Watch it. You may mutate into your nightmare
It’s clear. Some of us — me included — should slow dance to Lent’s beat. Be cool. Chill. Stroll through the woods. Hear the water drip. And let’s trim our social media tirades to no more than one every 24 hours (I’d urge replacing all harangues with thoughtful, constructive criticism, but I’d be laughed out of the room).
I say all that because my dearly beloved Resistance colleagues have transformed Facebook into a shrill tea kettle. Even I’m tired of all the whining, and our current commander-in-chief curdles my blood. We harp on each Trump-team gesture: First Daughter Ivanka shouldn’t have danced at that ball; Vice President Mike Pence was insincere when he helped clean up that vandalized Jewish cemetery; Melania beamed us plaintive signals when she wore black at the State of the Union speech. Far worse, a few drop dark hopes of mortal harm befalling the commander-in-chief.
Excuse me, but Scott Pruitt’s appointment, health insurance proposals, Steve Bannon’s influence, and Russian meddling supply us with substance galore. Lay off Ivanka’s dancing and remember Jesus’ judge-not-lest-you-be-judged motto over Pence’s clean-up efforts.
As for those dark hints, I hereby emit a primal scream: “When did you mutate into an immoral idiot?” I’ll calm myself and explain: You’re immoral on this score because you’re suggesting something that’s intrinsically wrong while forgetting your applause at the line, “When they go low, we go high.” You’re idiots because social media is a party line, whatever your privacy settings. Someone may file a report to Facebook’s powers-that-be, who may inform the Secret Service, whose humorless agents may conjure the 1865 conspiracy and wonder what’s up. You may be summoned for questioning and see an agency file bearing your name. Meanwhile, Bannon grins over newly-supplied grist for his propaganda mill.
It’s time to remember the rhythms of the Christian year and its dashes and slow-downs. Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost give us sprint-like feasts and celebrations; the fasts, contemplations, and confessions of Advent and Lent slacken the pace. We pause. We retool. We submit to the spiritual grease monkeys for a sacred tune-up.
I saw my own need for the mechanic on or about March 1st, Ash Wednesday. I was reading through my own columns and found in-creeping bitterness. I could give a solid argument for each article by itself and rest in my excuses (try remaining calm while battling cancer amid Congressional plots to obliterate my health insurance while climate-change deniers hack away at the EPA), but I couldn’t deny my overall grim tone. I’d soon shower twitter with paranoid tweets if I kept this up. Maybe I’d spontaneously sprout orange hair.
So I’ve backed off on political blogs and zeroed-in on research for a projected book (the tentative title: How The Bullies Took Over Evangelical Christianity). I sneak into Facebook and drop in quotes from spiritual sages, then run away before from the clamor before it envelops me. I haven’t totally given up on politics — the issues before us are too serious and immediate — but I’ve eased my pace and gone to the well via a downloaded a Bible ap. I’m now the neighborhood’s space cadet. I walk the streets with buds in my ears, listening to the books of Jude, 2 Peter, Romans, Habakkuk, and Daniel, as well as in-depth teachings from John Piper, Tim Keller, and the Gospel Coalition. I’ve felt … blessed. Consecrated, even.
And I see God’s divine smirk. Piper, Keller, and the Gospel Coalition are Calvinists — and my theology leans Arminian (to overly simplify it, Calvinists follow John Calvin and emphasize predestination while Arminians, not to be confused with Armenians, follow Jacob Arminius and stress free will). I’ve traced the source of much of the modern-day evangelical bullying to a school of especially acerbic Calvinists who seem to feast on lemons for breakfast. I was ready to hammer the whole lot of them in my book, but Piper and Keller and the Coalition have messed me up. I must now be fair, loving, and judicious.
Such are the hardships of Lent.
I’ve also found myself praying for Trump even while I fear his policies. I pray he’ll become an honest, sincere, repentant follower of Christ (not merely for what passes as a “born-again Christian” today). I pray he’ll see his hate-mongering, xenophobia, and misogyny for what it is: a soul-draining disease sapping him and his followers. I pray he’ll read Psalm 72, see God’s description of the archetypal leader, and re-mold himself to that ideal. I pray he’ll seek peace and wholeness for himself, the nation, and the international community. I pray he’ll pursue truth and catalyze policies based on the truth. I will never pray harm on him. If I ever wish him harm, I’ll confess that wish for the sin it is.
I pray all that even while he launches another frenetic tweet storm. He’s showing us he needs a genuine Lent. He’d benefit, and so would we all.
Meanwhile, I’d suggest that others could use a total Facebook and Twitter sabbatical. Come back in a couple of weeks with family photos and news of the darling kids.