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Christians? In America?
by Edgar J. Steele

April 8, 2009

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
  
--- Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear : Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century (2003)

Audio files of Christians? In America?:
Formal Rant Only - (11 mb, 13 min)  mp3   streaming mp3
Entire Broadcast - (13 mb, 58 min)  mp3   streaming mp3

4-1-09  - Ed Gov, Not Fed Gov   mp3 audio
3-25-09 - We're All Terrorists Now   mp3 audio
3-18-09 - Second Annual State of the Revolution   mp3 audio
3-11-09 - The Road to Hell is Paved with Bailout Money  mp3 audio
1-01-09 -
Top-Ten List for Boys Crying Wolf   mp3 audio
12-24-08 -
The Late-Night Visitor
12-13-08 - Billions for Bankers   mp3 audio
11-12-08 - Dear Mr. Obama   mp3 audio

My name is Edgar J. Steele. 

Is it weird enough for you?  No, not the weather, though that qualifies this year, too (it literally snowed here all week last week).  Politics, the economy, TV, your friends, your enemies ... life, in a word.

Speaking of weird, I went to church last Sunday.  Yep.  Hard to believe, I know.  I'd been waiting for clear skies because I was worried about bolts of lightning.  Well, Sunday was the day.

Running on Empty

My interest was rekindled after all these years because of something a friend of mine said:  "When I don't attend church for a while, I begin to feel empty inside."  Empty.  Hmmm.  Ring a bell, by any chance?  Not that I've been running on empty, mind you, but my friend really touched me, deep inside, with his heartfelt sentiment.

I was pleasantly surprised by the service I attended.  Surprised by the lack of hypocrisy on the part of any attendee with whom I spoke.  Surprised by the eloquent and powerful message delivered by the Pastor; extemporaneously, too, because he had misplaced his notes.  He spoke of King Solomon's lessons from Ecclesiastes, especially how good things happen to bad people and bad things to good people, seemingly without rhyme or reason because we cannot divine God's plan.  He spoke from the heart and apologized for not being in better form. 

I'm Proud of My Humility

Afterward, I told the pastor that, if he did that well on a bad day, I stood in awe of what he might be like on a good day.  I meant it.  I sometimes think my speaking ability is pretty good until I run across a guy like this, speaking to a small audience in some out-of-the-way meeting room.  Then I realize how perfectly ordinary I really am.  Don't get me wrong, though - I still think I can hold my own with the best of them.  As this pastor said at one point during his sermon, in a marvelous demonstration of self-deprecating irony:  "I'm proud of my humility." 

It felt pretty good, all things considered.  The people were nice and friendly.  The message was uplifting.  The fellowship was genuine.  All in all, not a bad way to spend an hour or two on a Sunday morning.  I recommend it if you've felt that something might be missing in your life.  Do you suppose this is what it means to catch religion?  Am I going to go all freaky on you now?  Nawwwww.  I'm immune.  I think.  Maybe.  We'll see.

After all, I've read the Bible, cover to cover (twice!) and it hasn't turned me into one of those lunatics who randomly ask others if they have been saved.  Just goes to show that one can rub shoulders with religion in general and Christians in particular without fear of catching something religious.

Walking the Walk

My visit to church jump started my thoughts on Christianity, though.  What it means to be a Christian, that is.  Bear with me, because you are going to come away from today's musings surprised, I guarantee you.  Surprised at me, if not with me.  And it isn't religious - not at all.

Recently, I was "vetted" by an officer of the Idaho Constitution Party, the first of what he described as a three-step process.  Near as I could tell, he was trying to learn if I was Christian enough to be blessed with the party's gubernatorial nomination.  Somehow, I passed his  scrutiny, which proves that plank from the National Constitution Party platform specifying that "there shall be no religious test to hold office." 

My experience with Step 1 of the Idaho Constitution Party vetting process reinforced what my brother, the Southern Baptist, means when he says that he considers me to be a Christian.  Now I realize that he doesn't speak of a religious test in the sense of talking the talk, but rather of a life test in walking the walk.  Funny, but I never really before had considered it in quite that way.  You know, all that business about serial rapists/killers having deathbed conversions and thereby getting into heaven while I, who have led a good and principled, if unremarkable, life, might well be consigned to Hell for not having uttered the magic words.  Maybe there is something just and redeeming about organized religion, after all.  Well ... some of it, anyway.

When asked if I am a Christian by others, I generally ask in reply if they want the long answer or the short answer.  The long answer begins with, "It depends upon your definition of the word 'Christian.'"  The short answer is, "Probably, insofar as I understand what that word means."  No more, though.  From now on the answer will be a simple and unequivocal, "Yes."  It probably should be your answer, too, even if you never have set foot inside any church.  Let me explain why.

Christianity as Culture

In short, being Christian largely is a cultural thing, I now believe, though religion (whatever that means) can play a role, too.  Christians fled to America to escape the tyranny of the Church of England.  America was founded by Christians.  Make no mistake about this simple fact.  Christians wrote the Declaration of Independence.  Christians drafted the Constitution.  In fact, the framers took regular breaks to pray for divine guidance while they crafted our marvelous Constitution. 

