Eye contact is a major display of intimidation. It provokes fights and enforces dominance. This week we discuss how to defend yourself against this form of social aggression when people are looking for a fight. It’s all very simple psychology. Try this simple trick it works.
It had been around a long time before the Radical Right discovered it—and its targets have ranged from “the international bankers” to Masons, Jesuits, and munitions makers.
American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of stylemind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics. In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.
Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good. But nothing really prevents a sound program or demand from being advocated in the paranoid style. Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.
Here is Senator McCarthy, speaking in June 1951 about the parlous situation of the United States:
How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, which it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men. . . . What can be made of this unbroken series of decisions and acts contributing to the strategy of defeat? They cannot be attributed to incompetence. . . . The laws of probability would dictate that part of . . . [the] decisions would serve the country’s interest.
Now turn back fifty years to a manifesto signed in 1895 by a number of leaders of the Populist party:
As early as 1865–66 a conspiracy was entered into between the gold gamblers of Europe and America. . . . For nearly thirty years these conspirators have kept the people quarreling over less important matters while they have pursued with unrelenting zeal their one central purpose. . . . Every device of treachery, every resource of statecraft, and every artifice known to the secret cabals of the international gold ring are being used to deal a blow to the prosperity of the people and the financial and commercial independence of the country.
Next, a Texas newspaper article of 1855:
. . . It is a notorious fact that the Monarchs of Europe and the Pope of Rome are at this very moment plotting our destruction and threatening the extinction of our political, civil, and religious institutions. We have the best reasons for believing that corruption has found its way into our Executive Chamber, and that our Executive head is tainted with the infectious venom of Catholicism. . . . The Pope has recently sent his ambassador of state to this country on a secret commission, the effect of which is an extraordinary boldness of the Catholic church throughout the United States. . . . These minions of the Pope are boldly insulting our Senators; reprimanding our Statesmen; propagating the adulterous union of Church and State; abusing with foul calumny all governments but Catholic, and spewing out the bitterest execrations on all Protestantism. The Catholics in the United States receive from abroad more than $200,000 annually for the propagation of their creed. Add to this the vast revenues collected here. . . .
These quotations give the keynote of the style. In the history of the United States one find it, for example, in the anti-Masonic movement, the nativist and anti-Catholic movement, in certain spokesmen of abolitionism who regarded the United States as being in the grip of a slaveholders’ conspiracy, in many alarmists about the Mormons, in some Greenback and Populist writers who constructed a great conspiracy of international bankers, in the exposure of a munitions makers’ conspiracy of World War I, in the popular left-wing press, in the contemporary American right wing, and on both sides of the race controversy today, among White Citizens’ Councils and Black Muslims. I do not propose to try to trace the variations of the paranoid style that can be found in all these movements, but will confine myself to a few leading episodes in our past history in which the style emerged in full and archetypal splendor.
Illuminism and Masonry
I begin with a particularly revealing episode—the panic that broke out in some quarters at the end of the eighteenth century over the allegedly subversive activities of the Bavarian Illuminati. This panic was a part of the general reaction to the French Revolution. In the United States it was heightened by the response of certain men, mostly in New England and among the established clergy, to the rise of Jeffersonian democracy. Illuminism had been started in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt. Its teachings today seem to be no more than another version of Enlightenment rationalism, spiced with the anticlerical atmosphere of eighteenth-century Bavaria. It was a somewhat naïve and utopian movement which aspired ultimately to bring the human race under the rules of reason. Its humanitarian rationalism appears to have acquired a fairly wide influence in Masonic lodges.
Americans first learned of Illuminism in 1797, from a volume published in Edinburgh (later reprinted in New York) under the title, Proofs of a Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies. Its author was a well-known Scottish scientist, John Robison, who had himself been a somewhat casual adherent of Masonry in Britain, but whose imagination had been inflamed by what he considered to be the far less innocent Masonic movement on the Continent. Robison seems to have made his work as factual as he could, but when he came to estimating the moral character and the political influence of Illuminism, he made the characteristic paranoid leap into fantasy. The association, he thought, was formed “for the express purpose of rooting out all religious establishments, and overturning all the existing governments of Europe.” It had become “one great and wicked project fermenting and working all over Europe.” And to it he attributed a central role in bringing about the French Revolution. He saw it as a libertine, anti-Christian movement, given to the corruption of women, the cultivation of sensual pleasures, and the violation of property rights. Its members had plans for making a tea that caused abortion—a secret substance that “blinds or kills when spurted in the face,” and a device that sounds like a stench bomb—a “method for filling a bedchamber with pestilential vapours.”
These notions were quick to make themselves felt in America. In May 1798, a minister of the Massachusetts Congregational establishment in Boston, Jedidiah Morse, delivered a timely sermon to the young country, which was then sharply divided between Jeffersonians and Federalists, Francophiles and Anglomen. Having read Robison, Morse was convinced of a Jacobinical plot touched off by Illuminism, and that the country should be rallied to defend itself. His warnings were heeded throughout New England wherever Federalists brooded about the rising tide of religious infidelity or Jeffersonian democracy. Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, followed Morse’s sermon with a Fourth-of-July discourse on The Duty of Americans in the Present Crisis, in which he held forth against the Antichrist in his own glowing rhetoric. Soon the pulpits of New England were ringing with denunciations of the Illuminati, as though the country were swarming with them.
The anti-Masonic movement of the late 1820s and the 1830s took up and extended the obsession with conspiracy. At first, this movement may seem to be no more than an extension or repetition of the anti-Masonic theme sounded in the outcry against the Bavarian Illuminati. But whereas the panic of the 1790s was confined mainly to New England and linked to an ultraconservative point of view, the later anti-Masonic movement affected many parts of the northern United States, and was intimately linked with popular democracy and rural egalitarianism. Although anti-Masonry happened to be anti-Jacksonian (Jackson was a Mason), it manifested the same animus against the closure of opportunity for the common man and against aristocratic institutions that one finds in the Jacksonian crusade against the Bank of the United States.
The anti-Masonic movement was a product not merely of natural enthusiasm but also of the vicissitudes of party politics. It was joined and used by a great many men who did not fully share its original anti-Masonic feelings. It attracted the support of several reputable statemen who had only mild sympathy with its fundamental bias, but who as politicians could not afford to ignore it. Still, it was a folk movement of considerable power, and the rural enthusiasts who provided its real impetus believed in it wholeheartedly.
The Paranoid Style in ActionThe John Birch Society is attempting to suppress a television series about the United Nations by means of a mass letter-writing campaign to the sponsor, . . . The Xerox Corporation. The corporation, however, intends to go ahead with the programs. . . .
The July issue of the John Birch Society Bulletin . . . said an “avalanche of mail ought to convince them of the unwisdom of their proposed action—just as United Air Lines was persuaded to back down and take the U.N. insignia off their planes.” (A United Air Lines spokesman confirmed that the U.N. emblem was removed from its planes, following “considerable public reaction against it.”)
Birch official John Rousselot said, “We hate to see a corporation of this country promote the U.N. when we know that it is an instrument of the Soviet Communist conspiracy.”
—San Francisco Chronicle, July 31, 1964
As a secret society, Masonry was considered to be a standing conspiracy against republican government. It was held to be particularly liable to treason—for example, Aaron Burr’s famous conspiracy was alleged to have been conducted by Masons. Masonry was accused of constituting a separate system of loyalty, a separate imperium within the framework of federal and state governments, which was inconsistent with loyalty to them. Quite plausibly it was argued that the Masons had set up a jurisdiction of their own, with their own obligations and punishments, liable to enforcement even by the penalty of death. So basic was the conflict felt to be between secrecy and democracy that other, more innocent societies such as Phi Beta Kappa came under attack.
