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Theological Reflections on the Current Race for the Whitehouse

10/16/2016 12:06 PM

Regardless of one's political affiliation, the current presidential campaign has left many registered Republicans, Democrats and others with a sense of despair.  While my wife and I were in Scotland, we were asked, "Hey there, Yank, what's with your country?"  The questioner was clearly dismayed by the current state of political discourse in our nation.

Reflecting on what has been taking place and not endorsing any particular party or candidate I have observed serval things.  First, John Calvin was correct in his doctrine of the utter depravity of our fallen humanity.  Calvin was addressing how our fallen and sinful nature is so flawed that  we cannot fix ourselves, but stand in need of Christ's redeeming and transformative love , if we are to have any hope for ourselves.

Secondly, just as it was difficult to find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, known for its violence, rape, and immorality, so it seems that righteousness is a rare virtue these days as we observe each party's candidates frequent distortion of the truth and falling short in fact checks.  Each candidate has demonstrated problems  truthfulness and trustworthiness.

Thirdly, the wisdom of Proverbs will not be overturned regardless of who wins this elections as Solomon once stated, "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." What has fallen because of the mud-slinging in this year's political campaign has been a respect for candidates who engage in the politics of character assassination.  What has been destroyed is the ability of the electorate to trust those who seeking elected office.  And, along with that has fallen any notion of elected public service as being both a humble and honorable profession of service that raises up humble and honorable persons to leadership.

Fourth, that for things to change in a substantive manner--for redemption to come, there must be a humble confessing of one's sin and a desire to repent (engage in an actual and intentional turn around of thinking and behavior) of one's former life to the ways of the Lord as one accepts the unmerited gift of forgiveness.

Lastly, if our political process and our nation are to have hope of regaining the respect and admiration of the world, so we might be a "light unto the nations," we must all fall down on our knees and pray to the god of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel, remembering what was attributed to the Lord in 2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land."

Surely what this political contest has shown us is that we are a nation torn apart politically, religiously, racially, economically and in serious need of healing. While Christians may have aligned themselves with each of the candidates, even those claiming to bear the name and values of Jesus have also become divided and in need of healing.  Perhaps the Almighty is telling all of us to wake-up and get back to our spiritual core with humility be God and one another. Perhaps it is time to return to mutual civility, even in our disagreements and differences.  Maybe it's time for us to love our neighbor as ourselves, even if our neighbor might be our opponent.



A Call to Prayer

7/30/2016 10:22 AM

If you feel as disturbed by the tone of the recent primary campaigns in both political parties in this country as I do, you may be praying as I am, "God, help us!"  Our beloved nation is clearly divided.  Supporters of each of the candidates clearly believe their candidates of choice is the right candidate to address the need of our nation in this very volatile time in history.  There is a very clear and distinct line of separation that has been drawn by both parties and their candidates in the political sand.

At the same time there appears to be a rather large segment of voters who feel disenchanted with the main choices that will be on the November ballot.  The mud-slinging that has become the norm in American political debate and the character assassination that goes with it, does not seem to speak well for us as a people in general.

Surfing the social media, I have seen people on both sides of the political coin suggesting that the faithful will vote for their particular candidate and party.  The inference is that God is on their particular side standing by their particular stances.  All of this seems so reminiscent of the preaching that took place prior to our nation's Civil War.  At that time preachers in the north were quoting Bible and preaching a gospel of liberation and emancipation of slaves.  In the slave holding states of the south in that era, preachers were quoting the same Bible and preaching a gospel that justified obedience of slaves to their masters and the right to own slaves.

In looking back on that era, both sides used religion to justify their political beliefs.  Each side claimed their faith was informing their political and social agenda, rather than their political and social agenda informing their reading of the Bible.

As I look at the troubling nature of political conversation  and how it is being carried out in our time, I see parallels to the unrest of the 1860s.  I also find parallels to the unrest and conflicts of the 1960s of labor verses industry; in the divisive nature of our nation's involvement in the Viet Nam War; and in the social struggle of the Civil Rights Movement.  The sixties were a time where I see the church also beginning to be torn by these and other movements, just as the Presbyterian Church of the 1860s was torn apart over the issues that contributed to the Civil War in this country.

