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~ More On Witnesses and Martyrs ~

See Witnesses and Martyrs for the first part of this Weekly Reflection.

This sequel to the week's previous Reflection is a uncharacteristic departure from most Weekly Reflections in that it is a collection of quotes from the secular press with interspersed references to Witnesses and Martyrs of last week. I find it disconcerting these poignant observations are articulated by the secular rather than Christian press. I am still pondering on why, though I have some ideas. But those are for another Weekly Reflection. So here we go...

"Televangelist Pat Robertson's flip-flop on his fantasy moment as an international assassin reminds me of a famous, if possibly apocryphal, story about David Niven as told by Christopher Buckley.

"Niven is standing with another gentleman at the base of a stair case as two ladies in evening gowns descend. Niven says: 'That's the ugliest woman I've ever seen.' The other man replies: 'That's my wife.' Niven: 'I meant the other one.' Other man: 'That's my daughter.' Niven: 'I didn't say it.'

"Like Niven, Robertson backed off his now famous - [we wish] that it were apocryphal - remark that the U.S. should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. His exact quote from his Christian Broadcasting Network program was: 'You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he (Chavez) thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.'

"Seems clear enough. That is one ugly woman. But, no, Robertson said he didn't say it, that he was 'misinterpreted.' ....

"And the same Pat Robertson who agreed (by nodding his head) with fellow televangelist Jerry Falwell when the latter said that the Sept. 11 attacks were the consequence of 'the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America.'....

"But Robertson is a problem on the world's stage where some audiences may be less sophisticated and where politicians (or dictators) are happy to embrace useful idiots...In an act of inadvertent Christian charity, Robertson has performed a great service for the world of Islam -- not so much by lending credibility to those who insist the U.S. is conducting a religious crusade against the Muslim world, but by making vivid the necessary distinction between radicals who exploit religion to advance a political agenda and those who practice their religious beliefs in less dramatic, more peaceful ways.

"When Robertson says something outrageous, we recognize that he speaks for himself and not for all the Christians. We wouldn't condemn Christianity, in other words, just because one man said something extreme, irrational and murderous..." (Kathleen Parker of Tribune Media Services, Buffalo, NY.)

From last week's Reflection:
"He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:19b-20a). Ambassadors do not make decisions or alter the policies of their nations. Neither can we of the heavenly kingdom. Truth is not relative and the message of reconciliation was formulated before time began. Truth is so sacred it merits our martyrdom (witness) and cannot be changed by any human decree anyway."

"Robertson has made other remarks over the years about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the gospel in which he says he believes. He is not alone. On the right and on the left, ordained and self-proclaimed 'reverends' and honorary 'doctors' appear to spend more time trying to reform a fallen and decaying world through politics and earthly power than they do promoting and proclaiming the ultimate answer to that fallenness.

"While these apostles of political parties and personal agendas have every right to make fools of themselves, they are enabled in their foolishness by millions of people who blindly send them money. These money-senders are looking in the wrong place for their deliverance...

"Much of what is proclaimed as God's will on TV and in fundraising appeals is false religion. People who respond with checks are either ignorant or willfully disobedient to what their spiritual commander-in-chief and the early apostles taught and practiced....

"Too many Christians think if they shout loud enough and gain political strength the world will be improved. That is a false doctrine. I have never seen anyone 'converted' to a Christian's point of view (and those views are not uniform) through political power. I have frequently seen someone's views changed after they have experienced true conversion and then live by different standards and live for goals beyond which political party controls the government.

"Repeatedly in the Scriptures, which TV ministers regularly and selectively quote, are teachings, admonitions and commands that are antithetical to the high-octane rhetoric spanning the ideological and theological spectrum, from Pat Robertson to Jesse Jackson.

"Here is a partial list: Humble yourself and God will exalt you; he who would be a leader among you must first be your servant; love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you; pray in secret, not publicly; give to the poor; God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; the last place at the table; the widow's mite (the message is that she gave all she had, not great wealth); the mustard seed (about the smallest among of genuine faith); the washing of feet (as demonstrated by Jesus).

"These virtues are virtually absent among the 'resounding gongs and clanging cymbals' one sees on TV [and hears on radio]." (Cal Thomas, Tribune Media Services, Buffalo, NY.)

From last week's Reflection:
"The Greek is more accurately translated, 'Whatever you bind - that is, declare to be improper and unlawful - on earth must be already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth - declare lawful - must be what is already loosed in heaven' (Greek Amplified Version). The tense used in the Greek is perfect passive participle, indicating an announcing of or witness to what has already been declared lawful or unlawful, not permission for humans to make future determinations. 'These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open' (Revelation 3:7). Christ's witnesses are to declare what He opened and shut, but do not have the authority to open or shut anything regarding the truth. And that makes great theological sense. "

Is it not an embarrassment to Christians that the secular press must remind us of the teachings and way of Christ? Are we afraid to reprimand and distance ourselves from heretical Christians because they are "brothers"? St. Paul certainly wasn't. Do we Americans truly practice our motto, "In God we trust"? Or are we trusting in our military and economic power and our mighty "horses and chariots"? Our president is calling for an official investigation in the delayed federal response to the suffering of the Gulf Coast people. Our enemies are rejoicing. They have a lot more real-time intelligence of our inability to attend to our own people immediately after (not days) a predicted (not surprise) disaster. Nations, suffering their own poverty, are offering aid to the richest nation on earth. Even Cuba has offered the services of over 1,500 doctors each carrying 26 pounds of medicine. (The same doctors with experience in aiding the tsunami victims.) What is wrong with this picture?

What is blatant is the lack of Christian guts to call into accountability "Christian" spokespersons like Falwell who blame the 9/11 catastrophe on abortionists and gays rather than on the now documented government failures and on the terrorists themselves. No doubt (and it has already started) some self-proclaimed Christian prophets will also blame Katrina on the decadent and gay-approving culture of New Orleans rather than the scientific studies asserting that the levees were designed for a maximum Hurricane level 3, but not 5, and that federal and state funds were diverted to more "important" issues than upgrading them, in the face of solid data predicting a Hurricane 4 or higher hitting the Gulf Coast as a certainty of just time. Though we would like to, we cannot blame this disaster on God. Jesus warned us about building homes on sand rather than rock, physically and spiritually.

Politics are built on shifting sand. The kingdom of God on solid rock. It's best we Christians start separating the two.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
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Spiritual Resource Services  © September 15, 2005

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