Saturday, May 22, 2010

Will we make it?

No doubt about it. There is an increased sense of polarization in our country. Each side in any argument, surrounding every issue, is circling the wagons, lobbing grenades at someone else, and wants to make sure there’s a clear winner and loser. In November, we’ll elect a new Congress. It’s going to be a mess I think. Whomever is elected will be beholding to a very narrow interest group. God forbid that anyone, then, does any kind of independent thinking or seek bi-partisan agreement. For sure, their time in office will be short lived. Deeply entrenched positioning is the sign of the times.

Underneath the fragmentation of our political system is some high grade fear, some genuine loathing, and an unprecedented disdain for anyone who believes contrary to whatever ‘groupthink’ you find yourself aligned with. There’s also some good old fashioned racism, ageism, and sexism that manages to poison the well. There’s a shrillness of opinion in the air that, frankly, scares me a great deal.

Somewhere in the not so distant future we’re in for some deep trouble. In a few years when the locus of power has shifted I’m wondering if there might be some pay back for abuses of power and authority. The culture of hate we are pretty willingly buying into now will take root and be a permanent part of the landscape. It is not the type of world I want to leave for my children and grandchildren.

So I wonder. Are we willing participants in sowing seeds of discord that will reap a harvest of future pain? The answer is clear. I think we are. We stand in judgment these days on just about everything. We’re not well read. We don’t listen well. We’re passive. Often, we vote to preserve our own interests. We equate the American dream with the Kingdom of God. And we believe opinion is wisdom.

Even in our churches we want to hear messages that allow us to stay in the same place doing the same old things …even if they’re sinful. We tithe to ourselves making sure our places of worship look pretty and inviting and our kids and us have the best. We hide behind ‘proof texting’ (finding a verse in the scripture that justifies our position) but know very little about the whole counsel of god. And we cozy up to this political party or that because they represent our (and thus God’s) point of view. We label anyone outside our little religious club as either being misguided or outright sinful.

We often live in isolated little ghettoes of misunderstanding. We look for safety when God is calling us to the risky business of faith. And all too often we remain quiet in the midst of great need because that need really doesn’t infringe on our style and standard of living. So why care?

So, in some degree we are part of the problem plaguing both our faith and the ills of our country and the world. We just don’t care enough to make the sacrifices necessary to challenge what’s evil and move out of our comfort zone to ask the right questions and do the right things to help bring some sanity to our country that is dangerously close to imploding upon itself.

So what do we do? I’ve been reading the 11th and 12th chapters of Hebrews recently. It reminds me of some important steps that can help me to address cultural insanity. In Hebrews I find a call to become familiar with the great cloud of witness that has gone before me. Their witness informs my life. That means I need to dive into Scripture to rediscover how those before me lived faithful lives in the midst of some very challenging cultural times. From them I get a good compass heading.

I’m also reminded to look for the sin that so easily ensnares me. That should concern you too. If we find ourself infuriated much of the time and spouting off about Obama or Palin, or afraid of African Americans or Hispanics, or thowing verbal bombs in the direction of liberals or conservatives …that’s a problem. It means we’re taking too much ugly stuff into our life. We need to root it out, confess it, and repent from it.

Then I have to find the road on which I’m to run my race. My race isn’t yours but there will be some remarkable similarities. On each road the shadow of the cross falls. Our race will take us through unfamiliar territory. At times it will feel a bit lonely. But then we fix our eyes on Jesus who’s the author and perfector of our faith journey. He’s our constant companion.

As you make a habit of Scripture, of repentance, and running the good race I want you to consider the following. Look for opportunities to face your fears, your biases and prejudices. If you’re a conservative, befriend a liberal. If you have strong opinions about illegal immigration get to know an illegal immigrant. If you are an evangelical and don’t like those liturgical types …find one to dialogue with. If you’re a sanctimonious liberal find a compassionate conservative to help you understand his/her point of view. If you take a trip to Israel make sure you spend some time in dialogue with a Palestinian.

Whatever it is you ‘hate’ or hold in low regard needs to become humanized. As long as we intellectualize issues and movements and fail to see its human face we will never understand the complexities and nuances of the problems before us. If all we're doing in our life is spouting ‘opinion’ chances are we're not running the good race. We're just running our mouth. That makes us part of the problem.

As long as we are kept captive by our pre-set positions and attitudes there is little opportunity for God to work in our lives or for us to be of much earthly good. Here’s the deal. We are at a scary time in history. But it is also a time of great opportunity. I think we are on a collision course towards some potentially horrible things here in America and in the greater world. But we don’t have to stay on that course. It’s going to take ‘us’ getting serious about how we are going to live our lives going forward. Enough people, living in the reality of the Kingdom, can make a huge difference.

If we stay where we are doing the same things over and over again we will live in an insanity spiral that’s going to lead to all kind of nasty things. It sounds trite to say this but ‘we are either part of the solution or part of the problem’.

Will we make it? Don’t know for sure. I do know that I’ve got some work to do. Maybe you do too.

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