In the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd, the opening prologue describes the title character. Sweeney Todd is a barber who had been wronged and returns for revenge. He starts slitting the throats of his customers while waiting for his chance to kill the judge that wronged him. In the opening prologue, Todd is described as “He served a dark and a vengeful god.” Only a person who served such a god would perpetrate such violence.
A.W. Tozer wrote in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy,” wrote “The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. . . We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” Tozer uses this as a basis for his argument that we must think correctly about God and make understanding and knowing God a priority in the Church and our own spiritual lives.
I was recently reminded of this very point and of the consequences of our own beliefs about God. I’ve written about Rick Wiles before. He is an anti-Semite, homophobic, violence loving, fringe conspiracy nut. (IMHO) The website Right Wing Watch recently reported his latest crazy rant. Wiles “predicts” that there will be violence if Trump is removed from office. The video is below. (Thanks to Right Wing Watch)
Wiles comments that veterans, cowboys, mountain men, and guys that know how to fight will hunt down those who remove Trump. It’s obvious from his comments that Rick Wiles serves a dark and vengeful god. Rick Wiles is not serving the Father revealed by Jesus; he is serving a dark, vengeful god that has been created by white nationalists, dominionists, and the extreme right who have taken over Evangelicalism. They have created an angry god who punishes people with hurricanes and fires. They have created a vengeful god who will return and unleash mass genocide and destruction during a seven-year period called the “tribulation.” They have created a god that appeals to the darkest nature of human beings instead of the light of Christ in people. It is this god that Wiles serves.
Jesus came and revealed the true nature of who God is. In studying the Life of Jesus, we receive a double blessing. The first blessing we receive is the revelation of God’s very nature and character. Jesus revealed a God who loves humanity. At the birth of Jesus, the angels announced, “Peach on earth and goodwill towards man.” (Luke 2: 14) Jesus taught us to love one another, to love our neighbor, and to love our enemies. Jesus showed us a God who when He walked amongst us “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” Jesus revealed a God who would rather die than punish humans. This isn’t the god Rick Wiles serves. I find it ironic that on his jacket lapel, Wiles has pinned a cross. The very symbol of man’s violence against Jesus. The cross is a symbol of how God responds to violence by laying down his own life. Wiles advocates for human beings to take up violence. He seems oblivious that violent men, like him, are the ones who put Christ on the cross.
The second blessing we receive is how we should live as a human being. Jesus is “The way” He, as fully human and fully divine, has shown us how we are to live as humans. We are to become like Him. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”
I wonder why Rick Wiles isn’t teaching and exhorting those veterans, mountain men, and people who know how to fight to turn the other cheek? Whatever happened to “Don’t worry, God is in control”? A true shepherd would be pouring oil on troubled water, not advocating for violence. However, the dark, vengeful god Rick Wiles serves seizes power and will kill those who oppose him.
Evangelicalism has lost its way. The shepherds are false and have led it down a dark path. In Ezekiel chapter 34, the prophet has this message for the spiritual leaders of his time: “Woe to you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves and not the sheep. Shouldn’t shepherds feed the sheep? You’re eating the best parts, clothing yourselves with the wool, and slaughtering the home-grown sheep without having fed the sheep! You haven’t strengthened the weak, treated the sick, set broken bones, regathered the scattered, or looked for the lost. Instead, you’ve dominated them with brutal force and ruthlessness. Since they have no shepherd, they have been scattered around and have become prey for all sorts of wild animals. How scattered they are! My sheep have gone wandering on all of the mountains, on all of the hills, and throughout every high place in the whole world, with no one to look for them or go out in search of them.”
The Evangelicals have become false shepherds. They don’t take care of the sheep; they feed themselves. Too many mega-church pastors have fattened themselves off the money they extort from their congregation. They don’t tend to the wounded; they empower oppressors to take advantage of the poor, hungry, and helpless. They justify injustice and oppression through their theology of white patriarchy. Is it any wonder that the sheep have scattered? The rise of the “Nones” and “Dones,” those who have walked away from the church, continue to rise. The false shepherds would have you believe it is because the younger generation is rejecting God. This is a lie to justify their own failure. The young generation has seen these false shepherds for what they are and have gone to look for Jesus elsewhere. They are scattered on every mountainside and have become prey for the organized beast of the field.
Rick Wiles preaches a god, nothing like Jesus. Those who follow and support his TruNews organization follow him down a dark and dangerous path into darkness and away from Jesus. Wiles presents a toxic image of “men” who will hunt down those who oppose his messiah, Trump. I’m guessing that these toxic masculine images of what he thinks veterans, mountain men, and those who know how to fight are strictly from his imagination. He has never served in the military or fought himself. He was and is a marketing man. He goes on air weekly and sells a false god. How sad that there are buyers for such a dark and vengeful god.
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