Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Flickering Flames

"We’re fighting a holy war, what’s happened to America is that the wicked are bearing rule. We have to lead the nation back to the moral stance
That Made America Great
...we need to wield influence on those who govern us.”
Jerry Falwell Sr summer of 1980 

With the election of Ronald Reagan a couple months later and the founding of the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell would be firmly ensconced in the Reagan Revolution. He would spend the Reagan years spearheading the fight against a variety of social sins. From abortion and pornography to alcoholism and gambling, he became in many ways the face of the fight to make America great again by fulfilling the principles so many of the Founders believed were essential - like these, noted by Samuel Adams:

"He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man."

As the Reagan years waned, Falwell increasingly saw the need to spend time securing the future of America through training its young to become warriors for Christ. The school he had created, Liberty University, was struggling financially and so he ultimately resigned as head of the Moral Majority to lead the school forward. 

It was at his desk at Liberty that he would die on May 15th, 2007, its debt having been reduced to 30 million. His Will left his insurance policy of 34 million to the school he cared so much about and thus, in death, finally made it solvent. He was, with great ceremony, laid to rest on the campus he loved. A bright "eternal flame" over his grave was lit as well as on a memorial cross nearby. Fitting it seemed as the University is known as the "Flames".

Falwell had made careful preparations for a transition of his leadership to his two sons. One would become pastor of his church and the other would become president of his university.

His namesake, Jerry Falwell Jr.

"He has left instructions for those of us who had to carry on, and we will be faithful to that charge,” said the University Vice-President.

Just over eight years later in the summer of 2015, a press conference was held in New York in which Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president. Borrowing a slogan used by Reagan, Trump declared,

 "Make America Great Again!" 

Initially, many Christians were derisive of the man and his candidacy. Trump had spent his life, after all, in pursuit of much of what Christians are called to fight against. His list of moral failures is difficult to fully quantify but in part would include:

  1.  Married three times to different women, leaving each for the next woman.
  2.  Proud of his sexual liberalities, openly stating in his book Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life that he has had sex with some of the "top women in the world."
  3.  Regularly uses the f-word in public speeches along with other obscenities so vulgar that network television would be required to bleep out these words to avoid violating Federal  Communications Commission rules.
  4. Regularly uses speech demeaning of people.
  5. Owned and operated numerous casinos. 
  6. Opened the nation's first casino strip club.
  7. When asked, in 2015, if he had ever asked God for forgiveness he said,"I don't think so."

The first casino strip club opened just two years before Trump declared for the presidency. The manager of the strip club had this to say:

"We feel this is the third leg of the Atlantic City triangle: gambling, alcohol, and adult
entertainment, it's a natural."

Seeking broad assistance that would be crucial to the success of his run for the White House, Trump would nevertheless engage Christians and seek their support. Some, like the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, not surprisingly refused:
"We choose speakers who generally promote our university's mission and who do not stand in opposition, either in word or deed, to what we claim to hold dear as a Christian community … and frankly, Donald Trump simply doesn't represent OKWU's behavioral, theological, moral or political ideals."
Remarkably though, there was one prominent Christian university that would accede to his request to speak and would even go a large step further-- Liberty University. The president, still Jerry Falwell Jr., would remark in December 2015:

"Trump reminds me so much of my father."

And on January 21st, 2016, Falwell Jr. would officially endorse Trump for President, interestingly saying of Trump:

"He is a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can 

lead our country to greatness again."

The University's previously established "eternal flames", next to the grave of its fallen founder continue on today, flickering be it ever so dimly.

" For it was so..Solomon's heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David." I Kings 11:4

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Son of Korah

About 3,000 years ago lived a man called Heman, who was obscure in his day and concealed in ours. He was a son of a notorious rebel, Korah. His ancestor had been killed for his sin and his surviving children were forever scarred by this connection. So lived Heman.

At one point in his life his beloved walked away from him, his friends left him and he was alone. Desperately alone. During this time, he wrote a short poem which has endured and been given the imprimatur of God himself.

I spend the night on my knees before you.

 I’m camped on the edge of hell.
Abandoned as already dead,
    one more body in a stack of corpses,
 a gravestone—
    I am a black hole in oblivion.

You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit,
    sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
I’m battered senseless by your rage,
    relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.

I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out,
    blinded by tears of pain and frustration.

I call to you, God; all day I call.

   Are the dead a live audience for your miracles?
    Do ghosts ever join the choirs that praise you?

Does your love make any difference in a graveyard?
    Is your faithful presence noticed in the corridors of hell?
Are your marvelous wonders ever seen in the dark,
    your righteous ways noticed in the Land of No Memory?

I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help,

    Why do you make yourself scarce?

    I’ve taken the worst you can hand out, and am at the precipice.
Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life;
    I’m bleeding, black-and-blue.
You’ve attacked me fiercely from every side,
    raining down blows till I’m nearly dead.

    the only friend I have left is Darkness.

Later in time, a chronicler listing various musicians who served King David noted this about the obscure Heman.

"Of the sons of Heman were fourteen--all of these were under the supervision of their father; they were musicians in the Lord’s temple, playing cymbals and stringed instruments as they served in God’s temple, according to the promise of God to exalt [Heman]."

His  poem is known today as simply Psalm 88. Just three psalms later another work is written with an unknown author.
 I like to think its words pertain to that of Heman.

"Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Based on Psalm 88, 91 and I Chronicles 25:4-6