All eyes are upon me, so......
Judging from the Summer Edition of CGI’s The International News, that organization has apparently decided to solve its Bill Watson problem by putting his political messaging into the mouth of one of his congregants! In the latest edition of the paper, Bill returns to theological concerns with a frontpage article on the Holy Days. This, however, is followed by an article by Jeff Flanick – a member of Bill’s Medina, Ohio congregation. And, if you thought that CGI was finished with partisan political treatises, you will be sadly disappointed by Jeff’s article.
The article, “Living in an Orwellian ‘Twilight Zone,’” opens with: “Picture if you will a world in which the moral compass, the social compact, and the definitions of ‘right and wrong’ are skewed, or more accurately put: obliterated.” Mr. Flanick continues: “What we are experiencing is more befuddling than simply a clash of cultures and of individual philosophies. There is an unprecedented distortion of facts and observable reality. Current events depict a ‘topsy-turvy’ world where confusion and disorder rule the day on a scale not seen in living memory.” He then proceeds to give several examples of this “convoluted reality.” From Jeff’s perspective, things like gender identity, mRNA vaccines, charges of police racial bias, pronoun usage, historical revisionism, sexual education in schools, abortion, and discrimination against Christians are some of the key problem areas afflicting our society.
In other words, Mr. Flanick’s article is just another tired recitation of Right-wing talking points! In fact, one would think that he/she was reading the script for one of the talking heads at Fox News Network! For instance, he launches into a diatribe about Critical Race Theory. While he generously allows that there may be a “kernel of truth” in the assertion that minority contributions to the United States have been overlooked or ignored, he deplores “the degradation of the work, effort, and sacrifice of the founding fathers of our nation” as “disingenuous at best and falsely malicious at worst.” Apparently, Mr. Flanick doesn’t want to hear about the founding fathers owning slaves, setting up the fledgling nation for a Civil War, or their deplorable treatment of Native Americans.
Along the same lines, Mr. Flanick went on to underscore the Disney Corporation’s role in opposing Florida’s ban on the discussion of sexual topics in elementary school (How dare those educators teach tolerance for sexual perverts!). He then went on to decry the former Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe’s inarticulate assertion that parents shouldn’t be setting school curriculum (I would have framed it in terms of parents not being allowed to censor what is taught in our schools – I have always welcomed parental input into what is taught in our nation’s classrooms). Our educational institutions should always be places where folks are exposed to different views and perspectives.
From there, Mr. Flanick proceeds to bemoan the fact that anyone would have the audacity to call people out for promulgating false information, lies, and political propaganda. Although he doesn’t directly mention Trump or his followers in this context, Jeff makes clear that he feels that our government is actively trying to silence their voices. He writes: “Those in power are now attempting to resort to censorship and propaganda in order to assert their agendas. Recently it has been announced that the Department of Homeland Security is forming a working group to deal with ‘disinformation.’ This proposed group is reminiscent of both George Orwell’s ‘Ministry of Truth,’ as well as Stalin’s Department of Desinformatsiya (disinformation) in 1923. The aim clearly is to prevent alternate views from being discussed and presented. We have all heard of the ‘fact checkers’ on Facebook and Twitter. Even data taken directly from official government sources were banned on media platforms with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the controversial 2020 election. Who decides what is ‘information’ versus what is ‘disinformation’?” In other words, Trump and his supporters should be allowed to say whatever they want irrespective of its relationship to the truth or potential to inflict harm! How dare anyone challenge anything the Right has to say!
Mr. Flanick went on to cite the “current publicity over abortion” as being illustrative of our government’s limitations regarding discussions of the issue. From his perspective: “There is a lack of clarity and objective discussion on the abortion procedures themselves. This is especially true of late-term abortions.” For Jeff, there is only one correct way of looking at this issue, and the pro-choice position is NOT it! He decries the fact that “Many pro-choice advocates refuse to address this reality.” In other words, ”what takes place during an abortion.” For Jeff, the only viable “Christian” position on this issue is pro-life. It’s black and white! Never mind the fact that there are Christians who believe that human life begins when we draw our first breath (a position that can be defended in Scripture). Personally, I would characterize my own position as pro-life, but I am also a believer in the dictates of personal conscience. In other words, it is very presumptuous of anyone to assume that the dictates of his/her own conscience on this issue should rule everyone’s conscience!
Predictably, Mr. Flanick concludes this particular train of thought with a few quotes from none other than Tucker Carlson! In fact, Jeff devoted several paragraphs to Tucker’s pearls of wisdom. He wrote:
“Tucker Carlson, in response to the current hysterias over the abortion issue as well as the supposed problem of extreme ‘racism’ in our country, has said the following: ‘This isn’t just about intimidating Supreme Court Justices, five of them, into changing their views on Roe v. Wade. It’s about attacking Christianity, because Christianity stands in their way.’
He also has said, ‘Modern liberals hate Christianity not because it is repressive, but because they are. Any religion that puts God before government is by definition a threat to their power,’ he said. ‘Christianity specifically rejects their most cherished dogma—which is a racial hierarchy. The Christian message is the opposite of the equity agenda.
‘The totalitarians always do hate Christians. The Soviets killed the priests first, so did Mao. During the Spanish Civil War, the Communists subjected a statue of Jesus to a symbolic execution in front of <a> firing squad.’
‘Undermining Christianity is the central project of the left.’ Tucker is taking a wide-lens view of our current predicaments.”
Really? Is that what Tucker is doing? Some of us would characterize that as a very narrow view of our current predicaments!
Then, as if to underscore the righteousness of his own political views on these issues, Mr. Flanick trots out a few of the Armstrong Church of God standard prooftexts to justify his position. For instance, he quotes Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” He also had the audacity to quote that famous passage from Isaiah. I bet you’ve already guessed the one: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” (Isaiah 5:20-21, NIV) I too love those quotes – May I suggest a little self-reflection in using them to defend a partisan political position!
For Mr. Flanick, it all boils down to this: “The answer to why we are living in times such as these is the abandonment of God and the willful ignorance of His Word and His Way of Living.” With all due respect, I believe that it’s a little more complicated than that, Jeff! Even so, we do agree on one thing – I too believe that God’s Kingdom is the solution to our problems. However, I do NOT believe that supporting Republican or right-wing policies and candidates will make this world a better place in the meantime!
Lonnie Hendrix/Miller Jones