Sunday, March 22, 2020

Exposed | Fourth Sunday in Lent 2020

"[A]nd don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness. Instead, you should reveal the truth about them. It’s embarrassing to even talk about what certain persons do in secret."Ephesians 5:11-12 Common English Bible 

Conspiratorial conversations annoy me. Last year in the time leading up to General Assembly I was told by someone that they wanted to speak with me in private during the event. When I demurred, suggesting that we'd probably have a chance to chat at some point, he seemed offended. The thing is, I had a notion of what he wanted to talk about, and I wasn't having it. There were two reasons: one is that I was almost certainly not going to like what he had to say, and the other is that I detest those sorts of secretive discussions.

That's not to say that I haven't participated in such self-aggrandizing idiocy in the past. Rather, it's because I have that I know how much arrogance goes into it, along with ginned-up paranoia about 'the others.' There are times that private conversations about matters of great import need to happen. This is particularly true, I would suppose, of people living under communist or fascist regimes who were plotting either their escape, or a coup. Most of the time, however, it's not a matter of life, death, freedom, and oppression. Usually there's someone who feels that they need to be in control, often because they feel that they or some group they feel they represent has lost control of a situation.

When I was still a very conservative Christian Churches/Churches of Christ missionary in Brazil it infuriated me that the other missionaries throughout the country, with the exception of those in the northeastern part of the congregation, were actively promoting a Pentecostal version of the faith. The problem, as I saw it, was that they were keeping it on the down-low so as not to lose support from American churches. As it turns out, some people in the US knew about it but accepted the explanation that Christianity in Brazil 'has to be Pentecostal' to have a chance at all. It was, they said, 'cultural.'

In my frustration I wrote an article about it and attempted to get it published in a conservative magazine of the churches. Although it was reviewed and corrected by an elder missionary in the know, the editor ultimately decided not to publish. It was too inflammatory, I believe he said.

While I didn't see that editor as being part of the problem, I was convinced that there was a larger conspiracy to hijack the movement. Now, I wasn't far off. As it turns out, the leadership of the North American Christian Convention managed in the past few years to do away with the annual gathering, replacing it (using the resources of the NACC) with a new organization geared towards promoting the growth of generic evangelicalism.

None of that mattered, really. The NACC was never mine to control. It wasn't a national voting organization, I don't believe I ever donated to it, and I'd only ever attended once. Had I stayed with that fellowship of churches there would have been an abundance of other ways to connect with like-minded believers, however annoying it might have been to have lost the national gathering. My participation in any sort of 'resistance' would not have likely made any difference, nor would it have mattered in the grand scheme of things.

It's a bit different, as I mentioned above, in the event of genuine oppression, threats to life and liberty, and so forth. Social justice movements require organization, and organization necessitates meetings and conversations. People don't normally just appear spontaneously on the street to march (despite the notable exceptions in history). It wasn't happenstance that Dr. King spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, nor even that Rosa Parks took a seen in the front of the bus one day. Those were the results of planning.

It's easy to be a straight white man pretty much all the time, including during this era of vulgar, bigoted revenge against people of color, the poor, and the lgbtq+ community for the progress they've made in recent years. The incoherent figurehead in the White House is simply carrying out the white man's racist fantasy. That sort of evil requires resistance and exposure, and that's a 'conspiracy' I'll more than gladly take up. At the same time, if someone wants to speak with me about their sad, misguided views on race, sexual orientation, and/or gender, it's going to have to be in a live, public forum. Not a debate, with winners and losers. A conversation seeking the truth and, if possible, reconciliation.