A NOTE TO THE READER: The following piece originated as a private exchange of emails in the confused and emotionally charged days immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. This piece reflects the personal viewpoints of the correspondents, and is presented as an example of the responses and dialog resulting from statements made on September 13th by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
Less publicly known are the writings of Mr. John McTernan, whose work Mr. Self associates with those statements. Mr. McTernan has communicated to us that he strongly feels he has been misrepresented. It appears that he agrees in essence with the statements of Falwell and Robertson, but asserts that his motive and intent of writing have been taken amiss, and that his words have been misunderstood.
Mr. Self, in a spirit of Christian concern and candor, offered to engaged in private discussion of their differences. However, Mr. McTernan refused to do so without exercising a presumptuous "right" of previous censorship, demanding that Mr. Self's views be removed from this website as the condition of engaging in any further dialog.
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)
Introduction: My friend Rick Thomas is the token liberal democratic non-Christian of his family. Last week Rick wrote me as follows:
"At the risk of stirring up more controversy, I couldn't resist passing this little tid bit on. This is copied as I received it. I have
promised to avoid the political wrangling I'm so prone to doing during this time of National crisis, but when something like this comes along, there's no way I can let it go. Besides, it ain't really political. My comments are at the end of the transcript. If you like and respect these guys, my apologies if they (comments) offend you. I'm offended by these statements attributed to Falwell and Robertson."
PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT of comments from the Thursday, September 13, 2001 edition of the "700 Club:"
JERRY FALWELL: And I agree totally with you that the Lord has protected us so wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we've been attacked on our soil and by far the worst results. And I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And with biological warfare available to these monsters - the Husseins, the Bin Ladens, the Arafats - what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact - if, in fact - God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.
PAT ROBERTSON: Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population.
JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this.
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, yes.
JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.
JERRY FALWELL: Pat, did you notice yesterday the ACLU, and all the Christ-haters, People For the American Way, NOW, etc. were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress as they went out on the steps and called out on to God in prayer and sang "God Bless America" and said "let the ACLU be hanged"? In other words, when the nation is on its knees, the only normal and natural and spiritual thing to do is what we ought to be doing all the time - calling upon God.
PAT ROBERTSON: Amen
Comments by RICK THOMAS, to Bryce Self: In case you don't know, I've pretty much always thought that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were idiots. Their comments and ignorant, inflammatory accusations of this past week have done nothing to make me feel any differently.
If you agree with what they said and the spirit with which they said it, then there is probably nothing I can say to make you realize how divisive (not to mention bigoted and stupid) their statements were. But I would hope that you take a look at how their comments serve to worsen an already bad situation.
To blame the events of 9/11/01 on the ACLU, PFAW, gays & lesbians, pro-choice "abortionists," feminists, the Federal court system, and everyone else they refer to as "Christ haters" who don't see eye-to-eye with the Falwell-Robertson crowd is ridiculous. I won't argue the fact that there may be things we need to correct in this country and our society, but Falwell and Robertson act as if it's their way or no way. Which lumps everyone who doesn't see things as they do as being the "bad" guys, and now it's somehow OUR fault a bunch of wackos killed over 5,000 innocent people.
Earth to Jerry.... Earth to Pat.... in case you guys haven't heard, the morons who hijacked the planes and killed all those people did it IN ORDER TO BECOME MARTYRS FOR ISLAM, and as far as they're concerned, they earned instant tickets to be with GOD/ALLAH. They, not unlike you guys, felt that their beliefs were/are above all others, and that if you don't believe what they believe, you're an infidel. And I'll betcha they, too, were opposed to abortion, feminists, individual rights and freedoms, gays, and any attempt to take their religion (extreme FUNDAMENTALIST Islam) out of their schools and governments.
Thanks a lot, Pat and Jerry. At a time when you had the opportunity to contribute something to help ease the suffering our Nation is going through, you blatantly abused your positions to demonize and blame just about everyone you've ever disagreed with. And, too bad for us, there are undoubtedly many other foolish, non-thinking followers who take every word you say as the "gospel" truth. Hmmmmm, sound familiar?
And, by the way, many of those same Representatives and Senators who knelt, prayed, and sang together also, like me, think you guys are full of crap.
PS - I just recently renewed my membership in People For the American Way. I've never belonged to the ACLU, but I support what they do in general. I suppose Pat and Jerry would love to see those two particular groups disappear, because it's groups like PFAW and ACLU who will challenge the ignorant things they do and say. It's called "balance."
A Response by Bryce Self:
THE SIGN OF THE PROPHET JONAH
The initial posting on the Falwell/Robertson pronouncements ("Fools Rush In...") which came to me last week could not have been titled better. Certainly, these fools have rushed in where neither God, His angels, nor Christians who know the Father's heart would ever tread! Few right minded people (Christian or otherwise) would hesitate to agree with Rick in applying the epithets "ignorant... inflammatory... divisive... bigoted... stupid... ridiculous" to their broadcast and published statements on this subject.
