Pelting the Magma with Wadded Up Tissue Paper

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What we have here with the Anthem shenanigans is what educators like to call a “teachable moment.” This is what it looks like when a country has a meltdown identity crisis. What America is dealing with (or, more accurately, not dealing with) is layer upon layer of seething cross-currents of magma-like confusions. My contribution to this teachable moment will consist of me throwing 17 fistfuls of wadded up tissue paper into the magma.

For those who want to be appropriately offended by what I am about to say, my theological observations are at the end, and my socio/political contributions are at the beginning. Start at the end which is most likely to help you get through to the other end. And if you manage to read the whole thing, you will discover that on this, as on so many issues, “it ain’t that simple.”

The first thing to remember, even if you forget everything else, is that in a remarkably prescient move, trying to catch a wave I didn’t even know was coming, a few months ago I released the satirical novel Flags Out Front. The novel addresses what it means to be both Christian and American in the middle of an overdone flag crisis, just like the one we have going down now. The set up for my story is this—Tom Collins is the president of a slowly fading Bible college down South (Choctaw Valley Bible College). One morning a drunk student is driving by the college, and on a lark he rearranges the flags out front, such that the Christian flag is now higher than the American flag. Collins comes in to work a few hours later, sees the flags that way and concludes something like “you know, that’s right,” and leaves them the way they are. As it happens, it is a slow news week all over the country, and the resultant brawl is almost entirely purple—gaudy and not understated at all.

Second, the fact that I wrote a prescient novel—uncanny almost—about all this should give me a significant amount of street cred as we address this issue, and so I look forward to a call requesting an interview from the Washington Post. The fact that it was a satiric novel should not make anyone think that there are no serious issues involved, for there most certainly are. For this reason, I am also looking forward to a call from some thoughtful cohort of the media, but since that cohort does not exist, I am not holding my breath.

Third, the American flag is the new Confederate flag. It is not as though we can isolate what is happening right now from what has been happening in the run-up to it. We are in the middle of a season of civic iconoclasm—flag removal, statue toppling, Founding Father-dissing—and we cannot pretend that we are not in the middle of such a season. Neither can we pretend that this NFL business is not a crucial part of it. These are times in which we claim to be acutely sensitive to every manner of micro-aggression, and we have formally accepted the notion that the teeniest displays of whiteness are an outrage. In such a climate, Confederate flags were low-hanging fruit for the iconoclasts, and so they had themselves a fun time.

Now in the fourth place, Russell Moore has painted himself into a corner. Fortunately for him, it is unlikely that he will discover the fact, and unfortunately for us, there will soon be painted footsteps all over the house. It turns that that the principles that made the Confederate flag such low-hanging fruit are principles that apply also to the new low-hanging fruit, to wit, Old Glory. Did Betsy Ross own slaves? Quick, somebody check. Francis Scott Key did, and his statue in Baltimore has already gotten the bloody red paint treatment. So if we have accepted the feelings of “our black brothers” as the final arbiter of what true gospel reconciliation is supposed to look like, then down comes the next flag. Only this time, gospel reconciliation might bring us into conflict with a power and/or principality that wasn’t defeated in a war a century and a half ago. The only way out is for Russell Moore, by word or by deed, to imply that these kneeling black brothers need to remember that we were not put into this world for the sake of our feelings alone. He can best accomplish this, by my counsel, by saying nothing whatever about this whole issue. If he speaks to it, I can guarantee that the verbal response will be a mass of contradictions, amounting to the position that other people’s flags need to repent, and that our beloved flag doesn’t. But this is a difficult position to defend, and I would recommend against it.

Fifth, by our “black brothers,” of course I mean those black NFL players who knelt, and not all the black players who didn’t. Everybody knows who the real blacks are—they are always the ones who are doing something that fits in with the demolition project being overseen by our critical theorists, our white overlords, the neo-commies. Other blacks, those not going along, are just honorary white people.

