Tuesday, August 31, 2010

In Search of Faith....

There’s been a lot of talk about faith and religion in the last few days. In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Thomas Jefferson.  But it seems to me that we have become less tolerant of our religious differences than ever.

A plan to build a Muslim community center which includes a small mosque within two blocks of  9/11 Ground Zero has met with an intensifying groundswell of opposition from rightwing pundits and politicians.

At the recent rally, talk-show host Glenn Beck held at the Lincoln Memorial, he said what was originally going to be a political rally, was now a religious rally.  He claimed that God spoke to him and that the next "40 days and 40 nights" will see a profound spiritual shift in our lives.

There is widespread, and growing, confusion about President Barack Obama's religious affiliation. A national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that one in five Americans now believe (incorrectly) that he is a Muslim. The White House issued this statement in response to the results of that poll:
"President Obama is a committed Christian, and his faith is an important part of his daily life. He prays every day, he seeks a small circle of Christian pastors to give him spiritual advice and counseling, he even receives a daily devotional that he uses each morning. The President's Christian faith is a part of who he is, but not a part of what the public or the media is focused on everyday."
"The poll's findings are not surprising given the scope of the issues we are focused on-a recovering economy, bringing troops home from Iraq, putting healthcare and financial reform implementation in place. The President's strong Christian faith is what guides him through these challenges but he doesn't wear it on his sleeve."

The holy wars of the Middle East have been going on forever.  In the 70s, with President Jimmy Carter’s Peace Accord which won him the Nobel Price, it looked like maybe things would get better.  But that is certainly not the case today.

My friend Jennifer felt compelled to post this on facebook:  "As a Christian, I really feel the need to share this verse: 'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me---watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.' - Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message translation)
In light of all the folks who like to create "spectacles" in the name of God, I feel saddened by what Christianity means to many people. I do not believe that God wants all that production and animosity. Mother Theresa was once asked how someone might pray for her, she responded by asking that person to pray that she would not get in the way of what God wanted to do. I feel the same way. Unfortunately, we live in a world where many people like to bask in the spotlight."

My friend Kevin did his first ever blog: a pilgrim's posts  The whole thing deserves to be read, but here is a tiny portion of it:
 "God hates religion. Yep, he does. Religion can be defined as:
1: the service and worship of God or the supernatural, or commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3: scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith   
For a MUCH better definition listen to God in the book of Amos 5:21-24 (The Message):   
'I can't stand your religious meetings. 
I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want.' 
This writing was directed at the posers of the day, those folks who loved to be noticed but didn't really carry the stigmata on their hearts. These were people who had all the appearances of holiness. They were important, puffed up with pride, with a need to set boundaries between people, who is in, who is out, etc. In other words, they were us.   
I would add that God wants more than justice and fairness. God seeks us."

From his holiness the Dali Lama:  "We can't say that all religions are the same, different religions have different views and fundamental differences. But it does not matter, as all religions are meant to help in bringing about a better world with better and happier human beings. On this level, I think that through different philosophical explanations and approaches, all religions have the same goal and the same potential".

"The gates of hell will open," Glenn Beck calmly predicted at his rally.  Is he claiming the apocalypse is upon us?  He could be right if we can’t find the true meaning of faith for ourselves, stop blindly following the fear mongerers, become compassionate for each other regardless of our religious affiliations, and get religion back out of politics as our forefathers suggested.

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