Henny Penny Rapture Ravers and Beltway Biblethumpers - Not Your Daddy's Christians
By C. L. McElvaine
As the Christmas Season approaches, it makes me sadder than I can say to watch how our "good Christian" leaders are honoring the season. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" only seems to apply to the Ken Lays and Dick Cheneys of the world these days. And, thanks to Bush and his pal Ariel Sharon, it's been a long time since we saw the Little Town of Bethlehem" lie still." You'd think the Beltway Biblethumpers would take just little time off from war mongering to contemplate the meaning of their own (supposedly) most Holy Season - the birth of "The Prince of Peace."
But the Beltway Biblethumpers and the folks who cheer them on are a long way from being the sort of Christians my father was, who kept his life and his faith on the same page. The Beltway Biblethumpers not only don't keep their lives and religion on the same page - they keep two sets of books. To them, religion has become a tool to hoodwink others than it is a way of life. And, unfortunately, these "Christian mechanics" have used their "tool" to tamper with the beliefs of others in the ways that best suit their needs. This has meant turning up the engine's "fear" idle so the motor's revving all the time, freezing the transmission in reverse so the only direction you can roll is backwards, and fixing the ignition so the only thing that kicks the engine on is hotwiring it with hate.
I have the misfortune of being on several mailing lists of what I call the Henny Penny Rapture Ravers. As in the poor, hysterical chicken who kept running around in circles hollering "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" These folks are not only sure the world is going to hell in a handbasket, they welcome the much-touted approach of Armaggedon with open arms. It means all their worst fears are being realized and for some reason, that seems to give them a smug satisfaction. In fact, it seems about the only thing they take any satisfaction in - unless it's pointing fingers at any person or group they don't like and condemning them as bad folks who are doomed for all kinds of awful retribution when the Big Battle sorts everything out. That kind of thinking, of course, is a whole lot easier than taking real responsibility for yourself or trying to see someone else's point of view. But it's a point of view encouraged by our top Beltway Christians like Bush and his Pentecostal pal John Aschroft.
But you can't talk any of these Henny Pennys into climbing down off their hell-and-brimstone soapbox pulpits. You try to argue with them and they will send you all sorts of pamphlets or e-mail links "proving" they are right, because such and such a modern day prophet says so. Half these "prophets" I never heard of. The other half are all con artists (the Jim Baker, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham crowd) I wouldn't trust to interpret a want ad for me, let alone the Bible.
I think that anyone nowadays who sets themselves up as a prophet is definitely a suspicious character! I don't think God ever intended for people to try to predict the future, because the future's always in the process of being created, moment to moment. I think the Old Testament prophesies were WARNINGS - not carved in stone predictions. Revelation is filled with symbols that can be applied to EVERY GENERATION and its ogvernments and armies and every generation for a thousand years has claimed that they knew for sure that Revelation's predictions were coming true FOR THEM. Just like there's been folks warning that the world's coming to an end since the days of the ancient Egyptians. What's really kinda funny is - they are right. Some day - even if it's a billion years from now - Earth will come to some sort of end. So, you could say these doom and gloom prophets are "right" - just like a broken clock's right twice a day.
I believe that God grants free will, which gives us all the power to change the future by what we do now. I also believe that the surest way to change the future for the better is by being GOOD and, as Henry David Thoreau said, not just good, but GOOD FOR SOMETHING. Nobody's going to change anything for the better by trying to whip up fear and righteous indignation in their fellow humankind. One of the best pieces of spiritual advice I ever got was this: FEAR IS THE OPPOSITE OF FAITH. Whoever tries to whip up fear is anti-FAITH. How can anyone claim to have real faith if they are forever looking under the bed for goblins???
That reminds me of the story I heard about the supposedly devout Christian Science lady in the hospital waiting room. As you might know, these folks are supposed to shun doctors and believe that the Lord will heal all ills naturally. She'd brought her husband in to have a battery of tests, followed by surgery, for a stomach ulcer. An acquaintance of hers - a woman the Christian Science lady had often tried to convert to her religious point of view - happened to be encounter her there and hear about her husband. "Why, I thought you told me all you had to do was pray and the Lord would take care of everything!" the acquaintance exclaimed. To which the CS lady replied, "Well, I was just afraid He might not have the same high standards I do!"
In any case, I think that the fearmongers like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and all the rest of the "Telemarketers for God" use fear of vague dangers and hints of prophesies about to be fulfilled to distract people from focusing on the here and now and real evils right in front of them that they have the power to change. Worse yet, they interpret these Biblical prophesies in a way that always works out that they are the ones who come out on top, while the folks they don't like all come out on the "wrong side" and doomed to hellfire and damnation. I think it's pretty darn high-handed how these fellows presume to speak for God all the time - as if he were the CEO of their corporation and they were reporting the minutes from the last board meeting. That alone is enough to put up a big red flag - one with great big black letters that read "FRAUD!"
