Saturday, October 22, 2005

Then How the Reindeer Loved Him...(Part Two)

Generally, I follow politics the way I follow football. I choose a favorite team and become a die-hard fan right around the time of the Superbowl. Sure, it’s a little duplicitous, but how many other fans can say their favorite team plays in the Big Game every single year? If it’s any consolation, I always choose the underdog.

It’s pretty much the same with politics. Right around the Spring of every presidential election year, I become the consummate Democrat. "Why Democrat?" you might ask. It’s not my penchant for the underdog, as it might appear. Unlike my favorite football team, my political affiliation is unwavering from Big Game to Big Game. Simply put, I’m a Democrat because I’m broke and I’m Black and I’m not a masochist. The Democratic party has historically been the official political party of broke, Black non-masochists. At least, that is, ever since the turn of the century when the Republican party stopped being known as the anti-slavery party. What a difference a day makes…

Anyway, like every good Democrat, I was outraged at and a little suspicious of Bush’s first and second term victories. Somehow, the outrage and suspicion never fully dissipated. It would dwindle to an ember, only to be stoked by some incident, speech or decision.

All of that is a thing of the past, however. Part of the reason that I don’t take more of a day to day interest in politics is that regardless of who is in the White House, God is on the throne. My righteousness, my wealth, my life is not legislated. So, in his own inimitable way, God commanded that if I insisted on blaming the Bible for my lack of concern for "worldly" politics, I should stop paying selective attention to what it had to say on the matter.

I was reminded that the Bible is clear that it is God alone who ordains who is and who is not to be in leadership. Promotion and demotion come from Him. What’s more, we are to honor, obey, and pray for the people that have rule over us, whether or not it is through any fault of our own that they ended up in that position.

Okay, so I knew that stuff was in there, but the part of the brain that protects you from remembering traumatic events, and erases your memory of embarrassing, drunken escapades blocked it out. Unfortunately, I was no longer able to even feign ignorance.

So, now I am a Bush supporter. Maybe "supporter" is a little strong. It's probably more accurate to say that I am no longer a Bush detractor. It’s all about the baby steps. In any event, I will no longer engage in Bush-bashing or pick apart his every move, decision, and foible. Instead, I will do what I should have been doing all along. I will pray for him.

My prayer for George W. Bush is that in his next three years he will become the president that so many voters believed him to be. That he will stand on the principles and standards of his God. That God will give him the wisdom and the courage to make decisions, no matter how difficult and unpopular they may be, based on those principles and standards. That God will protect him from people (like the me of last week) who are wishing and praying him less than well. And, finally, that history will remember him as a great president and an even better man.

So, you see, along with being a relativist, I’m also a hopeless optimist. But, that is only because God has proven to and for me that He can do the impossible. So, though I am a hopeless optimist, I am a faithful one.

For the record, however, I’m still a Democrat. And, my change of heart does not extend to appointees. I had a revelation, not a lobotomy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Then How the Reindeer Loved Him…(Part One)

I’m not usually one to do an about-face in my opinion of someone that I dislike without a face-to-face encounter with them. I have a really hard time disliking people that I’ve spent time with…unless they’re just genuinely bad people. But, that happens very rarely, almost never. Once I’ve met you, even if it takes some Indiana Jones style archeology, I can find the good in anybody or at least a really compelling rationalization for the bad.

It’s sometimes very hard to reconcile my relativist tendencies with my staunchly Christian personal values. For instance, I’m a 30-year-old virgin, because pre-marital sex is destructive, distracting, and wrong. As a matter of fact, if I never get married, I solemnly swear to die a virgin. No hail-Mary, deathbed tryst with a prostitute for me. However, if I see that’s the direction I’m headed, I may have to recant my disavowal of masturbation sometime in my late forties. Yes, it’s TMI, but as a blog subscriber you’re reading people’s innermost thoughts, so plan on occasionally coming across stuff that should have stayed more inner. But, I digress from my original digression vis-à-vis relativism.

