March 20, 2008
March 22-23, 2008

March 21, 2008

RELIGION? Y-A-A-W-W-N. MAYBE LATER

An actress says she's given up her Mormon religion because she got "too lazy" to practice it. Sound like someone missed way too many Good Friday sermons.

* * *

THE ROLE OF POLITICS IN CONGREGATIONAL LIFE

Perhaps regular readers of this blog and my column are tired of me urging people to attend funerals, but I attended another one a few days ago and discovered yet another good reason to go to them.

ReligpolThis one was for a wonderful man in my church who was 85 years old at his death. He was a banker with as much moral integrity as I've ever known in anyone. He was active in many ways in our congregation as well as in the community in many civic and charitable endeavors.

I won't say he was a close friend, but I liked him and he liked me and now and then we'd have more than a passing conversation.

But in the nearly 30 years that I knew him, I don't think either of us had ever discussed politics in any depth with each other. So it was with some surprise that one of the people who eulogized this man at his funeral mentioned the time he said that so-and-so would be good for the position (a position that, as I recall, may have been son-in-law) "as long as he's not a Democrat."

Everyone laughed, knowing that the man had said it in a humorous way, and yet this man felt a rather deep connection to the Republican Party. So it wasn't meant entirely as a joke.

As a result of the comment, I began to think about my congregation in political terms, and I found it quite difficult to do. Oh, for sure there are some people who would identify themselves as liberal Democrats and there are some who would call themselves conservative Republicans -- and my guess is the former have been increasing in number in recent years while the latter have been dwindling at least a little. But that's just a guess.

The reality is that we don't spend a lot of time as a congregation delving into partisan politics. Rather, we spend time figuring out how to be faithful to the gospel, how to be useful to our society, how to make a difference for good in the lives of people with many needs and how to integrate whatever our political beliefs are into our call to love God and love our neighbor.

Which means the man whose funeral I attended and I could be partners in many ways even if we might have political disgreements (no, I'm not announcing I'm a Democrat; rather, as a journalist, I'm politically independent and non-partisan, but I do hold personal political opinions).

So going to his funeral gave me another reason to appreciate being a member of a congregation in which a wide variety of people can coexist -- and not just coexist but actually engage in ministry together that essentially has nothing to do with any partisan political positions.

Isn't that how people of faith are meant to work together?

P.S.: And if you missed my extra column in yesterday's paper about the Obama-Wright controversy, click here.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow will use the "Bodies Revealed" exhibit in Kansas City as an occasion to talk about the Christian idea of the resurrection of the body and its connection to Easter.)

Today's religious holidays: Good Friday (Christianity); Purim (Judaism); Norous (Zoroastrianism New Year); Naw Ruz (Baha'i New Year); Magha Puja (Buddhism)

Comments

Joe Barone

Honestly, Bill, I have a problem with the idea of self-sacrifice on the basis of Good Friday. A day or two ago on TV, I saw some obsessive (for lack of a better word) Christians flagellating themselves to emulate Christ. They were bleeding badly. That started me thinking about what Good Friday means to me.

I don't believe in atonement. I can't visualize a God who demands blood (anybody's blood) for anything. So what does Good Friday mean to me? The cross was capital punishment. When society puts any innocent person on the cross, in a sense that person suffers as a result of society's evil in exacting capital punishment. For me, Jesus' dying on the cross is perhaps the ultimate example of how the innocent suffer as a result of the evil of the world. For that reason alone, his death should be remembered on Good Friday. And since I'm on it, where does that lead me in regard to resurrection? I don't care about resurrection. God can do with me what God will do with me. God's going to do that anyway. To me, it is the love and heart of Jesus that matters, not the magical stuff.

So there's more than you ever wanted to know about one person's reaction to Good Friday. Maybe what I write will spur an honest discussion of all of our beliefs about the meaning of this holy space in time.

Mary Behr

Yes indeed, church members of many political persuasions can and do co-exist and work and play well together. We can learn that in kindergarten. I look with interest on the current political confrontational atmosphere. Especially within the two dominant parties. And when the primaries are resolved, those within the parties must make some compromises and work together. Made me think of religious difference between (and within) denominations. "But (politically) we are all Americans" or " (religiously)We are all children of God." My pastor once said that it is naive to think that everybody in the pews are on the same part of the journey." (Have the same understanding?) But we can work and play and worship together, religiously or politically or a mix of both.

Dolores Lear

What is the Reason for Faith? Eternal Life After Death? Jesus taught Heaven is an Asexual Place, where there is no marriage (sex), nor giving in marriage. All are Equal Children of God.

