One of the stranger phenomena of the last two years has been how politicized the virus has become. It has led to something called ‘Covid Shame.’ “Mental health experts say feelings of guilt and shame are perpetuated by societal stigma related to a COVID-19 diagnosis.”
Hillary Ammon, PsyD, an assistant professor of Clinical Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “First, it is important to understand the difference between these two feelings. Guilt is believing that you did something wrong. Shame is experienced when you are concerned others are judging or rejecting you due to your actions.” The question is, why are we treating people with the virus this way?
We need to look to scripture to figure out why behavior like this occurs. It seems that being exclusive is something that is engrained within us. We naturally set aside certain spaces for ourselves and exclude others from those spaces. Look at how we arrange our homes. We have an entrance where people are greeted, then we have the living room where people congregate, and onto the bedroom which is the most private in the home. This is the way that churches are configured. We have the vestibule where people enter, the chapel where the congregation sits, and the altar where only the saved partake from. The problem that we have now is that the church has abdicated her role as a sacred space. God gave the Israelites the tabernacle and the temple but not for His sake. He cannot be held to a place (I Kings 8:27-30). It was for Israels sake. They could commune with Him and exclude all others. The church is now God’s temple (II Cor. 6:16-18). We have an altar that even those of the Old Testament have no right to eat at (Heb. 13:10). The church is the sacred space set aside for us to be exclusive. The lost have no right to the body and blood of Christ (I Cor. 10:14-18). Yet, Paul gives us instructions on how to behave out in the world with the lost (I Cor. 10:24-30). Unlike Israel we are not deemed unclean because we eat with lost people. So God has given us a way to regulate our exclusive impulses and to tell us in what manner we should be exclusive. In rejecting our calling the church has failed the nation which has led the state to declare itself the arbiter of what space is sacred. In rejecting hierarchies of space all things are now sacred. The vaccinated are ‘clean’ and the unvaccinated are ‘unclean’ and every place is designated sacred.
Pfizer and Moderna have become Rome and Constantinople. The other companies are like the scattered Protestant churches. The state is offering us the sacrament of the vaccine and those who reject it are lost. Those who take it are saved. There is a spiritual need and zealous religiosity within all of us and it must manifest itself one way or the other. We have decided to reject a hierarchy of sacred spaces and that has led to the state making all places sacred. Even doctrinal differences about being ‘fully clean’ have emerged from this situation. Are you double jabbed? Or have your booster? Do you have one or two boosters? Very similarly the church argues whether or not one is saved by asking, have you spoken in tongues? Are you baptized? Were you baptized as an infant? etc. All of these behaviors are manifesting themselves in the world through this vaccine issue. I believe that judgment begins at the house of God (I Pet. 4:17). The church has not provided a sacred space for the congregation to hear the fullness of the truth. She must be a place where the correct perspective is taught, participation is encouraged, procedures are followed, and propositional truths are proclaimed. Without this space the nation will continue to destroy itself.
This isn’t really about all of the Star War films or the Eternals. I’m going to talk about themes and storytelling. As Christians stories should be our domain. We have the greatest story ever written and yet we’re losing the young minds of today to these bloated Hollywood picture shows. There is death in the camera.
So looking at Star Wars of old versus the latest sequel trilogy got me thinking about how culture has changed. Let us look at the state of Luke Skywalker. In the original trilogy he goes on the typical hero’s journey. He was hopeful, idealistic, got humbled and recovered, and finally won out in the end. The key about his journey is that it is the Force that is aiding and guiding him. All of his trials, in the end, lead him to becoming a servant to the will of the force. Hence, he became a Jedi Knight. Jedis were individuals who gave themselves to the light side of the Force. The battles that they fought were always greater than the mere idea of life or death. The dark side, on the other hand, were people who had decided to use the Force for their own purposes, rather than submitting to its will. In the final battle in Return of the Jedi (my favorite) we see Luke and Vader fight it out. The stakes were huge and it had nothing to do lightsabers. If Luke killed Vader he would’ve lost. The real battle was whether or not Luke could fight the temptation of the dark side. In the end he held out and in the process redeemed his father.
