That Which is of Good Repute

big brother

Image from the film “Nineteen-Eighty Four (1984).

Warning: This is a work of fiction but also a controversial commentary involving social movements, political positions, and religions and it might not be considered “politically correct” by some or most. If you believe you might become upset or offended by a minority point of view (from my perspective), please stop reading now. Thank you.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9 (NASB)

Joseph Kelley closed his Bible and sighed. “Yes, but what does the world consider true, honorable, right, and pure these days?”

He got up from his bed where he’d been reading, walked into the small closet and felt on the wall behind his jackets. There he found the hidden panel and pressed the three catches in a particular order to release it. With the panel open, he put the Bible back in alongside his concordance, a torn and aging copy of C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity,” and his dear departed wife’s Stone Edition Tanakh. Then he sealed the panel again and rearranged the clothes hangers so his treasure trove was again concealed.

Of course, he had memorized the contacts list for his cell of fellow believers. That was the one thing he could never commit to writing or any other record. Even if he were caught and they found his contraband, they would (hopefully) believe he was a rogue and not part of a larger group or fellowship.

Joe walked back out of the closet, through the bedroom, and headed for the kitchen. Another cup of coffee sounded good as this Sunday morning was cold and overcast. Pouring out the hot, brown liquid into his plain, ceramic cup, he couldn’t help but recall Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

When he was a child, his country still had laws that protected the faithful. A person, a family could go to the house of worship of their choice be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, or any other belief without fear of harassment or censure.

Then came the slow, relentless uprising. Religious speech became hate speech so even Pastors in their own churches had to limit what they preached as sin. It became illegal to protest outside of abortion clinics and later, even the Jewish and Catholic hospitals were compelled by the government to perform free abortions on demand or lose their operating licenses. The same for individual doctors, nurses, and other health care practitioners.

He sat at the tiny kitchen table and looked out his back window. The small backyard was half covered in a thin layer of snow as early March still endured winter and awaited what seemed to be an eternally distant spring.

Joe brought his tablet out of hibernation and opened up his social media channels through a proxy to disguise his location. He saw that some of the pirate channels were still getting past the censors. He took another sip of his coffee and remarked to himself how anything networked can be breached. Apparently the Resistance could still hack into the Matrix with near-impunity.

He clicked on a link of interest and read:

A group of students at the University of Texas, San Antonio plans to start publishing a “No Whites Allowed” (NWA) magazine.

The description goes on to explain that “for a very long time, black and brown people, especially those who are queer, have been told that they don’t have a space. That they don’t have a voice or a say. With this we would like to create a space.”

“Support from white people and heterosexual people is appreciated but is not necessary for the success of this event,” she continued, stating in a second comment that “inclusion is not inherently good, and exclusion is not inherently bad.”

An individual named Harold Conner questioned whether the event would constitute “racism” by excluding “whites,” but he was rebuffed by defenders of the event who stated that “there have literally been whites-only establishments that were government sanctioned and approved.”

“So you're saying that because segregation happened, it's fine to be racist against Whites?” Conner countered, to which another student, Brittany Ellison scoffed that “equality is just more cishet [cisgender heterosexual] white supremacist patriarchy trying to write the narrative.”

The article went on to say that Harold Conner was later detained by the Campus Police and is facing charges of Dissension, Sedition, and of course, Hate Speech. If convicted, he would certainly be expelled from the University, could face six to twelve months in jail, and be fined up to $10,000.

Joe shook his head. If a campus group wanted to be exclusive based on a particular agenda, especially one that is not only legal but protected by the Constitution, it was foolish to protest them. All that Conner did was get himself a record. Now he’ll be watched as a subversive and his phone and internet activities monitored. A second conviction would brand him an Enemy of the State. Essentially, he’d be on a form of parole for life.

He clicked the next link to a rogue site:

The Media Research Center is organizing a boycott. If you can pick up a phone and call an advertiser, you can have a voice. Conservatives have never had the wit or the willingness to organize pressure groups to defend ourselves, and so we have been losing the culture war for three generations, if not more.

