My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Sunday, January 18, 2009

discussing politics and religion

I'm staying in this morning and :gulp: skipping church. There is some ice and snow. I don't know how much. I just know that my lightweight little car with worn tires would be no match on these steep inclines around here if they are the least bit icy. Things will be completely thawed out by lunch time but there are some roads closed around here this morning. I feel like the prudent thing for me to do is stay home. I also feel a bit guilty for being a slacker but...

I'm also feeling drained. You know that feeling when you wake up and it feels like you haven't even been to sleep? That's how I feel. A bit of a scratchy throat. Kinda achey. Tired. Again, I think the prudent thing is to keep myself in my warm little nest and avoid the icy weather.

I've been watching a lot of the news coverage leading up to the Inauguration. I haven't gotten really political here because that's not the slant of this blog and it's one of those subjects that I would rather not discuss. There is no gray area. People who dislike George Bush HATE him. People who like Barack Obama LOVE him. I'm just not that passionate either way. I am not one who subscribes to the conspiracist theories that say George Bush has entered into war because of his ties to the oil industry. If you think that... ok fine. Don't bother trying to convert me. I think Barack Obama is no better or worse for our country than anyone else would be. I don't think he's any more gifted or wise or empowered than anyone else (McCain) would have been.

Like anything else in this country, decisions are made by popular opinion and popular opinion is driven by the media. People don't think for themselves any more. In general, at least. I have many friends in real life and in the blog world who are knowledgeable and informed and able to articulate why they believe what they do. So many people, unfortunately, cannot. For me, Barack Obama is a great motivational speaker. I'm not convinced that he will be a great leader. I hope he proves me wrong.

The sound bites I heard around the election that "Barack is gonna take care of us and help us pay our mortgage" sounded a lot like a promise of "forty acres and a mule". And that makes me sad. For our country to place all our hope and expectation in one man - any man - is foolish. Our economy is crippled right now because my generation is greedy. We buy things we can't afford. We buy houses with mortgages that take too much of our salary and fill in the blank with credit cards that we can't afford to repay. Had we modeled my parents' generation and lived within our means and saved for the important things, rather than buying on credit, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today. If the government helps bail out people who are living beyond their means, they will continue to live beyond their means and end up right back where they were.

I am a huge proponent of personal responsibility. There are times when people need a hand-up from time to time. Illness, unexpected tragedies and crisis can come and impact even the most fiscally responsible people. But there are an awful lot of people who buy things they can't afford - who consume beyond their means - and who end up ruining their quality of life because of it. They don't need a bailout, they need a reality check.

I'm disturbed by the people I'm seeing on the news who act like Barack is the second coming of Christ. The ones who weep at having just seen him from a thousand yards away... or watching his train go by... "If I can just see his face..." Seriously? What will that do? He's all over the news. You can see his face whenever you want. I appreciate the excitement over the potential for progress in government but that comes from many people working together, not the power of one man. That's why there are three branches of government... so that the risk and responsibility is divided among many capable leaders.

I appreciate the historical significance. I appreciate that Barack, as a bi-racial man (did we forget he has a white mother?) represents an understanding of people who look like me and people who don't. In Barack I see the potential for my own nephews who just a few short years ago faced prejudice from both white and black people... not white enough to be white, not black enough to be black. I am encouraged that because of Barack, they will find acceptance that may not have been possible before. But he is not God. He is a tool to be used by God, hopefully in a mighty and effective manner.

The other aspect that I find disturbing is the treatment of Rick Warren. Rick has been asked to give the invocation at the Inauguration. He is also scheduled to participate in the King holiday festivities here in Atlanta tomorrow. People are protesting his involvement because of his spoken belief that homosexuality is a sin. I heard a quote this morning on the news, "We cannot accept someone who doesn't accept others". Ummmmm.... so you reject someone whose religious and moral beliefs differ from your own? So... acceptance is required except for the acceptance of people who don't agree with you? I find that hypocritical. I also find it wrong to attack those who stand firm based on their religious beliefs. Wasn't our country founded for religious freedom? Yet... we have become a nation that only accepts liberal views, not conservative Christian beliefs.