Jesus was Celibate, so was his Movement, like the Dead Sea Essenes. Other Celibate movements are, Monks, Priests, Nuns, Shakers, etc., that imitate Jesus' Celibacy/Asexuality, and live separate, from the Heterosexual Reproduced world.

Jesus' Lifestyle was to Share Equally the resources, with All Brothers/Sisters of Life, and to turn the other Cheek. When did God change the rules of Eternal Physical Life for Adam and Eve to Death?

Why are some of God's Children, rich, poor, sick, diseased, born with physical defects, abusers, pedophiles, homosexuals, killers, warriors, etc? Mis-bred Body Birth?

Who is our Enemy? Our Brothers/Sisters of Life? Or an Invisible Enemy? The Devil, the World, and our Flesh?

Is Religious Faith, for Hope in the Spirit World, after Physical Life Dies? Is God and Jesus Spirits? Are there Good and Bad Spirits, like Jesus and Lucifer/Satan? Some Humans die and go to Heaven, and some to Hell? Why did Perfect Humans Sin, Kill and Die?

When the Body Dies, it returns to Elements. Dust to Dust? Spirit, to Spirit? Is the Dust and Spirit, a Life or an Element? Jesus went up to Heaven in a Physical Body, not Spirit.

All these False Teachings, were made by Humans without a High Tech Science explanation. Jesus proved there is an Eternal Physical Life After Birth. He is Alive, today, in a Physical Body, in spaceships and on Planets.

So will High Tech Science 'Literal' Reason, destroy Faith in Spirit Religions? Will Humans get back the Equality and Peace, they had 'in the beginning', of Physical Life as we Know it?

RichB

@ Joe

I agree that Jesus' death on the cross identifies with the daily suffering of the innocent. Not only was this capital punishment, but public, humiliating, cursed capital punishment.

As for the Resurrection, I think it gives this kind of suffering meaning. Christ was raised after this as the King of Glory, which showed that even when he was suffering, he was the King of Glory.

This should change our point of view. God recognized and enthroned suffering. He sets on high the ones who, like Christ, are poor, cursed, and suffering to death. Thus when we look at someone like this, we should remember that this person will be exalted like Christ (a la Matthew 5).

I don't think this means that we should torture ourselves. Instead we need to recognize the holiness in those who suffer like Christ.

Patricia

I think it's possible to keep politics outside of church relationships, only when we're not talking about extreme views or when we don't know our church-mates "that well", or are motivated to "hold our tongues" and practice tolerance. Because the reality is that when we are being true to our spiritual beliefs, it will not only inform our political beliefs and practices, but make us passionate, as regards same.

For instance. I recently watched, for the second time,(the film was created in 1989) "Weapons of the Spirit". It tells the story of Le Chambon, France, and the residents who, as a community, sheltered Jews during the Holocaust. I find it fascinating that, in light of entire countries of Christians who failed to act morally during this period of time(including the U.S. that turned away Jewish refugees), this community did so without much thought or deliberation.

They were united by the experience of Catholic persecution of their Huguenot ancestors and by pacifist ministers and were squarely against the Vichy government that collaborated with the Nazis. Should they have tolerated, in their church and community, Vichy supporters who would have harmed the Jews and resistance fighters that they harbored?

Likewise, if we believe the Iraq War perpetrates a level of evil, do we sit quietly while church-mates advocate for it? Smile and greet and chit-chat with the folks who spew racial hatred or bigotry? At what point does tolerance become collaboration?

Jean

Joe, I agree that Jesus' death on the cross is the ultimate expression of how the innocent suffer for the sins of others. The most innocent is God, and He suffers for what we do. People become so jaded and selfish because of the state of the world, that it is hard for God to communicate through the noise of cynicism and misery in this degenerated world. Jesus is the wake-up call to show us in human terms how horrible we become when we reach the point where we not only do not care any more, but where we'll kill anyone who tries to brings us back. We'll kill Mother, Father, children and friends who try to show us what we've become and bring us back. We'll curse and damn our own Creator.

People's hearts can turn when they see that they are capable of cold-blooded murder against pure innocence. God knew He could reach some this way, and He did so willingly because of His love for us. The magic in the blood is the forgiveness that we can receive when we're standing there with blood dripping from our hands and we realize what we've become and we drop the hammer. It's brutally extreme, but so is the depth of depravity. It's like paddles to the stopped heart.

Our sacrifice is to endure in love so that others will also see God's love when they come face to face with themselves. A mother never gives up on her children, and this is the love of God.

Patricia

There was a really interesting program on Jesus and Crucifixion on NPR's Fresh Air today. You can listen here:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88675603

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