Tuesday, September 25, 2012

So Shall the Wide Earth Seem Our Father's Temple

when i first read of the recording of presidential candidate mitt romney's fund-raiser speech mentioning the 47% of americans he said are government dependent, i was startled that a man who wants to be elected to our highest office would say such a thing.  in a democracy, every person is government dependent, because the electorate is, in effect, the government.  the government is simply a mechanism that allows all of us to pool our money paid to the government as taxes to accomplish larger goals that would be impossible for each of us as individuals.  we are dependent on the government to build our roads and bridges, to defend our liberties, to insure the safety of our foods and medicines, to provide the social safety net that assists the unemployed, the elderly, the homeless, and the poor.  we elect those who make the decisions about how much each person should pay in taxes and how that revenue will be spent.  how, then, is the government some abstraction that has become our enemy in the view of mr. romney and many others?

when president obama said that no one in the u.s. succeeds on his or her own, he was correct.  we all stand on the shoulders of others.  i help build the transportation system that allows the owner of the manufacturing company to deliver the goods to market.  i help pay for the police who safeguard the factory and the firefighters who put out the fire when the factory is burning.  none of us is "self-made."  countless others have played a role in each successful enterprise in this country, and we are all dependent on government to "promote the common good."  our votes determine what that common good is and how it will be promoted.

how easy it is to forget how intertwined our lives are.  as the world shrinks, we are more closely linked with each passing day.  my prayer today is that each of us will remember how dependent we are on one another and that we will say a quiet word of gratitude for all those who are working with us to make this world a better place.  shalom

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

With Freedom's Holy LIght

the nature of religious fundamentalism is much on my mind these days.  when i was growing up, i was part of a christian demonimation that stressed the "priesthood of the believer," that is, the idea that each person can approach God directly, seeking God's leading in matters of faith and practice.  in this denomination there was room for wide divergence of belief, members could express doubts about traditional church teaching, and politics was never discussed as part of church worship.  the central focus of worship was the teachings of jesus and how to live the christian life from day to day.  as i matured, the denomination grew increasingly conservative and politicized.  individual congregations that dared to take such "radical" positions as recognizing the baptisms of other denominations or recognizing that women could be called to pastoral ministry were forced to leave the denomination, and i watched as this expression of the church left me.  as an adult i was forced by my conscience to become part of another denomination that allowed me the freedom to seek my own answers as i believed God was leading me.

i look now at the denomination of my youth and see a church filled with those who blindly follow their leaders, a church peopled by those who've abandoned thinking for themselves in favor of a letting their leaders think for them.  i am frightened.  if this sort of blind following of religious leaders becomes dominant, we will commit many grievous wrongs and do them in the name of religion.  i was interested to read the dalai lama's suggestion that the correct path is to seek a spirituality that is beyond religion, and i think what he is saying is that organized religion often gets in the way of finding the right path.  while i, like many, find being part of a group that is bound together by our common search for the right way to live life to be essential, i cannot abandon thinking for myself and seeking God's leading.  i cannot allow organized religion to dictate the path for me, but it is helpful for me to know that i am part of a group where each individual is also seeking God's leading, knowing that individuals in my group may come to very different conclusions about what that leading is along life's path.  that's ok.  we are all different, we may be at different points along the path, seeing things from differing perspectives, or finding that our answers are different because we are different people.

this line of thinking has colored my thinking as i've watched the mob mentality that has unfolded in the middle east during the past few days.  some have been quick to condemn all muslims for the behavior of these mobs, but my mind has gone to the not-too-distant past in my own country.  i've been reminded of "christian" mobs who massacred mormons as they made their way across our country, of the "christian" who said of the murder of a mormon child that the killing was justified because that child would have grown up to be another adult mormon, of the massacre of members of a westward moving wagon train by mormons masquerading as native americans, of the lynchings of african americans by "christan" mobs.   do such atrocties condemn either christianity or mormonism as religions?  did every christian or every mormon condone these actions?  certainly many muslims took part in the mob actions we've just witnessed and many others supported them, but millions of other muslims felt shame and expressed condemnation for the actions of their fellow believers.  we cannot condemn all muslims for the actions of a few any more than we can condemn all christians or all mormons for the actions of those few in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

my prayer for each of us today is that we seek our spiritual answers thoughtfully, taking wisdom where we find it, and using that wisdom to live lives of lovingkindness.  shalom

