Pastor's Blog

Over the past four years a growing part of my job has been viewing videos sent by people who want to know whether the things in them are true or not.  They are usually videos produced by conservative people, often conservative religious people, that claim to have “secret information” about a political topic from sources that go unrevealed.

Quite a few folks sent me the “My Pillow” guy, Mike Lindell’s, two-hour video “Absolute Proof” about the stealing of the 2020 election.  I watched the whole thing, and I am still waiting for the “absolute proof” part.

Lindell proposes a complex hacking of the 2020 election by the Chinese to install Biden as President.  What I wanted to know the entire time was:  How did a pillow manufacturer get all this complex technical and politically sensitive information?

I kept rewinding the video, trying to find the source of Lindell’s charts so I could verify the information he was providing.  Sources were lacking.  Lindell just posted a chart and said “This is an election audit” or “This is a computer presentation of the hackers at work during the election” – and I was supposed to take his word for it.

Lindell seems like a genuinely nice and sincere guy.  If you don’t provide sources – if I can’t trace your work back to a credible eyewitness – you broke one of the first rules of good journalism and good research.  The most that can be said is that your case is interesting, but not yet proven.  Give me more and better information – and tell me where you got it and from whom.

Without eyewitnesses, evidence is just hearsay, and most of us learned that hearsay is unreliable playing “Whispering Down the Lane” as children.  Hearsay is only credible evidence for gossip columns, tabloids, and junior high girls.

The court of public opinion has a very low bar for what constitutes reliable evidence.  That is why politicians – regardless of party – like to appeal to it.  

If we’re interested in truth -- as Christians should be -- we need to be more demanding about what constitutes the truth.  We need to check and doublecheck our sources and our information.  Where did it come from?  Who said it and to whom and under what circumstances?  Why and in what context did they say it?  Do we have the whole story or was something ripped out of context?  We need to be relentless about confirming the truth -- not just accepting what we're told because it’s what we want to hear.

More than once I have chided people about the need to confirm sources lest they spread false information, and more than once I have received the response (even from professing Christians) “What does it matter?”

The truth always matters.  Only the father of lies doesn’t think so.

My wife and I waited for our test results in the sterile little room in the clinic.  After a meaningless knock on the door the doctor entered, uninvited -- a thirty-something gal with a perky ponytail.  She introduced herself jovially and said with a giggle and a clap of her hands, "OK.  You both tested positive for COVID!"  My wife and I pumped our fists and shouted in unison “YES!”.

For us, COVID was a mild head cold.  If it weren’t for the telltale loss of the sense of taste and smell, I wouldn’t have even noticed I was sick.

I’ve publicly expressed that we are quite well.  But some people have privately asked, “How are you – REALLY?”, certain that we are putting a good face on a tragedy.  No.  COVID was a mild head cold, and we really are quite well.

If you look at the numbers, what my wife and I experienced is what most people experience.  COVID, as a rule, is experienced as something between a mild cold and a hard-hitting but brief case of the flu.
As a rule, most people don’t die of COVID.
As a rule, most people don’t end up in the ICU or on ventilators.
As a rule, most people don’t even end up hospitalized.
As a rule, it’s experienced like the cold or the flu.
I’m not denying that COVID can be dangerous or fatal.
I’m not saying that precautions should not be taken.
I’m simply saying that, as a rule, COVID has proved itself not all that dangerous to most of the populace.
The horror stories are the exception, not the rule.

A more dangerous disease in our society seems to be our inability to think in terms of rules and exceptions.  It used to be standard practice, but it now seems an almost lost art.  Instead, attention is focused on exceptions and exceptions seem to be turned into rules and practice and policy are dictated by the exceptions rather than the actual rules.

For example, most police officers are honorable and trustworthy.  Not only do we shine the light on the exceptions – the few bad cops – but there is a loud clamor across the nation to see the institution of policing as a criminal entity, dangerous to society, that needs to be distrusted, defunded, and dismantled.  