Understand that my best friend in the entire world is a gay man. If it takes a village to raise a child, my children had the most diverse village possible... gay and straight, white and black, liberal and conservative.... Christian and Jew... believers and non-believers.... my children have been raised in an atmosphere of tolerance for the difference of others. I have spent the last three years in an environment where there WAS NO tolerance for others. The "n" word was frequently used. There were snarky comments about my friend Whitney's "Jewish" nose (although, ironically, the other woman has the same feature) and response to my praise of my sweet (and ONLY) friend in Jacksonville returned with "she's still a Jew". There were ugly epithets used to describe homosexuals. Consequently, I am ever more sensitive about acceptance after living with such unfiltered bigotry. I know what true bigotry is. Rick Warren is not a bigot. AND EVEN IF HE WAS... does the message of Dr. Martin Luther King encourage rejection of someone who believes differently from you? Is Barack Obama only President to people who believe as he does? Or is he President to all Americans? If we want to truly unite people, don't we need to accept those who are different from us?

There are many, many people in my life who believe differently than me. There are many people I consider dear friends who live according to a different moral code than I do. There are many who look differently, act differently, do things I feel are not right FOR ME. It is the greatest desire of my heart that everyone in my life would have the joy that I have. If you and I had the same disease and I found a cure and kept it a secret... while I healed and you continued to suffer... I wouldn't be much of a friend to you. In the same way, I believe that I have found many good things through my faith and I believe it is my responsibility to share those with anyone who cares to listen. Some call it evangelism. Some refer to it as being a "bible thumper".

There are some restrictions and regulations involved in a successful and close relationship with God, just as if I were trying to lose weight and become healthier, there would be restrictions on what I should eat and what activities would be beneficial. If I knew that you were eating something that would hinder your success in your diet... what is my responsibility to you? Well, it depends on our relationship and what you have asked me to do. I'm not going to walk through a restaurant and randomly announce to strangers, "IF YOU EAT THAT YOU WILL BE FAT". But when someone notices weight loss in me and asks, "how did you do it?" I'm surely going to tell them what brought me success.

The point is this... Rick Warren isn't going around condemning anyone. He has spoken the truth of his faith as he believes it to be in candor and love. When we become a people who expect people to hide their beliefs rather than risk offending anyone... then we are no better than a Communist dictatorship.

I'm reluctant to hit "publish" on this post because I truly don't want to engage in political debate. I just wanted to share my thoughts. Save your tar and feathers for someone else.

And since I've tackled the great taboo of politics, let me move forward into religion and address my friend Robert's thought provoking comment:

Now for discussing the rest of the post, and discussing the truth in love... Let's say, just for argument's sake, that you get miraculous divine note saying "Circumstances are such Heather, that as long as you stay in loose touch and don't do anything really truly evil, your salvation is assured. As for your terrestrial time, I'll do what I can, but no promises. I'll see you when you get up here. Best, G-d." How would that change your behavior?
Truly, isn't that how a preponderance of people behave? I can't tell you how many people have told me, "I'm a good person and if that isn't good enough, oh well." In the same token, I know many people who get what I call "fire insurance" - who accept Christ and believe in God and feel like they've punched their ticket to Heaven and they can live however they choose here on earth.

The reality of my life is that I did get a divine note, the Bible and it tells me just the opposite. Salvation comes by faith, but it is acted out in works. If I plant a rose bush and it grows cucumbers, then something isn't right. Likewise, if I say I have faith in Christ and live like the devil... well, there's something missing....

I am concerned when I meet religious people of any faith who say "I behave as I am divinely commanded." [I am NOT saying that this is what you're doing]. R ather, I am interested when people say "With my savior's help, I am less worried about the earthly consequences of doing good works, not because I will be saved from harm's way, but simply because I am more confident in myself, for I know who I am and for whom I act."I sometimes worry that they are a little crazy, but I always find them interesting.
Well. Without a doubt I am more than a little crazy and I'm ok with that. We are divinely commanded, if you accept the Bible as the written Word of God. I am ENTIRELY worried about the earthly consequences of good works, not because we are saved by works but because those works are the opportunity for people to see the love of God that might not otherwise be obvious to them. God doesn't NEED me to accomplish His will and way in the world, I believe He's powerful enough to do whatever He wants with or without me. But there is a wonderful benefit to me for doing what I believe is right, according to the scripture.

Let's use theatre as an example... let's go back to when you and I first met, during Damn Yankees in early 2003. My friend was involved in the show, I enjoyed being around the theatre and met some awesome people, some of whom are still in my life (blows kisses). There were certainly things that needed to be done at the theatre... serving as usher, working concessions, being house manager... certainly menial jobs that pretty much anyone could have done and I was under no contractual obligation to do them. Stagedoor Players would not have ceased to exist and that show could have still gone on every night, with or without me. Yet there were things I gained from that experience, skills I learned and contacts I made that have benefitted me ever since. I was there, I could be useful, it benefitted all involved, so why not?

