The Politics of Faith (Pt 1)

Good Morning Brothers and Sisters…

Somewhere along the way, I realized that my country was actually a religious organization and my Church was a political organization. I am not exactly sure when this epiphany occurred, but it has opened my eyes to see many things I never saw before. I know that some of you have sat back in your chair, wrinkled up your brow, and are thinking that whatever marbles I may have had…have spilled out across the table. All I ask, is that you hear me out.

As with many things, I need an analogy to help me frame the conversation, or to understand the principle involved. Often enough, I turn to sports to find the analogy. Coaches desire athletes who are fundamentally sound and can ‘think’, or ‘see’ the game. The normal practice routines are intended to train both of these areas. It doesn’t matter what the sport is, the fundamentals are techniques that are used on every play. Proper stance, foot placement, hand placement, alignment, center of gravity, head up, shoulders square, etc-etc are just some of the things coaches teach their players every day. The fundamentals are called that because they form the foundation of the athletes ability to play the game. Coaches do not want their players to think about the fundamentals, they want them to become instinctual. Fundamentals can be taught and if they are drilled repetitively, they can be become an instinctual, automatic response. However, good coaches recognize that even after the fundamentals become instinctual, they cannot be ignored during practice, but must still be repeated, even if the frequency of the drills are less. This is called ‘formation’. The coaches are forming the athlete into a player through repetitive drilling on the fundamentals.  The coaches also teach strategy and recognition of the opponents strategy. This is an ever changing set of criteria. The time spent learning plays, watching film, walking through the opponents tendencies and the responses to them are all necessary for success. Depending on the position of the player (quarterback, point guard, first baseman, the anchor runner in the relay, etc), the amount of information may be more or less. Not every athlete has the ability to ‘think’, or ‘see’ the game beyond their fundamentals. This is called ‘education’. The coaches are educating the athlete into a player through teaching them strategy and how to ‘think’ the game. Both ‘formation’ and ‘education’ are equally important to the success of a team…or a country…or a faith.

When I was a child, I stood at attention every morning, placed my right hand over my heart, and said (in fellowship with my peers), “I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America…”. I also learned to stand, remove my hat, face the flag, place my right hand over my heart, and sing the ‘National Anthem’ before certain events in community with others. I learned that red, white, and blue were the patriotic colors of our country and represent ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’. I have been ‘formed’ this way. This was/is a national liturgy of a belief system. The repetition was not designed to educate me, but ‘formulate’ me into a citizen that believes. The education that bolsters the formation came in history class and through society itself. I learned about Plymouth Rock, George Washington and the cherry tree, the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, and the massacre at Kent State. I learned these things and many other things designed to fill out my citizenship and solidify my belief in a country.  This is ‘religion’.

Jesus has many titles but one of them is ‘King’. In fact, ‘King of Kings’ would be more accurate. There is a long line of earthly rulers (Herod, Caesar, Ogimachi, etc) that were opposed to Jesus because He was a King. Many rulers over the centuries didn’t care what their citizens did in their private lives as long as it didn’t interfere, or disrupt, their rule. Early Rome, was very good at conquering other countries and mixing their religious idiosyncrasies with the rest, as long as, everyone acknowledged Caesar as God-like, the ultimate King. Everyone pretty much got in that line except the Christians. The early Church was opposed to paying taxes to the temples of false gods even though these temples were set up and run by the government. (The government used a temple tax to build the treasury for municipality needs, foreign wars, domestic issues, etc. It was easier to get people to give to a ‘belief-faith-religion’ than it was to give to a national need or cause.)  For our spiritual ancestors, Jesus was the ultimate King and all pledges of allegiance, devotion, money was to Him, and to Him alone, through the operation of His Church. In a very real sense, all Christians have the same ‘citizenship’ regardless of what country they live in…because Jesus is our only King.  This is ‘political’.

I am going to stop here and let this all digest a bit. I realize this brings up questions and a whole series of “but what about…?”. I get it, I’ve been battling all of these thoughts (ping pong balls if you will) for some time now. This is the context for where we are going next, I hope you decide to ride along.   Blessings…

 

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