Coming in sixth, as a protest of what exactly? this whole thing is ill-conceived. We have had a spate of incidents and clashes between local police departments and black citizens. As with all such things, the realities of these conflicts have been a mixed bag. In some of the incidents, the black citizens got outrageous and murderous treatment. In others of them, the police got outrageous and murderous treatment. In some of them the behavior of the police was evil, and in others of them the behavior of the black citizens was evil. Now in the face of this, to make the flag and the Anthem the focal point of your protest means what? It means that you are in effect appealing the behavior of these municipalities all the way to the top, and are holding America responsible for a mismanaged police department in Wouk, Iowa. It means in short, that you want America to fix it, and are therefore agitating for a national police force, which ought to worry pretty much everybody. And from the perspective of the leftists, they are agitating for the whole thing to be placed in the capable hands of Jeff Sessions.

Seventh, on this issue, Donald Trump has jumped headfirst into a chocolate pie. I don’t know why people keep concluding he is an idiot when he is now in the position of defending apple pie, the flag, the Anthem, and Mom. He has successfully lumped the NFL, ESPN, the Left, spoiled millionaire athletes, the trendy progs, and the Democrats all together, and is in a position to say that all he is saying is that we all should show some respect. And all his enemies are yelling, “No, we will not show respect!” If you are puzzled over how Donald Trump became president, step out of the fray for a moment and look dispassionately at what is happening here. This episode is your Rosetta Stone.

Eighth, anybody who believes that the NFL is not vulnerable on this and related issues is someone who is not paying careful attention.

As my ninth observation, not only does the Bible allow for displays of this kind of honor, it requires us to participate in them as appropriate. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17, ESV).

Tenth, we are not permitted to render idolatrous homage to anything (Dan. 3:18). We may never worship the emperor, or the empire, but we are required to honor both. The Bible doesn’t tell Christians to honor their private libertarian brain-thoughts, it says to honor the emperor. It also says that you should prefer going to the lions rather than to worship him (or his statue), but if you prefer your libertarian brain-thoughts to honoring the emperor, then you are not avoiding idolatry. You are bowing down to a pale reflection of self. You do not avoid idolatry by changing statues. “No, no, this is not idolatry. I am bowing down to a different image now.”

Eleventh, provided we are keeping ourselves from idolatry, certain civic liturgies are not only acceptable, but help to keep a society stable. That kind of stable society is conducive to evangelism (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Showing a decent, patriotic respect is not the same thing as godliness, but it is consistent with our larger kingdom purposes.

Twelfth, a friend tweeted about this whole situation: “Don’t miss the fact that football stadiums are the cathedrals of modern America & 2 false religions are currently involved in a worship war.” This testimony is true. At the same time, as Christians who went there just to see the game, we need to consider what we are supposed to do about it (not just think) when the Anthem starts to play.

Thirteenth, as Christians, we are not to take a knee, but rather stand respectfully.

Next, the Pledge of Allegiance, given its socialist origins, and its use of the word indivisible (an attribute of deity) is problematic. It is a reasonable wish for us to hope that our country might never be divided, but it is statist nonsense to say a country is incapable of division, which is what indivisible means. It would be better to say, in pious Christian fashion, long live the king. It is not so good to say may the king live forever. Kings don’t live forever, whatever we want, but they can live a long time, and if they are decent rulers we can live in a relatively stable place. The Scriptures require us to be advocates of that.

Fifteenth, that said, it is a free country, and athletes should be free to take a knee if they wish to do so. Of course, the owners of these football teams should also be able to take a knee when it comes to their athletes’ continued employment, and sports fans should be free to take a knee when it comes to viewing the sport in question. Everybody should be free to protest whatever they want, just not on someone else’s dime.

Next, while standing respectfully for the Anthem is lawful, and saying the Pledge is lawful (if you don’t say indivisible), it is kind of odd to open every sports event with it. But nobody said civic customs had to make perfect sense. Somebody did say that our customs must not be idolatrous.

Last, did I mention how vulnerable the NFL is?

