Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Semi-Random Musings (22)

You really can’t make this stuff up.

As you have probably read or heard elsewhere by now, the 117th Congress got off to a rocky start January 3 with an opening prayer that concluded with the words “amen and awoman”. Naturally the video went viral.

Of course it did. In this emotionally-charged and hyper-politicized environment, how could it not?

The legacy media promptly assured us that the seven-term Democrat congressman who delivered the offending prayer was in fact “a practicing Methodist pastor”, theoretically giving him ecclesiastical cover for his unique, provocative and gratuitously-inclusive turn of phrase, while Emanuel Cleaver’s critics rushed to point out the obvious — that “amen” is not a gendered term — on the way to calling the prayer “disrespectful to all people of faith” and noting “the radical madness has begun”. (Hey, at least there was a Methodist in his madness.)

Naturally the media then scrupulously pointed out that the prayer’s critics were all “conservatives”, though it hardly takes a right-leaning political inclination to recognize open mockery when we hear it.

Lost in the hubbub is the fact that the last sentence of Cleaver’s prayer (“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and God known by many names by many different faiths”) should be considerably more offensive to any devout Christian than Cleaver’s snide and self-serving closing affirmation. Evidently the congressman wasn’t actually addressing the God I know and love, so I suppose he is welcome to babble out any nonsense he pleases.

Thankfully for the clowning clergyman, we are assured in the gospels that “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men”. Well, at least in the short term. Not a promise I’d be inclined to presume on, but a typically generous gesture from a God who hears irreverence from those who should know better thousands of times a day. Still, we should probably not forget that the Lord is taking notes. Even a Methodist pastor can hardly fail to have read that on the day of judgment men will give account for every careless word.

When a venerable political institution can’t even get through a routine benediction without heated controversy, it doesn’t bode well for the upcoming session. It may be argued that it would be preferable to scrap the traditional opening prayer entirely than to pantomime coming into the presence of God with a mouthful of brazen ecumenical foolishness and radical feminist pandering.

But of course that’s exactly the reaction the lunatic Left is trying to provoke.

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Meanwhile, “the media lies” has become a truism so obvious it wouldn’t be worth mentioning, except that I keep running into Christians who seem blissfully unaware of it. My new favorite is a meme circulating online which displays side-by-side a series of health-related headlines from The Guardian going back eight years.

What do you call a crisis that never ends, in which every new development is heralded as “unprecedented”? Except of course that it isn’t ...

In 2012, it was “Hospitals ‘full to bursting’ as bed shortage hits danger level”. In 2013, “Hospitals scramble to prevent crisis in NHS’s ‘toughest ever’ winter”. In 2014, “More patients, overstretched doctors — is the NHS facing a winter crisis?” In 2015, “Hospital bed occupancy rates hit record high risking care”. In 2016, “Hospitals in England told to put operations on hold to free up beds”. In 2017, “NHS bosses sound alarm over hospitals already running at 99% capacity”. In 2018, “NHS intensive care units sending patients elsewhere due to lack of beds”, and in 2019, “Hospital beds at record low in England as NHS struggles with demand”.

Hmm. Sensing a trend here?

Intrigued to see if this is still going on, I googled Guardian headlines to find that 2020 brings their dedicated readers a veritable cornucopia of pre-flu-season angst. We could choose between “NHS hospitals bring in sleep pods to help tired staff take a break” — and that was was well before the Coronavirus hit England in March — or maybe “Third of UK doctors report burnout and compassion fatigue”, or even “Safety fears as hospitals redeploy nurses to care for patients in corridors” (“I’m being asked to take bloods while patients are on the floor”).

What’s even more amusing is that nine of these eleven exercises in shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater were drafted by the same correspondent, whom The Guardian has recently promoted to the richly-deserved position of Health Policy Editor. It’s almost like Denis Campbell has his annual panic piece diarized sometime in early March so he doesn’t forget to pull his article template from his hard drive, dust it off, insert a few new misleading stats, a couple of horrific anecdotes of recent National Health atrocities, a new hand-wringing pullquote from the current head of the NHS, and maybe some new generic medical clip-art from Pixabay to spice things up.

Now, none of this is to say there are no problems in English hospitals. Of course there are serious problems, and of course a reporter assigned to the health beat must write about healthcare. It’s what they are paying him for.

The dishonesty here is less about nouns than adjectives; less about the facts laid out in the articles and more about the deliberate and self-evidently unjustified fear-mongering with which they are characterized for a gullible, easily distracted public with no long-term memory: “record-setting”, “worst ever”, “99% full”, “crisis crisis crisis”. Somehow, magically, two or three hundred lucky British citizens must have survived this nine-year onslaught of “worst evers” in UK medicine, or surely The Guardian would be fresh out of readers. It’s absolutely unrealistic to use the word “crisis” to refer to a state of affairs that for all intents and purposes occurs in every corner of a nation’s healthcare system at every moment.

This is far from an isolated case of hysterical sensationalism at the expense of reasoned perspective. It’s mass media S.O.P. No wonder I know people who have barely left their apartments since last March.

Just maybe it wouldn’t hurt us to take CNN’s, MSNBC’s and CTV’s latest strings of horrific prognostications, calculated misrepresentations and outright fabrications with a shovelful of salt. Or two.

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When I walk my neighborhood in the mornings, I pray as I go, and I bring before the Lord all the people in my life who need his attention ... or at least as many of them as I can fit in during a 45 minute walk.

Sometimes as I try to analyze in prayer where each person is spiritually, and what it is they need to understand to move them from unbelief to faith, I (not surprisingly) find myself stumped. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. I can’t get in there close enough — even with experience, attention, love and the use of Christian discernment — to figure out exactly what everybody needs. The true motives, beliefs and desires of my friends, co-workers and family are in some measure closed to me, even when they have expressed them verbally. People do not always say what they mean, and often they don’t even know what they mean.

And I have to confess that in those moments of realization of my own inadequacy, I sometimes find myself asking the Lord how we are going to get this person I love from Point A, which is spiritual death, to Point B, which is eternal life in the whole-hearted enjoyment of Christ. That’s a tall order, and we should not be surprised if it stumps us fallible human beings.

In those moments, I have to remind myself that the apostle Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and he didn’t expect his readers to be ashamed of it either. Why? Because it works. The gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The truth of God in the words of God has the ability to reach people in ways my carefully calculated turns of phrase cannot.

When I look back at various Christians whose love and fellowship I enjoy, I remind myself what they were before the gospel of Christ got hold of them and transformed them. I’ve watched the changes over the years. I’m so used to the glorious results that sometimes I forget how they were achieved: step by step by ever-so-patient step, as the Holy Spirit did his work of remaking a lost sinner into the image of the Son of God.

If you want to refresh your spirit and revitalize your prayers, I recommend doing the same thing. Look back over the lives of those you love and count their blessings, name them one by one.

It may surprise you what the Lord has done. And he has done it through the gospel of Christ.

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