Anyway, I’m a relativist. I can stand on the promises and the prohibitions of the Word of God, because I have His Spirit living inside of me. If I know that you don’t have His Spirit, I’m not looking to you to live up to Jesus’ standard. I’m just praying you can stay alive long enough to meet Him. Because, even though I am a Christian and have the Holy Spirit, my “stand” can sometimes bear a striking resemblance to “hanging on for dear life.”

This reality can be, in the words of Dave Chappelle, a little flimsy. And, forget what you heard: being a Christian can sometimes make it harder. I couldn’t imagine trying to do this by myself. If it weren’t for God, I would be dead, dumb, crippled, crazy, or some combination of the four. But, because of God, I have the assurance that I’m never alone and never without love and EVENTUALLY things will work out. So, I have joy and peace before, during, and after the bad times, and I have a lot of really great times and great things due entirely to God. Those people who are trying to go it alone have my utmost sympathy. And if every once in a while, you need some sex or some drink or a puff of something or an extra slice of cake, I’m not mad at you. Again, it’s destructive, distracting and wrong, it won’t be me and it doesn’t have to be you, but I understand.

In my relativist worldview, there’s almost a separate spectrum for politicians. There’s good to bad for regular human behavior, then there’s so-so to abominable for politicians. That’s why when Christian Conservatives started acting like Clinton was The Anti-Christ for having and lying about an extra-marital affair, I was more shocked by them. There was all this talk of his leading children astray by modeling dishonesty and sexual immorality, and misrepresenting our nation’s Christian values before a world audience. My first thought (after I realized they were serious and stopped laughing) was, if your children are using a politician as a moral compass, you need to climb down off that soapbox and go pray about your parenting decisions. Like Chris Rock said, “He’s not Reverend Clinton.” And even if he was, our example of how to live is supposed to be our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Bill Clinton is cool people, but he’s not Jesus.


Tune in next time, when I’ll continue to meander slowly toward a point.

Friday, October 07, 2005

...because of the wonderful things he does.

The wizard is a lie…but, so is the little man behind the curtain.

Have you ever seen The Wizard of Oz? There’s a scene that I like near the end. It’s just after Dorothy and the gang had killed the Wicked Witch of the West. They return to the palace of the Emerald City to find the Wizard out of commission. Some other stuff happens, then Toto pulls back a curtain to reveal a frightened old man frantically pushing buttons, throwing switches, and pulling levers. Although it’s clear that the jig is up, he yells into his microphone, using the Wizard’s voice to issue one final proclamation: “Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain.”

I like this scene because it serves as a wonderful, and eerily accurate, metaphor for a lot of my life. I squandered a lot of time and energy frantically throwing switches and pulling levers to operate my Wizard. That is, the version of myself that I used to astound, entertain, and draw the masses. One button would cue witty banter. Another would trigger a confident, self-assured stride. A switch would toggle between proper English and admittedly unconvincing slang. A lever would dial up a bright smile when it didn’t come naturally. All the while, I was hiding and protecting the lost, scared (and very tired) Little Man Behind the Curtain.

I always knew that the Wizard was a sham, but it was a necessary evil. I justified all of the button-pushing, switch-throwing, and lever-pulling, saying that my true self needed to be hidden and protected, at all costs.

LIES. Filthy, stinking lies, I tell you.

My true self is clearly not the Wizard, but it’s not the Little Man either. The Little Man is an invention, just like the wizard. I created the Wizard out of people’s expectations, society’s standards, and my own guesswork. Life created the Little Man out of hurt, mistakes, and shame.

This Little Man is the me that died when I was born again in Christ, but my true self is the me that God created. My true self is the me that is wonderfully and fearfully made, that is more than a conqueror, that can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. My true self is the realization of everything that God says of His children, everything He says about me.

If indeed the devil’s greatest trick is convincing people that he doesn’t exist, convincing us that this true, God-created self doesn’t exist is a close second. Not only do we buy this lie, but we lie, steal and cheat to protect it and the fake, damaged self that is left in place of the true self.

The key to defeating him and overcoming his deceit is seeing and believing the truth that was there all the time: the truth that is hidden behind the little man who is hiding behind the curtain.