At the end of the day, the way I see it - simple guy that I am - Faith means faith. Period. Not second guessing God. No choosing up sides because you only feel safe in a crowd. No breaking the commandments left and right in the name of "National Security." You are either a "good Christian" with faith - or you're a faithless fearmonger. I don't think there's much question which sort we have in the White House right now.
As an antidote to this fearmongering, I thought I'd share some prayers from my collection that are about forgiveness. Forgiveness and turning the other cheek to the transgressions of others were Jesus's most famous virtues. They are virtues that are in mighty short supply right now among America's "Beltway Christians."
This prayer was written well over one thousand years ago - back when people still seemed to remember what the teachings of Jesus are all about.
We beg and beseech the God whom the enemies of the Church are forever provoking and irritating that he would tame their wild hearts. May their rage subside and calm return to their hearts; may their minds, clouded by the darkness their sins produce, repent and see the light; may they seek the bishop's prayers and not his blood.
Cyprian of Carthage circa 250 A.D.
If this person could forgive...How on Earth can G.W. Bush or Ariel Sharon be so full of vengefulness?
O, Lord, remember not just the men and women of good will but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted. Remember the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering - our comraderie, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of spirit which has grown out of all this. And when they come to judgement, let all the fruits which we have born be their forgiveness.
-Prayer found beside a dead child in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp by one of the liberators in 1945
Too Bad the Anglican Church in the UK (whose majority of Bishops recently decided that war was OK with them) forgot this Millenium Resolution made back in 2000:
Let there be
Respect for the Earth,
Peace for its People,
Love in our lives,
Delight in the good,
Forgiveness for past wrongs,
and from now on a new start!
From "Churches Together in England"
Here's a little thought from the guy the bloodthirsty Henny Pennys are so fond of invoking"
"But I say unto you, Love you enemies, bless them that curse, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you."
One of the things our "Henny Penny" and "Board Room" Christians never seemed to learn is that judging others is something best left to God. As they say in Twelve-Step programs, you'd never have time to take anyone else's inventory if you made an honest effort to start taking your own. For most folks, that is work enough without trying to declare who else is an evildoer. Seems to me that the United States has alot of amends to make, and forgiveness to ask of other nations before we can even dare to start passing judgement on the mistakes of others.
It makes me happy that you love me so much. Thank you for giving me a chance even when I have done something bad. Please help me to always remember you and give others a chance when they make mistakes.
Children's prayer from American Bible Society
We took that "give others a second chance" tack with Japan and it sure didn't hurt us any in the long run, did it? I know I sure appreciate the 250,000 miles I got out of my old Toyota truck!
I ask Your help in making my list of all those I have harmed.
I will take responsibility for my mistakes &
be forgiving to others as You are forgiving to me.
Grant me the willingness to begin my restitution.
This I pray.
Eighth Step Pray (12-Step program)
The way I see it, if we start making our restitution now, that'll keep us too busy to go to war for about the next 50 years or so.
These aren't prayers, but they surely do bear contemplating:
"There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness."
"It is a melancholy fact that there are few Christian duties so little practised as that of forgiveness." - J. C. Ryle
"Only one petition in the Lord's Prayer has any condition attached to it: it is the petition for forgiveness." - William Temple
Now here's the very people G. W. Bush could stand to learn a few lessons from:
Prayers posted at a site for Families and friends of September 11 Victims:
Oh God, heavenly Father. WE know, we believe that you are the Almighty God. That you are creator and lover of our souls but oh God we question you now. We cry out with broken hearts and ask "why"? God, be with us as we grieve, be with those in NYC. God give us the wisdom to react as you would have us do so...with love and forgiveness.
We know oh Lord our God that none of us deserves your grace that the past week's events seem so much worse to our finite minds than anything most of us do. Send your spirit upon America to help us understand your mercy and grace and then to show it to others.
Let us not go to war but forgive and treat our enemies with love as you instructed us to do in your Holy Word.
Thank-you Lord that you are with us now.
"O God of Every Nation"
by Hughes M. Huffman
Oh God of every nation, of every race and land.
Redeem Thy whole creation with Thine almighty hand,
Where hate and fear divide us and bitter threats are hurled,
In love and mercy guide us and heal our strife-torn world.
From search for wealth and power and scorn of truth and right,
From trust in bombs that shower destruction thru the night.
From pride of race and station and blindness to thy way,
Deliver every nation, eternal God, we pray.
Lord, strengthen all who labor that men (and women) may find release.
From fear of rattling saber, from dread of war's increase.
When hope and courage falter, Thy still, small voice be heard;
With faith that none can alter, Thy servants undergird.
Keep bright in us the vision of days when war shall cease,
When hatred and division give way to love and peace,
Till dawns the morning glorious when brotherhood shall reign
And Christ shall rule victorious o'er all the world's domain.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!...with Peace on Earth, Good Will to All!!
C.L. McElvaine is a former Air Force pilot and carpenter whose father was a minister.