Since Masons were pledged to come to each other’s aid under circumstances of distress, and to extend fraternal indulgence at all times, it was held that the order nullified the enforcement of regular law. Masonic constables, sheriffs, juries, and judges must all be in league with Masonic criminals and fugitives. The press was believed to have been so “muzzled” by Masonic editors and proprietors that news of Masonic malfeasance could be suppressed. At a moment when almost every alleged citadel of privilege in America was under democratic assault, Masonry was attacked as a fraternity of the privileged, closing business opportunities and nearly monopolizing political offices.
Certain elements of truth and reality there may have been in these views of Masonry. What must be emphasized here, however, is the apocalyptic and absolutistic framework in which this hostility was commonly expressed. Anti-Masons were not content simply to say that secret societies were rather a bad idea. The author of the standard exposition of anti-Masonry declared that Freemasonry was “not only the most abominable but also the most dangerous institution that ever was imposed on man. . . . It may truly be said to be Hell’s master piece.”
The Jesuit Threat
Fear of a Masonic plot had hardly been quieted when the rumors arose of a Catholic plot against American values. One meets here again the same frame of mind, but a different villain. The anti-Catholic movement converged with a growing nativism, and while they were not identical, together they cut such a wide swath in American life that they were bound to embrace many moderates to whom the paranoid style, in its full glory, did not appeal. Moreover, we need not dismiss out of hand as totally parochial or mean-spirited the desire of Yankee Americans to maintain an ethnically and religiously homogeneous society nor the particular Protestant commitments to individualism and freedom that were brought into play. But the movement had a large paranoid infusion, and the most influential anti-Catholic militants certainly had a strong affinity for the paranoid style.
Two books which appeared in 1835 described the new danger to the American way of life and may be taken as expressions of the anti-Catholic mentality. One, Foreign Conspiracies against the Liberties of the United States, was from the hand of the celebrated painter and inventor of the telegraph, S.F.B. Morse. “A conspiracy exists,” Morse proclaimed , and “its plans are already in operation . . . we are attacked in a vulnerable quarter which cannot be defended by our ships, our forts, or our armies.” The main source of the conspiracy Morse found in Metternich’s government: “Austria is now acting in this country. She has devised a grand scheme. She has organized a great plan for doing something here. . . . She has her Jesuit missionaries traveling through the land; she has supplied them with money, and has furnished a fountain for a regular supply.” Were the plot successful, Morse said, some scion of the House of Hapsburg would soon be installed as Emperor of the United States.
“It is an ascertained fact,” wrote another Protestant militant,
that Jesuits are prowling about all parts of the United States in every possible disguise, expressly to ascertain the advantageous situations and modes to disseminate Popery. A minister of the Gospel from Ohio has informed us that he discovered one carrying on his devices in his congregation; and he says that the western country swarms with them under the name of puppet show men, dancing masters, music teachers, peddlers of images and ornaments, barrel organ players, and similar practitioners.
Lyman Beecher, the elder of a famous family and the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote in the same year his Plea for the West, in which he considered the possibility that the Christian millennium might come in the American states. Everything depended, in his judgment, upon what influences dominated the great West, where the future of the country lay. There Protestantism was engaged in a life-or-death struggle with Catholicism. “Whatever we do, it must be done quickly. . . . ” A great tide of immigration, hostile to free institutions, was sweeping in upon the country, subsidized and sent by “the potentates of Europe,” multiplying tumult and violence, filling jails, crowding poorhouses, quadrupling taxation, and sending increasing thousands of voters to “lay their inexperienced hand upon the helm of our power.” Many anti-Masons had been fascinated by the penalties involved if Masons failed to live up to their obligations. My own favorite is the oath attributed to a royal archmason who invited “having my skull smote off and my brains exposed to the scorching rays of the sun.”
Anti-Catholicism has always been the pornography of the Puritan. Whereas the anti-Masons had envisaged drinking bouts and had entertained themselves with sado-masochistic fantasies about the actual enforcement of grisly Masonic oaths, the anti-Catholics invented an immense lore about libertine priests, the confessional as an opportunity for seduction, licentious convents and monasteries. Probably the most widely read contemporary book in the United States before Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a work supposedly written by one Maria Monk, entitled Awful Disclosures, which appeared in 1836. The author, who purported to have escaped from the Hotel Dieu nunnery in Montreal after five years there as novice and nun, reported her convent life in elaborate and circumstantial detail. She reported having been told by the Mother Superior that she must “obey the priests in all things”; to her “utter astonishment and horror,” she soon found what the nature of such obedience was. Infants born of convent liaisons were baptized and then killed, she said, so that they might ascend at once to heaven. Her book, hotly attacked and defended , continued to be read and believed even after her mother gave testimony that Maria had been somewhat addled ever since childhood after she had rammed a pencil into her head. Maria died in prison in 1849, after having been arrested in a brothel as a pickpocket.
Anti-Catholicism, like anti-Masonry, mixed its fortunes with American party politics, and it became an enduring factor in American politics. The American Protective Association of the 1890s revived it with ideological variations more suitable to the times—the depression of 1893, for example, was alleged to be an international creation of the Catholics who began it by starting a run on the banks. Some spokesmen of the movement circulated a bogus encyclical attributed to Leo XIII instructing American Catholics on a certain date in 1893 to exterminate all heretics, and a great many anti-Catholics daily expected a nationwide uprising. The myth of an impending Catholic war of mutilation and extermination of heretics persisted into the twentieth century.
Why They Feel Dispossessed
If, after our historically discontinuous examples of the paranoid style, we now take the long jump to the contemporary right wing, we find some rather important differences from the nineteenth-century movements. The spokesmen of those earlier movements felt that they stood for causes and personal types that were still in possession of their country—that they were fending off threats to a still established way of life. But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.
Important changes may also be traced to the effects of the mass media. The villains of the modern right are much more vivid than those of their paranoid predecessors, much better known to the public; the literature of the paranoid style is by the same token richer and more circumstantial in personal description and personal invective. For the vaguely delineated villains of the anti-Masons, for the obscure and disguised Jesuit agents, the little-known papal delegates of the anti-Catholics, for the shadowy international bankers of the monetary conspiracies, we may now substitute eminent public figures like Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower, secretaries of State like Marshall, Acheson, and Dulles, Justices of the Supreme Court like Frankfurter and Warren, and the whole battery of lesser but still famous and vivid alleged conspirators headed by Alger Hiss.
Events since 1939 have given the contemporary right-wing paranoid a vast theatre for his imagination, full of rich and proliferating detail, replete with realistic cues and undeniable proofs of the validity of his suspicions. The theatre of action is now the entire world, and he can draw not only on the events of World War II, but also on those of the Korean War and the Cold War. Any historian of warfare knows it is in good part a comedy of errors and a museum of incompetence; but if for every error and every act of incompetence one can substitute an act of treason, many points of fascinating interpretation are open to the paranoid imagination. In the end, the real mystery, for one who reads the primary works of paranoid scholarship, is not how the United States has been brought to its present dangerous position but how it has managed to survive at all.
The basic elements of contemporary right-wing thought can be reduced to three: First, there has been the now-familiar sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt’s New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism or communism. A great many right-wingers would agree with Frank Chodorov, the author of The Income Tax: The Root of All Evil, that this campaign began with the passage of the income-tax amendment to the Constitution in 1913.
The second contention is that top government officialdom has been so infiltrated by Communists that American policy, at least since the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, has been dominated by men who were shrewdly and consistently selling out American national interests.
