Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The other day, while listening to the news, I thought of something.

The right-wing faction of the Republican Party has hijacked my faith.

I thought about all the sermons I sat through as a preacher's kid. I thought about all the Bible studies, choir rehearsals, prayer meetings, and my generally conservative upbringing.

My beloved Grandmother went to Mass every day. She could always be found at the "Rock" church on Grand Avenue in St. Louis. That little 4"3" dynamo was a mountain of faith and love of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Daddy was equally devout in his Baptist beliefs as a young man and instilled in me a love for God's word, study, and accepting God's grace. He was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute back in the 50s. He was ordained back-in-the-day when black ministers were grilled on everything from their statement of faith to their exegeses to their understanding of Greek and Hebrew. Daddy went on to earn his Master's in Church Administration and doctorate in Theology. He spent the last years of his life as pastor of Second Christian Church in Jefferson City, Missouri. Daddy was ordained twice, first in the National Baptist Congress and later in life, in the Disciples of Christ.

My faith foundation is very strong. I always had an understanding of God and accepted him as my savior when I was around 13. Of course, I am not perfect and it really wasn't until my late 20s that I had a full acceptance of Jesus Christ. I devoured the word of God at that time and it became alive to me. I wore out one Bible and made my way to Moody Bible Bookstore to get another one. I now have a collection of Bibles that would rival any theologians.

Yet, as I listen to the pundits and recall the last eight years, I am deeply disturbed by the Pat Buchanans, Sarah Palins, William Bennetts, Lenexa Christian Centers, Michelle Bachmanns of the world. The neo-con movement is dangerous. Under the guise of Christianity, they have deeply polarized this nation. To me they are like the Pharisees that Jesus spoke against.

Jesus also taught: "Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished." Mark 12:38-40NLT

Further in Matthew, Jesus again talked about these religious leaders.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The teachers of religious law and the pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don't follow their example. for they don't practice what they teach. They crush people with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show."

Jesus spoke harshly against these religious leaders and Pharisees because of the power of persuasion they had over the people. The Americans I know who love the Lord look to their pastors for spiritual guidance. The problems came when the neo-cons, mostly Republicans, saw an opportunity to exploit the goodness of people. They especially played on the most base fears and stereotypes to further their agenda of fear. Through their fear-mongering they also presented themselves as the only ones who could save them from ...( fill in the blank be it, liberals, feminists, homosexuals, blacks, immigrants, terrorists, elitists, college-educated professors, etc.). In doing this, they dumbed down the "working class American" to less than an 8th grade reading level. Sarah Palin demonstrated this with her Katie Curic interview when she couldn't even name one newspaper she read. The neo-con movement and Republicans made it a "sin" to be intelligent, educated, critical thinking, thoughtful, and tolerant. They hijacked my faith and I am tired of it.

I thought about this and about what Jesus said to them.

In the Word of God, Jesus called them blind guides in vs. 16, hypocrites in vs. 23, whitewashed tombs in vs. 27. He said that outside they appeared clean but inside you are filthy - full of greed and self-indulgence. He said "inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness." He told them that while they are so careful to tithe down to the smallest amount, they "ignore the more important aspects of the law - justice, mercy, and faith." And that the is the main problem I have with the entire neo-con, mega-church, uber-Christian, far-right, Republicans of today.

Jesus came to save the lost and hung out with those "sinners" and those who were reviled with society. He told his disciples to go out into the world. The story of the Good Samaritans illustrates how Jesus felt about stereotypes and racial discrimination. He shamed the many leaders who were so pious that they wouldn't help the man in the street. That is no different than today when the Republican party seeks to cut funding for early childhood education, medical care for the mentally ill or disabled like Governor Matt Blunt of Missouri. They walk around as if they are heir-apparent of the kingdom of God and everyone else is a sinner. The way they say "liberal" and "Democrat" sounds more like a curse. They falsely accuse their neighbor and look for the most base ways to spew their verbal venom. It sickens me.

What happened to what Jesus said were the greatest commandments? If these neo-cons truly loved the Lord, wouldn't they serve the poor, build communities, take care of the widows and orphans? Yet, they are the ones behind the Wall Street greed, bailouts, and CEO golden parachutes. The TV ministers have made millions off the tithes of the people and are now "Republican strategists" on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. Some of the so-called, religious right, spew so much hatred on the radio like Rush Limbaugh and on the television screen like Sean Hannity that it is enough to make me throw up my vanilla latte. Enough.

So, where are the real Christians? I think they are the ones coming out in droves to volunteer, canvass, cook, call, and pray. I would never say that God is a Democrat, He isn't, but guess what, He isn't a Republican either. Jesus told us to render to Caesar what is Caesars (i.e. pay your taxes, even the rich Republicans) and He told us to love our neighbor as ourself after He told us that we must love God with all our hearts and minds.

All of it makes me angry when the factions seek to divide. The worse part is the ugliness of the Republican Party campaign this year. There are the robocalls, the attacks personally against Senator Obama, Mrs. Obama, and the little girls. It was so bad that there is a Michelle Obama watch to keep people abreast of the negative images and stereotypes against this accomplished and beautiful, unashamedly black woman.

The other thing that makes me angry about all this is that with Jesus there isn't division. He came for all men. "For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten son that WHOSOEVER believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16. The only qualification was that we believe in Him, not that we have to belong to a certain political party, dress a certain way, read or not read certain things, watch or not watch certain things, eat or not eat certain things. Just believe and receive. Simple.

I wish all this was simple again. It has brought out the best and the worse in people. I've seen old people and young people, black people and white people, Christians and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindi's and Agnostics and every other belief come together with a united purpose. Commonalities can bring about collaboration and cohesion. We are more alike than we are different.

I'm taking back my faith. I hope you do also.

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