I used to hate silence. Not so much anymore.
Only the wind blowing in the trees through the Gap breaks the stillness. Occasionally I think I can hear the constant flow of the Rio Grande. Then a car interrupts the natural white noise.
Marilynne and the President
Recently Marilynne Robinson found herself interviewed by President Obama. If you have not read Gilead, then as soon as you finish this post go get a copy from the library or Amazon. Do this at once if you happen to be a pastor.
Ezra Klein wrote a piece on the conversation between Robinson and the President. He began with this,
According to a September 2015 CNN/ORC poll, 29 percent of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim. The numbers rise as the respondents move right: Among Republicans, 43 percent believe Obama is lying about his Christian faith and is secretly Muslim, and among Trump supporters, 54 percent are convinced that Obama is Muslim.
It’s darkly funny to keep that poll in mind while reading Obama’s revealing interview with author Marilynne Robinson. The interview is an unusual document in the annals of the Obama presidency, as it’s not an interview of Obama, it’s an interview by Obama. He chose the subject, and he asked the questions.
Reading Klein’s piece, I could not help but think of a short introduction I gave for a brief talk. The group did not know me, know really anything about me, and so I wanted to make a point that likely was more fitting for a different audience. But without a formal introduction, I offered the following.
Hello. My name is Todd. I am a Baptist pastor, of the Southern variety. Recently our ethics leader wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times. He called out Evangelicals, of which we are a part, for lowering their moral threshold for potential Presidential nominees. The rest of us know their secret: It is always the case. But Donald Trump represented a new low.
Meanwhile an SBC pastor, a Fox News analyst, prayed over Trump at a Dallas rally. A YouTube video reveals the same pastor in a circle of prayer around Trump. (The group was naming and claiming Trump as the next President.)
What a great illustration that inerrancy does not solve the hermeneutical dilemma.
Occasionally I consider waxing autobiographical. After all, the memoir of the young is in vogue. My formative influences warned against personal illustrations. Somehow exposing too much of one’s true self would be spoil the sermon. These thoughts often quell the temptation to tell too much. What would people think
Klein’s piece exposes the reality that no matter what one says, interpreters have already decided. Why muddy their sensibilities.
The President: How do you reconcile the idea of faith being really important to you and you caring a lot about taking faith seriously with the fact that, at least in our democracy and our civic discourse, it seems as if folks who take religion the most seriously sometimes are also those who are suspicious of those not like them?
Robinson: Well, I don’t know how seriously they do take their Christianity, because if you take something seriously, you’re ready to encounter difficulty, run the risk, whatever. I mean, when people are turning in on themselves—and God knows, arming themselves and so on—against the imagined other, they’re not taking their Christianity seriously. I don’t know—I mean, this has happened over and over again in the history of Christianity, there’s no question about that, or other religions, as we know.
But Christianity is profoundly counterintuitive—“Love thy neighbor as thyself”—which I think properly understood means your neighbor is as worthy of love as you are, not that you’re actually going to be capable of this sort of superhuman feat. But you’re supposed to run against the grain. It’s supposed to be difficult. It’s supposed to be a challenge.
The Imagined Other
Taking our Christianity seriously, according to Robinson, is tested by how we treat others. It seems better for many to imagine President Obama a Muslim. In this way it is far easier for Christians to vilify him.
I am no apologist for President Obama. I do know the job of President is supposed to be a challenge. And, to be a Christian and the President is a difficult challenge.
It seems most Christians who rail at the President have opted to ignore the Scripture that reminds us to, “Pray for those in authority over you.” I guess when you imagine the other as they do the Scriptures really do not hold the authority claimed.
If the weather remains rainy, there just may be more miscellany from the Gap.