Thus, I am inviting you who are kind enough to read this post to join me in prayer, for I need prayer for discernment.  Our nation needs prayer to remain a healthy democratic state.  The church needs prayer to find its calling as a faithful servant of the Lord of heaven and earth.

Harry Emerson Fosdick once said, "Prayer opens our lives for God, so his will can be done in and through us, because in true prayer we habitually put ourselves into the willingness to do whatever God wills."  As we move toward November's election I believe we all may do well to pray as Jesus did in Luke 22:42, on the eve of his betrayal and arrest, "...not my will, but yours be done."  May God's love reconcile and heal the wounds of our national soul.  May God's grace bring forth the best within us as a diverse yet united people.  Lord, bend my will and desires to fulfill your will and desires. Amen.



For Whom the Bells Toll

7/8/2016 2:23 PM

Again our nation, its many and varied citizens, as well as its many fine civil servants in uniform are torn and aching with deep unimaginable sadness at the loss of life.  Our nation is torn and divided by race, religion, political affiliations, and much more.  It seems as though we are engaged in an undeclared  and most uncivil civil war.  And I cry out to heaven, "How long O Lord! How long will this divisive rending of our land continue! How many more people must be killed and or wounded!" and I heard in reply, "I grieve, O mortal how the peoples of the earth persist in failing to love and work with one another.  I grieve that people choose hate over love -- self-interest over mutual interest -- cannot yet comprehend that unity out of diversity is their real strength, for each is to be a gift to the other."

If someone mourns the loss someone in uniform and says that blue lives matter, there is an outcry.  If someone mourns the loss of someone of color and says black lives matter, there is an outcry.

In this age of instant and constant social media commentary, many are quick to offer their opinions.  Conclusions are made before full investigation of facts is completed.  Assumptions are made that may or may not be substantiated by a complete rendering of facts.  Special interests groups (whatever those interests groups may represent) look too often for that which substantiates and justifies their own perspective -- an exercise perhaps in self-justification.

It may be hazardous to thing that all clergy, doctors, lawyers, teacher or any other respected profession is represented by the abuse or misuse of authority by someone in that profession.  It is possible for a person to care for and care about the victims of those who have abused their authority , and still respect those who abide by high standards of their vocation.

John Stewart has been recently quoted on social media as having said: "You can truly grieve for every police officer lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach.  Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.  You can still have high regard for law enforcement and still want them held to high standards."

It is very appropriate to be angry over any source of injustice and wrong doing.  Even the prophets of God were angry over the injustices and wrong doing of the people of faith long ago, as they sought to call an ancient people back to their senses and back to faithfulness.  It is right to be angry about the injustices of racism, economic, and social inequities.  But we must not in our anger, sin and become hate filled.  As the poet Maya Angelou has been quoted as saying: Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world but has not solved one."

We as a nation must not condemn any group, as if all members are to blame because of the misdeeds and abuses of a few.  Neither must we be blind to cultural and systemic issues that fuel the fires that so divide our nation.  All of us must come together to engage in the painful work of self-examination and corporate systemic examination and engage in the painful issues that fuel our divided and self-destructive bent.  Failure to engage in addressing what needs attention in our social fabric, I fear, will leave more bodies along the streets and more tears shed by those who have lost someone for whom they had affection.

As a people of whatever race, ethnic, religious, or political identity we claim, we must realize the merit of the words of Frederick Buechner who said: "Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace and joy and freedom for me."  Until we realize  the merit of those words and until we complete the work that is before all of us and stop the divisive finger pointing and come together in a cause that is greater than any of our individual identities and affiliations, we will drift further apart from one another and our greatness as a nation will be poorer for it.  We shall, I fear, shed many for tears, for as the poet and mystic John Donne once wrote: "No man is an island, Entire of itself.  Each is part of the continent, A part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.... Each man's death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee."