When we call Jesus a revolutionary, we tend to think of him as a socially liberal revolutionary, espousing freedom, equality, and justice for all. However, Christian Nationalists are beginning to think of themselves as revolutionaries; and their vision of a Christian revolution is very different from this picture.
In The Federalist, senior editor John Daniel Davidson—although he does not use the word “Christian”—champions the idea of Christian Nationalists as “radicals, restorationists, and counterrevolutionaries.” He wants to use our government, not to help the poor and marginalized, but rather to convert the country into a nationalist, theocratic state.
Davidson embraces using the power of the government to enforce the principles of the right wing, bending corporations to their will, starving universities that spread “poisonous ideologies,” getting rid of no-fault divorce, and subsidizing families with children. “Wielding government power,” he writes, “will mean a dramatic expansion of the criminal code.” Abortion is murder and should be treated as such, parents who take their children to drag shows “should be arrested and charged with child abuse,” doctors who engage in gender-affirming interventions “should be thrown in prison and have their medical licenses revoked,” “teachers who expose their students to sexually explicit material should not just be fired but be criminally prosecuted.”
“The necessary task is nothing less than radical and revolutionary,” he writes. And for those worrying that the assumption of such power might be dangerous, “we should attend to it with care after we have won the war.” ( Heather Cox Richardson).
I’m certain that liberal Friends will be appalled by Davidson’s vision of a nationalist America. I pray that Jesus, alive in God’s bosom, will ask the Father to send forth the Holy Spirit and inspire us to oppose this desecration of his revolutionary message, this perversion of the Kingdom of God.
~ Richard Russell
Well, not really; but sometimes—like Angela Denker—I miss the churches of the 50’s with their large attendance and elaborate youth programs. I have fond memories of Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. And I enjoyed winning Bible verse memorization contests and singing Baptist hymns like “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Angela Denker, in a recent article, analyzes the good and bad points of these churches, which have remnants in the Christian Nationalism of today. I heartily recommend her article, which you may find HERE.
~ Richard Russell
On the road to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus told his disciples that he would be rejected by the high priests, suffer, and be killed. When Peter reprimanded him, Jesus exclaimed, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (ESV).” Jesus then declared that his disciples must take up their cross and follow him. Whether Jesus said all this is beside the point. The idea that—the world being what it is—Christians must suffer is an intrinsic part of Christianity.
So, I ask myself, “Have I suffered because I’m a follower of Jesus?” “Not much,” I hasten to say. Perhaps on occasion I’ve been rejected by the high priests of modern secularism, but little else has befallen me in the way of hardship or pain because of discipleship. I can, however, imagine a couple of cases in which I would suffer.
One is if I were to pursue a life of social activism. I can imagine protesting some social injustice and being knocked in the head by a counter-protestor. Another is an inclination I’ve had to become a counselor for the National Suicide Line. I’m sure that listening to someone who’s suicidal would stir intense feelings of depression and pain in me myself. That’s probably a good reason for not taking on such a task. I have less justification for not getting out in the streets to demonstrate, particularly during the Vietnam War.
I do believe that whatever we may suffer for following Jesus is more than made up for by the joy of being in His company.
~ Richard Russell
On October 5, 2022, I left Texas for one of my twice-yearly visits to Old Chatham Meeting. When I arrived at Dallas Love Airport, the first thing I noticed was the overwhelming whiteness of the folks waiting to pass through TSA security. It’s mostly white people who can afford to fly. The second thing I noticed was a TSA entrance for “Elite Passengers”—presumably those who had paid for a more expeditious security check. After passing through security, the third thing I noticed was the dark skin color of the janitors and restaurant workers. These lower-paying jobs were mainly the province of Latinos and Afro-Americans.
At the boarding gate the grouping continued. The “A” passengers had paid extra for first-boarding rights. The “B” passengers hadn’t paid extra but had downloaded their boarding passes as soon as possible. The “C” passengers hadn’t paid extra and had been slow to get their boarding passes. Of course, between “A” and “B” groups were families with young children and military personnel with military I.D. Before everyone was the pre-boarding group, disabled persons largely in wheelchairs. Nevertheless, for the most part, people at Love Field were grouped according to their income or their ability and willingness to pay. Our American society is a class society based on wealth.
