Wednesday, December 10, 2014

American Idol, Idle, Ideal

I understand before I write anything that my thoughts could be seen as controversial and are going to upset some people. And I'm ok with that. The point of this blog is a sort of public journal and to share a lot of my thoughts as I'm processing them. It's a dialogue (mostly with myself). I also openly admit, as I have countless times before, that I am no theologian or seminary student and so don't know what I speak of on any "authoritative" level. So if you must comment, don't judge too harshly.

I had been thinking about Matthew 5 and the Sermon on the Mount for a couple weeks. I told Amanda that I had been wrestling with and thinking about how far to take Jesus' command to turn the other cheek and what that means for us. It was a thought rolling around in my head. And then President Obama passed an executive order to helped undocumented immigrants and the grand jury in Ferguson decided not to indict Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown. I got to Matthew 5 in my daily reading and I've been dwelling on Jesus' teaching and America in 2014.

First on Ferguson... I don't have a ton to say. I've seen some really racist things shared on my Facebook timeline. Not that my friends have said anything hurtful, but they like articles and status updates with all sorts of awful things said in them. My sister is black. I have half a dozen black cousins. Two of my best friends in high school were black. One of my best friends now is black. My brother-in-law is a cop. I have a bunch of friends who are cops. Yes, I joke about cops, but I don't hate cops. This isn't a "I hate white people" post. This isn't a "I hate the man" post. Was I disappointed that the grand jury didn't indict Wilson? Yes. Not that I think he's guilty. But I think that it should've been decided at trial. Twelve shots is a lot. It's almost amusing that people read Wilson's testimony and said, "well see, Brown was a thug and Wilson had to shoot him." It's unfair. Was Wilson telling the truth? Possibly. Was Brown a thug? We'll never know. Is the rioting and looting disappointing? Absolutely! What really bugs me is all the articles and stories people have pointed to where "a black cop shot a white kid" or "how come no one's talking about this shooting." I've read a couple of those stories and if you look at the facts, it's never an apples to apples comparison. The loss of life should ALWAYS be heartbreaking. Every person is God's creation and any loss should be meet with sadness. Not rejoicing.

The words of Jesus pierce my heart when I think about the people in Ferguson and especially Michael Brown's parents.

"Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

"Blessed are the peacemakers,for they will be called children of God." (Matthew 5:9)

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2a)

Now, to Obama's immigration order.

I made a mistake and got into a comment war over immigration. My number rule of the internet is "don't read the comments." You I know better than to get into an online battle. Especially if family is involved! But I did. The response to immigration has stuck in my spirit. And the more I've thought about it and tried to process my thoughts, it's led me to some interesting and scary places because it's brought up thoughts that I know vocalizing will make people angry. 

One of the arguments made over and over was that congress represents the people and these are "our elected officials." America spoke and they hate the President and the democrat agenda for America. I was disappointed with the midterm elections. Not because the Republicans took control. But because, if you look at the numbers, what Americans really said was, we don't care enough to let our voice be heard. Voter turnout sucked. Yes, those that voted let their voice be heard and made a change in congress. And good job to those who voted. But I think voter turnout should be looked at by both Republicans and Democrats. I don't know why people didn't vote this election. Maybe they felt like there wasn't a candidate that would actually make a real difference in congress. Maybe they grew tired of attack ad after attack ad. Or worse, maybe they didn't care. 

On a side note, I'd love to see a politician actually run on biblical principles. Principles like "blessed are the peacemakers" and "love your enemies" and "pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). I would love to see a politician not run attack ads or say a negative thing about their opponent. Wouldn't that be something. 

Continuing on about our politicians. I am educated and well read and researched enough to know that congress doesn't always do things for the good of the American people. Money talks. And a lot of money is being spent. I understand that if you're getting millions donated to your campaign by telecom companies then you're going to help your donors out and be against net neutrality. I understand that if you're a former lawyer for a big oil company and you now are in charge of a district that is home to multiple oil companies and they all donated to your campaign that you're going to be against green initiatives. Or if you're getting millions of dollars into your campaign from companies that manufacture and sell medical equipment, you're going to try and repeal the tax from the Affordable Care Act that allows people to get that equipment for free. Yes, I'm weary of saying that politicians represent me. Because I know that they have agendas and donors and things that matter to me aren't always going to make it to their plate. I vote for ideas and policies that matter to me. Not on party lines. I'll vote for a democrat or republican or a green party candidate or a libertarian, or whoever if they have ideals and ideas and policies that matter to me and match up with what I think is important for America. Sadly, those people often don't make it to office. And I pray for those who do make it office. But I'm smart enough to understand that money and lobbyists have more say than I'd like. 

Now for the big one.

What I've really struggled with over the last couple of weeks is America. Not the country but the idea of America. And to this point, is America an idol? Is the idea of America and upholding the constitution more important than upholding the values and teachings of Jesus? Even if we believe the constitution was founded on biblical principles, that doesn't make it matter more or on equal footing with the words and teachings of Jesus. And if the constitution gets in the way of living our life as Jesus commanded us to, should we be ok with breaking it? Do we identify more with being an American than we do a follower of Christ? Jesus said in Matthew 6 that we can't be devoted to two masters. Yes, he's talking about money, but that has to apply to more than just money. Does it apply to America as well? Can we fully serve Christ and America? Are we more devoted to one than the other? Or have we made one in the image so it looks like the other? 

I don't want to say that Obama's immigration order is akin to something Jesus would do. But the response by people before and after is heartbreaking at times. I see the church in Acts taking care of each other and selling their possessions to make sure no one in the community had a need. How many undocumented immigrants might be our brother or sister and need our help? How many are sons and daughters of Christ who haven't come home yet? How many could we show love and compassion and mercy to and be an example of Christ? I know someone much smarter will come along and explain to me why I'm wrong and how I'm mis-seeing/misusing scripture. But didn't Jesus say that we must become like little children? Aren't these the type of questions kids would ask? "Dad, why did my friends parents get sent away?" "Mom, why isn't Miss so and so no longer my teacher at church?" If I'm being naive and dumb, I'd rather err on the side of loving my neighbor. Documented or undocumented. And if that means supporting and being ok with an action that's unconstitutional because I feel like it might be biblical, then I'm ok with that. Because I need my identity to be in Jesus. And not in America. 

 "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:46-47)