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Parenting is a Boring Blessing

Throwing the ball back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. The endless repetition, the can-you-read-the-same-story-one-more-time. There were times I just thought, Give me a gun. [Father of small child quoted in “All Joy and No Fun” by Jennifer Senior]

In her fun and informative book, Jennifer Senior talks about how parenting, particularly of small children, disrupts flow and makes concentration harder for busy parents. Children are the last permanent relationships in our society, she says, “the last binding obligation in a culture that asks for almost no other permanent commitments at all.” New parents who have experienced years of autonomy suddenly find themselves trapped in a world of sleeplessness and boredom punctuated by moments of sheer panic,”lurching back and forth between  those two poles — boredom and anxiety –rather than being able to comfortably settle somewhere in the middle.” To be sure, it is joy and it’s all worth it. We know that and truly feel the truth of it. But it’s not often fun! Mercifully, there are often “bursts of grace” when the child presses her cheek to mommy and time stops, or suddenly dad gets an eight-year-old bear hug with no rational explanation available to the adult world for the exact timing of said hug.

I read Jennifer Senior with Christian and pastoral eyes. I know the value of children. The joy. The responsibility. And I love my children very much. But, face it, sometimes the disinterest I have in doing something with my kids makes me feel downright evil.

I admit it. When I go out to throw a ball with my son I sometimes have to tell myself I will throw fifty passes before I say, “Dad’s got work to do.” And I do exactly fifty throws. I count them! And, worse, when the kids were smaller, I have to admit that the dreaded jobs I’d avoided for months sound exciting and irresistible compared to reading the same little story for the three hundred and sixty-first time.

But I’m reminded of G.K Chesterton, someone I read when I didn’t have to read Dr. Seuss. In the child’s incapacity to be bored with the same action over and over and over again, he saw the glory of God. “Children are pashas of excess,” says Senior. True, but  G.K. Chesterton observed,

“. . . children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

I didn’t have children for the first ten years of my married life. And it took me almost ten years of having children before I started accepting the fact that I needed children more than children need me. In children I find out that I don’t have the capacity to endure in joy. My endurance is growing as I get more childlike in my faith. Because to be childlike is to see things with different eyes.

The toddler that visits my house wants to play the silly game I started playing with her the first time she came to my house, touching the dangling lights and choosing our favorite color. Every. Single. Visit. It’s as funny and intriguing and interesting and pleasurable to her as it was the first time we did it many times ago. Another toddler wants to play with my flashlight every time he visits because when he first came I set precedence by letting him play with my flashlight.  But my adulthood and individualism and selfishness and the allure of something more important have stunted me and shriveled my spirit so that the thrill of a thrown and caught ball, the pleasure of a silly story, and the fun in a senseless activity vaporize after a few repetitions.  My big-people-ness misses out on the the intriguing fact that flashlight toddler can come to my home and not ask for the flashlight until he sees me. Why?

Because he doesn’t just see the flashlight. He sees me as part of his flashlight world. I think I’m bored because I am thinking about the wrong thing when it comes to activities and things that children like and do. I see the book, the light, the game, the ball, the flashlight. I’m focused on the action, the thing; a child is involved in the action or thing. It’s a world to live in. It is a pleasant context wherein they live out certain joys.

Someone asked me if I got bored with the good weather in California. I thought it was crazy, but I’ve heard about people who think that the constantly good weather is boring! But that’s because they think about weather all the time. I don’t think about weather every day. If I did, I’d be bored. Instead, I relish all the things I can do and enjoy in the same weather day after day. So, I’m never bored with the weather. In the same way, the action or thing becomes a world, a context, and, for the child, it’s a thousand times better if that world and context is shared and owned with someone. Games and activities and books and films are all contexts for joy and pleasure. Each activity becomes a home for certain joys.  All my children friends have relationships with things and actions, involvement with these things, into which certain people can enter and relate with as precedence and opportunity dictate. My little toddler visitors don’t do the touch the lights game with anyone else. That’s their way of relating to me. I am the touch the lights and pick our favorite color person. That is where they enjoy me. That is the world that I can be involved in with them. It’s their way of saying, “Welcome to our joy place.” My son wants me to throw the ball to him. It’s not about a ball to him. It’s about sharing involvement with him. And the reason I feel guilty when I finally quit is because I’m not just ceasing to throw a ball and moving on to more important things even though that is what my adult logic is telling me. I’m stepping out of his world. Separating.

