Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Quo Vadis: Whither Goest Thou?

The title is a reminder of a movie I loved when I was 10 years old. It is from a Catholic novel about the Christians during Nero’s rule. The words Quo Vadis are supposed to be Christ’s words to Peter as he leaves Rome. Jesus is calling him back to Rome to be with the Christians who will die in the arena. But I thought of those words as a question to those who in the midst of this pandemic are constantly turning to conspiracy theories to explain what is happening.

 Not everyone is into conspiracies, not everyone believes the Democrats started the virus, not everyone believes that Bill Gates is a monster leading to the anti-Christ, but I am seeing far too many, friends, Christians, stating such things as facts. And where this all leads is terrifying.

I saw on Twitter a lady harassing Jonah Goldberg of The Dispatch because of something he wrote. I wasn’t familiar with her until others put up information about her so readers could understand where her ideology is moored. Michelle Malkin, once an acceptable conservative speaker writes “I will not take the Gates Vaccine. I will not bow down to jack-booted globalists. I will question the corrupted public health industrial complex & its financial conflicts of interest. I will use my platforms to share silenced views of whistleblowers & dissidents.” That rant isn’t a lot different than some I have seen on Facebook.

But there is more. Malkin also claims to be the mother of the “groypers.” As columnist Mona Charen puts it in her article in The Bulwark, they are “a group … led by a 21-year-old YouTube host named Nick Fuentes. To get a sense of just how loathsome this figure is, have a look at this video in which he wonders, grinning, about whether 6 million “cookies” could really be baked in ovens and how the “math doesn’t add up.”

Charen goes on to note that Fuentes was one of the marchers in the “the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.” Malkin has linked herself with a group of anti-Semitic and racist fanatics. Using conspiracy theories as a filter to explain events is how many get pulled into places they never intended to go.

There are conspiracies in the Bible. Jezebel conspires with the elders and nobles in Naboth’s city. They accuse Naboth of cursing God and the king. Naboth is put to death so that King Ahab might possess his vineyard (1 Kings 21).

Judas conspires with the Chief Priests and officers to betray Jesus to death.

But these conspirators are named and their exact sin pointed out. There is greed, egotism, envy, malice, pride and deception. Not an elusive attempt to take over the world. There is the possibility of repentance, forgiveness and redemption because the people are known and confronted personally. There is also God’s judgment on those who do not repent. Redemptive history is very personal; there is no place for conspiracy theories.

Dabbling in such slanderous understandings of other’s intents is sinful and leads to further sin. And this is the path that Malkin and others like her have taken. They have compromised their ability to speak truth to power and to offer good news to broken people.  They can only bless in a manner that pulls the needy into a deeper darkness. 

Quo Vadis

Don’t go there.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Pandemic, anti-Christ and Conspiracies

Revival and tragedy, within the Christian faith, have something in common. They both tend to produce heretical movements and bizarre ways of embracing reality and the future. I am troubled by what I see rising out of this pandemic not only on the edges but even in the midst of the church.

I still remember, almost forty years ago, standing in line for the Saturday night concerts at Warehouse Ministries in Sacramento. It was during the Jesus Movement, a time of revival. Hippies, drug dealers, sophisticated cynics and others were coming to Christ. And yet some used the concerts to persuade others to come with them and find truth elsewhere. In some cases the Children of God sect or Free Love Ministries, a cultic group which later renamed themselves Aggressive Christianity. The Children of God practiced something called flirty fishing gaining converts using sex. Aggressive Christianity majored in demon possession enticing the youth of other churches to move into their commune and denounce friends and family. Both groups were spin offs from the Jesus movement.

In an earlier time, the New York area, referred to by religious historians as the burned over area, because so many Christian awakenings occurred there, was also a place where many unorthodox movements began. Some were radical and extreme in nature some simply unorthodox.

In this century when tragedy occurred in the same area, 9/11, a few (a very few) progressive Christians, believing that the United States government conspired to destroy the World Trade Center, added to a growing conspiratorial movement which on its very fringes embraced anti-Semitism. And conspiracies are part of the falseness coming out of this pandemic.

Recently a woman who is a member of a respected renewal group, on Facebook, put out a bizarre call to prayer against a streaming program titled “One World: Together at Home.” It was a six hour streaming of music, spoken word and requests for money and signatures. Supposedly the group was laying the foundation for the coming of the anti-Christ. The lady wrote, “The spiritual battle in the heavenlies has landed mightily with an event set to play over the globe in the next few hours.” Then she included a “key” article written by another person.

The article stated, “… The front runner organizations that were assigned by satan to lay the groundwork for the global single ruler order (which will be government of the anti-Christ very soon) are the WHO (World Health Organization, and UN, Major businesses that have been empowered by the dark side to facilitate the agenda are such as Bill and Melinda Gates Institutes, Facebook, Amazon, Disney, CNN, Google, etc.”
The author of this article goes on attempting to prove her point by pointing out all of the 6s involved in “this pandemic.” For instance, “Keep ‘6 feet’ away social distancing.” And, “CDC unveils ‘6-phase’ pandemic response blueprint.” Also, “The word Corona has ‘6 letter’, simple gematria = 66.”

