Posts Tagged ‘religion

01
Oct
20

The Intersection

Sometimes they seem to go together like…

Concept of where Religion and Politics intersect.

… anchovies and marshmallows, or

… toddlers and Harleys, or

… armadillos and highways, or

… two other things that really, really don’t go together at all.

And no, I am not talking about Joe Biden and Donald Trump. I am talking about faith and politics

I mean, just look at these two! Politics is so very… OF this world. It happens right in the middle of the sloppy “sausage-making” of all the laws and policies that govern our lives together. 

In the often-unseemly world of politics, heads roll, dreams die, spirits wilt. Fortunes (and reputations) are made or lost… certainly altered… forever by the single stroke of a pen. It is an arena rife with name-calling, cheating, character assassination, graft and fraud.

YUCK!

Faith, conversely, purports to offer each of us a platform from which to take a higher, loftier perhaps, more principled relationship to the world around us. It invites us, in the words of Saint Paul, to, “… look not at what can be seen, but at what cannot be seen…” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NRSV) as the way to secure our footing. 

Like I said… armadillos and anchovies.

But are these two realms really so incompatible after all?

For the rest of this post – and maybe lapping over into one or two additional posts – I would like to try and answer three basic questions: first, IS THERE a relationship between faith and politics? Second, SHOULD THERE BE a relationship between them (whether there is one or not), and finally, what should that relationship LOOK LIKE… assuming there is and should be a relationship.

During my time serving as the pastor of several different local churches, I regularly heard members of the congregation say something like, “Faith and politics don’t mix.” Sometimes the comment was much more pointed than that. It was more like, “Pastor… I’d sure appreciate it if you’d just keep your politics out of it and just focus on preaching the WORD OF GOD!”

And in a very real sense, I had to agree with them. It would be utterly misguided for anyone who calls him or herself a follower of Jesus Christ (especially a pastor!) to promote the idea that the REAL savior of humankind is a card-carrying Republican or Democrat. 

Our hope – as Jesus reminds us – should only be built on the solid rock of God’s eternal promises. (Matthew 7:24-27). 

And yet, there is this central, unmistakable fact that none of us can avoid; faith and politics both have to do with LIVING OUR LIVES. 

These strange bedfellows both concern themselves with how you and I THINK… how we TREAT one another… how we MAKE DECISIONS… and how we set our PRIORITIES.  

They both claim they are based on a set of VALUES. They both claim that a system of MORALITY lies at the center of their work.

And it should not come as any great surprise when I tell you that even the most deeply spirit-centered, faith-based people I have met also have some pretty strongly held political views, too. 

We may not like it. It might feel “icky” at times. But whether we like it or not, faith and politics DO have a connection to one another. It is a connection we can trace just about as far back as time itself.

Moses and Pharaoh, anyone? 

A much more intriguing question to ask might be, “What kind of relationship should faith and politics have?”

But maybe we will leave just that one for another time.

Abundant blessings;

27
Jul
18

Daily Lifting

Weight liftingA couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were doing some landscaping.

There were some new bushes to plant, but in order to do so, holes first had to be dug.

Normally I don’t mind digging holes… especially if they are for the purpose of receiving a new, decorative plant.

On this occasion, however, my hole digging encountered an obstacle. There was a big rock buried about six inches below the surface that had to be removed before further digging was possible.

Did I mention the rock was big? It was actually capital B-I-G big!

I would have preferred to just go find another place to dig and leave the rock where it was, but in this case “another place” was not really an option. Symmetry demanded it go right THERE.

And so I dug around it as much as I could, but then had to try and reach under it and just pull it out with my bare hands.

It was danged heavy and required a lot of grunting, tugging, sweating, and praying. In the end, I was finally able to free the rock from its comfortable resting place.

Planting could now commence.

In the process of this effort, I noticed something very interesting. I noticed that the final effort to lift the rock out of the hole required some real strength. And because I am a guy who follows a regular regimen of exercise that includes resistance training (i.e., weight lifting), I had the strength necessary to lift out the rock.

On a day-to-day basis, however, my work doesn’t require me to lift a lot of rocks. (Pastors usually try to give jobs like that to church committees.)HOWEVER… without the routine of working out and steadily building up my strength, I would not have been prepared for that one, extraordinary moment.