Finally, the country is infused with a network of Communist agents, just as in the old days it was infiltrated by Jesuit agents, so that the whole apparatus of education, religion, the press, and the mass media is engaged in a common effort to paralyze the resistance of loyal Americans.
Perhaps the most representative document of the McCarthyist phase was a long indictment of Secretary of State George C. Marshall, delivered in 1951 in the Senate by senator McCarthy, and later published in a somewhat different form. McCarthy pictured Marshall as the focal figure in a betrayal of American interests stretching in time from the strategic plans for World War II to the formulation of the Marshall Plan. Marshal was associated with practically every American failure or defeat, McCarthy insisted, and none of this was either accident or incompetence. There was a “baffling pattern” of Marshall’s interventions in the war, which always conduced to the well-being of the Kremlin. The sharp decline in America’s relative strength from 1945 to 1951 did not “just happen”; it was “brought about, step by step, by will and intention,” the consequence not of mistakes but of a treasonous conspiracy, “a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.”
Today, the mantle of McCarthy has fallen on a retired candy manufacturer, Robert H. Welch, Jr., who is less strategically placed and has a much smaller but better organized following than the Senator. A few years ago Welch proclaimed that “Communist influences are now in almost complete control of our government”—note the care and scrupulousness of that “almost.” He has offered a full scale interpretation of our recent history in which Communists figure at every turn: They started a run on American banks in 1933 that forced their closure; they contrived the recognition of the Soviet Union by the United States in the same year, just in time to save the Soviets from economic collapse; they have stirred up the fuss over segregation in the South; they have taken over the Supreme Court and made it “one of the most important agencies of Communism.”
Close attention to history wins for Mr. Welch an insight into affairs that is given to few of us. “For many reasons and after a lot of study,” he wrote some years ago, “I personally believe [John Foster] Dulles to be a Communist agent.” The job of Professor Arthur F. Burns as head of Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisors was “merely a cover-up for Burns’s liaison work between Eisenhower and some of his Communist bosses.” Eisenhower’s brother Milton was “actually [his] superior and boss within the Communist party.” As for Eisenhower himself, Welch characterized him, in words that have made the candy manufacturer famous, as “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy”—a conclusion, he added, “based on an accumulation of detailed evidence so extensive and so palpable that it seems to put this conviction beyond any reasonable doubt.”
Emulating the Enemy
The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millennialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date fort the apocalypse. (“Time is running out,” said Welch in 1951. “Evidence is piling up on many sides and from many sources that October 1952 is the fatal month when Stalin will attack.”)
As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated—if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.
The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional).
It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry. Secret organizations set up to combat secret organizations give the same flattery. The Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy. The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through “front” groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy. Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist “crusades” openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth.
In his recent book, How to Win an Election, Stephen C. Shadegg cites a statement attributed to Mao Tse-tung: “Give me just two or three men in a village and I will take the village.” Shadegg comments: “ In the Goldwater campaigns of 1952 and 1958 and in all other campaigns where I have served as consultant I have followed the advice of Mao Tse-tung.” “I would suggest,” writes senator Goldwater in Why Not Victory? “that we analyze and copy the strategy of the enemy; theirs has worked and ours has not.
On the other hand, the sexual freedom often attributed to the enemy, his lack of moral inhibition, his possession of especially effective techniques for fulfilling his desires, give exponents of the paranoid style an opportunity to project and express unacknowledgeable aspects of their own psychological concerns. Catholics and Mormons—later, Negroes and Jews—have lent themselves to a preoccupation with illicit sex. Very often the fantasies of true believers reveal strong sadomasochistic outlets, vividly expressed, for example, in the delight of anti-Masons with the cruelty of Masonic punishments.
Renegades and Pedants
A special significance attaches to the figure of the renegade from the enemy cause. The anti-Masonic movement seemed at times to be the creation of ex-Masons; certainly the highest significance was attributed to their revelations, and every word they said was believed. Anti-Catholicism used the runaway nun and the apostate priest; the place of ex-Communists in the avant-garde anti-Communist movements of our time is well known. In some part, the special authority accorded the renegade derives from the obsession with secrecy so characteristics of such movements: the renegade is the man or woman who has been in the Arcanum, and brings forth with him or her the final verification of suspicions which might otherwise have been doubted by a skeptical world. But I think there is a deeper eschatological significance that attaches to the person of the renegade: in the spiritual wrestling match between good and evil which is the paranoid’s archetypal model of the world, the renegade is living proof that all the conversions are not made by the wrong side. He brings with him the promise of redemption and victory.
A final characteristic of the paranoid style is related to the quality of its pedantry. One of the impressive things about paranoid literature is the contrast between its fantasied conclusions and the almost touching concern with factuality it invariably shows. It produces heroic strivings for evidence to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed. Of course, there are highbrow, lowbrow, and middlebrow paranoids, as there are likely to be in any political tendency. But respectable paranoid literature not only starts from certain moral commitments that can indeed be justified but also carefully and all but obsessively accumulates “evidence.” The difference between this “evidence” and that commonly employed by others is that it seems less a means of entering into normal political controversy than a means of warding off the profane intrusion of the secular political world. The paranoid seems to have little expectation of actually convincing a hostile world, but he can accumulate evidence in order to protect his cherished convictions from it.
Paranoid writing begins with certain broad defensible judgments. There was something to be said for the anti-Masons. After all, a secret society composed of influential men bound by special obligations could conceivable pose some kind of threat to the civil order in which they were suspended. There was also something to be said for the Protestant principles of individuality and freedom, as well as for the nativist desire to develop in North America a homogeneous civilization. Again, in our time an actual laxity in security allowed some Communists to find a place in governmental circles, and innumerable decisions of World War II and the Cold War could be faulted.
The higher paranoid scholarship is nothing if not coherent—in fact the paranoid mind is far more coherent than the real world. It is nothing if not scholarly in technique. McCarthy’s 96-page pamphlet, McCarthyism, contains no less than 313 footnote references, and Mr. Welch’s incredible assault on Eisenhower, The Politician, has one hundred pages of bibliography and notes. The entire right-wing movement of our time is a parade of experts, study groups, monographs, footnotes, and bibliographies. Sometimes the right-wing striving for scholarly depth and an inclusive world view has startling consequences: Mr. Welch, for example, has charged that the popularity of Arnold Toynbee’s historical work is the consequence of a plot on the part of Fabians, “Labour party bosses in England,” and various members of the Anglo-American “liberal establishment” to overshadow the much more truthful and illuminating work of Oswald Spengler.
The Double Sufferer
The paranoid style is not confined to our own country and time; it is an international phenomenon. Studying the millennial sects of Europe from the eleventh to the sixteenth century, Norman Cohn believed he found a persistent psychic complex that corresponds broadly with what I have been considering—a style made up of certain preoccupations and fantasies:
- “the megalomaniac view of oneself as the Elect,
- wholly good, abominably persecuted, yet
- assured of ultimate triumph; the
- attribution of gigantic and demonic powers to the adversary;
- the refusal to accept the ineluctable limitations and imperfections of human existence, such as transience, dissention, conflict, fallibility whether intellectual or moral;
- the obsession with inerrable prophecies . . . systematized misinterpretations, always gross and often grotesque.”
