Politics

Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's... - Jesus

How do we separate religion and politics? I think Jesus would tell us to do our duty in each sphere. On the religious side of the coin, we worship and study the scriptures so that we might know God’s will for our lives. On the political side of the coin, we vote, become involved in social concerns, etc.

For: 
October 18, 2020
Matthew 22:15-22
Pentecost 20

“Are you in debt so as to embarrass the ministry?” There is a reason for that question. Integrity is integrity. When we are in severe debt, the temptation to abandon our integrity becomes intense.

"By what authority are you doing these things," the religious leaders asked Jesus

When the coronavirus arrived, the authority of the medical experts, such as those working at the CDC and at the WHO, came into direct confrontation with the authority of the President of the United States. Who had higher status as an authority?

For: 
September 27, 2020
Matthew 21:23-32
Pentecost 17
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.

But then a fool became Pharaoh. The ethical standards that Joseph taught were abandoned. The nation began to betray its allies. Economic systems were put in place that gave wealth to a few elites and impoverished the common citizen. Hebrews became slaves.

For: 
August 23, 2020
Exodus 1:8-2:10
Genesis 41:46-47
Pentecost 12
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul - Jesus

Much like the serenity prayer, Jesus encourages us to change the political systems that we can change, to remain nonviolent, reluctantly accepting the limitations of human sin and political failure, and to pray for the wisdom to know the difference. If we do this well, we will be persecuted.

For: 
June 16, 2020
Matthew 10:24-39
Pentecost 3
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them

When the law and order police state headed by Pontius Pilate put Jesus on the cross, his disciples knew that they would share his fate if they walked with those who protested. Because, in a system of systemic racism and inequity, those in high places have an investment in keeping the system just the way it is. If you tell them that the system is unjust, they will crucify you. 

For: 
June 14, 2020
Matthew 9:35-10:23
Matthew 5:3-12
Pentecost 2
Black Lives Matter
Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

Consider the thinness of the barrier that separates earthly and heavenly things. When Jesus was transfigured, he stepped over that spiritual barrier in an instant. Then he stepped back.

For: 
February 23, 2020
Matthew 17:1-9
Epiphany 7
Transfiguration Sunday

I think we have to value compassion, character, and the heart for justice as core biblical values. If we advocate for these things consistently, then entering into the political fray is both necessary and within the pastor’s role. We must support politicians who: 1)Have actually made things with their own hands, or brought healing to the sick, or acted against their own interests for justice to be done...

Jesus says about his kingdom, "For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth."

Jesus' Kingdom of God is real. 1) God has chosen a process that involves our participation. For now, we have to choose Jesus to be the king of our lives. Where Jesus is loved, he is king. 2) Transparency and truthfulness are core values in the Christian gospel. 3) The justice of God's kingdom involves embracing even those who believe differently, are of a different ethnicity or national origin, or choose their life-partners differently than we do.

For: 
November 25, 2018
John 18:33-37
Christ the King
Pentecost 29

King Herod had a critic named John. First he put John in jail and then he beheaded him, but that didn’t silence the baptizing prophet for we read his words still. John the Baptist is the patron saint of those who protest against injustice today. John was a journalist before there was newsprint. So on this weekend following the Fourth of July, we remember John’s martyrdom at the hands of Herod Antipas, as well as the slain journalists in Baltimore. I think the spirit of John the Baptist (or the “Dipping Man” in my Mary Sees All novel) leads us to ask, “When is Government Sinful?”

Government sin has three forms (in descending order):

  First, bad policy — This may not seem like sin at all, but ill-conceived tax cuts and poor environmental regulation shackles the next generation and betrays the Genesis 1:28 commandment that we be good stewards over the earth. Prophets and journalists speak about this sin with the opening phrase, “History will prove…”

  Second, social injustice — Here kings and presidents stoop lower to betray the poor, the refugee, and the innocent. They sin by their silence when people of color lose their children to aggressive policing. They sin by their quiet approval of hate groups. They sin in their closed door dealings with other rulers who oppress their people. Jesus, John the Baptist, the Old Testament prophets; Isaiah, Micah, Amos, and Hosea, lifted their voice against those who sinned against the poor. Religion must speak.

For: 
July 8, 2018
Mark 6:14-29
Pentecost 11

There is a common proverb that goes, “You better be careful what you ask for; because you just might get it.” This is true in politics, parenting, and in our prayers. I’ve come to believe that more people are impoverished by their wishes than by their misfortunes. We think we know what we want — we are all a bit like King Midas who wished to have everything he touched turn to gold, until he touched his daughter. We want wealth. (Play the lottery, anyone?) God wants us to have inner peace, the satisfaction of work done well, and relationships that don’t depend upon extravagant gift giving. We want to teach our kids the value of money, so we give them an allowance. They go out and compare it with what their friends are getting, and think better or worse of us. So in the end, we have taught them to value us only for our money.

