Thursday, November 19, 2015

Unveiling the Secret Place

He that dwelleth in the the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.  Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.   

Psalm 91: 1-4

There is a secret place within all of us that we are reluctant to share with anyone.Yet, as we pass through this life we are constantly reminded of it and when we are emotions come to the surface that we may think of as less than manly. We dismiss such tender feelings with scorn, calling them "nostalgia" or romanticism, adolescent or childish, as though we are above such nonsense. It is a secret place within us that we cannot tell anyone about. At the same time, we cannot share this place with anyone either, lest we reveal too much about our selves and what we may quite mistakenly believe is our weakest place.  

Our secret place persists in trying to reveal itself to the world, peaking its head out from the pages of a book, or from a movie, television show or particularly poignant commercial for a fast food restaurant.  On occasion, our world connects with our secret places in ways we do not expect and we find ourselves turning quickly away lest someone spot a mist in our eyes and try to discover the place we have tried so hard to hide for all these years.

These invasions from that other world, we attribute to a brush with something beautiful or sad or some lost memory, as if beauty, sadness or memory were the thing itself. Some of us even avoid paying too much attention to such things lest they betray that secret place within us.

We all have such a place. It is a hollow inside us that is reserved for God and ourselves alone - a perfect place from which everything we perceive as good and worthwhile is reflected in the "real" world. The great temptation is to mistake beauty or some other thing that is good for the thing itself in our desire to remain steadfastly rooted in the "real world". In this way, idols are set up, obsessions are created and lusts are cultivated.  

But the scent of a flower, the red and gold of a sunset or the waves of an aurora across the sky are not the thing itself. The beauty of a woman, the effervescence for a child or the taste of good food is merely the reflection of the beauty that lives in the secret hollow of our souls. What we perceive as good and pure and fine is recognized because we already have an image of what such things ought to look like imprinted upon our souls.  

Men in particular are taught that we need to outgrow all that childish fantasy about secret places where love is true, men are brave, and truth, honesty and integrity are as easily had as wildflowers in a spring meadow. That's kind of sad really, for that secret place in the soul is filled by God to give us an internal guide - a sort of compass that always points toward Heaven and the New Earth.

We are always turning around a corner somewhere and stumbling upon something that opens that door a bit and tells us we have seen something of the land beyond. When it happens, those of us who cherish that secret place find that, in that unexpected instance, our emotions may betray us. We find ourselves weeping over a scene from a movie or shouting "YES!" in recognition of a hint of that secret thing in some post on Facebook or a story in the news.  

If we walk humbly with Christ, we are not ashamed to embrace those messages from the divine country which God seeks to plant within us. That secret place is not easily dislodged from us, despite our efforts to shut the door on it and accept some hollow shadow of reality. It's hard work to close that door and even if we think we have successfully walled off that secret place, when life beats us down as it surely will, the light from that place is waiting, knocking patiently, waiting to break down the door if we will but turn the key. Our reward for that small surrender is a flood that breaks over us and drowns us in the very light and joy we were hunting for in the "real" world but could not find, because we had shut it away and closed our ears to it's knocking.

C.S. Lewis described it this way, "These things--the beauty, the memory of our own past--are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard; news from a country we have never yet visited."

It is the secret place of the Most High where it is best to dwell, for living there changes us into the living image of all that is good, and kind and patient and loving and wise in that place.

Tom King

© 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

Should an Adventist Run for President If He's Not a Democrat?

David Corn, a journalist for Mother Jones, an extreme left-wing magazine and described by his publisher as a "prominent Seventh-day Adventist" produced a recent article attacking Ben Carson and justifying the medias round of hit pieces that have questioned Ben Carson's suitablility as a presidential candidate. Corn's opinion is that Carson's Adventism is fair game. In the article Corn calls Adventist theology "accusatory and paranoid" and seems to feel like Adventists (at least conservative ones) wouldn't make good political leaders. As to Corn's being a "prominent" Adventist, frankly, I've never heard of him before reading his editorial.

