Thursday, August 16, 2012

Faith and Politics - My Journey

Some of my earliest memories are of God.

God was there for me, and I was never afraid of God.

That carried through high school (Grand Rapids Christian High School).

And Calvin College.

And then to Seminary, and all the years since.

Sometime in 9th or 10th grade, I subscribed to U.S. News and World Report.

I read every issue.

Slowly, the world of mice and men merged with my sense of God and Bible reading.

In high school, I bought a huge Thompson's Chain Reference Bible, and I loved it. I found my verses, underlined them, memorized them, and made them mine, but the best was yet to come.

In seminary, I began to read the whole Bible, and that's pretty much continued over the years.

My teaching mantra: "Read lots of the Bible in single settings, and read often."

Out of this mix of reading and personal history, I made my political decision when I turned 21 and was able to vote.

But was it just Bible and then politics?


The whole of my life - for whatever reason, I very much felt like the outsider, and that gave me sympathy for the outsider. I was sick a lot as a child - bad allergies and lots of colds and coughs. I was overweight much of the time. My family moved often. My mother had great difficulties with most of the family and some of their friends. My father was on the fringe of things. My older brother was gone off to college when I was 9, and we didn't see much of each other thereafter.

I've always had feelings for those who are shunned by others, who don't belong, who are looked down upon.

Wasn't always consistent, that's for sure. I was a terrible racist.

It was in college where the debris of racism was finally gathered up and swept away by Dr. Roger Rice who had us read Michael Harrington's "The Other America." This professor will always be enshrined in my memories.

Slowly, my world came together.

Theologically, what mattered was grace.

No one has better understanding of grace than the Apostle Paul.

And then Calvin.

My Presbyterian story.

Amazing Grace.

These are the bits and pieces of who I am, from little on.

This is my story.

And why I see the world as I see it, and think about politics as I do.

I've been reading the Prophets as of late.

Strong reading.

Confirmation, I think,

What God despises is military might and the pride that goes with it.

Wealth without restraint.

Mistreatment of the vulnerable - the failure of the nation to care for its weakest citizens, and even the alien within its boundaries.

And false gods.

False gods are always present and evident in the above: the love of military might, and reliance upon it. Love of wealth and the accumulation of more and more. Contempt for the poor, ignoring their needs, taking advantage of them, impoverishing them even further.

No matter the pretense of faith, behavior reveals the false gods.

So ...

All greatness is of God.

All greatness becomes arrogant.

God brings down all arrogance.

How do I vote?

I vote for the politicians that have the larger grasp of what justice is all about. A big vision of the world, and our place within it. Those who proclaim "America the greatest" are just plain wrong, sadly mistaken, and need to immerse themselves in the Bible before they yammer on like some silly potentate of old.

I vote for those who have a sense of the underdog, the vulnerable - who look upon them and their plight with compassion rather than contempt. Who see them as people, not parasites. Who see them as victims of big systems that serve the wealthy. Who understand that it's the job of priest and prophet and king to address these needs and maintain balance for all citizens.

I vote for those who understand the manna principle: that those who have much won't have too much, and those who have little won't have too little.

I have no time for Ayn Rand and her blighted view of things.

She's to be pitied.

Not believed.

How strange that anyone who professes faith in Christ would shape her bitterness and bile into a political vision.

But so it goes in this world of cabbages and kings.