Instead of the value of money, we should be teaching them the value of community, shared labor, and the unconditional nature of family love. The things we need to learn, are exactly the things we need to teach to our kids. When we pray, we ask God to give us our daily bread, so that we can break it and share it in love, rather than being led by our temptations to hoard it or be greedy. Be careful what you ask for.

For: 
June 10, 2018
I Samuel 8:4-20
Pentecost 3

The story of Jesus falls into two halves; the part before Palm Sunday and the week after it. Before Palm Sunday, Jesus very rarely says or does anything overtly political. He doesn’t seem to have any ambition other than to teach and heal people. Then suddenly he comes to Holy Week and everything he does is political. Before Palm Sunday, Jesus deals with us on the level playing field of interpersonal relationships and the fair exchange of ideas. He teaches in open fields where people can interrupt him and ask him questions. He forms an intimate circle of disciples where everyday life — how are you today, Peter?—is valued. He heals by touching and his favorite miracle is having a few loaves of bread multiply as they are passed from one hungry person to another.

On Palm Sunday he exits the egalitarian world and enters politics as we know it today. As he transitions into the walled and gated city of our newsfeed world, he does three symbolic acts to ask for our vote: 1) He accepts the nomination of his followers who shout that he is Messiah or King of Jews, 2) He rides a donkey through the Eastern Gate, fulfilling prophesies relating to a new political age, 3) He has people wave palm branches, which are symbolic reminders of an earlier revolution when the Maccabeans kicked the Seleucids out of Jerusalem.

In doing this Jesus challenges our hierarchal world. In a world where Caesar is over Pontius Pilate, who is over the people of Judea, Jesus says, “You would have no authority if God hadn’t given it to you.” In the religious world where the High Priest rules over lesser priests who rule over laity, Jesus announces his own unique relationship as the son of God. His very presence in Jerusalem, the capital, circumvents the established authority.

For: 
March 25, 2018
Mark 11:1-11
John 12:12-16
Palm Sunday
Lent 7

I think a fish could avoid getting caught if he learned to bite the fisherman instead of the bait. With this week’s shooting we have once again become polarized into two camps; some want to ban machine guns, and some of my friends are going out today to buy a gun because they fear that the second amendment is about to be taken out of the constitution. Both camps are thrashing around in someones boat. Our whole society seems caught in a net of polarized madness. Gun control one of two or three issues that are filleting America. This particular hook is baited by a diabolical organization, the NRA. They have taught their members to only vote for candidates that they have approved. They have collected vast sums of money to buy our democracy away from us.

I write this on election day and there are a number of judges on the ballot. There’s a whole book about judges in the Bible. Justice is important to God. It is fair to say that we don’t think about it until we need it. Going to court is a scary thing — I feel fortunate in never having to appear in court for anything that concerned me personally. I have been to court to testify for a parent wanting custody of their child. I have been to court to support friends charged with minor crimes. I have even taken notes for bankruptcy and property title proceedings. I have observed, as you have, a wide variety of court proceedings on TV. As scary as it is to go to court, it is even scarier to be denied the right to go to court and be fairly judged.

In the bible we read about widows who were not allowed to appear in court and receive the inheritance that they needed. Even today, there are those in our society that are denied economic justice.

There are many places in the world where persons can be jailed and/or executed without a trial before a jury of their peers. We should be concerned when our president blusters about denying infamous suspects their day in court. If justice is denied to the those we read about in the newspapers, how long will it be before justice is denied to the rest of us?

Many people of color have a personal story of when our justice system failed them. Our country is not a level playing field. We as a people are engaged in a long march towards a time when gender, race, age, or who you fall in love with, will not effect ones freedom, opportunities, or respect in the eyes of the law.

For: 
November 12, 2017
Amos 5:18-24
Pentecost 27
I discovered this week that I share certain religious views with Steve Bannon (the man responsible for Trump). Like Bannon, I have a religious appreciation for the work of social historians Strauss and Howell who developed generational theory (the bit about boomers and millennials, etc). S&H wrote in the 1990s about how American culture changes as each generation comes into adulthood and then fades away, and that these generations discharge their leadership in a predictable ways. Generations cycle, according to a great 300 year calendar. There is now an Unraveling and a Fourth Turning (our current era). S&H predicted that a wise elder would leads us out of this chaos. Where I part with Steve Bannon is that he believes that Trump is this messiah.

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