“In the beginning God created”...us. Shape it however you want, a fairy tale, the literal truth, a divine metaphor for evolution, Christians around the world believe that those words tell us the truth about our relationship with God no matter what our takes are in regards to their literary form. The Creation Stories in Genesis tell us that the life we have is a gift from God. The stories that follow in the 66 books which compile the Protestant Bible, particularly the life of Jesus, remind us that the only reasonable, the only rational response, to that gift, to that act of grace from God is to take care of the gift, including taking care of each other.
When it comes to church attendance, it would seem that the majority of church goers, have missed that point. They lean heavy to the political right and toward policies that actually do the opposite of caring for creation and each other.
Please note, I did not say “when it comes to most Christians.” Unfortunately, the variance between people who practice Christianity and people who attend church is wide and seems to be increasing. And yes, I speak from personal experience as a minister. There are churches, of course, that are bucking the trend, but there are far too few. And, yes, I am speaking from personal experience again.
And yes, your Christian beliefs should influence your politics. They should influence your relationships, your work life, the way you drive, the way you treat people with whom you disagree... every element of your life. If they do not, you are not taking “In the beginning God created” seriously enough. If you do not, you are not taking “no greater love has anyone than this, that they lay down their life for their friends” seriously enough.
Your Christian life is to be first, primary, and above all things in your life, even if it means you must leave a relationship as primary as family to do it: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” said Jesus.
I'm left to wonder if the Modern Day Jesus might not say to U.S. church goers that your Christian life is to be above all things in your life, even if it means you must leave a relationship as primary as your political party to do it: “Anyone who loves their political party more than me is not worthy of me.”
You don't have to like it. It is difficult and it will make your life less than... well, less than convenient. Which is, quite frankly, what many on the far right are truly interested in: a life that is easy and convenient – no pressure to give up what I have, even when others suffer, even if it cause others to suffer; no laws limiting my ability to excerpt power other others (a BIG biblical no-no); no strangers from a foreign land encroaching on my white-privilege... I think you get the picture.
You don't have to like it. It is difficult and it will make your life less than... well, less than convenient, but I think that is exactly what Jesus expected. Just read Mathew 10 as Jesus sends out the twelve disciples saying things like, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves,” “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death,” “You will be hated by everyone because of me.” Christianity is antithetical to the far right's pursuit of an easy and convenient life.
Christianity is to be the filter through which all your life's perspectives and actions are filtered. Nothing comes before it and everything is viewed through it. You don't have to like it, and it will be difficult, but if you want to call yourself Christian, you do always have to attempt to do it. That does not mean fighting for a Christian nation, prayer in schools and the Ten Commandments posted on every open wall in government buildings. (In many ways it means the exact opposite of that).
Politically, it simply means voting for and supporting candidates who hold these things to be self evident, that all people were created equal, created equally by God. It means supporting candidates, who because of it, govern with a bias toward the least of these and with a disposition of love and caring toward all people regardless of sex, skin color, religion or lack of religion, nation of origin, sexual orientation, ability or disability, age, economic position, heath, employment, addiction... or any number of things for which the far right continue to try to penalize people.
“In the beginning God created”...us. Not you. Not me. Us. We are the children of God. If one of us suffers, we all suffer. If one of us is marginalized, we all suffer. If one of us goes hungry, we all suffer. We must stop pretending that Christianity is somehow different than that and start voting with our Christian filters on.
Let's just face it, sexual scandal in US politics is more about US politics than sexual scandal. In each event, the “other side” fain disdain for the “God awful, repugnant act.” Of course, when it was their team caught up in the act, they somehow manage to press the mute button on their supposed genuine moral disgust of such behavior.
It's all a game (and that should bother us more than anything). It isn't about morals, it's about politics, and for heavens sake let's start admitting that politics haven't been about morals for a very, very long time – if ever. We are not going to solve any real issues if we allow ourselves to continually get distracted by the sexual side shows . And, yes, I'm saying that sexual hanky-panky is a political side-show. In terms of governmental leadership, it certainly isn't the main event, nor should it be.
We've bought into the idea that sexual promiscuity somehow speaks to an elected official's ability to lead, that it “speaks to their character.” Really?!? They are politicians! Politicians lie; let's stop pretending we are shocked by it. In the current Wiener roast by the press and public, one of the repeated themes of disgruntlement is the fact that he lied to the press about it. Really? A politician lied to the press about something that could effect their ability to continue to lord over we wee minions?
