Monday, June 9, 2014

Pastorgraphs: “Common Ground, Common Good, Common Sense”



E-Vangel Newsletter
June 9, 2014

Pastorgraphs: “Common Ground, Common Good, Common Sense”

I read three articles over the past week or so that converge to illustrate what is wrong with our polarized society.

Article 1: When Ideology Trumps Theology
In the first article, Marv Knox, editor of Common Call, outlined how a leader of a conservative denomination has painted himself into a bit of a corner by allowing a Muslim to enroll as a Ph.D. student in his denomination’s largest seminary.

Before you read another word, let me say I am not opposed to Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or other faith groups studying together. I actually see good news in this story. But let’s look at the dilemma.

This leader, who has long supported a litmus test for conservative Christian orthodoxy, met the Muslim student on an archeological project in Egypt and developed a bond with him. That’s the good news. The same thing happens when a person looks beyond “those Hindus”, “those gays”, those Blacks”, “those poor”, “those ____ (you fill in the blanks)” and discovers they are not who and what we feared, but actually nice people.

Knox suggests the problem with us all is that when we find someone who agrees with our ideology, we may throw our theology and dogma under the bus. It’s the old “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” syndrome.

For example, if normally opposing people find “common ground” on such “social values” as: the role and “place” of women (i.e. uneducated); homosexuality; abortion, etc., then perhaps they can overlook their theological differences.

When ideology trumps theology in this manner, irony become hypocrisy.

Why can’t we, if we are willing to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel on social values, find common ground for all our common good: politically, economically as well as socially?

And if our theology is to love our neighbor as much as ourselves, even our enemies, and to care for the poor, hungry, homeless, sick, imprisoned, sojourners, widows and orphans, we will find theology and social values will rarely be in conflict. It’s just common sense.

Article 2: Cutting Off Your Own Nose
Gail Collins wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Times last Wednesday that grabbed my attention.

Collins points out the irony that a political candidate is calling for “less government spending” when his state receives more federal dollars than any other state. She points out that for every $1.00 that state sends to Washington, they get $3.08 in return. That is true for most “red states”. We in the “blue states” give more than we get back. She wrote that federal spending accounts for 46 percent of all that state’s revenue: defense contracts, Social Security, farm aid, highway building, you name it. 

I have no favorite in this particular political race. But the logic of the argument suggests we might ponder where we will be if we get to where we are headed.

I think we all can find “common ground” that something must be done to correct our national deficit. The problem with many in the anti-government, let’s-cut-spending camp is they are for cutting food programs, education, health care, and myriads of others, but never mention the grants, tax loopholes, and subsidies that go to farmers (many of whom say they don’t need them), military programs (many of which the Pentagon says they don’t want), and big business (banks, Wall Street, and the 1%).

It is easy to assume that overspending is just on the poor. We might be shocked to learn as much, if not more, goes to the rich, the wealthy, the empowered and institutionalized. And as we should have learned from last year’s “government shutdown”, you only create more poor when you take away the little they have.

Conversely, every dollar of government spending turns over seven times within the community (and congressional district) where it is spent, allowing Mom and Pop shops, grocery stores, and the local hospital – naming only a few - to stay open.

Collins concluded that state, like many others, “is way more dependent on Washington than the average food stamp recipient.”

Article 3: The (Un)Common Good
If either of those articles upsets you, please read on. There is hope.

The (Un)Common Good is the title of Jim Wallis’ latest book, which I am still reading. I hope to meet him on my trip to Washington next week. As founder and president of Sojourners, Jim offers a way forward from the polarized world the first two articles illustrate.

Jim Wallis says “Christianity is not a religion that gives some people a ticket to heaven and makes them judgmental of all others. Rather, it's a call to a relationship that changes all our other relationships. Jesus told us a new relationship with God also brings us into a new relationship with our neighbor, especially with the most vulnerable of this world, and even with our enemies. But we don't always hear that from the churches. This call to love our neighbor is the foundation for reestablishing and reclaiming the common good, which has fallen into cultural and political—and even religious—neglect.”

Wallis’ premise is what is good for “the least of us” is good for all of us. “Faith transcends politics, and Christianity doesn't translate only into right-wing voting issues, despite what both the conservative and liberal media love to keep saying. But neither can it be repositioned into left-wing politics. We don't simply need a Religious Left to counter the Religious Right.”

Wallis concludes: “The prerequisite for solving the deepest problems this country and the world now face is a commitment to this very ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good. How do we work together, even with people with whom we don't agree? How do we treat each other, especially the poorest and most vulnerable? How do we take care of not just ourselves but also one another? Only by inspiring a spiritual and practical commitment to the common good can we help make our personal and public lives better.”

All three of these articles converge. The way you see the problem IS the problem! And it is above all a spiritual issue. The way we see our neighbor, our enemy, and the poor speaks volumes about what is in our heart.

Let’s find common ground for our common good. It just makes common sense.

Devotedly yours, Bill Jenkins

From the Quote Garden:
“Jim Wallis and I have a variety of differences on domestic and international policy, but there is no message more timely or urgent than his call to actively consider the common good.”
~ Michael Gerson, The Washington Post ~

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