Friday, February 28, 2014

Too Wonderful For Me

Too Wonderful for Me

There are three things too wonderful for me...things I do not understand.

Persecution, Creationism, Southerners

Who mistreats you? Sometime ago one of the Psalter readings for Morning Prayer was Psalm 35, where these words are found:

      False witnesses did rise up:
      they laid to my charge things that I knew not.
      They rewarded me evil for good:
      to the great discomfort of my soul.
      Nevertheless, when they were sick,
      I put on sackckoth,
      and humbled my soul with fasting:
      and my prayer shall turn into mine own bosom.
      I behaved myself as though it had been my friend, or my brother:
      I went heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.
                                                                               (vs.11 - 14, Coverdale)

kids.jpgAs I read these words not one unbeliever came to mind. Whom was David thinking about when he wrote them? It seems these words are not about the Philistines or other external enemies of Israel. These persecutors seem to be people David knew and with whom he had a relationship. They must have been fellow Israelites, at least externally people who shared his faith, brethren among the covenant people. Perhaps he is thinking about Saul or Absalom or someone else who turned against him. He did good to them.  He knew when they were in trouble (in this case sickness), identified with them, and prayed for them. But they wronged him. They told untruths about him and charged him with things he knew nothing about. It occurred to me that those who came to my mind are fellow believers. I could think of believers whom I believe told lies about me and of those to whom I showed compassion who showed me something very different. I thought of a man, to whose family I gave perhaps the most attentive pastoral care in the dying and funeral of his mother as I gave in all the years I was a Presbyterian minister, who weeks later turned against me. I thought of a man to whom I gave loyalty and for whose cause I spoke who gave me something quite different. This is is too wonderful for me. But even more wonderful is that I may well come to others' minds when they read those those verses. There are New Testament examples of “crossways” relationships in the church - Paul and Barnabas, Euodia and Synteche, Paul and those who deserted him at his first defense. In the western church at this time it is a reality - and a sad one - that those who are most likely to harm and hurt us and to be harmed and hurt by us are Christians.

Flood Geology.jpgHard-line Creationism. Over at Reformation21 Richard Phillips approvingly quotes words from a paper by Charles Hodge in which Hodge says that Darwinism is atheism. Phillips goes on to point out what he sees as the relevance of this to the recent Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye dust-up. But before he quotes Hodge, Mr. Phillips describes Hodge: “Hodge (who was hardly a hard-core creationist) understood the character and function of Darwinism.” Hodge surely made the Christian confession: “I believe in one God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible” (Nicene Creed). Hodge saw naturalistic Darwinism as atheism.  Now why is Hodge not “a hard-core creationist”? It is not because he at all doubted, much less wrote or spoke against, the truth that God is the Creator of everything. It has to be because of Hodge’s openness the geology of his day (this means he was not a “flood geologist”) and to the likelihood that the earth is old and that the days of creation represent geological ages. I understand that a substantial number of people draw the line at a young earth, flood geology, and 6 days of 24 hours length. I understand that for them it is a matter of standing by, with, and on the Biblical revelation. But, it is too wonderful for me that that is where the line is drawn.

Confederate Cemetery.jpgAway, Away. I have noticed this phenomenon on Facebook: Some (insert adjective) Yankee says something negative about the South, its heritage, its symbols (flags and such). Some (usually older) Southerner, such as The Curmudgeon, replies, defending the right of Southerners to have an attachment to their history, their ancestors, their heroes, their heritage, maybe the political and Constitutional principles held by the Southern states, their symbols (again read flags) and such like. (I have yet to note anyone longing for the restoration of slavery, or endorsing segregation, or calling for secession, or expressing racist views.) But what follows is the metaphorical rolling of eyes, the dismissive look, and the knowing smile of not a little intellectual and moral superiority, Then come charges of “blind spots”, racism, denial of the Gospel, and, worst of all, insensitivity.  These things can be stated as “when did you stop beating your wife?” interrogatories. Sometimes a Southerner will point out that people from other regions of the country do not understand the Southern consciousness, they not having been born into or raised with it - or one might say “immersed” in it. They do not understand what occurs in the heart at Stonewall Jackson’s grave in Lexington (heck, I get teary at Traveller's grave or looking at the stuffed Little Sorrel), or how Robert E. Lee could be hero and role model, or what one sees with his mind's eye might have been as he stands in the tree line at Gettysburg and imagines himself thereon July 3, 1863. This is an obvious thing. I wasn’t raised Irish or Dutch or New Yorker, so there are certain things about such cultures and people I don’t get. And, it is ironic that, inasmuch as these are the same folks are ones who are not averse to saying that no white person can understand the black experience or has any right to be critical of black culture, respond that, of course, they understand, because they can study the South as academics -  from historical and sociological standpoints. Then, and this is too wonderful for me, there follow calls for repentance and for letting go and moving on (again ironic? yes, of course) as though Southerners of the past and the few who still care have not. What is the most loyal and patriotic part of the country? What region historically contributes in a wildly disproportionate matter to the officer corps of the U.S. Army? What it amounts to is, “Away, away, away with the South and Dixie.” Now, I can be and have been strongly critical of the South. I have had not a few negative experiences of Mississippi. Moreover, I kick my own butt for allowing myself to get drawn into these discussions which accomplish nothing and tell myself not to let it happen again. But, when people start talking down my people and heritage, they’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

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