Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Trouble That's Brewing

This week, I've been gobsmacked at the news I've been hearing.

Apparently, a five-member, and all-male, majority of the United States Supreme Court has decided that not only are corporations considered "people," these bricks-and-mortar-over-the-internet-add-appropriate-sales-taxes-"people" have religious freedom, and can freely exercise their religious beliefs to opt out of portions of the mandated Affordable Care Act; namely, no birth control coverage for female employees... but coverage of male erectile dysfunction drugs is OK.

Putting aside what anyone thinks or believes about abortion and birth control, this is a dangerous precedent that the high court is establishing.  As I understand it, what these five men are saying is that any corporate CEO can claim "religious freedom" to skirt laws that he or she doesn't like because now a "closely held for-profit business" is an extension of the CEO's "personhood."

And who is most likely to invoke this "religious freedom"?  Businesses such as Hobby Lobby, who say paying for contraception violates their "Christian" values.

As I attempted to make sense of all of that, with the fast and furious opinions flying on Facebook, I found myself engaged in a lengthy phone conversation with a young man from Southwest Georgia. His parents, upon learning of his homosexuality, have thrown him out of their house, cut-off contact with him and are forbidding him from having any contact with other family members.  And, in the course of listening to this scared young man, he told me how many times his parents or his grandmother or his  aunt were telling him that he was "going to Hell" because the "Bible says this is an abomination!" They believe this because, they say, they're Christians.

And then there was the news last night of the angry mobs of white people who blocked a road and screamed at the people inside three buses.  The buses were carrying mostly undocumented immigrant children from Central America.  This gathering in a small town in California could have been South Boston in the 1970s, or the Deep South in the 1960s.  How ironic that this story ran on the same night that we, as a nation, were marking 50 years since the signing of the Federal Voting Rights Act designed to allow blacks the right to vote.

This scene, looking so similar to the violence African-Americans and the Freedom Riders faced in Alabama and elsewhere, is being played out again... this time with Central Americans in a Southern California town.  No doubt, some of those screaming the loudest at these children were probably doing so with a crucifix hanging around their necks.

Christianity is in trouble.  Not because of atheists or non-Christians.  Not because there is rampant discrimination and persecution of Christians in the United States.  Not because gay and lesbian people are getting married.  Christianity is in trouble because Christ, who should have been resurrected and ascended, is still being crucified by the very people who say that they are His followers.  Each time people who claim the mantle of Christ exhibit behavior like screaming at children, throwing teenagers out of their homes, and denying female employees a health benefit because it offends the religious beliefs of a company owner, it is the bang-bang-bang of the nails into the Body of Christ.  Worse yet, these "christians" become the face of Christ that the media is more than happy to share with a public that feeds on cynicism and division.  I've said it before that Christians are the ones waging war on Christians in this country.  It's one thing to say that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior; it is an entirely different thing to behave and live a life that actually models the ministry of Christ.

As often happens, I was struck in yesterday's Morning Prayer with the words from Psalm 119:

Let my cry come before you, O LORD;
    give me understanding, according to your word.

Let me live, and I will praise you,
    and let your judgments help me.

I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; 
search for your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

As I watch and listen to all this anti-Christ behavior by my fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, I am grieved.  It feels to me as if those who profess a belief in Jesus Christ have gone astray like lost sheep, and not only do they need Christ to come looking for them, they need to start looking for Christ in the eyes of the people they are cursing.  How is it Christian to scream at people?  What part of one's Christian belief is under attack if other people get a prescription for birth control?  Again, from Morning Prayer, we heard the story of Balaam and Balak.   Balaam was supposed to curse the Israelites, but God placed a blessing on his tongue:

"How can I curse whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?" (Num.23:8)

I think about the situation with the19 year-old who has parents and family who have turned their backs on him. Despite the things said to him, I told this young man he isn't going to Hell.  God has not cursed him; his parents have done that.  And by doing so, they have denied the Christ in him.  Same thing with the immigrant children being screamed at as they sat inside a bus which had driven from Texas to California to a processing center.  And to add more financial burden to female workers by denying them a portion of their health care coverage is not something that has come from God either.  For a "closely held" corporation to wrap itself in religion over that issue, and be allowed to do it, is mind-boggling.

Christians who keep asserting that their religion is under attack have no earthly idea what it is to really have their lives threatened for their religious beliefs.  Their children are not kidnapped and forced into adopting another religion.  Their books are not banned or burned.  Their homes are not invaded and their women raped.  No, the "christians" in this country are claiming that because this is a pluralistic society and they must share the gifts that God have given all people, they are under attack.  This makes a mockery of those who are truly under threat for their religious beliefs, while denying the seed of God that is present in all others. I don't remember that being in the Gospel.

I looked ahead to the Collect of the Day, Proper 9:

"O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God for ever and ever. Amen." 

Seems like a good starting point for the reflection and return to Christ necessary to save Christianity from itself!


Phoebe McFarllin said...

For all us gardeners:

Weed out hate, sow seeds of peace. MLK Jr.

"And let it begin with me.

SCG said...

Amen, Phoebe+!