Let’s make Some Deals

Recovering from the throes of the election is like recovering from a hangover. As we engaged wholeheartedly in the process because some of us were so fearful of where Romney, Ryan and Randian views on rugged individualism would lead us as a people, I kept telling myself, “This too shall pass but probably like a kidney stone!”

Now, it is over and our task is to try to restore a trace of civility to our life together. In Christ there are no red-blue distinctions. We are one in what Paul and the church aptly describe as the Body of Christ-the body of the risen, cosmic Christ who has overcome sin and death, and all categories that divide. In the kin-dom proclaimed by Jesus and already present to us and among us, there is no Jew nor Greek, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, male or female, red or blue. We are all one in the Risen Christ! The command is quite simple, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

We can love one another and disagree, not so much on basic Gospel values, but on how to to get to the goals inherent in Gospel principles. We must recognize in a pluralistic society that there will be issues where civil law will be behind or more likely ahead of our current grasp of Gospel principles.

For starters, I suggest you take this quiz. It is quite informative http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/02/politics/red-blue-state-jesus/index.html?hpt=hp_c4. Is your Christ red or blue?

Next, study the Christian Scriptures. Look at the early church. Paul, the late comer apostle to the Gentiles, had a serious dispute with Jesus’ brother, James, and ever-volatile Peter over circumcision. Examine it. Is it really that different from any of the life issues which divide us? Trusting in the power of the Spirit of the Risen Christ to bring about love and unity, they disagreed and worked out a compromise. Paul would preach to the God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue communities who would not bear the mark of circumcision and the more conservative Peter and James would preach to the circumcised. They, under the guidance of the Spirit, found a way to live and work together for the greater good of growing the Body of Christ.

Bishop Bernadine taught us about the web of sacred life. As Christians, we cannot cherry-pick life issues of our suiting. Life is sacred from birth to death. Singling out abortion, for example, is a straw issue. My experience is that very few people believe in abortion. People will rail against abortion and have bumper stickers, which support the troops (= support government sponsored murder in war). People in California fight against abortion and turn around and support an amendment to keep the death penalty.

The scriptures teach love. A subcategory of love is respect. Scientific evidence shows us that 2-3 % percent of any given population has a different sexual orientation. It behooves us to study modern science and scriptures. No one wakes up on their 14th birthday and makes a conscious choice, “I think I will be gay or straight.” We understand that scriptures which “supported” slavery or the subordination of women were the expressions of then current cultural biases. The same holds true for the scripture passages used to beat up on gay and lesbian people. We must examine religious biases on the basis of contemporary knowledge and evidence.

The teaching of the Risen Christ clearly tells us tbat we will be judged on how we treated the least among us. We have been saved and our names have been written in heaven; however, we also have a Matthew 25 responsibility to do justice, to restore right order. Spending over half of our national budget on defense while ignoring the needs for food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care by reducing these critical expenditures is immoral. Building bigger and better nukes while warehousing children in substandard, underfunded schools is a crime and a sin. Where do we strike the balance? Budgets are moral documents.

The issue of immigration has been on the back burner. Now, Republicans, suffering the sting of defeat, are starting to refocus on immigration reform. This will not be popular with much of their base; however, the realities of the situation compel us to fashion immigration reform that is workable. Our Hebrew forbears were once aliens in a strange land. Many of us came from immigrant stock. Employers in search of cheap labor have looked the other way on legal documentation for years. Crops wasted in Georgia fields last years because there was no one to pick them.

Ignoring the warnings of reputable scientists about climate change can have disastrous effects as Sandy clearly showed. If human-generated pollution accounted for just 10% of Sandy’s calamitous impact, it was 10% too much. Debating the reality of climate change is fiddling while New York drowns. There is an intimate connection between humans and the creation that sustains us. What goes around comes around when Mother Nature, beguiled by our self-centeredness, strikes back.

The stock market has plummeted the last two days. One pundit blamed it in declines in the value of bank and defense stocks. Now we are at the bottom line–the market driven quest for profit at all costs. Financial institution are wary of much needed government regulation. Defense contractors fear budget cuts. Unmitigated greed brought about the current economic crisis. We now know that unconscionably accumulated wealth rarely trickles anywhere (except to offshore accounts and blind trusts) let alone down. Multinationals must be reined in. Adam Smith’s invisible hand is rarely benign. Multinationals bear a responsibility toward us and creation.

Living in a democratic republic requires compromise, the art of the possible. Gospel red-letter values temper the process of compromise with love, respect and social awareness. Dialogue is essential. Gandhi reminds us that our goal is not to make enemies of our opponents when we speak out but rather to make friends. Each person has a piece of the truth—despite the fact that many religious people think they have THE truth. Merton teaches us that we must look to the evil in our own hearts before pointing fingers at others. In dialogue we seek the truth the other person speaks and we speak our truth. This requires humility. This requires contemplative practice. Then and only then can we can bring our gifts to the altar.

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