Saturday, May 16, 2015

Radical Religion

"Rooted in the Wilderness"
 -Outside the Desert Retreat House -

I have been quite entertained by a story I have been following in the news over the past few days. For several months, a number of fairly “right-wing” conservative politicians have been clamoring for greater “religious visibility” in America’s public forum. Many have suggested that pastors (by this they mean Christian pastors) should be far more vociferous in promulgating the teachings of Christianity beyond the doors of their churches, and that these teachings should serve as a basis for our common political life in this country.  Many have argued that America was founded as a “Christian nation,” and that we should return to these roots.

So it has been rather amusing now to see these very same pastors all "up in arms" against some of the things the Pope has been saying as he promotes respect for the environment, and calls for a greater redistribution of wealth and a renewed social awareness, caring for the needs of the poor. These very same politicians who just last week said that pastors should be more vociferous in the public arena are now chiding the Pope (who is probably the most visible pastor in the world) for his positions, telling him to go back inside his church and mind his own business when it comes to politics.

I guess that as long as a “pastor” agrees with these politicians who are encouraging more religious presence, condemning same -sex marriage, encouraging parishioners to carry guns in their pockets, the pastor is welcome into the public forum. Anyone else should go back inside and leave politics alone. 

I actually think that gang of right-wing, conservative American politicians should be exceedingly careful in their demands that this country should become a “Christian nation”-  most of them would want little or nothing to do with the “radical” teachings of Jesus.

Especially when it is associated with religion, the word “radical” has some very negative connotations – radical “Islamists” are violent terrorists; but the word “radical” essentially means, “at the root.” Every religion is “radical”- it stems from basic “root” principles and core teachings; and when you get at the root of most religion you almost always uncover compassion, generosity and hospitality.

If you look at the root (radical) sayings of Jesus, you find him saying things like:

Whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
Whoever would be first must be your slave.

He who humbles himself will be exalted and he who exalts himself will be humbled

Go sell all you have and give it to the poor and then you will have treasures in heaven

Imagine what it might be like if, in fact, we became a Christian nation- people committed to following the “way of life” outlined in the teachings of Jesus? The small minority of people holding the greatest wealth and most power in this country would gladly give it all away to care for those in need. The strongest would be devoted to caring for the weakest, those with full stomachs and nice homes would willingly share what they have to feed the hungry and find a place for everyone to live a life of dignity.  No one would be left at the margins of life, no one outside looking in, immigrants would be embraced at the border, no more class distinctions where one race is viewed as superior to another, no guns allowed, no more war.

I hardly think that most of those politicians calling for America to become a “Christian nation” really want any of that to happen.

As for me, I’m a follower of Jesus, committed to walking in his “way” - it’s pretty radical.

Listen to my podcast: "Desert Wisdom"


  1. How true. I've had the feeling for the longest time that those so called 'pastors' would have joined with the leaders of the synagogue to hand Jesus over to be executed if they were alive in the first century. Surely today they wish nothing to do with the outcasts and dregs of society as Jesus, the namesake of their religion, did.

    Would any of these pastors come to the air of a wounded Samaritan? (read Muslim, gay person, or inner city dweller today) Would any of them urge their followers to help pay for their healthcare, and rehabilitation, their food and housing their education? If not it is clear the spirit of Christ has left their hearts and the voices that reverberate within the halls where they meet are not the voices of heavenly angels.