Pastor’s View on Politics as we Know It

James Howell, pastor of Myers Park UMC in Charlotte, has a great article in the Charlotte Observer.  Here is a link to the whole article and a little snippet below.  Howell’s title I think sums it all up perfectly, Fear, Lying Politicians and Trust

Whether you believe in God or not, let me offer a few suggestions. We need not cower in fear. We can trust ourselves. We can trust our country. We can trust our fellow citizens, who actually have some wisdom. Maybe we can try a little more humility. Who’s cocky enough to have all the answers, while everybody else is a kook? Could some modesty be the opening we all need to listen, to lower the temperature, and realize we might figure out ways to work together, and not condemn each other but trust the fledgling goodness in each other?

I also really liked.

We can decide that the best thing for each one of us, for our country, and for our world is to shackle this fear, to refuse to play victim, and choose to trust ourselves, and our country, and even God, and move forward, not hoping our foes fail miserably, but striving together to succeed.

Take some time and read the article and I trust you will.


Advertisements

USA = Un-Sacrificial America

The United States of America has seen better, more productive and affluent days.  Our economy is still struggling, we are in the longest war in our history, 9/11 is still fresh in peoples minds, and gas prices are nudging towards $4 a gallon again.  Mark this with rising college costs, lack luster job reports, political rhetoric and debates over fast food chicken and the countless other things in our society and it can be tiring.  Regular Americans are looking for hope and an upswing.

I know my job would be easier if the economy was doing better.  Then people may give more and my church wouldn’t be feeling the crunch we are feeling right now.  I too would love an upswing so I could possibly get a raise and provide a little ease in my personal family budget.

These are not false hopes and pie in the sky ideals but to get to a healthier economy it will take something that the majority of Americans have forgotten about, sacrifice.  When our country was involved in other wars families were put on rations but my grocery store is still stocked to the hilt.  Women went to work in the factories because all the men were away, now, unless you have family in the military you probably don’t think about the men and women overseas in the war zone.

Generations behind mine, those who grew up in the first part of the 20th century understood what it mean to sacrifice for our country.  Not just with military service but with financial implications to their daily lives as well.  I am sure they probably didn’t like it and some probably fought it, but it was better for our country as a whole and made it possible for us to be where we are today.

If we are going to EVER get out of the debt we are in; if we are ever going to get back to an economy which is beneficial to everyone (let’s face it some people are still making a ton of money these days); if we are going to be a healthy society that seeks equality; if we are going to have local, bottom level, governments allowed to provide for its citizens then it will take sacrifice.

There seems to be a mentality now that somehow government either by increasing it’s size or decreasing it’s size will fix everything.  Cutting spending and taxes or increasing our spending and taxes will solve all our problems.  But the truth lies in simple math.  If we want to get out of debt then we have to spend less than we take in.  It will take sacrifice to get there.

As a Christian I am use to the idea of sacrifice because I worship a savior that sacrificed everything for me and all of humanity.  I promise I will learn contentment and practice simplicity if it means I can help build up this wonderful country I call home.  I am willing to give a little more if it means others will have something.  I am willing to do without in order for others to have something.  But that is just me.

If you asked people in your local Walmart if they would be willing to do the same I have a hunch they would say no.  Somehow all our problems will have to disappear and be made better without it effecting people.  That is because we, as a culture, are not willing to sacrifice for the greater community.  We are a WIFM (What’s-In-it-For-Me) Culture and according to that ideology sacrifice is not worth the cost.

Are you willing to make a sacrifice to better our country, our world?

GCB = Look at real church?

Logo comes from ABC

We are only two weeks into ABC’s new series GCB, based of a book Good Christian Bitches by Kim Gatlin. I cannot speak to the book but I have seen both episodes of the ABC show.  Newt Gingrich called attention to it stating that the show is anti-Christian.  Here is what I have seen so for in these two episodes.


These group of ultra-rich ladies from Dallas are all members of United Memorial Church in Dallas Texas (not it is not a far leap from Memorial to Methodist).  During their visits they hobnob with key people in their society, talk bad about people behind their back, and use parts of worship as a soap box to push their agendas.  Then during the week they use scripture to back up their daily decision, which are usually a little ‘desperate.’  But I look at it and I though, I know what to call this…CHURCH!


Is the problem that GCB is anti-Christian or possibly a more accurate description of what church is like across the US or somewhere in between?  Of course any TV show character trying to sum up one giant group of people, in this case Texas Christians, with stereotypes and over-exaggeration.  But it might show us true Christians who how the world perceives us.  


On any given Sunday there are parking lot talks about power play when decisions are on the line.  Egos step in front of ministries and social status can equal church membership cards.  Depending on what a person is seeking in their life may direct them to a certain congregation.  As one person put it, “My father told me that I should attend _________ Church because I can rub elbow with the most important people of this town.”


Church is home to backstabbing, narcissism, bullying, and all ten commandments being broken.  This is because we are broken people.  This is no surprise to anyone who stands behind the pulpit or leads a congregation.  Even better, lead any committee and you will understand this within your first meeting.  


My question is are people made because GCB gives Christians a bad name or are they angry that the stereotypes look too real?


I’ll end with this quote from Margaret Feinberg from her article on CNN’s Belief Blog.


” ‘GCB’ challenges every Christian – including me – to consider our own faith journey and if our talk really matches our walk. When do we fall prey to petty, gossipy, vindictive attitudes and actions? In our own lives, when do we allow “GCB” to get the best of us?  The show has the potential to showcase themes such as forgiveness and redemption. For everyone’s sake, I hope it does.”

