An Australian watching America this week

“He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight”. (Ps 72:14)

“Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

 

Australians live many thousands of kms from the shores of the United States, but we are watching a compelling and disturbing drama unfold. It is difficult to look on and not feel a wave of strong emotions.

I am writing as an outsider and conscious of that fact. I have twice visited the USA, and have made many friends during those stays. I have visited some of the great cities that are now facing upheaval. Only yesterday I saw footage of the street where I lived for a month in Washington DC, as vehicles and trucks of the National Guard drove through carrying soldiers to a hot spot. Across the road from the Capitol Building, I have sat in a restaurant and enjoyed lunch with a brother in Christ. He is an African American and a member of the Church where I attended while in DC. As we broke bread together, we chatted and I listened to his thoughts about racial tensions in the United States. We have remained friends on Facebook. As I see him and other friends posting on Facebook this week, I am reminded to pray for them.

Many Images coming out of America

There are many images being shown across the world from Minneapolis to Washington DC, from Atlanta to Los Angeles. We are hearing multiple narratives told by media, politicians, and by the general public. The problem in weighing up all this information is that much of it is conflicting, some of it is unverifiable, and a lot is infused with different political and ideological agendas.

The fact is, leaving aside exchanges with friends, the noise of social media gives little place for nuance and calm. Public opinion sadly feeds off anger and loud rhetoric. Twitter is hardly known as a platform for peacemaking.

One week ago a man was murdered on the streets of Minneapolis. George Floyd was killed by a police officer who used excessive and brutal force. Floyd’s cry, “I can’t breathe”, was ignored by all four police officers present at the scene. It is difficult to watch the video and hold back from shouting at the officers to let him go. It is horrifying to watch. George Floyd’s death was so unnecessary; it was an act of evil.

Since the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, many cities in America have erupted in social turmoil.

I am hearing that many African-Americans are fearful, angry, and hurting. Many are not on the streets protesting, but the sting of May 25th is very real. Others are protesting, quietly or loudly, fervently with purpose.

There are many peaceful protesters. There are also violent rioters and looters. I suspect some are lashing out in anger and fear, not knowing how else to respond. It is also clear that George Floyd’s murder is being exploited by criminal elements, including ANTIFA. It is only right for police to prevent these people from destroying property and harming human life, and to arrest them when they do.

There are members of the media doing their job impartially and in a considered manner, while others agitate the situation by throwing flammable words on television and in the news. It’s not only American media, but Aussie reporting of American stories is often blinkered and biased.

We have witnessed politicians and community leaders speak with passion and reason, and we have also heard politicians from across the spectrum use the situation to push their own drum. The political grandstanding and ideological manipulating of some is disgusting and is so counter productive.  There is already blood on the ground, without piling on rhetorical mud and manure from self interested people wanting to win votes or to buy more viewers.

Obviously, I am not an American, nor am I a person of colour, but we do share our humanity. I feel grief and anger for those who are mistreated on account of their race. Pain runs deep and the past is not quickly healed. How can one watch images of African Americans crying in the streets and shaking with fear…it should not be. All human beings are God’s image-bearers. All are wonderfully made by God and deserve to be treated with dignity and great value.

Amidst the footage that shows escalating violence, there are also many beautiful images to be found: a policeman embracing a young African American boy who is trembling, a police chief removing his riot gear and joining a crowd of protestors in solidarity with them. People need to see these stories of peacemaking in order to help change the narrative that is dominating the news. How can we encourage peace and progress if our newsfeeds are cluttered with violent scenes and with angry commentators hurling abuse at political opponents? Of course, we need to recognise the ugly and the evil, but we must also display the good.

 

An Image

There is one image that has taken hold of the story today, and it is of President Trump standing outside St John’s Church in Lafayette Square, holding up a Bible in his right hand. The previous night rioters had set fire to the building. Today it was used as a symbol of Presidential fight back.

As a Christian and as a pastor of a church I am less than pleased to see the Bible being used in this way. I trust many more Christian leaders will speak up about this Presidential stunt.

