(This article is also posted as audio file read by the author at the end of the post).
Dear John and Jane Public,
Honestly, don't fret over it. I get it. Dear God, I get it. You've found a new god. Truthfully, I've seen this coming for awhile. I tried to deny it. I even tried to change it. (I have to admit, even in all my divine wisdom, I just did not see the whole MLK, contemporary prophet thing not working. But humans, YOU try to figure them out).
You know, there was a brief time there, just after 9/11 that I thought we were going to make it. I really thought you finally “got it.” In the midst of chaos you sought out community. In the midst of anger and fear you united over differences and seemed to be hoping for a greater good. Good times. Hopeful, even.
It's OK, I understand why the new god in your life is so appealing. Sure, it hurts a little, but c'mon, I'm God. Seriously, I'll be OK. This new god of yours is all shiny and is promising you “prosperity.” Let's face it, the certitude of the “prosperity” your new god offers has a particular kind of appeal that the hope of love, peace and grace that I offer you just can't touch. This new God of yours, he offers you everything without sacrifice (well, without sacrifice on your part; others will pay quite dearly), and admittedly I ask a lot of you. I ask you to lay down your life for the sake of others. I ask you to love your enemies and to be a servant of all. Honestly, I get why you want to be with him.
In a lot of ways, it's better like this for now. This relationship between us hasn't been very good for me either. Don't get me wrong, I still love you. You have no idea. But, honestly, you've been more of a user of me than a follower of me. I thought Jesus put it about as clearly as possible when he said, “you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Really, I thought that was pretty clear, but like I said, “Humans, YOU try to figure them out.” You post My name on your money and even added Me to your pledge, but you deny the sacrifice it takes to follow Me every time a child dies of hunger in your nation of plenty, every time a person dies of a curable disease for lack of health insurance, every time you kill people to show them that killing people is wrong. Did you realize that both corporate profits and the poverty rate are growing? That's one Hell of a problem... and I'm finally getting the message.
You know when I really knew it was over? Or at least when I finally admitted it to Myself? In the last two debates. Please, don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. I'm God. I know you know. When they cheered for death. Twice. That's when I had to admit it. You see, I came to put an end to death, not celebrate it... at least not that way.
There were lots of tell tale signs. I just love you so much, so I guess I let myself overlook them. Take for instance, until recently it was only the things I created that were considered people, but now the things you've created are considered people. (How something as literally heartless as a Corporation can be treated as a person, in all of My infinite knowledge, I will never understand). I don't think you are actually playing God by doing it (much), but I do think you are denying Me and, in doing so, denying who I created you to be.
I'm not giving up, just giving in a bit, for now. I love you - so much. I will keep sending my prophets. You will know them by their love. If the people you follow are teaching you to hate and fear, to exclude people for any reason, then they are not sent by Me, even if they say they are. So, when your infatuation with this new god of extremism, nationalism, might-makes-right, and privilege is through using you... I'll still be here. Waiting. Loving.
My Peace, Love and Grace to you,
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Jon Stewart's Rally To Restore Sanity
takes place this week. I have to say, I am literally praying that it hits a nerve with most Americans. Admittedly, we know very little about what will actually happen at the rally. It's hard to say definitively that it won't just turn out to be a jokefest, but even in his most comical moments Jon Stewart manages to slip in biting, level-headed, rational social and political commentary, so I can't help but believe the rally will be similar.
And none-to-soon. As a matter of fact, you could easily make the argument that it is almost too late. The divides in this nation are as deep as they have been in recent memory. Political attack ads don't even pretend to be sane. If anything there seems to be a competition for who can get away with the most insane, unfounded, outrageous ad. “I'll see your 'scary Mexican illegal immigrants
' and raise you a 'Latinos shouldn't vote.
And it isn't just the Right that isn't...well, right. The left plays their own version of this reactionary, thoughtless insanity. From the recent firing of NPR analysts Juan Williams
for giving commentary on a show where he was taking on the role of commentator to the USDA firing Shirley Sherrod
for something she said about a white farmer which was taken out of context. In both cases rational, sound minds might have contextualized their statements and made reasonable choices rather than capitulating to the either\or with\us against us false dichotomy than has been falsely set up as the prevailing narrative our our nation.
As I said, we don't really know what Stewart's (and Colbert's) plans are for the rally, but the signs being proposed for the rally (check them at at saneornot.com/sane
) do give us a general idea of what might be the day's theme: “I understand the difference between, communism, fascism, and socialism and don't use the terms interchangeably,” “My political views cannot be summarized in a pithy sign,” “One of us or perhaps neither of us may be right.” At the heart of each sign: rationality, reasonableness and acceptance.