This glimpse across a long span of time emboldens me to make the conjecture—it is no more than that—that a mentality disposed to see the world in this way may be a persistent psychic phenomenon, more or less constantly affecting a modest minority of the population. But certain religious traditions, certain social structures and national inheritances, certain historical catastrophes or frustrations may be conducive to the release of such psychic energies, and to situations in which they can more readily be built into mass movements or political parties. In American experience ethnic and religious conflict have plainly been a major focus for militant and suspicious minds of this sort, but class conflicts also can mobilize such energies. Perhaps the central situation conducive to the diffusion of the paranoid tendency is a confrontation of opposed interests which are (or are felt to be) totally irreconcilable, and thus by nature not susceptible to the normal political processes of bargain and compromise. The situation becomes worse when the representatives of a particular social interest—perhaps because of the very unrealistic and unrealizable nature of its demands—are shut out of the political process. Having no access to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their original conception that the world of power is sinister and malicious fully confirmed. They see only the consequences of power—and this through distorting lenses—and have no chance to observe its actual machinery. A distinguished historian has said that one of the most valuable things about history is that it teaches us how things do not happen. It is precisely this kind of awareness that the paranoid fails to develop. He has a special resistance of his own, of course, to developing such awareness, but circumstances often deprive him of exposure to events that might enlighten him—and in any case he resists enlightenment.
We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.
[00:00:00] Hey everyone, its Skye. I am not here with Phil or Christian. In fact, I’m not even here at all because this week I am away traveling and speaking. I’ll be in Hawaii at the YWAM base in Kona to teach a class? And then I’m going to Palm [00:00:15] Springs, California to teach a church Retreat and thankfully I have my lovely wife with me for the whole week. So we’re taking this sort of as a vacation as well. So on this week’s episode. We have something a little different for you. We’ve got a sermon that I preached earlier this year at Mission [00:00:30] Hills Church in San Marcos, California, and I thought this message might be a good fit for the holy post audience because it deals with a number of themes that come up repeatedly on the podcast this sermon is all about how should Christians be thinking about the way we relate to the culture and even [00:00:45] though Phil and I don’t talk about this explicitly on many episodes. We do actually have an agenda behind the holy post apart from the ridiculous banter and some of the more interesting interviews are real agenda is to help you get a ravishing vision of your life with God and
Figure [00:01:00] out how to live in a culture that is moving beyond Christian faith into a pluralistic society without resorting to fear or anger this sermon tackles a lot of those same themes. So I hope you enjoy it. I hope you find it helpful and we’ll be back next week with a regular episode [00:01:15] of the Holy post. What’s the news that you like the most? Who’s your favorite podcast host if it’s breakfast get your toast it sky and fill in the Holy post sky [00:01:30] and Phil and the holy post and sometimes Christian. My name is Skye. I’m delighted to be with you and grateful for the opportunity to share with you. I’ve been looking forward to this. We have a lot of ground to cover this morning. We [00:01:45] are going to look at the Old Testament and the New Testament. We are going to look at a lot of history. We’re going to talk about Mexican prison riots and Hollywood socialites. We’re going to talk about marriage and bad tattoos. We’re going to look at Medieval.
And [00:02:00] monkey trials all kinds of interesting stuff. So buckle up.
I want to begin with fashion.
And a fashion battle that I witnessed when I was a college student. So about 25 years ago. I was a college student at [00:02:15] a large State University in the Midwest and my freshman year a couple weeks into the end of the semester fall was coming. It was getting cooler outside. There was a group on campus called the glba. So for the gay lesbian bisexual Alliance and [00:02:30] in the fall every year they had a gay Awareness Week where they’d bring different speakers on the campus and have different events to kind of raise awareness for their cause and they started putting posters up around campus announcing jean day.
Jean de the poster said was [00:02:45] Thursday and it meant any students who supported gay rights were to wear jeans to show their support.
Now immediately everyone knew this is obviously a ploy because jeans are like a second skin for most college students and it was a way for the glba to inflate the perception [00:03:00] of their support and no one paid attention. There were dozens of groups on campus at all had their cause that always did these kinds of things no one paid attention until there was a conservative student group on campus that put up their own signs, which said if you do not support gay rights wear a shirt on Thursday. [00:03:15] So you have the silliness of the glb ace tactic was met and surpassed by the stupidity of the conservative groups play. So Thursday comes most students didn’t carry and they just go on with their lives. However, they were going [00:03:30] to dress that they didn’t pay attention to it. But some students took this very seriously. I was walking to class that morning and in the middle of Campus was the glba students all wearing blue jeans and no shirts including the women.
[00:03:45] And then there were the conservative students who were all wearing khaki pants and in some cases multiple shirts right to uphold, you know, conservative Traditional Values and find no one paid attention to get everyone on their lives and there’s day but in the middle of the [00:04:00] day around noon in front of the Student Center, these two groups got a new a clash and it was nasty. I mean the shouting the screaming people were trying to hold them apart from each other. It was the shirts versus the Skins. It was the khakis [00:04:15] versus the denims and as I’m watching remember, I’ve certainly been on campus for a few weeks. I’m a freshman. I’m like what on Earth is going on and I had the voice of my high school history teacher kind of echoing in my head because on graduation day. He told me Sky you’re going to do just [00:04:30] fine in college if you remember one thing college is not the real world.
And sadly in the 25 years since the real world has come to look an awful lot more like my college experience than I would have liked.
And we’re not screaming at each other [00:04:45] in the middle of a quad in front of the Student Center anymore and said were screaming at each other on cable news.
Or on radio programs or on Twitter social media or screaming at each other at school board meetings or in front of City Hall arguing about whether or not you can put a nativity scene [00:05:00] in there. Whatever.
Is this really how it’s supposed to be?
Is this supposed to be my tribe against your tribe or my group against your group? And if you’re not with me, you’re against me and all these different groups displaying their loyalties fighting [00:05:15] with one another about who’s going to dominate the Public Square who’s going to dominate Washington who’s going to dominate our policies and regulations and who’s going to get their way and who’s going to lose? Is that really what were called to
And not just as Americans, [00:05:30] but is that what we’re called to as Christians?
That’s what I want to talk about this morning. How are we as followers of Jesus supposed to engage our culture particularly as our culture becomes increasingly secular pluralistic and post-christian.
[00:05:45] Are the options before us either run away and Retreat from the culture or to fight and try to dominate and control the culture or is there another option?
To get into history a little bit throughout the 20th [00:06:00] century. There were primarily two ways that Christians viewed cultural engagement and a dramatic shift that happened in the middle and to describe that shift in these different postures are models of cultural engagement. I want to draw from to very [00:06:15] pivotal stories in the Old Testament. And the first is the story of The Exodus you remember Sunday school or you’ve seen Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments every year and you know, the basic story of The Exodus the background is God’s people are slaves in [00:06:30] Egypt and they’re being oppressed and persecuted by pharaoh and his regime and God hears their cries and he sends Moses and he rescues them out of Egypt Remember The Parting of the Red Sea and all that stuff.
That’s The Exodus the exit of God’s people out of slavery in Egypt [00:06:45] and as they’re on their way to the promised land God gives them his laws and his instructions but a lot of these laws and instructions were designed to preserve the the special quality of God’s people as they are surrounded by all these Pagan cultures including Egypt, [00:07:00] he gives them instructions like you’re not to worship the same God that they worship you’re not to make idols and worship them you aren’t to eat foods that are different than what the Nations around you eat. You know, they all have these Pagan Kings you’re not going to be like that you’re going to have [00:07:15] an ethical system that values people who are poor or who are immigrants or who are slaves among you because you know what it’s like to be mistreated. So he had all these rules and regulations that were meant to keep the Israelites separate and distinct from the cultures [00:07:30] around them. That’s that’s the Exodus idea and it’s an idea that dominated much of 20th century Christian cultural engagement are really more properly labeled disengagement.
Let me give you a little background in the early 20th century. There [00:07:45] were all kinds of new ideas that were infiltrating our culture many of them coming from Europe.
