Wicked! Who, Me?

2 Chronicles 7:13-14

WHEN

There is no rain.  Weather gone wild.

Locusts are devouring.   Killer bugs and germs.

There are plagues. Pandemics. These things are going to happen in the world you live in.

REMIND THIS TRIBE

You are My People,

You are identified by My Name

You are different, not better! Unique for a special task.

IF MY PEOPLE WILL

Humble

Pray

Seek

Turn

I WILL

Hear

Forgive

Heal

“If My People will…turn from their wicked ways…”

WHAT WICKED WAYS?

Second Chronicles 7:14 is most often spoken by revivalists as the key to an awakening—a reviving of God’s people. The year 2020 has been filled with the same scripture being the key to a reset for our nation. We now see it may be the only hope for saving Western Civilization. Early on, I protested, “I am not wicked! God, what do you want from me?” Instantly! Something in me said, “More repentance would be good.”

What am I doing; what is the Church of Jesus Christ doing that is so wicked it has caused race riots, pandemics and Chaos 2020? It must be so wicked that only turning from it will gain God’s favor and blessing. What can it be?

Let’s define “wicked.”

The English word evil or wicked comes primarily from two Hebrew roots, resh/ayin/ayin (רעע)and resh/shin/ayin (רשע). Both of these roots paint a picture of breaking something into pieces.

Wicked–Breaking something into pieces.

There are other words that could have been used, but the one chosen for “wicked” is specific. It is the same root word for “wicca” and “witch” and the result of this spiritual activity breaks something into pieces. It is not “sinful,” or “mistakes-mistaken,” the word chosen is “wicked.” It breaks something of value into pieces—beyond use or destroys its value. Implied—those who practice this wickedness are broken as well as the people who are touched by wickedness.

How would the first people to hear 2 Chronicles 7:14 (Solomon’s day) have reacted? What would they assume God was talking about? Today’s reading in the Chronological Bible (2 Kings 17:6-23) answers my question: The wicked ways would include, but not be limited to, making Yahweh just one “deity” among many. The people that God called “My people” had built shrines to worship the gods of those nations whom God warned about. They had sex with “sacred temple priests and priestess” to seek favor for crops and cattle. They burned their children as sacrifices to these gods, while ignoring or rejecting what Yahweh had already provided and promised to “My people.” The People of God had turned to hell for security and supply, and did terrible things. Sounds wicked to me. God had warned them—this will break your nation and people into pieces.

Old Testament prophets used the word Infidelity to describe Israel’s behavior. They looked to the surrounding nations to be the moral arbiter for God’s Chosen.

The Israelites worshipped Asherah (also called Asheroth, Astarte depending what nation.) She was known and worshipped as “Mother of Heaven” who purportedly was God’s primary wife. That seems to be a departure from reality, not just worship practice or rejection of God.

I am not a wicked person! Sinful; bent, if not broken, but not wicked. (Remember I am trying to explain all of this to myself without excusing myself of anything.) In the Kingdom, anything I do that would “break something or someone into pieces” would be branded as wicked. Let’s nit-pick and split some hairs. God said to Solomon “turn from their wicked ways.” It sounds to me like God was not naming people wicked, but calling their behavior wicked. That seems like an important distinction.

C. S. Lewis’ words describe what I feel:

“…it would be ridiculous for me to speak about…; that would be an attempt to teach when I have nearly all to learn.”

I am trying to be honest with the biblical context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 as well as looking at any immediate 2020 cause for the chaos. The words are directed to My people in the Old Covenant and the Universal Church of Jesus in the New. Two immediate dominant crises in this year: Covid-19 pandemic and racial complaints that the Marxist Left has turned into riots, killings, demands and plans to obliterate Western Civilization.

I have asked God to direct me to resources that & who will help me understand history, the future and what today is about. Dr. Shelby Steel and his book, White Guilt—How Blacks and Whites together destroyed the promise of the Civil Rights era. (Harper Perennial ©2006) have entered my world. I sensed I was to listen to this man. He grew up in Chicago and graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids. He speaks about race and the Black experience in words I understand.

Steel says there are two defining eras. The white racist era which ended in the middle 60s. He calls the second era White Guilt. What is going on in the streets is the result of “white guilt”. I differentiate between the organization BLM, (self-identified as Marxist) and the protesters. Because black lives matter protesters are seeking justice, equality while rioters generally are anarchists, insurrections and Marxists whose objective is to bulldoze America into oblivion and to build a new nation on top of the ashes.

