The Path of a Storm

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge today is OMINOUS

Which brings me to a sobering question:
Who Can Direct the Path of a Storm?

On June 30, 1912 the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, was swathed in a sultry heat, over 100̊F by mid-afternoon. People sweated; some women at a public meeting were fainting; flags posted specially for Dominion Day celebrations the next day hung limp. At 4:30 pm folks outdoors noted a strange phenomenon: two cloud systems, accompanied by ominous rumblings, were headed their way. One was coming in from the southeast and the other from the southwest. The sky turned and eerie green; weird purplish flashes of lightening streaked across the land.

These cloud banks met right over the Legislative Building in the center of the city. There was a terrific boom as they collided and a huge grey funnel dropped from the boiling mass. Screaming and zigzagging, the twister cut a six-block wide swath northward through the heart of Regina, mowing down entire blocks of prosperous homes and rows of businesses, sucking up trees. It hit the rail-yards, bounced loaded freight cars across the tracks like tumbleweeds and later picked up the Winnipeg Grain Company elevators at the edge of town and tossed them across the prairie like they were sticks.

The citizens of Regina hadn’t seen a tornado before, had no idea what was about to hit them when the sky turned a lurid green. And no one could have predicted the tornado’s erratic path of destruction.

Who can direct the path of a storm in the affairs of men?

Reading history, I see where storm systems have arisen in human affairs. Two or more groups or movements, unhappy about the status quo and determined to upset it, move toward each other. Though they are naturally not aligned in purpose, they come together to accomplish a common goal, with each side thinking they can direct the changes that are going to be made. But there are secret agendas and other voices that factor in. These unforeseen radicals can change the course of the whole scheme – to the dismay of the initial participants.

Shakespeare, in his play Julius Caesar, gives a great example of this. Brutus and his fellow conspirators see Caesar as a ruthless tyrant and believe that doing away with him will solve their problems. Brutus, persuading his fellow senators to join in the scheme, utters the famous line, “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flow, leads on to fortune…”

So they go ahead with their dastardly deed. At Caesar’s funeral Brutus gives Mark Anthony a chance to speak, not seeing him as a threat. Caesar was the problem; with him gone, things will go as planned. And Mark Anthony starts his discourse on a compliant note:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” He says that Brutus has given him leave to speak, “For Brutus is an honorable man; So are they all, all honorable men…”

Then, through crafty use of eulogy and rhetoric, he manages to paint Caesar as, after all, a benevolent ruler. By the time he’s done, he’s completely turned the crowd against the murderers. The senators, who had pictured themselves floating down that tide toward fortune, rather end up being tossed into a turbulent and bloody sea.

Rhetoric is a marvelous thing. It can persuade, get people fired up for a cause. It can also turn plans upside down. In the long run it’s iffy. Fine speeches rarely take into account all the angles, and before you know it, one pops up that no one considered.

Many a participant in some past movement, in retrospect, has wished they’d not been so swayed by the noble rhetoric and taken an honest look at all the facets of the movement. Who all was involved and what the real objectives were. They wish they’d had a better idea of where the movement was actually heading before lending their support — because where the movement finally ended up is far, far from where they expected to be.

In my next post I’ll write about the two women’s movements that came together in the late 1800s, both unhappy with the status quo, both with definite goals, and the path that the resulting tornado actually took.

“Let’s You And Him Fight”

This post condenses the magnitude of my mulling this week. I hope my thoughts sound somewhat reasonable to you.

I’ll start with a comment I read by one US political campaign manager: “Far too many campaigns aren’t talking about governing but just telling you who to be mad at.”

Yes, election fervor is in the air. Voters in our province go to the polls Monday to elect our government for the next four years. We as a church body across North America received an encouragement recently to be prayerful and to speak respectfully about all candidates and the present or future government.

Earlier this week I read an article about one US political candidate. In her ads she blasted away with a military assault rifle to make her point that “socialism does not belong in America” and “we need to blow it away.” According to the article, the threats she was uttering against the opposition party caused her opponent to fear for his life and leave the state. Not exactly democratic.

But politics have always been volatile and speeches are always anti-the other guy. Also, the media presents its own version. However, I did take note of, and have been pondering a statement she apparently made on Facebook:
“We need strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists who want to rip our country apart.”

Since the Bible says, “the servant of the Lord shall not strive, but be gentle, apt to teach, in meekness instructing those who oppose them…” I do hope some believer will step up and explain to this woman that Bible-believing Christians are NOT all about blowing away their political opponents. Mention that there are strong conservative Christians on the other side, too.

