Flags

I wrote a little about flags last summer. That post was mostly about my personal history with the Georgia and Confederate Battle Flags. I do want to do a quick hit on it and then talk about the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ and the National Anthem, mostly because Confederate images have been in the news since Charlottesville this summer, National Anthem is up again now that football is back on, and mostly because I trying to help my pastor with a sermon series he’ll be doing soon about ‘power’, which includes economic and political power.

I went through the history of the Georgia flag in my previous post, so I just want to focus/expand here on one point. In the original post I pointed out that the Confederate Battle flag gained popularity in the 40’s through the Dixiecrats and that Georgia changed their flag in 1956. I think I should expand on that a bit. It is important to remember what happened in 1954 (after the close of the Georgia Legislature Session) – Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, and the Brown II in 1955 (also after closure). I’m not going to go into great detail about what these were, if you aren’t familiar (and American) you really need to go read it and educate yourself, but basically Brown overruled an old case, Plessy vs. Ferguson, and ‘separate but equal’ and essentially ruled that school could not be segregate by law. In Brown II, the Supreme Court said that desegregation must occur with ‘all deliberate speed’. Schools have to desegregate and do it now.

So, how did the Georgia Legislature open in 1956? With this statement from the governor during the State of the  State:

There will be no mixing of the races in the public schools and college classrooms of Georgia anywhere or at any time as long as I am governor….All attempts to mix the races, whether they be in the classrooms, on the playgrounds, in public conveyances or in any other area of close personal contact on terms of equity, peril the mores of the South….the tragic decision of the United States Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, poses a threat to the unparalleled harmony and growth that we have attained here in the South for both races under the framework of established customs. Day by day, Georgia moves nearer a showdown with this Federal Supreme Court – a tyrannical court ruthlessly seeking to usurp control of state-created, state-developed, and state-financed schools and colleges….The next portent looming on the horizon is a further declaration that a State’s power to prohibit mixed marriages is unconstitutional.

This set the tone for the legislative session, one in which they voted to change the flag to include something that Dixiecrats and (recently, but not originally) the KKK had taken up as a symbol of protest. The Senate Research Report about the flag is an interesting read on the history. There is also a great reminder that another proposal that came after Brown was that the State would close all public school rather than integrate and send residents a tax refund to help them pay for private schools (which could still legally discriminate). This sounds frighteningly similar to the current attempt of a ‘voucher’ system for homeschooling (which wouldn’t become legal in Georgia until 1984).

All that to say, I think people can disagree about confederate monuments and their place in society, I’d just ask that people think seriously, especially in the historical context, about what they mean. I think statues to people are weird on their one, but most people disagree, so if a statue to a Confederate general or Colonial was put up in the 1890’s and he was also influential in his state (governor, president of a flagship university), there are legitimate reasons to have some pause about removing them. If a statue was put up, a flag redesigned, or streets renamed in the 1940’s-60’s, you should have very serious reservations about supporting them and truly question the motives behind them.

This, as always, is already longer than I had anticipated writing, so I’ll pivot quickly to the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ and then a quick thought or two on the national anthem.

Let’s start with Francis Bellamy a Christian Socialist most famous for writing the base of what would become the pledge. His version:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Fun fact – Bellamy was opposed to ‘state’s rights’ and the Federal system in general. That is the meaning behind ‘one nation, indivisible’; he, as a socialist, preferred a much more centralized, singular form of government that would make broad laws and states would not make any.  The purpose of the pledge is literally to indoctrinate people towards loyalty to the state.

In 1923 the words ‘Flag of the United States’ were added so all the immigrants knew which particular flag.  The Pledge was recognized by the Feds in 1942 and added tot he flag code. In 1943, Supreme Court said it was not compulsory to say the pledge, after a court case brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The last change game in 1954, when the phrase ‘under God’ was added – see my review of Kevin Kruse’s book One Nation Under God for more.

Another fun fact, the Bellamy Salute was dropped in the 40’s due to it’s similarity to Hitler salute,  and the flag code was amended to require your hand over your heart instead.

As a libertarian minded Christian, I have a problem with pledging allegiance to a symbol of the State. I only vaguely remember saying the pledge growing up. I do not think it was every day, and looking back, I’m not sure it was said every day. I have the impression that it was more or less up to a particular teacher. When we did say it in high school, many people sat or didn’t say the words, because it seemed like an odd tradition. That all changed my senior year with 9/11. Then it was said everyday all the time.

Anyway, on to the National Anthem. People are kneeling now instead of standing, and it has become such a big deal that our President tweets about it and even sends the VP as a PR stunt to leave when it happened. We can ignore, for the moment, that over six million tax payer dollars were given to billionaires for them to promote patriotism with their ‘non-profit’ over the past few years – read the Senate report here. Doing a little research, it looks like the Anthem was pretty common at sports events following WW2. However, players actually even being out on the field for the playing/singing wasn’t required until 2009. A good place to start on the history of playing the Anthem would be this article from Politifact.