Dr. Shelby Steel writes in his book,

“…white guilt may have gotten its initiating, big-bang start in race relations and America’s great acknowledgement of racial wrongdoing, but it was quickly expanded by all the moral authority that America began to lose to other conflicts, especially the Vietnam War and the struggle for women’s rights.”

“It doesn’t matter, for example, that there was honor in America’s acknowledgement of moral wrong in the era of race. An acknowledgement of wrong was an acknowledgement of wrong, and it brought a loss of moral authority—and thus, adult authority—despite the good it had achieved. And when you added to civil rights the Vietnam War, feminism, the plight of farm workers, a new environmentalism, a deepening animus toward materialism and corporate power, and a ‘credibility gap’ between young and old, you could easily make a damning case against adult authority. No previous generation had been served up a richer menu of social and moral ‘contradictions’ and ‘hypocrisies’ with which to hammer away at the moral authority of adult American society.” (p 87)

“I believe that the most important—if seemingly incongruent—point to understand about the sixties is that, like the sixties’ black militant consciousness, it was largely a response to white guilt. This guilt is the vacuum in moral authority created by all of white America’s moral failings and infidelities to democracy: racism, sexism, imperialism, materialism, conformity, environmental indifference, education inequality, superficiality, greed, and so on. Thus, white guilt is a much broader phenomenon than the ‘race problem’ from which it takes its name.” (p82)

“…conspicuous instance of infidelity to democracy.”

From the Christianity Today article by Timothy Dalrymple, Justice Too Long Delayed,

…“two original sins have plagued this nation from its inception: the destruction of its native inhabitants and the institution of slavery. Both sprang from a failure to see an equal in the racial other.”  (June 10, 2020)

Mr. Dalrymple, in the second paragraph of the article, describes the slavery of the early days of America:  “It meant white men repeatedly raped hundreds of thousands of black girls and women.”

That suggests ALL white men were busy raping. That would include the truly holiness people—those who sought to build a new nation upon biblical laws and principles. All of the male Pilgrims? I don’t think so. Is that something my white male friends would do? Did the Founding Fathers beat their “slaves”? Were all Neanderthals? Would I have beaten slaves? The problem with describing the worst is to broad brush the best. Having read about the lives of the Founding Fathers, I conclude that Neanderthals, beasts or cruel generally they were not. Figures of their times, they were, just as we are. Is it really true that, “…the white society around the slaves was often deaf to their cries and did not view them as human and worthy of love…” Really? The whole lot of whites? No one taught them to read? No one sought a better life for them? No one loved them? It is hard to fathom; it is hard to believe. Were we that wicked? Are we still? Am I?

After a Church Growth seminar, a little girl I had sung to in the worship time, ran to me and hugged my legs. Her mother chased after her and apologized for the tackle. We talked. She said kind things about her singing, message and seminar. She said, “I didn’t know what to ask during the Q&A. I don’t make any decisions—I’m not a board member and I have little influence.”

That conversation returns during my calculation of “wicked” and “white man’s guilt.” I keep thinking and saying in response to broad brush accusations, “I don’t remember getting to vote on this, or anyone asking my opinion.”

I can’t escape the so-called original two sins. I like Andrew Jackson, but I’m horrified at the Trail of Tears. Dear God! Nothing is more descriptive of wicked than the history of Native Americans. Broken into pieces!

WESTERN CIVILIZATION—WICKED?

Moving from Solomon, the Temple and circa 725 BC to 2020 AD, I wonder if these verses transfer. How would this wickedness look? Can it be identified? Would we recognize it? Can we transfer this to The Church Age and the Age of Grace? Consider this, When God says, “My people” in 2020, is He describing Jesus Followers? Colossians 1:1-11 says that we are “hidden in Christ.” If we are “in Christ,” such wickedness would then be in Christ. No! No! No! That cannot be interpreted to say that Jesus Followers cannot or do not ever step into sin from rebellion or ignorance.

Another paragraph from Shelby Steel has burrowed into me seeking solution.

An interpretation of our present battle for civilized life is—with an acknowledgement of racial sin in the middle 1960s, white people and their institutions (family, church, government, education, media, entertainment, ect.) lost its moral authority.

“The authority derived from their presumed innate superiority made whites gods of the earth whose every base instinct for plunder, rape, and systemic oppression could be legitimately indulged.”

Steel is interpreting this from a wounded, oppressed point of view. He goes on:

“The loss of moral authority went too far the other way, not only denying legitimacy to the plunder of the nonwhite world, but also denying it to that entire of difficult ‘character’ principles that bring coherence and even greatness to free societies: personal responsibilities, hard work, individual initiative, delayed gratification, commitment to excellence, competition by merit, the honor of achievement…” (page 109)

The end result of such is “breaking something/someone into many pieces.”