And to quote an old joke, "It's not paranoia, Mr. Corn, if they really are out to get you." If you watch what the pope's been saying about ending the Protestant reformation lately and joining up with evangelical charismatics, and if you remember the history of the Roman church at all, such events at this time in history do give one pause, especially if you've studied prophecy any at all. If you look at the powerful pressure being exerted worldwide to, as Pope Benedict suggested in an encyclical a few years ago, create a “true world political authority” with “real teeth,” wielding sufficient power to govern economics, food, energy, armaments, environmental protection, and migration for the whole world", it sounds reasonable to be a little concerned about the papacy's role in what seems to me to be a march toward global theological Marxism. In the same encyclical, Benedict said that trade unions, international political parties (there's only one of those - the International Communist Party), trade associations, world political and church leaders should all get together to form this new global government. He also suggested that powerful countries like the United States should be forced to submit to this world government - that's the bit about having "real teeth".

If that doesn't send a shiver up your Adventist spine, I'm not sure you've been reading your Sabbath School Quarterly.

But whatever happens with regard to religious events in the world, the United States is forbidden by its constitution to establish any religion that is supported by the government. As a practicing Adventist, Carson will stand firm in protecting that bit of the Constitution, whatever any other church or organization may attempt to do. Carson has also said he believes if you mess up the environment, you should clean up after yourself. That sounds like a sound environmental policy to me.  He says he has no problem using the military to defend the citizens of the United States. That's sound Biblical governance straight out of the Old Testament.

Everything Adventists believe might happen at the end of time can be addressed simply by keeping the US government in line with the Constitution. That's a very presidential thing to do. It's also a very Christian thing to do. Many other Christians also believe that the end is near. Few of us in the Christian faith believe in turning the US into a theocracy. Those who do are de facto enemies of the state because we are prohibited from allowing any establishment of a national religion by the Constitution. I can see, however, why leftists, Adventist or otherwise, might have some issues with Carson's protectiveness toward the Constitution, given the left's complaints that the Constitution only tells what the government can't do, not what it should do. Believe me, the left has whole new amendments about that subject ready and waiting to do some "adjustment" to the founding documents.  Carson, would clearly resist meddling with the Bill of Rights especially.

Adventists are down with that.
We have long printed a church-run magazine called "Liberty" which is devoted entirely to promoting religious liberty in the US. We are free-market missionaries. We run extensive medical work and have the second largest parochial school system in the country including the prestigious Loma Linda University School of Medicine. Many of our missionaries are even self-supporting. We Adventist run missions all over the world. We are first on the scene with the Red Cross and Salvation Army at disasters. We dig wells, educate children and help people achieve economic independence, good health and peace of spirit in every corner of the Earth. We have more members outside the United States than inside it.

The church's beliefs about the end times do not prevent us from being loyal Americans, loving our neighbors as ourselves and planning for the future as a nation, whether Jesus gets here in 10 years or 200.  This has absolutely zero impact on Carson's potential service as president.  The Adventist negative reaction toward Carson within the church is more about him being a Republican as, for some odd reason, there are quite a the number of SDAs who are lifelong Democrats. Left-wing SDAS find Carson's conservative politics very unsettling.  Historically, most elected SDA politicians have been Democrats including the infamous (and to me entirely embarrassing) Sheila Jackson Lee who claims to be an Adventist. Lee is so far out there that even her Democrat colleagues are wary of enlisting her aid lest she humiliate them with one of her classically ridiculous rants.

I think if Carson were a Democrat he'd be getting less harassment from members of his own church. Even in the Adventist church, if you're black you're expected to be a Democrat. It's kind of sad, considering the Democrat Party's history with regard to slavery, Jim Crow Laws, segregation, lynchings, the KKK, Sunday Blue Laws and the assassination of Dr. King (James Earl Ray was an ardent Democrat). You'd think black Adventists would lean toward being Republicans, but that's a national conundrum, not a church problem.

