Greetings in the Lord:
Sometime ago, I had sent out notices that Affinity would be a good long distance telephone carrier for supporters of Emmaus to use because they would send 5% of the user's bill to Emmaus. Several of you have been kind enough to adopt that plan, for which I am very grateful. Their system has become unhelpfully complicated, however, and so I am suggesting an alternative.
Just about the best telephone rates around ($.10 / min, anytime, anywhere in the US) are available from Dimeline. Call 1 800 583-5805 for information. You do not change your long distance carrier, you simply dial a 5-digit number before dialing your party, and you are connected to their service. I have switched and am saving quite a bit of money per month.
They do not contribute to Emmaus, but if anyone feels moved to send a monthly check instead of through the telephone line, that would, of course, be much appreciated. But Dimeline does give perhaps the best deal around, and I am in favor of Christians being good business folks.
Some other providers encourage switching to their service because AT&T, Sprint, et al, support the homosexual agenda. But the catch is that most of the other cheaper providers still have to use the AT&T, MCI, Sprint, or other trunk lines anyhow. Although sometimes we can make an effective witness by whom we choose as a vendor, much of the time, the intertwining makes it impossible to "keep clean" consistently.
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I will be traveling to Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, on September 26 to give a weekend of teaching on the issues confronting Christians in the public arena, and how to confront those issues. Please keep that weekend in your prayers. This was contact made through an internet email loop that I am on, and through a notice on the Road to Emmaus website that I would be glad to come and speak on such issues.
Speaking of the BBS and website, I have just ordered software called "Omni Mall" which will allow me to set up an electronic "shopping mall" from which books, articles, and tapes can be sold. Eventually, persons will be able to buy items via check, credit card, or cash transfer right on the website or bulletin board. In some cases, the buyer will be able to order either an electronic version of a printed item (which he then prints himself) or order the already-printed version. Quite amazing.
A network of Christian apologetics websites is developing. Christians are increasingly making themselves known on the internet -- along with a lot of garbage, and some really ugly and destructive stuff -- which I hope will eventually be banned.
The Separation of School & State Alliance conference (see enclosed brochure) is one of the highlights of the year. I cannot make it this year, but strongly encourage anyone who can.
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What does it mean to be a "somebody"? Our frenetic pursuit of heroes and heroines is an indication of the poverty level of human culture. Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and (on a slightly more noble level) John Kennedy, to mention a few, have come to symbolize for us what it means to be a "somebody". Nobody wants to be a "nobody".
Several days ago, Princess Diana was killed in an automobile accident in Paris, going nearly 120 mph ramming into a tunnel abutment. The outpouring of emotion, grief, and devotion to her is almost without equal. Diana was (at least potentially) our sister in Christ . That is the first fact to remember about her. And if not our sister in Christ, then a sinner yet in need of redeeming and beloved of God.
Some have noted that Diana was very interested in people, and that she tried hard to be the princess that people wanted her to be. Others have noted that Diana's interest in people, at least insofar as the media let her be known to us, came from an essentially secular stance. She did not give the impression of a Mother Theresa whose interest in people stemmed first out of her devotion to God.
[Update: After having written the above, I just a few hours ago (9/5/97) learned of the death of Mother Theresa, due to a heart attack. I cannot help but wonder if the Lord timed this event to draw the contrast for the world between that which the world runs after and that which He is offering....]
It is an essential part of the Christian Gospel that God has shown us how to be a somebody: "Pick up your cross daily and follow me". And it has been a very consistent response by the human race that we admire people who do that, but not in our neighborhood please. Few of us, Christian or otherwise, would feel comfortable with Mother Theresa or St. Francis in the house next door. And, we can safely assume, there will be no comparable wave of grief and devotion sweeping around the world now that Mother Theresa has died. The human race is not really much interested in God's version of the "somebody", the person fully made and completed in His image. When that perfect image visited us, we did our best to get rid of Him.
Most of the devotion to Diana (and to other worldly heroes), it would be fair to say, is the worship of an image, a "virtual" somebody. The image of Diana is no more real than the image of Elvis or Marilyn. But, because we live our lives in separation from that which is substantial, that is, dependency upon and obedience to God, we must seek our meaning in the world of shifting sands. We latch onto the "somebodies" who appear to have made it, who appear to have been gifted by the gods. And so we hook our wagon to a falling star. And then we try to deny the fallenness of the star. Jesus is the only non-falling star -- precisely because His selfhood is not of this world.