Now when we compare this to the sequel trilogy we find a complete change in everything that was previously understood in the story. From the very first scene with Poe we find that Kylo Ren is not feared at all. There is no understanding of him being led by a higher power that he is using for his own gains. And then there’s Luke. He has come to the conclusion that the Jedi are the real problem in the universe and must end. He tells Rey that the Jedi are not the controllers of the Force. The problem with this is that no one ever claimed that the Jedi controlled the Force. They were servants of the Force. This doesn’t mean that Jedis were infallible, they made mistakes, but that isn’t a reason for them to end. The writers tried to turn the entire story on its head to fit our modern day. They flattened out the Force to make the dark and light indistinguishable. Evil is only understood as someone who is a part of an institution of some sort. The characters are not serving or using the Force anymore. It’s just a plot device to appease their own feelings and let them do what they want. In other words, it’s a man-centered story.
I recently saw The Eternals. In it they realize that they were only there to do the bidding of Arishem. A god type figure who made sure that celestials were birthed out of the core of planets which would then create new planets. The Eternals decided that they didn’t want to do that. They rejected the natural order of things (creation, death, renewal) because they started to like the humans. Ikaris and Sprite try to achieve their original mission but are defeated. At the end Sersi offers Sprite the ability to become human and grow old and die. Without thought she takes up the offer. In both of these situations we see themes emerging. First, you have the right to fight nature if you feel like doing it. Second, death is the goal of life. Sprite wants to live a fleeting life to know what it feels like to be human. She desires death. These themes are intentionally pushing the audience to accept this type of thought. We should be asking the questions: Do we have the right to buck nature? Is this life all there really is? The answers assumed in the story are yes and yes.
Now think of an older story like Lord of the Rings. In Return of the King Pippin is scared of death and Gandalf comforts him. Telling him that death is only another path (I know it’s not in the books). Other forces were at play in the story and that’s what made it gripping and gave those in it hope. We are living in a nihilistic death culture. There is no hope or joy. The transcendent world has been flattened out and our reality is completely warped.
As Christians we have a remedy for this. The Bible is the greatest story ever written. Angels and demons are at war as we speak and we have been placed in the battle. Christ as the risen God-man has ascended above every power and principality. We are fighting against forces in spiritual places. Yet, we act as if the battle is here with politicians and actors and even our own neighbors. We need to act as if we believe in what the Bible tells us. We have stopped teaching the great stories of scripture and give empty platitudes to the masses. In Psalm 78 the writer tells us to teach our children the law of God by telling them of the wonders that He has performed. The commands of scripture are inextricably linked to the stories told. As Christians if we want to have a greater impact on our culture we must take back the storytelling element in it. The world is hard at work putting across her values. We must get to it.
There’s been some recent debates on the internet about whether or not Jesus was a Marxist. I’ve found some of the arguments quite interesting. Of course, ideas like “Red Theology” have been going around since the 19th century. I guess these questions are coming up because of some of the discussions around social justice issues. The problem I see in these discussions is that no one is really trying to define what a communist or capitalist is. Everyone is trying to take modern categories and impose them on Jesus, who was living in 1st century Palestine under Roman rule. As a Baptist I have to mention Walter Rauschenbusch, who was probably the most influential pastor and theologian that pushed the “Social Gospel.” So there is definitely a Marxist thread within my own tradition that I have to grapple with. Ultimately, we have to see if Jesus promulgates a Marxist ideology in the Gospels.
In the thread on Twitter the statement was made that Jesus was not a Marxist. A fella then asks, “So when Jesus said to welcome the stranger and ease the pain of the suffering, that was… What, exactly?” There are some problems with this question. First, he’s assuming that helping the stranger and easing the pain of people suffering equates to being a Marxist. Aiding the foreigner goes all the way back to the Old Testament law (Ex. 22:21) and I don’t think anyone would think that the ancient nation of Israel was Marxist in any way. That along with helping the oppressed and suffering is common in many ancient cultures. It in no way defines what a Marxist is. In fact, it is the complete opposite position that Marx holds. In order to entirely revolutionize the means of production he wrote in chapter two of his Communist Manifesto 10 measures (I call them his 10 commandments) that are necessary for Communism. Measure 4 states, “Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.” That is not christlike at all.