As parents we have to ask God to give us the strength to be child-like. Not childish. Not immature. But godly and wise and patient and joyful. And that means becoming strong in the childlike joy of doing the same thing over and over and over again and enjoying it like it is the first time we’ve ever done it. It’s a boring blessing. Boring because we have to grow up and be childlike. A blessing because time stops and we make friends with pure and undefiled little people who remind us that life is not so much about what we do but with whom we do what we do.

I partake in the ordinance of Holy Communion every week. I am not bored with it even though it is the same thing over and over and over again. But it is not about bread and wine, a religious ceremony. It is about a shared involvement. My childlike faith understands it clearly. When I am not childlike in my faith, I’m bored. When my faith is warm and alive and childlike I hear my heart saying, “One more time, please, one more time.”

That’s why I need the boring blessing of parenting. My children need me, true. But I need my children.


Focus on the Preached One, not the Preacher

While it is true that many Christian preachers tend to allow their morality (moral weakness) shape their theology, it is equally true that many are inclined to let their self-righteousness (moral strengths) shape their theology. Both preachers invoke the character of God. The one invokes his love, the other his holiness. But both too often tend to make their theology the vindicator of who they NATURALLY are. Both moral failure AND moral outrage are base human characteristics ingrained in all souls. 

Both men need Christ. Because saying no to our righteousness is just as hard, even harder, than saying no to our lusts. All sincere Christian preachers and pastors fall into one of these two categories as far as their inclinations go. Listen to them any amount of time and the direction to which they are vulnerable becomes discernible. Listen to both of them. Don’t choose one over the other. Don’t try to balance them. Instead, let them cancel each other out. Instead of putting one on a pedestal over the other, high and lifted up, let them blend together deep down at the foot of the Cross. Because both point to Christ.

I am Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal comes from a fundamentalist Christian home. There are many things that I want to say about her background and the ideology of her family that I believe contributed to the miserable outcome that is Rachel right now. Though her lying and pretending are inexcusable it does not exonerate her family for any harm they may have done to her. That discrediting her seems very convenient to protecting an alleged sex abuser in their home seems, sadly, very likely.

I pity Ms. Dolezal. I feel sorry for her.

But why did she have to pretend to be someone that she wasn’t? Why does she feel so compelled to embellish her story, to color over the bland white with tales, exaggerations, and outright lies? It reminds me of a fundamentalist Christian pastor that was exposed four years ago for claiming to have been a Navy Seal. Jim Moats graduated from Bob Jones University in 1974, pastored a rural KJV-only church and, per the church website, associates with the far-right elements of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism. The story is very sad, but it is telling.

Former Navy Seal Don Shipley suggests that part of the problem is just being clergy. You could almost hear the disdain in his voice:

“We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy. It’s amazing how many of the clergy are involved in those lies to build that flock up,” Shipley said. (source)

Why do we crave a good story about ourselves?