The groups mentioned above are either broad sociological categories (i.e., middle or lower class) or transitory groups of convenience (i.e., groups A, B, and C). That groups should figure so prominently in my thought does illustrate that “the group” is an important feature of human life. Our pre-historic ancestors only survived because they gathered themselves into groups or tribes. Individually, a human being is no match for a mammoth or a saber-toothed tiger. Collectively, people can successfully hunt mammoths and defend themselves against saber-tooths. Co-operation among individuals compensates for our lack of size and strength. In fact, human sociability is so ancient as to be encoded in our genes.
Of course, Old Chatham Monthly Meeting is a tribe of sorts. Perhaps it could be considered a small group designed to protect its members against the hostile values of the larger society. Or maybe the best analog is the extended family, which cares for those family members who are sick or disabled. Certainly, Ministry and Counsel tries to identify and help members of the meeting who are in need. And individual members spontaneously help one another. On this trip, a fraudulent charge caused the bank to close both my checking and credit card. Both Don Lathrop and Bob Elmendorf offered to loan me money. Fortunately, my wife saved me with a Western Union MoneyGram.
However, the most important function of our Quaker meeting is spiritual. It’s a little like a therapy group in which participants probe the psychology of their personalities and look for better ways of coping with the world. In both Meeting for Worship and a therapy group, personal ethics play a role; but the Quaker Meeting seeks to put us in contact with God or Spirit, asking what God’s will is for our lives. Of course, non-theist Quakers substitute another term for God, perhaps speaking of an integrated and balanced life.
My impression is that Old Chatham Friends are whole-heartedly seeking the Ultimate, whether through Christianity, Buddhism, Humanism, New Age spirituality, or some other path. Such diversity is a strength. Different traditions enrich one another and bring us closer to Enlightenment than one religion or philosophy alone. Herb and Elaine Ranney tell me that—even sixty years ago—diversity was a hallmark of Old Chatham Meeting.
But how I digress! I arrived at Don and Merry’s on Wednesday, October 5 and was pleased to have the opportunity to talk to them face-to-face. On Thursday I drove around the area, taking in its beauty before attending a meeting of Ministry and Counsel. I had looked forward to seeing Jens, Regina, and Dianne in person. Unfortunately, covid precautions forced us to ZOOM the meeting, which nevertheless felt productive and included Bill Thompson and Chris Erb.
On Friday, I did more driving around, saw the Ranneys, and—after collecting money from Western Union—visited Bob Elmendorf, who fed me and talked at length about books that I’ve been meaning to read for many years but haven’t gotten to yet. Bob was kind enough to give me one BIG book—the Septuagint, or Bible in Ancient Greek.
Saturday, I went to the annual Meeting Workday, sorting a stack of old mail, sweeping the porch, and cleaning a couple of rugs. I didn’t do all that much work; but I did get to see the real Joseph Olejak (as opposed to his virtual facsimile) and visited with Rebecca McBride, Sandy Beer, Dan Michaud, and Spee Braun among others. I was thankful that Vicki Smith brought real cookies as a snack—not vegetables and hummus.
Sunday was First Day Meeting. I was pleased to note that you really can see the faces of ZOOM participants on the new TV, and—in my opinion—the TV itself is placed in such a way as to be quite unobtrusive. That afternoon Bob Elmendorf and I visited Eric Wilksa in his bookstore, and Bob bought an armful of books to add to his already formidable library. After Bob and I ate at Amici’s, a nearby Italian restaurant, I returned to Don and Merry’s, where we watched a video about the evolution of the cosmos and engaged in a discussion on what place God might have in such a universe.
The next morning I got up at 2:00 am in order to catch a 6:00 am flight from Albany to Dallas via Baltimore. How sad to leave the upper Hudson Valley! But I hope to be back next Spring!
~ Richard Russell
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28, KJV)
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away… (Revelation 21, KJV)
Big words and complicated concepts of Christian evangelicals. The most interesting part of these ideas is their eschatology—their view of the “end time.” Dispensationalists believe that true Christians will be caught up to Heaven to be with Christ—the so-called “rapture.” On Earth the Great Tribulation will occur, in which one of every two people will die from famine, the “beasts of the earth,” and a bloody world war. At the end of this seven-year tribulation, Christ and raptured Christians will return to Earth, where Jesus will establish his Kingdom and rule for a thousand years—a millennium. Thus, dispensationalists are also pre-millenarists (i.e., Christ appears before the millennium).