Darwin scientific ideas new ideas about the Bible and about scripture and are [00:08:00] Miracles really possible and can you really trust the authority and historicity of the scriptures all these ideas are kind of flooding into North America and it caused what historians refer to as the modernist fundamentalist controversy if you want to research it on your own look it up on Google or whatever but [00:08:15] here’s the basics one side of the church said hey, all these new ideas that are coming in and Science and Technology and on and on we need to adapt to those things and realize that our faith needs to adapt and we need to abandon old ideas and really absorb these new things. They were called the modernists [00:08:30] the fundamentalist on the other side said no way we’re sticking to the fundamentals of the faith and we’re not giving an inch and this caused all kinds of riffs and turmoil in the culture and in the church and historians look at one particular event in 1925 is kind of a turning point. You [00:08:45] may remember this from high school history class the Scopes Monkey Trial remember that
This was a trial where a high school teacher intent in Tennessee was put on trial for teaching evolution and it became kind of this proxy battle for everything else [00:09:00] that was going on in the culture. Well coming out of that trial in 1925. A lot of Christians came to the conclusion that there’s no saving the culture is basically going to hell in a handbasket. It’s all downhill from here. So what we ought to do is completely disengage [00:09:15] withdraw from the culture.
And around the 1920s and proceeding a lot of Christians withdrew from politics from government from the academy from arts and entertainment from all kinds of sectors of [00:09:30] the of the Public Square. They withdrew into these safe enclaves, where were they their families their churches their institutions could be isolated and protected from the influence the Big Bad Evil influence of the culture around them. This is The Exodus approach be separate [00:09:45] be distinct protect yourself from the influence of the world around you it was also in this time period that a lot of American Christianity started to develop its own parallel subculture where we started our own colleges and universities. We started our own publishing [00:10:00] house as we created our own Radio Networks, and then eventually television networks, and now movies and there became this whole parallel Christian subculture that looked a lot like the regular culture, but it slapped a Jesus sticker on it.
That’s what happened in this time frame.
[00:10:15] But I want you to recognize is that this Exodus approach of separation is largely predicated on a fearful view of the world.
That it’s a dangerous and threatening place. And the best thing we can do is guard ourselves [00:10:30] circle the wagons and isolate.
In the Middle Ages, there was a theologian named Thomas Aquinas amazing. Brilliant theologian.
And he talked about how fear in the Christian is a Contracting posture [00:10:45] of the Soul. It kind of draws Us in word and it makes it so that were primarily concerned about ourselves rather than others and he compared a fearful person or fearful Community to a medieval city under siege. If again, you know your history when [00:11:00] an invading Army would come against the city all the peasants in the surrounding Countryside would gather all the resources they could as quickly as they could and then they’d run into the city walls and they barricade themselves behind the Gates hoping that the resources they had amassed inside [00:11:15] the city would Outlast the resources of the invading Army that would Siege the city of all around the wall the longest Siege of medieval history lasted 26 years.
But that’s an image of kind of The Exodus approach like we are going to hunker down [00:11:30] and protect ourselves our schools our families our churches our way of life. We’re going to guard our resources at it kind of makes us into a rather self-centered narcissistic view of things. It’s all about surviving.
And in much [00:11:45] of the 20th century the attitude of a lot of Christians was don’t worry about politics. Don’t worry about culture. Don’t worry about law to worry about the Arts because the end is coming and Jesus is going to rescue us out of here. So this just hunker down and play it safe.
But then about 50 [00:12:00] years into this Exodus approach a big shift happened.
In the 1970s a whole bunch of Christians realize this ain’t working and maybe we need to take a different approach and they came rushing back in from the cultural [00:12:15] Hinterlands to re-engage the Public Square and politics and government and everything else in 1976 Newsweek magazine actually had a cover declaring it the year of the evangelicals because so many of them had seemed to come out of the [00:12:30] woodwork and we’re re-engaging now question is why?
What happened that led so many Christians to decide this Exodus approach wasn’t the right way to go.
Well dancer that let’s go back into the Bible and the Old Testament. There’s [00:12:45] another incredibly important story in the Old Testament that explains the new way that Christians came to engage culture many centuries after The Exodus God’s people had been settled in the Promised Land.
And can’t get into all the details but [00:13:00] in 538 BC the Babylonian Army invaded the holy land they destroyed Jerusalem destroyed the temple and as the Babylonians were prone to do in their march across the known World when they conquered a people they would enslave those people and bring them [00:13:15] back as captives to Babylon. It was a form of assimilation. This is where you get the story about Daniel in the Lion’s Den and all that kind of stuff was happening during this Exile time. So there is a season for which the Israelites were captives in Babylon. They couldn’t go [00:13:30] home and a lot of the Israelites believed that this captivity would not last very long and so they weren’t settling in they weren’t kind of planting Vineyards or doing anything. They were just like, okay. When do we get to go back to our home when we get back to Joe to Jerusalem and the Lord spoke [00:13:45] to his people this is the passage that we heard read earlier. He spoke to them through the Prophet Jeremiah.
and essentially what the Lord said to them is you guys are going to be here for a while so settle in
Marry off your kids have grandkids [00:14:00] plant some Vineyards build some houses. You are going to be in Babylon a lot longer than you think now eventually you’re going to get out of there, but for now settle in and really important is what he says in Jeremiah 29:7.
[00:14:15] He says seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile for in its welfare. You will find your welfare. Sorry, that’s Jeremiah 29:7. Is that what I said? Yeah, 27 in other words.
[00:14:31] Make lemonade on a lemon out of lemons you’re in this horrible circumstance. You didn’t want to be here. But here’s where you are make the best of it.
And as you seek the well-being of the city that you find yourself in it’s going to go well for you. This [00:14:46] Exile approach is the posture that a lot of Christians have taken since about the 1970s. The attitude has been like oh my goodness, you know, we withdrew from the culture back in the 1920s 50 years has gone by Jesus hasn’t come back yet [00:15:01] things are getting worse, maybe instead of withdrawing. We need to engage. We need to participate we need to we need to have a role in this Babylon in which we are captives to make sure things go well for us.
This [00:15:16] has become a really popular model. In fact this verse Jeremiah 29:7. I encounter it so many places. I half expect to watch a football game and have some guy holding up Jeremiah 29:7 at some point. It’s just become this mantra for a lot of Christians. When we need to engage in the culture. We need to engage in politics. [00:15:31] We need to engage in government all these other things. So what was it about the 1970s that led to this shift?
Well, there’s kind of a popular narrative and then there’s the unpopular narrative the popular narrative is that the sexual revolution of the 1960s [00:15:46] which became codified into our laws in the early 1970s? Particularly row v Wade in 1973 kind of drove a lot of Christians to re-engage in the Public Square.
There’s some truth to that but it’s not the whole truth when you really study this issue [00:16:01] and get into the weeds of it you realize it wasn’t primarily the sexual Revolution movement of the 60s that led to Christians re-engaging. It was actually the civil rights movement of the 1960s and I don’t want to get in all the details here, but suffice it to say there [00:16:16] were a lot of Christian communities in the south in particular who were not happy about desegregation.
And they were motivated to re-engage government in the Public Square because they didn’t like what the government was doing with integration. So [00:16:31] they came roaring back into the Public Square for various reasons and decided we can no longer isolate ourselves. We can no longer be safe in our own communities. We can’t just be white in our communities anymore. So we need to fight back and we need to mobilize and [00:16:46] so they came back into the Public Square and they used this Exile vision of the world is turned into Babylon America is off of its judeo Christian Moorings and if we don’t fight to get it back it’s not going to go well for us and everything is going to [00:17:01] fall apart for our families and our kids and our schools and our institutions and and out of this came this language and you’ve probably encountered it in various forms this language about how Christians need to change the world.
