I find it amusing when folks suggest that politics and religion are total opposites and do not inform each other. Have they even read the Bible? The prophets? They are always monkeying with the political establishment. Today’s passages, especially the New Testament where Jesus goes from preaching to meddling, are going to be difficult for folks of that branding.
Our Old Testament passage is rich in imagery and theological underpinnings today. The Israelite people make for themselves an idol, made of the gold off their own ears. This calf is the ultimate worship of self, while not cast in the likeness of the people, made from the adornments of the people themselves. The Lord tells Moses how stiff-necked the people are and how fiery hot his anger is. Moses goes into damage control and actually talks God out of it. The text says that God actually changed his mind!
It gets more intriguing. Moses comes down the mountain, sees the people worshiping the false idol, is so furious he breaks the tablets at the foot of the mountain, takes the idol, grinds it into a powder, puts it in the drinking water, and makes the Israelites drink it.
In the New Testament Jesus lays out the beginning of his sermon on the mount with the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Often we find Jesus talking about caring for the poor and feeding the hungry.
These days I feel like the whole world has gone insane. I barely recognize it from the world that existed just a few years ago. The political extremism and backbiting is almost overwhelming. It goes well beyond filibusters over nothing or denials of climate change. Just look at our Presidential candidates. Other than Hillary Clinton who is a fairly mainstream Republican (let’s say a Goldwater Republican) and maybe John Kasich, we have a lot of extreme candidates these days, from socialists to fascists.
Many of my friends have thrown in the towel. They have such a hatred of politics and ambivalence in general, that I wonder if we are on the cusp of society fragmenting. I have friends who not only dislike the news, but deliberately avoid it – so disenchanted, that they are literally shutting themselves off.
It is a world gone insane. Like Moses and God in our passage, many of those I hang around have changed their mind politically or ecclesiastically, making dramatic shifts about their religious or world views. This is all fine and good. Change is inevitable.
We need a revolution. Like all revolutions, we need to be aware that there are some aspects of our life that we need not overturn. We must keep our eyes turned upon Jesus. Are we laying a foundation of care and compassion for the “least of these among us”? Are we seeking out the lost, the afflicted, and the helpless? Because if we alienate ourselves from the world around us, it will be more and more difficult to live out Jesus’ injunction. We cannot be distracted by political theater or idiots with a microphone.
Only when we come down from the mountain, and only when we live in the muck will we be able to help the Beatitudes to come to fruition. Oh we might have to put up with more than just immigration issues and struggles over natural resources. We might have to endure another idiot Presidential candidate with a microphone. We might have to smash idols of our own making. We might have to get involved more so than before – stick our neck out, and potentially get it cut off. Oh, we will face greater challenges than this election cycle. Imagine when we actually have to start talking about real issues? Oh my.
Living the faith these days means listening not to the one with the mic who is sowing fear and hatred, but looking to that trusty ol Bible once again for guidance.
I look back on Christian history and realize some have been martyred for their faith. Are we prepared to live out the beatitudes to that end? I hope so. We follow a Master who did the same, speaking out against the leaders of his day with his very life.
Let’s speak up and speak out.