory

[11]https://www.britannica.com/topic/John-Birch-Society

[12]But of course many supporters of Donald Trump are not QAnon devotees

[13]https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/aug/1/fbi-says-qanon-conspiracy-theories-domestic-terror/

[14]https://academic.oup.com/ccc/article/11/1/100/4953075

[15]The Pursuit of the Millenniumby Norman Cohn is a classic book first published in 1957 by Oxford University Press.

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