“I have decided to stick with love…hate is too great a burden to bear.”
~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is rare that posts on this blog appear but a couple of days apart. However, a coincidence of two very different events that took place this week on January 15 serve as the catalyst for this reflection.
On the same day that I eagerly joined with citizens across America gathered in spaces of worship and other public places to remember and pay honor to a prophet of love and brotherhood and leader of a nonviolent civil rights movement, other citizens in partisan caucuses across Iowa were braving a wintry blast to cast their lot with an angry autocratic presidential hopeful promising vengeance and retribution upon any and all persons and institutions perceived by him to be enemies.
The chasm that divides these two scenes in January of 2024 is as deep and wide as any living American has witnessed. And sadly much of the responsibility for that gaping rift must be attributed to an Americanized, Nationalized aberration of the gospel which forms the bedrock of the Christian religion.
It is undoubtedly this kind of glaring juxtaposition defining contemporary America and Christianity that prompted John Pavlovitz to contrast two antithetical ‘gospels’ vying for the hearts and minds of a divided nation:
“The Gospel According to Don is indeed good news to the privileged and the embittered, to those who imagine themselves threatened by equality, assailed by diversity, and about to be overtaken by people with brown skin, strange accents, rainbow flags, distant birthplaces, and unusual head coverings.”
He goes on to further profile the beguiled adherents of this twisted gospel:
“His sprawling congregation is comprised of the angry and the scared, the easily manipulated, the old and isolated, people too lazy to seek truth, those lacking true community, people who feel misunderstood and disrespected, those who subsist on phobias and prejudice. Trump gladly gives them all a savior who will validate their contempt for outsiders, a God who reflects their perpetually frightened hearts, a jittery deity as anxious as they are.”
He then goes on to offer an antidote to the gospel of fear and hate peddled by feckless snake oil evangelists of anxiety and anger:
“And MAGA’s aggrieved apostles will continue to be seduced into this terrified religion until they are given a better one. They need an alternative cause to devote their lives to, better angels to call upon, a higher place to aspire to. The only thing that casts out fear is perfect love—which is why loving people are the only ones who can see through him. They are the only people impervious to his snake oil scare tactics. They know he is a hollow high priest of nothing.”
The answer to the gospel of fear is loving people. The good news of God’s uncompromising, unrelenting love for all people was at the very heart and core of Jesus’ preaching, of his teaching, of his deeds and of his death. Receive that divine love, embrace that divine love, be transformed by that divine love and then,“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and love your neighbor as yourself.” So commanded he who was the embodiment of divine love, perfect love.
In the Apostle Paul’s first epistle to the aspiring followers of “The Way” in Corinth, he lays out a picture of the perfect love that Jesus commanded us to practice:
“Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Patience. Kindness. Faithfulness. Hopefulness. Endurance. No Jealousy. No Braggadocio. No Arrogance.
This picture of perfect love is the antithesis of the portrait of the man and his aggrieved disciples seeking to bludgeon and bulldoze their way to absolute power.
Entrance polls by media sources found that 2/3 of Iowa caucusers believed the 2020 election was stolen, illegitimate. The same amount also believe Trump would be a fit President even if convicted. Other poll numbers indicate a third of Republicans—and four in 10 voters who have a favorable view of Trump—agree with the statement that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
In the wake of the Iowa caucuses, Tom Nichols in The Atlantic writes:
“The Republican base actively embraces Trump’s grievances; it emulates his pettiness; it supports his childlike inability to accept responsibility. These voters are not sighing in resignation and voting for the lesser of two or three or four evils. They are getting what they want—because they, too, are set on revenge.”
In the hours prior to the Iowa caucuses, his disciples (and anyone else who pays him any attention) were treated to a bizarre three minute video clip on the Truth Social platform that began with the proclamation, “And on 14 June 1946, God looked down on his planned paradise and said: ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God gave us Trump…”
As absurd and heretical as this is, the tragedy is that far too many folks who pray in Jesus’ name eagerly receive this deranged blasphemy as gospel truth and devour it like manna delivered to them directly from heaven.
Today’s post appears on this Christian blog dedicated to advocating for justice for all God’s creation because we choose to challenge followers of Jesus to emulate a true prophet of justice and apostle of the gospel of love such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His life and words remind us that, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” It matters, it matters a whole lot in this year of our Lord 2024 which gospel will ultimately influence the lives and votes of folks who believe themselves to be followers of Jesus.
And, therefore, we shall conclude with these other words of truth, justice and inspiration from the tongue of a true evangelist of the gospel of love:
“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”
“We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”
“I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.”
And last, but not least: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
- Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, `I am the Christ, and will deceive many…
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. “
(excerpts from Matthew 24)