Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Christian Nation ?

The current political season is getting dirtier, nastier, and weirder than in just about any election season I can remember from the past.  The mudslinging began long ago but now there is even mud that is slung by groups that have names we do not know and those who are paying for the mud are protected behind the mask of nonprofit organizations.  A story on NPR yesterday talked about this dilemma--groups can form nonprofit organizations and have the same protection as churches and groups that do good works but their purpose is simply to put ads in the public media that are bent on saying negative things about others.  It is true that the others that they want to denigrate are running for public office but why can't we have elections where those who want to be elected simply tell us what they will do if we elect them instead of telling us how bad their rival is without ever telling us what they will do if elected?

In the recent run-off election of U.S. Senate in Texas, we were bombarded by political commercials many times in an hour of television broadcasting.  Even my daily dose of Jeopardy was interrupted by dirt filled commercials presented by both candidates for Senate.  I sat with my remote control in my hand while watching television and I muted both candidates' commercials, choosing to know nothing about either rather than be subjected to the venom they wanted to spew about their rival in the race.

The winner of that particular election is no better or worse than the other candidate, in my opinion, but he just managed to survive the attacks of his opponent and rallied his troops around enough to win the run-off.  He still has not won the Senate seat because he does face another opponent from the other political party in the general election in November.  How soon will those negative ads begin that we must mute time and again in order to not feel dirty after listening to them?

There are some in our land who call our country "a Christian nation".  They say we are founded on Christian principles and that our founders wanted our nation to be one wherein the Christian religion would be dominant.  Well, I don't know if I agree with them on that, but they have gotten exactly what they describe.  Christians are the dominant religion in American.  We far outnumber Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and adherents of every other faith tradition in the world.  If you take a survey of persons in America and ask them which, if any, religious tradition they claim as their own, Christianity would be the response of the majority, by a long shot.  If that is true, that we are a predominantly Christian nation, then why don't most people in the USA believe in or live by the principles taught by Jesus Christ himself?

It is not hard to find what Jesus believed or taught.  Just pick up your Bible that Christians are supposed to have handy, many of which have the words of Jesus printed in red so that they are easy to locate, and just read what he said.  The first group of his teachings are in the first gospel of Matthew, early on.  They are grouped together in what we call "The Sermon on the Mount".  It begins with all the "blesseds" and continues several chapters where Jesus tells his followers to love others, even their enemies, and to live in a peaceful, noncombative way, where all people coexist in love and harmony.  Jesus lays out his plan for life in those chapters and even teaches people how to pray, asking forgiveness in the same way that they forgive others.  He tells his followers not to worry, but to trust God in all the things they do.  He says not to judge others but think the best of everyone.

How can a "Christian nation" be one where people take guns into theaters or places of worship and murder others with little regard to who may be hurt?  How can a "Christian nation" allow mean spirited elections to be the order of the day with no controls?  How can such a land be a place where some even persecute and denigrate others in the name of Jesus Christ and think they are doing God's Will?  (I think Jesus may have touched on that topic too.)  If we truly want to be a Christian nation, then should we not try to live by the principles that Jesus taught?  Should we not attempt to think about that "What Would Jesus Do?" idea as we make decisions?  Should we not hold our leaders and those who want to lead us accountable for the way they conduct their election campaigns?  Shouldn't we really live out what we believe Jesus wants us to do in our lives and not just believe them?

I do not have all the answers.  I am very filled with questions of my own.  I am very saddened that we live in a land where human life is so cheap that anyone can murder others with no thought of who they kill and we allow it to happen again and again without taking actions to stop the violence.  I am very saddened that our political process has turned into a mud bath that we must endure because our laws allow it to be so.  I do not know what to do about any of these concerns except to raise the questions and hope that others will also be concerned and that somehow we will jointly live the Golden Rule so that our lives may be better in the future.  As we often say in Christian worship....Christ, have mercy; God, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

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