Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Quitting Politics

I am finished with politics. I’ve had enough. I hung on through 2020 election, but the anger, intolerance and partisanship did not end with the inauguration of a new president. In fact it has gotten crazier than ever. Many Americans have become detached from reality as they embrace conspiracy theories and find any excuse to attack political opponents and mindlessly submit to confirmation bias. Fake news has evolved into alternative reality. It seems impossible to discuss topics rationally with anyone that does not already agree with you.

Americans have been led to believe that when it comes to governing our country we must choose between competing ideologies: liberal or conservative, blue or red, Democrat or Republican.  Even when we declare ourselves to be “independent” or “undeclared,” people assume we harbor unconfessed political bias that must be ferreted out. It is assumed that everyone and everything is political. Politics rule America.

I am opting out this binary mindset. I quit. I officially declare myself to be apolitical. That does not mean that I will not vote. I will vote my conscience. As always I will vote the person and not the party. I will continue to voice my convictions about ethical and social issues facing American society. I will take a stand on national policies. But from now on I will have nothing to do with political ideology. I will make decisions and cast my votes based on spiritual principles.

I will use two criteria. One is the adage that was popular in Christian circles in the last century: “What would Jesus do?” I will answer that question by examining his words and actions in the gospels. When discussing the sale and use of handguns and assault weapons, I would ask, “What would Jesus carry? What would Jesus sell?” When it comes to treatment of persons whom establishment religion considers “sinners” I would ask, “How did Jesus treat them?”

The second criterion is that I will treat others as if they were Jesus. Jesus taught, “As you have done to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me.” If it were the Holy Family fleeing a murderous dictator at the US southern border, would I turn them away? If it were Jesus on death row, would I execute him? If it were Jesus needing healthcare, would I be the Good Samaritan and foot the bill, or would I turn aside? If I were a baker would I refuse to bake Jesus a cake?

People will surely insist that this is too simplistic. It is not practical. People will argue that Jesus’ teachings cannot not be used as a blueprint for social or national policy. I reply, “Why not? Because the politicians say so? Whom should we listen to? Jesus or politicians? Should not Christians act like Christians? Why should political party affiliation be allowed to trump our spiritual identity?

I reject the idea that obeying Jesus is impractical or idealistic. I will no longer be defined by the opinions of political pundits, liberal or conservative. I will be defined by my commitment to Jesus Christ.  People would ask, “What if everyone did what you are suggesting? What would become of our country?” I respond: How wonderful it would be! The whole nation living in unconditional love! What an impact that would have on our country and the world?

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other.”  I cannot serve both Christ and Caesar. Those who executed Jesus declared, “We have no king but Caesar!” I declare that I have no King but Jesus. 

Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.” I am Christ’s – body, soul, and spirit. No part of me belongs to Caesar. I am not beholden to any political party or ideology. For that reason I will make every decision based solely on the guidance of the Living Lord Jesus Christ. Goodbye, politics!

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Meaning of Easter

This weekend Christians will gather in person or virtually to celebrate Easter. I will be worshipping at an outdoor sunrise service on a Florida beach, singing “Alleluia” as the sun rises above the eastern horizon. Easter will be interpreted differently depending on the pulpit, the preacher, and the congregation. Many will address the nature of Jesus’ resurrection.

Some Christians take the Easter story literally, and others interpret it spiritually. Conservative churches insist on a physical resurrection of Jesus from the grave, quoting the risen Christ of the Gospel of Luke. "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."

Progressive Christians may present a more spiritual interpretation of the event, quoting the description of the resurrection given by the apostle Paul. “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit…. Now I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”

Christians argue over which interpretation of the resurrection is the earliest and most authentic. There was room for both interpretations in first century Christianity, and that remains true today. What is important is what Easter means. For me it means two things.

First, it means that death is not the end. What we really are does not die. Christian philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” I would go further. We are not human beings; we are Being expressed as humans.  

Second, awareness of our true nature can be known in this physical lifetime. That is the reason that the resurrection stories include the physical element. Eternal life is not an afterlife experience; it is a present life experience. We do not have to physically die to know eternal life; we know it now. Jesus taught, “The kingdom of God is within you.” Paul wrote; “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

Easter is the most important holiday on the Christian calendar. It is certainly important to me. Even more important is knowing the reality of Living Christ every day. As the hymn says, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!”