We are so close to the forest that we cannot see the trees.  We in Western countries all are Christians, folks.  It's cultural.  It's sunk into our DNA, in fact.  That is, those of us who have acted the most Christian for the past couple of thousand years have seen the most success in our culture, therefore we have been naturally selected to endure.  In fact, being a Christian predates the birth of Christ.  That is what I mean in my book, Defensive Racism, about DNA being "culture gone to seed."

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?  Christian.  The Ten Commandments, which really are the very backbone of Western jurisprudence?  Christian, of course.  Common civility in day-to-day life?  Christian.  Have a nice day?  Well, despite the inherent nature of that mindless blandishment, it may well have evolved from the pits of Hell. 

Seriously, though, we are so imbued with Christianity in all that we say, do, think and see, that long ago we stopped seeing our conduct as being Christian.  That doesn't change its nature, though.  We walk the walk, even if we don't talk the talk.  Which do you suppose really matters to God?  Which really matters to you?

See?  There may be hope for us, yet.

Now, with all the foregoing, I know that I am going to annoy a great many fundamentalists, revivalists, evangelicals and others, most of whom insist that we are consigned to Hell unless we utter the magic incantation:  "I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior" (or words to that effect, whatever that might mean).  Or that we must be baptized into one particular denomination or another in order to be "saved."  Their rejection does not trouble me, nor do I believe that it would trouble Jesus Christ.  Nor do I believe that we have to kill Arabs for Jesus.  Frankly, I have more faith in God's charity than those people seem to possess.  So should you.

Bottom line:  Live your life like a painting you produce one brush stroke and one day at a time.  Worry about the totality of your worthiness - about your fundamental character.  Try your best to be the person that you know you are capable of becoming.  Those are the big things.  The little things will take care of themselves.  Consider the possibility that Hell might really be nothing more than an eternity spent contemplating and regretting the hurts you inflicted upon others and the ways in which you chose not to be in service to others.

Kill an Arab for Jesus

America's conduct in recent years, particularly in the Middle East, certainly puts the lie to her inherently Christian nature.  Kill an Arab for Jesus!  Yeah, right.  More like, kill an Arab for Israel.  Take that however you like.  I don't much care.  Facts are facts.

But, with the onset of America's financial demise - and, yes, that is a genuine death rattle you hear coming from Wall Street - I sense a distinct change in the outlook of America.  Suddenly, we seriously are questioning the wisdom of our self-appointed role as the world's policeman.  Suddenly, we question the infallibility of our leaders, both in Washington, DC and in New York, still the financial center of the known universe.  Suddenly, we question the  very basis of our social, political and economic systems, which we used to believe were infallible and the best in the world.  Grudgingly, we have come face to face with the truth.

Bob Dylan was right when he penned "The times, they are a changing."  I wonder if he suspected back in the sixties just how strange things might become.  At the time, Nixon seemed the ultimate in all that might go wrong in politics, but Richard Nixon seems to have been right when he declaimed that history would vindicate his presidency.  George W. Bush did that for Nixon, all by himself.  Now Bush has claimed the same for his own presidency.  You don't suppose, do you ... ?

Is it possible that, twenty or forty years hence, we might look back upon these as "the good old days?"  How weird would that day look, do you suppose?

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

I like to say that foretelling the future is easy.  If you want to know where you are going, just turn around and look at where you are coming from, then turn around again and project that line forward.  History is the greatest teacher, especially very recent history.  If you think things have gotten weird, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Now I have begun to remark that, if most Americans politically are middle-of-the-road and I am a right-winger, then sometime next year I expect to meet middle America on the shoulder of the road.  That is how rapidly I see the general changes sweeping over America today.  My politics are beginning to look absolutely mundane these days.

And what will things look like on the shoulder of the road?  Downright apocalyptic.  We live in a society that is glazed over with a very thin veneer of civilized behavior.  Things can change in a heartbeat.  Review some of the films from the LA South-Central riots if you don't believe me.  Rent Mad Max and The Road Warrior and consider just how unlikely is the scenario therein depicted.

I preach preparedness.  Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  At worst, you will have some extra food you someday can eat, saving future grocery bills, and some extra silver coins and guns upon which you likely will make a tidy profit.  At best, you will have moved someplace where the quality of your life is much improved and your family interactions will have become much richer and more meaningful. 

Consider how you may be of service to others.  What you are reading or listening to right now is one of the things that I do, because I can do it.  I consider myself to be in service to you, dear reader, with these little rants of mine.  Heaven knows I don't do it for the income or the goodwill that society then heaps upon me, as neither of those things are forthcoming, nor do I expect them to be.  Those are not the reasons for rendering service to others.

We all can do something.  All of us.  It is in our very real and inescapable Christian nature, you know.  Think about that person you know you can be and consider what you can do, then do it.  We need you now, more than ever.  Make a difference.  Make us proud.

New America.  An idea whose time has come.

My name is Edgar J. Steele.  Thanks for listening.  Please visit my web site, www.NickelRant.com, for other messages just like this one.

-ed

Copyright 2009, Edgar J. Steele

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