Friday, December 16, 2016

Are you not entertained?

I have come to believe that of all the Christian principles “Judge not” might just be second only to “Love one another.”

Rather than divide, let us reconcile. Rather than let pundits tell us what to think, let us do the real work of patriots and educate ourselves on the matters at hand. Let us let go of popularity contests and our fantasies about one another and talk about issues and reasons. Let us be faithful to our principles and to one another.

We are intoxicated on the opiate of the public drama. “Are you not entertained?” Saturday Night Live got it right in that regard. The Gladiator quote is spot on. The Flavian Amphitheater (aka: the Roman Colosseum) provided free entertainment for the Roman public, a distraction from daily hardships. Our contemporary public/political theater likewise distracts us. As if we were at a football or basketball game, we seem primarily concerned with “our side.” We hurl sound bites and trash talk our opponents and in general fail to consider the real issues at hand. As part of this we make sweeping generalizations about groups of people. We imagine who they are in the most unsavory terms. Conservatives, Liberals, intellectual elites, “white working class”, People of Color, Blacks, Hispanics … fantasies of an arch type of each in which we believe so deeply we cannot remember the individuals we personally know.

Instead of giving into the drug of public drama – let us for a moment imagine truthfully the kind of world we want to live in, personally and then in terms of our communities. What does that world look like and how does it come into being? I personally long for a society that cares more for people, that is more accepting, that is more respectful and compassionate. I long for a world in which fear is consoled and compassion is a greater virtue than profiteering.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Jesus, religion, wealth and politics ...

I find the rancor in the world today so deeply distressing.

I hear people who would identify as Christians saying horrific things about their “enemies”.

I do not wish to judge but I do think that for Christians meditating on Jesus's teachings and early Christian practices would be a worthy guide.

Whether with the “news” and its pundits or on religious matters, I think too often we let others think for us rather than studying, researching and meditating on these things for ourselves.

Jesus was Jewish.

As I understand it, study and interpretation of religious texts are an important component of that religious practice, an intellectual component of a religious practice. This is true in the history of Christianity as well, thinkers like Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine and Martin Luther have modeled lives of thinking and pious Christianity. We have free will for a reason. (From a Christian standpoint: How can you do the will of God if you're compelled to do it? Doesn't it have to be a free choice of us to truly to do the will of God?)

No matter your beliefs – to be the best we can be, to consider the good for humanity – It is essential we meditate on those things we say we believe and not to do so cynically. It’s vitally important that we not say we believe something and then toss it aside for “practical” concerns.

Mark 8:36
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

I want to be careful to not misrepresent myself and I have many nuanced beliefs that would exclude me from the wider definitions of Christianity but the core of these teachings are the foundation of my own beliefs. So I offer these things to my friends that are Christian – not as a volley in debate or warfare but as points of hope.

On welfare and wealth –
Luke 18:18-29

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Acts 2:45
45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, …

On the rancor of our current public discourse -

Matthew 5:43-44

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

On how to deal with bullying –

Luke 6:28-30

28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

On taxes –

Mark 12:13-17

13And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denariusd and let me look at it.” 16And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

On the economic fear –

Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these...