I remember seeing that as a Seminary Student all [00:17:16] the time many years ago. We’re here to change the World to Change the World to Change the World. It’s become a mantra. There’s a fascinating book called to change the world that was written by James Davis and Hunter some years ago where he’s describing. Where did this idea this rhetoric of world-changing come [00:17:31] from for contemporary Christians? And here’s what he concludes the rhetoric of world-changing originates from a profound angst that the world is changing for the worse and that we must act urgently there’s a sense [00:17:46] of panic that things are falling apart and if we don’t respond now, we’re going to lose the things we cherish the most what animates this talk is a desperation to hold on to something.
When the world no longer makes sense.
[00:18:02] So for about the last 40 50 years the posture has been Christian engaged the Public Square engage the world because if you don’t things are going to go really really bad for you your community your family your [00:18:17] school would ever change the world to protect yourself.
All right. Now here’s the important part.
Despite this dramatic shift from disengagement in The Exodus mile model to re-engagement through the Exile model. [00:18:32] There’s a massive shift in strategy. What I want you to recognize is that underlying that strategy there was actually no significant shift in the way Christian see the world.
Both Exodus and Exile were [00:18:47] predicated on viewing the world as a fundamentally dangerous and threatening place.
Now assuming you took high school biology, you’re taught that when an organism feels threatened it will respond in one of two ways, right? [00:19:02] What are they?
Fight or flight that’s what we see here Christians feeling threatened by the world. And in the 1920s. The attitude was flight Let’s Escape. Let’s run away from it and isolate ourselves. And then [00:19:17] in the 1970s and onward the attitude became fight, let’s re-engage and dominate so that we can make sure it goes well for us but under both of those Visions is fear.
It’s an idea that we are under attack and we are afraid this goes [00:19:32] back to what Aquinas said when we are afraid. It contracts our souls. It makes us turn inward. We’re not concerned with loving others and serving others and blessing others were concerned about. How do I protect myself?
[00:19:47] How do I protect my tribe my family my community?
It’s all predicated on fear.
So let me take you back to Jeremiah 29:7 because there’s a detail in that verse [00:20:02] that you may not have noticed before that. I want you to see.
Jeremiah the Lord through Jeremiah says for the Israelites seek the welfare of the city where I’ve sent you into exile.
For in its welfare, you will find your welfare [00:20:17] now notice.
What motivates the Israelites the seek the welfare of Babylon?
Are they really interested in loving their Babylonian Neighbors?
Are they really wanting to see this Pagan Empire with all kinds of pagan [00:20:32] deities really flourish and Thrive because they just love Babylon so much.
Know the motivation in this text is very clear. It’s self-interest.
Seek the welfare of Babylon [00:20:47] so that it goes well for you.
This is an attitude that I think a lot of Christians have today. They’re not genuinely concerned about their neighbors who aren’t Believers or caring about a land that they don’t plan on sticking [00:21:02] around in very long because God’s going to rescue them out of it or take them home. It’s it’s out of self-interest rooted in fear and a desire for control. Now, this was an appropriate command back in the time of the Exile with Jeremiah because [00:21:17] the Lord needed to preserve His People Israel long enough in order to fulfill their purpose was the coming of the Messiah so they had a reason why they needed to preserve the way they were but if this is as far as we get in our understanding of cultural engagement, I would argue. This is a sub Christian view.
[00:21:33] Rooted in self interest in fear, and we’re called the far more than that.
So, why does this persist why do we keep coming back to this attitude?
Well, we have to remember that fear is one of the most Basic [00:21:48] Instincts of our species. It’s the easiest most efficient way to motivate people. It’s what most advertisers do it’s what most politicians do they make us afraid.
But we have not been given a spirit of fear. The Apostle John tells [00:22:03] us but a spirit of power and freedom.
And fear is not a quality that leads us into the kingdom of God.
There are all kinds of voices in the culture today who claim to be Christian some of them cultural [00:22:19] leaders some of them Christian institutional leaders some of them political leaders and they use fear to try to motivate us fear of that group or this issue or that policy and heaven forbid that this law passes or this person gets [00:22:34] on the court or this one gets elected and they use fear all the time to try to motivate us because it’s so easy and efficient, but let me tell you something if someone is leading you with fear, they are not leading you by the spirit of Christ.
In fact, I don’t think it’s [00:22:49] an overstatement to say they are leading you by the spirit of antichrist.
Where the fires of fear and anger are stoked the warm inviting glow of Christian love will not long endure.
[00:23:04] As Henry now and said fear only engenders fear it never gives birth to love.
And it’s so much in our church these days.
Is driven by fear and you wonder why [00:23:19] the culture react so negatively to so many Christians.
Because they see us a self-interested.
People who go on the attack against the perceived enemy shirts versus skins denim [00:23:35] versus khakis.
Were called to something more.
So if it’s not Exodus and it’s not Exile, what is the third alternative?
We got to get to the New Testament because there we [00:23:50] find a completely different vision of cultural engagement.
In the New Testament, we see a motivation far greater than just making lemonade out of lemons better than just tolerating a terrible circumstance better than [00:24:05] self-interest or just get by as best. You can we see a far deeper more profound understanding of the world, you know, when you read the gospels what you find there is interesting despite our bias toward total pragmatism is 21st century [00:24:20] consumeristic Americans. Jesus doesn’t actually offer a lot of practical advice in the gospels. You don’t see a lot about you know, here’s three steps to a better marriage kind of stuff in the gospels. It’s not there. Why
Because a lot of what Jesus did both [00:24:35] his miracles and his Parables were not primarily designed to be instructive. They were designed to be inspiration. They were designed to Open the Eyes of his disciples to see the world differently because Jesus understood if you [00:24:50] see the world the way he sees it you are going to act within the world the way he would act.
So he wanted them to see a world in which it made perfect sense that the first would be last. The last would be first a world in which the marginalized and [00:25:05] the forgotten neglected were actually entering the kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders in the Pharisees. He wanted them to see a world in which it wasn’t the rich who were considered blessed by God and righteous but it was this poor Widow who puts just a penny into the offering he [00:25:20] wanted them to see a world in which even a child the most powerless and neglected in the society was considered great in the kingdom of God.
He wanted them to see a world where even a messiah who surrenders himself to the most cruel [00:25:35] and unjust system. The world has ever seen and is killed by that system rejected by everyone. We’re even that Messiah is raised up and given the name above all names.
He was turning everything upside down.
[00:25:50] Because he knew if his followers saw that world they would act differently within it.
Let me tell you a story about a place not actually too far from here.
Just South of the Border near Tijuana is [00:26:05] La Mesa prison, one of the most notorious prisons in Mexico home to 6,000 inmates. Mostly hardened criminals murderers drug lords the worst of the worst.
But in that prison for over 30 years there was one unexpected [00:26:20] occupant they called her, Mother Antonia.
She passed away just a few years ago in her 90s, but she spent over 30 years in this prison among these prisoners. She loved and cared [00:26:35] for them. She met with them and counseled them and prayed for them. She tried to get as many prisoners as she could to reconcile with their victims and seek forgiveness. She advocated for the prisoners making sure that they had food and water and medicines. She was a go-between between the prisoners [00:26:50] and the guards.
She even cared for the guards and their families she would go visit the families of the prisoners out in the community to make sure that they were cared for but the remarkable thing about this little nun wasn’t all those incredible things. She did. It’s that each [00:27:05] night.
When the prison was being shut down she didn’t leave.
