Foolishness, Wisdom, Love

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It is Sunday morning, and I am not going to church today, because my white blood cell count is down, and I am not brave like my friend Erika who puts on a surgical mask and gets out there in the world. Of course, Erika looks pretty adorable in her mask, and I just look kind of scary. Seriously, what do you think when you see a person wearing a mask? “I wonder what sort of terrible disease that person has?” And this, of course, brings up another question, which is why can’t I get over this concern over what other people think of me???

Anyway, since I am not going to church, I thought I’d write a Stumbling Scripture Studies blog, since I’ve had a thought or two, perhaps even interesting, that is shareable. And as always, please don’t think I write these blogs just to tell you what I think, or what you should think. I am very interested in your pertinent, nice and creative perspectives. And your prayers. These Stumbling Scripture Studies, at least at this point, are a record of my own struggles in this journey.

The Bible reading track I am on is currently in 1 Corinthians chapters 2 and 3. These chapters have really captured the essence of my problem, which is the wisdom of this world coming up against the foolishness of the message of the gospel. Hey, that’s not my assessment. That is Paul’s. Time and again in these chapters, Paul states that the things of God are foolishness to the natural man, and that “If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Cor 3:18-19)

The point where I am in my faith is that I have resolved that I have been called to it, and that I am going to return to it however many times I run away. But it seems impossible for me to read the Bible or study my faith without looking at it through the  lens of the skeptic’s glasses. When I read this stuff about the wisdom of the world and the foolishness of God, half of me says, oh, aha, that is my problem, while the other half of me says, maybe this is because it really is foolishness. I can actually lay out that argument far more easily than the argument for faith’s wisdom. There is no argument for it. It is impossible to “witness for” the faith. When I read the scripts laid out for this purpose, it makes me cringe.

Faith, to me, is purely experiential. It can’t be argued, it can’t be taught. It has to be experienced. There have been enough times in my life that God has spoken to me, has acted in my life, that I have to open that door to him. But I think this is something anyone needs to experience for themselves. “Witnessing?” This is the only thing that I have ever been able to say to anyone that has made any sense: ask God to reveal himself to you. Say, “God if you are real, show me.” I used to say this with absolute certainty that God would do just that if given an opportunity. I still believe that. But in the many, many, many years since I first became a Christian (44 years to be precise), I have learned that resistance to the voice of God is deep.

Paul gives us a promise, however. He tells us that if we get over our wise old selves and allow ourselves to be fools, that the deep wisdom of God will be revealed to us. And I want that deep wisdom. I long for that deep wisdom. So let me be a fool.

If I should be wrong, and God doesn’t exist, and Christianity is just foolishness, what harm will be done if I am a fool? NONE. This is not to say that harm isn’t done in this world in the name of Christianity. It most certainly has been done, from early days through our own times. In this country today, the marriage between Christianity and the political right has been a spiritual disaster. It has bred a hate and intolerance that is completely out of step with what Jesus taught. It has bred a lack of caring for the needy among us that is purely Pharasaical, and which has been condemned by the Bible from start to finish. The Old Testament laws looked out for the poor, instructing landowners not to glean all from their fields, but to leave some for the poor among them to use. The early chapters of Isaiah may talk about the judgment on Israel for being unfaithful to God, but over and over again it talks about the greed of Israel and its lack of care for the poor. Isaiah says:

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good. Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Jesus, when he lived on this earth, did not hang out with the rich. He did not fulfill what the Jews of the time wanted, which was to overthrow the Roman government and restore the glory of the Kingdom of Israel on earth. He came and cared for the poor and the sick. He had compassion on those who were hungry and fed them, and on those who were sick and healed them. He taught us that the greatest commandment is that we love God with all our hearts, and second only to that is that we love one another. He gave us a very specific picture of what this means in Matthew 25: 34-46:

Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?” And the King will answer, “Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” 

Then he will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the evil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

Then they will also answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

As far as I can see, the right wing agenda falls squarely on the left hand, and it has given the world a bad taste for Christians and Christ. But this is not who Jesus was. Many of us want to hide our faith because of this perception, but we can’t. As a recent article in Sojourner magazine put it, “We must learn how to ‘come out’ as Christians.” We need to show people that we live the love that Jesus taught. It is not up to us to judge the world. If we have faith, we should be absolutely assured of God’s ability to communicate to each individual what he wants for them in their own lives. If we have faith, we should not fear that we don’t have enough to share. If Jesus could feed 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread, surely we could take in some refugees!