When atheists with venomed tongue describe Christians as mentally ill or violently dangerous, they must be held to account. The networks answer to their advertisers, who answer to their customers. Hitherto, small groups of agitators and activists, representing no one but themselves, have vandalized one institution after another: halls of power, schools of law, groves of academia, newspapers, social media, and on and on. The fine arts have been utterly destroyed. Even popular arts, things as innocent as films and shows and comic books, are all coming under the control of political correctness.

My daughter is a college freshman. There is a mandatory class where “how to live the student life” is taught. It gives tips on studying and teaches that God is a story the apostles invented in order to make money.

“You blockhead. Do you think the show’s advertisers are going to listen to you? How many people who would have made such a call in the past will refuse rather than risk being detained and questioned by government agents?”

As a younger man, Joe had been more vocal, certainly on social media and occasionally face-to-face. But he’d seen too many of his friends and fellow believers first harassed and maligned, then humiliated and demonized, and finally arrested and locked up.

When the church went underground (what was left of it), software programming and networking experts among the parishioners taught the rest of them how to scrub their social media accounts, email and text records, and the rest of their online presence. Before the NSA AI firewalls, detectors, and crawlers became hardened, hundreds of thousands of accounts and their contents were either deleted or corrupted beyond any legible retrieval.

Joe had been one of the lucky ones, at least so far. He had been initially identified as a former person of interest along with his wife, but even the Progressive Enforcement (PE) division of the Justice Department needed some sort of evidence to bring people in for questioning. Due Process, Miranda, and the other rights a person under arrest were supposed to possess were suspended for suspected conservative and/or religious subversives, so anyone taken away by the PE Police were made to confess one way or another. Some were never heard from again.

Thankfully, dear Sarah succumbed to cancer before she had to witness the worst of it. Joe loved his children and grandchildren dearly, but being raised by interfaith parents resulted in their possessing a weakened faith at best, and when the purge began, they let whatever Mom and Dad had taught them fall away for their own protection. His grandchildren were being educated in the State’s schools to be progressive and productive citizens without the slightest ability to question authority.

He missed reading little Danielle her favorite book from when she was tiny, but Passover Seders were now just as illegal as Easter Sunday Services.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. There were still churches, synagogues, and mosques, but only the ones sanitized and sanctioned by the State. They existed even when Joe was a young man alongside more conservative institutions, but now they were the only houses of “worship” left. Pastors, Rabbis, and Imams all prayed for the sanctity of abortion centers and for the righteous condemnation of the “Fascist Moderates and Rightists.”

Joe didn’t consider himself a fascist or an extremist. He was the kind of guy who would help the Gay couple next door fix their sprinkler system in the summer and shovel snow off of their driveway in winter while they were both traveling on business. He did protest outside abortion clinics but only because he knew based on his and Sarah’s bonding with their own then unborn babies that the only difference between an unborn child and a fetus was whether or not the little boy or girl is wanted.

His wife had called these times the “Cold Holocaust.” They no longer rounded up the Jews in cattle cars for orderly disposal in the gas chambers of their death camps. They simply continued to change the laws and the language so that any expression of faith in a God larger than the State was at least bad taste and “phobic” if not an actual crime. Only those breaking the law by opening their mouths (in person or online) were subject to arrest.

Yet there were times when Joe felt like not only a coward but a failure as a man of faith. He went underground like so many others and now hid who he really was. Oh sure, he met clandestinely with the others of his cell, but it was only for coffee or to watch football or soccer. Where ever they met had to be swept for bugs first and then the windows treated with a special coating that blocked laser mics in the room they met. An audio recording was left playing in a different room so if they were being monitored, their conversation would be recorded as totally innocuous.

For those tiny march of hours every few weeks on a randomly generated schedule among his fellowship cell, he felt free as they worshiped God and studied the Bible, or as free as a caged bird can feel free when singing with his “birds of a feather.”