TURNING FROM OUR WICKED WAYS

A case can be made that Jesus Followers are called to be leaders in the redemption. I am not concerned about ecology or the environment because it is a social issue. I am going to be held responsible to God for any misconduct that broke His creation into useless pieces. Jonathon Edwards is not the only one to imagine falling into the hands of an angry God!

“In the age of racism, blacks were held accountable to these values and principles even though they were openly oppressed. Therefore, there was a cultural coherence in America based on these values and principles that applied to everybody despite the problem of segregation. This coherence, in itself, was a good thing, and was surely responsible for much that was great in the character of white and black Americans. Moreover, it might have provided an ideal consensus of values out of which to build a post-white supremacy society. But the de-legitimization of white supremacy greatly injured this cultural coherence by taking authority away from the values and principles it was based on. After America admitted to what was worst about itself, there was not enough authority left to support what was best.”

If I am mentally tracking right—at the same time in America, the foundation of those values and principles was being denied and deconstructed for our society: Biblical revelation, and rejecting God as a player or source of “unalienable rights.” Yahweh was taken down and moved to a museum so he would not hurt anyone’s feelings or make anyone uncomfortable. And God got into the advertising business: “Okay. Have it your way.”

Another dimension of “not enough authority left to support the best,” is the total absences of redemption. For confession of wrong and repentance to do its work, there must be good news of salvation. There must be forgiveness and expiation of sin. A broad-brush statement is that many in the Black community assume there is “no redemption” for these national sins and even if there were, white people and their institutions are beyond it. Until there is redemption proclaimed, offered and received, we will remain in this suburb of hell.

I have been instructed and touched by Dr. Shelby Steel’s thinking. He has helped me understand the wounds and history as well as politics that brought us to Chaos 2020. He writes from a mind and heart of a conservative, which means he desires to conserve what is worthy. His writing might be of value to you.

White Guilt—How Blacks and Whites together destroyed the promise of the Civil Rights era. (Harper Perennial ©2006).

TURNING FROM MY WICKED WAYS

In the 1960s, Quaker preacher, writer, theologian and teacher, Elton Trueblood, said every church should be a school of higher education. That caught my imagination. I increasingly saw the power in retreat centers, conference facilities and small interactive, sharing groups. When I heard about Dr. A. R. Bernard and his church, Christian Culture Center, the value of such churches took a firmer hold on me.

I can’t tell you who I heard say this and I missed his first element and I’ve added the fifth one which the speaker would have included in one of the other elements. You will notice that the Marxist groups have historically targeted these 4-5 institutions for destruction. They are also the core cluster in the Seven Mountain Mandate. The prophets have been telling us we must influence these places of mind-molders or someone else will—are!

  1. Shared History
  2. Family-marriage with parental involvement in education and teaching virtues.
  3. Education: School & informal
  4. Church—Where the Gospel is declared and embraced, there is/can be, upward mobility.
  5. Development-Cultural centers.

There is a realization that I can’t provide that for another race or culture, nor should I.

“We (Blacks) avoid the terrifying level of responsibility that freedom imposes by arguing that whites are responsible for our development. We even define full black responsibility as an intolerable injustice. Our understandable fear of freedom has led us to bank our fate on an absurdity: that we can develop by taking less responsibility for ourselves. We have defined freedom as a kind of heaven in which the inhabitants are forgiven responsibility. Thus, we have conspired to throw away the greatest power we have: complete responsibility for our own development, an opportunity that we have the freedom to assume.” (Page 68—Shelby Steel.)

Frederick Douglass and Malcom X responded to, “What shall we do for you?” They said, in different tones, “Nothing. Worst thing you can do is to do something for us.”

I have visioned a church—a weekly shared building and monthly shared celebration—by 4-5 churches of divergent colors and cultures to experience Kingdom fullness. That church would have a development center, an academy where the list above could be taught and experienced. For me (old white guy) to offer that is another type of colonialism or plantationism. (?) Certainly, not my intent! But to do nothing is not acceptable.

Someone has to be an apostle and put a pin on the map and say, “Let’s go there.” In an ideal world, perhaps in the Kingdom, that apostle can empower others. The object of the Kingdom and American Constitutional Democracy is not “break into pieces” but to pick up the pieces and remold them into wholeness.

Turn from their wicked ways…I will heal their land.

I am open to reckon with my wicked ways. Holy Spirit, come and reveal them and help me recognize them.

© 2020 D. Dean Benton–wonderer, writer, weeper

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