Socialism isn’t the Enemy; it’s simply one of the systems we may happen to live under as we pass through this world. Historically, blind hatred is what really rip countries apart. Resentment of the existing government, selfishly wanting power or assets, unjustly targeting certain groups as STRANGE, as the ENEMY — these things lead to “Let’s you and him fight” hate speeches and violent actions. Then haters of those hate speeches make retaliatory hate speeches, calling for defensive action to combat all this hatred. The merry-go-round starts to spin furiously, throwing bodies off right and left, leaving the land in a shambles.

Mahatma Gandhi was right: “An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.”
The Apostle James was right: “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” – Chapter 1:20.

James goes on to say, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” Chapter 3: 17-18

Later I spotted another article saying that these vociferous politicians and agitators are actually the minority, that most citizens are standing aside and watching all the hoopla, quietly making up their own minds. Now that’s a comfort!

Followers of Christ all over the world are praying for their governments and their fellow Christians. We especially remember Christians in the US at this time and pray that the peace of God will rule in their hearts and minds, come what may.

Christians have lived under Jewish rule, the Roman Empire, Constantine, the Holy Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, the Reformation. They’ve been governed by monarchies, democracies, fascism, socialism, communism. Some systems made life pretty hard for them because leaders and systems chose to persecute Christianity. With God’s help the Christians carried on living for the Lord and so will we, whatever the ruling government may be.

Ragtag Daily Prompt for today: STRANGE
Fandango’s FOWC: MAGNITUDE

“The Powers That Be”

We had an interesting sermon on Sunday morning; it seemed so appropriate for these troubled times, so I thought I’d share a bit of it with you. The initial thoughts were about our current pandemic and the rules and regulations that have sprung up in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The caution we need to exercise, the masks, the social distancing.

So what position should we take as Christians with regard to these new rules and regulations? Pastor Con B quoted from Romans Chapter 13, which starts out with “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers…” and went on to explain that these new requirements are not violating any principles of our faith, so we should submit to the law without fussing, as we’re instructed in different places in the New Testament.

For interest sake I’m going to do a little paraphrase, trying to catch the spirit of verses 1-10 and our Sunday morning sermon. Please take time to read these verses for yourselves, but here’s my version:

Verse one encourages us to submit to the government of the land, because these “powers that be” are ordained of God. No, He doesn’t elect them or choose every law the government enacts, but God is behind the whole principle of law and order. Yes, even if our Leader’s a Nero. We may not be able to support every law, but nowhere does the New Testament give Christians an okay to get involved in sedition. This is the example Jesus left us. He could have called ten thousand angels to deal with this injustice, but He submitted to the Roman authority, even to accepting a death sentence.

Verse 2-3: Whoever resists the power (government of the land) resists the ordinance of God. And any of those who resist (engage in sedition, verbal or literal) will receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not to be feared if you are doing good works, but those who do evil have good cause to fear the laws of the land. If you do that which is right and good, the rulers will rather respect you and be thankful for you as citizens. “Thou shalt have praise of the same.”

Verse 4: The rulers are God’s means of administering law and order; by and large God does use the laws of the land and a stable government to protect you from criminals. But if you do that which is evil, commit crimes and defy authority, you need to be afraid of the law. It’s there for a reason and God will use the laws of the land to punish you. Every sin will receive a just punishment – in this world or the next.

Verse 5: So you should be subject to the law, not only because you fear the punishment for breaking the law but to keep your conscience free. You want to do God’s will in this life and it’s God’s will that you submit to authority. If you fuss about the laws, you’re ultimately fussing about God’s plan.

Verse 6: Pay your taxes – they exist for a reason, for the good of the country – and follow all the laws as much as possible. God is using the people who carry out these duties to fulfill his plan for your land, and ultimately for your own benefit.

Verse 7-8: So pay what you need to pay to your country and give everyone the respect due to their position. It is God’s will that you treat all people, and every authority, with proper respect. Those you should fear, fear them; those you should show honour to, honour them properly. Don’t be debtors in this regard, but you need to demonstrate love and respect one for another, for all of you who show love toward others is fulfilling the law of God.