  • Americans love a rags-to-riches story. It’s part of our cultural DNA to highlight the impossible odds that athletes, businesswomen, and celebrities have overcome to get where they are.
  • American evangelicals in general (particularly conservative/fundamentalist evangelicals) put such a premium on “personal testimony” that they are much more likely to respond uncritically to someone’s claim of “God’s working” and embellish their own story of “God’s working” in their life.
  • Stories of heroism and victimization are even more appealing when combined with Christian testimony. I remember hearing fantastic Vietnam stories from fundamentalist leaders when I was a kid and when I began to read military history assiduously as a young man I started developing a suspicion about the credibility of some of the stories that I had heard. I felt I had been tricked into adulating a spiritual leader on the basis of stories that, because of my voracious reading in military history, were becoming increasingly unbelievable to me. I also heard amazing missionary stories that could never be fact-checked of deliverance from wild animals, walking on fire, and intense persecution. Victims — genuine victims — would exaggerate what had happened to them because it was only when it got gory and gruesome did the story arouse compassion in the hearts of hearers.
  • Fundamentalists, particularly, are prone to yarn-spinning leaders because of a distorted understanding of the Gospel.
The reason we embellish our stories is because we cannot embrace the reality of our nothingness. But it is our nothingness that makes God’s grace so amazing. The pastor who was publicly embarrassed four years ago was caught in a story that he let develop and then ultimately promoted because it met a deep personal need in his life. He needed to feel like he was somebody.  Rachel Dolezal is an interesting case study, but why is it that Christian pastors and missionaries and leaders feel so inclined to tell amazing stories about themselves? What kind of gospel do we proclaim when our leaders — our leaders! — are so afraid to admit error, be real, and be nothing? Are we not missing out on a better understanding of the Gospel that would free us from such empty pursuits of security and self-acceptance? Why is image so, so important? Why do we cherish self-promoting anecdotes and why must we invest so much in displaying evidence of our specialness? Why do clergy especially desperately inflate their pasts?
We are nation of people given over to superlatives. If we do not have the best of something, we have the very worst. If we cannot canonize, we demonize. God forbid that we should be regular folk, just average. And as parents we dread the possibility that our kids are just, well, kind of normal.
Here’s something to mull on: My wife does not think I’m the best looking dude in America. And I don’t think she’s the prettiest woman in America. We both know that if we were better looking we’d be working for Fox News. But we really love each other and delight in each other’s looks.  Exclusively. Jennie and I rejoice together about how the gospel has slowly delivered us from the tyranny of the “-est.”

In a culture that doesn’t understand grace and love, superlatives are essential to survival. Superlatives are necessary to get attention. Even if they’re not true.  Sometimes it’s cute and funny. When I was a little boy I remember my Dad singing out in the car as we were traveling somewhere, “Who has the prettiest mommy in the whole-wide-world?” And we kids would all chime in, “We do!” But, I distinctly remember feeling a bit conflicted as an overly-analytical boy because I thought that one of my friend’s mom was actually prettier! I loved my mom more, but facts are facts.
Then I went to a small bible college and watched our lousy basketball team get slaughtered on the court while my classmates chanted, “We’re #1!” Again, it was a little bit of a conflict for me because I clearly wanted our team to win, but by the evidence in front of me they were at the very most #2, not #1!
Why the craving for the superlative? And why do the public servants of Jesus seem to cling to them, especially in the fundamentalist world?
It is because they are not fully understanding the gospel of grace.
College chapel after college chapel we got treated to stories about the best, the worst, the godliest, the holiest, etc.  (One notable exception was when the graduation speaker preached a message entitled, “Nothing.”) Perhaps I was and am too analytical, but I started listening carefully and earnestly when I was a young man, and little by little it began to dawn on me that when a preacher told his story he was the baddest boy on the block, the meanest thug in the Navy, hung around the worst crowd, had the godliest mama, the saintliest grandpa, went to the best college in the land, etc.
Superlative after superlative.
And so, as a young minister, I started doing the same thing.
I started my preaching career in the heart of a legalistic fundamentalism that adulated the “man of God.” I only had a few stories because I was so young, but I told them with vigor. And I embellished them. A good story gave me the right to stand in front of all the other people with boring lives, untouched by the power of God. A good story was proof that God’s blessing was on my life. A good story separated me from the pack and gave me a sense of worth. A good story garnered hearers and helped me get my message out. Plus, I was a missionary that often basked in the admiration of supporters.
Somehow — slowly — grace arrested me. Somehow I couldn’t get away from the nagging reality that I was always less than what people thought of me. And certainly less than my own stories implied. None were lies, but many were more plain and mundane than my story-telling suggested. I felt enslaved to having something interesting to say! In addition to my own sinful grasp at significance came the unasked for suppositions about the quality of personhood that people in Christian circles heap on “the man of God.” And my struggles in my marriage, my temptations to lust, my boredom with the Bible, my intellectual weaknesses, and my failures in ministry all daily reminded me that I was not what my image was.
Worse, I wasn’t that bad either! Just kind of regular. I was neither the most rebellious or the godliest. Not the smartest or the dumbest. My life was amazingly superlative-free and I found this very difficult to accept. How could I be a servant of God with no dazzle?
So I tried to credential myself somehow. Honestly. I drove myself to work harder and read more and push more so that I could at least have an authentic “-est” in my resumé. But gradually I came to realize that I have no “-est” to really be proud of. I can’t even boast of being the plainest or the boring-est.
But grace suffices.
One day in glory billions of nothings will surround the Throne and celebrate the Lamb. In that moment we will finally see with perfect clarity that the election of nothings has transformed us into exalted beings. And we’ll be ashamed that we ever sought to inflate our resumes.
The real former-Navy Seal is right to disdain a clergy that steals valor for credibility, especially when we purport to be preachers of grace. Rachel Dolezal grasped at so many things, inflated so many stories, to be significant. Now, in the glare of judgmental society she may start to pine for the anonymity of insignificance. I hope so. But it is scary, this place of insignificance. It is only when we have our nothingness filled by Jesus, our God, that we are truly liberated from the need to tell a good story about ourselves.
I am Rachel Dolezal. But Jesus has saved me. And now I’m just bland, white, average me.
We can find peace in our averageness and say, “I am what I am by the grace of God.”
“I am what I am by the grace of God”?