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jigawatt
jigawatt
5 years ago

I don’t know why people keep concluding he [Trump] is an idiot when he is now in the position of defending apple pie, the flag, the Anthem, and Mom. … and gotten the progressives to turn against them. If I may quote myself on the situation: We need a word for: 1. I was already planning on doing X 2. Now Y has ordered me to do X 3. So now if I do X it’ll look like I’m bowing in obediance to Y. 4. So I don’t do X. Trump: “I am ordering all Americans to breathe air and… Read more »

John F. Martin
John F. Martin
5 years ago
Reply to  jigawatt

Call it “Self-Conflicted Insubordination”….or something like that.

Remove the word “National” and the National Anthem from the Professional Football League. My fellow vet Alejandro Villanueva should be telling his teammates what to do, not the other way around.

That said, I am a Steve Kerr fan from his college days. He and President Trump should have a televised conversation, facilitated by our host.

adad0
adad0
5 years ago

I’d be up for some Tim Kaine statues, especially if they were near a dog park!

????

Andrew Lohr
5 years ago

Had Rahab ever pledged allegiance to Jericho? I suppose I do pledge Christian love to the USA, certainly to her people and I suppose to the institution, but what is “allegiance” when the country is wrong? “Christian love” allows for corrections.

And Proverbs says not to sign blank checks.

So without laying down the law even for my children, I don’t say the pledge anymore, tho I’ve said it plenty of times. I stand quietly if it’s being said where I am.

jigawatt
jigawatt
5 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Lohr

Had Rahab ever pledged allegiance to Jericho?

I can easily envision a near future that has a progressive President saying, explicitly or implicitly, that singing the anthem or pledging allegiance means allegiance to HIM (or HER), and to things like Roe v. Wade. Trump has certainly gone in the direction of accepting the homage as to himself.

CCC
CCC
5 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Lohr

I have started reciting to myself the chorus:

I pledge allegiance to the Lamb,
With all my strength, With all I am,
I will seek to honor His command,
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb.

somethingclever
somethingclever
5 years ago

Didn’t Daniel say precisely “May the King live forever” in Daniel 6:21? I’d love some clarification here.

Katecho
Katecho
5 years ago

It’s interesting to see how often the Aramaic word ‘alam is used in the book of Daniel, and how often the same formal salutation, “O King, live forever”, is used by Chaldeans, princes, and even the queen. The word ‘alam also sets up a literary contrast when it appears in the book to refer to the God who lives forever, and whose Kingdom abides forever. In any case, Wilson seems to be aware of the case of Daniel, given how measured his words are. He simply observes that it is “better to say” long live the king, and “not so… Read more »

Mark H.
Mark H.
5 years ago

Well, if Daniel believed in the resurrection, and he was praying that the king be converted, it is not a blasphemous blessing. “May the King yield to God and live forever.” With the center part silent.

Katecho
Katecho
5 years ago

Well summarized. Draws attention to all the ingredients that need attention.

Ben
Ben
5 years ago

I think in a discussion like this, it’s important to clarify that if America is a nation in the proper sense (a people group, tribe, or “natio” in Latin), then non-whites are not Americans. Certainly most of these black athletes (and most blacks in general) have no appreciation for Western culture and traditions. Look no further than many of their names. Any mother who names their child Deontre, Malik, Demarco, etc., is making the conscious decision to differentiate her son from the dominant culture, and surely you would expect she would inculcate that same attitude in her son as he’s… Read more »

Katecho
Katecho
5 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Ben wrote: Look no further than many of their names. No, I intend to look a lot further than someone’s name. Ben wrote: We must learn to see the African-in-America population as our co-habitants rather than compatriots. What about learning to see the Christians among the ________-in-America population as our brothers and sisters in Christ? Why does that seem to be completely missing from Ben’s “paradigm”? Once again, as Christians, our primary identity is in Christ, and this cuts across all ethnicity, nationality, country, sex, rank, and wealth, let alone name. Our identity is to be more bound up with… Read more »

soylentg
soylentg
5 years ago
Reply to  Katecho

Amen to that Katecho

mys
mys
5 years ago
Reply to  Katecho

Katecho-
I doubt anyone denies we are more knitted together by Christ than anything else. But the NFL, and this nation, are secular.
How a Christian deals with these things, I am still working on myself, but this whole “kneeling before the anthem….” It’s racial. It is. That likely makes you uncomfortable. But stuff is getting more racial in this country, almost daily. Avoiding it won’t help.

