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Sunday, April 8 

Faith And Politics

What better day than the one on which we celebrate the resurrection of Christ to discuss the mixing of faith and politics.

The last time I flew through Atlanta I forgot to take any reading material with me. I stopped in the book shop in my concourse, hoping something would catch my eye. Being the political junkie that I am, I ended up looking at the rack of books containing all the finger pointing by left and right, blaming each other for all the woes that face this country, when one title finally caught my eye, "Divided By God".

I devoured this book during my flight. It is, quite frankly, one of the best discussions on the topic of the separation of church and state that I have ever read. You will also find it interesting that his views do not line up with mine in most cases. He probably won't line up with yours, either. I heartily recommend it to anyone and everyone.

But since this is my blog, let's go back to talking about me. More specifically, the struggles I face when meshing my conservative politics with my belief in Christianity.

I know that surprises some of you, as right wing and Christian seem to naturally go together in this country, but for me it is an internal struggle which I rarely share.

In my politics, I believe in more individual liberty. I want to see freedom of speech, lower taxes, less government regulation, and more people taking responsibility for their own lives and success in life. In purely free market terms, there is no good argument for any kind of social spending by the government. People know what they need to do to support themselves, and it's up to them to do it.

However, as a Christian, we are commanded to care for the sick, the widows, and anyone else who needs it. I still don't believe in a forced redistribution of wealth, but I definitely believe in giving to charities and helping out others whenever possible. The same applies globally. Over the years I've given thousands of dollars to the churches I attended, a large portion of which went to support missionaries overseas and to help the people they serve. I believe in U.S. aid to foreign countries, because we have experience G-d's blessing as a nation, and should help to take care for countries less fortunate then ourselves.

Jesus said in Mark 16:15-16
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
So, if I'm to take my faith seriously, the single most important command given to me is to preach the gospel. You will refer to this as proselytizing, witnessing, annoying the crap out of you, etc. But as a Christian, we look at what happens in this world as a mere prelude to what is to come. And if, as verse 16 says, those who do not believe shall be damned, then it's in everyone's best interest that we share this with everyone we meet.

Looking at the history of Christianity, it has, traditionally, flourished when it was oppressed. Christianity in America has been on the decline for quite some time. Christianity in countries which oppress it, such as China, has flourished. The same was true in the first century. Being a Christian in the first century church did not get you a spot as a commentator on television, or multi-million dollar book deals, or to be elected as President of anything. It was much more likely to get you crucified, beheaded, stoned, or fed to the lions. But for some reason, the church exploded. In just a few decades a handful of disciples took the message of the risen messiah from Jerusalem and spread it over much of the known world.

It wasn't until the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire that Christianity was first twisted into something it was never meant to be. This was the first time it became the state sponsored religion, and it became just as violent as the previous worshipers of the Roman gods.

Ever since then Christianity has been used as an excuse for many atrocities. The Spanish inquisition, the burning of witches in New England, countless beheadings throughout the world, and people being burned at the stake. In many instances, it was the established church killing Christians for crimes such as translating the Bible into a language that common people could understand, chipping away at the power that the Church held over them. But, as a Christian, we have to realize that a lot of very bad things have happened in the name of Christianity.

This includes the Crusades. This one is a much more sticky topic, because yes, there were a LOT of people killed. Actually, I visited the graves of some of the first victims of the crusades in the Rhein-Neckar valley, in Germany. The crusades achieved some good, such as stopping the advance of the Ottoman Empire into Europe, and did a lot of bad, like indiscriminately killing hundreds of thousands in an attempt to convert them to Christianity. Which, in case I wasn't clear earlier, is not how Christ taught us to spread the Word.

So, taking all this into account, the greatest commandment we have as Christians is to spread the Word, which is done most successfully under strife. As a citizen of this country, and a father, I want to see our country live, thrive and survive as the most free state in the world. But in doing so, there is also the inevitable decline of Christianity. So the question becomes, do I bite my tongue when it comes to political beliefs, watching the country decline into whatever is to come, which will ultimately be better for the spread of Christianity, or do I speak up, hoping to keep this the great country it has always been, and hope that Christians have learned their lessons on how to share the gospel?

