This I Believe

Michael - Thousand Oaks, California
Entered on April 3, 2007

I Believe Politics is a Sin.

“I believe Republicans are going to hell and they’ll have plenty of company because the Democrats are going to hell too.”

I realized this a few weeks ago as I was sitting in church. That morning the pastor began his homily with the typical review of the day’s readings, but then he began to pepper his sermon with some thinly veiled political commentary. And that’s when my blood pressure started to rise. This kind of thing drives me crazy. I immediately stop listening to the sermon and wonder ”how did we allow our churches to become polluted by politics?” Mixing religion and politics is dangerous. It’s bad for democracy and it’s bad for our souls. Then as my adrenaline rises, my mind begins to drift off, I look up at the cross and begin to think about what kind of car Jesus would drive?

The Jesus car thing is a ridiculous question, really. Of course he’d drive whatever was available. It beats walking. Besides you can pack a lot of apostles in an SUV. Even if the Jesus/car debate is silly, I think the Jesus/politics issue is pretty relevant. In fact Jesus was quite conspicuous in his lack of political involvement. At a time when Jews were desperate for someone to free them from Roman oppression, Jesus made it very clear that the Empire he was concerned about wasn’t on this Earth. Then I begin to think about Empires and the Empire Strikes Back, and pretty soon I’m thinking about Darth Vader.

My yoga teacher taught me this wonderful word “Namaste”. The Hindus use it to greet someone, or to say goodbye, like Aloha. It roughly translates to “the Divine Spirit in me recognizes the Divine Spirit in you”. It’s a beautiful way of acknowledging that the other person, like our self, is one of God’s children. By contrast, America has Red States and Blue States. Our national discourse has been turned into a football game. At some point we began wearing the colors of our political parties like team jerseys. We’re showing up to work, to school, and even to church wearing our party colors.

I read somewhere that you can’t serve two masters. I thought about that when I was daydreaming in church that day. I thought “what if you could only wear one jersey? What if you had to choose between being Christian or Democrat but not both? What if you had to walk into your polling place with only one affiliation, Muslim, or Republican, Jewish, Green Party, Buddhist, or Libertarian, pick just one. What if you were asked to choose between God or your politics? What if that IS what we are being asked? What if separation of church and state wasn’t just a great idea, but a commandment?

Speaking of commandments, the one about false idols has always confused me. Murder, adultery, pretty clear, “Thou shall not create for thyself any false Idols”, not so much. Every time I hear it I can’t help thinking about that tiki doll that caused so much trouble for the Brady Bunch in Hawaii. Then I start thinking about Hawaii and pineapples and those flower leis, then Princess Lea and her father and here we are back at Darth Vader.

When I tune back into the sermon it doesn’t take long before I remember why I like my church so much, we have a good Pastor. He may not be perfect, but he’s a good man, and that’s what counts. Jesus once told some people to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”. I think his point was to warn us to not let any Empire get between us and God. But even as he said it he must have known that we would, and that we do, and yet he forgives us anyway.

…..I’m sorry about the “Republicans in hell” comment.

Can I start over?

I Believe in Forgiveness……Namaste.