Friday, February 4, 2011

Faith is something you DO

This mornings highlight news is about our President Obama's most recent revelations about his "faith". I  think this is a subject that this President can never win in America. Since he is not a consistent "church goer", he gets a lot of criticism and questioning regarding IF he has beliefs and WHAT are those beliefs. In the political arena these are fair questions in my opinion, because everyone wants to know or understand the core values of someone in such a powerful position in our world. Yet to me it has little to do with whether he goes to church or not. Many of the President's detractors have spread a lot of nasty and demeaning articles accusing him of being Muslim because of his father's Muslim roots...and others of the religious right and Republican ranks have come right out with accusations that he is the "Anti Christ".  I haven't seen anything that proves to me either accusation...and I HAVE read one of his books. :)

I think this article based on Obama's comments at the National Prayer Breakfast is helpful in balancing out and understanding the President's faith. While I continue to be skeptical and sensitive to politicos who lay claim to "God's influence" while in office (since history is littered with Empiricists who claimed God's mantle on their leadership), it makes sense that this President takes this appropriate time to clarify his personal beliefs. I'm sure his detractors will never accept him as a faith based equal, but it does not offend me that he attempts to clarify and align himself with "believers". As I think about it today, I probably have more in common with this Presidents position on faith than I do many of his other policies.

I have been reading George Bush's "Decision Points" (Christmas gift from Mom...) which has been more enlightening than I anticipated. The book is heavily focused on how Mr. Bush pursued divine guidance and "peace" in the many crucial decisions he had to make during his 8 years in office. Only time will tell the story on how some of those decisions turned out...and I am still not convinced that all of his decisions were of a "Biblical" or Christian nature. Yet, I will give him...and President Obama...the benefit of the doubt that they each are sincerely seeking wisdom and direction from being in touch with their "spiritual" sides.

I continue to be uncomfortable with the importance so many Americans place on knowing the "Theology" of their political leaders. We continue in our humanity to lash out at "otherness" in defense of our own beliefs and ways of life. We continue to fight wars or stop communication with other humans simply based on what name they call "God".  Most fundamental religions preach some form of "come apart and be separate" from the masses. While I have come to understand that the intention of that message is that "people of faith" be a shining example of "Godly" behavior in this world, it is unfortunately interpreted by many to mean you can't "mix" with people of other races or faiths.  This continues to feed the bigotry and false fears in human nature regarding "otherness".

I have been fortunate in life to be exposed through real relationships to all three dominant world religions...Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  I have come to realize that all of them share 80-90% of the same behavioral expectations of a "Godly life". The primary differences have been cultural and surface based on geography, dress, what names they use for "God" based on what book they were raised on, and the false Theology of "exclusivity". I don't think "God" is particularly happy with where any of these religions have gone in dissecting and dividing the world. I think "unity with diversity" should be the educated believer's response to what is going on in this world.

Finally, I would suggest that "Faith is something you DO...not something you CLAIM".  From my Christian heritage I remember a passage in the Bible that stated "faith without works is dead".  In another place it states "by their fruits you shall know them" regarding who is of true faith.  Carrying this one step further, Jesus said "by this shall all men know you are my disciples...if you have love one for the other".

This is one practice of "faith" that I continue to judge myself and others by when it comes to discussions of  faith. If I can't feel the "love" in what is being proclaimed or practiced...I am not inclined to think very much of someone's "faith".  I think much of the rest of the world looks at that very similarly.  True faith is not about guns and bombs, cloaks and daggers...or politics. It is more about the little things we each can do to make this world safer and freer...for all...through love, humility and mutual acceptance.

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