There are two things you never discuss in polite company, right? Religion and politics. Tom Berlin put them both on the line for 40 plus minutes from the pulpit this Sunday. You can catch the sermon on video here. I know Tom to be incredibly conscientious and very aware of the weight of his words and their potential to be misinterpreted. This gives me even more reason to applaud his willingness to tackle politics from the pulpit.
He brings to mind another Tom I have been reading a lot about lately. The Thomas Jefferson Bible has gotten a lot of press. Having been restored, it is now on exhibit through July 8 at the National Museum of NaturalHistory. The celebrated Jefferson Bible was the product of his nearly lifelong study of scripture (in Latin, Greek, French and English) and culling what he considered were “the essential teachings of Jesus.” A cut and paste bonanza. This was a man who took his pursuit of faith seriously.
Jefferson championed religious freedom and the separation of church and state, but he worked hard to keep hisfaith beliefs private. He knew the risks. “Every word which goes forth from me,” he wrote, “whether verbally or in writing, becomes the subject of so much malignant distortion, and pervertedconstruction, that I am obliged to caution my friends against thepossibilityof my letters getting into the public papers.” And for him there was no internet orYouTube!
“Our” Tom faces both and wades in anyway. This may be what I like best of all about Floris UMC – the willingness to venture into the fray with both boldness and humility. To leave thesafetyof the sidelines. I have a feeling this is a skill Tom has cultivated over the years, and I have come to admire it as a culture that pervades our church. Tackling the tough stuff; refusing to be sidelined “when justice cries out for us to walk in the streets.”
There are so many places I have chosen over the years not to speak up, ostensiblyto “keep the peace.” But that only looks like peace. The real thing is messy. It requires participation. Somehow, inthevery act of engaging the conversation we become better and better at speaking the hard truth in love, even when we know others may distort our words or challenge us to support our claims.
It may be why the loose confederacy that spans liberal Democrats and Tea Party Republicans can peaceably co-exist at Floris UMC. Because we are pointed to the truth ofscripture,
““whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink on these things.” Philippians 4:8
You know, Thomas Jefferson warned against forming political parties. Ours is a new day, not so different from the days of old.Newsweek’s headline Easter week read, “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus.” As for me, if it weren’t for my church, Iwouldn’thave a prayer of following Jesus. I wonder what Jefferson would find if he sat in our pews on a Sunday. Perhaps hope in his own conclusion that “Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian.”
Thank you Tom.