31 January 2013

A Separation of Church and State?

Where do I start?  After last week's MLK retreat and presidential inauguration, I was left with a lot of food for thought and a new hopefulness for our country.  I came back refreshed and renewed, but over the course of this past week, I've heard so many negative comments about the ceremony itself, and just general negativity about this presidency.  It's been a big energy suck.  Seriously.

This past Sunday at church we had a visiting priest, a monk from one of the churches in Armenia.  As he gave his sermon, I couldn't help but connect the attitudes regarding our church, with the attitudes regarding our country.  Fr. Asbed is assigned to a small monastery in Armenia.  Since most of the older adult population  grew up under the communist regime, he didn't have many in his congregation that were true believers.  But he was happy to report about the children.  He had 22 children coming to Sunday school, a handful of altar servers, and a children's choir.  He was hopeful.  But, he reported, that most people that come to his church, view the church as a museum, some "antique" building  to visit.  And what unnerved him was that the people that came to "visit" were very critical of the church complaining that the grounds could use maintenance, or that the place looked run down.  To which he would respond to them, "Excuse me?  Who are you to come here and criticize.  I've never even seen you here"  He went on to remind us that the church was not "his" or the country's but it belonged to ALL of us.  And it was up to all of us to take care of it.  Whether we had the blessing of financial ability or we could volunteer our voices in the choir or serve on the altar, or if we can help with physical maintenance, we should all understand that these talents are entrusted to us by God and that we should use them to his glory. 

Okay, a simple message, right?  Take care of what is entrusted to you by God.  It's up to you to take care of it.  And so what about our country?  What about our world?  For those of us that are blessed to live in the U.S., or in any democratic society that allows us to vote for our leaders, whether you agree with your elected officials or not, it's our country.   We are entrusted to take care of it...to make the best of what we have, and if not, to use our talents to bring about change to make it better for everyone.  Not sit back and bash and bad mouth. 

When I got back from Big Bear last weekend, I asked a friend of mine if he had watched the inauguration.  The response was no, that he wouldn't want to watch it.  I filled him in on what he had missed - the prayers, the poem, our president's speech.   His response was that the president has speech writers who write the speech for him and therefore it's not sincere and that, oh, by the way,  Beyonc√© lip-synced the National Anthem of all things! (how could she?)  Really?  Okay, so he didn't view the ceremony, yet he knew all about it from various media outlets.  And to be clear, it wasn't the fact that he didn't watch it that upset me - certainly, everyone has a right to choose what they want to do with their time  - but what upset me was this person's negative and pre-conceived speculation on programming he didn't watch based on political bias - based on the commentary of pundits and speculations by media talking-heads.

Our country was built by the sweat of our people.  People who worked together for these United States. Every four years we elect a president.  Your political party either wins or loses.  Are we like the people that come to visit the little church in Armenia?  Detached and removed by choice, and then filled with negativity and complaints failing to see that this country belongs to ALL of us, and it's up to all of us to make use of our God-given talents to make it great?  We learned last week at our retreat that we CAN make change happen.  It requires patience, persistence, hope, prayer but more than anything, change requires action. It's easy to sit back and criticize.  I, too, was not happy with our president's first term, but I am hopeful that this next term will be better.   If we're not happy with the current situation, then we can work together to make it better.  And it's okay to complain (because we shouldn't just sit back and drink the Kool-Aid), but we should at least be informed on what we're complaining about and then work toward fixing it.

Is this democratic system that was created to unite us and give us a voice, creating separation and complacency among us?  I pray that we can set aside political party bias and prejudice and use everything in our ability to make things  better for all.  The office of president is a difficult and challenging one for anyone, no matter what their party affiliation.  Let's pray that God grant our president the wisdom to lead our nation toward peace and prosperity.  And also, pray that He gives us the courage and wisdom to judge a man not by his political party, but by the content of his actions.  And then after that informed judgment is made, to create in us the passion and fire to either work toward implementing those programs or create new ones that are better!

Finally, I'll leave with you a quote I read from one of our past presidents - Franklin D. Roosevelt:
There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still."  Let's work together to move beyond our prejudices and work to achieve our highest potential...and let's do it together.

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