IN the same way, when I allow the peace, joy, love, etc, of my faith spill over into the things I do, when I act according to my beliefs, I serve God and benefit myself.

One of the St. Thomas boys (Either More or Aquinas) said that the search for meaning was both essential and a guaranteed failure for "one can never know the mind of God".
Truly, the deeper I study the Bible, the more I am aware of my limited understanding and ability to live out my salvation as it is modeled by the early Christians and by Christ Himself. We see as if a reflection but we don't see Him completely. But if we don't seek Him, we don't see Him at all. I'd rather know whatever I can of God, than remain in total ignorance.

I would think that in the moment, there is an assurity that comes with blessed work. However, in the night, in the dark, the doubt must surely come. I would think that the doubt is both the most aching aspect of Christian life and perhaps the most bountiful.
There is a peace that passes understanding. Without a doubt, "Satan is a roaring lion prowling to and fro seeking whom he may devour". There are doubts in myself, but never that God is who He says He is. There are times that I am certainly outside the will of God, when I fall short of the glory of God, when I do things that I KNOW are wrong. There is always a desire to make my life more in line with Biblical teaching. I'm not there yet and won't be on this earth. The ache for me comes from loving people so deeply and yet not being able to save them. It comes from living in a fallen world and facing the temptations of sin based on my earthly, human desires. It comes from seeking emotional and physical intimacy that should come from the one I vowed to spend the rest of my life with and because of his rejection, fearing that I have no possibility of that sort of intimacy on this earth, because of my trust issues and because of my "raised" standards.

While I was in Jacksonville, I grieved the loss of intimacy with one that I loved so deeply. I felt guilt for having allowed my love for him to be greater than my love and devotion to God. And now that I am here and away from the daily painful reminders of the loss of affection, I grieve the consequences he is facing or will face for the decisions he has made. Yes, there are times I want him to "get what he deserves" but there are times that my love for him (still) makes my heart break for the things that he is dealing with now and will deal with in the future... raising his motherless child, for instance. I know that if he continues in his current relationship he will never escape the open resentment of her children. The ache comes from seeing people (including myself) get what they deserve and wanting to prevent them from having to face those painful consequences. The wages of sin is death. No way around it.

This leads to another Christian Conundrum: Surely, in reality, the well being of the divine does not depend on the faith of any one person, nor is there really an interest in a person living a Christian life as a means to salvation. Surely, instead, this is merely the carrot which should eventually lead one to understanding that a carefully understood and practiced life of grace is, in and of itself, its own reward. In which case, the divine note of guarantee is perhaps less important in the first place.
God doesn't need us, that's true. We need Him. However, Genesis tells us that God created man for His pleasure. God is pleased to have us serve Him. Certainly when you were running that little theatre in Dunwoody, you could have done your job with or without my help. I am certain, however, that my assistance was both welcome and appreciated. You enjoyed having me around. I believe that God enjoys us too. As a parent, I enjoy my kids (most of the time). I have raised them and nurtured them to be people who have beliefs and personalities that are similar to mine. They will from time to time disappoint me and they are not Stepford children, to any degree, they are independent of me and somewhat self-sufficient but we mutually seek a relationship because the relationship benefits us all.

There is a great theological debate at to whether we are "saved" by faith or by works. I believe that grace, faith and works are all intrinsic to one another and that they all three exist in the life of a believer. It is by grace that you have been saved, through faith and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no man should boast. For we are Christ's workmanship, created in Christ to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesian 2:8-10). Believe, receive, achieve.

Not bad for 2:30 AM, huh? Mr Drake, you are top-notch at any hour!


Anonymous said...

okay... Lots here to digest. Let's deal with some of the politics first.

You write:"There is no gray area. People who dislike George Bush HATE him. People who like Barack Obama LOVE him."

Lets also realize that the reverse is also true. There are people who love Bush and Hate Obama beyond all reason as well. The Secret Service has reported that assassination attempts prior to inauguration are higher than ever before.

Klu Klux Klan leaders report a direct tie between their increases in membership and Obamas election.

There are still people like Karl Rove who in a recent appearance said that history will not be able to find one thing wrong that Bush did. At that point, you're just drinking Kool Aid, Jim Jones Flavor.

I applaud your voicing the notion that Obama is not a God. There are too many people who have been unable to distinguish between been a very skilled politician and truly being the messiah.

What Obama brings to the table is that he's a truly smart guy whose approach is very pragmatic.

It does not mean that by February first, Hamas and Israel will be singing 'Michael Row The Boat' together and that our economy will be growing at an inflation adjusted rate of 9%.