Most white people are not cruel to non-white people, and most white people despise white supremacists and Neo-Nazis and want nothing to do with them.  Such “hate groups” exist (always have, always will) but America has made them a microscopic minority – by far the exception and not the rule.  But you’d never suspect that from the way the “threat of white supremacy” is presented in the mainstream media.  You'd think they are poised to overthrow the government and take over the nation!

So many issues and “crises” seem manufactured this way nowadays.  The true rule is ignored and an exception is blown out of proportion.  Then there is a crusade for radical change to the rule for the sake of the exaggerated exception.  But hard cases make bad law, and exceptions make bad rules.

We need to stop thinking this way and return to sanity. 
We need to call people out who confuse rules and exceptions.
The rule is the rule and exceptions are exceptions.
If the exception is a problem, deal with it.  But don’t claim it is the rule.
Lies warp reality, and warped reality ends up destroying good rules and making troublesome exceptions worse.

Right now, there are fellow Christians elsewhere in the world suffering for their faith.  Having committed no evil worthy of punishment, they find themselves in prison.  Many were betrayed by friends who were bribed or threatened to testify against them.  The accusations were pretzel-twisted distortions of the accused’s writings or conversations, bent unrecognizably into things he never said.  The accused’s defense in court, no matter how well prepared or how logical or how true, means nothing.  The guilty verdict was decided before he was arrested.

The trial was just a farce played out publicly so that the complicit media had a headline and a video clip to put on the news, demonstrating that the “criminal” had an opportunity for vindication, but failed to make his case. 

We imagine that people imprisoned falsely might appeal their cases to get justice.  But to whom?  Those that convicted them unjustly in the first place? 

Confinement in prison is bad enough.  People convicted falsely are tortured by their own heads as they try to make sense every day of the injustice that happened to them.  Surely there was a mistake.  Surely something was misunderstood.  Surely someone can fix this.  These thoughts go around in their heads and go nowhere.  There is nothing to be done but endure the sentence for ten or twenty years or more.  Ten or twenty years of one’s adult life lost and gone.  And for what?

Here in the West, we can’t imagine that people in power could be that evil or that a nation’s justice system could be that corrupt.  But they can be, and they are.

It couldn’t happen here in America, we tell ourselves.  But it is on its way to happening here.  We are watching it strut onto the stage, boldly, proudly, naked and unashamed.  And half of America marvels at the magnificence of the emperor’s ensemble while the rest of us look on in confused bewilderment at the emperor’s nakedness.

Some have expressed that I preach about politics too much and that my concerns about persecution are unwarranted.  That America is God’s chosen nation and can’t possibly fall.  The Jews thought the same thing (and with better reason).  But God sent Babylon and later Rome to tear down the Temple and lay bare the Jews’ erroneous belief.

I’ve been told that we can’t suffer persecution because Jesus promised to rapture us away so we wouldn’t suffer.  But the last thing Jesus said to his apostles was this:  “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16.33).  That looks like a promise of suffering to me.

And I’ve been told that my concerns are unwarranted because our attitude should be “God’s got this!  Amen?”  I somehow can’t imagine visiting an imprisoned Christian in Iran or China, flashing a big smile, shooting a big thumbs-up, and saying cheerily, “God’s got this, bro!  Amen?” and then walking away to freedom as his cell door slams shut and the lock clicks.

Nor can I imagine standing at the foot of Jesus’ cross and uttering the same words.

Life must be lived in the real world, not romantically on a stained-glass window.  Otherwise a rock is bound to shatter your halo one of these days.

Politics are unavoidable and are dismissed to our peril.  Politics form the backdrop against which people live, and the stories of Joseph, Daniel, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles make little sense apart from their political backdrops.  Our story doesn’t either.  Politics must be given its place in the story.  But I am preaching, not about the politics, but about the pressures being pushed upon us by the political world to compromise the truth.  And I am trying to push us in the opposite direction.  We dare not compromise the truth.

Jesus told Pilate before going to be flogged, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world:  to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18.37)

If you have heard His voice, you are of the truth, and called to stand for it, defend it, and represent it in the face of the lies.  Stubbornly and without apology.  Because that is who we are and who we must be. 

That is what I am preaching…

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