Monday, July 25, 2011

Greed is the new American Religion

Greed is rapidly replacing Christianity as the dominant religion in the United States. Our love for the god of money is replacing our love for the Lord our God. We are allowing the worship of wealth to come before the worship of God, a direct violation of the first Commandment. This love of the almighty dollar affects not only the so called super rich but people at all socio-economic levels. No matter how much we have, or don’t have, we always want more. As Ecclesiastes 5:10 tells us, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” And, as Timothy reminds us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

We see this love of money even within the church. There are pastors who are more concerned about increasing their personal income, than they are about witnessing to their faith in Jesus Christ. Churches at the local and denominational level are more concerned about self-preservation than they are about doing the work of Jesus Christ in the world. Even when they talk about our need to bring more people to Christ, their subtext is often, “more people equals more dollars.”

At the national level we are willing to sell out the elderly, the disabled, the veteran, the most vulnerable among us to ensure additional wealth for those at the top. We should remember the words of Jesus from Luke 12:48 “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” Unfortunately, we keep score by who has the most things of this world and we honor those who accumulate the most wealth instead of those most faithful to the teachings of scripture.

In addition to failing to live up to the contract our government made with us, the citizens of this nation who paid into a retirement fund and a retirement medical insurance program our entire working life (Social Security and Medicare), cuts to those programs are also violate the fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and mother,” as well as violating the commandments Jesus gave us to care for the most vulnerable among us. These commandments were intended not only for us as individuals, but also for us collectively as a society. After all, a nation is simply a large group of individuals. What is good for one is good for all.

At the same time we refuse to cut spending on our savior, the military-industrial complex. We put our trust in our military power instead of in the Lord our God. When attacked, as we were on Sept. 11, 2001, we failed to listen to Jesus who tells us to, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Mt 5:44) and turned to the military for vengeance even though God clearly says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” (Duet. 32:35)

We could save billions if not trillions of dollars if we would simply declare an end to World War II and bring those troops home. We do not need to continue occupying Germany, Japan, Italy and other nations in Europe and Asia. History tells us that empires fell when they over extended themselves and tried to occupy and control more of the world than they were capable of. We need to allow other nations to take care of themselves and focus more on our own people. We could easily balance the budget if we would stop fighting unnecessary, unwinnable wars; stop producing weapons we don’t need; and bring the troops home for Iraq and Afghanistan as well.

Who do you love; I mean really love, God or wealth? Who do you trust; I mean really trust to protect you, Jesus or the military?

The Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson is a member of the South Georgia Annual Conference. He writes and speaks frequently on Faith and Politics. He can be reached at revdrjimnelson@bellsouth.net.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Macon Politics: This is the "Knock at Midnight"

On Tuesday, Maconites will go to the polls to vote for Mayor, Council and, in two special elections, will choose  new members for our local legislative delegation. Maybe elections are like labor, with the pain and stress forgotten once the election is over, but, if not, these campaigns have been among the most painful and divisive in memory. The overt attempts on the part of some to gain a political advantage by exacerbating the racial divide in our community threatens to undo the sincere work of many to address and heal past injustice and inequity and affirm our diversity as a strength. Any candidate who is willing to divide our community in this way, for personal power, is unfit to serve. On Friday, Rev. Eddie Smith, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Macon, made history by speaking out for the first time about the tenor of the current local campaigns. He was spot on, and below, I am providing a copy of his remarks.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Permission to Speak Freely?

I do not currently serve in any official capacity with the Democratic Party, and I am no longer on the Board of Georgia's WIN List. As much as I love both of these organizations, the fact that I am not currently serving gives me the opportunity to speak my mind without worry that my comments will be attributed to either organization. So, here goes.

While primary elections are always difficult, the current contests in Bibb County have produced some extremely counter-productive dialogue. We have serious problems to address in our community, yet, a great deal of time and energy has been spent discussing whether or not particular candidates, and their supporters are "really Democrats." This doesn't help our Party, and it certainly doesn't help our community.
It should not be controversial to want to work to expand the base and the reach of the Party I, along with many others, have worked so hard to support. If we really believe that the Democratic Party has something important and unique to of...fer to our community, our state and our nation, then we should not treat it as a social club where only those who know the secret handshake need bother trying to join. Creating narrow litmus tests for membership will ensure that we are the minority party in this state for a long, long time. We should define ourselves by our core values, most simply put that we believe that the rising tide should lift all boats, and never by any other measure. We should welcome those who want to be a part, especially those with the energy and vision of youth, and those of at any station in life who wish to commit themselves to working to make our community a better place to live, work and raise a family. Further, a willingness to work collaboratively with those of different political parties for the good of the community is an attribute, not a sign of disloyalty. In fact, a political party is only relevant to the extent it offers real solutions to the challenges we face. I would say we are in this boat together, but in reality, if we insist on narrow tests of allegiance, particularly tests that begin and end with the support of a particular candidate, we won't need a boat at all. A canoe will do.