This mist that covers your eyes

This mist that covers your eyes November 23, 2021

• I had not heard this story before reading this: “On the Now Far Too Many Days That the Ideals That Are the Real America Are Tested, It Is Important To Remember When They Are, or Have Been, Actually Lived.”

America has the technical, logistical, and financial capability to respond like this in the wake of any disaster, anywhere in the world. But we don’t do that. Could, but don’t. Put that in Latin and it could be our national motto.

• “I thought the woman had a possum and a drinking problem.” That’s from Oliver Milman’s fine report and fun read: “North Carolina Town Is Besieged by Hungry Armadillos.”

There are now armadillos in North Carolina. And in Virginia. If it’s true that climate change is a hoax and a leftist conspiracy — as white Republicans and white evangelicals have been telling us for decades — then the armadillos are in on it.

• Hemant Mehta shares the dog-bites-man story of a hate pastor saying hateful things. The hateful church here is Stedfast Baptist Church of Oklahoma City, which is not to be confused with the equally hateful Stedfast Baptist Church of Ft. Worth, Texas.

The hateful words spoken from the pulpits of these churches are intended to shock, but their shtick has gotten shtale, recalling that classic Onion bit about “Marilyn Manson Now Going Door-To-Door Trying To Shock People.” What might be jarring, though, is you read Hemant’s post or watch videos from those churches, is their weird misspelling of “steadfast.”

This is not a mistake or an accident. It’s a tribal signifier for these KJV-Only churches. They spell “stedfast” the way that some people spelled it in 1611, just like the King James Version of the English-translation of the Bible does, because they believe that the King James Version is somehow uniquely authentic in a way that no other English translation (or Greek or Hebrew manuscript) could be. This may at first seem like an absurd claim based on foolish and illiterate reasoning, but the more you study the arguments given in support of KJV-Onlyism, the more you’ll see that they’re even more absurd, foolish, and illiterate than you’d initially imagined.

But it’s fun to note that these rabidly anti-gay churches are all also places where the name of George Villiers’ boyfriend is spoken with deep reverence.

The first duke of Buckingham was a King-James-only kind of guy.

• “Billy Graham’s vision then worked like this: the problem was communism (or some social, international ill), his rhetoric of choice was apocalyptic, solution was almost solely being born again, and the benefits of this theopolitical message was not only salvation and heaven but also capitalism and American leadership in the world.”

That’s from Scot McKnight’s review of Jonathan Redding’s One Nation Under Graham: Apocalyptic Rhetoric and American Exceptionalism. It sounds like I might like Redding’s book more than McKnight did, but McKnight agrees with Redding that us someones who like Billy Graham shouldn’t let that fondness prevent a candid evaluation of the man’s premillennial dispensationalist heterodoxy, his parochial nationalism, or his idolatrous veneration of capitalism.

McKnight also writes that: “It does not help Billy Graham that his son, Franklin, lacks Billy’s nuance, grace, and social adeptness. Which is not to say Billy was not harsh. … Franklin’s politics, it seems to me, are not that far from his father’s.” The difference in tone may be partly due to the difference in media that shaped the two Grahams. Billy was a creature of pulpits, stadium tours, and 20th-century three-network broadcast television. Franklin is a creature of Facebook and Fox News.

It may be that the harshest criticism of Billy Graham is simply to note that the central message of his politics — individual salvation solving every social injustice — was a demonstrable failure. It didn’t work. At all.

Here, again, is Reinhold Niebuhr in 1966:

Along comes Billy Graham for his great evangelistic meeting. His manner is bland and he’s a great biblicist. He speaks in a convincing way and, while the choir sings softly, he tells the people to pray and to give their heart to Christ and sign the decision card. He tells them in the words of St. Paul that “if any man be in Christ, he will be a new creature.”

This is fantastic, because it shows the weakness of Protestantism — individualism. It deals with collective sin, particularly the race question, in purely individualistic terms. You can’t overcome race prejudice by simply signing a decision card. Yet Billy Graham tells them that if they sign the decision card they will become “color-blind.” Why is it that we see no evidence of the color-blindness when these people leave the evangelistic meetings?

When John Newton prayed the sinner’s prayer and got saved he went from being a degenerate sinner trafficking human flesh as a crewman on slaveships to being the kind of hardworking, reliable kidnapper and flesh-peddler who could become captain of his very own slaveship. God blessed his faithful commitment to his chosen vocation so much that Newton was able, a decade or so later, to return to land and enjoy an abundant living investing in the slave trade.

Newton prayed his sinner’s prayer in 1748. He did not become an abolitionist until 40 years later, in 1788. I’d say the latter date is when Newton found salvation — 24 years after he was ordained as an Anglican priest and 16 years after he wrote the words to “Amazing Grace.” 1 John 4:20. Chapter and verse.

• The title of this post comes from another long-distance dedication I’m sending out to our “anti-woke” friends. This one’s from Melissa Etheridge, someone they’ve found “triggering” for decades.


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