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  • Reverend James Squire

Altar Call and Conversations

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

Last evening President Biden went deep into his southern Delaware experience and said that certain spokespeople from conservative TV networks have had an altar call. They have reversed themselves on the value of the vaccines. After these people criticized them since the onset of the pandemic, they are now encouraging people to get them as they are life giving. He didn’t mention names although it has been pointed out that Sean Hannity of Fox News and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida were mentioned in other articles.

It is amazing how perceived passions can change in whiplash fashion when someone from the White House puts in a call to conservative TV. Murdoch can no longer get away with the “argument that Fox News is not about news, it is about opinion.” It is also about ratings. An altar call in the conservative evangelical faith is where people come forward and change their evil ways as they proclaim that they now believe in the Lord. It is clear that their outrageous anti vaccine rhetoric is not a passion for their point of view but clearly an interest in popularity. Jesus never cared about ratings or popularity.

I noticed that one reporter misspelled altar and typed in alter. As it turns out that is correct as well because folks change their view for an alternative approach, not to be confused with the Trump PR people referring to alternative facts.

This is what happens with another religious image that has nothing to do with the Lord. It is the expression that “I am going to have a come to Jesus conversation with that guy.” That’s the kind of conversation that the President must have had with Fox News. It refers to a conversation with another person where their job performance, behavior, and attitude leave much to be desired. This took the form of lawsuits as well to these conservative opinion people, the My Pillow Guy and the woman attorney who said that Trump could be reinstated in August. The best example is our friend and foe, Rudy Giuliano. Since his legal license is on hold in two states, we haven’t heard a peep from him. It is amazing how a real forceful response can back down the bullies whose passion wanes when an intervention of such magnitude occurs. If you really believe the falsehoods, you would carry on. They don’t.

The enemy of the bullies is the encounter with integrity of others, the clear intent of others to stop them, and courage of the others’ convictions. It also involves following a process.

We have to be careful about “Come to Jesus Conversations” if they are just sprung on someone. A friend of mine was recently fired from his job without warning. Trump was the master of this. Nothing was mentioned about the firing so, in my friend’s case when it was made public with no explanation, everyone assumed the worst. Namely that he had done something immoral which was not the case. He challenged the boss on occasion, and the boss offered no response along the way. What usually works is to indicate to someone that he needs to improve in certain areas and evaluate that improvement over time.

I have had many “Come to Jesus conversations” with people whose behavior would hurt others. But I never had one with someone who I supervised in an evaluation process. In fact, I had a variation on our evaluations at our school. My reasoning was if I am going to evaluate others, others should evaluate me at the same time, but “here’s the deal.” I love that phrase that the President uses. After I evaluate you, you evaluate me. Along the way we should be giving each other feedback to improve. When we get to the end of the process, there should be no surprises.

I have been on the receiving end of “Come to Jesus Conversations.” They aren’t fun. I don’t think they are helpful except for people like the Fox News people, the My Pillow Guy, and Rudy who don’t seem to get it along the feedback way. Then it works beautifully.

I have another favorite phrase which I use when alumni ask me if I know someone that they would like to interview with for a job. When it is finally set up, they will often ask, “How did you do that?” My response is, “I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.” They, in turn, laugh. They know I love movies and The Godfather movies in particular. That phrase is right up there with “Here’s the deal.” and “Come to Jesus conversations!”

The Godfather would have felt at home in my neighborhood. We had a large Italian community there and the Italian church, St. Cosmos and Damien, was across the street from where I lived. I still vividly remember the elderly Italian women dressed in black with veiled faces marching in bare feet in a parade with a large statue of Jesus carried above their heads as they made their way up a lot of steps to the inside of the Church. A band led the way. It could have easily been a scene in Mario Puzo’s book upon which the movie, The Godfather, was based. I did not understand a word of what they were singing, but I knew it was important and spiritual. The Godfather would have been at home in the steel mill where I worked which had an Italian and Irish Mafia running the place. That’s why I love that movie so much. I think Trump, Giuliano, Sean Hannity, and the My Pillow Guy would want to get out quickly from those environs! It would not be their kind of people. The folks in my world were too authentic and did not suffer fools lightly.

Funny how phrases…altar call...come to Jesus conversations…here’s the deal…I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse…tap into the deepest regions of our soul formed in the long past but always informing our present even for our current President.

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