A Model Eldership Apology

Matt Chandler (the pastor at the Village Church) preached a good message yesterday and asked the church to forgive the elders with these five questions. I think that they are very well-conceived.
1. Will you forgive us where our counsel turned into control?
2. Will you forgive us where we failed to recognize the limits and scope of our authority?
3. Will you forgive us where we allowed our policies and processes to blind us to your pain and confusion?
4. Will you forgive us where we acted transactionally rather than transitionally? 
5. Will you forgive us where we failed to recognize you as the victim and didn’t empathize deeply with your situation?

Solid Joys and the Cure of Me Addiction

Solid joys and lasting treasure

None but Zion’s children know ~

John Newton

Solid joys. This is what I need. This is what my soul needs. Because I am an addict. I am addicted to me.

I can’t get over me. I will resolutely choose to indulge in me “one last time”, perhaps even in excess so as to punish myself and make me not want me anymore. You know, the reasoning of all addicts. The Me drug is adaptable. It mixes just as well with a holy hymn as with porn. I am my own supplier and I give me to me with no threat of overdose unless it is to sell me on me with the line that the big dosage is well-deserved me time. I believe the lie. I’ve bought into the ideology of the characters of Infinite Jest that the cure of excess is excess.

Some drugs have nasty side effects. Dry mouth. Munchies. Vomiting. Distorted perception. Paranoia. The list goes on. Me indulgences render me cynical, afraid, angry, numb, reticent, barren. When on me everything I do is disabled. I slather my prayers with me, thinking that they are not real unless me flavors all my worship. Subjectivism trumps the objective when I am high on me. 

I need an intervention. I need a halfway house. An escape. I cannot neutralize the fatal attraction of me. Me consumes me. Is there a place where I can be healed? Is there a place where addicts like me can go to be freed of me?

