Perhaps You’re Not as Free as You Think You Are

Jesus Knows Our Address

 I’ve searched frantically for a movie clip from a made for TV film in the 90’s about the life of Jesus, and have come up with nada, zilch!  I remember the movie struck me though with this portrayal of Jesus, as He was giving his words of wisdom, as one who seemed like he was on a strong regiment of Prozac.

He was depicted in this particular movie as having this constant proverbial smile, never wiping that plastered grin off his face for too long.  I also remember some religious people didn’t like the movie at all.  Too much grace I’m afraid don’t you know.  Shocker alert!  And if I remember correctly, it was probably for the same reason they don’t like most films on the life of Jesus that don’t portray Him as a milquetoast figure; while also high on His deity, with the exact recitation of the King’s English nailed down, and extremely low on emphasizing much of his humanity to disrupt the comfort of the Pharisaic nature in us all.  But having said all that, the thing I remember most about the film was the scene when he is walking through the village and has an interaction with Mary Magdalene.   For several scenes leading up to the encounter, we see her stalking him so to speak, watching his every move, biding her time before she will see for herself what all the fuss is about with this mysterious man from Galilee.  And then it happens. As they finally have their brief encounter, Jesus extends an invitation for her to follow with an added reminder that with that call there is an invitation to be “truly” free.  And at that very moment, Mary then quips the following: “Free, Ha!  I already am free”.  To which Jesus then tenderly rebuts with the words, “No you’re not, but you could be”, with that same Joker-like grin penetrating her now deficient come-back line.

 Give Us Free!

 The culture at large talks an awful lot about freedom, especially in the home of the supposed free and the land of the brave.  We spout off a lot about our freedom, our rights, and banter with a no holds barred refrain to be exactly “who we are”, as if somehow that is what freedom actually is (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone of course).  Added to that subtle inaccuracy is the belief that somehow the repression of what is innate down deep within the fibers of our being is indeed that yet unrealized life-giving spirit which will ultimately set us on the course to: well, you guess it: happiness.  Ironically, it is also interesting to note that though our culture has by and large embarked in a wholesale boycott of Christian values that seems to speak to the contrary of our supposed freedom that is somehow boundaryless, most seem to be naively unaware that the freedom to discourse on this very idea came from the very values they now reject!  For our very ability to express our liberty and to (credulously) moralize on and on about it, is due to the 2,000-year history of breathing in the Christian air that has existed primarily in the West.  Air that came to their land in a new-found freedom experiment of which we are all still a part of.  And if this is true, perhaps we have now permanently thrown out the baby with the bathwater!

But nevertheless, the real point is this: Are those of us who have now let our proverbial freak flag fly (Neil Young) as high as it can possibly go, actually free?  And, if we are not actually free as Jesus proposed to Mary and that I now propose to us, is it not really because we bloody well don’t want to be; especially if it means it will cost its radical redefinition and thus the reorientation of the course of our life with us no longer in the driver’s seat?  And could it also be that the very things that we suppose make us free, are actually very comfortable and yet predictable chains that keep us imprisoned and in fact “unhappy” under our own administration of lock and key?

An Encounter at the Pool on Shabbat

 You know I wouldn’t stake my life on it, and I promise not to start a new denomination on its’ tenets, but sometimes I wonder if something like this was going on behind the scenes when Jesus encountered a disabled man at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath.  The text in John chapter 5 tells us that Jesus saw him lying there and realizes that his affliction has been lengthy in his life, and so he asks him an almost nonsensical question from my vantage point, but that adds to the point of our story.   He says to Him, “Do you want to become well?”, which I find telling to say the least?  And I don’t know about you, but I think my quick retort would have been, “No JC, why don’t you just go ahead and strike a match to me and put me out of my misery?  Yea, that should cover it!”  But instead, the man basically explains that it’s not that he doesn’t want to be well, but that every time he grovels over to get into the pool that is supposed to have healing powers, some other Tom, Dick or Harry gets there first.  And as a result, he simply cannot get “to” the potential healing just a few crawls away.  And in typical Jesus fashion, He says to the man, “Stand up, Pick up your mat and walk”.  And as you guessed it, the man picks up his mat and high tails it out of there.  But no so fast.  It’s Shabbat of course, and all of those religionists are ticked (another shocker alert), though that isn’t the point of our emphasis today.

Being Disabled Ain’t So Bad

 What actually struck me, is that after the dogmatists pin the poor crippled man on the details of his healing and remind him what day it is (as if he didn’t actually know), Jesus then encounters the man one more time before we exit the scene.  And Jesus says to him these attention-grabbing words: “Look, you have become well.  Don’t sin anymore, lest anything worse happen to you”. 

