Saturday, August 28, 2010

My "Political" Agenda

I grew up conservative. My father was a Church of Christ minister. My mother was the daughter of a Church of Christ minister. My parents were part of the foundation of Eagle Forum and Right to Life in the communities my Father preached in at the time. The Church of Christ, as the old saying goes, is so conservative, they don't believe in premarital sex because it leads to dancing. In fact, I sat on the stage in gym class while my classmates learned to square dance. I sat in the library while my classmates went to the local high school pool because I wasn't allowed to engage in “mixed” swimming with members of the opposite sex, in the third grade. Consequently I did not learn to swim until the age of thirty.

When I was fourteen I became obsessed with politics. I studied government, as a homeschooler, on my own for the last five years of my school career. I read the constitution on a regular basis, and studied the writings of the founders. I became the youngest delegate from our district at the age of eighteen for the state republican convention, I paiged at the state capitol and helped Istook get elected as a campaign volunteer. I was dyed in the wool Republican and could not see how anyone that claimed to be a democrat and a Christian could possibly sleep at night, and might in fact be suffering from dissociative personality disorder.

My family came out of the frying pan into the fire by making the transition from the Church of Christ into a spirit filled charismatic Church, with three hour worship and lots of speaking in tongues, in the height of the charismatic renewal of the mid to late eighties. I was firmly convinced that the United States was God's plan for the salvation of the planet and in this environment was no lack of voices to give me spiritual “confirmation” on that point

My disillusionment with this idea began some time after I was married, at age twenty, when the Church I was actively attending, and running an active drama ministry and serving as a volunteer youth intern in, began to fall apart. I, of course, had long ago realized that my parents were far from perfect, but my eyes were not opened yet to how flawed we all are. I believed in these men, our pastors and elders, as “men of God”, which they were. But, my understanding of this went through a major paradigm shift when they began to make secretive decisions and hand down edicts that effected myself, my ministry and my good friends who were pastors there.

It sent me back to the study of scripture which had been a huge part of my upbringing, and was an active part of my life but became needed rather than something I did because I was supposed to. My father's pattern had always been to teach through the entire Bible every year, hitting high points along the way. Until I was twenty I could count the number of Sundays I was not in a pew, in my entire life, so I knew scripture. My own study had paralleled my father's preaching and I loved nothing better than to sit in the corner of his study and discuss the Bible with him. This time I began to see things a little differently.

I had always believed that my own family was poor due in some way to my father's failings. My beliefs dictated that some sin, or wrong attitude, had brought him to the place he deserved to be. He had left the ministry when we moved from the Church of Christ, and the Church I was serving in went so far as to disallow him to pray for people, (on a prayer team he had been instrumental in founding), because his financial failures were (obviously) a distinct indication that he was in grave sin.

But, I had begun to notice a pattern in the teachings of Christ. He seemed to have little good to say about money and the rich, while his heart for the poor is obviously stirred. I tracked down the roots of this and found that the Mosaic and Levitical law that I had been told and had believed was the foundation of conservatism, and capitalism, has a lot to say about how the poor were to be treated. Land owners were commanded to leave a percentage of their fields unharvested so that the poor, the orphans and widows and aliens (immigrants from other countries) could gather and eat the crop. This was in addition to their tithes. The children of Israel were commanded to treat strangers in their land as well or even better, in some cases, than their brothers. One third of the tithe was to be set aside in each city as a store house for the poor and alien, to provide sustenance for them.

I had also always believed that the law of sowing and reaping governed success in life, and that a person was responsible to dig themselves out when things went awry. I believed that if I failed it was because I had stepped outside of God's will for me and that my time, money and every word out of my mouth had to be accounted for by the most draconian measures, that any deviation from “good stewardship”, was grounds for the wrath of God to be unleashed in my life and that poverty was a judgment from God. Counter to this was the belief that capitalism was “God's system” that he intended for us to build wealth for future generations, and that he had a plan for me that would lead to that wealth. Of course this meant that profit, so long as it was honestly and legally gained, was always good, no matter what the means.

If this was true, why had God forbidden his children from charging interest on loans, and further more, why were all debts forgiven every seven years? By the way this is the basis for our modern day bankruptcy court. But bankruptcy, of course was the ultimate sign of God's disfavor. How could a good person, with God's best in mind for his fellow man, ever come to such a low point that he could not pay back what he owed.

The problem with this is, well, Jesus. He tells us to give to those who have no means to repay. He tells a story of a master who forgives debts and he tells a young man to take his family fortune and give it all to the poor, the same poor who were obviously so irresponsible that they had lost their own money, or were unable to hear God's whispered hints about their own personal road to riches. Then,when this man goes away sad because he was very wealthy, Jesus says it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to find his way into the kingdom of God. WOW

He also said, “Do not store up treasure for yourselves on Earth”. He told a story about a farmer who, instead of giving from his wealth to the poor decided to build a bigger barn to horde it all. He goes on to say that the man's soul was required of him that night and asked, “who will have your wealth now.”

So, what do I think was God's plan? Why did he chide those who were ready to stack coins end to end to the sky and create a system that reshuffled the deck every seven years? Because he knew our tendency to become attached, to fall to idol worship. He knew that, unchecked, the amassing of wealth would become greed, that greed would lead to power and that power would be abused, destroying the weak and the poor. This is why Christ also said, “No man can serve two masters, he will love the one and hate the other or hate the first and love the second, you cannot serve God and the wealth of this world.”

What do I believe this means? I don't fully know. Here's what I do know. Conservatism is a man made ideal that is built on trying to enforce enough rules to make one Godly. Liberalism is a man made ideal that frequently refuses to hold anyone accountable for their actions. God is a God of mercy and grace who holds all of us accountable to a standard that is impossibly high, then, in a stroke of genius, he sacrifices himself in the form of his Son to pay the price for me to meet the standard.

So, as for me, I swear no allegiance to any kingdom but the kingdom of God. I strive to be the best citizen of the country in which He has placed me because that is what He has called me to, not because I owe anything to any government. I choose to spend my time and energy in furthering the cause of the one that shed his blood for me and not anyone's political agenda. I will vote my conscience, as I believe all American's should, and when I cannot I will abstain from voting rather than default to a party candidate on either side. I will fight for justice for the poor and the alien as I believe He has called me to and I will strive to remember that He seeks to reconcile ALL of the nations of the Earth to himself, not just ours, and I will pray and work for that in any way that he calls me to, as fearlessly, tirelessly and guilelessly as he gives me strength to be.

In short I choose to LOVE, LOVE, SERVE

Love God
Love Others
Serve Everyone


Justin said...

Awesome. Thanks for sharing this. I know so many xians who think God founded the USA, and is the head chair of the republican party. It's so discouraging to see this in the church... So good hear of someone breaking free.

Justin said...

It's very discouraging to see how deep this "American Lie" has buried itself in the church. So glad to read about the freedom Christ has brought you. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Mark, thank you for sharing your heart and your beliefs...beautifully stated. I agree whole-heartedly.

~ Rebekah Hampton