Tag Archives: Baptist faith

Ego’s Pernicious Role in Spirituality

Trump has put one of his disciples in the limelight again, asking Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas to speak at the opening of the new embassy in Jerusalem.  But Jeffress is catching some flack for having assured everyone that Muslims and Jews are definitely going to hell.  I certainly believe all religious traditions are flawed, especially those who feel they aren’t and assume they can make pronouncements from on high about other religious traditions.  But I think it would behoove Mr. Jeffress and his ilk…and this “ilk” is present in all religious traditions…to pay an equal amount of attention to the “beam” that is in their own eye as opposed to the “mote” in the other person’s.

But this is a gut-level issue with spirituality.  Those of us with that neurological “god-spot” in a constant state of, “over-heated” tend to take ourselves too seriously and become intoxicated with the sweet nectar of certainty.  And, speaking from experience, it is so utterly delightful to be able to stand in the pulpit and make pronouncements from “on high” knowing that God is speaking through you.  How do you know that?  Well.  Well…well, you just know!  But what you do not know is that this certainty that empowers you at that moment is merely a false bravado based on profound insecurity, reflecting a kind of “whistling in the dark,” ersatz spirituality that will have to be addressed by decades of ministration by, “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”

Ego is an inherent dimension of all human enterprises, including that deemed so noble as to merit the label, “Divine.”  But when ego has succeeded in accomplishing its goal in the spiritual realm, it will produce someone like Mr. Jeffress who will be brazenly arrogant and obtuse without even the slightest awareness of it.  No wonder he is a disciple of Trump with the role in the administration of helping to “christianize” the president, making him more viable with the base of the Republican Party.

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Jen Hatmaker, a Courageous Evangelical Woman!

Jen Hatmaker, a noted female evangelical writer and speaker, has become a persona non grata with evangelicals as she has chastised them for their hypocrisy with Trumpism and then even dared to announce that she supports same-sex marriage.  Her children are now being harassed and she is receiving death threats.  Her portrayal of the monstrosity that much of the evangelical tradition is roiling in was covered this morning in “Politico.com.”:

This year I became painfully aware of the machine, the Christian Machine,” she wrote in April on her blog. It was Good Friday, a somber day for Christians to observe the crucifixion of Jesus. Hatmaker wrote that she understood now the machine’s “systems and alliances and coded language and brand protection,” not as the insider she had long been, but “from the outside where I was no longer welcome.” During the election season, she added, the “Christian Machine malfunctioned.” It laid bare the civil war within her Christian community.

This “Christian machine” Hatmaker describes is a monolithic, mindless, soul-less monster, devouring everything in its path that has forsworn the god-given capacity for critical thinking.  It is an assembly-line production, designed to spit out a finished product much like the one introduced by Henry Ford in the early 20th century, the “product” in his case being the Model-T Ford.  “You can have any color you want,” he announced, “As long as it is black.”   Efficiency and uniformity was the rule of the day which is always de riqueur for mass production. A Christian produced by this assembly-line is what I call a Christian-oid who each day says to those around him, “Wind me up and watch me be Christian.”  For this is a canned faith, spit out by the gospel machine consisting of monotonous dogma, much of which has great value when not spit forth mechanically.  The Christian produced by this mechanical monster is a “letter-of-the-law” Christian on steroids. Another way to view this phenomenon is through the lens of enculturation.  Our faith is presented to us by our culture and any culture presents its packaged “truth” as being beyond question.  This is particularly deadly with religion as it plays on the ego’s need for certainty and will facilitate a faith in which the need to be “right” and “certain about being right” obliterates any opportunity for humility.

Even with evangelicalism becoming a self-parody, led by men such as Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell, Jr…and of course, Alabama’s Roy Moore…it is heartening to see there are those who have the courage to voice dissent.  Even Falwell’s school, Liberty Baptist University has significant numbers of students, teachers, and alumni who have taken Mr. Falwell to task for his obsequious and fawning submission to Trump.  And Ms. Hatmaker, born and raised in a Baptist church, and still claiming to be evangelical and apparently still avowing to, “love Jesus,” has the courage to call her faith tradition to task for lamely succumbing to the siren song of political power offered by a moral and spiritually depraved charlatan.

(Here is a link to the Politico article—https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/12/17/is-jen-hatmaker-the-conscious-of-evangelical-christianity-216068)