Heavens to Betsy, say it ain't so! The world has gone mad! Really?
Politicians lie. They have power. Some of them, use the power of their office to have sex. Then they use their power to lie about having sex. We act surprised and disturbed. Yet, it will happen again and, sadly, probably soon. And, somehow, we will be surprised and disturbed, yet again.
On a personal level, I'm not a fan of their actions. So, don't read this as a discourse on broadening the acceptance of this kind of behavior, because it is not. I'm just calling out the press, the opposing political side (depending on the sex scandal) and the Church on their less than honest and less than logical take on the whole thing. Let's admit it is political and get on with real governance.
I am particularly bothered by those of us in the Church that try to play the holier-than-thou card by falsely claiming to be the personal bringers of God's judgment on any given situation. This is especially true in matters of sex and politics. The Church tends to get real judgmental, real fast about politicians caught up in sexual scandal and we love to bring down the judgment of God on offenders.
The only thing is, it is not God's judgment; it is our own personal judgment thinly veiled in religiosity. It seems to me that, biblically, God is fairly ambivalent about the whole thing, at least in terms of how a person's ghastly sexual morals relate to their ability to lead. One name: David.
King David is arguably God's greatest political leader. He was plagued by a massive sexual scandal that would effect the rest of his life and the life of his children. His scandal even involved death. It was bad. Yet God did not pass a judgment on him that would remove him from office. God used David to lead a nation. So, let's stop playing political games with the name of God. (That actually turns out to be something with which God is very concerned - the whole "You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God..." commandment thing).
So, in summary:
1) Politicians lie. Stop pretending like it is surprising.
2) Like too many non-politicians (who don't lose their jobs), some politicians have sex outside of their committed relationship. It happens. It is deplorable. It will continue to happen. Stop pretending like it is surprising.
3) Sexually indiscriminate people can still be good leaders even though they are horrible spouses.
4) God has no problem using those people to lead.
5) So, stop co-opting Christianity in thinly veiled inferences in order to pass your personal or political judgment.
6) Turns out God is a little sensitive about the things we claim in God's name, particularly when all we are really trying to do is hurt someone else or get our own way.
“Do not say that it is naïve to think that we can love everyone, even our enemies. It is not naïve; it is Christian. Do not say that it is politically naïve to be forgiving of those who hurt you. It is not naïve; it is Christian. Do not say that it is naïve to make sure the basic needs are met even for the least of these. It is not naïve; it is Christian.” -From my sermon “The 1st Commandment and the 1st Amendment.
I grow weary of Christian who on Sunday worship the Prince of Peace and the rest of the week align themselves with political perspectives that support warring with our enemies. I grow weary of Christians who pray on Sunday, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” and spend the rest of the week holding grudges and seeking revenge. I grow weary of Christians who on Sunday profess their love for the one who said when you do it to the least of these you do it to me and then spend the rest of the week supporting politicians and political platforms that step on the least of these. “Just as you did it to the least of these,” says Jesus, “you do it to me.”
I grow weary of the cognitive dissonance in which some Christians blissfully exist, not realizing that while on Sunday they claim the moniker of Christ, the things they profess the rest of the week belie the teachings of the name they claim.
If you don't want your politics to match your religious beliefs, fine with me. If you don't need authenticity in the balance between what you confess on Sunday and what you profess the rest of the week, fine with me.
But do not pretend that you are practicing what you preach. Do not pretend that you are talking the talk and
walking the walk. Do not pretend it is alright with God.
God expects a life lived with authenticity not a life lived practicing this kind of false duplicity. God expects us to strive to be the people we claim to be, not merely claim to be the people we are supposed to strive to be.
So, don't tell me that the things Jesus taught are naïve when placed within the realm of governance; don't tell me that they are good things to say. Tell me that your faith is big enough to take the first step into matching your Sundays and your weekdays. Tell me that you are so committed to the teachings of Jesus that you will risk loving your enemy. Tell me that the image of Christ is carved out in every face you see and that you could never sit idly by as politicians and big business conspire to step on the lest of these.
Tell me that God's love lives in you; that in you it knows no bounds; that it is bigger than any party loyalty and more valuable than anything wealth could ever bring you. Tell me with your words. Tell me with your actions. Tell me with your political positions. Tell me with your life.
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.
With their ironically named “Pledge to America: The New Republican Agenda
,” the GOP continues to bang the gong that declares, “We are Christian mostly in name and not so much in action.”
