Good Morning Brothers and Sisters…
A quick recap:
We learn in two ways; by ‘formation’ and by ‘education’. Formation is about repetition and creating a muscle memory, or instinctual reaction to an outside force, or situation. Education is about learning to think beyond the here and now and self. It is learning to think without the need of ‘self’ taking center stage. Again, I turn to athletics to clarify my intended point and to further shape the discussion.
Basketball is typically blessed with wonderfully athletic individuals. The game itself is fast, skilled, explosive, and tactical. However, often times the winner of the game is not decided by athletic ability but by the ability to stand still, with nobody guarding you, with no rules against dribbling with two hands or one, with no shot clock winding down, with no crazy wild noise from the fans, with a clear look to the rim, with a free shot (sometimes two). Of course we call these ‘free throws’. The best athlete on the team may not be the best ‘free throw’ shooter. To be a great ‘free throw’ shooter it takes discipline and practice. It takes repetition, repetition, repetition…and more repetition. Shooting a ‘free throw’ is about mechanics, not about athletic ability. Stepping up to the stripe, late in a game, with the score close, hearing the heavy breathing of the other players, as the crowd noise decreases, is down right nerve-wracking. Basketball has a flow to the game where the athletic ability of the players become like partners in a choreographed dance. Stepping up to the line to shoot ‘free throws’ breaks that flow. The repetition of shooting ‘free throws’ in practice prepares the player for the physical and mental demands of the moment. The players that take this ‘mechanical’ aspect of the game seriously…end up being better ‘free throw’ shooters because they have been ‘formed’. They have learned ‘how’ to conquer the moment through ‘formation’. Likewise, the players on the floor that are not good ‘free throw’ shooters become a detriment to the team late in a close game. The other team (the enemy) knows they can foul those guys and more than likely they will miss the free shots and provide the other team (again…the enemy) with possession of the ball. What the Coach desires more than anything is not athletes, but athletic players with a high basketball IQ and the discipline to knock down the free throws when the game is on the line.
The Country and the Church want exactly the same thing.
Last week, I wrote that the Country was a ‘religious’ organization and the Church was a ‘political’ organization. They are also the other, meaning that the Church is a ‘religious’ organization and the Country is a ‘political’ organization. What this means is that they are competing for our love and devotion and employ both methods of learning to ‘win’ our faith and trust. The Country desires ‘players’, or citizens, who can think their way through life with American values, and react to life with American formations (free throws). The Church also desires ‘players’, or members, who can think their way through life with Christian values, and react to life with Christian formation (free throws). An American citizen has been formed (here is just one example) through reciting the ‘The Pledge of Allegiance’ every day for decades. This means that when life gets tough, a citizen reacts with an attitude of ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America’. We have been taught American history and have learned it with an pro-American angle, or perspective. Citizens have been taught, through formation and education, that American values and perspectives are the high road, that American agendas and opinions are better, more thought out, and have the needs of the world at heart. We have been taught that democracy is the best form of government in the world and that our two major political parties represent the wonderful diversity of this country. All citizens understand that ‘freedom’ is worth killing others for because ‘freedom’ means that we can do whatever we want to do, worship whomever we want, and say whatever we want. That in a sense, we are beholden to nothing except our own desires within the confines of the law. A Christian has been formed (here is just one example) through reciting the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ over and over. This means that when life gets tough, a Christian reacts with an attitude of ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name’. We have been taught the old stories of the Bible and how they relate to Jesus, and to us. Christians have been taught, through formation and education, that Christian values are about love, joy, and peace; about ‘doing unto others what you wish done unto you’. Christians understand that they may be ‘in’ the world but they cannot be ‘of’ the world. We also understand that ‘freedom’ is a gift given to us by something Jesus did, not something we did; and ‘freedom’ is worth loving others for because it means we are enslaved to Jesus. Which is exactly where Christians want to be.
These organizations are opposed to each other because of their respective intentions and who they name, and pursue, as God. The Church names God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit as ‘GOD’…and all Christians must pursue a relationship with ‘GOD’. The Country names an ideal ‘The American Way’ as worthy of all pursuit and devotion. These organizations can not mix, they are opposed, they are oil and water. It is time for us to decide if we are ‘Americans’ first…or ‘Christians’ first. It is time for us to choose our political party and our religion.