Saturday, August 6, 2011

The God of America

I spent a good bit of time in my childhood/teens in SBC churches.  I even remember a seminary board member who was part of one of these churches telling me they were always there to make sure I had every opportunity to live up to my potential (at least until I got divorced).  I have a fairly good working knowledge of the conservative christian world because of this I think.  Today's event in Texas and the politicizing of faith is not what I remember anyone in that world really standing for.  The political ideologies played some part in things sure, but what we taught and were taught was all about helping others regardless of the cost.  Now I admit that it often glossed over some of the national social issues, but I remember many nights carrying blankets for the homeless, driving them to shelters, and giving money towards medical missions at home and abroad.  These were the things people talked about and did.  Yes, there was an annoying amount of morality based theology, but the "literal" reading of scripture didn't read like "America the Chosen nation."  It often read very differently than that.

I don't know exactly how this side of Christianity got co-oped by those wanting to create fear and promote nationalism, but it certainly seems to have happened.  Maybe it's because instead of being a community where various ideologies had a voice, all the dissenting views left or were pushed out (and some of both happened).  Without dissenting voices it is much easier to broker fear, without those who push our buttons and make our blood boil that we truly love, it is easier to call them enemies, to push them into a group known as "other."  I say this with a sense of fear of what could still happen in the PC(USA), where the sides divide, glad to let go of struggles and settle into a comfortable place.  I don't think that's what we're called to.  I think we're called to struggle.  To struggle along with those we disagree with vehemently, to struggle about the meaning of scripture, to struggle with questions of power, privilege, equality, and love.  We need to see that none of us have the only way, and that we must go together if we are to do anything good in this world.

Today there are people praying for the economy, for our nation, for moral values, and for other things that I personally find to be misguided prayers.  I would rather us pray for equality of humanity, care for creation, love for all, and continued struggling together, but those praying for these other things can only journey with us if we're willing to treat them as equals and not as others.  I do not agree with the co-opting of God for national, personal, or ideological gain, but I do nothing better if I'm not willing to engage in the conversations and act in love.

That being said, I must say why I am pained by the subjects of these prayers:
1. The Economy - Those who have lost before know that these prayers are ones of protect what I have.  Yet, God is clear that nothing is our own.  Should we lose everything, we gain a freedom that we do not have when we possess things of our own.  We should not pray that God fixes the economy, but that we will learn what many who have been or are homeless know: There is a real difference between want and need.
My prayer:
2. Our Nation - I do not hate the US, but I do not think we deserve any special blessings, or even deserve all we have.  We are truly a nation of privileged and power, and any prayers for our nation should begin with a greater realization of what protecting our own does to damage the rest of the world.  God is not interested in making our nation great, rather God is interested in the greatness of all of creation and that begins with us all realizing our shared humanity, our shared divine spark, and our shared call to be stewards of all of Creation.
3. Morality - I don't think we should go about killing each other or just doing whatever whenever, but really it is not what people do in scripture that makes them faithful or not, why do we think that's the key for us?  The key for those called faithful within our Christian (and by extension Jewish) tradition is a willingness to listen and discern that which God wants from them.  Jonah is reluctant, Moses is both reluctant and immoral, Peter falls far from belief or morality (cutting off ears, easily forgiven?) . . . these are heroes, and they should be because they never stop struggling and discerning.  They are faithful, not moral.  The why is of greater importance than the what.  This also means that we are not to decide for others what is most faithful in any specific instance, but again walk along side them in their journey, for we do not know which paths are narrow or wide while we are on them.

There is much more I could say, but really you've probably read all you want to by now.  Again, I wonder how many others really think that God is America's God?  How many feel that God is more interested in us than any other nation?  How many think that God feels that the things we call important to God are really the things that are important?  How many want a God that is a God that is going to say "You didn't feed me when you saw me on the street corner that one time, you're a goat, go to hell."?  How many think that God just wants you to believe, be fairly moral to those you care about, and ask for lots of forgiveness, all while trying to protect that which you think of as yours? 

Or do we really realize that God created us for something more, for greater works of faithfulness, for an actual relationship with God, each other, and all of creation that calls us to give all of ourselves up and being uncomfortable and struggling, but to do so together in love with one another for there we will find peace?