Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"How do we live a faith whose social manifestation is compassion and whose public expression is justice?"

God is Personal, but never private. And the Bible reveals a very public God. But in an age of private spiritualities, the voice of a public God can scarcely be heard. Private religion avoids the public consequences of faith. In particular, affluent countries and churches breed private disciples, perhaps because the applications of faith to public life could become quickly challenging and troubling.

....Dare we search for the politics of God? It's much easier to just use God to justify our politics.

....What were their [prophets, Jesus] subjects [of politics]? Quite secular topics really -- land, labor, capital, wages, debt, taxes, equity, fairness, courts, prisons, immigrants, other races and peoples, economic divisions, social justice, war and peace -- the stuff of politics.

....And whom were the prophets often speaking for? Most often, the dispossessed, widows and orphans (poor single moms), the hungry, the homeless, the helpless, the least, last, and lost.

An incident in my church left an indelible impression about the private versus public meaning of faith and permanently altered my own life's direction....One day in my home church, I was arguing withone of the leaders about racism and the things I was learning in inner-city Detroit. I will never forget what he said to me, "Christianity has nothing to do with racism; that is a political issue, and our faith is pesonal."

I came to the heartfelt conclusion that : God is personal, but never private. .... Denying the public God is a denial of bibilical faith itself, a rejection of the prohphets, the apostles, and Jesus himself. Exclusively private faith degenerates into a narrow religion, excessively preoccupied with individual and sexual morality while almost oblivious to the bibilical demands for public justice. In the end, private faith becomes a merely cultural religion providing the assurance of righteousness for people just like us.

Whether conservative or liberal Christians, or members of ofther faith groups, or just spiritual seekers, we are all guilty of succumbing to a diminished religiosity that is characterized by privatized belief systems, devoid of the prophetic and social witness of Jesus and the prophets -- ultimately, nothing more than 'small-s' spirituality that is really only ad hoc wish fulfillment or a collection of little self-help techniques we use to take the edge off our materialistic rat-race lives.

What is needed is nothig less than a renovation of our souls and the soul of our politics.

When religion is relegated merely to the private sphere, it becomes vulnerable to the charge of being 'soft' and therefore irrelevant to public life.

Bringing the personal God into the public arena is at the heart of the prophet's message and will transform both our religion and our politics.

I stand convicted, guilty of abdicating responsibility in the political life due to resignation and focus on my own comfort. I've had the inner desires to make a difference; this has beat strongly inside me at times. I've always known the throb of mercy and compassion, yet I've constantly been frustrated within the strident political voices which seem more to be about power and greed than true social or Christian concern for others. I admit I've used these voices as an excuse, a barrier to doing much of anything for those who always appear in my mind needing help, grace, a light from Christ. And, so a book was given to me which helps my feelings of being torn about my responsibilities and what one can do in the prevailing societal climate. It's called "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" by Jim Wallis. Wow, quite amazing so far. Perhaps I will get out of the privatized version of faith that makes it all about me (or those in my comfortable faith and social life).

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