 Now before all you “grace-only” people start to flip your lid about where I’m headed with this, let me just say that I find it noteworthy that Jesus responds to him in this way.  Whereas most of the time Jesus says something along the lines of “Your faith has healed you”, or something similar, He says instead what most of us Pharisees both secretly believe and want Jesus to say all along.  And that is, that the man must have done something to deserve his plight.  And here’s our justification right here sitting up pretty just like stink on poop, served up nice and smelly!  But as I linger a little longer at the table of the Lord’s word, I wonder if what we find is of course some of that, but also what we discover is that the man really didn’t necessarily want the deliverance; just yet.  But perhaps maybe, just maybe, the long imprisonment of his physical ailment became like a familiar and comforting friend.  And perhaps again, the chains that afforded him to no longer have to beg for his daily meal and sustenance, was a little out of his comfort zone.  Which is why he always seemed to come up just a scuttle shy of his actual healing.  Or just maybe, like you and I at some point in our life, he really didn’t want the freedom that only the Lord can give when it’s all said and done.  And perchance we too, like the man by the pool, realize both what the release of the chains will mean in our new experience of survival now naked and afraid, and yet also the healing that would come with teeth in it, reminding us that with the graceful call, is also the size-able “Don’t sin anymore” part we often rather resolutely miss.

 Are you Really Free?

 You know Jesus said that it was actually the “truth” that would set us free If I’m not mistaken.  And as best as I can tell from some forty-nine of my fifty-five years sitting at the feet of the scriptures, that truth is both manifold and inexhaustible.  It is of course at the outset, the truth about who Jesus is and the life He came to give which is only found in Him whether we buy in or not.  It’s also found in His words, His life, and His body and blood that we ingest into ourselves both figuratively and literally (Your welcome Catholics and Protestants).  And yet it’s also the truth about us is it not?  It’s the truth about the mirror we hold up each day, now free to not look away but to rather embrace what we find and ask God to help us “sin no more”.  It’s the truth about the houses we build made of sand, the pride that often comes right before our fall, and the deification of ourselves as the end-all, be-all of our existence on this earth.  It’s the truth about what we think is our freedom to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and submit to nothing or no one, and equally about the actual enslavement we have instead heaped up for ourselves by ignoring the sine qua non to our actual freedom.  And perhaps the truth is, we don’t really want to be free if that’s what it boils down to.  And so, I propose that most of us that pride ourselves in sticking our very stoic middle finger up to any who would take us down from our libertine pedestal, are actually not free at all.  At least that’s what the Son of Man said.  But guess what?  You could be!

Selah

Trumpism, Not Donald Trump: Part I

I’m not a Politician

 I’ve been cautioned in my own spirit as a given rule not to write about anything political in nature. My reasons are manifold.  One has to do with the fact that I am not a political pundit, nor do I have a degree in political science, and neither do I sit around reading news articles all day for fun.  This of course led to my decisive resolve to simply heed the “stay in your lane bro” advice and talk about what I might know a thing or two about. You know, things such as talking about my cracked up American life in search of the Jesus missing in America and all that.  And this indeed could be sage advice.

On another note, I did have at least one friend that encouraged me to write about hot-button issues that people were actually interested in.  His analysis was that nobody really cared about what kind of day I was having, or about Jesus and the narrow path and all that.  I tried to tell him that though I’d love to be known for my writing, I really just want to write about what actually moves me, with the hopes that maybe that in itself would be enough to gather a few readers.  With that being said, and with much trepidation, I took his advice a couple of times after writing “The Light in Christendom is But a Flicker Now” parts 1 and 2, when I wrote one blog in particular entitled: “Trump vs. Everyfrickingbody: Our New Mascot for Sticking It To The Man” https://marknealprince.com/2017/06/09/trump-vs-everyfrickingbody-our-new-mascot-for-sticking-it-to-the-man/,and one more a little later entitled “As It Turns Out, Freedom is Not Actually Free: On Flags, Freedom and Racism in America https://marknealprince.com/2018/05/28/as-it-turns-out-freedom-is-not-actually-free-on-flags-freedom-and-racism-in-america/.  And the truth is, it felt really good to write those pieces at the time.

