On Jan. 7, one day after the aborted coup d’état on our nation’s Capitol, an old friend and I were discussing the state of things. We both agreed that our country appears to have skidded off the rails; only for the second time in our almost two-and-a half-century-old experiment since 1814 has the architecturally beautiful seat of our nation’s government been occupied by malevolent forces. My 92-year-old father, dyed-in-the-wool Fox Ohio Republican that he is, was aghast. My friend seemed to be as well.

After a hushed silence, he softly spoke: “I voted for the man in 2016.” I could detect the pain in his admission. Like me, my friend is a retired pastor of the charismatic, evangelical stripe, although ideologically there is or was a bit of separation between us. He began to unburden himself of his profound disappointment in many of those who claim his banner, his flag, and were wielding it on Jan. 7 on the Capitol steps.

He decried the images of a president holding a Bible as a political prop. I was touched by my friend’s painful and honest feelings, and as a bona fide radical-Communist-Antifa-libtard Christian pastor hell-bent on the overthrow of our country, or at least the entire white race, I told him so. I could relate to his having to come to grips with the dilemma proposed for all Christians by Jesus the Christ: Whose are you?

I’ve been watching a fascinating series on Netflix called “Messiah.” The writers have a very Jesus-like figure appearing in the 21st century out of nowhere. For those of the Christian faith, it is presumed this is indeed the promised “Second Coming.” For a spinoff on the basic Gospel accounts, it is contemporary, intriguing, and well-written considering past attempts on the subject. In a recent episode, the character playing “Al Masih” categorically states, “The question is not whether one worships; everyone worships. It’s a question of who and what.” I could hear Robert Zimmerman softly singing in the background, “You’re gonna serve somebody.”

In the Gospels, let alone the entire biblical canon, there is one message abundantly clear: the Hebraic-Christian God is a monogamous interest only. Suitors — if they be genuine — cannot worship, glorify, be influenced by, give allegiance to anything or anyone but this God who, from the very beginning, has been telling people, “Take your pick. But you must choose. There’s no getting around that.” When it comes to absolute fealty, this no holds barred deity busts right on out of the gate with the very first commandment, “You shall have no other gods. You are my people and I am your God.”

In what is commonly known as the Deuteronomic Choice at the threshold of entering the Promised Land, God flatly states through Moses, “It’s your choice. You can follow my ways and things will go well with you. But if you do not, things will go badly for you.” Fast forward centuries and you have the Christian Son of God saying the same thing: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s but give to God what is God’s.”

It would appear that Jesus, the Bible and genuine Christian faith are decidedly unhelpful to ideology, politics, national economy, and the all-hallowed Second Amendment to our Constitution. Isaiah’s “Prince of Peace” is indeed known for bending down and drawing uncompromising lines in the sand, always asking each of us the question, on what side of the line do you stand? Bob Dylan again: “It might be the Devil or it might be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

For honest, authentic Bible-based Christian believers familiar with the entire scriptural collection, it is clear what God thinks about death guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Jesus makes it unequivocally clear: “If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.” For Jesus, you see, if not for God, a true believer must take the road not taken — the road to peace, equality under God, and a willing self-sacrifice to much of what I may desire in life: in short, “My constitutional rights to self-fulfillment at any cost.”

Unfortunately, for Christians who have a deep and profound relationship with their maker, there is no allegiance to the flag, there is no ownership of a must-have assault rifle, there is no national economic interest. No, there is nothing but full allegiance to this jealous God and uncompromising son to which I have signed on board, not without a goodly share of personal suffering and pain.

Many clergy are constantly battling for their congregations not to be seduced by the civil false and perverted gods, the many Caesars clamoring for our unquestioning and uncritical allegiance in the Sunday pews. For the self-sacrificial symbol of the faith that is the cross, having to share God’s holy altar area in most churches with the striped and starred symbol of Caesar smacks of effrontery and the common cult roads we all too often take wrapped in the packaging of the Christian Bible and Prince of Peace while teargas flows in the streets as we all sing “Jesus loves me.”

Such hogwash. As if there is any real choice who to give allegiance to for the bona fide Christian, let alone orthodox Jew. I believe the pain from my friend — a pain I share with him too much — comes from the seduction of charismatic evangelical Christianity over the past decades, for worshipping Moloch and Ba’al instead of the Prince of Peace and finally having to come to grips with the idea that much of what he loved, cherished and revered was and is continuously manipulated for the true gods we Americans are so enraptured with — money, power, armaments, comfort and influence. For this is the rub when it comes to Jesus and the faith: it is uncompromising. There is no available space whatsoever for the creation of ideological wiggle room.

And this is my dilemma as well. Do I give more time to the god of Netflix than church? Do I feed the insatiable animal of creature comfort more than giving to others and volunteerism? Does Amazon.com tend to get my monthly tithe? Has my possession of multiple firearms solved anything in stopping violent gun deaths of kids in schools? Yes, no doubt about it, we’re gonna serve something or somebody. So when you look at your reflection in the bathroom mirror before heading off to church, the Christian God makes it incumbent for each of us who claim the faith to make the fateful and faithful choice: Whose are you? A president’s? A political party’s? Survivor of the Confederacy? Smith & Wesson? White nationalism? A violent ideology?

The quandary is, we can be on either side of the line we want, but we cannot stand on both sides at the same time.

———

The Rev. Dr. Matt Henry is a retired American Baptist/United Methodist pastor, who pastored the Pendleton First United Church and now joyfully makes “hippie food” for the houseless at the Warming Station.

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