The second question came after a response from someone who claimed that Jesus was a “rugged individualist” who didn’t pass on the responsibility of helping others to the government. The same fella then asks, “And the part about rich people not getting into Heaven? I didn’t mention the government, so not sure where you’re getting that from. And if Christians have a responsibility to the poor and suffering they seem to be doing a poor job, especially in the US. Again there are some assumptions that need to be addressed. First, Jesus does not say that rich people don’t get into Heaven. Zacchaeus was wealthy (Lk. 19:1-10), Joseph of Arimathea was also wealthy (Matt. 27:57) and there are many others from the Old and New Testaments that had many possessions. Jesus does say that it is difficult for wealthy people to enter into the kingdom of God but all things are possible with God (Mk. 10:23-27). He is not saying that wealthy people are inherently wicked but that due to their riches they don’t see a need for salvation in the same way that the poor and oppressed will. He certainly doesn’t set up a class dichotomy. Marx believed on the other hand, as Hegel did, that “the individual must thus all the more forget himself (Phenomenology of Spirit: Preface).” He saw the world in classes and he believed that the existence of the bourgeoisie “is no longer compatible with society (Communist Manifesto: Ch. 1).” Jesus certainly never called for the end of any group of people. The second issue with his response is that he says he doesn’t understand why the other guy mentioned the government. This is the naivety of our age. Communism only exists within a nation state that is or is being industrialized. Marx says of the revolution, “The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class (Communist Manifesto, ch. 2).” None of these things have anything to do with the ministry of Jesus. I didn’t even touch on Marx’s materialism. Jesus saying, “My kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36)” basically rules Him out of being a Marxist in the proper sense.
Reading all of these conversations makes me realize how little people seem to know about some of these ideas. For instance, many people and groups of people have been communitarians or even utopians. That does not make them Marxists. Peasants who worked under feudal lords were not capitalists. We need to understand these systems and ideas in much better ways before we start assigning those labels on people from the past. The Puritans were communitarians but they were in no way Marxists. Rousseau was a utopian but he certainly is not a Marxist. Jesus transcends all of our categories and directs us toward the eternal. It is in Him alone that we will find rest from the vagaries of life.
This post is not me advocating for the public execution of weathermen. The fact that they are people who essentially lack a conscious as they lie night after night is not the purpose of this post. Weathermen are really a symptom of the secularization of our society. Our hope and trust in their analysis of nature shows how much naturalism has taken over how we think about the world. In the west we view nature as a completely mechanical process. We do not see God in nature nor do we attempt to explain events from the perspective that God is at work. Everything is explained through a natural cause and effect process. The problem with this is that the farther God gets from our external world the farther He is from us internally. Truth will always be defined by your mediator. The nation of Israel had the angels mediate between them and God at Sinai. The Gentiles have always had nature itself mediate between them and God. In the modern world we have technology between us and nature and then men explaining what the technology is saying about nature. Unlike angels or nature itself, technology has been made and developed by man for man’s purposes. Technology spits out brute facts and men with their own agenda relay that data to us. This process distorts the fulness of truth. Truth is propositional, of course, but it is also providential and possesses potential. Nature is providential because it was made and is upheld by the power of God (Col. 1:15-16, Heb. 1:3). All things live, move and have their being in God (Acts 17:28). He is sovereign over all things. Nature also possesses potential for revelation. Creation holds the power of divinity within it to reveal God to us (Rom. 1:18-20). We have forgotten that God fills all the earth (Jer. 23:23-24). When was the last time you heard someone in the western world discuss the longing desire or the will of nature? Yet, Paul describes nature in this way in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 8:19-22). Now we don’t want to venture into pantheism but the Bible certainly does not describe nature as merely mechanical cause and effect processes. We have forgotten this. Weathermen are a symptom of our rejection of God as Creator and our connection to His Creation. They are the mediators between us and technology. which separates us from creation. This is the work of Satan. Technology has allowed us to avoid the power and judgment of God. But that won’t last forever.
Christmas is such a strange time because of how corporate everything is plus if you live in South Carolina it’ll be around 70 degrees Christmas day. That aside I think that there are two things that we should think about this Christmas.
- In my opinion the virgin birth is the greatest miracle that God ever performed upon a human being. The creation of Adam is something we all marvel at but have no real connection too because it preceded human history. The birth of the new Adam was vey different. The Triune God was of course present but also involved was the faith of Mary. She is the mother of our Lord and the woman that all generations called blessed (Lk. 1:42-48). As the handmaiden of the Lord she showed herself to be a true daughter of Abraham in both the flesh and the spirit. As baptists and maybe protestants more broadly we tend not to discuss Mary due to the position she holds in the Roman church. I feel that this is inappropriate, as she is a hero of the faith and the woman that the Father entrusted His only begotten Son with. Christmas is the miracle of the new creation and the triumph of the faith of Abraham over sin and death.