MLK Day

This holiday weekend is always odd to me.  Odd not in why we celebrate or commemorate the work that Martin Luther King, Jr did and how he changed our society.  Odd in the reaction to it.

I’m white.  I have grown up in and ministered to white congregations.  Always at this time of year, within my congregation, I hear complaints about this holiday.  “Why do we need to celebrate this day?”  Growing up I remember hearing horrible jokes (which I confess I laughed at or acted like I agreed with) about this holiday as well.  Of course all of these comments and jokes came from whites.  They don’t see the need and then in turn complain about this holiday.  This gives credence to the idea that we have not come very far from the society that MLK Jr. changed.

In my life and ministry I have grown to admire and look forward to this Sunday because it gives me a chance to name and show my congregation what God can do.  Whether you are white, black, brown, yellow, green or some shade in between, you have to admire a man who gave his life to a higher purpose, to a higher calling, and changed the world.  This doesn’t happen that often in our worlds.  It has to be something we admire and stop to commemorate.

MLK Jr. was a man of God.  He was a minister.  It surprises me that in this culture which looks for people to hold up and show the world the power of Christianity (Tebow for example) that more Christians don’t celebrate the reality that as a nation we pause and give thanks for the work a man of God did for this country.  Thank you Martin Luther King, Jr. for having the courage and audacity to follow your calling.

Holiness or Morality

At my covenant group this morning there was an interesting point that was made. One of my fellow brothers of the cloth stated that one of the issues in today’s church culture is that people think that morality and holiness are the same. When they seek to walk with God, to be a follower of Christ, and to profess their faith what they really mean is that they want to be moral creatures, not to move towards holiness. I thought this was a clever observation.

Morality is defined as “Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good or bad behavior.” It is looking at the world and seeing it as choices between doing the right thing or good thing verses doing the wrong or bad thing. Many people view being a Christian as doing this as well. WWJD. I am a good Christian because I did not speed to church, run any red lights, and stayed away from sinful desires like alcohol and sex. I gave back the extra money the check out girl gave me at the grocery store and I helped an old lady across the street. I am a good Christian because I did these things or because I made these choices.
Holiness though is the “process of becoming holy.” As a United Methodist this is something ingrained into my theological DNA. John Wesley’s idea of sanctifying grace is the idea of moving towards holiness. Sanctifying Grace is God’s work through us to help mold us and share the love of God with the world. It is living out the 25th chapter of Matthew where we are to take care of the least of these. Holiness is being Christ’s image in our daily lives.
The difference between holiness and morality is that holiness goes farther than morality ever can. Morality is about a decision. Do I turn right or left. Morality looks at the 10 Commandments and sees a list to help guide decisions. But to be a follower of Christ is more than simply following a set of rules. If we look at the story of the Rich Young Ruler (pick any Gospel’s version of the story) we can see this lived out. The man comes to Jesus and asks how to receive eternal life. Jesus tells him to follow the commandments, which the man replies he does. Then Jesus tells him to go further and step beyond the mere following of rules. “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus asks him to move beyond morality and into holiness and the man goes away upset.
Too often we water down the gospel to mere morality. We do not profess the requirement found in Leviticus 19:22 and echoed again in 1 Peter; “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am Holy.” May we continue to push beyond what makes us feel better about ourselves, the idea of making right choices and may we be able to make the hard and harsh choices that come with following Jesus and being truly holy.

Square Peg into Round Hole

Tis the season. The horrible time of year when many Christians wage war on the culture around them and demand their religious Holy Day be recognized. Some call it a clash of cultures; others the “War on Christmas.” I call it a time to roll my eyes and once again grin and bear it, silently…sort of.

I look at this cultural issue like the picture here. It is a square peg being forced into a round hole. Over and over again, year after year, Christians in the United States complain, rant, and belittle the culture around them. Through this repetitive cultural beating their hope is that everyone recognize Christmas. WHAM. They protest people saying Happy Holidays because somehow it puts Jesus back in Mary’s womb. WHAM. They tattle tale on different business that aren’t because they haven’t fallen in line with what they deem as the only means of hello or goodbye during this time. (click here to see what I mean, the name alone speaks of the common mix between culture and religious belief) WHAM. I start to hit my head on my wall in my office when I read stories like this one from the UM Reporter. WHAM, *ohh that one hurt a little*

My biggest frustration is the lack of clarity by many of the Christians in the US. What needs to be clarified is that, sorry to drop this bomb, but we are not a Christian Nation. We are a nation with a lot of Christians in it. This means that the culture in this nation should not be held accountable to our Holy Days. We are not the only religion that celebrates meaningful days during the month of December so Happy Holidays is a little more all encompassing, compassionate, and understanding.

For many Christians I think they look at our culture, our nation, and see a round peg because they are a round peg. They would like everything to be like them. But the truth is our culture is square. It is formed differently than Christians are formed. Our culture is formed by democracy, capitalism, the media, and tons of other forces. Christians are to be formed by Christ. See the difference?

Instead of banging on the square peg trying to force it to go through the round hole, why not realize you are the round peg that fits there. Instead of shouting about how Christmas is being forgotten, why not embrace our culture in the way we are taught by the one who forms us? Why not be Christ’s love for the world. I have a feeling if more Christians did this that square peg would turn round quicker.