Condemned by perception. Condemned by inference.
Reverend Joshua J. Whitfield, pastoral administrator for St. Rita Catholic Community in Dallas, and a frequent contributor to The Dallas morning News writes a lengthy piece which, very interestingly, from beginning to end he admits his prejudice and perception condemned Nicholas Sandmann. At the beginning of the article and at the end he admits his prejudices and condemnation without apology against the young man because he wore THE HAT.
The Reverend’s repeated refrain is ‘THE HAT.’ ‘That Hat’ that for him – not the student, not the other students, not anyone else wearing ‘THE HAT’ but “for him” he “immediately recalled the darker images of our past, specifically those background faces in pictures from a half-century ago, those cold, gleeful, indifferent faces preserved in black and white photos of 1960s sit-ins.” He admits that what is driving him is his perception and prejudice. His perceptions drive him to relate what he sees in a smiling young man with “images of Charlottesville; my mind couldn’t help but draw in dark lines on my brain all those ignorant, angry men — and from there, other images and fears, both the history and future of our inhumanity.” (side note-a quick perusal of Charlottesville revealed no photos of folks wearing THE HAT).
The Reverend then notes that the wider story was “more complex” and that “perhaps my first associations were wrong.” He then admits that what we have is a “world collapsed into media” which has “conditioned each of us to render judgments based on imagery and aesthetics [he swings back around to this] alone” which he admits that he “did in an instant” joining the throng of “confused fools taunting each other.” In all of this he sees in this “surrealist play” “no weakening of the tribes” because there were “no conversions” and I would add because there were no conversations, which he himself has failed to engage.
He identifies the essence of the icon of the “strange scene at the foot of the Lincoln memorial” as “an image of two people not speaking to each other” (one wonders why Nathan Phillips chose to chant instead of converse).
Then the Reverend places himself squarely in the middle of this icon and returns to his admitted and insurmountable prejudice. THE HAT, is something he “can’t get over”, “an image” he can’t help but “associate with other images” in his mind, revealing, because he has apparently decided not to try to understand, much less speak to Nicholas Sandmann, not Nicholas’s values and intents but rather Reverend Joshua’s inferences, perceptions, and prejudices. He would rather Nicholas align himself with Reverend Joshua Whitfield’s “aesthetics” and wear, not THE HAT but rather one of Reverend Joshua’s choosing, a hat imbued with his iconic aesthetics. He would rather Nathan ensure that his image did not trigger some “darker image” in Reverend Joshua’s (or any number of other folk’s whose inferences and perceptions that Nathan has no inkling nor control over) admittedly highly prejudiced and trigger-able mind which he states (and demonstrates repeatedly in this article) causes him to “render judgments based on imagery [THE HAT!!] and aesthetics.”
The Reverend expounds at length about the problems of our society revealed by the violent and unreasoned responses to one Catholic young man standing and smiling respectfully after being approached by an old Indian chanting incoherently in his face. No comment on why Nathan Phillips did not put down his drum and converse with Nicholas Phillips about the black men hurling expletives and racial slurs at him and his group. No comment of Reverend Joshua being triggered by confrontation of the boys being slammed and slandered by him and those like him who happily and quickly attack with no pause or probing (did it affect the Reverend at all?), only a concern because Nicholas Sandmann wore THE HAT.
The truth is that Nicholas’s Christianity was not demonstrated by what hat he wore, be it to the Reverend’s liking or for some other aesthetic, but by the fact that he was at a march to support the life of the unborn. But, the Reverend was more concerned for what is for him first in Catholicism-“witness and beauty” apparently demonstrated, not by what you stand up for in a march but by what hat you wear. THE HAT for the Reverend “betrays a Christianity . . . hollow of imagination and guts [really? After what Nicholas has gone through?!] and covers itself in the pathetic mantal of political interest” which in this case goes very much counter to the Reverend’s political interests apparently.
He sees this as a failure of Christianity’s confrontation with a society, which in this case, swirls violently around the life of the unborn. He admits throughout this article that what he perceives as a failure is born in his own mind, perceptions, and prejudices because he solidly sides, not with the young man who is marching to protest the wanton and widespread slaughter of the unborn (1 million annually) but with those who, like Reverend Joshua Whitfield, allowed their prejudices and perceptions to attack and hate Nicholas Sandman because he wore THE HAT.