While many, including myself, would not agree with many of these celebrities or organizations’ religious and philosophical views this kind of call to prayer is senseless. It is belittling people who are attempting to help in the middle of a pandemic. And it is asking Christians to use their precious God given time to pray against nonsense when God has called us to compassionate care, prayer for those affected by the pandemic, prayer for the Church and prayer for those who disagree with our faith. It is giving the Church a strange view of God’s providential care and promises in the midst of evil.

Another Christian pointed her readers to a video which is filled with half-truths, lies and manipulative garbage. Rev. Danny Jones of Northlake Baptist Church covers every pandemic event with the shadow of the coming anti-Christ and his promoters. He sees the Corona virus 19 as a planned event and begins his speech describing the pandemic as “a drill. It’s a drill it’s a simulation it’s a dress rehearsal if you will to work out the bugs and get all the nations prepared for this world government.” He believes in a global plot to bring the world into a one world government. In his story Rockefeller was a leader but died, Soros is too old, and Henry Kissinger is also too old. Bill Gates is of course the chosen one.

Here are some of the half-truths and lies:

“On Jan 24 the Unites States House of Representatives drafting a corona stimulus bill called the Cares act.” The implication is that some insiders knew about the devastation of the economy before the American people did. But it wasn’t a corona stimulus bill at first, it was what is called a shell bill meant to be filled out later. In Jan. it was called the (Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2019.) In March it was passed as the Cares Act.

“So March 14th AP announced that the volunteers of Seattle were given the covid vaccine. Wait a minute it was made by Moderna … and it was approved by Dr. Facui’s National Institutes of Health.” Jones goes on to insinuate that since Dr. Facui had stated that it would take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine and this was only at the beginning of the pandemic something was shady. But a vaccine experiment begins, as in Seattle, and then continues on for many months. This early event has not contradicted Dr. Facui’s words.

Another: “Chinese leaders are saying that American military that attended the world games in Wuhan released it as a bioweapon against China. American leaders are calling it the Wuhan virus and saying that the Chinese released it out of their virology lab in Wuhan in order to affect the world. The truth is probably up in there somewhere.” 
The problem here is first the idea that Americans might have been involved in creating the virus. Jones' words should trouble a lot of patriotic Americans listening to him. And on the other hand even if American leaders believe that the virus came from a lab in Wuhan they believe it was an accident not a bioweapon. Jones is unable to let go of the idea that the virus was meant to be a drill or dress rehearsal for a one world government and anti-Christ..

There is more in the video that is untruthful but the bigger problem is Jones’ attempt to take the biblical idea of anti-Christ and place that scenario over this medical crisis.   

There are too many Christians eagerly pushing conspiracy theories in the midst of this pandemic. Facebook and Twitter are full of them. This isn’t about whether one needs to stay sheltered or quarantined; it is about the sin of telling stories that have nothing to do with biblical precepts. Too often the stories are woven together with warnings about the anti-Christ and a one world government. They are stories told by those who admonish us to not fear death or sickness while at the same time telling us to fear being entrapped by the anti-Christ and his lackeys. This is not the biblical viewpoint.

Jesus told us to fear someone, God in reverence. “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” There are two important areas to remember when thinking of our Christian walk and our understanding of the last defeated and perhaps most powerful anti-Christ. The first is our position in the Lord and His life in us, the second is the true evil of the anti-Christ. These are both very simple and have nothing to do with conspiracies.

There are many adjectives: “shrewd as serpents,” “innocent as doves.” “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke 21: 34) Be alert, praying … As I read on in the scriptures I could fill in this description with page after page. The point is the Christian’s life in Christ is a holy calling of walking in love and righteousness not always looking into secret treacheries, trying to decide what system, or person is the final evil.

And the anti-Christ, the Scriptures are far more concerned with his evil, his opposition to Jesus Christ rather than his system or secret meanderings. Probably the greatest evil of all anti-Christs, as 1 John puts it, is denying that Jesus is the Christ. That includes those who see Christ as separate from Jesus. In other words according to anti-Christ Jesus is simply a human who has the Christ spirit. See 1 John 2:22-23.

Paul in 2Thessalonians speaks of anti-Christ as the man of lawlessness. He is the one “who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” Paul says his coming will be with “the activity of Satan with all power and signs and false wonders.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9) Even Revelation, describing the anti-Christ as beast, dwells on his evil in denying God, His kingdom and His people:

“And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle that is those who dwell in heaven. It was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” (Rev. 13: 6-7)

As for the saints Revelation says “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (14: 12)