There is also a good deal of fear among the members and even the clergy, that Carson's candidacy will shine an unwelcome light on the church and its beliefs by standing for the highest office in the land. The fear among some Adventists, I think, is that the scrutiny of the media on Carson's faith will bring on the time of trouble, which many SDAs fear, thanks to some pretty scary evangelist meetings we all went to as kids.  

Not me, though. I am not afraid and I welcome the scrutiny our church will get during the Carson campaign. It may even serve to flush out some of the nonsense that takes place in the dark corners of Adventism - things that should be flushed out. There's nothing like having to defend your beliefs to bring your belief system into sharp focus.

I'm proud to believe the things I believe. I'm not afraid of wading into the debate over my faith that is sure to come. The mainstream press and Washington good old boy network is terrified at the idea of an honest man in the Oval Office. I think some Adventists are afraid Carson will make us look bad or that, once in the public spotlight, he'll draw fire down on the church. God, however, commands us to go into all the world preaching the gospel. I don't think Christ would have a problem if the world came to us asking us what is our testimony about him.  Time for proclaiming that Three Angels Message we're always talking about.

Me I think Carson has been called by God for such a time as this.
He didn't seek this out, it was pretty much thrust upon him because he had the courage to tell the truth to power at a National Prayer Breakfast. I think he's already show his ability to handle the kind of dirty media tricks they will throw at him. Even if he doesn't win, it's going to put our church on display and that's not a bad thing. Maybe we can stop straining at gnats and take on some of those camels that are the real problems in this world and in the church.

Time to stand in the breach...
I understand the fear, though. I would imagine Esther felt that kind of fear when she went before the Kings to plead for her people. Joseph probably felt it when he first stood before Pharaoh. I'm sure Daniel had a little trepidation when he went into the lion's den. But fear doesn't have to lead to cowardice. We have a God, who is mighty to save.

The theology of my church is imminently logical, scriptural and the only way to make it bad or weird is to distort those beliefs all out of whack.  Like Carson's response to the medias attempts to trash his record and reputation, I believe it is time for Adventist to stand up and say, "I'm proud to believe what we believe!" and to defend ourselves before principalities and powers. Why not? The truth is on our side is it not? And repeating our defense over and over in the media will certainly land us more free public relations than we ever could have gotten otherwise.

And there's no reason to worry about an Adventist president upsetting relations with anyone because of his religion. We believe in the Golden Rule (something both Trump and Clinton apparently don't mind bending to suit their own ambitions). SDAs aren't anti-anybody, much less anti-Catholic. We've been getting along with our fellow Catholic and Protestant brethren for better than 150 years now. There are a lot of folk who believe in the Rapture and the rise of an anti-Christ. Some have even occupied the White House. Is THAT going to make them bad leaders of our country and unelectable? Of course not.

Christians don't believe we have to conquer the world and force everyone to obey our religion before the Messiah can come. That's Islam (which accounts for what Carson said about a Muslim President). The Christian faith on the other hand tells us to not lie, kill, cheat, steal, commit adultery, disrespect our parents or be greedy or even to rebel against our government except where it conflicts with our duty to God. That's pretty straight American patriotism. The Pledge of Allegiance even has that line about "one nation, under God." Even the pledge allows for God's sovereignty over the state. Sounds like an excellent set of values for someone we are going to choose to be the chief executive of our government.

It sounds to me that what a lot of Atheists, Christians, Catholics and even some Adventists are trying to say is that the president needs to be an atheist (or a nice acceptable kind of lukewarm Christian) with no firm religious belief system other than what the herd believes about socialism, evolution, atheism and environmentalism in order for that person to be an acceptable candidate for the presidency. Every US president in history has been a believer of some sort. We've managed to muddle along without their religion turning the United States into a religious gulag. I think an Adventist neurosurgeon is smart enough to handle it.

Time to put on our big boy pants and enter the arena my Adventist brothers and sisters. Stop being afraid of the time of trouble. Will God not bring you through it, if you believe. Shouldn't we be prepared to testify as to our faith? I think what may be confusing us is that we thought all along that we'd be testifying before priests, judges and soldiers. Who knew it might well be before TV cameras and Klieg lights?

Tom King