Katecho
Katecho
5 years ago
Reply to  mys

mys wrote: I doubt anyone denies we are more knitted together by Christ than anything else. Christians wouldn’t deny it when reminded, but several commenters have forgotten it, on occasion, in their rhetoric. They describe a general response to certain ethnicities that ignores the question of whether we are dealing with fellow Christians or not. I don’t disagree that “stuff is getting more racial” and more ethnocentric in this country, but that doesn’t excuse Christians like Ben to simply follow suit. We can each enjoy and honor our ethnic background, but our primary identity is in Christ, and ethnicity should… Read more »

Jane
Jane
5 years ago
Reply to  Ben

“Any mother who names their child Deontre, Malik, Demarco, etc., is making the conscious decision to differentiate her son from the dominant culture, and surely you would expect she would inculcate that same attitude in her son as he’s growing up.” Does this apply in the same way to my friends who in very recent years have named their children Judah, Noah Lionheart, Nehemiah, Eden, and Boaz? They’re differentiating themselves from the dominant culture because they see themselves as aligning with specific part of the dominant culture, not because they are trying to cut themselves off from it. And they… Read more »

Ben
Ben
5 years ago
Reply to  Jane

But the black culture is by and large dysfunctional and ill-suited for the West (not to mention hostile), as pretty much all the statistics show. Those Hebrew names aren’t associated with that culture (they make me think more of home school types), whereas “Deontre, etc.” are.

Jane
Jane
5 years ago
Reply to  Ben

So the issue isn’t that they’re outside the dominant culture, it’s that there are aspects of the culture that are dysfunctional, and their names identify them with that. Do you object also to the names that mainstream white Americans give their kids, since that culture is also severely dysfunctional, and mainstream names identify them with it?

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Too often this line of conversation degenerates into agreement that the culture is dysfunctional and it’s all the fault of the Jooz.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I don’t think Ben’s issue is unconventional naming. I doubt that he has much of a problem with Ivanka or Hildegarde or Seamus. But if he objects to Jose, Jaime, and Maria, I will be convinced there is a trend that I don’t much like.

Jane
Jane
5 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Just trying to keep things clear and upfront, is all I’m trying to do here. ;-)

nathantuggy
nathantuggy
5 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Your post starts off with the etymological fallacy, makes dubious generalizations about “lack of appreciation for Western culture” (when I can think of quite a few rather significant counter-examples off the top of my head), makes the laughable assertion that a choice of unusual name is an attempt to secede from the culture (the quintessentially American culture of individuality, novelty, and multiculturalism, no less!) and of course finally excludes people with a certain color of skin from being American. What’s the technical term for an argument that’s fallacious or specious at every proposition and ends in an erroneous conclusion? Because… Read more »

Vva70
Vva70
5 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Ben, From Webster’s 1828 dictionary: NATION, noun [to be born] 1. A body of people inhabiting the same country, or united under the same sovereign or government; as the English nation; the French nation It often happens that many nations are subject to one government; in which case, the word nation usually denotes a body of people speaking the same language, or a body that has formerly been under a distinct government, but has been conquered, or incorporated with a larger nation Thus the empire of Russia comprehends many nations, as did formerly the Roman and Persian empires. nation as… Read more »

Tyrone
Tyrone
5 years ago

This post is exactly why I read this blog. Unfortunately it is difficult to find this kind of analysis anywhere else in American Christianity. I have read the Bible many times and been to hundreds of church services, yet I never considered honoring the ruler as the proper Christian thing to do.

Andrew
Andrew
5 years ago

I thought I was the only one who skipped “indivisible” in the Pledge.