 

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The Rector of St John’s and the Bishop of Washington have both expressed anger and dismay at President Trump using the outside facade of St John’s and him holding a Bible.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said of the uninvited visitor,

“I am outraged…And I just want the world to know, that we in the diocese of Washington, following Jesus and his way of love … we distance ourselves from the incendiary language of this President. We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love”

I think it’s wrong for the President to stand outside and use a church building without the express permission of its clergy. What’s worse is him holding up God’s word for a political photo-op. Keep in mind, President Trump is not the first American leader to misuse God’s word in public office and he won’t be the last. But this calculated image is foolish. It is foolish because few people are convinced the President takes the Bible seriously, let alone reads, believes and practices what the Bible says. It’s also foolish because the Bible isn’t a book to fool around with.

As the writer to the Hebrews says,

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

By this word God saves and he judges. By this word, God mocks rulers and the nations, and he speaks comfort and peace to those who humble themselves. It is this word that alone declares all people are made in the image of God and are therefore equal in his sight. It is this word that declares Jesus Christ is Lord and that all people are accountable to Him for how we live. It is this word that speaks of God who loves us profoundly, such that his only Son laid down his life for sinners. Indeed, the very Bible President Trump held in his hand with that defiant face, is the word that says,

“Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.

12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Ps 2:10-12)

A friend of mine noted the irony of this chosen site for politico-religious vanity. Outside St John’s, the cameras took photos of a President who does not believe the Scriptures nor does he practice what they teach. Inside St John’s Church, there are clergy who also do not believe or practice the Scriptures. St John’s Church and the presiding bishop of Washington are known for their errant views about Christianity. Both inside and out, they treat the Bible with disdain.

The most profound irony is that this Bible, when opened and read and considered, offers truth that sets people free. It offers life to those who believe. It brings forgiveness to those who repent. It lifts up and gives hope to those who are hurting. If people are serious about racial reconciliation and the healing of political and social wounds, don’t copy the President and avoid listening to clerics who similarly misuse the Bible. Rather, open it and hear the word that changed the world and can also change us. Here is sound advice from Jesus, 

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)

 

 


I’ve posted a Part 2, in light of Nancy Pelosi’s own Bible photo op

8 thoughts on “An Australian watching America this week

  1. Sorry Murray. I cannot support you on this one. You wrote:
    “I suspect some are lashing out in anger and fear, not knowing how else to respond.”
    Utter nonsense. Violent rioting and looting is inexcusable.

    The same day Floyd was murdered, a dozen more were murdered by members of their own ‘race’…… and that happens every day.

    You wrote:
    “……few people are convinced the President takes the Bible seriously, let alone reads, believes and practices what the Bible says.” To the contrary there are many people who believe he does…… Besides, it is not possible for you know.

    Other points of contention:

    * Trump was not using the bible as a “symbol of a fight back”
    * His face was not “defiant”
    * If the clergy inside St. Johns do not believe or practice what the scriptures teach, they have no grounds for complaint against the president for doing whatever they imagine he was doing.

    I listened to his words. I did not judge his language as “incendiary”. The attack on the church was symbolic of evil against good.

    I am very surprised that your focus on this issue turned to Trump rather than the need for personal and cultural transformation.

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  2. I do love your work.

    But this is wrong. Trump has been relentlessly demonized. For all his faults, of which there are many, he does not deserve such cynicism. What of his attendance at March for Life, his many speeches supporting Christian values? Mere posturing? So that whatever he does, the divides that run deep are laid on him? And the perpetrators of mayhem cast as victims of oppression to soften condemnation?

    How exactly is it wrong for the President to try to remind people of what they should be paying attention to? And who amongst us reads it perfectly and by doing so are saved? None.

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  3. Thank you Murray for this piece which I agree with totally.
    For any Christian to defend a man who brags about sexually assaulting women (“just grab them by the pussy” defies belief. He is racist (comments and actions to demonise mexicans and others), incestuous (if Ivanka were not his daughter, he has said ON THE RECORD that he would want to date her), and the list goes on.
    I felt physically ill when I saw him holding the Bible outside that church. Christianity is constantly under attack, we all have to constantly defend our faith (and anyone who doesn’t is spending their time in small circles) and to have someone do this action when everyone knows who they are and how they conduct themselves does so so much damage.
    I pray for Trump – that he opens his mind and heart to the Lord, but I also pray he loses this election.
    Black lives matter, and I understand their anger and frustration. Being constantly treated with suspicion for nothing else than the colour of your skin. I abhor the violence and the looting is criminal, but for those who protest with peace that is evidently so emotional, we need to ask ourselves why they hurt so badly.
    And Bruce Cartland, his speeches are a. not written by Trump, he has speech writers, b. designed to appeal to white Christian men in particular and c. are absolutely about posturing. There is no genuine love for the Lord in anything Trump says, nor in how he says it. Trump invokes the name of God to claim God’s authority. Hitler is proof God does not always give us leaders of compassion, intellect, grace, humility and wisdom. Trump is another example. He will attend whatever event it takes to get re-elected.
    I was in the US last April/May. I travelled all over the country and everywhere I went all I saw was abject poverty. Every bridge, every overpass had homeless living under it. America is a disaster of poverty, the chasm between the “haves” and “have nots” is so wide, so deep and growing and African-Americans are by far the most over represented group in that demographic.

