Monday, March 30, 2020

"How should we imagine a healing that we can only begin together?"--Rowan Williams

Speaking Thursday, Pastor Bill Scheer of the Guts Church franchise in northeast Oklahoma delivered a message all about “winning.” It was akin to a message from President Donald Trump, who frequently sees the world as the difference between winners and losers.

“See, the key, and I gotta tell ya, is you gotta put God first and keep Him first, No. 1. And No. 2, our help comes from above and that’s where we have to look,” said Scheer. “Man, let the government do what it does, let the media do what it does but we have to understand who God is in our lives and the hope that we get. And of all of those thousands of promises that are in God’s word they put us on the offensive rather than on the defensive. Man, we’re just not sitting back on our heels anymore just taking it in the teeth. We’re allowed to come humbly and boldly in the throne of grace…

“Man, we’re overcomers in this age. We’re winners. God’s destiny, God’s legacy, God’s — God’s call and purpose on your life is to win and to win every day.”

The event on Thursday was a state-wide prayer day in Oklahoma, to "pray away" the coronavirus.  I don't usually comment on statements like this, even though I have strong opinions about them.  But this statement struck me as something a cult leader would say.  It sounds more like "the flying saucers are coming back to retrieve us!" than it does Christianity.  And it's certainly as non-Biblical as anything can be:

“There was a pastor who shared during the prayer time that said we need to know ‘that we are overcomers in this age. That we’re winners,'” Rev. [Ryan]Taber [pastor of First Baptist Church of Piedmont, Oklahoma] quoted Scheer.

“There’s only one problem with this statement,” he continued. “It’s a complete and total lie. It’s not the message of scripture. This statement, the more I meditated on it and thought about it and sort of stewed over it, it infuriated me because this pastor was given the opportunity to speak truth to an entire state of suffering people and he looked into the camera and he told a lie that goes against not only what God’s word says but it actually heaps more suffering on the suffering that people are already experiencing.

“Because if you heard this message that God’s call and his message for your life is for you to be a ‘winner’ and that you would ‘win every day,’ and you heard this message and you just lost your job, or you’re worried about how you’re going to feed your kids or how many paychecks you can miss before you become homeless, then guess what, in that moment you don’t feel like a winner. You don’t feel like you’re winning,” he continued.

“It’s not the message of the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, nowhere is there found this message that God’s sole purpose to alleviate us of our suffering,” Pastor Taber explained. “In fact, it’s the exact opposite.”
That could quickly devolve into the worst charicature of Calvinism, but let's not do that here.  His citations were to Job, Jonah, Samson, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and even Jesus of Nazareth.  There is certainly more about suffering in Scripture than there is about God making everybody happy and rescuing them from calamity and plague.  There is more in Scripture about facing the human condition than about fleeing it for a cultish vision of perfection and deliverance from....well, life itself.

The former is also every inclusive, while the latter is quite exclusive; something Archbishop Rowan Williams speaks to very clearly here.

And now I've got to go order some of Marilynne Robinson's books.  I think my local bookstore (and former employer) is providing curbside service still....

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