- The Incarnation is also on my mind during this season. It is baffling to think that God wanted to come down to earth for our sake. Socrates sings of the wisdom of Diotima, telling us how we can know the essence of beauty. She told him, “He who from these ascending under the influence of true love, begins to perceive that beauty, is not far from the end. And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty….until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is (Symposium 211b-c).” The greatest wisdom that man could conceive of was climbing to God. Yet, the one true God has told us that this is impossible. It is He, who must descend down to us. Beauty came down to us to transform us so that we could worship Him in the beauty of holiness (Ex. 28:2, Ps. 29:2). He prophesied that He would give us new vestments and access to heaven (Zech. 3:1-10). This was all achieved in the Incarnation. We become what we see and now we see Him and are being transformed by His Spirit glory to glory (II Cor. 3:17-18). The Incarnation is the hope that in seeing the face of God in the flesh we will be purified so that when we see Him in His glory we will be as He is (I Jn. 3:1-3). Christmas is the hope of transformation so that one day we will see Him face to face pure of heart (Rev. 22:3-4). For blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8).
Today when we think of madness we view it from a clinical perspective. Everything is viewed through the prism of psychology. But there was a time, long ago, when this was not so. The ancients viewed madness as something of a divine gift. In scripture we find several examples of people viewing the prophets of God as mad and even feared them. In fact, Jesus Himself was viewed as being out of His senses (Mk. 3:20-22). There was a burning flame produced in these men by the Spirit of God, something that compelled them go above and beyond any normal social behavior. Jeremiah describes the agony of this: If I say, “I will not mention Him, or speak anymore His name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot (Jer. 20:9). Prophets such as Samuel were feared (I Sam. 12:18). Jesus also terrified people (Lk. 8:34-37). We don’t seem to have a problem going to church or reading a devotional book but if real power came before us what would we do? Otherworldly power greatly unsettles us. Divine madness has been forsaken for some sort of “objective understanding” of the world. Did God not defeat the Philistines with thunder (I Sam. 7:10) and the Canaanites with hornets (Ex. 23:28)? Do we really believe these things? They sound so strange to us now. You would be mocked mercilessly for stating that the voice of God is in the thunder (Ps. 29:3, Job 37:1-5). But see what was said of those who rejected His voice and claimed that it was only thunder that they heard (Jn. 12:27-30). In these mad times I think the flame of madness should be lit once again. To burn away our iniquities lest the whole world is turned to ash.
Let us together sing the refrain that the wise man of old said: “There is a madness which is a divine gift; the greatest of blessings have come to us in madness.” (Phaedrus 244 a)
When we think of truth we tend to discuss it in terms of propositions and those propositions state facts and those facts relate to the reality that we experience and observe. It is what it is indeed. But is that all that truth really is? Let’s look at a statement that Christ makes while being put up on the cross. He says, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Lk. 23:34).” It is almost certainly not true that they didn’t know what they were doing. They were putting a man to death. So what is Christ talking about? The actions of these people (some argue whether it’s just Jews or just Romans or both) are seen by Jesus through a much broader lens. Truth is not merely propositional here but it is prophetic, providential, and possesses potential. It is propositional because the people did not understand why they were killing Jesus or who He really was. It is prophetic because the scriptures prophesied of His suffering and death (Acts 3:17-20). It is providential because the Father intended for it to happen (Acts 4:27-28). Finally, it possessed potential because of what would happen through the death of Christ (resurrection, pentecost, etc.). Imagine if we saw truth like Jesus and how that would change our lives.
Think about an event like 9-11. It would be a propositionally true statement to say that it happened because people had a hatred for America, but what if the event was prophetic, providential, and possessed potential for transformation? What if it was a prophetic event because the nations must gather together and give their power to one person? What if it was a providential event because God was judging America? What if it had the potential to bring people to Christ because of the tragedy that it wrought? If we would’ve seen that event in a more christlike way perhaps the last 20 years wouldn’t have been the complete disaster that it’s been. Then again who knows.
Strictus Via is a way of saying the narrow way. Christ tells us that, strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads unto life, and few there be that find it (Matt. 7:14). This blog will talk about what it means to walk the narrow way. Along with that there will be songs and youtube videos to see. The scriptures will be the guide and laughter will be the manner in which we will walk.
- May the Holy Triune God bless and keep you always!