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Author of Liberty

as i've observed the current political campaign leading up to the november elections in the us, i've been reminded repeatedly of the american belief in our "exceptionalism."  this idea that we have been given a special blessing and mission from God that sets us apart from every other nation runs deep in the us psyche and has been a part of our national identity for a very long time.  it was widespread even before the formal founding of the country.

i listen to politicians going on about our "exceptionalism," suggesting that those of us who reject the notion are somehow not true "americans."  this belief that we are ordained by God to lead the rest of the world, to impose our national philosophy, to embody the imperialist hegemony that asserts our national right over all other countries' rights is so offensive and insulting to both us citizens and the citizens of other nations.  the assertion of american exceptionalism has come to be entwined with the christian right's set of beliefs about the nature of God and the political philosophy of the american right wing to such an extent that evangelical american christianity and the politics of the republican party have largely merged into one entity.

this is truly frightening to me, because it is leading to intolerance of any other position.  we see in the "tea party" movement an insistence that, since "we" (the tea party) are right, all who disagree must necessarily be wrong.  there can be no middle ground in their view of governance; to compromise or give another point-of-view any credence is to abandon one's principles in their narrow, dogmatic philosophy.  such a view is a prescription for governmental gridlock unless the adherents of the extreme right gain an unchallenged majority in the legislative bodies and courts of the nation.  that this is a possibility is even more frightening than the current situation.

all of us are so much the same, whether we are british, malaysian, saudi, or american; we all aspire to have the freedom to express ourselves and associate freely, to believe and love as we are led, to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  there is no american monopoly of such ideals, and God loves every person of every nation in exactly the same way.  my prayer today is that we americans will come to realize that we've been given no "exceptional" status from on high and that all of us will work together to spread love and compassion, not intolerance and a selfishness that says, "i've got mine--you're on your own."  shalom

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

For Hate Is Strong and Mocks the Song . . .

as i've read reports of the republican national convention, my mind has been occupied with the dangers of religious fundamentalism.  i worry about all those children whose minds are being twisted by the lessons being taught in home schools and in "christian" schools.  one of the blogs i follow, monkey mind (www.patheos.com/blogs/monkeymind/), recently wrote a post entitled, "is teaching kids creationism child abuse?" based on bill nye's recent big think video on youtube, "creationism is not appropriate for children."  this, too, elicited more thought on the arguments against the path that evangelical christianity is taking in our country.  the very fact that "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" have become synonymous tells us much about the perception of christianity in this nation.

what will be the role of those home-schooled and "christian-academy-schooled" children in our political life as they become adults?  will they continue to believe that the biblical account of creation is a scientific account?  will they think that they can use God for their own political-religious purposes as their parents do?  the very idea that one can twist the bible to mean whatever one wishes to prove a predetermined philosophy is so far removed from my idea of what the bible's purpose is that i want to disavow this approach as strongly as i possibly can.

i am always suspicious of those who are convinced that they have the answers to all of life's questions, and the religious and political certitude of the christian right frightens me beyond measure.  the suggestion that their principles are unquestionably correct and that there can therefore be no compromise with those who disagree defies everything upon which this country was founded.  those who subscribe to the christian right's philosophy and methods appropriate God for their own purposes, and i fear that they will lead our nation to a moral precipice from which we will all fall as the nation ignores reason, restraint, and mutual respect.

why are our progressive churches not crying out against this danger?  why are we who are progressive christians not joining forces with other progressives to speak out and to fight these wrongs?  is it because we believe that as champions of tolerance and freedom we will be guilty of the same narrow vision as those we oppose?

my prayer today is that all of us who oppose the idea of religious fundamentalism and right-wing bigotry will stand up for what we believe, seeking common ground with other political and religious points-of-view where we can, but never knuckling under to the bullying of the right in the name of tolerance.  shalom.