Verse 9: Remember his commandments, “Thou shall not commit adultery; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness; thou shalt not covet.” And if there be any other commandments given, they can be summed up (in the words of our Lord Jesus): “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Verse 10: Love is kind and patient; love doesn’t envy or speak evil of others; love works no ill to his neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law of God. (See I Corinthians Ch 13)

The teachings of Jesus and the writings of the apostles contain many similar instructions to Christians: Honor the laws of the land and give due respect to your rulers. What they require of you, do it – unless you’re asked to do something that truly violates your Christian beliefs. And don’t try to stretch “violates my beliefs” until it covers “I don’t want to.”

Moreover, with all the elections this fall, it’s vital to realize that “I don’t like the party in power now,” is no excuse, either. Sneering at those in authority grieves our heavenly Father.

“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.”
— II Peter 2: 9-10

A Cascade of Adjectives

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge today is FRUGAL. A much more…well…frugal word than some others he posted this week. When I saw the provocative words Inexorable, Doleful, Deviate, Extraneous, Vehement, and Elucidate pop into my In-box, I really wanted to concoct some suitable responses. However, I seemed to be otherwise occupied all week – and/or my muse has headed down the garden path chasing a tale. Stay tuned…

Reading various articles this week, especially a comment from another blogger about “pastors ranting about..the need to promote the new Cyrus: Trump” – my mind started to form a picture…

Have you ever stood close to a thundering waterfall and tried to hear yourself think? Now, add to the turbulence of the waterfall a bunch of doleful, croaking frogs, several flocks of vehement gabbling geese, throw in the extraneous cry of a distant loon – and then try to listen to someone giving a speech. How much will you get?

Fast-forward to today. An author has written a book about the current presidential candidates and would like some feedback. I won’t mention the title, which would give the game away, but I read his blurb on Amazon elucidating his preference and I messaged him that it sounds like he’s doing some fiery preaching to the choir.

There’s a lot of that going on.

Often with politics there’s a whole lot of noise and few people who are actually listening in an open-minded way. Especially when I read the current US political scene, I envision two roaring streams of opinion coming from opposite directions, ending in two cascades of adjectives hurling themselves at each other and splashing onto the rocks below.

Cement-headed, fanatical, xenophobic, fascists and rednecks versus closed-minded, anti-American, neo-Nazi, self-serving opposers of law and order. One comment: “If said party chose a maggoty dead skunk as their candidate, I’d vote for the skunk.” With all these acrid opinions frothing about, the ultimate winner is clear: the English language, Adjectives branch.

The frogs could be a bunch of journalists analyzing the chaos; the geese may be various extremists on either side trying to make themselves heard. And the loon, dare I say, yet another prophet trying to fit current people and affairs into the grand scheme of end-times prophecy?

There’s always been speculation about people and events. J.N. Darby believed in the 1880s that the end of the world was very near. At the start of WWII, I’m told, evangelical Christians were thinking Mussolini was the anti-christ. My husband remembers speculation that David Ben Gurion would turn out to be the messiah. He also recalls a general alarm among evangelicals about the US electing JFK, a Catholic president! Then Henry Kissinger being pegged as the anti-christ.

Dear Christian friends, please don’t go there. The noise is already so loud; the chances of reading the signs wrong is so great. Isn’t it time to abandon all the adjectives and rather seek the “prayer closet”? “Be still and know that I am God.” There will be elections in several Canadian provinces this fall, too. I honestly believe we’ll accomplish more for the good of our nations by spending our time in prayer.

Religion and Politics: A Curious Home Brew

In this post I’m going to deviate somewhat from my discussion of prophecy and give you a glimpse of my own upbringing. Maybe you’ll understand more clearly where I’m coming from as I post these thoughts.

My Religious Instruction

When I was a girl, Mom F told me, “If you ever have to go to the hospital, or any other time someone asks you your religion, say United.”

Because this is what we were. Period. Not that we ever attended church. I can recall going to a couple of services with my Mom F, and once, when I was in my late twenties, my Dad actually came with us to an evangelical church service for some special day. Dad & Mom Vance (my birth parents) never attended church as adults, to my knowledge.

The United Church of Canada would be about like the United Methodist Church in the US. In 1925 the Canadian Methodists, most Presbyterians, and the Congregationalists merged to form the United Church. This was the predominant church here in the West, with congregations in almost every town and city.

“The Social Gospel” teaching – “We need to fix this world!” – was spreading through evangelical circles at the end of the 1800s and the Methodists definitely picked up on it. In time the social gospel became the United Church’s main religious teaching, leading them to get involved in agitating for human rights, universal suffrage, fair labor laws, etc.
One time a cartoonist spoofed a United Church message board this way:
Sunday morning service. 10 am. Message: The Hell of High-Cost Housing
Evening service 7:30 pm. Message: God and the Minimum Wage
His “nail-on-the-head” humor makes me chuckle.

