February 21, 2018 by Ron Madson
“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” —Jesus (Matthew 15:8)
I may have misjudged a meme I see being shared in social media where a concerned student asks God: “Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?” and God replies: “I am not allowed in your schools?”–God. On seeing this meme I thought “Nonsense!” but then upon further reflection I might have too quickly dismissed the shallow theology and illogic to this meme:
My first reaction
My visceral reaction —“They are defining a God that must be really easily offended/petty to not protect little children like the dozens of little children killed at Sandy Hook and one school after another these past two decades. They have imagined a God who is not willing to intervene to protect innocent children if they do not offer public prayers in school or do not profess their love for Him enough…as if God has some belief meter he uses to determine which children to save.”
But then my logical mind kicked in to test this theory and I realized that IF how often God’s name is mentioned in schools or how many in the schools believe in God is the primary factor in securing his protection, then that hypothesis could be easily confirmed/tested by measuring the relative faith in God/beliefs of other countries. It is not even debatable that every single poll/study shows that the percentage of U.S. citizens that pray to God and declare their belief in God and mention his name is FAR, FAR greater than the dozens of first world secular countries that do not allow school prayer, are far more non-believing in God and in fact make sure that belief in “God” or religion is not the basis of their public discourse—–and yet most of these countries have zero school shootings and a tiny, tiny fraction of mass killings.
But then I considered that perhaps I may be misjudging other countries and what it means to “evict” God from one’s home, community, schools and country…and then it dawned on me how in comparison to other countries with virtually no school shootings or internal mass murders of innocent children the “Evicting of God” is greater in the USA than their countries…not in words but in deeds.
Trigger warning: The rest of this post many, if not most, will find offensive in words and photos—also a profanity alert. I warned you if you keep reading. This is not about what I/you/we say about our belief in God/Jesus. Words do not count except to underline our collective hypocrisy about “believing God” or professing to “follow Jesus.” It is about what we actually DO. In other words, saying you believe in God, public prayers, and outward proclamations of faith do not count—the only measurement I am using is what you/we do independent as to whether we actually utter believing words or not….
THE MANY WAYS WE HAVE SHOWN GOD THAT WE HAVE EVICTED THE LIFE AND EXAMPLE OF JESUS IN OUR NATION:
WE EVICT GOD and the teachings of his Son, Jesus when we invade sovereign nations and systematically cause the death of millions of civilians, perpetually bomb their homes killing little children, ripping apart pregnant women and destroying their cities wholesale. We evicted Jesus’ teachings when after 9/11 we sought REVENGE—we have destroyed millions of innocent lives and created generational hatred.
This ^^^^ is a photo of just ONE of the millions we have injured to go with the 1.4 million Iraqi civilians lives we took on our revenge tour as we invaded and devastated one country after another. You think not? Read the book “Generation Kill” by an embedded U.S. reporter that was in the first wave when we entered Iraq. This “on the front line” reporter graphically depicted our jacked up and scared soldiers killing everything in sight in “free fire zones”, i.e., the same approach we had in Viet Nam where the orders were to kill everything in these zones and make up excuses later. THIS is what it means to EVICT GOD. There are not enough public prayers wrapped around our flag that can cover the shame of taking innocent life. If you supported this war and all our wars of aggression and daily bombing of children day and night by every damn administration from Bush to Obama to now Trump (who takes pride in upping the killing) then YOU have EVICTED GOD far more than someone who claims to be an atheist or agnostic but opposed these wars. Entire nations of primarily non-believers who do not pray at all publicly but refuse to engage in such wars follow Jesus more than our hypocritical nation.
Does this picture I posted above offend you? I hope so. It should horrify all of us and we should make every damn war supporting legislator —–and those that post endlessly their love fest for the military and are offended if we do not pledge allegiance to the flag of our nation that sponsors such evil—- see hundred of these pictures.
WE EVICT GOD when we spend more money every year in creating weapons that destroy life than the next ten largest military spending countries combined. We spend far, far more each year in paying our military industrial complex to create weapons of death and each year our military industrial complex provides 80% of all the military hardware sold to the world—including our enemies. We place our best sons and daughters on the altars of war every year–WE ARE MOLOCH! (reference for those studying the Old Testament this year). We spend more each year on our war machine than in programs that preserve and nourish life. THIS is what it really means to EVICT GOD.