I think it is safe to say that we can see the same principle at work in regard to the way we develop our connection with God.

Day in and day out we may not face situations that require an intense, concentrated, super-powerful connection with the Source of All That Is. We may not be faced with decisions that might alter the course of our – or someone else’s – lives… we may not be desperately in search of “the peace that passes understanding” in order to make it to and through the next moment.

But if we are not routinely and consistently engaging in the practices that habituate us to the sound of God’s voice and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we might be just as unprepared for that kind of spiritual “heavy lifting” as I would have been to physically lift that rock in my garden.

To clarify: I am not saying that God’s help and presence are conditional or that God ignores your cry if you aren’t a daily pray-er. I am merely trying to reiterate the insight we find in James 4:8 – “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

I’d like to say more on the subject, but it’s a great day outside and lawn work awaits.

 

Abundant blessings;

18
Dec
17

War? Seriously?

You have to admit, without hearing daily casualty counts it is hard to tell how the war is going.

No… I’m not talking about the war on terror, or the Afghan war, or the perpetual state of war and unrest in the Middle East.

I’m talking, of course, about the “war on Christmas” being waged throughout our fair land.

No doubt you have heard about some of the tragic losses that have been incurred by faithful, practicing Christians since the war began several years ago.war-on-christmas-decaf

WARNING: Read no further unless you have a high tolerance for graphic language and vivid descriptions of heartless, heinous acts. But here at the Bureau of Relentless Enquiry (or B.O.R.E. for short), we have it on very good authority that:

  • Elementary schools no longer stage “Christmas plays” featuring Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men and first graders dressed as sheep. Horrors!
  • Retail salespeople actually use the phrase, “Happy holidays!” when serving Christian customers in their stores. Yes! It’s true!
  • Starbucks has FREQUENTLY employed seasonal cup designs that have blatantly suggested that the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is NOT THE ONLY THING to celebrate at this time of year.
  • And…
  • Well, OK. That’s pretty much all I’ve got.

If it sounds like I am making light of this subject, you’re right.

I am.

Primarily because some of the reading I did years ago that taught me about times long ago when people who professed the Christian faith did so at their very real and unambiguous personal peril.

We are talking beatings, imprisonings, property seizings, and even killings. Not imagined personal slights and rebuffs.

No, I view the entire “war on Christmas” narrative as essentially a seasonally-adjusted expression of angst triggered by the fact that we live today in a world that is less white, less America-dominated, less Judeo-Christian, and less beholden to cherished tradition than it was 50 years ago.

I am suggesting here that you should translate the cry, “Help! They’re attacking Christmas!!” as really saying, “Help! Please make the world stop changing so fast!!”

It FEELS like an attack on Christmas because it just so happens that the changing shape and complexion of the world occurs at the exact moment that Christianity – and institutional religions of ALL stripes – are experiencing times of historic decline.

I frankly suspect there are Hindu households in the world where matriarchs and patriarchs gather and wring their hands about the “War on Gangaur”. *

Honestly though: the barista who chirps, “Happy holidays!” as he hands you your half-caf, skinny vanilla mocha frappuccino is NOT actually saying, “Fie on Christmas!” in some secret, satanic barista code.

He is, rather, saying, “Hey, I know this is a special time of year for lots of people. But I am not going to blurt out something that makes an assumption about what makes it special for YOU. I am going to offer you a warm greeting that you are free to interpret as you see fit.”

He also says it because the suits at corporate TOLD him to.

The Christian, theological point of Christmas is LOVE INCARNATE. In other words, “love in the flesh”… Love with skin on… Love that ACTS. It is summed up right there at the beginning of John’s gospel where it says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among them.” (John 1:14, NRSV).

And call me a naïve, one-worlder tree-hugger if you want to, but somehow I can’t connect a manufactured kind of religious prickliness with “love in the flesh.”

Remember the stuff I said at the beginning of this piece… where I pooh-poohed the idea of a “war on Christmas”?

I take it back. There IS a war on Christmas.

It is being waged by those who work to suck the love out of the season with protests that are actually “much ado about nothing.”

Happy holidays! Merry Christmas!

JOY to all.

*Gangaur” is the colorful and one of the most important festivals of people of Rajasthan and is observed throughout the state with great fervor and devotion by women who worship Gauri, the consort of Lord Shiva during March–April. Source: Wikipedia.




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