Our faith should inform our politics. All too often our politics inform our faith.

Posted: Fri, Feb 7, 2020
Our faith should inform our politics. All too often our politics inform our faith. Yesterday was the 68th National Prayer Breakfast. Historically, those with differing political views humbly set them aside for an hour or two acknowledging there is a higher authority than themselves. One of the speakers was Arthur Brooks who recently published a [...]

Rev. Dr. Steven Koski

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Our faith should inform our politics. All too often our politics inform our faith.

Yesterday was the 68th National Prayer Breakfast. Historically, those with differing political views humbly set them aside for an hour or two acknowledging there is a higher authority than themselves. One of the speakers was Arthur Brooks who recently published a book called “Love Your Enemies.” Mr. Brooks said to the audience “Ask God to give you the strength to do this hard thing; to go against your human nature; to follow Jesus’ teaching; you here believe Jesus’ teaching; act like it – me too. So, love your enemies. Ask God to remove political contempt from your heart.”

President Trump was the speaker immediately following Mr. Brooks and said, “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you. But I don’t know if Arthur’s going to like what I’m going to say.”

The command of Jesus to “Love your enemies. Bless those that curse you. Pray for those that persecute you. Do good to them that hate you” comes from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). I can understand the President of the United States at a prayer breakfast acknowledging how difficult it is to follow the teachings and way of Jesus and asking for prayer from those who are gathered. Instead, the President chose to make light of and mock the commands of Jesus. The President went further to use this forum to express his anger and resentment at his perceived enemies and pride in his own accomplishments.

The previous speaker invited us all to ask God to remove contempt from our hearts and to give us strength to do the hard thing. The President chose to delight in his contempt. Even more troubling were the cheers and whistles heard from the crowd. Christian leaders appeared to be encouraging our President to double down in fighting their perceived enemies instead of prayerfully asking God for the strength to do the hard, hard work of loving them.

Mocking the Sermon on the Mount and using a Prayer Breakfast to attack your enemies displayed an ugliness of spirit. What troubled me the most was the contempt and ugliness in my own heart as I watched. I was matching the hate I witnessed with hate of my own. If you hate the hater all anyone is left with is hate.

One of the greatest spiritual dangers of our day is reflecting the same ugliness we resist in the way we resist and protest. We add to the ugliness. Instead of shining light into the darkness, we add to the darkness. Our spiritual challenge is to speak truth to power in love without succumbing to the power of hate and demonizing others. Dr. King’s words are timeless, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’

Check out the picture below:

This is a picture of a Yucca tree on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Over half of the island was destroyed by raging wildfires. In the midst of this devastated landscape, coming from the top of this charred tree is new growth bursting forth as a symbol of hope. A Yucca tree has roots 20 feet deep. The new life emerging from the top of the tree after the fire comes from the roots.

How can we best be that symbol of hope in the midst of a country on fire burning with division, distrust and despair? The answer may not be moving further to the right or to the left but going deeper. How can our roots be firmly planted in the love of God and the teachings and way of Jesus?

Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1973, arguably a similarly troubled and polarized time. He said, “Today our prayers must begin with repentance. Individually, we must seek forgiveness for the exile of love from our hearts. And corporately as a people, we must turn in repentance from the sin that scarred out national soul. In Second Chronicles we read, ‘If my people shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will forgive them and heal their land.”

I pray that God will give us the strength to do the hard thing, the hard, hard work of loving our enemies; blessing those that curse us; praying for those that persecute us; and doing good to those that hate us. Love, forgiveness, empathy and compassion are not partisan issues. They are the very things that make us human and the reflection of Jesus in this world.

As we go deeper finding our roots in the love and way of Jesus, I am confidant we can be a symbol of hope to a world burning in bitterness.

As always, so very grateful to serve you and serve with you for we are called for such a time as this,

 

Steven