She had a cell for herself. She wasn’t a prisoner. She voluntarily stayed there every night and slept with these hardened criminals. They [00:27:20] came to call her mama. She called them her sons.
Here’s the crazy part.
Mother Antonia didn’t enter La Mesa prison until 1977 before that. Her name was Mary Brenner [00:27:35] Clark and she was a blonde socialite in Hollywood.
She had been married twice divorced twice the mother of seven children when her children were grown. She felt a calling from God to enter a religious [00:27:50] order and to care for the poor and the marginalized but being Roman Catholic and divorced twice there weren’t a whole lot of religious orders for her to enter. So she packed up her station wagon drove South of the Border and entered Lamesa prison where she spent over 30 years serving those inmates.
[00:28:06] Ten years ago in September of 2008 despite the remarkable transformation of that prison. It was still a dangerous place and a riot broke out. The prisoners were upset that they weren’t getting their basic necessities met and somehow they got hand the cache of weapons and went [00:28:21] on a rampage and took hostages. This all happened when Mother Antonia was not in the prison and when she came back that night she found that all the electricity has been cut to the prison and the entire place was surrounded by soldiers.
She went to one of the soldiers and [00:28:36] beg to be let into the prison and they were like, there’s no way we’re letting an 85 year old woman into this prison with armed criminals and hostages.
Explain the risks you would be taking and she said I don’t care. I am not afraid.
[00:28:53] And she was a persistent little woman and they finally agreed to let her enter this prison.
The middle of the night she entered is completely dark. All the electricity has been cut.
And she finally found a prisoner. She knew named Blackie.
[00:29:08] She fell at his feet and began to beg him to end the riot and drop the weapons. This is what she said to him.
She said it’s not right that you’re locked up here hungry and thirsty we can take care of those things. But this isn’t [00:29:23] the way to do it. I will help you make it better. But first you have to give me the guns I beg you to put down your weapons.
Blackie responded to her mother as soon as we heard your voice we drop [00:29:38] the guns out the window.
Mother Antonia Mary Brenner Clark
Represents a different vision of engaging the world not Exodus [00:29:53] get me as far away from danger and discomfort as I can be not Exile. I find myself a prisoner here. I might as well just make the best of it. No, she represents the way of Jesus.
Which is the way of embrace?
[00:30:09] in Philippians chapter 2 the Apostle Paul tells us
had an attitude that we are all to have and he describes it this way though. He was in the form of God. He did not count equality [00:30:24] with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself.
By taking on the form of a servant being born in the likeness of a man and being found in human form. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death even [00:30:39] death on a cross.
Jesus came and embraced this world willingly.
This posture of embrace is different than Exodus and exile for three [00:30:54] reasons briefly cover. These the first is that Embrace is a choice.
This is important think back to Exodus in Exile Exodus and Exile were ways of responding to circumstances that you don’t [00:31:09] choose or like the Israelites did not choose to be slaves in Egypt.
They didn’t want to be there and they got out of there. And God said stay away. Don’t don’t go back to that kind of thing. Right? They didn’t want to be Exiles in Babylon, but [00:31:25] they decided based on God’s word. We’re going to make the best of a lousy situation until we get to go home that tends to be the attitude. A lot of Christians have about the world today man. This place stinks. This culture is terrible. Look at all the problems were having look at all the post-christian stuff [00:31:40] that’s going on. Look at the way. We’re all slipping away from Christian Morality In the Public Square and it always used to be so much better. We always talk about the culture so negatively like if we had a choice we would we wouldn’t be here.
[00:31:55] But Jesus chose to come and enter this world isn’t like he showed up in Bethlehem as a kid. I was like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m here. What a mess. Right? Look father. Why did you drop me in this mud hole. Why am I you know, he [00:32:10] didn’t have that attitude.
Is that it stood was I want to be here I choose to identify with you. I embrace the realities The Temptations of the struggles and the Pains of this world.
[00:32:25] Because I love you so much.
Think about the messages that we send to our culture.
We meaning the church in general what the culture tends to hear from us as Christians of one is one of two things either man things used to be so much better.
[00:32:41] Or they hear someday things are going to be better again when Christ returns and everything is made right, but they don’t hear us talk to well about the present do they could you imagine if you’re a parent? Could you imagine if the messages that your children here are only like you used [00:32:56] to be so cute.
You used to be so much more adorable and loving or someday. I hope you really make something of yourself. Like if those are the only messages children ever hear. How do you think that’s going to affect them?
[00:33:12] Nothing about the message that the culture here is from the church and used to be so much better someday if we get control you’ll be okay again.
But they’re not hearing in affirming thing about today that [00:33:27] we want to be here that we choose to be or now. You might be thinking. Hey, wait a minute Jesus chose to empty himself. It says and take on the form of a servant he chose to enter the world and do what he did. I didn’t choose to be born. Now. I didn’t choose [00:33:42] this place unless you’re an immigrant. Maybe you chose this place. But how does this idea that to embrace the culture as a choice? How do we reconcile that with the reality that we don’t actually choose? Well one of the most important lessons I’ve [00:33:57] had to learn over the last I don’t know how many years
Is that real freedom and real Joy comes when we learn to choose what we did not choose
Let me explain that.
A couple years ago. I [00:34:12] was mentoring a college student who’s actually a graduate student wonderful intelligent guy named David and he called me up one day frantically and he’s like I have to get together with you. I need to talk to you immediately. Can you drop whatever you’re doing and meet me at the coffee shop. So make sure you sounded panicked. So [00:34:27] I show up at the coffee shop. We get our drinks you sit down at the table and he’s just beside himself and he’s like, I didn’t know who else to talk to. Thank you for coming here. He’s like I have something I have to ask you and I promise no matter what you say. I won’t tell anyone.
[00:34:42] It’s like, okay. What is this about?
Turns out that he had been dating a young woman for a while. It was getting serious. They were talking about getting married and he was about to pop the question and get engaged and he was getting cold feet.
So he leans [00:34:57] in like this cone of silence right over our table and he says Sky. I need to know honestly, do you ever regret the decision to marry your wife?
And I [00:35:12] was like, this is too much fun. I couldn’t just let this go easily. So I leaned into David I said
I didn’t make the decision to marry Amanda and he looked at me like what are you talking about? This is crazy. And he knew that I’m half Indian. My father’s [00:35:27] from India. My mother’s mostly Swedish and Norwegian. I’m a huge mess. But he he he’s like was this an arranged marriage what you didn’t tell me that I didn’t realize I said no. No. No, it was an arranged marriage. I said, I didn’t choose to marry Amanda.
I said [00:35:42] the sky from 19 years ago chose to marry Amanda. I now live with the consequences of his decision every day.
And to be completely honest most days. I’m [00:35:57] thrilled to be living with those consequences, but there are days when I’m not it’s hard.
But now by God’s grace. I find the strength to choose that which [00:36:12] I did not choose.
He had this big ugly tattoo on his arm.
He was looking at me dumbfounded the point. I said David you didn’t choose that tattoo. Your younger probably inebriated self chose that tattoo and [00:36:27] you now live with the consequences of it every day.
You didn’t choose this culture. You didn’t choose this time that place to be born.
But nonetheless God is inviting you to choose what you didn’t choose. Do [00:36:42] you want to be here?
Do you want to have the neighbors that you have? Do you want to be facing the challenges that our world today is facing. Do you want to be a man or woman of God following Jesus in this time [00:36:57] in this place, or do you do it kicking and screaming?
I think if we do it Kicking and Screaming not only does that communicate to our neighbors that we don’t really love them and care for them, but it’s actually an affront to God’s sovereignty who chose to put you in [00:37:12] this time and this place.