When we support invasions and perpetual bombing of one country after another, then all the flag waving, placing our hand over our heart and saying “God bless America” is a hypocritical false idolatry to a God that sent his Son to show another way. By comparison other first world countries who do not claim to believe in God but have rejected invading and killing innocent civilians are actually following God with their deeds. Would not a just God be more likely impressed with their acts than our words or do you think your/our words will save you/us in the final judgment?
HEALTH CARE/ SICK AND AFFLICTED
WE EVICT GOD from our nation when we fail to provide universal coverage for ALL that are sick. It is NOT that hard if we really loved ALL of his children as our own. Jesus taught that if you have done it unto the least, i.e., the ‘sick and afflicted” then you have done it unto me. Every first world nation but the USA provides universal health coverage because they do not want one single person who is sick, living in pain/fear to not have access to health care.
Is God more pleased to see a nation chose to provide health care for everyone even if they do not pray to him enough or profess believing in Him OR is God/Jesus more pleased with a nation that prays in Jesus’ name but at the same time is willing to strip health care from those children, the elderly and the destitute sick?
WE EVICT GOD when we demonize strangers in our country and tear them apart from their families. Sure it is the law but it is man’s law and not God’s law. Even the harsh Old Testament God set a higher standard:
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”-–Leviticus 19:33-34
WE EVICT GOD when we break apart families, worry that somehow they will get health care or needed assistance. Jesus was a dark skinned Jew not a Norwegian and when we evict those that do not look like us are we not evicting God/Jesus who taught us that what we do with “the least” we do unto Him?
WE EVICT GOD when we are totally on board with increasing each year our military expenditures (this latest budget an 80 BILLION increase) while demanding cuts to save comparatively pennies that are used to feed our nation poor/children—-all the while protesting that they are “stealing from us.” We judge those among us already pressed to point of breakdown such as single mothers or struggling parents if they are not “working enough” to deserve food —in a nation that has enough to feed the whole world many times over each year.
WE EVICT GOD from our hearts when we judge those in need of welfare or stay our hand while being “A OKAY” with trillion dollars of tax cuts for billionaires.
WE EVICT GOD when we do not do everything we can to make abortion rare if not at all (except health mother). Abortion falls into the same category of gun control that I will address next—it is the law and here to stay for now, but what I am addressing is our unwillingness to provide safety nets, welfare, counseling and support for expectant mothers who feel abandoned. For four years I interviewed women who sought to be baptized that previously had an abortion. With rare exceptions they had felt abandoned by family and their community and felt helpless. If anti-abortion advocates (and I am one of them) were really concerned about abortion they would encourage their legislators on state and federal level to INCREASE welfare, food stamps, CHIPS (Children Health Insurance), and all the necessary support both before birth and after that we can provide to encourage keeping a child rather than placing an already despaired mother into a state of hopelessness.
These women need HELP not penalties/judgment. Punishing them does not solve abortion. ALL of us are responsible for this culture of death once we realize WHY most chose abortion.
GUNS–A CULTURE OF DEATH
WE EVICT GOD and chose to reject Jesus when we defend at every turn the proliferation of weapons that inflict death. I get that guns are here and likely to stay for generations but you would think someone who believed in God/Jesus would support incrementally curtailing the production and massive distribution of guns especially automatic weapons that can kill dozens in a matter of seconds.
There is another of many memes going around of a man who takes his automatic weapon and destroys it and being mocked by gun advocates.
I get that this appears and is on some level illogical for the good guy to do this, but on a deeper level it is more than just symbolic—it is, in my opinion, an act of faith.
We have a lot of bumper sticker christians that speak of trusting the Lord, will wave the flag and demand school prayer as if their words were enough. But if they really believed Jesus’ words and example –and not just lip service –they would know that those in the last days that finally chose to follow Jesus “shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks,” and turn unto the Lord their God with all their hearts…”
The Book of Mormon which is a sacred text of my faith in addition to the bible speaks of those born again “burying their swords” deep so they could not be retrieved. And then the last voice in the Book of Mormon invites us gentiles to bury our swords:
Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood,
Is this admonition insane? Sure it is to non believers and those that have evicted God/Jesus in their hearts. But real Christianity— at least the kind we saw in those that followed Jesus throughout history and who had the courage to really change the world—knew what it meant to not evict His teachings in their life and while they appeared foolish to the world they sought for something better through such acts of faith.