I’m not even sure what I want to say about this. As Christians is this really something with which we have a problem? Do we support compulsory patriotism? Or requirements to pay tribute to the state? I don’t think so. As I mentioned with the pledge above, I’m not big on the government requiring things like this. Instead, I think the effectiveness for which it has brought attention is one reason why certain people are so mad.

It also bothers me how much some people are opposed to protesting in general. This is a peaceful, non-violent, non-disruptive way of trying to call attention to a very serious issue in America. Now, it has kind of been hijacked and is arguably more about the President and his seemingly disbelief in the right of the people to protest. I’ve heard some of the objects – I’m not opposed to them protesting, it’s how they do it – but that is straight up bullshit. I don’t believe that for a second. That is a very common sentiment people try all the time, in all aspects of life. You pretend you are alright with an idea, just not the execution, but ultimately you will oppose any tactic they take. My question for people would be, how would you like them to protest? What would be the acceptable way? Also, do you appreciate the irony that one of our greatest rights that the anthem is and this country is suppose to represent is the right to free speech and to protest?

I’ll end this by saying the official position of the Monday Morning Theologian is that anyone is should be able to protest anything they want at any time so long as the protest isn’t violent or destructive (and to a lesser extent, take traffic in to account). It is un-American to criticize the way someone protest if they follow those rules. Debating what someone protest is great, and should be happening. Instead, in this case, we are getting a bunch of faux patriotism, ‘support the troops’ bullshit that is beyond counter productive. Finally, criticizing them on the ‘how’ only proves to me that people don’t have much else to say on the substance of the protest – that is the police brutality and the treatment of black people by the police in this country. I know our President disagrees with this, but I’d much rather have him argue the merits that say ridiculous think like the players should be fired for not standing during the playing of a song. Really think about the implications of his statements, whether you agree with the players or not, and how that impacts what we view as freedom in this country.

Evangelicals and President-Elect Trump

I’m not going to provide much in the way of commentary, because I’m just too tired and a little burned out at this point; in fact, I’m going to be extra lazy and just dump raw links. However, I have to note that 81% of White Evangelicals voted for Trump. I was surprised at how high this was. Maybe you are thinking, well, that is just a consistent vote. Two problems with this, first it is actually higher than W received against Kerry or Gore. Second, that were a huge number of Evangelical leaders, pastors, seminary presidents, and public theologians that came out against Trump, so you’d expect the numbers to be lower.

Of course, things are much more complicated than one subgroup vote. I think, and the polls seem to be showing this, that the democrats lost (well, except the popular vote) due to the fact that they focused too much on identity politics and missed the most important part of elections – it’s the economy stupid. I think many Evangelicals voted for power, to stay a controlling force in government, and we sacrificed our moral voice for it. Unfortunately, I think most Evangelicals were simply tricked into becoming single issue voters – something I think is a terrible idea.

Anyway, that’s really all I feel like writing at this point. Grab them by the pussy, here’s your link dump:

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/thabitianyabwile/2016/11/09/4-problems-associated-with-white-evangelical-support-of-donald-trump/#comment-179779

http://religiondispatches.org/white-evangelicals-win-white-house-for-trump-but-lose-big/

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/november/trump-elected-president-thanks-to-4-in-5-white-evangelicals.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/09/why-christians-should-not-succumb-to-the-apocalyptic-language-of-the-election/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/evangelicals-election_us_5820d931e4b0e80b02cbc86e

http://time.com/4565010/donald-trump-evangelicals-win/?xid=Outbrain_Time_ArticleFooter&iid=obnetwork

http://fortune.com/2016/10/09/evangelical-leaders-back-trump/

 

Trump on Roe v. Wade at the Debate

Last week a put up a post stating why I do not believe we (evangelicals) should be single issue voters. I haven’t had that many solid responses, mostly just questioning my faith or being told I was ‘spiritually weak’ (though a good writer, so toss up I guess). That could be a whole post, but for now I want to emphasize something I pointed out in that post. I do not believe Trump will have any impact on abortion. I do not think he cares about it. Watch the first minute or so from the last debate. He will not state that he wants to overturn Roe. Instead he says he assumes it will be overturned. But then, not really, as he equivocates with the with the classic conservative line about ‘states.’ What does he even mean by this? That he’d like to see it up to each state? This will in no way end abortion. Many states will choose to keep the practice and citizens of those that don’t will be allowed to freely travel to others.

Yes, I know Hilary then states her whole heart support for abortion, even late term. However, this is for those evangelicals whom are willing to support Trump, and all of his issues and problems, solely because of his stand on abortion. Again, watch the first minute as he answers whether he’d like to see it overturned and really try to think how committed he is.

Edit – Also check out this great post about how ineffective Trump or the Supreme Court nominees would likely be in ending abortions.