Though Diana may have been a Christian in the "baptized" sense, there does not appear to be any public evidence that she was a Christian in any serious sense, i.e., that she sought her "selfhood" in the image and likeness of God. She was apparently dating, and perhaps engaged to, a Muslim, and if so, not taking her commitment to Christ very seriously. If she were to bump into Jesus, it is not evident that she would fall on her knees in worship, or that she would proclaim Him King of kings and Lord of lords, or even of English princesses. The image of Diana which the world worships is of a goddess, not a saint.
A goddess finds her selfhood, her "sombody-ness", within the confines of the cosmos, by "being herself", by "self" expression, and "self" fulfillment -- i.e. by impressing people that she is a "somebody". It necessarily gets ingrown and circular, and therefore unstable and finally "self"-destructive. Goddesses (or gods) are not really the autonomous, independent beings that they look like. They are all heavily dependent on the adulation of those who tell them how to be goddesses and gods, or princesses. But as Marilyn, Elvis, and now Diana have found, that does not lead to a happy ending.
God is quite in favor of having selves, and of our "being ourselves" - that is why He created us. He asked Adam and Eve to be themselves and to populate the world with other selves.
But He also designed us to get our selves from Him, not from our circumstances, i.e. not from the unholy trinity of the world, the flesh, or the devil. We are to get our selves from the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. There is no ambiguity from God's point of view. Jesus was quite clear on how to be a somebody in the eyes of His Father. Let go of your life to find it.
Diana was a beautiful and winsome person. She was the delight of the public. She apparently did try to be a good princess. That is not to be belittled.
But it was obligatory upon Diana to point beyond herself to her Creator so that people would not say, "What a beautiful and successful woman!", but rather, "Thank God for Diana...." It was obligatory upon her to be the princess that God wanted her to be. The people needed to know that she was God's gift to them, not her own gift. Without our spiritual center in God, it is not possible really to be good, only to put up a good show. And the world likes the show more than the substance.
And she needed to know that the people were God's gift to her. As we all are to each other. That is how we live by grace, that is, by receiving the gift.
Had Diana sought to be the princess Jesus, her Lord, was asking her to be, she, almost for sure, would not have died in a 120 mph car crash with a drunken driver. We will never know, of course, what her and her escort's alcohol levels were.
Let us pray that Christians (at least), will see Diana's life and death
through the eyes of God. Let us pray (I wrote this before the funeral)
that the Archbishop of Canterbury and others who will officiate at her funeral
will not try to be the clergy "that the people want", but will see a sister
in Christ, a sinner under the mercy of God, that they will stand up as Godly
men, not people-pleasers, and will use the opportunity to preach the Good
News of "How to Be a Somebody in the Eyes of God".
Some folks have thought I, and perhaps others, were "judging" Diana in the forbidden sense ("Judge not...") by referring to some of her apparent faults, and by comparing her (a bit unfavorably...) with Mother Theresa.
There is, to be sure, the real Diana, who was apparently quite shy and hated the constant need to evade the media. It was that Diana, along with the real relatives, to which the funeral arrangements ought to have been directed, not the perpetuation of the image. (I did not hear or see the funeral, but reports suggest that the Archbishop of Canterbury dropped an almost unequaled opportunity to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to one of the largest audiences in human history.)
Nevertheless, the entry of someone into public life carries with it the moral necessity of honest and candid assessment of the effects, not only of the real person, but of the image by which the person is known and how it operates to lead or mislead people. The stakes are much too high not to have honest assessment. That, of course, is quite different from the media's despicable attempts to make her a sex symbol, or to make a good story (and thus money) from her or her husband's sexual misbehaviors.
Most of our knowledge of Diana came through the media and that was the basis of my remarks -- which are obviously open to correction because my knowledge of her is so imperfect. But the impression given by the media is not that of a saint. The media, of course, is interested in celebrities, not sainthood, other than as a curiosity.
And the fact is that we often have to make character judgement of people. The eulogist at the funeral did it, and so do the newspapers, and so do all the rest of us. People get upset mostly when the judgements are negative, and about someone they like or idolize.
What is forbidden is not assessments of people's motives or actions, but consigning them to hell (or heaven). That is God's task. But we are quite clearly to make judgements on the character of people, understanding, of course, that we are very fallible and might need to be corrected.