While I certainly give them credit for wording much of their “new” pledge in a way that sounds...I don't know, nice?, the outcomes of what they are standing for strike me as particularly unChristian.
Their pledge is particularly focused on business, making it clear that the primary driver of the party is business, particularly big business, not Christian precepts. Business has one driving force – money, God has one driving force as well – love. You cannot serve God and money, you cannot serve two masters. They don't even seem to be ashamed of it either. The Director of their “Pledge to America” is a former lobbyist
for AIG, Exxon and Pfizer – it should probably be named, “Pledge to Big Business.”
The pledge, in more than one place, makes it clear that they desire to get rid of the new health care law, replacing it with...well, it's really hard to say from information in the pledge document. It is clear that while they will repeal the act, they also must like it because they are keeping 7 of its key elements
. As you might expect, their proposal also does not have any real indication of how to control health care spending or regulations designed to keep expenses affordable. Ultimately, it continues the pledge to big business and leaves the least of these (particularly the sick) to fin for themselves in a ocean of big business sharks (read health insurance companies, large medical corporations and the pharmaceutical industry). “... inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'” Matthew 25:40.
The GOP's pledge also states that it will be keeping the Bush tax cuts in place, including those for the wealthiest people in the US. It would seem that part of the solution to make this affordable in terms of the national debt is to also cancel all the unspent stimulus money. Basically, one focuses on the lifestyles of the rich, powerful and famous, and one focuses of the lifestyles of middle America. Jesus had some pretty condemning things to say about the rich and spent most of his time ministering with commoners.
The last piece of the pledge I'd like to address from a Christian point of view is the inexcusable absence of social justice issues. They are blatantly missing from the pledge. I realize this was done for political reasons...and that is exactly the problem. You do not get to imply that you are the party for Christians and not address the issue of social justice in your pledge for moving forward. If Jesus would have written the pledge, you best bet it would have been a recurring theme.
I do not mean to imply that the Democratic Part is by default the Christian party. They are not. While they do address issues of social justice more directly, they are a far cry from what a Christian party would look like. I am saying that claiming the Christian monicker for political gain and the manipulation of the every-day Christian is a game of falsehoods that both parties need to stop playing and those of us who claim to be Christians, much like Jesus confronted the Pharisees, need to step up consistently, confidently and boldly to say to our politicians, "stop making false claims in the name of God, stop taking God's name in vain."
Last night on “The Daily Show” former President Jimmy Carter had a little fun picking on The Tea Party's Christine O'Donnell about dabbling in witchcraft...oh, and on her stand on masturbation (can I say that on a Christian blog? I guess I just did). It seems that everyone is jumping on the Witchy-Poo (shout out to my H.R. Pufnstuff peeps!) bandwagon in yet another modern day witch hunt.
I have to say, as a Christian minister, I just don't care. No more than I would care if Obama were actually a “secret Muslim,” or the fact that Glenn Beck probably believes in three heavens and the ability to become a god in the afterlife. Besides, that was then and this is now. We have to stop holding political candidates hostage over something they once thought or believed. It is as if we don't want our leaders (and perspective leaders) to gain experience and knowledge and then learn from it.
What I do care about is the crazy stuff she believes in now that would directly impact how she would serve if elected. Things like: “America is now a socialist economy,” creationism, she hears “the audible voice of God,” being gay is an “identity disorder,” and a number of other questionable beliefs and statements.
What does all of this have to do with God, you ask? (After all this is “The God Article”). Simply this, too many politicians are playing The God Card and in doing so they seem to believe they can just co-opt the Christian church and it's beliefs as if we are one homogenous group. When they do, they always pick a fairly conservative bent on Christianity and project to the world that that particular take on Christianity is the only Christianity (or at least 'true' Christianity). Ultimately, this serves to minimize, in the minds of the world, the more progressive Christian movement. They are able to do this partially because those of us who fit into that category have had a tendency to sit by silently, presumably out of some false belief that Jesus was passive to the point of irrelevance.
The Progressive Christian movement must begin to stand up, even in the face of conservative Christians who will undoubtedly point fingers and try to shout us back down (sometimes literally), and overcome our reluctance to say what we believe with the same passion and vigor that our more traditional brothers and sisters do.
O'Donnell has said a lot of things that ring the crazy bell for many progressive Christians; we must stand up in one united voice when this happens and say, not all Christians believe that, not all Christians want that, not all Christians carry that particular brand of God Card.
Watch Jon Stewart's interview with former President