Do you choose this as the place where God has called you?
Because if you do choose it, you will find Freedom and you will find joy and you will find the grace [00:37:27] to act as he’s calling you to act. So that’s number one. Number two, the way that Embrace is different than just Exile or Exodus.
Exile in Exodus were or postures of cultural engagement that were [00:37:42] primarily self-centered. It was about protecting ourselves protecting ourselves from the influence of these Pagan Nations around us or protecting ourselves so that we can get back to Jerusalem. Once the Captivity is over protecting ourselves from the deterioration of the society [00:37:57] by withdrawing into our institutions and churches and schools or whatever protecting ourselves by seeking to dominate Washington DC and politics and policy right? It’s all about protecting ourselves, but Jesus is different.
He makes it clear that the reason [00:38:12] he showed up the reason why he came and entered into our Human Experience to dwell Among Us.
Was so that he might seek and save the Lost?
He came and declared that he didn’t come to be [00:38:27] served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many Embraces different because it’s motivation is for others.
Not for ourselves and one of the things that has tainted the witness [00:38:42] of the church in our age today is the perception is that we are all about ourselves. We’re about defending our rights our institutions our values our liberties.
But we’re not about to fight [00:38:57] for the other team. We’re not about to give ourselves away for them and their goodness. We’re not about to actually love our enemies. I mean who would have thought of something so stupid is that
but that’s exactly what we’re called to do.
If our Christian [00:39:12] cultural engagement is only about preserving Christian ideas and values and institutions than something is wrong.
Martin Luther King jr. Of course famous Civil Rights leader, but he first and [00:39:27] foremost considered himself a minister of the gospel and the gospel influence the way he went about his calling.
Obviously he fought hard.
For equal rights for African-Americans for desegregation and for the end of various [00:39:42] forms of institutional racism, but when you read his sermons and you read his writings you discover, there’s another element of his motivation. That doesn’t get as much play doesn’t get broadcast nearly enough. He frequently talked about what he called a double victory.
[00:39:59] And in his mind the double victory was this.
Not only would African-Americans be set free from the the dehumanizing effects of racism and segregation but he believed that segregation and racism dehumanized the white people [00:40:14] who practiced it
And he said my goal is not just to free African-Americans. I want to free my white brothers and sisters from the evil of racism in the way. It shrinks their souls and he says that is the double [00:40:29] Victory. It’s not just about rights for my group are my people. It’s I want to see those who consider themselves my enemies liberated and set free as well.
That is a mark of true Christian engagement. It’s [00:40:44] what Jesus did as he hung on the cross and looks at the very people who are executing him and says father forgive them.
because they need forgiveness to
Are we out there? Just defending [00:40:59] our rights?
Or are we willing to sacrifice ourselves even for those who hate us?
Are we only interested in defending religious liberty for Christians?
Or will we defend religious liberty for Muslims?
[00:41:15] for Jews for atheists for Hindus
Are we only interested in our right to speak freely?
Or will we defend the right of our neighbor whom we disagree with to speak freely.
[00:41:31] The vision of a church that’s only interested in itself is a contradiction to the witness of Jesus Christ.
And it’s rooted in fear rather than love finally last one Embraces [00:41:46] different than Exodus or Exile because Exodus in Exile were primarily concerned with survival.
Let’s just get through this so that we can get to the other side. Let’s just get through this Exile in Babylon because eventually we’ll get to go home to Jerusalem, right? It’s just perseverance [00:42:02] to get through a lousy circumstance.
Unfortunately lot of Christians also have this attitude man. I’m just passing through I’m white-knuckling it until I can get out of here either in a casket or in the Rapture right one way or another I’m out of this place. That is not a [00:42:17] new testament vision.
don’t have time to get into why I wrote a whole book on it, but
When Jesus showed up was his attitude. Okay. I just maybe 30 33 years. I can get out of this mess, right?
[00:42:33] Everywhere Jesus went he didn’t just help people survive.
He brought flourishing.
He brought things to their ultimate amazing abundant goodness. He didn’t just say hey, I’m here to make sure you guys survive long enough to [00:42:48] get to the kingdom. He said no, I’ve come that you may have life and have it abundantly.
When people didn’t have a meal when they didn’t have enough food because they were sitting around all day listening to Jesus. What did he do that? He get him like some Lunchables and get them by for the day bread [00:43:04] and fish multiplied so their stomachs were distended like this and they had twelve basketfuls of leftovers, right and they weren’t even Americans they were gorging themselves on all this food when he shows up at a wedding and runs out of wind as he go. All right. Well, [00:43:19] let’s bring out the cheap stuff in a box. No, no. No the best wine they’d ever tasted is what he provided Jesus brings flourishing. Remember that story of John and Peter when they’re going to the temple and encountered that lame beggar.
And the Beggars asking for some money and beaters [00:43:34] like money, you know, we follow Jesus we got no money.
But what I do have I’m going to give to you. He says stand up and walk did that beggar stand up and walk? No, it says he leaped he started dancing jumping.
[00:43:51] Where the power of Jesus comes in people don’t just survive they flourish.
And our calling is not just a get by in this world are help a couple people make it as best. They can we are to see the fullness of the potential of lives expanding [00:44:07] and the reason for this is Jesus and his church and his followers are called to take pieces of the coming Kingdom and make them a reality in the present.
It’s not just about surviving until we can get off this rock. It’s [00:44:22] about bringing heaven to this rock.
To get a foretaste of the Kingdom that is yet to come.
So here’s the question.
What makes you afraid?
What makes you turn inward [00:44:37] to shrink to circle the wagons to barricade the walls to think only about your cells or your Institution?
And what kind of Grace do you need to move from Exodus or exile to a posture of embrace?
[00:44:52] I actually love this world. The way God has called us to to embrace this world to choose this world to seek its flourishing not for your sake but for your neighbors knowing that in Christ, you are perfectly safe. Not a Roman [00:45:07] Cross or an Assassin’s bullet can ever separate you from the love of God in Christ. And so you have been set free we have been set free.
To love the world as he has loved us.
Let me pray.
[00:45:24] our heavenly father
I pray for this church for my sister’s and brother’s here in this place that you have put them that they would be equipped.
[00:45:39] to love sacrificially
to bring flourishing and goodness
every home and school and office and hospital and every place they go in this community.
[00:45:55] I pray Lord that you would set them free from Fear.
They may walk in Freedom and joy and truly be that City on a Hill that light in the Darkness.
I pray that there would be a new [00:46:10] birth of Grace in this place.
So that many come to see you as you are.
Recognize the love you have for them through us.
[00:46:25] We ask all of this in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit as one God now and forever. Amen. The holy post podcast is a production of Phil vischer Enterprises. That’s Phil’s [00:46:40] company and Sky pilot media that Sky’s company production assistants by Sean McDuffie edited by Jason rug help us create more thoughtful Christian Media by supporting us at patreon.com forward slash. Holy post. Also be sure to leave a [00:46:55] review on iTunes. So more people can discover thoughtful Christian commentary plus ukulele and occasional but news
Though not abandoning the there-is-no-collusion defense, the White House is already elevating a secondary position — the okay-maybe-we-colluded-but-Clinton-colluded-more defense.
.. Trump, who often accuses others of the exact thing he stands accused of
.. The evidence of Clinton’s alleged “collusion” with Russia? She and the Democrats hired an opposition-research firm that wrote a dossier on, um, Trump’s collusion with Russia. She also colluded with Russia by being secretary of state at a time when another arm of the U.S. government approved a uranium deal with a Russian-owned company that had given money to her husband and his foundation.