Singing Songs of The Lord In A Foreign Land

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Singing Songs of The Lord In A Foreign Land

How do I sing songs of the Lord in the land of Pat Robertson and Conan O’Brien?

The whole world has been transfixed on footage from the devastated country of Haiti decimated by A massive, 7.0 magnitude earthquake near the capital of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, January 12th. The damage is extensive and the number of injured or dead is not yet calculated, but is catastrophic. I urge all people of goodwill to please pray for, and donate if possible to, relief efforts in Haiti.

Pat Robertson seized the moment to declare God’s wrath and judgment on Haiti. His exact words? “Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’

“And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have — and we need to pray for them — a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come. But right now, we’re helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable.”

The reaction was swift from theologians, Christian leaders and even comedian Jon Stewart who quoted scripture at length as he riffed on Robertson (Stewart used verses from Isaiah 51 and 54 and Psalms 34 and 71 to make his point). “Out of all the things you could draw on from your religion to bring comfort to a devastated people and region? Look how big your book is! ‘The Lord is close to the broken hearted. He rescues those who are crushed in spirit. Fear thou not, for I am with thee. Be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee. From the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord who has compassion on you.’ “That almost sounds like it’s about a f**** earthquake!”

Lisa Miller of Newsweek said, Robertson’s comments were “unkind and self-righteous and deaf, dumb, and blind to centuries of theological discourse on suffering by thinkers from Augustine to Elie Wiesel that one might easily call it backward. Every Western religious tradition teaches that mortals have no way of counting or weighing another’s sin.”

Lest we think televangelists are the only clueless ones, Conan O’Brien, obsessed as he is with his loss of the 11:30 slot for the Tonight Show, decided to get back at NBC by vindictively wasting their money on a 1.5 million dollar comedy bit that lasted 1 minute. He bought a Bugatti and played the Rolling Stones (resulting in expensive royalty fees). And added, “Let me ask you a question,” he said, standing in front of a Bugatti Veyron dressed as a mouse. “Is this appropriate music for a car that looks like a mouse? No! Does it add anything at all to this comedy bit? No, it doesn’t! Is it crazy expensive to play on the air — not to mention the rights to re-air this clip on the Internet?” Yep. “

To wastefully spend 1.5 million dollars for personal vengeance while Haiti languishes is as despicable to me as Pat Robertson’s reckless invocation of God’s name in his misguided ramblings.

TIME magazine polled children to ask what they wish for and no surprise money came in #1 (27%) and possessions # 2 (15%) Health: 7%, Happiness: 7%, Travel: 6%, Fame: 5%, Long life: 5%, Money: 27%, Possessions: 15%, Better World: 8%, Other: 20%)

Jesus warned influencers to show care in the messages they send through their words and deeds, “things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.”

You and I live in a “foreign land” where religion and culture offer foolish guides for our behavior. This my question, “How do I sing songs of the Lord in the land of Pat Robertson and Conan O’Brien?”

Know the Lord. Pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” each day. Obey the Lord. Think on these things, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy,” then measure the voices of religion and culture against them. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Don’t just criticize Robertson and Conan in words, but let your daily life and deeds be your critique.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends for the benefit of the world,

Dick Staub

Order one of Dick’s books from amazon: Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters
The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite

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