I am a realist and not expecting anyone to destroy their guns but at least if you are going to call yourself a follower of Christ then good hell at least support a gradual cutting back of such proliferation rather than go all in mocking any attempts to make these instruments of death less pervasive.
SO WHO EVICTED GOD AND WHO DID NOT?
Of course I know why the meme about “Evicting God from our schools” was created/shared and endorsed. It is facile to believe that taking out school prayer means we have evicted God from our culture. But there has to come a time when we become more introspective about how we have REALLY evicted God—not in outward words but in rejecting the teaching and example manifest in the life of his Son, Jesus.
I do not pledge allegiance to the flag. Those that know me superficially would understandably conclude that I am rejecting my country and its values. Those that know me well know it is because of my beliefs in the values of this country and for that “which it should stand” and because I really do take serious and value our freedoms is the WHY I cannot in good conscience, for both a secular and spiritual reasons discussed in other posts, pledge allegiance or be required to undertake any earthly loyalty test to ANY nation no matter how virtuous it is or might think it is.
By the same token the value of just words or superficial pledging of allegiance/belief in God means very little to nothing if we have evicted his truth, light, teachings and example in how we relate to those that are the “least among us” both domestically and abroad—they are all God’s children.
Claims of belief in God and all the public prayers and taking God’s name in vain in any form means little to nothing to me any longer. For example, I want to know how you/me/us or any nation to which we pledge allegiance treat the poor, the sick, refugees, the defenseless or what Jesus called “the least among you.” I want to know if my country is engaged in killing children for “God’s sake.” I am disgusted by all the fucking excuses—if you support a nation that kills children and innocent civilians then you have evicted God in your life and all your prayers and piety about believing God mean nothing. And if you are more horrified by my swearing just now or the latest Fox News induced worry about whether I say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” THAN the fact that our nation has in the last seventeen years killed literally millions while still daily dropping dozen of bombs each week in several countries ripping apart bodies— then you need to re-examine the shallowness of your religious culture that makes you that way.
And how do we think our professed belief in God sounds to God when we are constantly whining how the poor, the hungry, the sick, the immigrants who work their ass of each day in our fields are somehow “taking” from us while supporting policies/legislation that takes away health care for children, medicare for the old or in any way oppresses those suffering? If we are constantly demeaning the poor while supporting those in power who are each day doing all they can to make sure the rich get richer— then don’t tell me about how other nations or individuals who make no claim of belief or religion have “evicted” God when they make sure that every single person has health care, is fed, clothed, housed as they spend more each year on social uplift than funding a massive military. Without professing any belief many of these “Godless” nations have shown in actual deeds a willingness to follow Jesus’ admonition to provide for “the least” while bumper sticker ‘Murican “christians” think that God approves of them as they jealously make sure no one “gets something for nothing” while being clueless to their being themselves each day beneficiaries of countless mercies/graces.
So while in fact our schools do in fact allow private prayer in school— contrary to the claims we do not allow God in our schools— we have had the good sense to not impose upon students public prayer which means if I am Protestant in a Catholic community I do not have to recite prayers to Virgin Mary (which I actually did as LDS growing up in Maryland) or as Jew pray to Jesus or as Christian pray prostrate to Mecca.
But if we are going to have a real discussion about EVICTING GOD and fostering an environment in our nation contrary to his teachings, then let’s look beyond the superficial demonstrations of belief or whether someone makes some public display of religious conformity and consider what makes or does not make us in real life and death choices a God believing nation lest we continue to demonstrate to God, Heaven and the World that we are the “hypocritical nation” as prophesied by Isaiah that takes God’s name in vain.
Your heartfelt compassion for the victims of violence and desire for peace and tranquility for all of God’s children is laudable Ron.
Writing from the safety of your home or office in Utah County, where your children and grandchildren will never want for a meal, warm place to sleep in peace or clothes to wear allows you to indulge in lofty thoughts and aspirations.