What it does mean is that Obama is able to gather some really smart people in the room and look for actual solutions here.

That's it. That's what he can do. He can get smart people to come together.

You write: "Like anything else in this country, decisions are made by popular opinion and popular opinion is driven by the media. People don't think for themselves any more."

I think that this is overstated a bit on a couple of different counts.

First, Our state government constantly shows that they're resistant to the powers of popular opinion. A majority of people in this state have wanted to see rail service expand for years. It's never happened.

A majority have wanted to see more regional hospitals and emergency rooms. They've closed.

A majority of people in this state think they should be able to buy beer and wine on Sundays. They can't.

Sometimes it's not the general desire of the people, but odd combinations of well organized groups and the prejudices of deeply secure politicos that limit the popular agenda.

As for 'The Media', the notion that there is a monolithic opinion that all members of the media share is not realistic.

There are media folks on all sides of every issue and if there has been one thing the internet has done, it has flattened the media world and enabled and even wider variety of views to compete in the marketplace.

I wish people would learn to ignore the shrills. That's the key. All sides have their crazies. Be it Keith Oberman or Amy Goodman on the left or Bill O or Rush Limbaugh on the right (and all four of these people have radically different views) people need to learn to move past their rhetoric.

The key is to be aware of what the people who make the decisions actually follow. For the most part on the national level, that's the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, and the BBC on television, NPR and BBC on radio, and NYT, WSJ, and the New Yorker in print.

When middle schoolers in White county begin arguing over the meaning of latest Hendrik Hertzberg piece in the halls between their classes, we will have made progress.

Anonymous said...

...And Now, Part II, the religious end.

We wrote: RWD: "you get miraculous divine note saying "Circumstances are such Heather, that as long as you stay in loose touch and don't do anything really truly evil, your salvation is assured. As for your terrestrial time, I'll do what I can, but no promises. I'll see you when you get up here. Best, G-d." How would that change your behavior?"
HSD Replies: "Truly, isn't that how a preponderance of people behave? I can't tell you how many people have told me, "I'm a good person and if that isn't good enough, oh well." In the same token, I know many people who get what I call "fire insurance" - who accept Christ and believe in God and feel like they've punched their ticket to Heaven and they can live however they choose here on earth. "

Regrettably, in my experience, there are far more of the second type than the first. There are far more people who see faith as a means to an end.

Moreover, roughly half of the self proclaimed Christians I have met believe that by virtue of their faith and alleged salvation they are given dominion over everyone else.

The same kinds of fissures run through all monotheistic religions but as Christianity is the dominant paradigm in the southern U.S. its effects are more visible.

A theologian once created a short test which, as it turns out, is pretty good at telling you with what kind of Christian you're dealing.

The trick is to ask what is the most astonishing thing about G-d. Invariably there are only two categories of response. Either people will proclaim the awesome power of the lord or they will praise g-d's infinite love and compassion.

Either way, after that, you know with whom you're dealing.

Joann said...

That was ALOT to read for my first time at your journal.... and you know what .... I LOVED IT!!! I agree with most EVERYTHING you said here. Don't worry about being too political, I think everything you stated was YOUR OPINION, and this IS YOUR blog.

I'm was a McCain girl, and it really scared me when I heard a local reporter say (on the day he was elected) that he was "SOVEREIGN"!! That was way over the top.... I'm saying hard prayers for the next four years for the people who actually believe that, let me tell you. But I don't hate the man, I truly wish him all the best, and I will keep him and his family in prayer.

I'm a follower of your blog, now!!

betty said...

I used to follow your blog, but I found myself (and still do) online too much so I had to reduce the number of blogs I followed, but I saw a comment you left on someone else's journal so I thought I would come and check out your entry

I think you wrote this very well and I appreciate what you wrote about Rick Warren. I have never met him personally but when I lived in the Orange County area of So. Calif, I attended Saddleback for about 3 months (and would have continued attending there but we moved 45 miles away). I have heard Rick preach on multiple occasions and there is not an ounce of hate in that man and he preaches the gospel (he also gets accused of not preaching Jesus and from the Bible). My prayer is that he will pray the Lord's heart for America in the prayer he does at the inauguration.

Mr. Obama has been getting my daily prayers even before the election and continues to this day. I didn't support him and I'm not sure about how he will be as president, BUT I trust my Lord and I know that the Lord allowed for him to be elected for whatever reason, so I will trust in his providence and pray for my leaders as He would want me to do

very insightful entry; thank you for sharing your thoughts


Slapinions said...

A very well written piece, and a nice intro (for me) to your blog.