WARNING from the Editorial Board
Readers who dislike reading opinions they don’t share might want to consider reading something else. The essay below may not be suitable for rigid thinkers. Readers who enjoy rallies where angry crowds chant lock her up! lock her up! and USA! USA! are doubly cautioned.
Billy Lee believes that all religions and all governments—including our own—are crafted by elites to enhance their power. Religion and government sometimes work together like good cops and bad cops to maintain the order of society by both reassuring and intimidating those few citizens who may sometimes feel reluctant to cooperate.
Billy Lee thinks that all economic systems, whatever label they may carry, are nothing more than variations on slavery. One possible exception is democratic communalism—a system that has been thoroughly discredited.
Systems where wealth is shared more or less equally are no longer taken seriously, at least in the United States, because our elites want nothing to do with them. It’s a reason why our leaders have strangled Cuba with an embargo for 55 years with no end in sight.
Income equality is not one of our core values. Everyone knows that alpha-males don’t share well; they fully intend to take everything they can until the end of time. Billionaires rule. They always have.
Fortunately, this essay isn’t about economics. Who wants to get all depressed about stuff they don’t understand and can’t do anything about? No, this post was written to address a much deeper problem—the takeover of our country by lunatics.
Billy Lee is suggesting that the conservative evangelical church in America is infested with men who are pushing a political agenda that might very well be opposed to the vision of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who they say they serve; indeed their aim seems to be to acquire political power; some prominent males have recently bragged that they made a deal with our newly elected president to help them better impose their will on America and the world.
According to Billy Lee, these leaders hope to guide the citizens of the United States into accepting a Christian form of what has all the appearances of a kind of Sharia Law. The president-elect promised Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham that he will help them; he is on-board.
Falwell, who attended the recent GOP convention, described during his speech a deal he made with Trump to repeal the 1954 law that forbids tax-exemptions to church groups who finance the campaigns of political candidates aligned with their pet projects, favored laws, and constitutional preferences. In return, Falwell promised to help deliver the presidency.
Let me begin by saying my hope is that the Bible verses below will provide readers with some context for the observations and insights that will follow. Politically conservative evangelical leaders believe that every word in the Bible is literally true; the Bible is inerrant and doctrinally pure; anyone who doesn’t bow before the concept of biblical inerrancy is a heretic and opposed to God.
Evangelical pastors cannot be ordained in almost every denomination in the United States, unless they sign legal documents that swear allegiance to inerrancy as one of their core beliefs. Yes, many who sign these documents have their own definitions of what inerrancy actually means. Pastors argue with one another all the time about it. Some sign what they call “conscience clauses” to keep them out of trouble with meddling denominational titans and even their own parishioners.
But enough of this inside baseball kind of talk.
The fact is, I too believe the Bible is inerrant. Just to make sure readers understand, I’m not a theologian; I’m not a pastor or an elder or a deacon either; I’m a pontificator—a lowly pontificator. I don’t even belong to a church. I go to church. My wife makes me. But I haven’t signed any dotted lines. I wrote an essay once, a couple years ago when I actually was a communicant member of a church, about the subject of inerrancy, which I hope readers will revisit. In it I asked this question:
Where does this idea about “inerrancy” of Scripture come from, since the Bible was written by men, and gently hides mankind’s many prejudices and ignorant ideas about history and science? If Scripture is inerrant—and I believe it is—its truth must come from God alone. God makes Scripture true, even when human logic, common sense and evidence seem to speak otherwise.
I would argue that my support of inerrancy gives me the right to challenge other Christians; to argue that the separation of church and state is necessary and essential, if we are to protect our freedoms from conservative politicians posing as clerics who are busy seizing control of churches and denominations in backwoods America.
It’s not just the backwoods. These political fights are going on in cities and college towns, urban centers and sophisticated suburbs. I side with reasonable people who don’t believe they have all the answers. I side with tolerant, open-minded thinkers who are kind to people who have been ostracized and hated, because they don’t fit certain stereotypical molds that conservatives seem to favor.
I certainly don’t think of myself as a heretic or a trouble-maker. In fact, I would like to believe that I am in submission to the will of Christ Jesus; I know I have experienced the forgiveness of sins and the healing power of God’s love. God has given me many gifts. I treasure them.
Anyway, it’s time to get on with this essay. Is there a better way to start than by quoting Bible verses? As is the convention in many Bibles, red words represent the spoken words of Jesus. Sometimes I use purple to call attention to some Scripture I hope readers won’t overlook. Hold on tight, everyone. I am about to take readers on a wild ride. Here goes:
Leviticus 17:10 I will set my face against [anyone] who eats blood, and I will cut them off from my people.
Leviticus 7:27 Anyone who eats blood must be cut off from their people.
Leviticus 19:27 … Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
Deuteronomy 25:11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one […] seizes [the other] by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.
