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“FAKE NEWS!”

 
 

Pastor James Clarke’s sermon for Sunday, March 25, 2017: ”FAKE NEWS!” The scripture: John, chapter 9, verses 1-41.
The Pharisees grilled him, put him on the spot, and the tone was not hospitable. They claimed he was not from God because the healing had taken place on the Sabbath, which was against the LAW. It was impure and therefore hazardous.
They asked the man who was healed what he thought, and he said he thought Jesus is a prophet, which wasn’t the answer the Pharisees had hoped for.
The Pharisees questioned whether the man was really blind from birth, so they went to his parents, who confirmed that the man is their son, but claimed to know nothing more.
So they went to the man and confronted him a second time; asserting that he was a sinner…. a liar who cannot be trusted. The man again said, simply, I was blind and now I see.
And the Pharisees scorned and insulted him, saying that he is a disciple of Jesus, who we know nothing about; while they are disciples of Moses, who we know plenty about – and who can be trusted, and finally they all yelled FAKE NEWS!
The Pharisees were so locked in to what they believed, sure of what the truth was and was not – to the letter of the Law grounded in their way of seeing things – that they could not be open to Jesus. They were… delusional.

Episcopal priest John Cowan’s book, Taking Jesus Seriously, (2004): The core problem for humans is delusion. Delusion is when we create our own reality regardless of what is actually real and we are first deluded about ourselves. We see ourselves as something that we are not.
We believe that we can construct our own selves and that we are self-contained independent beings. Independent of the others so we don’t have to pay attention to others or care for them.
That we have control over out own thoughts and feelings is an earthshaking Christian error creating its tremors from the hearts of prurient teenagers to the beleaguered souls of the dying. To think that we are whom we have constructed is a delusion… It is the delusion we reject in baptism when we die to this self and allow Christ to live in us.

Delusion begins with thinking that we create ourselves. We build a resume of ourselves. We are independent and self-sustaining. Then we fit into the culture… We fit in. Be a good family person. Be kind. Be polite. Eat your peas. And you will get into heaven… The culture as an expensive delusion
stands between you and the kingdom. In Jesus’ time, the culture said that if you were pure all would be well. In our time, the culture says that if you are productive, all well be well. It makes for a great gross national product but it is a lie. Most people are completely unaware that being productive as end all. Is a cultural construct. They pursue it blindly. Quite a few hear about the lie, think they understand but do not see it working in their being, so continue to be driven by it.

In Jesus’ time, it was about purity…. Which is why the Pharisees were so upset about Jesus healing on the Sabbath. It was against the Law. It was impure. They really believed that something bad would happen because of this. So, the healing could not be real….. It had to be FAKE NEWS!
The sin of delusion is the mother of all ignorance. If we are deluded about who we are and about the culture we live in, the nature of what is real and true will also be lost on us.
And we become so sure of our truth – so needful of it being the truth that we are not open to anything that might threaten it. We seek out that which we agree with… only. We become willfully ignorant and claim “alternative truth”.
A number of times recently, I have heard people say that people who are on the other side of our beliefs – fundamentalists and those who are homo and trans-phobic (for example) are not bad people. How many times do people say, Mormons are not bad people?
And I agree, by the grace of God… For it is only by God’s grace that we are saved. That we are not a bad people. But is it always an issue of good and bad? In today’s scripture, it isn’t about good and bad. It’s about being blind and seeing. It’s about delusion and ignorance,