The Church is the halfway house for the me addict that I am. There, in the midst of many other druggies, I encounter solid joys. The kind of joys that only those born again of the Spirit can grasp. From the Church, that halfway house that harbors those on their way from me to forever likeness of God there wafts the fragrance of Christ. It makes some me addicts so sick they turn the other way. But for this me addict, the fragrance of Christ makes me puke up me. In the communion of Christ I run from me to the cross of Jesus where not only did my Healer die for me, but me was stripped of its addictive powers. At the Table of the Lord, surrounded by many other me addicts, the subjective surrenders to the Objective and I feel the power of me crucified and the satisfaction of sensing, “It is no longer I that lives, but Christ lives in me.”  As surely as I taste the bread in my mouth and the wine on my lips is the joy of my freedom from me. 

The cure of Me Addiction is a new me. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Communion with Jesus is joy. It is treasure. It is solid and lasting. And this Sunday, once again, I meet with the halfway house to confess where I have come from and be reminded where I am going.

The Moral People Will Be in Hell

There is a really interesting debate of sorts going on in an orb not ours that resonates with my thinking regarding salvation and morality and the Church’s moral mandate. Greek Orthodox priest, Stephen Freemen, wrote something that I truly rejoiced in because I understood it the way I think he meant it to be understood. I too have started realizing in the last 5 to 10 years that our preaching is moralism + Jesus even in the most conscientious “gospel-centered” environments. It was years ago when I was preaching through Matthew that I realized that the Sermon on the Mount could only be rightly interpreted in light of Matthew 5:48: “Be Perfect.” Or, to put it more shockingly, “Be divine.”

I had been reared listening to moral instructions preached from the Sermon on the Mount, proud that, of all the men in the world who counted adultery as adultery, I was among the class of people that went further with our morality. I, along with all Christ followers, counted the second-glance, the lustful gaze as adultery. Our morality was that much higher! But I was missing the point. The point was simply Jesus’ way of saying, “Unless you’re a God-Man, you’re toast.”

Anyway, read when you get the chance this article, “The Un-Moral Christian” and, for counter-balance, read this rebuttal(which I think fails to do anything, but maybe temper excessive application). Finally, read the rebuttal to the rebuttal. And you’ll be stepping deep into the pool I’ve been floundering in with joy for the last several years.

This is relevant in the TGC orb because some of the Reformed guys are in full panic mode over the Tchividjian/Fitzpatrick so-called antinomianism. The MacArthur guys are calling everyone back to “The Gospel According to MacArthur” series to find out what has been decreed in heaven and are suspicious of guys like me who do not yet have their boxers in a wad over the Tchividjian/Fitzpatrick “spin”.

Reformed guys (as in guys who are really Reformed) and not merely cool Calvinists are generally better theologians than either the MacArthurites or the Tchividjian types (who, admittedly, have more Graham in them than Presbyterianism). But if you listen to these two sides bomb each other with their best exegetical artillery the average theological pastor/reader in the middle who was born evangelical/fundamentalist (they are the same thing) and has matured to some level of independence with secret sympathies for the EO interest in theosis (though this imaginary type does not buy into their emphasis or doctrinal explanation of theosis) AND a deep appreciation for Reformed covenantalism AND an ecclesiology that is increasingly untrammeled by extreme baptistic “autonomianism”, one is inclined to think that the extreme readings of MacArthur and Tchividjian blessedly cancel each other out by complimenting each other.

In other words, pastorally, dish out JMac’s “Hard to Believe” along with Tchividjian’s “One Way Love” and the average Christian in the pew is probably going to get a lot more Gospel. If theJMac people are right that the Tchividjian/Fitzpatrick people are antinomian writers, I think it is only because of the fact that antinomians readers read like antinomians. I don’t think the writers can be legitimately charged with such heresy except for the charge of being over zealous about the freedom we have in one-way love. On the other hand, the JMac crowd sound very much like neo-nomians to me. It is not enough that you believe, you must have found it hard to believe or you probably are not saved.

I over-state it, of course. But I think that the other side is right to worry about how legalists could read JMac and other Reformed critics of their soteriology.

