Once in a blue moon, a blogster (like yours truly) ought to take a chance and unload. I suppose that’s what I did in the recent “Rush Limbaugh” article, although at the time I thought of it as just a typical expression of where my mind was that day. Judging by some of the reactions I’ve gotten, though, you would have thought I had a death wish to have done something so risky and insane.
I really do not mind that the blog was controversial. In fact, I completely expected that. It’s absolutely fine for people to disagree with it. I do not feel like I have to defend it or argue. But one of the surprises I’ve had in several of the responses that came to me and some arriving at the editorial offices of our state paper (The Baptist Message in Alexandria, LA) is to learn that many conservatives absolutely hate (despise, abhor, cannot stand) Newsweek.
Now, anyone who read the article noticed that I did not actually quote Newsweek (which would have been all right if I had; I happen to like the magazine). I quoted a CONSERVATIVE leader who was asked by that magazine to write his own assessment of Rush Limbaugh’s role in the country and in the conservative movement. That’s important. I was not quoting Newsweek. I was quoting the conservative leader whose article happened to have been published in that newsweekly.
But some people either do not read or do not care, one or the other. In making a passing reference to Newsweek, I happened to press their button and they spilled out their hatred for that magazine, in the process coupling me with the object of their disgust.
It was a ‘red flag’ moment.
Webster gives as one of many definitions of “red flag” something that provokes an angry or hostile reaction.
Jesus had His red flag moments. So did the Apostle Paul. This little Limbaugh episode gives me an opportunity to point them out.
By the way, a friend sent me a question this morning. He wanted to know if it’s true that Catholics teach when an unbaptized person dies, he goes to Limbaugh. (I told him I didn’t think so.)
The Lord Jesus was beginning His ministry in His hometown synagogue, there in Nazareth. Everyone seems proud of Him. He reads the Word, and delivers a short message. Everything is fine, so far. Then it happens.
Jesus just could not let well enough alone. He stares out at the faces of all these older men — neighbors he has known all his life — and says, “I suppose you’re going to quote the proverb, ‘Doctor, go heal yourself.’ ‘Do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.’ Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown.”
Now, that was bad enough. But Jesus is about to light their fuses.
“Isn’t it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, but the only widow to whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon?” (Note to Ginger: Sidon is pagan territory, north of Israel on the seacoast.)
And, in case they had not gotten the point, He continued, “And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one cleansed was Naaman the Syrian.” (Same thing. Syria is not Israel.)
Well, sir, that did it.
“That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom….” (Luke 4. Quoting from “The Message”)
Those people did not like Gentiles. After all, weren’t they themselves the chosen people? Mention God loving the Gentiles as much as He did the Jews and Jesus could count on a reaction that was immediate and hostile.
Paul found this out in Acts 22. He’d been arrested in Jerusalem and was giving his testimony to the crowd, many of whom were fascinated by his story. Then, as he came down to the close, he told how the Lord informed him that He was sending him “far away to the Gentiles.” Uh oh. You said the magic word, Paul.
“The people in the crowd had listened attentively up to this point, but now they broke loose, shouting out, ‘Kill him! He’s an insect! Stomp on him!’ They shook their fists. They filled the air with curses.” (Acts 22:22-23 “The Message”)
The next day, Paul was brought before the ruling council of the Jews to defend himself. Looking out at his audience, he recognized that some belonged to the Sadducees who believed there was no resurrection and some were Pharisees who believe in it strongly. So, he pulled a slick little trick which every trial lawyer has studied and perfected.
Paul told the group, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. Concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” (Acts 23:6)
Pow. An explosion followed. “When he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided….There arose a loud outcry.” It got so bad, the commanding officer ordered the soldiers to protect Paul from the violence of the mob.
Sometime earlier, in Athens, Paul discovered the explosive power of even a mention of the resurrection, but then, it was from the educated Greeks, not Jews. He was telling his audience on Mars Hill how God has appointed a day of judgment, then added, “He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)
“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked….” They did not want to hear anything more.
Those open-minded Athenians, like many on liberal college campuses today who claim freedom of speech as one of their touchstones, on hearing something they didn’t like, lost all sense and reason.
Then, in one more incident, Paul unfurls both red flags — Gentiles and the resurrection — in his defense before King Agrippa.
Toward the end of his testimony, Paul said, “So, that’s what I’ve been preaching — that the Messiah would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jews and to the Gentiles.”
At that moment, Festus the governor bellowed, “That did it! Paul you are out of your mind! Your much learning has driven you mad!” (Acts 26:24)
I suppose we all have these red flags, these precious beliefs/convictions/prejudices we hold so dear that once someone crosses them, we erupt into anger.
The thing that amazes me is to find that for some who call themselves dedicated followers of Jesus Christ, that red flag happens to be any negative assessment of an egotistical political commentator who puts himself above God, spews venom toward everyone disagreeing with him, and believes none of the things Christians hold dear.
One wonders if this is a modern form of idolatry, placing man above God.