For John Cowan, ignorance comes before sin. We are sinful because we are deluded about ourselves, first, and then about reality. I look around today and see profound ignorance. I look around and I see ignorance about things that are accepted as factual truth about the structure of reality – ecology – biology.
During my time with the preschoolers this week, I shared with them about bees. The role bees play in pollination. One of the four-year-olds knew this! But does the new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt? One has to wonder…
Global Climate change is just as accepted as pollination, but he isn’t sure about that — choosing to weaken, if not eliminate, the EPA. To choose to side with business needs at the expense of the environment is willful ignorance. If bees die off, it isn’t just honey we will have to do without.
About ethnicity and race we remain profoundly ignorant. When my younger son, Kenneth. visited Howard University, which is 95% African American, and the question of diversity came up – their guide said there was plenty of diversity; students from Boston and Georgia; from California and from overseas. All black but all different.
Race is not biological. Blacks, whites, Asians are not subspecies. We are all biologically one race. Yet a good many people in America treat skin color as a real, actual, biological difference.
Barak Obama is the first black president sort of…. His mother was from Kansas. His father from Kenya. He grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. But there is no connection to the dominant historical experience of most African Americans – slavery/
I remember reading an article by an African American when Obama was first elected and the author was expressing doubts about Obama’s connection to the majority of Black Americans and he said, “But Michelle now… she’s a sistah!”
The differences between us are ethnic and cultural. Race is meaningless.
And then we are ignorant about culture. In spite of the fact that so many different kinds of people live in America, we seem to be ignorant of cultural differences.
In spite of all the different people, so many Americans remain in cultural bubbles holding on to cultural assumptions, not recognizing that they are cultural assumptions.
The assumption that America is originally and therefore necessarily a white culture is not just morally repugnant, t simply isn’t true – It is a delusion. In addition, in the small world we now live in, where cultures meet in a matter of hours on a plane, we need to be more knowledgeable of other cultures. And other cultures are really different!
The Japanese are different! Let me tell you! Their doors open out. They pull the needle over the thread. They drive on the left. This means “come here.” This means “money” (examples are given) And you don’t want to know what this means! But not just superficially, psychologically, socially and spiritually, they are different.
I was embarrassed when I watched President Trump shake Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s hand for a full 19 seconds. Did you see Abe’s face? And they are different than the Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos. The Japanese will stand orderly in a line. The Chinese create a mob. But so many Americans assume that Asians are basically all the same.
And the ramifications of this ignorance is that we mistreat others. And even more tragically, we lose the opportunity to learn from other cultures. We seek our own cultural bubbles
And I believe that the gift of American culture to the world iIs not white, but multi-cultural. And that is our gift and our strength. And I think foreign language should be mandatory in public schools in America. That is, if we still have them in the near future
Crucially, we are ignorant about economics. That there is no trickle-down compassion. Do we understand that a budget is a moral document? Huge increases for the military and cutting Meals on Wheels?! It is unconscionable.
We are ignorant about geography. Where is Aleppo anyway?
We are ignorant about history. But I better leave that subject alone….
We are clearly ignorant about the Bible! About translation, interpretation, history, context… That someone thinks he/she can simply pick up the Bible, read a passage and understand it, is delusional and dangerous.
This story (in today’s scripture) in John is about healing…but not just physical healing. It is a metaphorical reference to spiritual healing. It is about being spiritually blind and seeing. It is about overcoming delusion and ignorance.
The Pharisees were good people. They were reformers, not like Sadducees, who were in collusion with Rome. They were good guys. But they were also a little bit like fundamentalists. They had their ideology – their certain truth. Sincere though they might have been, it was a willful ignorance.
It was ignorance, willful or otherwise that got Donald Trump elected… People who voted for Trump are not bad people. They are our family members and friends – neighbors. We cannot and will not judge them as morally bad. But they were misled. They were fed FAKE NEWS.
And for me, this election has demonstrated that our greatest problem in America is delusional ignorance.
Part of growing in grace – part of going on to perfection – is overcoming our delusions about ourselves and our ignorance of the world, of ourselves, that we are not isolated selves, but relational beings who realize our identity in God.
Who are saved not by constructing our own lives, but by allowing God’s Spirit, formed in Jesus to create our lives of the world, that it is God’s world and not ours.
That we are called to be stewards of it and responsible for each other. Not just for ourselves but for all.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance or conscientious stupidity.
We have a responsibility to ourselves, to others, and to God to not live by FAKE NEWS and live fake or alternative lives.
Our message is not FAKE NEWS – it is the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ. We are called to live by the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ where things are not black and white. Where black and white don’t really matter. We are all one race. We are all God’s children.

The GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ is grace and love for all. Red and yellow, black and white. For all the colors of the rainbow
For Druze and Syrians
For Arabs and English
For Swedes and Bengalis
For Mexicans and Japanese
For Poles and Czechs
For Venezuelans and Samoans
For the disabled and hungry
For people of orientations and all genders
For truck drivers and geneticists
For Christians and Jews, Muslims and Jains
For Republican and Democrat and Socialist too
For the birds of the air and the fish of the sea
For bonobos and snakes
For homeless and immigrants
For the bees…..
And for you and for me to see this Good News touch the lives of others and for it to transform the world, we have to combat delusion and ignorance.
To help people to see to escape the blindness of ideology and self-centered dogma. To oppose and resist Fake News and created alternative truths in whatever forms they present themselves by the grace of God…. Amen.

 

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