Silas
Silas
5 years ago

Magma is lava below the surface of the earth. It would be difficult to hit with wadded up paper.

Ministry Addict
5 years ago
Reply to  Silas

No casual interactions with magma! Yet another asterisk to Philippians 4:13…

BUTR
BUTR
5 years ago
Reply to  Silas

Geology Nazi …

;-)

Daniel Fisher
Daniel Fisher
5 years ago
Reply to  Silas

If I wished to be obnoxious and pedantic, I could correct you by pointing out that magma cannot be “lava” below the surface, since “lava” is by definition molten rock above the earth’s surface…. lava by definition can’t be below the earth’s surface. But that would be silly and pedantic, thus I will refrain from so doing. But this just illustrates my biggest linguistic pet peeve… arbitrarily insisting the exact same thing be given a different name simply because of where it is located. Like how a tropical cyclone in the western pacific is most emphatically not a hurricane, it… Read more »

Ministry Addict
5 years ago

Francis Scott Key’s statue, not his statute.

Charles Chambers
Charles Chambers
5 years ago

I

Mark H.
Mark H.
5 years ago

Not entirely on topic, but talk about co-opting the co-opters:
http://babylonbee.com/news/amazing-took-years-tebowing-finally-taken-nfl/

JohnM
JohnM
5 years ago

Well, I guess as long as what he does works for him you could say he’s not a complete idiot, if that’s what you actually meant. But what am I supposed to think about people who think Trump cares anything about apple pie, the flag, the Anthem,or Mom?

wtrsims
wtrsims
5 years ago
Reply to  JohnM

So Trump doesn’t care about those things?

Trump may not care about those things in the same way that you do—perhaps with a shade of financial pragmatism—but if you watch interviews of him stretching back years, he strikes me as aomeone who cares a lot about promoting “America,” if but a bit gaudy.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  JohnM

He can’t be a complete idiot because he knows that “This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean…It’s a big ocean, It’s a very big ocean.”

I, on the other hand, live next to the Pacific Ocean. It is an even bigger ocean. It is a bigly ocean and the water is blue. Cold water no hurricanes good place for Maralago.

John Callaghan
John Callaghan
5 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Almost no hurricanes.

78 years ago yesterday, Los Angeles was hit with a Tropical Storm (formerly a hurricane).

It came ashore at Long Beach and killed several dozen people. Hopefully there will not be a repeat when I fly in there next week.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  John Callaghan

Worry more about quakes. After years of seismic stillness, we’ve had a couple of mild ones in the last few days.

Have you seen Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral before? It is downtown, next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Its tapestries and baptistry are gorgeous.

John Callaghan
John Callaghan
5 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

I passed it on my way through LA 101 once, but I’ve never stopped in. I’m afraid it’s “Taj Mahoney” reputation has pushed it down on my list of places to visit someday.

After the recent pair in Mexico, quakes are definitely higher on the list of worries in CA.

Blueskiesmom
Blueskiesmom
5 years ago

Doug, I recall an article or tape of yours from years ago in which you suggested at our next sporting event we should try saying, “….one nation under the Triune God…” and see what happens. Maybe if we said it standing on our seats, we could say to the offended around us, “Hey dude, I’m a protest-ant! Wanna lock arms?”

Matt
Matt
5 years ago

It’s interesting that with one controversial statement Trump has forced the 1984 leftists who just weeks ago were protesting free speech rallies to come out in vigorous support of the 1st amendment.

Jason Holm
Jason Holm
5 years ago

So one can refuse to stand for the rebel flag and the American flag, but there’s an uproar for refusal to honor the rainbow flag. We live in “interesting” times.

Jim Jacobs
Jim Jacobs
5 years ago

On compulsion to say pledges, sing anthems or salute flags see:
West Virginia State Board of Education vs Barnette (1943)
On protection of symbolic speech under the First Amendment see:
Tinker vs Des Moines School District (1969)

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Jim Jacobs

I love Judge Jackson’s prose in the Barnette decision: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act.” He went on to become one of the Nuremburg judges.