This brings us to the other orb. The Orthodox and theosis understanding of salvation. Protestants do believe and teach that we will become partakers of the divine nature, but we don’t focus on it a lot. We tend to think of “glory to glory” tangible steps of progress in sanctification that looks like the making of good habits and the shedding of bad habits with increasing degrees of commitment. But it is more than that. It is the process of making us like God.

The Sermon on the Mount is not, as I had thought, a how to for the Christian dispensation that motivated, yes, but in practical life leaves most of us with an I can’t type of conviction. Instead, it was a grand here’s Who statement that is supposed to leave us with a humble I’m not conviction: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

In other words, the Sermon on the Mount is not teaching a Christian morality. It’s teaching the inadequacy of morality. The Law was never meant to tell us what to do, but to tell us who we are. Living like God on earth is an utter impossibility for us. The incarnation of God changed that. Jesus only conformed to the moral law out of sympathy. Just as he conformed to natural laws. He could walk on water, but usually he took a boat. Natural laws were irrelevant to his Godness. Moral laws were irrelevant to his Godness. But he submitted to natural and moral law as man so that he could make a way for us become partakers of the divine nature.

Ironically, we can understand this in moral terms better than in natural terms. There are some moral laws that are irrelevant to us. I know that, presumably, there is a law that I must take care of my children. It is irrelevant to me whether that law exists or does not exists because it is my nature to take care of my children. I will live my entire life obeying a law that is irrelevant to me. My nature is above that law. This is how Jesus lived on earth, both with moral and natural law. And the offer of salvation is not merely a freedom from immorality; it is an offer of freedom from morality.

On the new earth there will not be any moral people. The moral people will be in hell. “We shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.”

Evangelicals and Credibility

It is always risky for a pastor to get involved in the political dialogue of our nation, but when he does he should be credible as a thinker. And when he is credible he will end up being non-partisan. Both sides lie. Both sides have earthly ambitions that are completely disinterested in the Celestial City. But sadly many evangelicals promote memes, rumors, false quotes, and outright lies. Sometimes activists wink at stories that they know to be spin because it affirms their agenda in the minds of their followers. Sometimes pastors promote partisan rhetoric, knowing that is is exaggerated, but in an ends-justify-the-means ethos they piggyback on the story to entrench people in their ideology.

Thoughtful analysis of the stories and fair interpretation of context is not difficult and yet most people do not bother to analyze sensational quotes and scandalous stories that promote their ideology.

This is not exclusively a Conservative problem, but many Evangelicals are inclined to conservative politics and, therefore, I will address two egregious examples that are floating around Christian social media. Despite the fact — for example — that there is not one shred of credible evidence that the president is Muslim, panicked Conservatives, including pastors, wildly promote this myth in the interest of keeping their sheeple in a constant state of nervousness. The short-term gains are not worth the long-term costs that violating the Ninth Commandment (“Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor”) will have on their credibility. With slap-happy irresponsibility they post up videos that “prove” that the president is Muslim and then they wonder why young people are leaving them in droves. They wonder why sharp, critical thinkers shy away from them. Conservatism has brilliant ideas, bedrock truths, and unassailable arguments that ought to be considered by every thoughtful man and woman in America, but these ideas and are getting clouded over by Christian men and women who have already bought into these ideas and who lazily and unethically capitulate to a spirit of fear and propaganda. I find it difficult to respect a person who gleefully puts up one of the many video montages that purportedly prove that the president it Muslim because those videos are so poorly edited and spliced that it requires a willful decision to defy intellectual integrity to even be moved by them. We all are guilty of disseminating something that is not true, but when Christians do it without apology or correction or a modicum of qualification I lose any confidence that whatever else they post about politics is worth a second glance.

It’s really bad when many of these same people are preachers of the gospel of Jesus. After they have irresponsibly disseminated video memes and scare-mongering distortions as gospel truth they wonder why what they say about gospel truth is no longer treated as gospel truth. If pastors who promote this garbage thought twice about what it would be like for someone who hated them and their message to make a video montage of “quotes” that they said, ignoring context and intonation and irony and sarcasm and avoiding nuance and clarifications, cutting out very relevant qualifications, they would also think twice about sending out stupid video montages and memes that purportedly quote their political opponents.