He tried to drink another sip of coffee and found his cup empty. He also found his bladder was full. He cleared his browser history and cache, disconnected from the proxy, and closed the browser. Then he hit the head.

After washing up, he happened to glance at a framed photo of his wife sitting on the dresser. “What am I going to do now, Sarah?” He briefly caressed the edge of the frame and then jumped at the sound of his doorbell.

He wasn’t expecting any visitors. Maybe some sort of solicitor. As he approached the front door, through the window, he saw a man and woman wearing dark suits and sunglasses, the traditional dress of the PE Police. Had he been careless? Were they here to arrest him or merely ask Joe to denounce one of his neighbors?

Taking a deep breath, released the deadlock and opened the door. “Yes, may I help you?”

Before leaving for work this morning, I was reading the Bible including chapter 4 of Philippians. I had also been reading an article posted on twitter by Campus Reform (I quoted from it but changed the names of the people) and a newsletter from Superversive SF, and putting all of that together, I wondered where “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute” might lie. Depending on who you are and what your values happen to be, “good” is highly variable.

I didn’t write this to upset or offend anyone of any religious, social, or political position, but I did state in my review of Margaret Atwood’s book “A Handmaid’s Tale” that I believe it is possible that ANY social or political movement, no matter how beneficial and benign it sees itself, to become a totalitarian dictatorship when it is allowed absolute control with no checks and balances to represent other perspectives and people groups.

Already in Canada, Christian Pastors preaching anything considered “anti-gay” even within their own churches can be found guilty of hate speech so my wee dystopian missive isn’t as far-fetched as some might believe.

Perhaps it’s a little dicey to pass out pro-life or anti-gay pamphlets in public places, but where is the line between professing your faith relative to free speech and significantly injuring the rights of others? How about a high school student in California being publicly ridiculed by a teacher in class for wearing a U.S. Marine Corp t-shirt or “issues” around another high school student in Nova Scotia wearing a pro-Jesus t-shirt?

We will only live in a free society when the rights of individuals are protected without having someone else’s rights trampled upon. Yeah, I know. How do you do that perfectly? I don’t know, but I do know you won’t do it by saying, “Liberals Good, Conservatives Bad” or vice versa. You’ll never be able to have a dialogue that way.

Joe’s story is continued in Resistance.

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5 thoughts on “That Which is of Good Repute

  1. One problem with our current circumstances is the obsession with the assumption that being theoretically racist, ant.semitic (among other plum fictitious ideologically convenient categories) is enough to make someone unworthy of approval. At least in olden days people used to have to go to the trouble of murdering, torturing, etc. members of the trendy demographic groups to qualify as evil. That I could understand. Now it’s all about violating ideological demands. Liberals are the Pharisees of our time.

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    • I could enter into a lengthy dialog about how the Pharisees have typically been mischaracterized but that’s probably outside the scope of this commentary. I do agree that in our increasingly politically and socially polarized times, each side tends to judge the other by a set of rigid stereotypes rather than engaging in conversation in order to “humanize” ourselves and our differences.

      I’m currently working on a sequel to this story based on a writing prompt which will put a little more “action” into these events.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know too much about that kind of things but at least in everyday speech aren’t Pharisees understood to have been representative of the dominant culture of their time.? That’s why I usually see them as a good symbol of any era’s dominant culture, whether religious or secular. Of course you’re right, though, there’s more to them than just that one thing.

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      • Actually, there were multiple expressions of Judaism in the first century CE. The Pharisees tended to represent the common people. There were any number of itinerant Rabbis and other teachers roaming the Land in those days and part of the responsibilities of the Pharisees were to examine their teachings and determine if they accurately represented the Torah (Law). Hence some of their transactions with Jesus. If they were guilty of anything, it was raising the bar higher for the common Jew than they did for themselves, although that wasn’t true for all of them. They also sometimes held themselves to such a high standard in terms of observance, that Jesus accused some of ignoring the “higher meaning of Torah” such as truth, justice, and charity.

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