Barnie
Barnie
5 years ago

Lots of conflict over this in Christian circles near me. It pits “cultural Christian” Trump voters against their holier brethren. I’ve noticed that those in ministry tend to side with the SJWs while those with real jobs not so much. It’s clear that the Evangelical leadership didn’t just bow out of the culture war, they changed sides. They side with secular elites in the alliance of upper and lower class against the middle and on nearly every other political issue. If you think the NFL is vulnerable to backlash against anti-white activism how about the church? I predict an exodus.… Read more »

mys
mys
5 years ago
Reply to  Barnie

Somebody has been reading the Gospel Coalition’s blog recently, and by recently, I mean the past 5 years.

grh
grh
5 years ago

“As my ninth observation, not only does the Bible allow for displays of this kind of honor, it requires us to participate in them as appropriate. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17, ESV)” Problem: the president isn’t the emperor. He doesn’t make the rules. The rules we are commanded to follow are those rules that are passed by elected representatives and legally written into the Code of Federal Regulations and either upheld or reject by the legal system, and then enforced by the executive branch. When Trump expresses his OPINION that he would… Read more »

My Portion Forever
My Portion Forever
5 years ago
Reply to  grh

We do, as a nation, have to repent for our rebellious origins. And I don’t think Pastor Wilson was saying we should stand for the National Anthem because President Trump said so, but because the government we have is represented by things such as the National Anthem, and the government we have is instituted by God Rom 13:1-2: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
5 years ago

Canadian though I be, I don’t understand the need for repentance. It would have been preferable for the United States to wait another 90 years as Canada did and achieve independence without a shot fired, but I cannot understand why a colony may not declare independence from the mother country. The British had the option of letting the states go without bloodshed. Surely no one would argue that the Congolese should still be subjugated by the Belgians–who murdered them by the thousand in their ruthless demand for diamonds. Or that Mexico should still be ruled by Imperial Spain in the… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
5 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Was it moral for South Carolina to declare independence?

there are historical differences between, say, Leopold’s Free (huh) Congo, and the chartered American Colonies.

Daniel Fisher
Daniel Fisher
5 years ago
Reply to  grh

Please familiarize yourself with United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1. Standing for the flag is not the president’s opinion, it is in fact established law as enacted by the Legislature.

Barnie
Barnie
5 years ago

Hey, we had a church shooting and no one seemed to notice. I wonder why?

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Barnie

Are you referring to the church shooting in Antioch, Tennessee? I have seen a great deal of media coverage about it including the nationality of the shooter.

Jonathan
Jonathan
5 years ago
Reply to  Barnie

It got quite a lot of coverage. Type it into Google News if you have problems believing that. Obviously it didn’t dominate the airwaves, because only one person died, and if we let every one of those dominate the airwaves then there would be literally no time for anything else. There have been 25 shootings so far this month with at least four people injured/killed. How much coverage did you see about the Bakersfield shooting that just happened where 1 person was killed and 4 were injured? The Inglewood shooting where 2 were killed and 3 were injured? The Clovis… Read more »

mys
mys
5 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

This article does not mention race at all, just that he was Sudanese

http://time.com/4955114/antioch-church-nashville-tennessee-shooting/

Several others I read didn’t lead with it, either.

J.K.
J.K.
5 years ago

Just found out about Flags out Front. Ordered it immediately. If it’s half as good as Evangelyfish, I will be over the moon.

Daniel Fisher
Daniel Fisher
5 years ago

“Taking a knee, ” going back to feudal times, was always a sign of complete submission and subservience to one’s liege lord. So I certainly appreciate these NFL players going above and beyond simple respect and demonstrating absolute fealty to the flag, but nonetheless I think It unnecessary to show that level of submission and subservience. Even in the military we simply stand at attention and salute the flag, rather than bow as before a king and do homage to it….

;)

Daniel Fisher
Daniel Fisher
5 years ago

“It is not so good to say may the king live forever.”

Is this a slam against Nehemiah? Or was this directed against Daniel?