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    • Jen Gamble.

      Your reply takes “missing the point” to another level.
      Trotting out three favourite fallacies of *Trump derangement syndrome* contributes nothing to the argument.

      Trump is not opposing those who “protest with peace”.
      Stick to the topic.
      Murray was unhappy to see the image of Trump as a symbol of “fighting back” against rioters the night before.

      Your comment that “There is no genuine love for the Lord in anything Trump says, nor in how he says it” is a subjective opinion that you cannot possibly know, any more than Murray’s opinion about whether Trump “takes the Bible seriously, let alone reads, believes and practices what the Bible says.”

      Apparently you are praying that Joe Biden will become president of the USA.
      And for you, a Christian defending Biden’s character does not “defy belief”.
      (his record of abuse of women, support for abortion, LGBTQI, transgenderism)

      So finally you complain of the “abject poverty” you observed in USA…. that “Every bridge, every overpass had homeless living under it…. the chasm between the “haves” and “have nots” is so wide, so deep…….”

      You fail to mention that this did not *begin* with Trump….. and that the responsibility for this in the USA largely lies with the Governors of the States…… and that the Congress of the USA is run by Democrats.

      Violent destruction and looting in cities is not going to fix the problem.

      But of course it is Trump’s fault for holding up a bible in front of St. John’s Church.

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  4. “Black lives matter, and I understand their anger and frustration. Being constantly treated with suspicion for nothing else than the colour of your skin.”
    Here are some names to start with to do research: Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Leonydus Johnson, Bob Woodson – some good Christian black men who comprehensively dismantle this false and dangerous narrative. Particularly Bob who was involved in the 60s civil rights movement and abandoned it to focus on grass roots empowerment of the black community (truly humbling to witness). I also recommend Heather MacDonald’s detailed research into policing – it’s eye-opening.

    While there are many genuine members of BLM, I would be very very careful. It’s founders are avowed marxists and many “chapters” involved in BDS.

    The alternative to Trump? If he has postured (for better), the Democrats have declared (for worse). Or as Catholic apologist Dr. Taylor Marshall put it recently about his church: “These perfidious Catholic bishops and priests SAY NOTHING when Pro-Abortion politicians like Biden or Pelosi parade in CHRIST’s Churches…but they blow a gasket when Trump holds up a Bible. These false shepherds. These wolves. These Judas priests”

    Democrats have all but expelled pro-life members and celebrate abortion. Biden has explicitly put on record his support for the transgender agenda, perhaps the most destructive trend of all (handmaiden to Critical Race Theory – see Christian Apologist Neil Shenvi). The worst affected areas in this recent eruption are Democratic strongholds. A well documented exodus from California has been occurring for a while now. Or as the socialist Orwell put it about his fellows “they don’t love the poor, they just hate the rich”.

    I don’t particularly like Trump and I wish another in his place, but the Democrats will ruin what remains of America.

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  5. Pingback: Nancy Pelosi repeats President Trump’s mistake with the Bible | MurrayCampbell.net

  6. I worshiped at St Johns church in the picture and it was a very good service and also worshiped at Trinity church in New york and was christianed as baby in a church in the same demonination in Corning New york and you Murray Campbell should learn from this great epispical church and you might learn something instead of being a arrogant bigot

    Like

    • Stuart, I suggest that you probably should avoid slandering a person by calling them an “arrogant bigot”.

      The Episcopal Diocese of Washington is known for its errant teachings, including Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde’s views of the resurrection and the church’s position on marriage.
      Far from being bigoted, what I said in the article is accurate. You may or may not like it, but turning to an ad hominem attack is unnecessary.
      BTW, I have many close friends who are Anglican and I have preached at different Anglican churches and theological colleges both in Australia & in the UK.

      Like

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