Nowhere in Scripture does it suggest that we are not to assess the character or the motives of people. On the contrary, it is a part of our spiritual maturity that we learn to do so accurately, looking, as best we can, to the inner persons rather than to the outer shell. One might ask: "Well, who are you to think you can know the inner character of a person?" Simple, they reveal themselves. Some people hide themselves, so it is harder to tell.
People likewise also ask: "Who are you to think you can know the mind of God?" And again, simple. He tells us. God has spent a great deal of time, effort, and pain to tell us. The real question is rather: "Who are you to think you cannot know the mind and heart of God?" We are told to look at the heart, not at the outside.
Can anyone name a figure of note anywhere in Scripture that did not judge the motives of people? Is anyone wanting to defend the idea that Jesus did not judge motives? And is Jesus not our model?
Those folks who are suggesting that I (or someone) has judged in the forbidden sense are themselves making judgements -- which is perfectly fine. It is not possible to live in society without making moral judgements about people and their motives. Knowing the motives of persons is one of the essential ways we know them at all.
I want to know that the teachers of my children really want to teach the truth. I want to know that my banker intends to keep honest accounts. I want to know that my family loves me. I want to know that my priest is not faking his belief in God. If a person says such and such, but then acts in a contrary way, I might well judge his motives to be unsavory.
To say that we are not allowed to assess motives is to make social life impossible. Clearly we need to do it accurately and compassionately. But, with all of its potential pitfalls, we need to do it.
I said that Diana's good works were not to be dismissed. But it is still true that she did not point us on to God in any way that would inspire people to say, "Thank God for Diana!" She was not a window to God in the manner of Mother Theresa. They would more likely say, "What a beautiful and successful and (yes maybe even) good woman!" And, for most people, at least, it would stop there.
She may indeed have better than that in her, she may have wanted to point her people on to God, but that was not the image that she projected, nor the image most people were (are) running after. So one suspects, at least, that that was not her conscious aim.
My impression is that Diana was an unsophisticated person, who was catapulted into a role for which she was little prepared, spiritually or emotionally -- a comment on the Church of England in which she was so immersed culturally.
In any event, whether Diana does nor does not make it into the Kingdom is not my point, and not my business. My point is about the image of being a "somebody" which the general public pursues, and how we might with truth and love better look at each other, especially those among us who are gifted and admired.
The difference between God's way and the world's comes down, ultimately, to -- Whom do you thank?
Someone noted that if we were all to be judged by the character of Mother Theresa, we are lost. But it is much worse that than. We are all to be judged by the character of Jesus. And, apart from the free gift of grace, we are indeed all lost. We live by grace, not by deserts.
So, let the thanks be to God
Saturday, September 13, the clergy sponsored a March for Unity, to send through Ambridge the message that we are not about to let the hooligans take over our streets. We gathered at the spot where the fellow was shot 14 times in the back, and then marched down the main street to a gazebo at the other end of town for prayer and a candle-lighting service singing "This little light of mine..." On the way, different pastors and lay folks took turns at each block praying for the circumstances in that neighborhood.
The mayor and the high-school principal marched with us. The principal had announced the event to his students. At the Ministerium meeting today, the Roman Catholic youth leader offered to work for an ecumenical event which would provide a focus for the youth in town, such as vowing chastity (which has taken off in many segments of the country).
The Ambridge police provided an escort all the way. Several leaders and clergy have indicated their desire to march, but had other commitments.
An Orthodox Church just a half a block from the beginning of the march had a service beginning just at 7, the starting time. The priest sent us off with a peal of bells from their bell tower as they begin their service, including prayers for the march and the town.
A local newspaper gave strong editorial support: "Good citizens, your community, your neighbors, your friends, and your families need you as never before. Pastor Crumb expects 100 people to participate in the march. One thousand of you should show up. Be there!" We began with over 100, and collected nearly another 100 along the route.
A local radio station likewise put the two pastors heading the march on a talk show for an hour.
I think people are vaguely aware that we are headed for a real battle over the "church/state" issue. But if we repent, seek the face of God, do our homework, and pull together, God will raise up among us a powerful witness to His sovereignty over all things. We have the truth -- fact and logic are all on our side, not to mention the Lord of fact and logic. So, if we remain faithful, we are bound to win.
And if, in the meantime, we have to risk discomfort, hard work, even death threats, so what? We will be in the company of saints through the ages who have carried the burden of the Kingdom for the rest of mankind.
The potential for what is happening in Ambridge is enormous, for America and for the Church. Please pray that we remain faithful to what God is doing in our midst. r
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