Archive for the ‘Traditions’ Category

Pastor and prominent Christian leader John Piper has said, “I love not being an innovator” and that he fears new ideas.  This may sound odd to some people but for those of us who recognize and uphold the fact that truth is timeless rather than ever-evolving it’s a statement that is brilliant in its simplicity and prophetic when contrasted with much of modern society.  While Piper has made the comments in reference to finding supporting evidence for his theological and doctrinal positions in works of antiquity, I recently expressed a similar sentiment after stumbling upon an article written by distinguished sociology professor and National Humanities Medal winner Robert N. Bellah.  It is always refreshing as well as humbling for me when I find that a conviction, theory, or even an inkling, that I’ve held has been shared and articulated by smart, influential people!  Honestly, it has the effect on me of affirming that I’m not crazy, or that I think too much, or that I’ve been connecting dots that aren’t there.  In this particular instance the subject matter is something I’ve observed, thought and prayed about for a long time, and written several posts on: the vaguely-Christian, nationalistic syncretism that many individuals and churches hold up as biblical Christianity.

Unbeknownst to me, Bellah is a pioneering thinker in this area with his 1967 article, Civil Religion in America, being highly influential.  Needless to say I was thrilled when I found it reprinted in its entirety online.  Having read it, I believe it’s an important contribution to the discourse I’ve started on this blog so I am pleased to provide a few snippets below to whet your appetite in addition to providing the link where you can read the original article in full.  I, too, love not being an innovator…

The words and acts of the founding fathers, especially the first few presidents, shaped the form and tone of the civil religion as it has been maintained ever since. Though much is selectively derived from Christianity, this religion is clearly not itself Christianity…

What we have, then, from the earliest years of the republic is a collection of beliefs, symbols, and rituals with respect to sacred things and institutionalized in a collectivity. This religion—there seems no other word for it—while not antithetical to and indeed sharing much in common with Christianity, was neither sectarian nor in any specific sense Christian…

The American civil religion was never anticlerical or militantly secular. On the contrary, it borrowed selectively from the religious tradition in such a way that the average American saw no conflict between the two. In this way, the civil religion was able to build up without any bitter struggle with the church powerful symbols of national solidarity and to mobilize deep levels of personal motivation for the attainment of national goals…

The civil religion has not always been invoked in favor of worthy causes. On the domestic scene, an American-Legion type of ideology that fuses God, country, and flag has been used to attack nonconformist and liberal ideas and groups of all kinds…

The theme of the American Israel was used, almost from the beginning, as a justification for the shameful treatment of the Indians so characteristic of our history. It can be overtly or implicitly linked to the ideal of manifest destiny that has been used to legitimate several adventures in imperialism since the early nineteenth century…

Behind the civil religion at every point lie biblical archetypes: Exodus, Chosen People, Promised Land, New Jerusalem, and Sacrificial Death and Rebirth. But it is also genuinely American and genuinely new. It has its own prophets and its own martyrs, its own sacred events and sacred places, its own solemn rituals and symbols. It is concerned that America be a society as perfectly in accord with the will of God as men can make it, and a light to all nations…

(Bellah, Robert N.: 1967)


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Getting Personal

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there lived a beautiful princess… seems to be the way most fairy tales begin. However, life is not a fairy tale.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been pumped full of fantasies of that sort, shaping my ideas of romantic relationships and leading me to believe all dreams should come to pass. These stories of princes sweeping their fair maidens off their feet has in many ways influenced me and distorted, for me, God’s views on the “Big Day.”

Recently, I’ve been finding myself resorting mostly to fantasy rather than reality. You see… I got engaged last month. After two years and nine months of dating my boyfriend, now fiancé, asked me to marry him and I said, “Yes!” It has been all very exciting, but along with the engagement comes a lot of wedding logistics that requires time, energy and thought. Don’t get my wrong… I’m not complaining. I know planning can be very enjoyable with God’s help. However, it has been difficult to be faithful in the process. I feel God challenging me more than ever to examine my choices, in order to become a person more consistent in living out my talk about simplicity and justice.

In other words, God has brought justice to a much more personal level. It definitely hasn’t been in the ways I normally think about it-feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, etc. All which are acts of kindness and compassion done towards someone else. But what I feel I am learning about is justice in the form of simplicity in the day-to-day choices I have to make, because without simplicity it would be hard to see God’s bigger picture of justice. It would definitely be difficult to give up things He wants for us to and give to the poor. I believe what God wants for me is a lifestyle, not just more justice oriented extracurricular activities.

As a result, I’ve been prompted to put my wedding plans under a magnifying glass. And I’ve found myself guilty of many things, but especially in thinking… “It’s my wedding! I should be able to do whatever I want!” Me, me, me, its all about me! Oh Lord, please have mercy! I am missing the whole point when I think like that.

It’s evident, from my example, that I haven’t been able to stop my mind from wandering. Instead, I’ve allowed my fantasies to drive my decision-making. The truth of the matter is that my wedding day is just another day in light of eternity, and how would I be consistent if I drop a grip of money just to turn my fantasy into reality? I wouldn’t do something like that for anything else, so why should my wedding be an exception. Hence, from my engagement ring to the wedding favors, I’ve been trying to let God search my heart and reveal any offensive ways. It has been rough and my fiancé has been putting up with a lot of the frustration I’ve been experiencing in the process (Thanks!).

I know that God cares about the desires of my heart, but I still find myself getting disappointed and even upset when I don’t get exactly what I want. I get so hung up on things. I can’t help but wonder… How much is too much to spend? Am I being inconsistent? Am I getting carried away in what I want? I need God’s guidance and his peace to get through this.

There is still much planning ahead, but through the process I’ve been reminded that living the life that Jesus calls us to-to live simply, love mercy, and seek justice-is not so easy. I feel sometimes all I know how to do is talk the talk, but I really don’t know how to walk the talk. I want to be obedient and I need God’s help to make the right choices.

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