By the time I was an adult, United Church members needn’t accept the authority of Jesus or the Bible – or even believe in God, we discovered – but they HAD to be pro civil rights and against all discrimination, inequality in wages, etc. Attendance has dwindled, but this is still the position of the United Church.

As soon as I was old enough, and for half a dozen summers, Mom sent me to a week of Baptist Bible camp. So I did get some exposure to evangelical thinking and did call myself a Christian, but attending church services wasn’t for us. Only after I was married to I start.

The Politics of My Parents

(The other topic you’re not supposed to discuss.)
“We vote Conservative.” End of subject.

Informed voters? Not really. They knew who the Liberal, Conservative, and NDP candidates were, but at the polls there was only one party to support: the Conservatives. Because the Liberals were for the East, for the big cities, for the French. The New Democrats were for labor. Folks from a rural prairie background were dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives. I remember an election when I was twelve where every seat in our province – most of the prairie seats – went Conservative.

When I was a girl Mom told me about an old farmer here in the West who was watching a political broadcast on his television. He got so angry about the things Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson was saying that he got his shotgun and blasted the tv. Not a very well thought-out response. But perhaps it was for the best. Someone with that kind of a fuse is probably better off not listening to political speeches.

Politics Generates More Heat Than Good Sense

Actually, I suspect most people would be better off not listening to political speeches. It’s so easy to be swayed by charisma, promises, and wishful thinking — or the lack thereof. Not to mention the biased, sensationalist reporting of what was said and done, such as we get these days. Accusations fly freely, pro and con this or that, until no one actually sees clearly anymore.

My folks didn’t have enough concern about religion for it to have much impact on their politics. They knew they hated Liberals; otherwise politics wasn’t a topic often discussed. In the United States, on the other hand – according to Douglas Frank’s book* – religious views and prophetic theories often motivated Protestant Evangelical Christians in their political choices. The unique blend of religion and politics we see in the States seems to the rest of us like a curious home brew. Sadly, non-evangelicals are finding it – maybe have always found it – bitter.

Did evangelicals in the past simply ignore the complaints until they got too loud to ignore? But then Prohibition was a major disaster; divorce laws were challenged; Roe versus Wade cracked the abortion laws open, the LGBT community pushed for acceptance. Like the veil in the temple, the US status quo was rent from top to bottom.

Reading various comments these days, I get the impression that – in spite of current religious stats – evangelicals still hope they can bring America back to the Christian nation they believe they once had. I often see PEC’s quote these verses God spoke in reference to Israel:

“And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

It seems to me that PEC’s, like all of us during this pandemic, are wishing for a return to “the good old days.” They’re saying America could be fixed if everyone would turn back to God – but people aren’t listening. Perhaps they wish for an Enforcer, a Messiah of sorts with the political clout to bring back all those sensible rules that once held the country together as a Christian nation? (While it appears non-Christians, led by the media, are fighting tooth-and-nail to ensure that doesn’t happen!)

And now, here comes Donald Trump. Fixer? Enforcer? Nightmare? Disaster? Wildly varying opinions are being expounded – and, oh, the animosity!

You could say I’m a bipolar observer here: I tremble to think what may happen if he wins, and I tremble to think what may happen if he loses. 🙂

*LESS THAN CONQUERORS
How Evangelicals Entered the Twentieth Century by Douglas W Frank.
© 1986 by William B Eerdmans Publishing Company

Two Canadians Peer Across the Border

WHATNOT WEDNESDAY

Blogger Biff has begun a series on his blog which he’s calling “Whatnot Wednesday,” and invites others to follow suit. The idea rather appealed to me, so I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and write a post about the US political scene. Seems to me that’s a Whatnot if ever there was a Whatnot.

Regarding the title of this post, I’m not referring to the two Canadians who live in this house. We may read a lot but, give-or-take, we have a rather limited understanding of the subject. I may slip in a few opinions of my own, but mainly I’m going to tell you about two books written by prominent Canadians who do have a good grasp of the global, American, and Canadian political scenes, and have shared their understanding.

“Who cares what a Canadian thinks about Donald Trump,” you may ask? I’ll be so bold as to suggest that we may at times have a clearer view from up here. There’s so much smoke and fireworks generated in the US political scene, I wonder how often Americans in general can see the total picture? Also, it does anyone good at times to look at the situation through some neutral person’s eyes.