Some brief comments on two egregious examples.

“President Obama is a Muslim”

It is true that we have never had a president that attempts to be more nuanced and careful in his rhetoric when it comes to the religion of Islam. But this does not justify the persistent lie that is perpetrated by many American evangelicals that President Obama is a Muslim. And this video montage does nothing to prove this. Within the first minute the outright lying starts:

The video montage quote: “But my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims.”

The actual quote conveniently left out the first part: “I am a Christian, but my father came…”

Furthermore, the video threateningly magnifies the words “I am one of them”, implying that Obama is saying that he is a Muslim. However, even with this hackneyed editorial job they could not get the context out. He was saying that he is one of the many Americans that has lived among Muslim and has Muslim relatives.

The most “damning” quote in the montage is where President Obama is quoted as saying, “my Muslim faith.” Again, the larger context shows that he was not at all saying he was a Muslim and anyone with any interest in fact can check it out for themselves.  This is poppycock journalism. It is propaganda. It is bearing false witness.

I don’t have the time or interest in explaining every quote and the obvious mind-numbing agitprop that brainwashes gullible patriots. The most this video proves is something that President Obama has never been secret about. He has a love for and sympathy for Muslims. There is nothing illegal or wrong about that. Conservatives are free to dislike that, but Christians (and, no, they are not one and the same) are not free to promote lies that disregard nuance and complexity, culture and background, all in the name of protecting Christian values.

Marie Harf and Using Jobs to Combat Terrorism

Here’s just one example of a meme that Christians (and Christian pastors) are posting all over social media:


This is obvious lampooning with, perhaps, a tinge of sexism and stereotyping about a blonde woman, but it is presented as gospel truth by many because they listen to only one news source for an interpretation of what the woman actually said. After all here is what Sean Hannity of Fox News said about this:

One Of The Most Ignorant And Misguided Of The Entire Obama Presidency.

Before looking at what Marie Harf actually said in a — ahem! — fair and balanced way, I’d like to recall something  Republican George Bush said:

We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror.

(He also said, “Islam is peace” but we’ll ignore that for now.)

Now, let’s think for just a millisecond about what Harf actually said:

MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?
HARF: We`re killing a lot of them, and we`re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians. So are the Jordanians. They`re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need, in the longer term — medium and longer term, to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it`s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether–
MATTHEWS: We`re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime, or 50 lifetimes! There`s always going to be poor people. There`s always going to be poor Muslims. And as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet`s blowing! They`ll join. We can`t stop that, can we?
HARF: Well, we can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people. [MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews, 2/16/15, via Nexis]

This is actually not radical (even though she may be a radical liberal). In fact, there are many Conservatives that understand her and would agree. Furthermore, she did not deny that we need to kill — yes, kill! — more of ISIS! Just because someone promotes the idea of soft diplomacy (soft power) does not mean that they are rejecting the need for hard diplomacy. In this quote she clearly was not denouncing the need for military action. She was saying, rightly, that it cannot be the only way we defeat this problem. Unless you want boots on the ground in that area until the end of time, at least part of what she’s saying is true. It is flat out embarrassing how conservatives are trying to get mileage out of this and succeeding at it because too many people don’t think for themselves.

She clearly could be more articulate. She clearly could be more politically astute and realize that Americans, after seeing 21 people beheaded, want to hear some kick-butt language from the Administration. But Christian people who are really interested in peace want to help dialogue, not hurt it. And too many Christians have so wedded their faith to their ideology that they are willing to jettison Christian principles of dialogue and honest thinking in the interest of promoting their political agenda.

And that’s too bad. Because we want to be believable. And to be believable there are times we actually have to listen to the other side in a way that is really fair and balanced.