I have a long, long way to go to meet the standards of love that Jesus taught. I need to get off my duff and do it instead of just talking about it. Following Christ without reservation can only foster that in my life, and hopefully let others know that God really does love them. It will help me to become a mature believer to whom the deep things of God may be revealed. If I am a fool, well I will be a fool who has led a better life, and been a better person, for traveling the road I have chosen, or which has chosen me.

Faith to do good

I had a discussion on Facebook today about the current presidential race, and one woman said Hillary was endangering our country by wanting to bring in Syrian refugees. The woman in question claims to be a Christian. This is something that I just don’t understand. I remember when the Syrian crisis began, the church I attended showed videos about how terrible the situation was, with Christians being beheaded by ISIS, among other terrible atrocities. At that time it seemed we were being encouraged to care and to help.

Within a few months, however, I noticed that Christians were up in arms about the possibility that Syrian refugees might be allowed into our country. “They could be terrorists,” they said. “We have to make sure we have enough for our own people before we go helping people from other countries,” they said.

I was truly astounded by this attitude coming from Christians. This is so far from what Christ taught! He taught faith, not fear. Matthew 25 says that whenever we do not help someone in need, it is as though we have failed to help Jesus. He taught that when the storms arise that we should not be afraid, but have faith, that he is always with us. He taught us not to be afraid to share what we have. Remember those loaves and fishes? What a lack of faith is displayed by those who call themselves Christians but dig in their heels against helping our Syrian brothers and sisters.

There are children who will suffer and die because of that triumph of fear over faith.

I guess I kind of take this personally, because the triumph of fear over faith, or compassion, or human kindness, or just plain goodness could well have cost my own child her life. My daughter, Michaela Joy Garecht (www.dearmichaela.com) was kidnapped in 1988, the victim of a witnessed stranger abduction. Michaela’s friend saw her being kidnapped, watched the kidnapper’s until he drove his car out of the parking lot and onto the highway. Then she ran to get help. At that time, however, there was an older woman pulling onto the same highway from across the street. She took note of the kidnapper’s car. He was driving so erratically she thought he might cause an accident, and because of that she made an attempt to memorize his license plate number.

Later that day she watched the news, and realized what it was she had seen. Did she call the police? No, she didn’t. She didn’t because she was more afraid of the remote possibility of danger to herself than she was concerned about the certainty of the horror my daughter was facing. It was three months later that she called me, but even then she was motivated by fear. She had been in the grocery store and had seen a man who looked like my daughter’s kidnapper. She was afraid that he might have recognized her and might want to hurt her, and that is why she reached out to me.

I was nice to her. I talked to her, I “understood.” I talked her into undergoing hypnosis in order to try to recall the license plate number, but it had been a long time by then, and she told me the day before the session that she would not remember the license plate number. And she didn’t.

My sweet, beautiful, kind, innocent little girl endured what unknown fate that might have been prevented if this woman had come forward with whatever information she had, if she had come forward soon enough to be able to retrieve the license plate number. I really could not understand how she could have allowed the unlikely danger to herself to outweigh my daughter’s suffering, my daughter’s life.

And I don’t understand those who would lock the gates and turn their backs on the Syrian refugees because of their own imagined perception of possible danger, or worse, because they aren’t sure we have enough to share. One day, one way or another, I believe they will have to answer for this.

The sad thing is that these people don’t even acknowledge what they are doing. They don’t own up to their fear. They don’t confess their lack of faith. They seem to think they are fine, righteous even.

It’s just part of the political climate this season I guess. A heartwrenching season. I pray it will be over soon and we can go to better days under compassionate leadership.