Religion of Self

Most of American Christianity has become a “religion of self.” It may apply to “cafeteria Catholics” or Episcopalians. It certainly applies to Unitarian Universalists (remember their commercials from several years ago that depicted people cobbling together their own belief systems). It applies to American Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism in the “me and Jesus” mentality and the incessant splitting of congregations and denominations as if we can say to one another, “you are not needed any longer,” as we yell heresy.
It is grounded in self, the defining of faith by individual religious feelings, rather than seeking Truth. The individual is paramount.
As I have come to understand the notion of the “catholic” nature of the Church, I have moved further and further away from “religion of self.” I am not the final arbiter of what is Truth, even my “personal truth.” I can reject anything and blindly believe anything, but Truth is something that is beyond the mere self.
So, what does this all mean?

Government’s Responsibility & Self-Sufficiency

From Sojourners, this quote:

“To be poor in America was to be invisible, but not after this week, not after those images of the bedraggled masses at the Superdome, convention center and airport. No one can claim that the post-Reagan orthodoxy of low taxes and small government, which does wonders for the extremely rich, also inevitably does wonders for the extremely poor. What was that about a rising tide lifting all boats? What if you don’t have a boat?”
– Eugene Robinson, columnist.
Source: The Washington Post

I don’t know whether it is post-Reagan orthodoxy or not, but I will always say that the best route for the prosperity of people is to help them be self-sufficient, not dependent on the government. Katrina shows us that it is dangerous to depend on government. If Mr. Robinson advocates a return to the Great Society programs that lead to 1970’s style welfare system, then I will say he is absolutely wrong.
Teach a person to fish, rather than simply giving them fish. Big government will get us no where and give us nothing much more than dependence, corruption, waste, and graft. Smaller government that focuses on the constitutionally given responsibility of protecting the people will encompass helping the poor to have equal opportunity to be as self-sufficient as anyone else. (Self-sufficiency, I believe, incorporates community. Self-sufficiency is not about not needing anyone else.)

Politics and Preaching

I preached at St. Paul’s again this past Sunday. There was a search committee from a church that is considering me for their open vicar position at St. Paul’s evaluating me as I did my “stuff.”
Afterwards, two St. Paul’s members, two of our more mature members whom I love, came up to me individually and said that they really liked the sermon, but could certainly discern my politics from the sermon. One said they really don’t like politics in the pulpit, but the sermon was great anyway. So, I said, “I bet you really don’t know my politics from that sermon!” Both of them said something like, “Oh, yes, it came through loud and clear.”
I asked one of them, “So, what do you think my political persuasion really is?” He said, “On the far left of the Democratic party.” Oh my gosh! A far left-Democrat! Me! Well, I said, “Oh my no!”
Isn’t it funny the perceptions people form about us from our words? Of course that is how they form opinions, but it drives home the need to be very careful with our words. I try very hard to be neutral concerning politics when I preach. It is not so important to me whether someone is a stanch conservative or a socialist, but that they are informed and reasonable. Yet, I think when some people hear what sounds unconventional (which the way of Jesus will always be!), it sounds liberal.
The search committee really liked the sermon, too!