He probably won’t be on the ballet in your state, but check our Evan McMullin if you insist on being a single issue voter. Trump is not the choice for evangelicals.

Wayne Grudem and Trump

If you are a Christian Theology nerd, internet theologian, or follow the intersection of Evangelical (whatever the hell that even means anymore) and Political, you have probably heard about Wayne Grudem’s endorsement of Trump, call him the morally good choice. I’m not even sure where to start. I read this last Friday night and was honestly very saddened. I’m a huge fan of Grudem. His Systematic Theology text was the first I ever read; really the first of any kind of theology I had ever attempted to study. His book was the gateway to my study of theology that has had a profound effect on my life today (including leading me to become a pretend theologian).

It’s not even that I disagree with all of his points. While I believe his thesis is wrong – Trump being the moral choice – he mentions other policies and outcomes that I support. I think two things bother me most about his article.

First, his lack of originality. His article more or less reads like straight up FoxNews or Tea Party talking points. I am always highly skeptical of anyone who agrees 100% point-for-point with any institution or political party. Maybe that’s a bit much, a little too cynical, but I certainly do not know anyone personally who aligns perfectly with the whole of one political stance (though, I suppose, to be fair to Grudem, the people closest to this tend to be the Tea Party types). When someone does this, it seems they are not thinking for themselves, but instead are reiterating what they have been told to say.

The second major issue is the weight that Grudem carries and the amount of credibly that seems to lend to Trump. He is the general editor of the massive (and massively popular) ESV Study Bible, he is co-founder and former president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, and he was also chair of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (likely the best broadly evangelical seminary in America). My point is, he’s kind of a big deal. However, as you’ll see below, his is not the only view from evangelicals. Furthermore, and what is the most concerning to me, his view is not the outright, perfect Biblical view. Someone of his stature making this statement would cause some to believe that Trump must be the correct Biblical or Theological choice, which he most certainly is not.

Alright, with all that said, I’ve already gone longer than originally intended. There is just so much wrong with this, including the fact, as many have pointed out, that he disagreed with most of his own points almost 20 years ago when discussing Bill Clinton. This seems to come from such a political and personal viewpoint, couched as the Evangelical and Theological view, and because it bothers me so, I am removing his book from my recommendation for building your theological library  and replacing it with Erickson’s Christian Theology.

If you disagree with Trump, but still can’t bring yourself to vote for Clinton, check out Russell Moore’s thoughts, which get a little more support here.

Responses to Grudem:
“Make no mistake: if we follow Professor Grudem’s advice we will lose this election and lose all moral authority to say character counts in the White House.”
What Grudem should have said.
Why Grudem is wrong.
“Grudem’s article makes no space for uncertainty, no room for dissent, and uses definitive, dogmatic language.”
An Answer to Grudem.
Is Grudem Right?

I wanted to be fair and post a few articles that side with Grudem. Problem is, I couldn’t find any. I literally searched “support for wayne grudem’s position on trump.” If any of my dozen or so followers has seen anything, please let me know.

I’ll end with this bit of satire and a reminder for Christians out there to really think and pray about the upcoming election. Talk to your friends, elders, pastor, or people you respect at church. Think seriously about the impact on our nation, of course, but also (and more importantly on us and how we are viewed) on the voice of Evangelical Christianity – a voice we hope is representative of Christ Himself.

 

 

The Recent Police Shootings

UPDATE – My editor has suggested that I revise some of the language regarding the police, especially in light of last night’s events. The concern being that it may come off as overly biased towards cops. However, I have decided to leave it unchanged. The post isn’t about police. I’m trying to explain my experiences, and these were the thoughts we had. It sets up how we interacted with and thought about cops. The main point is that my views, due to my life, are vastly different than those experienced by others (see linked article at end).
Very little, if anything, about last night’s actions are good. They are clearly bad for the cause and were acts of hate. This is not how we change to world for the better. Paul tells us in Romans the way we need to follow – Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Also, go read Russell Moore’s latest on how preachers can react.

***

I’m not even really sure how to write what I want to say. There are so many odd reactions to the recent shootings of black men by the police, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, that it is tough to know where to start. No surprise that race would be an issue, though it is disappointing that it is also turned into a political issue, almost of as one side supports police shootings. Worst of all is the reaction I hear from fellow Christians. It especially bothers me when they are the supposedly libertarian/limited-government types whom should be suspicious of the government. From the Christian side (though, it’s not just Christians), I tend to hear one of two things – that they shouldn’t have been doing anything wrong to be stopped by the police or that ‘all lives matter.’

Philando was stopped for a broken tail light. Think about that. We are saying that the loss of his life is his fault. That a minor traffic infraction is punishable by death. I don’t care if they found 10 kilos of blow in his trunk, that’s not a reason to kill someone. Mrs. MMT drives a baby blue Mazda 3. She had a tail light out for a bit once, but she didn’t get pulled over. Let’s not pretend that was really the only reason he was pulled over. Continue reading