"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Friday, August 23, 2019

Pilgrim's Progress

Okay, now I have to crank out my Biblical exegesis.  It's pointless, because Jeffress has a hermeneutic  (yes, and a theology!) that is completely different from my own, so we are talking past each other in Wittgenstein's "language games."  But first to give the pastor his due:

Jeffress made his over-the-top anti-Semitic remarks while making an appearance on Todd Starnes’ Fox News radio show. The two conservative Christians were trying to justify Trump’s recent claims that Jews who vote for Democrats are disloyal, and criticizing Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders for declaring:

I am a proud Jewish person, and I have no concerns about voting Democratic. And in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States.
Jeffress told Starnes:

And the question he (Trump) is raising about how can American Jews support Democrats who support people like [Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib], despicable representatives of our country who are antisemitic to the core, how can Jewish Americans support that? 
Jeffress continued:

It makes no sense for those Jewish Americans not to support a president and a party that stands for Israel like Donald J. Trump does…
Jeffress added:

… I mean it’s obvious Bernie Sanders is completely illiterate when it comes to what the Old Testament teaches about Israel.
Jeffress concluded:

You know, God said to Abraham in Genesis 12, “I will bless those who bless you and your descendants and I will curse those who curse you and your descendants.”
First, let's note that Robert Jeffress is not a Jew, and Bernie Sanders is.  Then let's note Pastor Jeffress is playing the white man's game of declaring groups to have spokespersons, usually ones he (or any white man) appoints.  I say "white man's game" because I know of few blacks, Asians, Jews, women, or any other group you care to lump people into (Boomers, Millenials, Gen X'ers; go wild) who speak of any white person as a spokesman for, well, white men.  Does Donald Trump speak for me because we are both white men?  Does Robert Jeffress, because we are both Christian pastors?  Nobody sensible thinks so, but Pastor Jeffress speaks to all Jews, and denounces those who don't share his politics, and wonders how they (Jews, not white men; never white men) can follow Sanders' lead?

Notably, Sanders didn't say all "good" Jews must do as he does.  He merely rejected the white man's label (again, tell me any other group who regularly speaks of groups of people like this.  When it is done, the first cry is "Racism!") for Jews, declared himself an individual, and announced that while he is Jewish, that does not make him hate Democrats and support Donald Trump.

Pastor Jeffress avers that, since Omar and Tlaib are "anti-Semitic to the core," which makes them "despicable representatives of our country," that Jewish Americans cannot support them.  Because how could they disagree with his politics?  White man is the standard of reasonableness and proper thinking, so to disagree with white man is to violate the basic principles of good conduct.  All groups must agree with what white man lays down as the standard of conduct, or they become bad groups.

And as for Bernie Sanders being completely illiterate when it comes to what the Hebrew Scriptures (I won't use the outdated term Jeffress uses; I told you I have a different hermeneutic than he does) teach about Israel, well, let's start with what the New Testament teaches about judging others:

Be compassionate in the way your Father is compassionate.  Don't pass judgment, and you won't be judged; don't condemn, and you won't be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you; they'll put in your lap a full measure, packed down, sifted and overflowing.  For the standard you apply will be the standard applied to you.  Luke 6: 36-38, SV.

You can take a lot from that, but be careful, because it comes back to you.  Consider the last sentence first,  and the first sentence last, and then consider all those words in between.  The obvious lesson is not to stand in judgement, because you put yourself under judgment that way.  And so the standard you apply will be applied to you.  If it is white man's burden to tell other groups white man doesn't belong to (like American Jews) what they should be doing, doesn't that standard come back on white man, especially if he holds himself out to be a Christian living by the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth?  But the minute you laugh at white man as pastor being so foolish, doesn't that standard come back on you, too?

I don't know where Jeffress gets the idea that Tlaib and Omar are "antisemitic to the core" except by the fact they are Muslims, which is yet another way white man judges and always finds non-whites are wanting in some measure.  As for the reference to Genesis 12, I would ask Pastor Jeffress if that means Jews will, finally, be "saved"?  If not, what's the point of cursing those who curse them and blessing those who bless them?  Because God is arbitrary and full of pique?  But that wanders off into my problems with soteriology, and we don't need to go there.  Suffice to say Pastor Jeffress is proof-texting, using scripture as a club against his opponents, and that is such a gross misuse of holy writ I won't follow his lead by countering him with my own choice of verses.  But I said I have a theology that is not the one Jeffress would approve, or aspire to; let me end on that note, before I end on a note of judgment, and undo all I have said.

This post caused me to look up the question of Jesus and judgment in my "archives," where I found all of this.  It's better reading than I remembered.  And I found a passage I want to end this post with, even though I'm taking it out of context to do it.  You can see the full context if you want, but my point here is to provide a thumbnail account of a different idea of ministry, of being a pastor, than the one tacitly provided by Robert Jeffress.  It's a good way to draw a distinction without making yet another judgment; because I will insist that the complexities of life refuse to reduce themselves to the simple "either/or's" that Pastor Jeffress likes to trade in:

So a pastor ends up sitting in judgment over ideas. It is a terrible place to be, and a terrible burden. Welcome to the pilgrimage. We are, none of us, below another, especially the homeless, the powerless, the helpless. Most especially the beggar, the alcoholic, the drug addict, the prostitute, the mentally ill. We are none of us above judgment, either. We are all of us in this together. The gospel that comes to the homeless comes also to the comfortable; the gospel that speaks to the afflicted speaks also to the powerful; the gospel that renders us all equal also doesn't render us all downward. This gospel upends society, but in subtle and potent ways we haven't begun to experience or experiment with yet. This gospel is for everyone. Now, go and preach that message. Go and struggle with that truth. Go and believe, and pray God to help you with your unbelief.

That is the prayer, and the work, of a pilgrim.


Blogger Mark Smeraldi said...

I had completely forgotten Buddy Christ,so thanks for resurrecting him. So apt to place Jeffress in the context of "Dogma" It's why I'm a fan.

3:22 PM  

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