Thursday, January 13, 2011

Honoring God…

In last week’s letter, I began reflecting on the recent shooting of a Pakistani politician. I didn’t treat the topic fully. I simply tried identifying a core issue in the killing- why people defend God’s honor- and ended with, basically, to be continued…

Then, last Saturday, our country witnessed an almost-political assassination. By all reports, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona should not have survived it. But, thank God, brain surgeons have made incredible progress treating brain injury. So she may recover completely.

In light of that, I felt I couldn’t continue my original plan without mentioning Rep. Giffords. Indeed, while the two shooters’ motivations seem wildly different, I thought, maybe, a similarity exists. One analogous to horseracing.

Now I’m not trying to diminish these tragedies, so I hope this comparison is apt. Imagine being at the horse track, preparing to watch the races. In your program are funky horse names that mean nothing to you. Nevertheless, at the track, there’s pressure to place bets. Some have developed grand betting theories. But if you haven’t, nor have inside info into these equine athlete, you may not bet.

Until after the first race, that is, when the horses thunder down the homestretch and the whole grandstand stands up cheering. You think, “There’s no way everyone cares that much about a horse named Touboogie Woogie.” Then it hits you, “If I had three dollars riding on this, I’d be cheering just as loud…” So to increase your investment in the races, you bet occasionally, hope you win, but mostly enjoy screaming for your horse, while knowing that, ultimately, life goes on.

Again, the metaphor’s imperfect, but I think that’s how many approach politics. At some point, we put a stake in the ‘race.’ Indeed, we think we might even affect the outcome, so we vote, donate, volunteer, believing things will be better- for us and the common good- if our candidate/party/issue wins. But hopefully, we don’t expect the world to end when we lose.

Unfortunately, some overinvest in the race. Perhaps they think they know more than others about what will, or should, occur. So they bet massive amounts on their horses. And while the rest of us stand and cheer, only to move on when our bets falter, they sit anxiously in the stands, eyes fixed demonically on the track.

I think that’s similar to these situations. Two men, for different reasons, overinvested in the activities of government officials. For one, it seems religious leaders riled him up by mistaking blasphemy as a threat to God. As if God’s that weak and defenseless. But unlike other adherents of his faith, this guy bet his life, hoping it would pay off in the next, to change the race’s dynamics. I pray he and his clergy learn humility, and seek forgiveness. The Arizona shooter didn’t seem religious; maybe he was disturbed, dangerously lonely, or egomaniacal. Still, he too overinvested in the political race, and acted like the best way to make good on that investment was to end the race for others. Heartbreaking.

Many churches have difficulty talking faith and politics, and so don’t do it often, us included. But humor me to talk politics for a moment. I believe Christians should never put political beliefs before the life or dignity of another. Why? Because Jesus death revealed God’s unending love for everyone. I.e. The race that ultimately counts is the one whose outcome is certain; it’s the one Jesus died to fix.

Sometimes we forget that, that God not only values people of all ideologies (whether or not S/He agrees…), but also offers them compassion and grace. It’s not like we don’t believe it. We just sometimes overinvest in the race. Certainly not as badly as these men, but no one seems immune these days. So please, in light of these horrible events, let’s remember that whatever (insert your non-preferred politicians here) want for our state, country or world, God won’t ever stop offering them, or us, love and forgiveness, and will always be present with hope. And yes, the political race is still important. But to faithful Christians, it always takes second place to God’s love.

Grace and Peace,


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