Renewing Ourselves in Faith at St. Marks United Church of Christ: A Conversion That Never Ends
Texts: Jeremiah 8:18-22 1 Timothy 2:1-7
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
September 22, 2013
I am concerned over our increasingly divided nation. In looking at the threats we face as a nation I cannot overcome the thought that our greatest threat is coming from our midst. We have become our own worst enemies.
terms ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’ entered the picture. The red states were the Republican states and the blue states were the Democratic states. Anything that transpires in the state that either corresponds or differs from their assigned color is newsworthy. The colors are marked in terms of the Presidential elections and the colors never waver. Every news network uses them. We have become a divided nation, red and blue.
Churches are divided. There are conservative churches and liberal churches or ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ churches. I love Rick Warren’s statement that he’s not really looking to have the left wing or the right wing, but the ‘whole bird.’ I agree with him. I’d like to think people didn’t feel a need to differentiate themselves in church by conservative or liberal-----two words, by the way, that are completely absent from the Bible.
CNN has recently brought back the show Crossfire with four hosts, two from the left and two from the right. I greatly appreciate their effort to assist in making a divided nation a bit more divided. CNN, for the most part, has attempted to be somewhat balanced. For their efforts they are dead last among cable news providers. People on the right watch Fox News and people on the left watch MSNBC. We have to be sure to divide our news watching.
If you are a senior citizen you can now join the AARP which, I guess, is the ‘liberal’ version of being retired or AMAC which I’m guessing is the ‘conservative’ version of being retired.
Scouting has also divided. There are the Girl Scouts and a new version of ‘conservative’ Girl Scouts and a new ‘conservative’ version of the Boy Scouts is coming out. Those ‘wild’ scouts. Frankly this offends me beyond words. I know so many men who grew up in the Boy Scouts who are beyond amazing and wonderful men, and I can talk endlessly on the amazing and wonderful experiences my daughters had in Girl Scouts. As I said, this offends me beyond words.
I’m wondering if there are going to be ‘right’ and ‘left’ restaurants so that people don’t have to eat in the same room with people who may disagree with them.
The consequences are becoming devastating.
Within Christianity there has been a precipitous drop in Worship attendance in the past decade. Churches from all traditions and backgrounds have expressed concern and bewilderment that people are staying away in droves. Tragically the message of Jesus has often been twisted by political beliefs as opposed to influencing beliefs. Churches are growing smaller---rapidly.
Increasingly people are getting their news from the Internet. The Internet does have a lot of reliable sources but it is a free domain of every possible idea. Social media often drives the information or misinformation that abounds. People with nut allergies are being told to stay away from Twitter as they will come into contact with a lot of nuts on there.
Our two major political parties are no longer interested in governing the nation. They are interested in blocking the other party from governing the nation. That is all they are interested in doing. The consequences of this are inevitably one party taking over everything and, essentially becoming a dictatorship. If we continue to move in the direction we are going, this is not potentially going to happen, it IS going to happen. It is only a matter of time. The direction we are heading has been traveled before many, many times and the results have always been the same.
Historically we have always been able to come together in the past. We did, briefly, after September 11th, but that togetherness is long over. We were too divided for it to continue.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have further divided us. Perhaps the closest we came to a sense of togetherness was an overwhelming opposition to going to war with Syria, albeit for different reasons.
In 2007 there was a massacre at Virginia Tech. Last year small children were gunned down at a grade school in Connecticut. These kinds of events used to bring people together and now they just manage to inflame the division. People no longer just disagree with one another, they have come to hate one another. Everything, no matter how big or how small has become a time to condemn people who are different from us or disagree with us.
We do it, of course, in the name of loving our country and loving our God. I suspect God is not amused at people choosing to hate and blaming their hatred on loving God. Jesus invited us, demanded us even, to love one another. Hating one another in the name of God, and dividing in the name of God strikes me as the ultimate blasphemy. Jesus once said that the only unforgiveable sin was to sin against the Holy Spirit. He didn’t define exactly what that was, but I keep thinking we may be seeing it now.
I keep thinking of two Scripture readings I’m preaching from this coming Sunday. The Message translation is great. In Jeremiah 8 it reads, “I drown in grief. I'm heartsick. Oh, listen! Please listen! It's the cry of my dear people reverberating through the country. Is God no longer in Zion? Has the King gone away?”
The second, the words of St. Paul to Timothy, however, may provide seeds of hope. He writes: “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation.”
My first prayer is this. I pray we stop dividing among ourselves and allowing people to divide us and to remember, first, to love one another.