Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Where Does It All End?
As followers of Jesus are we supposed to be part of the solution
or just identify the problems?

My first pastoral visit today was spent talking about President Obama and what's happening in the USA now. As the older French couple and I shared, we dialoged about the similarity between France and the USA, between Presidents Obama and Sarkosy, about the shared need to move forward, to recognize that yesterday is over, that tomorrow is ours to build - and that today is the day to do it. So much is broken: social security, our notions of capitalism, our safety-nets, our vision of solidarity and citizenship, and the involvement of the general population in politics and policy -making - AND in the life of the church. In the end we often don't make the changes we all agree are necessary because any change requires sacrifice. I think we're all down with that existential and pragmatic truth, as long as we don't have to be the ones to sacrifice. And so nothing changes. We don't want to lose our health insurance, our 401k, our mortgage, or the church that we know so well.

We're stuck between two chairs (as the French say) and not willing to recognize that you have to make a choice and follow-through. Instead we seem to allow those that bitch, complain and moan the loudest to dominate the public arena, shape our policy and determine our actions. Isn't that true in a church? It's usually the loudest, grumpiest, most passive-agressive that end up shaping the policy of action because others just want them to be quiet. It sure seems to be the case this summer with certain folks lamenting public health options as "socialism" "fascism" and "obamacare" when they sure don't have to ever worry about if they can afford to take their kid to the doctor (I think of Mrs. Palin and Mr. Limbaugh). It seems that our modern political spectrum is more about identifying problems and assigning blame than about identifying, discerning and articulating potential solutions.

To make matters worse (as if they could get there) we have folks speaking - supposedly on
behalf of all those that share their basic religious convictions - in radically violent and destructive ways. I read of one such man, baptist preacher Steven L. Anderson, [on the thoughtful blog Religion Dispatches] preaching that "he prays for Barack Obama to die and go to hell." Trained in several Bible Schools, he boasts online of having no college degree and having half the New Testament memorized. As one friend emailed recently, he seems to be perfectly able to memorize and quote the Bible, but not do much else." I admit I'm incapable of scriptural memorization and also more interested in applying the scriptures to life, seeing how the fundamental teachings of Jesus lead to an ongoing and emerging transformation of the broken system/world we live in than in reciting a litany of evils identified by prophets and political gurus and masters of modern media. Since when did the teachings of Jesus justify having the right to carry a concealed gun?

Why is he is helping to shape our national policy discussion? In particular when it's done primarily through his ranting and ravings, claiming that gays, lesbians, illegals and our president are undermining everything that's holy (such as Social Security as we know it, the Patriot Act, our interventions in the Middle East, and general societal problems) without noticing that most of the problems exist in large part not because of those sub-groups but quite possibly because of red-neck warmongers and overly-greedy WASPy and sacrifice-free-optimist Wall Street and 5th Avenue capitalists.

What good does it do to point fingers really? Doesn't that just trivialize the problems we face by working to place blame instead of find solutions? I just got worked up by doing so in the last paragraph. It may make my blood boil, but it sure didn't help anything. [Newsweek recently had a good editorial on this line of thought: Hitler and Health Care Don't Mix]. I blogged recently, and talk endlessly these days, about why it is that we're quick to complain, compete and attack those with whom we disagree with as opposed to working towards resolution, pragmatic solutions, and the cooperation which historically is the only way that things get accomplished? Why is it that we in the church community - in all our maginficent and muddled diversity - fail to offer up voices besides reactionary ones of radical violence, hatred and intolerant-of-difference-finger-pointing that are lifted up in the public arena? Is it the subjective choices made by the medias? Or is it that we seem unable to articulate how the faith that defines us shapes our thinking? What was remarkable about Jesus is that he went beyond mere finger-pointing and blame-laying, to radically inclusive community-building, strategic action and holistic speaking. Isn't that the kind of leadership that we need now both within and alongside the church community?

1 comment:

Gene said...

I love the phrase "radically inclusive community-building". Sadly, many people didn't like it in Jesus' day, and not many churches practice it today. That's one thing we liked about FVPC, is the wide spectrum of people represented in the congregation. We still haven't found a church to call home yet.