There are a couple of articles posted to the web concerning the American Christian response to the caravan headed to the border of the United States. One is by Daniel Darling, vice president of communication for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention entitled “Christians should see in the migrant caravan the Bible’s call to honor the dignity of all humanity” and the other is by Scott Hildreth, the Director, Center for Great Commission Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Both articles make points for fellow believers to respect each other, especially those who disagree with us on the issue of the group of foreigners headed to our border. The caravan is an issue that has believers on different sides of the aisle on how to view and approach the issue of foreigners wanting to cross the border of the United States by bypassing the normal, diplomatic means. We do need to love, respect, and treat each other (and the non-believers) with dignity in this issue. And so too, as they remind us, we need to keep in mind that those headed this direction are created by God and worthy of respectful consideration. Providing others, those close to us and those far away, with respect, dignity, and love is not only a commandment but a vital part of our own identity as children of God.
At the same time, we need to remember some vital things. Jesus told us, “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves” (Matt 10.16 CSB). We are to treat everyone with dignity, but we don’t have to trust everyone. In that regard we need to remember the Gibeonites of Joshua chapter 9. The Gibeonites were a people who had heard of how Joshua and the children of Israel had defeated Jericho and Ai and were afraid enough to seek to make a treaty with them. But, in doing so, they deceived the Israelites but implying, through various means, that they were actually from far off when in fact they were in the territory that Israel was conquering and thus not able to make a covenant with them. The Israelites heard their (sob) story, but, as the text notes (vs. 14) they “did not ask for the counsel of the LORD.”
Not everyone who is headed in your direction is coming with the greatest of intentions. Many are headed our way as a matter of seeking their own good at another’s expense. Scripture, both TNK and NT, are clear of our treating with dignity the stranger that we find within our borders, but the Bible also notes that we are to be wise and not foolish in how we deal with others. The caravan headed this direction may indeed contain folks who are genuine in seeking refuge from oppression by seeking our citizenship. But, we have had in place legal means of entrance in each country that they are both exiting and passing through. To legitimately seek residency here there are legitimate, humane (dare I say Judaeo-Christian) means of so doing. American history is replete with the stories of immigrants making their way to Ellis Island to then walk on American soil. (It must be noted, landing on Ellis did not always ensure citizenship-many were turned back). At the same time, there appear to be some Gibeonites progressing this way. While claiming poverty and oppression, it is very expensive to carry out what they are doing with that number of folks going that distance. Something just does not feel right; my God given serpent sense tells me.
A good solution, I would think, for those who find themselves called by their Biblical sense to render aid, both physical and spiritual, would be to head in their direction with what resources that they may possess in the way of food and comfort, and, face to face, provide to the caravan the aid they think the LORD would have them provide; you don’t have to wait for them to cross the border before you help them.
I think we forget that when Jesus said, ‘love your neighbor,’ he meant your:
The person you are mad at
God loves everyone, not just those whom you get along with.
Next, an observation and a statement. Scripturally you cannot separate Love of God from Love of Neighbor – the two are inextricably tied together. So, the assumption has to be that whomever posts such a meme or statement then they are announcing themselves as lovers of God. Jesus said, ‘if you love me keep my commandments’ – John 14.15. Jesus is the Son of God, the very essence of the God of the Universe, the God of Abraham, the God found in the TaNaK and the NT. I am hoping that those who post these recognize how the love of some people is to be expressed.
For the ‘gay’ neighbor, the best expression of love is not to embrace or endorse their lifestyle because it is against God’s clear commandment. The best expression of love is to get them to recognize that it is a disorder and sin in God’s eyes and they need to turn from it.
Similarly, with the ‘atheist’ neighbor. Love them but point out to them that there is indeed a God, one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul. It is not an expression of love to affirm someone in a direction that will condemn them for eternity. Love is pointing them to the God of the Universe and his love and provision for their salvation.
So too for the ‘Muslim’ neighbor. They need to know that Jesus, not Mohammed, is the ‘Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through’ Jesus. Again, love does not affirm error but truth.
It is a wonderful thing to remind each other of whom our neighbor is and to enjoin us to love them. It is a more wonderful thing to Love God and make our love of God and his ways the source of our love of our neighbor. Our proper expression of that love is in light of how God would have each of us live as his children.
1 John. 2:3-6 NAU By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
Always a measuring rod for those who claim that they ‘love Jesus’ and even more so of late given tectonic shifting in cultural morals, specifically the homosexual issue and the church today. The Roman church is bumping hard into this issue and is on the verge of a serious bifurcation of their constituents. Very many churches have acquiesced completely and have embraced the LGBTQ community in its entirety and declared that position as fully in line with their view of the teachings of Jesus. Other churches are struggling with the issue as it is so prevalent in today’s society and have very often come down in the middle of the road not wanting to offend anyone but not willing to divorce themselves entirely from what they read in the book the acknowledge as God’s Word.
