Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's a Spiritual Problem

Hardly anyone I know agrees that we have no problems in the U.S.  In fact, just about everyone I know believes things are quite amiss.  Even those within the Church know it, and many have mobilized to try and fix it.  Many have entered into the political fray to make their voices known through the voting process, and many Christian (although it could be argued that these folks are more political than Christian) leaders, seizing the power of a group united by their beliefs in Jesus, have sought to direct this process. 

For the purposes of this blog post, I will describe the two main Christian factions as the Christian Right and the Christian Left.  Each of these factions have seen it fit to under gird their political ideologies with the Christian faith, and both have sought to influence the behavior of Americans by legal means.

For instance, the Christian Right, whose leaders are the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchannan, etc., focuses on moral issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, the language used in movies and television, and pornography.  They have also historically sought lower taxes and less government intrusion in business--(although, I confess, where they get this Scripturally is beyond me).  Historically, they have put together a "litmus test" for political candidates based upon these issues, and they have voted accordingly.  Their power and influence can be seen in arguments over whether or not abortion should be covered in government health care legislation and the push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.  Many in the Christian Right have associated themselves with the Tea Party Movement.

The Christian Left, whose leaders are the likes of Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, focus on issues of injustice in society.  Their main thrust is dealing with income inequity, particularly the plight of the poor.  They have sought to use government as a means to practice redistribution of wealth and ensuring that all have food, shelter, clothing, health care, etc.  Many among the Christian Left have associated themselves with the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and they too seek to influence the legal process to obtain their goals.

Both the Christian Right and the Christian Left use Scripture and the teachings of Jesus to under gird their philosophies.  I personally believe they both seek the best interest of society, and they want this world to be a better place.  However, I find one problem with the approach of both of these parties: they seek legal solutions to a problem that I believe cannot be solved by the implementation of laws.  I do not believe any amount of legislation will cure what amounts to a Spiritual problem--the problem of sin.

Yeah, I know, sin isn't something that most folks want to talk about now-a-days.  It makes us squirm because it calls into question our very nature as human beings.  We don't like to believe that there is something deeply flawed within ourselves, within our society, or within our world.  NEWS FLASH: There is!  Yes, it is true that humankind does some awfully good things, but we are capable of a whole lot of nasty stuff as well.  And the sadder part is that no matter what kind of laws we put on the books, folks will ALWAYS find a way to work their way around them.  Hey, why do you think there is such a plethora of lawyers out there?  Do you think it's because the law is always straight forward and means exactly what it says?  If it did, we wouldn't need lawyers.  Even the most carefully written law is open to interpretation, and therefore to manipulation. 

Those of you who are Christian who are shaking your heads right now, let me offer this proof through Jesus' teaching from Matthew chapter 18:

8“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.

The first comment out of most folks' mouths usually is, "Did Jesus really mean this, or was He talking metaphorically?"  Yet, it is a command of Jesus, is it not?

But what is at the heart of Jesus' command here?  Is He talking about someone's hand, foot, or eye?  Or is He illustrating something that goes beyond our hand, our foot, or our eye?  For does our eye cause us to sin?  Does our hand cause us to sin?  Does our foot cause us to sin?  Obviously not.  Where does sin originate?  In our hearts.  In the depths of our very being.  Greed leads our hands to steal.  Covetousness leads our eyes to desire.  Anger causes our feet to kick.  The root goes much deeper than these appendages.

And I believe that to be the case in our nation (and in our world for that matter) as well.  We cannot legislate an end to poverty.  We cannot legislate an end to hunger.  We cannot legislate an end to people cussing, or fornicating, or what have you.  Such things cannot be combatted by laws.  If they could, the legal code in the Old Testament would have been sufficient.  The Prophets would have been sufficient.  There would have been no need for the Father to send the Son to redeem the world.  Laws won't work.  Only change of heart can, and change of heart can only come from God Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit in the teaching, preaching, and hearing of His Word. 

Even then, our flawed nature continues to rebel which means we continually must go through the cycle of confession, repentance, self-examination, and cleansing by God the Father.  In my opinion, those of the Christian Right and the Christian Left would be better served in having their congregations serve such purposes.

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