Sunday, August 21, 2005

Does the Right Really Have Faith?

Today's theme has become faith. This morning I leaned heavily on Matthew 5. The heart of this chapter is the Beatitudes. You know..." blessed are the _______." What is truly amazing about the Beatitudes is that today none of them can be applied to the Religious Right. Men like Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Pat Robertson do not fit into any of Jesus' descriptions of the "blessed".

After reading the new Newsweek's take on American's search for the spiritual, I am comforted that to most Americans the venomous politically motivated church of the Religious Right seems to have little sway over American's true quest for the spiritual.

Newsweek finds something that has been mostly ignored by the media in its desire to create a "values" revolution led by politically well connected right wing ideologues, with specific social agendas. According to Newsweek:

"Today, then, the real spiritual quest is not to put another conservative on the Supreme Court, or to get creation science into the schools. If you experience God directly, your faith is not going to hinge on whether natural selection could have produced the flagellum of a bacterium. If you feel God within you, then the important question is settled; the rest is details."

Despite assertions to the contrary, the faith of the right is not the faith of the people. It is the faith of the powerful. It is a faith based on blind obedience to what others tell us is the will of God. Apparently, Americans are working to figure out the will of God, without turning to Justice Sunday (Part I or Part II).

"...The NEWSWEEK/Beliefnet Poll found that more Americans, especially those younger than 60, described themselves as "spiritual" (79 percent) than "religious" (64 percent). Almost two thirds of Americans say they pray every day, and nearly a third meditate.

These figures tell you more about what Americans care about than a 10,000-foot-high monument to the Ten Commandments. "You can know all about God," says Tony Campolo, a prominent evangelist, "but the question is, do you know God? You can have solid theology and be orthodox to the core, but have you experienced God in your own life?"

Christians don't care about "a 10,000-foot-high monument to the Ten Commandments?" Tell that to Judge Roy Moore and the media savvy evangelists who surrounded him in his battle to keep a monument of the commandments in the Alabama State Courthouse. Many Americans may disagree with removing the monument, but to them the stones are not a symbol of their faith.

"In the broadest sense, Campolo says, the Christian believer and the New Age acolyte are on the same mission: "We are looking for transcendence in the midst of the mundane." And what could be more mundane than politics? Seventy-five percent say that a "very important" reason for their faith is to "forge a personal relationship with God"—not fighting political battles."

From a progressive perspective, there is much here for which to be thankful. If Americans are more interested in a "personal relationship" with God, they are going to be less interested in having the government or some government approved new "Pharisees".

Our sermon today in church was based on John 4:7-15. I'll leave you with the words of Jesus (not Tony Perkins or James Dobson). Jesus didn't need millions of dollars and TV studios to get his word out. He still doesn't. After 2000 years his message is unchanged and his gift is still available to everyone just for the asking:

"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

How does the need to pack the Supreme Court fit with Jesus' message?