South Pittsburg, Tennessee, was inundated with flood waters last week. Homes, businesses and roads were filled with mud and debris. The damage was $8.3 million. However, the cost was not high enough, and the damage not widespread enough, to receive FEMA aid. This small and quiet community, reeling from a devastating storm, could not expect federal help in its time of need.
Some people criticized South Pittsburg’s mayor for refusing the public policy of federal aid in the past, as though this storm were God’s judgment for his misguided politics. However, I think Mayor Jane Dawkins’ decision was courageous. There is no shame in refusing federal aid. Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012) were more devastating and received FEMA aid, but in the long run it hindered rather than helped the work of recovery. Occupy Sandy Relief decided it was better to make recovery a community effort. I hope South Pittsburg learns to do the same. Mayor Dawkins has asked area churches and non-profits to volunteer their time and money. Local chapters of the Salvation Army and Red Cross have already stepped in. State emergency agencies are also assessing damage. I believe this is the best way to recovery.
However, South Pittsburg politics is not what I’m here to discuss. Rather, it’s a question of loyalty. Some of my online “Christian” friends annoyed me this past weekend. Instead of wanting to help South Pittsburg recover, they wanted to recommend the latest film. “Pacific Rim” (2013) premiered in theaters last Friday. The screenplay was co-written by Travis Beacham, who is from my hometown. My friends’ message was simple: watch this film so you can support a local hero.
“Pacific Rim” is an action-adventure-fantasy film about humans battling giant sea creatures and two heroes who try to save the planet from apocalypse. I don’t care who wrote the screenplay. I don’t care who directed or produced the film either. It’s trash. I would never support the creators of “Pacific Rim” by wasting my good money on this film in a theater. No Christian worth his or her salt should ever watch it. They shouldn’t exalt Beacham either because they share a locality with him. That he originates from a small city in southeast Tennessee should inspire a feeling of shame in its residents, not pride. Beacham could have created something good and beautiful, as Alex Kendrick has done for Albany, Georgia, with the Sherwood Film Company, but he didn’t.
My online “Christian” friends couldn’t see these truths. They didn’t notice the trashy content of “Pacific Rim,” just the screenwriter’s geographical origin. However, if this content runs to their taste, I question their Christian judgment and devotion. This past weekend, I certainly questioned their desire to watch a bad film rather than help a hurting town. What hurt me was that not a single area church I’d formerly attended mentioned South Pittsburg’s needs. They acted like nothing had happened. At least they didn’t tell their congregations to watch “Pacific Rim.”
Minority races in America are just as bad as hometowns. Christian minorities, blacks especially, prefer race to truth and justice. They twice voted for President Barack Obama, a far-left Marxist liberal who is part black. White Christians take Jesus with them into polling booths, but not black ones. If black Christians voted conscience over race, I believe that current social and moral problems like race relations, abortion, and homosexuality would not exist in America.
The worst case of race loyalty surfaced with the death of Treyvon Martin in February 2012. This black Florida teenager accosted and beat up neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman, a Floridian of black, white, and Peruvian ancestry. He killed Treyvon in self-defense using a gun. Weeks later, he was arrested on murder and manslaughter charges. Zimmerman was acquitted on Sunday night, more than a year after his trial began. Countless black “Christians” mourned Treyvon’s death and bemoaned the outcome of this trial. They chose race, not truth or justice. Worse, they believe Treyvon is in heaven. Based on his earthly conduct, I doubt it.
True Christians have another home and place of citizenship, heaven. Someday they’ll have another hometown, the New Jerusalem. True Christians also have another family and bloodline, God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. A Christian’s loyalty to Jesus therefore supersedes all other loyalties – race, ethnicity, age, class, family (birth, marriage), geography (city, state, and nation), politics, workplace, and self. When conflict arises between Jesus and human loyalties, and it arises often, a Christian must always choose Jesus. Those who don’t choose him when tested learn where their true loyalty lies. They also lead others to question the reality of their faith because they failed the test. The real purpose of divine testing is answering this question: where does one’s true loyalty lie? In each test Jesus asks a believer, “Choose me.”
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
– Matthew 10:32-38 (NKJV)
New Christians may find this divine testing of loyalties difficult. It’s not if they remember that a person can “gain the whole world and lose his own soul” (Matthew 16:26). He will find eternal life only if he says “no” to his earthly one (10:39, 16:25). In the words of C. S. Lewis, we must aim at heaven if we want to get earth thrown in. Otherwise we’ll end up with nothing.