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Back in the day, we hoped to start conversations on The Twelve. I’m trying to revive that lost tradition today with a bunch of questions . . . and some seriously random thoughts.

  • What in the world happened to the perfectly fine word “patriot”?
  • Speaking of patriots, did you see what took place at Gettysburg on July 4th? Hundreds of militia types were baited into showing up ready to battle because someone hoaxed them on social media, claiming antifa was going to burn flags there (and offer family friendly antifa face painting for the kids — no joke). In the words of one observer, it was a “pop up White supremacy rally.” Here’s the most amazing of several amazing things: They fell for the same trick three years earlier. That time, one of the militia guys (poetically?) shot himself in the foot. This time no one was hurt, but there was a stir when one park visitor showed up in a Black Lives Matter tee shirt and was immediately surrounded by a few hundred heavily armed middle aged White guys. My favorite quote came from one of the patriots, who said he was there to make sure that the sort of demonstrations that happened the night before in Utah didn’t happen at Gettysburg. I’m not sure anything of note happened in Utah on July 3rd. There were, of course, demonstrations at Mount Rushmore, where the President was. Only missed by 600 miles.
  • Saw Hamilton a few days ago. Do you ever feel like you might be the last person in America to do something?
  • Our church put together a “Safe Gathering Committee” made up of members who are medical personnel. No pastors are on the committee. The committee decides when we resume in-person worship and how the building is open and to whom. This seems infinitely wise. The pastors are out of it. There are a lot of folks grieving, and sometimes that grief turns into anger. The pastors are set up to walk alongside people in their grief instead of being the object of their anger.
  • What do you miss most about in-person church?
  • My favorite suggestion for the new name of the Washington NFL team is the “Foggy Bottoms.” Beats “Red Tails.” A serious and very appropriate suggestion came from a Native American leader who put forward the name “Code Talkers.” I like everything about that.
  • Speaking of sports, there’s something biblical about this 60-game baseball season. The shorter the season, the more chances bad teams have of winning. What can’t be sustained over 162 games might be sustained over 60. Will this be baseball’s year of Jubilee, a last-shall-be-first, first-shall-be-last season? I am rooting for a Tigers-Cubs World Series.
  • Are you up to speed on this QAnon thing? It is truly bizarre. Whenever conspiracy theories are proposed, I remember Charles Colson saying, “Conspiracies never work. Someone inevitably talks. Look at us—we had the leadership of the most powerful government in the world at stake and we couldn’t hold it together.”
  • If The Beatles never stopped touring and never broke up, at what point would their fans have stopped screaming and started listening to the music?
  • If there were a pill available that reduced the risk of transmission of the coronavirus by up to 85%, wouldn’t we be standing in (socially-distant) lines at the drug store to buy it? It would be universally recognized as our best hope until a vaccine is developed. Alas, there isn’t such a pill. What we have are masks, which do that exact thing. But, since the American Revolution was fought so no one could tell them what to do, patriots don’t wear masks.

  • I read a chilling article recently about the role of cognitive dissonance in the pandemic. We are flat out unwilling to consider new information after our minds are made up, even when our health is at risk. This article offers a psychological rationale for why people won’t wear masks. It’s all very interesting, but what really interests me is how you might have changed your mind in the past few years? About anything. And what is the relationship of this science to religious conversions? And why do we expend so much time and energy extolling our opinions if it won’t change anyone’s mind?
  • If you think getting people to wear masks is hard, imagine the voluntary cooperation needed to effectively fight climate change. One reason it’s hard to get people to act on climate change is that there is no sense of urgency. It’s gradual and imperceptible most of the time. Compare that to the pandemic, which should have all the urgency in the world . . .
  • I recently read that there’s research tying the rise of polarization to the loss of local newspapers. What do you think?
  • A friend asked me last week if I’ve ever seen Donald Trump laugh. I can’t remember him laughing. I’ve seen him make fun of people, which is not the same thing. Does he laugh?
  • Sometimes I worry that we’re heading for a second civil war. But then I calm down because I realize the patriots will refuse to wear masks, which makes them more vulnerable to the coronavirus, which means they’ll have trouble consistently fielding an army. Plus, they’ll show up in Salt Lake City when they’re supposed to be in Rapid City.
  • Somebody has to say this, so it might as well be me. Remember when the President was speculating on shining lights inside of people as a way to stop the coronavirus? Am I the only one who thought, “Hey, I’ve already had that. It’s called a colonoscopy”?

Stay safe, friends.

Jeff Munroe

Jeff Munroe is a retired minister in the Reformed Church in America. He resides in Holland, Michigan.

8 Comments

  • George Vink says:

    Delightful read for a Monday morning partially due I’m sure to my concurring with your thoughts 92% of the time. Have a Shalom day.

  • David A Hoekema says:

    Jeff, you’ve brightened my mood this Monday morning with your questions, and I can even maybe summon up the grace to forgive the colonoscopy joke. (Let’s pass a law banning all colonoscopy jokes.) But here’s one more question to add to the mix, after reading yesterday’s NY Times story about the coordinated and systematic White House policy of minimizing the pandemic and especially about the unswerving conviction of Dr. Birx (who comes across as a serious scientist who made a pact with the Devil) that the US would be just like Italy: steep rise, high infection rates for a while, then equally steep decline. We know why, the Times writers said: distancing and masking rules were firm and consistent and were followed. So here is my question:

    Would you ever have believed at any earlier moment in your earthly life, however long or short it may have been til now, that Americans would be looking to Italians as models of respect for their government and compliance with its instructions?

  • The question comparing cooperation to fight the coronavirus with the same needed to reverse climate change is exactly the same question I was pondering this morning. In early April at a drive in worship I mentioned to the guy parking cars that people weren’t keeping their windows rolled up as requested by our governor. He snarled at me that nobody could force us to do that. My delayed response in my head was, “Nobody should have to force the church to care about each other. Love is what we do.” Seems the same ought to apply to all humans caring enough about each other and our precious planet, that the call to rally for a healthy planet would elicit an enthusiastic response.
    Good questions from your mind to ours today. Thank you.

    • Henry Baron says:

      “Nobody should have to force the church to care about each other. Love is what we do.”
      Exactly! But now again church people show an observing world how faith is not to be put in practice.
      And Jesus wept.

    • Tom Van Tassell says:

      Thank you Deb Mechler! Great to hear your thoughts. . .

  • Jeff Carpenter says:

    Ditto on your thoughts re the colonoscopy. Five years ago my doc said I’d be good for 10 years, so . . .

  • Tom Ackerman says:

    Wow! Lots of good questions for a Monday morning. Taking the most serious one first, I really think that you should revise your baseball choices. If a short season is good for the long shots, how about pulling for the Mariners? (Last time Cubs played in World in Series was 2016; last time Tigers played in WS was 2012; last time Mariners played in WS was …., oh yeah, never have) In fact, we can barely remember the last time the Mariners made the playoffs. It truly will be year of jubilee if they even make the playoffs.

    Your question on patriotism is interesting and the answer is complicated. If you want to “trigger” the militia types all you have to do is mention flag burning or kneeling during the national anthem. In my memory, this use of symbols alone to define patriotism goes back to the “love it or leave it” attitude during the Nixon era and the Viet Nam War. If you were opposed to the war, then you were not “patriotic”, if you were not “patriotic”, you should leave the country. This attitude is simplistic and unhelpful. We could also add some questions about the nexus of right-wing politics, unquestioned support for the military, and the evangelical church, but maybe that is for another Monday.

    And then there is the discussion of climate change and why don’t facts matter in the discussion. Maybe another day.

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