Monday, October 18, 2010

Let's get this straight, now!

I get so irritated when people say the US was formed as a 'Christian nation;' 'Christian' of course meaning their own particular brand of Christianity. This country was not formed to be attached to any form of religion. Even though many of the US founders were themselves Christians, even they did not believe alike. Nor did they, any of them, expect to force their religious beliefs on the country as a whole, either now or then. In fact, the major reason this country was formed, and rebelled against England, was because the founders wanted a place where it's citizens would be free to worship as they chose. The separation of church and state was a paramount belief of all of this country's founders.

Many Christians do not understand that. If we were to become a "Christian nation," making it so that we Christians can, as so many would like, tell the government what to do, it could soon backfire, with the government in a position to tell all citizens how to worship. Though you might think that could be just fine, what happens when the government tells you to worship in a way that is not what you believe? Remember Germany?

I also do NOT think it is appropriate for preachers to tell their congregants how to vote. In fact, I believe this takes them out of the category of being a religious institution, and they should perhaps lose their non-profit status, and be treated as political lobbyists.

I 'vote my morals,' and my religious beliefs at every election, but that does not mean that I am voting exactly how everyone I go to church with votes. I do not even want to know how they vote! Voting in an election is not a 'Christian' duty; it is a patriotic duty and privilege. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Mt 22:21) I vote as a compassionate citizen; one who is concerned with social welfare, and with other people. In fact, I try to vote as I believe Jesus would vote in my place. Your reasons for choosing the candidate of your choice are your own business. If we were truly people of faith, with even faith the size of a mustard seed, perhaps we would not need to go to the ballot booth at all. We would know that, in every election, no matter what the results, God casts the final ballot.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Greatest Commands....

Matthew 22:36-40 (New International Version) "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

I recently attended church at the Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. From the minute I stepped in the door, and watched members greet each other with sincere hugs, I felt that this was a place where the candle was still lit; the Spirit was still in attendance. I do not feel that way everywhere I attend church, and what a pity that is! Especially right now, when the political battles are being fought in churches... which should never be! Churches are not places to condemn and show hatred, no matter how much we may disagree with another person's opinion or even lifestyle. Churches are places where we should acknowledge that God loves even our enemies, and He expects us to love them, too.

How quickly we forget that Jesus showed this love in the story of the good Samaritan. Samaritans were enemies of Israelites, at that time. But the Samaritan (not even 'a christian' of the time) showed love and compassion. Often 'christians' feel they have the moral right, and even duty, to use hateful words towards those they disagree with, whether that disagreement is politically, morally, or religiously based. We feel that we have the right to 'clear the temple' of those whom we disagree with. Only Jesus had that right. He left us with the command to love those around us. We are not only guilty of not showing love, but we are guilty of passing it on. Our children are becoming bullies, with sad and horrific results. They learn this from us. Should they not instead learn how to give sincere hugs to those they come into contact with, no matter who they might be?

Beware: I do believe that the first of the two commands is the hardest of the two, and that if we cannot love the people God has placed around us, we have become incapable of loving God.

Be loving today. Catch thoughts of hatred as they pass through your mind and ask God to remove them forever. Do not judge another person's motives and beliefs, just pass on love to them so that they can see a loving God living in your heart.