I believe that contemporary American politics have transformed “religion” into a dirty word. I say this as a devout Christian, a Southern Baptist regular church-attendee, and a politically active Progressive Democrat.
Any politician who uses Christianity for political gain is promoting his faith as a religion of convenience. Politicians have become notorious for using Jesus to justify clearly immoral acts: “If I say that I think Jesus would have murdered these thousands of innocent civilians for oil money, what sacrilegious nut will argue with me?” Seriously, who can really say that Jesus would be a gun-carrying, war-mongering, money-hungry, steal-from-the-poor, give-to-the-rich, hate-anyone-with-different-views fiscal Conservative? Since he clearly didn’t and wouldn’t possess any of those qualities, should we assume the 2008 version of Jesus would be a sexually perverse, tax-and-spend, baby-killing, pot-smoking Liberal? Of course not. I believe that if Jesus was alive and in the flesh today, he would be devastated that people of the world have become so divisive.
Modern society has taken the political approach to religion and given it yet another new meaning. In the eyes of many, “religion” represents a growing group of hateful, resentful, condemnatory hypocrites. From that perspective, the “church folk” are the proponents of hate crimes, racism, world wars, and other atrocities.
I believe love is the true basis of Christianity. Love is the only requirement to produce all of the other biblical fruits of the Spirit. It also produces understanding and forgiveness. Judgment is very often a side effect of “religions of convenience”, and it spawns hatred and anger with all of mankind. I believe tolerance is one of the most important aspects of character a human being can possess. I miss the “let he who has not sinned throw the first stone” approach to Christianity.
Since I was a very young child (and until I was a not-so-young child), my mother came to my bedroom every night to discuss the happenings of the day, read the Bible and pray with me. These bedtime meetings introduced me to the stories of Jesus, Moses, David, Apostle Paul, and other biblical heroes. I remember one story in particular that spoke to me in a profound, personal way. In the book of Matthew, the disciple Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” At this point in listening to the story, I thought Peter was being overly generous. It is very difficult to forgive someone seven times. Then, much to my surprise, Jesus responded, “No! Seventy times seven!” Well, I was shocked. Completely befuddled, I asked my mother, “How can you forgive someone ‘seventy times seven’ times? I can’t even count that high!” Her simple response was “Exactly”. That was all I needed to hear.
Since forgiveness is a recurring theme in the Bible (mentioned 23 times), as is grace (21 times), as is mercy (28 times), and certainly love (42 times), shouldn’t these ideals be guiding forces in a Christian approach to life? That said, what I have is not a religion; it is a relationship with my Lord and Savior that reaches beyond the twisted and hurtful definitions modern society would give it and compels me to reach farther and love deeper because my faith says I can. This I believe.
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