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The heroics of many amid a seemingly endless pandemic deserve our continuing admiration and cheer. They will not, or should not, be forgotten.

However, year 2020 will largely be remembered for divisive politics among the masses and deflective finger pointing by those in charge – all at a time when the nation most desperately needed to pull together under the guidance of competent and responsible leadership.

It didn’t happen. And tracking such failures is too easy.

We know what occurred. But what was revealed? And what comes next?

Here are some signs and wonders that have less than magically appeared in the seemingly apocalyptic year of Revelation 2020.

Signs:

Revelations are aplenty, but many are not pretty. And they require less cryptic deciphering than the biblical variety.

  1. America’s concept of freedom is screwed up. Simply to wear a mask in public to reduce a deadly disease is too much of an infringement for many. Personal responsibility and concern for the common good have been demonized and remain greatly undervalued.
  2. Patience is supposedly a virtue, but not a well-practiced value. The insistence that this deadly virus is overstated or inconvenient – or must play according to our preferred timeline – adds to its destruction.
  3. Truth is a casualty. Undisputed facts are disputed. Rampant lying is ignored or excused. And there is no tale too tall for many to believe.
  4. White nationalism, with its hateful politics of fear and exclusion, got a hearty “Amen” and helping hand from white evangelicals en masse. Racism and privilege are alive in America and most comfortably at home in church.

To deny this reality – or seek to paper over it with a rushed call to peace – is to allow it to fester and bleed through again and again. This fear-driven, self-serving value system is not just as good as following Jesus.

Yet this wrongful message has been conveyed clearly and professed loudly as the public witness of Americanized Christianity today.

I want to make this point with great care: There is a difference in being accepting of those who think differently and accepting as an equal and valid expression of faith an ideology that continually harms those who are vulnerable, maligned, demonized and treated unjustly.

These serious matters cannot be ignored in an effort to avoid conflict and simply “move on.” The overwhelming support that white evangelicals and other American Christians are giving to such damaging and demeaning politics cannot be swept under the church rug.

Otherwise, we proclaim a false gospel in contrast to the one Jesus entrusted to us.

Indeed, we need respect and restraint at this critical time. Hostilities should be tempered with kindness. Healing and hope must always be our goals. But how to get there really does matter.

We must avoid false equivalencies often imbedded in a quick call to “agree to disagree” – as if fact-less authoritarianism and fear-based discrimination are just different but acceptable ways of being Christian (or even positively human).

Unity is a worthy focus, but it matters what people of good faith choose to be united around.

A cover-up is not a proper substitution for confession and correction. We must resist any attempted shortcut that actually exacerbates the redefinition of Christianity as a self-serving political ideology rather than a faithful response to the call to follow Jesus.

Otherwise, we conceal or normalize – or both – as the Christian witness that which is deeply at odds with the life and teachings of Jesus. Therefore, I have more questions than assurances about what lies ahead.

So, I wonder.

Wonders:

I wonder if, in our efforts to “move on,” we’ll just “go on” as if nothing concerning has been revealed about the heart of Americanized Christianity.

I wonder if we will pretend the church isn’t complicit in America’s heightened agenda of white nationalism although evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

I wonder if white evangelical Christianity has any chance of finding its focus and priority on Jesus as the model for living even, or especially, when afraid. Or will he remain merely a salvation-inducing mascot?

I wonder if institutional preservation is a higher value than addressing the clear departures from Christ-reflected values that got the church into this mess in the first place and has tarnished its witness for decades to come without radical change.

We need to be listening and loving. But we can’t pretend everything is fine.

Peace apart from justice is participation in injustice.

And I don’t have to wonder if that’s what Jesus calls us to do.

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