Friday, January 23, 2009

Post-Inaugural "You did NOT just go there!"

We have a new president. More than that, history has been made as we have our first African-American president. That alone is worth being excited about, and if you happen to be a supporter of his party and progressive values, you are probably walking on air this week. Even many of those who did not support President Obama in the election are now hopeful and optimistic about his administration, because those are the qualities he seems to carry with him, and there is no arguing they have been contagious.

Now some folks are not so excited. I understand that. I also understand some of their concerns since I share many of the values of those who supported Sen McCain. But here is what I have found so disappointing. The negative comments I have heard from some of my Christian brothers and sisters have gone beyond civil political dissent and have bordered on, and in some cases in refernce to President Obama, have crossed the line entirely on being racist. Seriously? Are you kidding me?

I am just incredulous that among the very people who ought to be on the front lines of battling all kinds of prejudice and racism and arrogant bigotry, I find the heartbeat of such evil alive and well within some of them. How grieved the heart of God must be!

All those years of walking in grace and they are still so ruled by fear, ignorance, bigotry, insecurity, and pride. Oh, they wear a very convincing mask to cover this sin and its corroding effects most of the time. And in their mostly-all-white world, the mask is just thick enough for them to fool themselves and each other. Those outside of their world can smell the deceit, but within the upper middle-class white Christian bubble, we only need to deceive ourselves. But when the mask is put to the test (as in having to accept an African-American president from the opposing party), it cracks and exposes the ugliness underneath.

And these are the same ones who pray fervently for revival within our nation, imploring God to bring the spiritual cynics and skeptics to a place of faith. Well maybe the problem is not God's lack of action. Maybe the problem is that we reflect a heart and mind so repugnant that spiritually curious people want nothing to do with it. From what I have heard recently, I can't blame them.

This breaks my heart because I am so oriented to reaching out to people with grace and trying to understand their point of view. But this requires so much more from those who value the principles of God's kingdom. At times, even Jesus had to say words like this:

Matthew 23: 1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

5 “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels.6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’

. . .12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! . . . 23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!

. . . 27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

No wonder people write books with titles like, "Jesus, Rescue Me From Your Followers," and "They Like Jesus But Not the Church" and "Jesus Wants to Save Christians."

May God forgive me for being so blind that I have been able to move through this world without noticing that not as much has changed as I had imagined. Again, Lord Jesus, give me your eyes.

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