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Get Ready for Big Bang 2.0!

Tribute to a Truth-Seeker: Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith

By Stan Moody


 

I’ve been an evangelical pastor for the past one-third of my life – proper religious credentials; books published; the whole nine yards. You may refer to me simply as a shirttail theologian, one who rummages around in dusty old ideas from past vanquished giants of faith. You can do that only if you are comfortable that the American evangelical community is in the slightest bit interested in theological discourse. That it isn’t is witnessed by the plethora of self-appointed prophets come-on-demand to grab an increasing share of a declining market still large enough to create the appearance of legitimacy defined by, “How many people go to YOUR church?” 


God Isn’t Dead – Just Busy!


I get it! God either has lost interest in our boring demands for evidence of His care over us or is busy elsewhere – maybe planning the so-called Rapture. C’mon, folks! He’s got a lot to do! Give Him a break! Yes, Jesus may be long overdue in landing with His brogans on the Mount of Olives, but we can jumpstart that just by doing a rain dance! The more noise we make; the cleverer we become at marketing the gospel; the busier we make ourselves in the God-business; the more laws we pass metaphorically to stone those who get caught in moral decline, the more likely we are to get His attention.


The quick-fix alternative to getting God’s attention, of course, is to employ the fickle finger of politics to do the work He apparently is indisposed at the moment to advance by divine initiative. If we old, white, pasty-faced, saggy-jowled guys can engineer a piece of Heaven for whatever little time we may have left here on good old terra firma, we may be able to earn a crown or a faithful service award. At the very least, let’s get out of here with the least possible discomfort, referred to by Jesus as persecution. Imagine the reception on the other side of this vale of tears when we report to God what we were able to accomplish in His name while He was on vacation!


“I’ll Blow Your House Down!”


I’ve had my own battles with keeping God and Caesar respectfully separate over the years, convinced that it was only by Christian huffing and puffing that the pagan house of straw that we call America could be blown down. I even dabbled in politics along the way. In early 2003 I began a term in the Maine State House of Representatives as a Republican, only to cross the aisle a year later in the futile search for relevancy.


I stepped into it again near the end of my second term by openly supporting equal rights for LGBT citizens. Somehow, I had missed the memo that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were conditional upon faithful adherence to the precepts of the Book of Leviticus that few of us have the endurance or stamina to read anymore. A piece of my testimony on the floor of the House was this:


We don’t have to look very far to know that gays have been singled out by the Christian Right as a symbol of the evil in our culture. They need protection, it is sad to say, from the people of God – religious people who enjoy exclusion from income and property tax laws while collecting signatures to restrict the rights of others.


Imagine the gall of such drivel coming from the mouth of a Baptist minister! I discovered only recently that one church held an adult Sunday School class to study my fall from grace. Another church in my district was holding prayer meetings to plead with God to cause me to be defeated in the next election. It seemed like my only friends were drunks, fools, and liberals, considered in some “holy” circles to be synonymous terms!


Destiny of Simple Maine Truth-Seekers:


They don’t call us Mainers “Hardcore Yankees” for nothing! Stay in Maine long enough, and you inherit a face that looks a lot like shore rocks – craggy, denuded, immovable. Like a whole lot of my neighbors, I’m just a simple truth-seeker, as it were, and destined never quite to find it. I come by it naturally in the state with the lowest church attendance per capita in the nation.


The good news is that we’ve had more than our share of truth-seekers in Maine over the years. On June 1, 1950, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, 23-years later to be mortally wounded in a primary fight by Cape Elizabeth multi-millionaire, Robert A.G. Monks, rose to the floor of the United States Senate to put a stop to the madness of the McCarthy un-American activities hearings that had only just begun. She was 4 years too early!

Known as her Declaration of Conscience speech, here is a snippet:


Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:


The right to criticize…


The right to hold unpopular beliefs…


The right to protest…


The right of independent thought…


It strikes me that Jesus might not do very well in today’s evangelical marketplace, where open exercise of the above rights on matters deemed sacred are presumed grounds for the worst of outcomes.


What’s a Card-carrying Evangelical to Do?


What is an evangelical, a truth-seeker by definition, to do as our nation founders on the shoals of social engineering? We can follow the God-man who rallied 100 or so ardent supporters after 3 years of miracles and teaching and, yet, whose sacrifice at the hand of the State gave rise to the greatest cultural revolution in human history. There’s a novel option! We certainly can pay taxes, of course. We can be faithful in deed, if not in word, to family, work, and community; pray for the social engineers among us; love our neighbor, especially when that neighbor is an enemy. And, of course, we can vote!


We are headed into an election (Nov. 2024) that may well make or break America as we know it for all but card-carrying evangelicals. People of conscience likely will have few viable options. We can skip the election, but that’s not good citizenship, and God knows we must be good citizens: “God Bless Amurika!”. We can vote the party line, but that gives rise to too many leaders incapable of the kind of independent thought that motivated Sen. Smith to deliver her Declaration of Conscience. We can vote for a few candidates and leave the rest blank, but that just prolongs the agony.


In the absence of a credible alternative to the customary lesser of two evils, that’s what I’m going to do – maybe, “God willin, and the crick don’t rise”.  The good news in all this chaos may well be, “HE IS RISEN, INDEED!” Past time to get out of the moral swamp and into the present, dynamic, triumphant Kingdom of God!

 

 

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