Bearing in mind that there are many versions both of dispensationalism and dominionism, what is the difference between the two ideologies? Well, in terms of eschatology, dominionists see themselves as co-operating with God in building his Kingdom on Earth. When that Kingdom is finally triumphant, presumably after a thousand-year period, Christ will appear and usher in “a new Heaven and a new Earth.” Thus, dominionists are post-millenarists (i.e., Christ comes after the millennium, which is the handiwork of Christians who have wrought a political and social revolution).
The “Seven Mountain” dominionists see seven areas in which modern Christians must become supreme: government, education, the media, arts and entertainment, family, and society. The dominionists who are “reconstructionist” have a vision of what this would look like:
…society would be reconstructed so that the male-headed family and local church fulfill the roles that currently belong to the government, which would have the authority only to protect private property and punish capital offenses. Families and churches, as the cornerstones of the reconstructed society, would implement Mosaic law, with Christ as king over what would have become a Christian nation. Without government welfare, churches would carry the responsibility of aid to the poor, and without public schools, families would be responsible for their own children’s education. The economy would operate without any government regulation, meaning present laws requiring the integrity of consumer goods, protecting workers’ rights, and disallowing exploitative financial practices would no longer be in effect. Because in a reconstructed America Christians would have brought God’s kingdom to earth through the implementation of Mosaic law, these protections would not be necessary (from “The Quiet Rise of Christian Dominionism,” by Keri Ladner in the Christian Century, Nov. 1st issue).
Dominionist Christians, then, are the driving force behind today’s evangelical political movement in the United States. They want to abolish or restrict welfare programs, homeschool their children, and funnel the nation’s wealth into the hands of an elite class that has “God’s favor.” They want to impose on Americans their morality: no sex before marriage, no abortion, and a reversal of the Women’s Liberation Movement so that men can once again be supreme in business, education, and the family.
We Quakers, like the dominionists, want to reform society; but our goals are exactly the opposite of the dominionists. We want to use government to help the poor. We want to strengthen the public schools. We want to see a more equitable distribution of wealth in the country. We want women to be true equals of men in society. As regards sex, marriage, and abortion, Friends may have varying views; but our general tendency is to oppose restrictive laws and mores in the relation between the sexes.
And now, a disclaimer. I have greatly simplified my brief analysis of dispensationalism, dominionism, and Quakerism. Many are the objections that could be raised to my account of these movements. There are many types of dispensationalists, dominionists, and Quakers. But I do think that my central thesis is correct: the dominionists and the Quakers have very different religious and political views. We are not likely to find a common meeting ground.
My sources for this article are Wikipedia (English teachers may sigh), Keri Ladner’s article in The Christian Century, and a somewhat haphazard surfing of the internet. I hope Old Chatham Friends will post their comments, especially criticisms. (Compliments are welcome, too.)
~ Richard Russell
Sometimes I feel a momentary sadness that makes it difficult for me to get out of my recliner and do something that requires concentration, focus, and energy—like writing one of these blog articles or reading philosophy. However, I have discovered some techniques that allow me to overcome my inertia and get busy.
One way is to distract myself by watching an hour-long documentary or TV episode. It doesn’t take much effort to stream a show, during which the sadness dissipates and gives way to the motivation for a harder task. Or, I can listen to a guided meditation and raise my energy level.
Another distraction technique is simply to talk with someone. A conversation with my wife or brother can lift my spirits. I’ve thought about phoning Bill Thompson or Bob Elmendorf in moments of ennui, but I’m always afraid that Bill will talk about coding and statistics or that Bob will want to discuss Greek verb tenses.
There’s also the possibility of taking a brisk walk that causes endorphins and norepinephrine to start circulating in my brain, stimulating me to later undertake some challenging mental task. There’s a problem with this method, however. I must first get out of the recliner before I can start walking. That’s a problem!
Of course, we all have our moments of listlessness and lethargy. It would be wrong to worry too much about this common experience unless it is continuous and deepens into depression. And our Quaker faith reminds us that there is a joy in
life that transcends sadness.
Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are
something to do,
something to love,
and something to hope for.
- Joseph Addison
If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought,
happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.
- The Buddha
We are all connected to everyone and everything in the universe.
Therefore, everything one does as an individual affects the whole.
All thoughts, words, images, prayers, blessings, and deeds
are listened to by all that is.
- Serge Kahili King
Happiness blooms in the presence of self-respect and the absence of ego.
Love everyone around you.
Love everyone in the whole world.
Know that your own life is of infinite importance, as is every other life.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie
The quotes above are one of Jonathan Lockwood Huie’s daily inspirations.
~ Submitted by Richard Russell
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