Psalm 118:11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
Isaiah 9:17 …everyone is ungodly and wicked, every mouth speaks folly.
Isaiah 29:20 The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down—those who with a word make someone out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.
Isaiah 53:12 … he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Daniel 2:34-45 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. … It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands…
Hosea 6:5 …I killed you with the words of my mouth…
Luke 22:33-38 But [Peter] replied, Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and death. Jesus answered, I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.
Then Jesus asked them, When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything? Nothing, they answered.
He said to them, But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. For it is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’, and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.
The disciples said, See Lord, here are two swords.
That’s enough! Jesus replied.
John 6:53-59 Jesus said to them, … I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. … He said this while teaching in the synagogue….
John 6:66 From this time forward many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
John 12:47 … I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.
John 16:2 …the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.
John 16:8 When [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world [Satan] now stands condemned.
I have much more to say to you, more than you can bear. But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
John 20:1 …while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone [rock] had been removed…
1 Peter 2:16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.
OK. We’ve collected enough Bible verses to start a Hallelujah cacophony. Readers must by now have a lot of questions. Don’t worry. Hundreds of thousands of people have made careers answering questions about the Bible. Answers abound.
One obvious question is this: the Bible seems to forbid the eating of blood; if drinking blood gets one cut-off from God’s people; if it results in a kind of excommunication, why does Jesus insist that anyone who wants to live must drink his blood or die?
How does anyone drink the blood of Jesus, anyway? What does it mean—it must be true—what Jesus said; does his cure for death work? Is his promise—that eternity lives inside his shed blood and that we must drink it to live—inerrant?
Here’s another question: is everyone wicked? Really? Every single person? Is everyone a fool? Does everyone speak “folly”? Is there no one that anyone can truly trust? Even oneself?
How about this? Will folks who label people they hate with a single word—words like crooked (Hillary) or lying (Ted) or corrupt (____) or fraudulent (____) or dishonest (____) or hypocritical (____) or dumb (____) or killer (____) or guilty as hell (fill in the blank, if you dare)—will they really be cut down? Will the ruthless vanish and mockers disappear? Really? Does anyone believe these promises of the Bible? Do haters and mockers ever fall?
Here’s a good one. The title of this essay is called, Disarming Christians. Disarming is a nice word. It means charming or beguiling or winsome. Imagine meeting charming, beguiling, winsome Christians. It would be kind of nice, wouldn’t it?
Disarming can also mean taking away someone’s weapons of war. Christians are armed to the teeth with weapons of war, some of them. They carry guns in open-carry states; some carry concealed weapons with special licenses that permit them to bring guns into schools, libraries, and government buildings; even churches.
But let’s not talk about right-now. Let’s not talk about today. Let’s talk about those yesterdays long ago when the deadliest weapon a civilian could carry was a sword.
Jesus must have thought his disciples were unarmed. At the end, just before He was arrested and crucified, he told them to sell their coats and buy swords with the money. Lo and behold, the whole lot of them were carrying weapons, it turns out. See Lord, they said. Here are two swords right here! They might have added, How lucky we won’t have to sell our coats and drop what we’re doing to go buy swords from a bronze-smithy.
The followers of Jesus were already transgressors, and He lived among them—just as Isaiah 53:12 (in the list of verses above) said He would. They didn’t need to be told by Jesus to be bad. It didn’t matter whether anyone knew or not. In fact, Peter used his sword to hack the ear off a young man named Malchus—the servant of the High Priest. It’s about as low as a follower of Jesus could go, unless denying Christ three times when He needed him most counts for anything.
The Bible says we are free, but warns us to not use our freedom to sin and do evil, even when we are able to successfully hide our nasty acts so as not to corrupt others who are always watching. Really? Does the Bible mean to say that people can’t—as the old joke goes—pray to God for bicycles, but when they realize God doesn’t work that way, steal them instead and then pray for forgiveness?—in Jesus’ Holy Name, of course.
Evangelical political operators, as they always do, lobbied the public to vote against the Christian presidential candidates and go with the one person who has no history with any church; the one who refused to divulge his health records, his taxes, or his foreign entanglements.
These operatives urged followers of Christ Jesus to vote for a man who married three women—two, by the way, grew up in prominent, communist families from countries once hostile to the USA. Trump made a deal with evangelicals; he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. My essay Satan Surrender sorts through some aspects of the arrangement.
Peter believed he was Christ’s most loyal supporter; his most devoted disciple. Jesus once called him Satan and told him he was unreliable. Peter may have been crude, possibly foul-mouthed; some Bible writers portrayed him as impulsive and on occasion violent.
