Pissing Into The Wind

Train up a child in the way he should go:
Advert featuring Proverbs 22, used by the Uvalde massacre gun manufacturer

The time to stop the next shooting is right now”. This past week, I’ve noticed a prophet in the biblical tradition speaking out against American gun idolatry. Beto O’Rourke confronted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at his press conference after Uvalde. . “Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed,” he said. Amidst jeering and shouts for O’Rourke to shut up, Dan Patrick – Texas Lt. Governor, Southern Baptist, outspoken Christian, and politician with an  “A+” rating from the NRA–  stood up to tell O’Rourke, “You’re out of line and an embarrassment.”  Super-Christian and gun-lover Ted Cruz shamed Beto’s behavior as crass, embarrassing; “it was disgusting”, accusing him of a political stunt. O’Rourke was not dissuaded: “Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.”

It is the prophet’s duty to proclaim a message from God. It doesn’t always involve fore-telling; but forth-telling. The present is the kairotic moment of the prophet’s message. It is this day, and also for this today, that we are to listen, not to hang on predictions concerning tomorrow. There is an immediacy; an urgency in the prophetic word to respond by retracing our steps towards the Jesus waiting for us in the Gospels. Today, we need more people who speak honestly about our own blind spots – prophets to tweak the conscience of evangelicals and recapture the prophetic mission of the church. “The task of the prophetic imagination,” writes Walter Brueggemann, “is to cut through the royal numbness, to penetrate the self-deception so that the God of endings is confessed as Lord.” [i] That’s exactly the prophet’s calling! It’s not a choice; it’s a divine obligation.

“Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting.” Unlike St. Stephen in Acts 7, Beto wasn’t stoned, but he was escorted out with the mayor screaming he was “a sick son of a bitch”. Likewise, a quick review of biblical prophets discloses that their prophetic utterances did little more than piss off those mired in persistent disobedience. “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:52-3)  Jesus suffered and died on the cross, having exposed the moral hypocrisy of the religious elite – the Pharisees – who appeared on the outside “to people as righteous but on the inside are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matt. 23-28).

A quick glimpse through Google for “white evangelical prophets” returns the glaringly obvious. Most of this soothsaying issues forth from the religious flotsam sitting at Donald Trump’s feet. False witnesses aside, I’ve known a few prophetic voices among evangelicals – most of which were scorned, vilified or cast out of the camp. Jim Wallis. Beth Moore. Shane Claiborne. Tony Campolo. And many others who spoke against guns through the centripetal urgings of the Holy Spirit. Divine Truth was entrusted to human truth-bearers. Like the late Sen. Mark Hatfield, who used his National Prayer Breakfast speech to condemn President Nixon for prolonging the Vietnam War. (And managing to piss off Nixon’s golf buddy, Billy Graham in the process). These modern day evangelical prophets gave voice because God spoke first. The words they spoke were of Someone Else. Confrontation was not something they set out to do, but something they had to do.

I place Beto O’Rourke squarely in that prophetic tradition. Beto spoke truth to power; to those who would rather cradle their AR-15 babies than elementary school children. “Stay cool. Run out the clock.. But don’t worry: this moment will be over soon”, was the advice Republican advisors were giving the wake of Uvalde mass shooting. Now here’s a fresh thought: let’s reduce mass shootings by getting more guns! In other words, do nothing in the shadow of death; then do more of the same. Like the Pharisees, evangelical moral perfectionists persist in their sanctimonious refusal to listen – or act in the slightest against gun idolatry. They are too busy Making America Great Again to bother about making childhood childhood again. And the waiting list of children to be blood-sacrificed on the evangelical altar to Moloch grows each day. Nothing stands in the way of AR-15 bullets– except those moved of the Spirit to speak truth to power. Pray that God raises up more prophets to expose the moral depravity of the religious elite! Bold prophets – who aren’t afraid to “spit” into the wind and proclaim “the time to stop the next shooting is right now”!.


[i] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001, p. 45.

Evangelicals and the Holy Weirdo

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25.