THE AGE OF DISRUPTION

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper writes in the introduction to his book that he was sitting in his living room on Nov 8, 2016 watching the US presidential vote. He didn’t expect Donald Trump to be chosen that evening, though he did think there was a slim possibility. He says:

“Trump had not impressed me He seemed to me less conservative, less convincing, and less politically capable than virtually all of the other candidates. He had a presence and a forcefulness, but not much else…
But Trump won the Republican nomination, and now he was winning the presidential election. So I asked myself: What happened?”

After he got over the shock, Mr Harper took an in-depth look at the political scene and the overall economic picture. Then he wrote a book for the benefit of his fellow Canadians, giving his opinion on how this situation came about.

RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW: Politics in the Age of Disruption, published in 2018 by Penguin Random House Canada, doesn’t examine President Trump or his candidacy as much as it analyzes the shift to the right that’s been taking place in society. Being an economist, he includes a look at market policies, trade, globalization, and immigration, issues that seriously trouble voters, factors that have produced this right swing.

“America Has Lot of Jobs”

My thought on one of these points:
I read a blog post by an idealistic young lady who denounced President Trump’s restrictions on immigration. Quoting the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, she suggested the States should rather open the doors and welcome all immigrants. I left a comment asking her where these immigrants are going to find work, considering how many manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas. Her response was something to the effect of, “Of course there will be jobs for them. There are lots of jobs in America.”

Oh, to be so naive! The welcome on the Statue of Liberty is a wonderful ideal, but was written at a different time in US history. Now, before Uncle Sam opens the gates and lets everyone into the US who wants in, someone has to factor in the US economy as it stands today. There need to be jobs for those coming in, or the home folks may start to resent having to support the newcomers. Or they resent losing their jobs to immigrants who’ll work for less. Then you have anti-immigrant feelings boiling over. Read history; it’s happened before.

Folks who’ve made their money, who can afford upscale communities, holiday resorts, and luxury cruises, haven’t got the same take on jobs and immigration as the miner’s wife in Kentucky, the factory worker in Detroit, or the single mother providing for her family in Texas. I’ve heard that, with his plan to make American great again and provide jobs for Americans, Donald Trump’s tighter immigration policy appealed to not-so-politically-correct and non-globe-trotting Americans. And they are the majority.

A PRESIDENT LIKE NO OTHER

Former Canadian financier and newspaper tycoon Conrad Black has met Donald Trump and learned to know him, even done a bit of business with him. For his sin of owning too much in the US, Black also did a punitive year-long stint in a Florida prison, where he spend a lot of time teaching inmates how to read and write. There he got a good picture of life for those on the bottom rung.

Black is now retired, though he does some editorial writing. A celebrated historian, he’s written a hefty volume titled RISE TO GREATNESS, The History of Canada, also biographies of two other US presidents: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Richard M Nixon. And now he’s written the book DONALD J. TRUMP: A President Like No Other, published in the US in 2018 by Regnery Publishing.

Mr Black believes in honest journalism, not the sensationalism that characterized the last presidential race. In a number of editorials during that event, he denounced his fellow journalists in the US for distortion and dishonesty and explained for bemused Canadians why leftists — including so many in the media — hate Donald Trump.

In his book he looks at Trump’s strengths and weaknesses. He considers why Trump, a successful businessman, chose this point in time to step up to the plate and run for office, as well as the way he’s conducted his campaign. Black also analyzes Trump’s America-first policies versus the more global approach of leftists like Obama and Clinton.

From the jacket:
Trump diagnosed what America’s ruling elite, in its arrogance, had ignored for more than twenty years — that it had mismanaged America’s affairs for the benefit of the few, the well-connected, and privileged identity groups, and not for the American people as a whole.

All in all, he’s done a thorough and honest analysis of Donald Trump and his methods. And Black continues to keep us informed, to balance out the none-too-accurate headlines we see so much of. Just recently he published an editorial in the National Post where he lists impressive gains President Trump has made in returning power and profit to America. He predicts that, in spite of all the media opposition, Donald Trump will win by a landslide.

We’ll see if his prediction comes true, but for sure it will be an exciting, even explosive, race. Depending on who the Democrats nominate to run against him, the next presidential election will generate a lot more smoke and fireworks.

Not to worry, though. According to Mr Black, Americans love political fireworks.