If you lived in a small town in Syria where Bashar al Asaad’s military was spreading chemicals to kill you and your progeny or if you lived in Mosul, Iraq while ISIS militants were about to annihilate your family, I suspect the content of The Mormon Worker would be devoted to more exigent topics, like “Evicting Evil Killers.”
The world is full of evil actors Ron. Satan has a great hold on the hearts and minds of millions and millions of really nasty people. Those evil people are not threatening your living room in Utah County because of a military complex which prevents it. You can abjure violence because others are committing violence on your behalf.
There is no argument that resorting to unnecessary aggression leads to retaliation. It is agreed that restraint in response to confrontations is the preferred approach. But this lofty philosophy of ending the cycle of violence fails to address the question of what to do about evil people who embrace violence as their tactic of choice?
Do the innocent and weak in Syria deserve to be protected?
Should the United States have relied more on diplomacy to capture Osama bin Laden? If there was credible evidence that bin Laden had acquired nuclear weapons for example, would that not justify immediate action?
Ten million people died after civil war broke out in Pakistan in 1971. Idi Amin slaughtered hundreds of thousands before rebels expelled him from Uganda in 1979. The Khmer Rouge killed at least a million people in Cambodia.
I met and spoke with Yeonmi Park, the young woman who escaped North Korea by crossing a frozen river and three mountains at night. She said she never understood the true meaning of love while in North Korea.
Do we not have a moral obligation to defend the weak, oppressed and defenseless?
Perhaps a modicum of nuance to your well-intentioned and sincere advocacy for peace in the world would strengthen its power of persuasion.
There is in your intellectual approach an unacknowledged disdain for western democracy and admiration of totalitarianism cloaked in theological justifications. Your condemnation of the U.S. and Britain is partial and not balanced by a castigation of Russia, China, radical Islamists or any number of African communist groups.
I know people who have buried a child. I could not attempt to comfort them by uttering, “I know how you feel” because I do not know what that feels like. Until evil killers are at your front door Ron, you will not know that fear. Yeonmi Park spoke through tears expressing her hope that North Koreans might some day be liberated.
Gary, your very thoughtful reply is appreciated. I admit that my approach is imbalanced in that I do not address the horror of the evils found in totalitarian regimes or acts of aggression in other countries. Not addressing their evil should not be considered admiration. I only tackle what I consider the evil which our military industrial complex inflicts on the world and colossal misappropriation of resources. Why? Because what I write is for domestic consumption.
I do agree that I write from a very limited personal experience and in a setting of comfort and security that narrows what little I have to offer. I am certain a lived front line experiences as you mention would reshape my perspective considerably if not dramatically. But as Thoreau said, we are all limited by the narrowness of our experiences even if it is in the trenches which can create its own limited perspective. Sometimes being removed is the only way to see it from a “20,000 foot view.”
But I wonder sometimes why I even bother writing on such matters? What demons possess me I am not entirely sure.
I think that is interesting you had a chance to visit with that young lady that escaped N. Korea. I still am of the belief or maybe hope that the best or most likely effective way to bring down such ugly regimes, whether N. Korea, Cuba or wherever is to find a way to build bridges and destroy them through proliferation of economic and social intercourse.
Again, what you wrote gives me pause as to my approach and how to frame it in the future, i.e., more balanced to make it more palatable to a broader audience.
Last fall we put up a “Black Lives Matters” sign in our yard. Before long one of our neighbors countered with an “All Lives Matter” sign.
I thought about Jesus saying, “Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these …” Why didn’t he just say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto anybody …”
Today 12 Oct 2020 is Indigenous peoples day. Our current “come follow me” reading in the Book of Mormon is all about the resurrected Lord telling the indigenous people when the latter day decendants of the European imperialist/colonizers are ripened in iniquity and full of hipocrisy, then the indigenous people who have been scattered and oppressed will finally rise up like a young lion and destroy their oppressors. Then these indigenous peoples will all be converted in short order and build up the New Jerusalem withthe assistance of the relatively few repentant church members of European descent.
Read chapters 15, 16, 20,&21 of 3 Nephi in the context of Nephi’s vision of the latterdays and Zenos’s allegory of the olive tree, etc.
European American members have a hard time understanding these prophecies because of their strong tradition of the righteousnes of “manjfest destiny” and American (USA) Exceptionalism.
Unfortunately things have only gone further from Jesus’ teachings in this country. God help us.