Personally, I have no answers. I believe a persons personal beliefs have to guide their public personas, no matter what those personal beliefs are. Some of you are atheistic or agnostic, which will guide you in your beliefs. I am a Christian, which will always be my moral compass, no matter the decisions to be made. Have I ignored this moral compass in the past? Definitely. The Bible teaches us that we all sin. It's not an excuse, because in every situation we can, in the words of Nancy Reagan, "Just say no". Funny how sometimes that is the hardest word in the world to say.

There was also a time in my life when I questioned my faith. I think everyone goes through this at one time or another. I was raised in a "Christian" home, in that we went to church of one kind or another, but my parents did it more out of habit than out of any personal beliefs. My father became a Christian the year he turned 30, and is now a full-time pastor. I explored other religions as a youth, reading about everyone from the Mormons, to Jehovah's Witnesses, to Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. You name it, I probably owned at least half a dozen books about it. I also spent some time being very angry with G-d. Wondering, if He is so great, how come He allows so many bad things to happen in this world. At the time I was less concerned with the suffering of people the world over so much as I was upset that so many people close to me had died sudden and tragic deaths.

In the end I realized that it rains on the just and the unjust. Being a good person doesn't mean G-d is going to shield you from bad things any more than it means that bad people won't succeed in life.

In the end, I pray for this country, hoping that Christian ideals win out. Those ideals being freedom for everyone, regardless of race, creed, sex, whatever. That people are free to succeed in business, but also to use that success to help those less fortunate than themselves. I pray that churches, and the people who attend them, will not forget from whence they came. That we are all sinners, saved by grace, and that we should treat others as better than ourselves. That Christ himself took on the form of a servant, and washed the feet of his disciples, but we won't even venture into the inner-city to feed and clothe those on the street.

It breaks my heart that those who are most in need of help find it easier to turn to the government for help than to a church, knowing that it is much more likely that the church will look down it's nose at them, or shrink back in disgust. The church in America has become that which Jesus preached against, all dressed up on the outside, but dead inside. We stand in the doorway to Heaven, not entering ourselves, but neither will we let anyone else pass to enter.

For those of you who have been hurt by the church, allow me, on their behalf, to apologize. For those of you who have hurt me in the name of the church, I forgive you. Today, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, I want to spend a few hours forgetting about politics, war, taxes, and political parties. Today, I pray that my often times aggressive style of writing doesn't do harm to my faith and my witness. I pray that my heart becomes a little less hard towards my fellow man.

Today, I pray for you.

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Actually, giving my absolute fascination with zombies, you would think Easter would be among my favorite holidays.... I kid.

I actually believe in God. I am not agnostic, christian, pagan, aetheist, or any thing really. I believe that our actions tell the story. I don't cheat (never have in my life... not in relationships nor in board games), don't steal, don't drink much, never take god's name in vane, don't kill, don't covet my neighbor's wife, don't haphazardly spread my seed, etc... I think that of the seven deadly sins, I may be guilty of one... in my life!

I live my life by a code that was formed by catholic doctrine, even though I don't subscribe to the philosophy of christianity. It is my belief that organized religion is the single biggest threat to peace on Earth. Political differences can easily be settled through compromise... compromise isn't even remotely possible with religion. You clearly believe, as you stated, "those who do not believe shall be damned, then it's in everyone's best interest that we share this with everyone we meet," but for those of us who understand the dangers of passion without understanding, those words simply point out the foundation to the church is one of separation, not of love, understanding and acceptance. Saying that unless you believe what we believe and that unless you are willing to be converted and listen to us talk about the love we have for this organization you will be damned is pretty fucking ironic. Where is the love? Where is the compassion? Is there only love and compassion if you believe in the religion? Or is it love and understanding regardless? Those are the reasons why I believe what I believe... and why i believe it is imperative that we NEVER allow religion of any kind to direct our government? The idea that someday, some president or elected government office suddenly says, "From now on, christianity is against the law!" (insert any religion in there really) is something that I know will happen one day if christians continue to try and force their religion into government and public doctrine. That to me is the scariest proposition I can imagine.

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