Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Judgment Day

Honestly, I don't have to work to think like a Christian--it comes naturally. My God-consciousness is as determinedly fixed as the color of my eyes or my shoe size. I can't help it.
If we judged folks by the number of times they've attended worship, my face would be on cover of every checkout line magazine. I'd have my own fashion line for Sabbath worship. If wealth, gobs of it, were a byproduct of reading scripture, I'd weekend in a sprawling mansion on an island otherwise uninhabited. If writing devotionals were money in the bank, I'd be Trump.

But I don't hold with those who claim America is a Christian nation--or was or should be or will be once this law is passed or that one repealed. My own immigrant great-grandparents came to this country right before the Civil War because they wanted to worship freely and couldn't, they thought, in the Netherlands. I'm a Dutch-American; but, in truth, calling me that spares the real qualifier: I'm an American of Dutch Calvinist stock. Scribble that word "Calvinist" in and there's real definition.

It's sweepstakes time again, which means that the religious rhetoric flies off the charts. Trump's favorite book is the Bible, he says. W's favorite philosopher was Jesus--remember that? Most newscasts these days are full of heaving testimonies.

Yesterday, it was Dr. Ben Carson, a man I believe is telling the truth. "The biggest thing is that I realize where my success has come from," Carson told someone yesterday, someone who asked him about the difference between himself and the Donald. "And I don't in any way deny my faith in God. . .I think that probably is a big difference between us."

I'm not for a moment impugning Carson's integrity or honesty or piety. I believe him, and I think his judgment is probably right.

But every election season it's helpful to remember that there is a continental divide in this land between church and state, and Carson's words--truthful though they may be--are a rich testimony for why, thankfully, that is true.

Who gets to judge who's a good Christian and who's not? The scorecards of the Reverend Al Sharpton and the Reverend Franklin Graham probably wouldn't list the same lineups. And how might either of them--or us--have judged the qualifications of, say, the Samaritan woman--or the Good Samaritan himself? Who would have thought much of Rahab the Harlot? And it's fair to say that the disciples of Jesus had little use for that questionable strumpet who used her hair to anoint Jesus's feet--remember that?

We're not a "Christian nation," thank God. There are Jews here and Muslims and tons and tons of nones, right? There is no such thing as a Christian nation, nor ever has been. If we were, some high court would have to establish finally who is Christian and who isn't, and that isn't a cake walk. If I slip on my Obama t-shirt this morning and walk around downtown, plenty of people on the sidewalks will wonder about my eternal rest because Obama's a Muslim, right?

When Dr. Carson says what he does about Donald Trump, I believe him. In my opinion he's telling the truth. But I'd be much happier if we didn't get into that species of shoving match.

What any candidate believes is certainly not irrelevant, but who is the better Christian isn't a question any of us is truly qualified to answer. We don't do well at such judgments, especially those who believe they do.

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