The degree of sheer irresponsibility and callous self-righteousness required to say such things at such a time is appalling in men who are looked to by some as leaders in America, and who profess to speak for God. Sadly, in our era of media induced intellectual slovenliness, some will mindlessly parrot such pernicious blather, while many others -- rejecting these men's statements but implicitly accepting their claims to preeminence -- will take their words as reflecting the sentiments of all who call themselves Christian.
It simply ain't so! These men speak neither for God nor for the majority of Christians in USAmerica.
I fully understand their chain of reasoning, and vehemently oppose it every step of the way. It proceeds in this manner:
(1) America was founded as a Christian nation so
(2) America has a special relationship with God but
(3) Some Americans have turned away from God therefore
(4) God is judging America for her sins until
(5) Sinners repent or are suppressed when
(6) God will again bless us.
Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm as patriotic and thoroughgoing an American as anyone could ever hope to meet. My ancestors have been here since nine years before the founding of Jamestown and 23 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. For 15 generations my family has fought and died in every Colonial and USAmerican war. My pride in and love of my country, with all her faults, is equal to any man or woman's.
As well, I am a Christian both by heritage and choice. In each one of my 15 past generations on this continent I can point out the preachers, missionaries, teachers, deacons and lay leaders whose dedication to Christ and His Gospel helped to mold this land. My life is likewise wholly dedicated. I've served on staff at a church for 12 years in what the Census Bureau lists as the least religiously observant county in the nation. Many would rapidly pigeonhole me as eminently disposable and discountable for I am a "fundamentalist" by the criteria commonly used to define people meriting that opprobrious epithet. From Biblical literalist to Pentecostal, I fit the bill -- and am as appropriately proud of that as I am of my national heritage.
Yet, I know for an indisputable fact (from many sympathetic historians as well as years of extensive research in primary sources) that, although there was a large Christian influence in our country's formative years -- an influence which remains surprisingly pervasive to this day -- that this simply never was a "Christian" nation. There is no foundation to the initial assertion upon which Falwell's sand castle is built.
There have been times when Christians of various ilks, taken together, have formed an influential majority of our population. Many of the freedoms and governmental principles written into and guaranteed by our foundational documents and laws are directly derived from one possible interpretation and application of Biblical concepts adapted to unique circumstances. However, we have never received a Divine imprimatur on federal republicanism, nor received a Divine mandate for the dissemination and defense of democracy. Such ideas form a part of our American national mythology, but they are just that: mythology. This I know, along with all informed Americans.
On the other hand, it is as a Christian that I categorically state the falsehood of any idea of a special relationship obtaining between USAmerica and the Almighty. There is only one nation, Israel, with whom the Lord has made a special covenant. Biblically speaking, the United States is simply another (nameless) one among the great heaving and tumultuous gathering of nations which -- none excepted -- are pictured in Psalm 2 as arraigned against Christ in the day of His return. Ouch! That hurts, but there is no way around it. We Christians are told repeatedly and in a great variety of expressions in Scripture that we will always be a comparatively small element of the societies in which we are placed.
and the peoples plot in vain?
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and his anointed, saying,
He said to me, "You are my son, today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling, kiss his feet,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
The covenant of the Israelites as a people is what Paul proclaims has been extended to us, and into which we Christians have been incorporated. It is this, His "holy nation and royal priesthood" sown among the nations of the earth as seed, light, salt, etc., which claims our ultimate citizenship and foremost allegiance beyond what any earthly government is able to claim for itself or deny us the exercise of. "Christos Kyrios" has been our proclamation and battle cry from the first. How dare we settle for simply "America First!" You remember that when Jesus was challenged about paying taxes, he asked whose image was on the money, and said to give to Caesar what is Caesar, but to God what is God's? While we are to render all DUE obedience to our nation, we ourselves are the image bearers of God. We have not the freedom to barter ourselves away.
Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame." To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner," and "A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall"; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10)
Only on the supposed basis of a special relationship with God, can USAmerica be thought of (theologically speaking) as receiving a uniquely corresponding attention to her sins thus bringing upon us the specific retributive wrath of the Lord. In other nations -- with much longer Christian histories than our own -- more abortions are performed, more homosexuality is publicly flaunted, more "anti-Christian" legislation is enacted, more "un-republican/democratic/capitalist" policy is pursued, and a greater portion of those nations' general population could either care less, or actively approve and support such things. Where is the "wrath of God revealed from heaven" to be seen anywhere in those lands?
