I’m a Christian, but I have to admit I don’t listen to “Christian” radio or television much, mainly because with very few exceptions, I find myself completely disgusted by all the latter day doom being predicted by so many men and women of the cloth as they find scriptural references to persuade their flock that the end times are upon us, the country is falling apart and God’s judgment is about to rain down on us because we put the wrong person in office. Since I do have family in other countries I wonder sometimes how all this American theology impacts them and since they are not yet running to the rocks to fall on them, I personally take great comfort in the fact that there is no divine revelation just for the United States, which excludes the rest of God’s creation around the world. Simply put, if the same Gospel preached in Alabama is not relevant in Johannesburg, it ain’t the Gospel.
I won’t even begin to address why these righteous (or self righteous) voices were so quiet in the past 8 years as the country marched off to war on what we now know was fraudulent information, but that is for another day. At the moment I am focusing more on this Bible that so many are using to postulate their dire predictions and for what it’s worth, thought I would add my two cents.
I would like to begin with one of my favorite quotes made by Jesus himself in his sermon on the mount. Every Sunday school child, including yours truly learned this as a part of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8. I have to tell you I find this verse both comforting, in that it gives me something to strive for, conversely, it can also be quite challenging in that one wonders is it really possible to be “pure in heart.” Is it in fact possible to empty ourselves on an ongoing basis of our own selfish desires, in order to attain the level of perfection where our motives are pure enough to merit seeing the face of God?
Are you in fact pure in heart if you use people’s ignorance as a weapon against them to scare them into believing things that you know to be untrue i.e. “Obama is going to put grandma in front of a ‘death panel’ that will decide if she gets life saving treatment or not.” Are you pure in heart if you incite fury and thinly disguised disrespect, aimed at boxing the President in at every turn, with an alarming brand of mediocrity i.e. “Obama is trying to brainwash our children through his broadcast to their schools” while retreating a position of neutral observer.
Are you pure in heart when you purposely and willfully concoct stories you know the press, always on the lookout for the most salacious drivel, will be only too happy to latch onto, issuing noble disclaimers only after they have done their level best to pollute the airways by spreading what they know to be total foolishness i.e. “Obama is not am American he has a fake birth certificate.”
There are people like Beck and Limbaugh, from whom I expect very little and who armed with their high school level education, and temperament, never disappoint. Their ignorance is superseded only by their overwhelming surprise at finding themselves in the position of being able to influence a built in audience; that certain segment of the population who will never accept someone with the “unlikely” name of Barack Obama as “their” president. The interesting part for me, however, has been the closet (for lack of a better word) “haters,” who express “shock” at the level of anger at the town halls, even while pointing to them as proof of what people are feeling about healthcare reform. Really! I can find just as many people who support healthcare reform, myself included, who can counter with facts not hysterics, sadly, however, we don’t make the news. Admittedly if we tipped a few desks and shook our fists in the air we might start getting some coverage but as it is we speak truth to power in settings such as the candlelight vigil I attended last week in Birmingham, Alabama, where a mixed group of people (a story in itself) shared their stories and pledged their support for the President’s healthcare initiative.
Anyway, back to my favorite verse about the pure in heart because it would seem to me from where I sit; in order to be considered “pure” one has to empty ones self of personal agendas, selfishness, prejudices, impure motives and that secret desire to wreak havoc while maintaining a dignified position. One wonders if it’s possible at all, especially with all the agendas, under the table deals and of course those well paid lobbyists who are throwing unbelievable sums of money at any politician they think will help them in their fight against healthcare reform. Reminds me of a verse I read recently, Proverbs 29:4 “The king (president) by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.”
It would seem at the end of the day as King Solomon said “there is truly nothing new under the sun.” The poor and disenfranchised have always been with us, hoping for someone to do the right thing on their behalf; the ones who can’t see past their own self interest and who will do whatever is necessary to take care of their own needs have also been here. For my part, I have learned to tune out a lot of the chatter around me these days because there is a huge difference between righteousness and self-righteousness which is what I see in evidence among those who would vilify the President.
I don’t believe that anything good comes from the visceral, hate filled spectacles that have played out on the news, rather, it is my belief that purity of heart is realized in acts of total unselfishness without fanfare or even press coverage. That it is standing up for others and speaking truth to power, without hype, or screaming rhetoric. That it is not asking “What would Jesus do” but instead answering the question through actions, because at the end of the day, purity is about looking in the mirror and being pleased with the person you see looking back, because you know you did the right thing, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do.