In Ross Douthat’s book evaluating the future of Roman Catholicism in light of the Francis Papacy, To Change the Church, he makes an observation that is vital to understanding the dichotomy on this issue among those who claim Christ and yet so very much disagree.
He makes the observation that many people are basing their moral leaning and position on ‘Jesus’, but not the Jesus as reflected in the actual words of the Bible but the ‘Jesus’ of their imaginings, the Jesus who ‘loves everyone’ with no reference whatsoever to moral principles, commandments and guidance found in the Bible. In that view there is very little reference to sexual morality or immorality, especially to the point of saying, ‘this life style is wrong’ or ‘this life style is clearly condemned by the Bible.’ Very often such is dismissed by calling the teaching anachronistic or saying that we have ‘evolved morally’ from such narrow and condemnatory moralizing. He notes that there remain those who do indeed see the Bible as the very Word of God and The Book whose guidelines need to be read, observed, studied, and adhered to. And I would add, especially if one, in the words of John, would say, ‘I have come to know him.’
Now, to clarify before we look at what the Bible says let me lay aside some objections and misdirections. The issue here is the acceptance and embrace and advocacy of a lifestyle. The issue is not on those who, while practicing the lifestyle, do in fact recognize it as against God’s Will and teaching and are ashamed of their failure and repent of it. So too we will not be talking about other ‘sins’ folks commit that can put them in the class of ‘hypocrite,’ that is another issue and discussion but one too often brought up to counter any condemnation of any particular sin, specifically homosexuality. And yes, there are other sins that deserve condemnation in the same breath and many times to the same degree but do not get mentioned by those more specifically condemning homosexuality. Our focus for this discussion is specific and more so in that it has turned into a major moral, religious, and political (read ‘rights’) issue that has resulted in many in the ‘church’ fully embracing and advocating it despite what will be shown below. So too this will not be a weighing of moral issues, an attempt to find some issues that might be embraced because they are referenced so infrequently. It normally pops up with ‘well Jesus said nothing about xxx’, a position that is left to argue that Jesus would have nothing to do with either Moses or Paul and that which is sin is only that which we see written as the very and only words of Jesus. The NT is clear that Jesus fully endorsed the teachings of the TNK/OT and that Paul had a clear understanding of what Jesus did teach and he himself taught that faithfully.
Now, what does the Bible teach about homosexual relationships? This will not be exhaustive, but it should suffice as enough.
Leviticus 18.22 is the clearest. In it is written, “with a male you shall not lie as is done with a woman, it is an abomination.” This is repeated and expanded in 20.13 where the death penalty is appended.
Paul repeats this command in Romans 1.26-28 and makes it clear that both genders are to be condemned in this sexual sin.
But what does Jesus say? In Matthew 5.18 he says, “”For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter (jot/yodh) or stroke (tiddle) shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (NAU). It is written in John 14.15 that he said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Too often this last statement all too often reduces his “commandments” (notice the plural) to “love everyone” with absolutely no qualifiers.
So then, some people will say, “but Jesus never addressed homosexuality directly and specifically” but neither did he directly and specifically address pedophilia or bestiality or nuclear war or any number of things that people will not hesitate to declare a sin against God despite it not being specifically identified and condemned. As an aside, I don’t think we have yet reached the point (we may in the future the way things are going) where bestiality is embraced and folks who are all for homosexual relations in a Christian context will condemn lying with an animal and I could see them suggesting that Jesus would agree, but Leviticus 18 condemns it in the very verse that follows the condemnation of homosexuality. People are left with embracing one but condemning the other even when the Bible clearly presents them in the closest terms as gross immoralities.
We can all acknowledge that the Christian walk is often pockmarked with failures and slips into sin or even a sinful lifestyle. But a true Christian walk is one that acknowledges that, confesses it, and strives mightily to avoid that. A true Christian walk is not one that wholly and completely embraces that which the Bible, God’s Word, clearly and strongly condemns and identifies as not being of him at all. A Christian walk also does not teach others that such a lifestyle is completely in line with what God and Jesus desire and smile upon. It is a walking away from God, and not toward him. And to delude oneself into thinking that God approves of it is evidence that God’s Word has not been read and studied and has been set aside and ignored. Such turns a person’s ‘Christian walk’ into a lie. You cannot say, “I love Jesus” and flaunt a lifestyle that goes completely against what he teaches. John condemned such thinking as a lie and as very dangerous to yourself and others who would follow you example.