For the past couple of months, I have been writing a series of essays in opposition to an author named John McTernan, whose published work (God's Final Warning to America) formalizes and encapsulates the conglomerate of ideas which underlies Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell's statements of the past week. It should be noted that although McTernan touts himself loudly as a founder of the Christian policeman's organization "Cops for Christ," at least on major chapter of that league (Cincinnati) has dissociated themselves from his outrageous public stances and personal claims to oracular authority. He has correlated various natural and other disasters of recent years with certain expressions of "public sin" in America. Cited instances of "public sin" consist almost entirely of three things: gay pride parades in large cities, failed or thwarted protest efforts by Operation Rescue (an organization he identifies closely with), and perceived efforts by the United States government to pressure Israel into giving up land or otherwise caving-in to pressure from the Palestinians.
Although the essays I wrote helped me focus my thinking,, something about them still did not satisfy me well enough to allow them to be published, as we had planned to do earlier. Somehow it seemed not quite enough to merely refute McTerrnan's flawed logical arguments point-by-point; to shine the clear and reasonable light of Scripture on his ignorant and atrocious attempts at theology; to deflate his overbred and egotistical claims to exclusive prophetic commission and divine insight; to show up his supposed sin/judgment correspondences with cold, impartial statistical analysis; and to attempt to shatter the kernel of bigoted ignorance and hatred which lies at the heart of his published work. Somehow, it was not enough.
You see, something had to change in me before I could make the most appropriate and (hopefully) effective response. My initial dashing-out of the series of essays was a reaction in something like the same spirit as McTernan's work. I wanted to destroy this monstrous fabrication -- I still do and, God willing, may contribute something toward that end. But there was also a place in my heart motivated by how much I despised this man and wished to avenge myself, not so much for a personal attack against me (although that was an element). Much more, I was offended on behalf of my heavenly Father whose character was being so loudly and publicly maligned and abused. That such a man would presume to say such things in the name of that Jesus who died to prevent the judgment of God from reaching fallen mankind is intolerable! When this man proceeds to categorically dismiss whole classes of mankind from from the possibility of gracious reconciliation through Christ, he must be opposed as publicly as he spoke when he spewed forth such foul and poisonous venom.
Then last Monday, the day before "The Day That Everything Changed," came my personal breakthrough on this issue. In my morning prayer time, my thoughts became focused on another saying of Jesus. When asked to produce a "sign" that He was who He said He was, Jesus replied that no sign would be given but that of the prophet Jonah. Now, those who are either Biblically literate or have just hung around in church long enough, know that the meaning given that statement in the Gospel then, and from pulpits for the last 2,000 years, is that this sign was Christ's burial and resurrection: Jonah was regurgitated by the fish after three days in the deep, and Christ rose from the grave after three days in the nether regions.
However, I went back to the book of Jonah and reread it, looking long and hard at Jonah himself. The man Jonah as pictured there is not a pretty sight! He was just as bigoted, ignorant and prejudiced as Falwell, Robertson or McTernan; just as unwilling to be the instrument of grace rather than judgment; just a resentful of the fact that God calls to repentance such blatant and blameworthy sinners (compared to himself, in his own eyes!); and just as poor a example of the character of the One whom he was commissioned to represent. He pouted and threw a tantrum when God forgave the sin of Ninevah and retained the lives of its inhabitants.
Yet, the simple fact that this story is recorded in all its unflattering detail of the Divine spokesman at his most obnoxious and repugnant worst, reveals that Jonah ultimately had a change of heart. And that he had heart enough to accurately record the whole unvarnished, un-whitewashed tale so derogatory to himself. He ended up entirely changed and able to make of his muffed and fumbled play a cautionary tale to all who would ever be called to speak on behalf of the Lord. "Look!" he says, "I screwed it up royally, and if you tried you might be able to be half as bad a prophet as I was. So bad a spokesman for God, I was, that he himself holds me up forever as an example of the worst possible. And if he can change me, He can certainly change you!"
My prayer is that Jesus Christ, to whom they pray in their own warped way, will do a terrible thing to them. I pray that He would reveal to them the secrets of their own hearts. That he would lay bare and expose, as he is the Light, all of the hatred, ignorance and bigotry which are hidden there. I further pray for an impartation of the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin and bring them to public and open repentance for their blasphemies against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let them tremble in view of the judgment they have earned for speaking lies in the name of God. And I pray that their lives would be truly turned around, both in focus and in force, so that they will be mightily use to bring to salvation many thousands of those they have before proclaimed to be outside the grace of God. Oh, Father! Raise up to them sons and daughters for the Kingdom out of the gay ghettos of our cities, and out of the abortion clinics of our towns! Let those whom they had despised become their trophies of Your grace through all the ages to come. I ask this for the sake of Your glory, Father; in the name of your Son Jesus Christ; and by the power of your Holy Spirit Who alone convicts the world of Sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Preserve your People, oh God, from presumptuous sin, that we may accomplish all Your purpose in the earth; and be gathered together before You without shame in the last day. Amen.
