Monday, 7 January 2008

Trying not to be dismissive

But it's a challenge.

As you'll see from this post, I was quite annoyed by what I listened to this morning. Pastor Meyer was brought to my attention as an eccentric with some powerful things to say. I wanted to give him a fair hearing, not dismiss him just because he's a small-town pulpiteer. So I listened. He is a confident and gifted orator, and in no way do I question his sincere desire to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. But most everything else (as the Americans might say) I do wish to question.

Last Trumpet Ministries, run out of a small church in Wisconsin. At this address the files were too big for my poor computer and broadband connection. At this address I was able to sample Pastor Meyer.

I listened to a good chunk of three of his unreasonably long messages...
(1) The Waiting is nearly over
(2) The Folded Napkin
(3) Divided we stand, united we fall

I'm not even going to post what I thought of this. Among many (and I mean, with great weariness, many) other eisegetical manoeuvres Ezekiel 12 is marshalled at great length to imply and claim (though not argue or demonstrate, even amid the multitude of words) that the Second Coming is just round the corner. That tells you most of what you need to know. Don't seek for biblical exposition, biblical theology, spiritual nourishment, logic or charity here...

Contained an interesting discussion of why the grave clothes of Christ were folded. It signified to the culture of the day that the master had not finished at the table - he was coming back. Also, a sensible warning (buried, of course, in the rhetoric and twaddle) against dependence on the state or on various types of legal and illegal medication or on habitual stimulation by the media. But why did he feel the need to go on quite so long?

The start of the message Divided we stand, united we fall (inspired by Luke 12:51) was: "We are going to open our bibles this morning. I love the word of God and I'm sure you do too. We need to love the word all the more as we see the day approaching, and gather together to hear it. Blessed are they that hear the word of God AND keep it. Amen." Noble sentiments, though even the sleepy listener might smell something funny in the way Meyer said all the more and approaching.

Casting doubt on the world's claims of unity, he says "Do we have unity in the world?" No, for to be united, we need to have the same father. And they don't. Whatever the insight or lack of it here (he seems to have missed a trick in omitting to claim that they do all have the same father, Satan, surely?!), he is undercutting the whole 'New World Order' rhetoric of dodgy witches and masons who are, according to him, "running the world". A few minutes later he rescues this by claiming that at the moment "they" are fomenting chaos so that they can usher in their NWO after "George W. Bush's Word War III". After all this, for anyone who was worried, there is a little reassurance. Meyer promises to show us that the world never will unite into a One World Government, despite its best efforts. And somewhere in his subsequent 50-minute summary of world history that is (apparently) "showed". Oh, that's OK then...

Back at the ranch we learned that "Anything you do in the kingdom of God is stress free [such as prayer, yes "there's a burden, a heaviness, but there's no stress"] - everything you do in the world is stress-full." Oddly, I was moved to wonder why this little aphorism was helpful to anyone...

The take-home message, after this great flatus of nods, winks, misquotation, repetition, pop history, paranoia and hollowness, which itself is peppered with random asides in condemnation of various celebrities, governments, false Christians, etc, is basically "It's a strange world, but the gospel is a gospel of fire and it will divide you from all error." Don't bother opposing the devil's works [so what was the last hour of drivel about the machinations of the world all about?], but oppose the devil himself, which you do spiritually.

But for some reason he doesn't tell you how to do this. Something that important you'd think would merit some time, some careful suggestions, but strangely, it didn't.

(They're not quite sure what they think)
Meyer displays the usual ambivalence towards "our country" betrayed by many of these proudly independent fundamentalists (technical term, not abuse). They can't quite decide whether or not they like the US. On the one hand, it lets them have space for their shouting, for their small businesses, for their gun-cabinets, for their family values, and it has nurtured many believers past and present (even if most of them are now apostate for rejecting the KJV, reading books by Rick Warren, tolerating Catholics, etc). On the other hand, it was founded by Masons, infected with Illuminati, part of all manner of messed-up plots to dominate the world especially in recent history, has abandoned conservative morality, poisons people with fluoride, pesticides, additives, etc. [That's just half the problems listed in one of Meyer's rambles.]

Of course, the wackos are hardly of one mind. For example, Christian Media Research (who initially look half-respectable, but turn out on closer inspection to be prophecy-mad loons) doesn't like Meyer - largely because they can't find out much about him regarding certain doctrines and apocalyptic interpretations (some of which are slightly important, most of which are mired in irrelevant iterations of watered-down, myopic dispensationalism). Their complaint that he is mostly "against" everything and so doesn't seem to be "for" anything is a fair one, however.

Their fear that Al-Queda's alleged plan to detonate 10 suitcase nukes on American soil is predicted by the Bible is less than fair, shall we say, not least because it was posted on July 15 2005 and the 90-day timeframe has rather expired... [more uncharitably, I might call it a pile of cr*p]

Now, a lot of these people rail against the state, the US government, other governments, conspiracies, and so on, but they do it in a non-systematic, generally ignorant way. If you want some hard-nosed thinking by political scientists, economists and commentators who aren't stuck in tiny churches in the Midwest founded by themselves and who don't waste their time trying to read contemporary politics off the pages of Daniel and Revelation, then take a look at these sites. They will challenge you and make you think.

Look at the links to Samizdata, The Acton institute, The Mieses Insitute and other thinktanks on the right of David Field's blog.

I don't say they will convince you - they each have their flavour and slant, and are selective with their writing (just as their betes noires, the crypto-socialist economists are) - but they represent a quality of thought and expression that is sadly absent from much of the conspiracy theory movement and the foolish Christian speakers dabbling or immersed in it.