Fast forward till now, and I of course survived unscathed and even got some positive responses, even though I’m sure my liberal friends either unfriended me or put me on a long snooze vacation.  Although sadly, as my friend and I continued to have discussions, mostly about our Christian faith and encouraging one another in it, our clear political differences became a topic he most wanted to talk about.  And as usual, I tried to do so by allowing myself to both be challenged by his thought process, and to likewise challenge him with my rebuttal. He came to the conclusion that Fox news had blinded me to the light, concluding that was responsible for my total thoughts on these matters, and that every black person on the planet that had views even similar to mine (honkey that I am) were mere “Uncle Tom’s” or “house niggas”.  For him, that was an open and shut case, no matter how I tried to invoke logic and reason into the discussion.  He wasn’t having it.  And the more and more I tried to bring us back to being brothers in Christ, he decided he could no longer have a relationship with me.  I was hurt about this, because I don’t have too many “brothers” as it is, which is all the more reason why politics and religion don’t make good bed fellows.  Yet here I go again appealing to both.

Not all Deplorables Are Cut From the Same Cloth

My theory is that it doesn’t take a Rhode’s Scholar after 2 ½ years now into the Trump experiment, to realize that the designation of “deplorables” to half of the voters in this country has not served the democratic party well.  In fact, as of recently (enter “The Squad”), my contention is that this type of tirade is the gift that keeps on giving quite frankly.  First of all, this is because lumping all people into the same basket of a particular voting block is to have taken one’s thinking cap “off”, which should be a slap in the face to people as learned and intellectual as the other side claims to be.  But the truth is, that “deplorables” voted for Donald Trump for a variety of both gullible, selfish and even very noble reasons.  Imagine that!  Secondly, as any good American knows, when you start the name calling, the “Hatfield and McCoy” gloves come off.  And as a result, a fight will ensue until the cows come home, and for many generations hence. So then, what should have been instructive for the democratic party, has instead caused them to dig their roots down deeper into this overarching narrative and ramp it a notch further; by bestowing an equally appealing naming convention to the uninformed masses called “the Dregs of Society”.  So to wax Forrest Gumpian here, “I may not be a politically astute man, but I do know what needing a new game plan is”!

How Can Christians Vote for Trump?

 Of course, among other things, one of the questions on everyone’s mind has been, “How can those who claim to be Christians vote for Trump”?  And though there are a myriad of reasons why voters who have no faith to speak of have also cast their ballot for the Tweeter and Chief, I’ve been somewhat desperate to expound further on why many Christians have actually done so.  And though it will take several blogs to attempt to unpack my thoughts on Trumpism, my explanation for the Christian part in it are fourfold.

First of all, it was due to a reaction to the current vitriol against what made the West great in their eyes. And as a result, like other people who also love their country, the Christian vote was for “Trumpism” and not necessarily for Donald Trump.  Now to be sure there are many who actually now like the guy in spite of himself (myself included), and who will again vote for what he represents.  And so for them, Donald Trump is a “middle finger” to the liberal mayhem and the now popular hatred of America among our own ranks! And yes, even Christians, for what they would call “Just war” reasons, signed off on the not so affectionate hand gesture! And like other voters in this block, they cast their silent Trump vote in a reaction to this vilification of what they believe has made the West great, and in the judgements of many (both foreign and domestic) who have studied its history.  The West of course also includes the American Republic experiment and “idea”, whose founding documents have equally been both admirably studied, wrongfully canonized, and painstakingly scrutinized by those near and far as well.  In short, their concern is that the ideals of reasoned discourse in the market square; freedom of religion; the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of any kind of happiness they can find; free market capitalism that either makes or breaks us; taxation with representation from a government that stays out of our business and our pocketbooks; and one who also protect its country from those who mean it harm have fallen on very hard times.

Now it is not in the scope of this blog to deliberate on all the explanations of all these things while equally positing their opposition, nor is it in my time allotment or particular pedigree to do so from a purely academic sense.  Nonetheless, it is these particular things that grateful Americans are in a fuss about.  And this includes those born on our soil, and those red, yellow, black and white grafted in by becoming its co-equal citizenry.  Those who are still just deplorable enough to believe that these principles and what once made America great is actually a big frickin deal, and those of which are currently under blatant attack by spoiled-rotten, postmodern anarchists!   And though admittedly America is not without her faults and colorful past, I would like to propose that those of us on this side of the isle would like to know what nation we are being compared to as the standard in course correction.  So yeah, we get that people have the right as America’s sons to whine and complain about everything under the sun that was provided for them with blood, sweat and tears. But just like an ungrateful teenager gloating in parental provisions, we think perhaps the time has come for someone to send them to their damn room without any supper.  Which could also be another phrase for “go back to where you came from” from someone caught up in the continual insolence in the current national room.

 

Selah

 

Stay tuned for Part II