You are welcome to email,
Bryce Self (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Email inquiry from Steve:
I read your response/article and found it most interesting and enlightening. I have read few articles regarding our founding father's belief system and yet it is their "belief system" that keeps coming up regularly as "christian."
Can you point me in a direction where I too can read material that is accurate and not necessarily what the masses are devouring. I am simply looking for solid truth so that I can see more clearly and discerningly at issues where the Bible and patriotism get blended together.
Also, in your article you brought up a very good point about other nations far more liberal than ours doing all that we do but in greater amount and freedom. What nations are you referring to here?
Response from Bryce:
Thanks for dropping a line and for your kind words. I'm at home today from work, so do not have immediate access to my library. Within a few days though, I should have opportunity to cull through by books and provide something of a reference list for you and other inquirers who have contacted me.
The "other nations" I had in mind are especially those of Western Europe where Christianity (at least as a public institution or system) have been ensconced for many centuries, and where the public repudiation of Christian values began earlier and has progressed much farther than in USAmerica.
Certainly this very hardening, in both Europe and North America, is itself an expression of the judgment of God, who allows those who turn their backs on Him to continue all the way to hell if they wish. That, of course includes all the ensuing consequences -- sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind. However, this is not judgment in the sense that McTernan, Falwell, & Co. intend. McTernan in particular correlates some particular acts of "public sin" with specific disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, stock market dips, and so on) which have effected us. It is their pronouncements of the Lord's responding in acts of specific, targeted, retributive condemnation and judgment which I take to task as having no foundation in history, theology, the Bible, or the character of God.
Historically, USAmerica has no national covenant with God. Theologically, we would only be so dealt with if we had such a covenant. Biblically, the only such covenant is with Israel (obviously not to be blindly equated with the secular political state now existing in the Middle East). Most important, though, is the issue of the character of God Himself -- as it has been since the temptation in Eden. The Lord's covenant oath with all mankind, not to deal with us on the basis of our deserved retributive justice, was implicit in preserving the lives of Adam and Eve after their initial sin. It was made explicit at the end of the Deluge in the days of Noah, openly instituted in the death and resurrection of the Beloved Son, confirmed by all the apostles as recorded in Acts 15, and globally proclaimed by the apostle Paul. This is of the essence of the Gospel -- that God does not deal with us according to what we deserve.
Only under the terms of the national covenant with Israel in the Old Testament did the Lord -- for a limited time, according to specified purposes, and with a single group of people -- deal even partially in such a way as to visit specific retributive judgments on a people for their national sins. As a necessary corollary, some of the nations surrounding Old Testament Israel were also occasionally dealt with in this manner since their actions directly affected the historical, political and religious course of the Chosen People. Since Christ's incarnation and during the ensuing "times of the gentiles" in which we still live, even this closely delimited area of the exercise of divine retribution is no longer active. However, my understanding is that it will again be reactivated at the time of the end, the last seven years of our present eon, the time of antichrist. This is the scenario we find unfolded in the process of the opening of the seven seals in the Revelation.
Christ came to save, not condemn. This is His own statement of purpose and intent which permeates all the Gospels and is expressed there in so many ways. Acts and the Epistles show the universal application and effects of the spread of this "Good News" -- that God is not mad (in either sense of the word), that in the Beloved, all the bookkeeping rigmarole of sin and its due punishment has been forever done away with for every man, woman and child who ever has or will live on this planet. It was nailed to the cross and forever obliterated by the blood of the Lamb. By faith we accept this reconciliation which is all His own "strange work." All judgment has been given to the Son, and He has expended it into his own bosom!
There will be a future judgment, although it is NOT a retributive one: it is judgment in the pure sense of evaluation or assigning placement. Individuals and nations alike will be so "judged" in the Last Day, when He comes to "reward every one according to his deeds." But even this judgment is entirely in the future, and it is preeminently personal -- a face-to-face meeting with Jesus Christ in the (resurrected) flesh. Retributive judgment no longer operates, and evaluative judgment has not yet occurred. Meanwhile the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest, and the Farm Owner refuses to destroy the weeds until the very end.
I should end now, since I've already begun to sermonize. But I did think you would appreciate some elucidation since you did, after all, ask. Thanks again for being in touch, and I'll write again within a few days.
Bryce W. Self
Redwood City, CA
September 19, 2001
The above is a guest article by my good friend Bryce and is
posted on my web site as a courtesy to him.--Lambert Dolphin
September 18, 2001. Revised June 17, 2002.
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