It seems to me that the conservative evangelical church in America is a lot like Peter. Jesus will build his kingdom; he will someday make a spectacular entrance onto the world stage, which he promised to do 2,000 years ago. I think our date is still on. I don’t think we’ve been stood up. Christ Jesus is on his way. But Peter came to a bad end according to some accounts, and the conservative evangelical church and its blind-guides will as well, if folks don’t wakeup and make changes.
One change we can make is to turn off our TVs whenever possible. We all know television is unwatchable, if one is trying to live a holy and righteous life. People watch OAN and FOX; they visit web-sites like Breitbart, etc. Is it any wonder that many in the land of the free and the home of the brave are suffering from a psychosis of evil?
Perhaps the answer to my earlier question about the shed blood of Christ Jesus is to ask another question: is the blood of Christ Jesus holy and precious—so powerful to save—that any other blood is poison by comparison, even defiling to the sensibilities of an Almighty God? The sacred life of Jesus and the fearful agony of its end—suffered on the cross of a Roman executioner—brought a flood of life into the dark world of sinners, who God loves dearly by the way; He gave himself over to a crucifixion, of all things—to settle scores for all time for the terrible things we’ve done against Him and against each other.
Let’s face some hard facts: people sometimes do bad things for which they deserve to die. Everyone, it seems, has someone who wants them dead; everyone is hated by someone; and everyone at one time or another hates enough to kill. That’s reality as I see it, anyway.
In my mind, after years of reading the Bible and listening to sermons, I have developed some fantasies. Sometimes I imagine things that could never happen, but imagining their very possibility gives me a kind of emotional release.
God forgive me. Sometimes I imagine I hear Jesus crying out on the cross in a loud voice; he’s yelling at me: Kill me, he screams. Eat my flesh; eat my blood; hurl your hate at me; do it now! I’m bleeding out and there’s no more time….
Jesus’ head falls forward. He is quiet, and I am witness to the horror of hatred satiated and injustice served. His face in death is unrecognizable. I recoil at the thought of God; that He could unleash such terror against a righteous man.
God forgive me. More hallucinations. Jesus slurs his words and looks past me into the storm. Strike me until your hate is spent; strike until you are exhausted and can no longer lift your arms or even stand; fall face down into the mud and blood at my feet and eat your fill. Make yourself sick on your hate. It is finished.
My mind is swirling like a carousel. Nothing seems real. Can you not see? Jesus is whispering now. His voice is a death rattle. Everything is accomplished.
A soldier appears out of nowhere and plunges a spear into Jesus’ belly. The soldier doesn’t look at Him. He walks past and pulls his collar for cover against the rain. Your sins are forgotten. Did Jesus just say that to a man who wouldn’t even look at him? Your sins are forgotten. Or was he talking to me? Or was it the soldier talking, maybe to us both? The blood from Jesus’ wound falls on me like a waterfall as I lie in the mud and the rain.
Speak louder, I can’t hear you, I scream back, because the storm is now raging and I can’t hear myself above the thunder and the rain. I forgive you, I think I hear Him say.
My mind is in fever now. I don’t know what is real and what is pretend. Is Jesus dead, or not? Yes, he’s dead; of course he is. But I hear him talking into the wind.
Get up! Yes, he is yelling loud, like a young man; a warrior. I hear him clearly. Go find the brother and sister you hate; find the mother and father you despise; find the stranger who abused you; who robbed and beat you; find them all; find the bad people and forgive them.
I stagger to my feet. The rain is violent. It cleans my body completely. I look up at Jesus. His body is clean as well. His eyes are glazed by death. He doesn’t breathe. Water runs down his face and off the soles of his feet.
I turn and look into the storm. I’m cold. The temperature has dropped, and I’m really, really cold. Find a way to love, I hear him murmur. Find a way to love the world we gave you; find a way to love everything in it including yourself, because we made you from the mud you are standing in.
I want you to live, I say. He doesn’t hear. How could he? He is stone cold dead. I love you, I say under my breath. You know I did.
The way, the truth, and the life—it’s what he always said he was. They were sweet words; everyone wanted to believe. No one ever really knew what He was talking about.
I look up at Jesus for the last time. Death has a look that is best described by the word, horror. But Jesus looks like an angel in flight with his arms outstretched and his body washed clean by the storm. He is more beautiful in death than he ever was in life. You’re free, Jesus, I say at last.
You are free. Spread your wings and soar. Fly away to wherever your heart lives, to whoever your heart loves. You are free.
Post Script by the Editorial Board: Knowing Billy Lee the way we do, the Editorial Board has strongly admonished and chastised Billy Lee. We explained that his fantasy encounter with Jesus wasn’t an appropriate ending for an essay about disarming Christians. It’s not good enough, we told him. It doesn’t meet the high standards of the Pontificator. We insisted that he give Jesus the last word—not the fantasy Jesus that swims around in his head, but the real Jesus; the Jesus of history.
So here is what he picked—something Jesus said—from John 16:33.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Jesus, the Christ
The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.