As a Christian minister, I have to say I'm majorly in favor of moving this nation away from our current wilderness of division and hate, toward a narrative of acceptance and sanity. John the Baptist brought a similar message from the wilderness in a time of political and religious divides. During a time when those with power and money were constantly taking advantage of those without, he proclaimed the coming of one that would lower the mountains and raise up the valleys; make the crooked straight; and the rough plains smooth.
Jesus did just that. Calling for the world to stop it's dividing and belittling ways, to recognize the value in everyone, to offer a helping hand to those in need, and to stop the corruption practiced by so many of the powerful. Much later in the history of the world another man would pick up the great theme of which John the Baptist proclaimed as he stood in Washington, DC and said, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
The fear and the divide that political ads and reactionary responses to sound bites place on this nation move us further away from Jesus' vision which was so soundly reiterated in Dr. King's dream. We must not let the fear, division and thoughtlessness win out.
Clearly Stewart is no Dr. King, or John the Baptist or Jesus. But (even though the far Right will no doubt bash his message as elitist, socialist, and naïve) it does seem that, Stewart stands in the shadows of these giants in as much as, it would seem, he will be reiterating their message to us... only he'll be funnier. Let us hope, let us pray, that all flesh will see that day together.
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?"
Today, Oct. 11, is National Coming Out Day
. The fact that we even have to have this day is a sad statement about how committed we are as a nation to justice and to equality. It is also a sad statement about the hate and fear-mongering that continues in this great nation. There are still untold numbers of people who must pass for someone they are not, out of fear for how they will be treated.
Yes, we live in a nation where, for some people, being the people God created them to be must be feared and hidden... “In God we trust,” indeed. Justice is blind? From what I've seen, it is not nearly blind enough.
In terms of seeking equal rights for our gay brothers and sisters, we have been traveling in the right direction for some time now, but we have been traveling too slowly, to begrudgingly and by asking too many to hide too much of the reflection of God that is uniquely revealed in them. Justice delayed, certainly is justice denied. And as Dr. King reminded us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Today I ask my minister friends and my straight friends to stand with me on this National Coming Out Day. Stand with me and our homosexual brothers and sisters who were made equally in the image of God and should be treated equal in this great nation of ours. I ask you to come out for equality.
Fear can be overcome with knowledge. So let's let those who have had to pretend to be someone they are not for so long know
that not only does God love them, but we love them – that not only does God stand with them, but we stand with them.
Equality is not up for biblical questioning my friends. We are all created equally in God's image. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
So I ask you to step up and speak out. Share the HRC
logo on your FB page, on your Twitter page. Post quotes about equality, loudly claim your love for all of God's children and demand that they ALL be treated with the same grace, dignity, respect and rights that are afforded to you.“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
With Jon Stewart's upcoming “Rally to Restore Sanity
” and today's news that in some races Democrats are making a comeback
by beating their Republican opponents at their own game of attack ads, I can't help but ask this question, "For the majority of the US public in the current state of the electoral process, does the truth presented in a straight forward way, without all the pejoratives and scorn, have enough impact to sway voters?"
Now for some people this may be of little consequence. For some, the honest answer may be a simple, "who cares?". For others, I suspect this question speaks to part of their current frustration. Those who want to see intellect valued over passion in our leaders surely find the current state of dramatic commercials that slams one's opponents in order to gain the electoral upper hand to be a sad commentary on our continued national move away from rationality, education and respect toward hubris, overstated self-confidence and hate. (That is not to say they devalue passion. Clearly, passion is important, but when it is valued over clear thinking our emotions will lead us into very murky and dangerous waters).
For Christians it presents a deeper issue. If you are running for office and are Christian, how do balance a political climate that seems to clearly indicate the need to state the negatives of your opponent in a dramatic, hurtful and attacking way if you wish to be successful with the biblical mandate to love your enemy and to not bare false witness? I am fully aware that the argument will, can and has been made that what they are accusing their opponents of are not false statements, but a simple browsing of FactCheck.org
quickly shows that in an effort to be as attacking as possible, the ads are (at best) overstating the truth to the point that they are no longer factual - they are baring false witness.
I am left with one of two conclusions. Either we simply don't know if it is possible because the right person with the right message hasn't shown up yet or that, with the current state of politics in the US, it is not possible for a Christian who strives to practice their beliefs in all that they do to be elected to a national position.
I think Stephen Colbert's counter rally to Stewart's rally, the "March to Keep Fear Alive
", holds the key to our current predicament. Unlike so much of the current hubris of our great nation would have us believe, fear is not best overcome with force, power and might. Fear is best overcome with knowledge. Years ago, Colbert coined the phrase "truthiness
": "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true." Through outlets like Fox News, we have let truthiness pervade our national dialogue, sacrificing the actual truth on the alter of being on the winning side; we've let winning become more important that the truth...actually, we've let winning become a substitute for the truth.
For Christians, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. That does not change simply because you are running for office. While I suspect Jesus would have never ran for office, I am certain that if he had, he would not have stooped to attack ads. For Jesus, the simple truth always sufficed.
