By Isaac Watts
O ’tis a lovely thing for youth
To early walk in wisdom’s way;
To fear a lie, to speak the truth,
That we may trust to all they say!
But liars we can never trust,
Even when they say what is true.
And he who does one fault at first
And lies to hide it, makes it two.
Have we not known, nor heard, nor read
How God does hate deceit and wrong?
How Ananias was struck dead,
Caught with a lie upon his tongue?
So did his wife Sapphira die,
When she came in, and grew so bold
As to confirm that wicked lie,
Which just before her husband told.
The Lord delights in them that speak
The words of truth; but every liar
Must have his portion in the lake
That burns with brimstone and with fire.
Sowing Seeds of Deception
By Raymond A. Foss
Into the soil of our doubts
sowing seeds of deception
in patterns of behavior
in the shifting sands of numbers
moving beneath our feet
Changing the truths, facts
something which should be immutable
new information coming
beyond the last hour
Interpretations written, conveyed
seeking different understanding
nothings known generally
the public unawares
Raising concerns within us
a history of doubt growing
whether there is thought in these
or if innocence prevails
some frustrations almost palpable
When I was looking for a poem for today, I could not choose between the head two. They both fit what I was feeling since church on Sunday. Before I discuss these two poems, I want to say that although I strongly disapprove and disagree with what my preacher said on Sunday about homosexuality, I believe that he is a product of the ignorance that exist in so many Christians. I do not believe that the Bible can be taken completely literally, nor do I believe that you should only believe what others tell you to believe. I think that we must read and study the words and context of the Bible. When taken out of context, the Bible is largely meaningless because you are able to twist the words to what you want them to say. This is one of the cores of historical research: you cannot go into a topic with rigid preconceived beliefs, you must be able to adapt to the direction your research takes you and you must remain objective.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was an English pastor, preacher, poet, and hymn writer. Wrote about 600 hymns including his most famous, Joy to the World. Considered the founder of English hymnody, the singing and composition of hymns. “Against Lying” speaks of the innocence of children but that with one lie or deceit, then it is hard to ever trust again. He alludes to the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. It is just a small story, tucked away in the Book of Acts, familiar to many Christians. The couple sold a piece of property and agreed together to keep some of the money for themselves while giving the rest to the Church. Although the passage in Acts 5:1-11 does not explicitly say so, Ananias apparently pretended to be giving it all. For as soon as he laid the money at the apostles’ feet, Peter reproached him for lying to the Holy Spirit and keeping back some of the money, and Ananias fell down dead. Sapphira, arriving later, was questioned by Peter as to the amount of the sale. She, too, apparently lied, for Peter reproached her for agreeing to “put the Spirit of the Lord to the test,” and she fell down dead as well. Then the story concludes with the statement, “Great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.” The poem then ends with God delighting in those who speak the truth but casting those who lie will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, i.e. Hell.
Raymond A. Foss was born in 1960 in Westfield, Massachusetts, and the oldest of five children. After moving to Claremont, NH at 16, he attended the University of New Hampshire, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1982 and a Master of Public Administration in 1984. He graduated from Franklin Pierce Law Center in 2004. He started writing poetry while serving on the Barrington, NH School Board in 2000. In “Sowing Seeds of Deception,” Foss speaks of the characteristics of deception. He says that changing the truth, changing facts “which should be immutable,” using interpretations that are false, and by not trying to correct mistakes, then you are deceitful and cannot be trusted. When there is an “innocence” in the deception, meaning that the person did not know better, but have not tried to gain the knowledge to know better, then it cause frustrations. Ignorance may make it a bit more palatable, but I do not feel that it is an excuse, especially when you profess to be an expert on the subject.
I guess that what I’m trying to say is that even though I do not agree with my preacher’s perspective, he is a product of evangelical Christianity. They are hard to change and they like hardline interpretations of the Bible, because it makes it easier to understand. However, most evangelical Christians consider themselves Protestant, which means that they rejected being told what to think and believe by the Catholic Church. There was only one interpretation and all others were destroyed through various crusades, so it is the nature of Protestants to question the hardline beliefs of the Bible. Mainline Protestants have done this but evangelical Protestants have forgotten this. It’s difficult to put the Churches of Christ into these two categories though they are usually considered evangelicals because of their rigid stances on biblical issues, but whereas most other Christians would classify them as Protestant, the Churches of Christ declare that they are restorationist not Protestants, (six of one, half dozen of another if you ask me).
I am going to leave you guys with a quote from a recent op-ed piece in the Jackson, Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger written by Rob Hill, a former Methodist minister and current director of HRC Mississippi (if you are interested in the whole op-ed use this link: http://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/columnists/2015/05/30/hill-methodist-church-law-ends-ministry/28227759/). I believe this fits perfectly into the message that I am trying to get across today:
This isn’t an attack on the church I love, but a response to the erroneous and dangerous biblical interpretation that has met almost every positive social change in American history. It was the Bible many used to justify slavery, to deny women the right to vote, to prop up segregation and deny the most basic of civil rights to African Americans and other racial minorities. And it’s the Bible that many church leaders and many politicians continue to reference in an attempt to perpetuate discrimination against LGBT people in this country and around the world.
Tomorrow’s post will be about what my preacher said Sunday and why I believe it is wrong. I know I usually keep religious posts to Sundays, but this is an important issue that I am trying to work through in my own head and writing about it helps. Also, I love reading your comments and advice.