I heard a comedian once refer to the Holy Spirit as a “weirdo”. At least in practice, many evangelicals might agree with him.

As a version 1.0 evangelical growing in faith in the 1970’s, my life was immersed in that generation of cessasionists. That is, all supernatural gifts ceased with the Apostles, the theology being that once the Scriptures were committed to velum, God saw no need for extra-Biblical prophecy, healing, ecstatic utterance and the like to continue. The indwelling of the Spirit was not, it was taught, an event subsequent to, but part of the conversion experience.

As a junior camp counselor during Christian Service Brigade, I befriended two of my team members who I saw as “on fire” for God. One evening after our communal campfire, they went off by themselves to pray. They later came back from the forest, reporting they saw the vision of a bright light which they interpreted as the working of the Holy Spirit. Their bunks were cleared the next morning.

One of my uncles married a woman who became deeply immersed in her pentecostal church. He reluctantly got involved as well. And so I asked him how he was getting along, speaking in tongues. His enigmatic reply was, “it helps if I have a few beers in me.” And I remember being invited by friends to their charismatic church. As if on cue, members of the congregation began a conga-line around the perimeter of the sanctuary.. It seemed less spontaneous than contrived performance. So un-Presbyterian. Those personal glimpses permeate my evangelicalism, reinforcing the impression that full outpouring, the experiential reality – means, like some weird uncle – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit à la Benny Hinn is normative.

It’s not. Neither are the so-called evangelical luminaries that go on about their MAGA direct line with God, yet have no connection through the Holy Server. Declarations about what they demand God make happen in America seems to me more like they are trying to lead the Holy Spirit, instead of the other way around. I’m sure many of these self-identified “evangelicals” never personally experienced Jesus in the first place.

It’s this background of negative experiences that had convicted me that the Holy Spirit – the Paraclete – is more a ghostly helper alongside, than the divine spirit that dwells inside the Believer. Nice to have, but not clue in how It works. After all, we have the Bible – the fourth member of the Trinity to guide us. Jesus already spoke to us through that book; what more do we need?. Frankly speaking, we evangelicals – imbued with the scholastic tradition as we are – trust in the Lord with all our hearts but and lean on our own understanding; We often act as if we disbelieve in the Spirit of Jesus.  Or, he is like a topical ointment we apply instead of the heart surgeon we need him to be.

Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit isn’t a side-kick or add-on, he permeates the very soul of every believer. The Spirit divides soul and spirit, both joints and marrow, and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. I know the Holy Spirit resides within me. I never intend to quash him, but many times I know I have. And I feel deep inside there is something missing in my innermost evangelical spirituality. I recoil from the words of James Packer, when he says “supernatural living through supernatural empowering is at the very heart of New Testament Christianity, so that those who, while professing faith, do not experience and show forth this empowering are suspect by New Testament standards.” Those are fearful words, especially for those like me prone to lead with a leash so the Holy Spirit doesn’t go out of bounds, and get beyond our control. I agree with one of my spiritual mentors, Roger Olson. “Yes, most Christians are afraid of the Holy Spirit whether they would admit it or not… People tend to be afraid of what might happen if they open the door to the Holy Spirit. They read the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon and in the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and think ‘Well, that was a one-time event and we certainly don’t want that happening in our church!'”

We evangelicals substitute reading verses wrenched out of context for the benefit of our neat little systems to give us the strength we lack through lack of reliance on the Spirit. (Solus Spiritus Sanctus was never laid down as a pillar of Reformation faith). We lean solely on the Scriptures to teach us how to truly trust God.. Deep down, many of us don’t trust the Spirit’s vocation to do that. Fear causes us to recoil from a Christian life filled with joy and power, manifesting the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. Dwight Moody had the courage to say “the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him”. Could it be that we are afraid that the Holy Spirit would lead us into the sorts of places we’d rather not go? Letting loose of control is scary. Maybe the Spirit is not the weirdo; we neurotic, apprehensive Christians are.

What do you think?