The Christian Lef
t is much more than a Facebook (FB) page, it is a growing movement
. It is the future hope of The Church and the only non-hypocritical way The Church stands any long term chance of being an effective Christian voice in politics. (Wow. I hope I didn't overstate that. Let's see, “ the future hope of The Church and the only non-hypocritical way The Church stands any long term chance of being a effective Christian voice in politics.” Nope, that's about right).
Let me say that while The Christian Left is much more than its FB page, if you want to participate in this very important dialogue, the FB page is a fantastic place to start. It engages head and heart, politics and religion, theology and contemporary topics...it's worth the read and the engagement it takes to be a part of the dialogue will do us all some good. I might just add, if you do decide to join the dialogue (and I hope you will), it'd be helpful if you were to check out our Code of Conduct
But let's get on with the whole “We Need The Christian Left, Now More Than Ever” title. Bit of a bold statement, isn't it? Well, not really.
Christianity, over the course of a few thousand years, has drifted away from the teachings of it's founder. That man was a walking Heath Care System. He wisely, gently and unapologeticly confronted hate at every turn. He always believed people could be better than they are and when he met someone, he asked them to change – toward the better person he knew they could be. He loved people and abhorred abuse of power (in both religions and politics). He walked quietly on this earth and yet made a loud impact. He was willing to lay down his life for the love of others.
In a world where big business seems to control everything, even the government; in a time when the Supreme Court is sometimes promoting businesses' rights over individual's rights; we need a guiding principle that reminds us that our Creator wants us to put people first. In an environment when news channels are formed around encouraging people to be afraid and fear people who are not like them or don't believe the things they believe, we need a point of light that beacons us toward acceptance and love. In a nation where businesses' bottom lines continue to be promoted over the health and welfare of the 'least of these,' we need the image of a healing hand that reached out, even to lepers, to heal without asking for or expecting anything in return...other than faith. In a world being devastated by our consumerist attitudes and privileged lifestyles, we need Jesus' life to remind us that we must walk gently on God's Creation. We need the man who hung on a cross for love, to teach us to live our lives for love.
You see, the reason we need the Christian Left now more than ever, is because it is not really 'the left.' If anything, what Christian 'leftist' stand for is just good theology. If anything, we should be the “Christians centrist” or the “Christian originalist.” Ultimately, we are 'left' only by comparison, relative to what the dominate voice of Christianity in the U.S. claims Christians stand for. The same voice that has left younger generations beleiving that Christians have become, well, unChristian
We need the Christian Left now more than ever, because we need to follow the teaching of Jesus more than ever.
Jon Stewart, born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, is holding a rally in Washington on October 30, 2010. The Rally To Restore Sanity, without just coming right out and saying it, it is a response to Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally - a rally held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of King's "I have a dream" speech. Beck's rally attempted to co-opt not only the civil rights movement, but Christianity as well.
The problem is, just under the surface of much of what was said, were some pretty ridiculous implications that fit in neither the realm of civil rights or Christianity. As seems to be the case at any Tea Party related rally, there was the ever present (yet unspoken) assumption of white privilege - definitely not part of the civil rights movement. Also unspoken (for the most part) and related to the former was a great deal of anger, hate and fear. All three of which, I would argue, the Bible encourages Christians to avoid.
Along with the things that were silently (for the most part) present, I'd also like to mention a very specific, and admittedly subjective, thing that was noticeably absent - rationality or any real attempt at wisdom. You know, that silly little thing that Proverbs tells us is the thing in which God delights daily.
Enter Jon, a Jew by birth (and by his own admission, just barely by practice). With a rally sign ready, reading "I do not agree with you but I do not think you are Hitler," Jon announced his Rally To Restore Sanity – a million moderate march – a rally to promote reasonableness, a rally to restore sanity...and he's doing it in WASHINGTON, DC! (Seriously Jon, admit it, trying to restore sanity in Washington... well, it's a little insane).Jon proposes to, in concert with Stephen Colbert's March to Keep Fear Alive , comically show the absurdity of what has become the tenor of the nation – divisiveness, anger, fear, judgment and doing it all in the name of God. As stations like FOX News (where Glenn Beck's show is hosted) seem hell bent on always kicking the bipartisan rhetoric up a notch, Jon purposes to “Take It Down A Notch For America.”Ultimately, the wisdom, forgiveness, acceptance and rationality to which Jon calls our nation, are (or at least should be) at the core of Christianity. Not that they aren't at the core of many other religions not to mention good old fashioned morality, because they are, but it is particularly interesting (and in my opinion fitting) that it took a Jew to stand up for what is biblically right (even though it isn't likely that the Bible is the impetus behind his call) in the face of a ramped-up and horribly deformed Christianity.
You can watch both announcements here: