What Do We Do

“What Do We Do in the Name of Our God?” Jim Turner

READINGS
1st Samuel 15:1-3

Matthew 5:38-42

“I Ain’t Afraid,”
From: “Journey, Circle of Our Lives,”
BY: The Turtle Creek Choir

Some year ago the Association of Professional Chaplains held their annual meeting in Dallas, Texas.  At one of our gatherings of the full membership the Turtle Creek Choir, an all men’s’ choir from Dallas, sang for us.  One of the songs was, “I Ain’t Afraid,”

I ain’t afraid of your Yahweh
I ain’t afraid of your Allah
I ain’t afraid of your Jesus
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your God

I ain’t afraid of your churches
I ain’t afraid of your temples
I ain’t afraid of your praying
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your God

verse
Rise up to your higher power
Free up from fear, it will devour you
Watch out for the ego of the hour
The ones who say they know it
Are the ones who will impose it on you

I ain’t afraid of your Bible
I ain’t afraid of your Torah
I ain’t afraid of your Koran
Dont let the letter of the law Obscure the spirit of  your love–it’s killing us

I ain’t afraid of your Sunday
I ain’t afraid of your spirit
I ain’t afraid of your teachers
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your God

I ain’t afraid of your sabbath
I ain’t afraid of your borders
I ain’t afraid of your dances
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your God

I ain’t afraid of your children
I ain’t afraid of your music
I ain’t afraid of your stories
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your God

REFLECTION
”I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your God!” Whoa! Given the year I first heard this song; and given that the majority of men in this Choir are gay, it was clear who was “afraid of what you do in the name of your God.”

Not long before this APC meeting, at a joint assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), (my denomination of baptism and ordination), and the United Church of Christ, (the second of the three denominations this congregation affiliates with ), met in Kansas City, Kansas. Because the United Church of Christ had begun to ordain gays and lesbians, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas showed up.  In the name of their God, these “Christians” stood outside the assembly hall carrying placards with graphic images of gay sexual acts and profane statements about gays.  They yelled obscenities and curses toward anyone who might be gay or any of us who supported gay people.

This week I went to the web page for the Westboro Baptist Church and found statements such as, “God hates Islam,” Jews Killed Jesus,” and “God Hates Faggs.”  A news article referenced there was, “Behold the Beheadings!”, and began, “There are many stories in the Bible where people ended up chopped in pieces and heads ended up propped on poles…much like today.”  The page also gives the following statistics:

6,838 – soldiers that God has killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

53,782 – pickets conducted by WBC.

941 – cities that have been visited by WBC.

1,218 – weeks that WBC has held daily pickets on the main streets of doomed America.

1,207 – people whom God had cast into hell since I had loaded their page.

All of this is done in the name of their God.

If I had heard “I Ain’t Afraid” for the first time recently, I might not have thought of the GLBT community.  I might have thought of the victims of “ISIS.”  The so called Islamic State has not just talked about beheadings, but carried them out.  They also have been killing men, older women, and children who they feel are not true believers.  Of course they don’t kill young women and girls; they are spared for rape and/or selling as sex slaves.

Both ISIL and the Westboro Baptist Church turn to the oldest parts of their faith to proof-text their beliefs and actions. WBC only needs to turn to our Bible, “Thus says the Lord… kill both man and woman, child and infant…”  –  1st Samuel 15:1-3.

But that’s the “Old” Testament.  Early in the history of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we were sometimes referred to as “the people of the Book.”  This was a result of our dependence upon the Christian Scriptures, or so called New Testament.  It was our guide for how the church should be.  We could accept some of the violent stuff in the “Old Testament” because our “New Testament” corrected all a that stuff.  Yet, in Chapter 5, just a few verses prior to where Jesus said, “do not resist an evil doer,” “turn the other cheek,” and “give your cloak as well,” Jesus is reported to have said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out…” and “ if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”  Now, the Jesus Seminar does consider these words to be something Jesus would have been unlikely to have said.  Yet, it is there, in the Christian Scriptures, on the lips of Jesus, as a part of the earliest tradition of the church.  Some people fear what the Bible says.  They take it literally, reading it as God’s own words. To the least healthy among us, scripture can become synonymous with God.  “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!”

Both the Westboro Baptist Church and ISIS are examples of extreme Fundamentalism.  In his book, Our endangered Values, Jimmy Carter indicates that Fundamentalism, particularly radical Fundamentalism is dangerous in any religion.  Elsewhere Carter said, “The fundamentalists believe they have a unique relationship with God, that… their ideas are God’s ideas… Therefore… anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong.  And… inherently inferior.”  (in response to questions from the German magazine, Der Spiegel)

Fundamentalism, on the other hand, is not reserved for religion alone.  In the on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary in addition to religion, fundamentalism with a small “f” is defined as, “a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.”  By this definition, some Atheists are Fundamentalists.  Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are political fundamentalists.  They could not, nor, could they ever consider water boarding to be torture, or torture of prisoners in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib to be wrong.  Their political principles are fundamental to them. One cannot question fundamental principles. They become like a God.

Religious, social, and historical fundamentalism is why Israel and Hamas may never be able to compromise their positions and find lasting peace.

Susan did a good job last week unfolding how fear becomes fundamental in our lives.   Fear of ISIS; fear of Ebola; fear of job loss; fear itself has led many to want Build a wall on our Southern border and prevent people from some countries from entering our country.  Fear leads some to propose sending refugee children crossing our Southern boarder from South America back to where they came from.  Because their fear is so fundamental it does not matter that these children would be sent back to be tortured, raped, and/or killed.

It is not the God they worship; it is not their places of worship; it’s not their religious writings; it is not even their principles.  It’s what they do in the name of their God and/or their principles!

Of course, most of us at New Covenant Community do not believe we have a “unique relationship with God.”  We don’t consider our ideas “as God’s ideas.”  We do not perceive others as “inherently wrong.”  We do not suppose those who disagree with us “are inherently inferior.”  “God, [we] thank you that [we are] not like other people.” (Luke 18:11)

To the contrary, are we not?  We do have our principles, don’t we?  Our ideology is better than theirs, is it not?  Do not those who are less progressive or liberal than we are have inferior beliefs?  Our beliefs come from Jesus, from the words he really spoke.  But, they don’t take on God-like qualities.  They only take on qualities of the “Divine Mystery.”  So, what do we do in the name of our God?

I’m inviting us to think together about behaviors which arise from our principles.  What, do wedo in the name of our [Divine Mystery] that may make others afraid of us?  What is it we do which leads other’s to say “I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your God.”?

Comments

  1. It appears, Jim, that we aspire to the right views, the right beliefs, the right paradigm, the words that Jesus really spoke. But do we really aspire to righteousness that Jesus spoke of, i. e., righteousness greater than that of the Pharisees? Or do we aspire to righteousness of the Pharisees, that righteousness not like other people, e. g., Baptists? But I ask you, what is the distinction here? Have we morphed the words of Jesus into another set of post-ten multiple commandments? Is Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) just another latter day Jewish sect? To answer all of these our questions, we may have a clue in the only sign left to us: the sign of Jonas.