Tuesday, January 20, 2009



Generally speaking, this is not the kind of thing I comment on in this blog, but today is different.

Many times I have found myself troubled by the way some in the faith community allow their political or economic convictions to override the kinds of concerns and values that seem to be at the heart of Jesus' message about the Kingdom, and the kind of lives He calls us to live. As a pastor, I have often felt that I would get much less negative reaction were I to suggest that Jesus was really a Hindu than if I were to suggest that he probably would not be a member of a particular political party. As Gilkey's Shantung Compound so insightfully demonstrates, what our real object of Ultimate Concern is, is not always what we might say that it is, and this shows up most clearly when we are under stress or feel threatened.

Living as Christians, as a people whose primary citizenship is in God's Kingdom, in a world where nationalism can be such a powerful force can be a little tricky. This is particularly true during times when people are feeling at risk in significant ways, which can color and skew our perspective on things in ways that can cause us to place feeling secure ahead of the values that resonate with those of God's Kingdom. And, this is also why it is so important to remember that while we may appropriately take pride in our heritage, our country of origin, the good and decent values that we share - we cannot allow a sense of nationalism or patriotism to become a means by which we allow self-interest to become a force which makes us feel justified in treating others as somehow less privileged or entitled, or according to a different set of rules than those we want applied to ourselves.

While being Christian and being American are certainly not synonymous terms, there are significant places of resonance between values that are shared- freedom, human rights, equality, justice. And while there are also places of dissonance that are sometimes more difficult articulate, because we inevitably tend to see things through the colored glasses of the culture we are immersed in, the larger basic "golden rule" based issues are ones on which both believers and unbelievers could find common ground to stand.

In recent years, however, with the growing dissonance that has resulted from the sense that this common, shared ground has been eroding beneath our feet, it has been much more difficult to look the world in the eye, (not withstanding the contributions of those who selflessly serve at the risk of their own lives to protect that shared ground), and not feel like we have let them, and ourselves, down in significant ways.

But today, for the first time in a long time, it felt good to hear old familiar notes -- ones that there was reason to fear were being either forgotten or erased from the score -- struck up again. Today, to things that have long been needed to say "no" to, "no" was said. Things that we have need to say "yes" to, heard "yes." again. What began today is not the answer to all of the world's, problems, or our country's problems, or our individual problems. Christians know that better than anyone. No political party or leader, and certainly no nation, including this one, holds the ultimate keys to salvation or redemption. But in a significant way, today, light began to shine into some dark places places again, and dissonance began to give way to places of resonance. And wherever that happens in our world today, or any day, it is worth stopping, and noticing, and giving thanks for.

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