Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Person of Faith Speaks Out

What Are Moral Values?
by Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers
Mayflower Church, Oklahoma City

As some of you know, I am minister of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, a church in northwest Oklahoma City, and professor of Rhetoric at Oklahoma City University. But you would most likely have encountered me on the pages of the Oklahoma Gazette, where I have been a columnist for six years, and hold the record for the most number of angry letters to the editor.

Tonight, I join ranks of those who are angry, because I have watched as the faith I love has been taken over by those who claim to speak for Jesus, but whose actions are anything but Christian.

We've heard a lot lately about so-called "moral values" as having swung the election to President Bush. Well, I'm a great believer in moral values, but we need to have a discussion, all over this country, about exactly what constitutes a moral value -- I mean what are we talking about? Because we don't get to make them up as we go along, especially not if we are people of faith. We have an inherited tradition of what is right and wrong, and moral is as moral does. Let me give you just a few of the reasons why I take issue with those in power who claim moral values are on their side:

When you start a war on false pretenses, and then act as if your deceptions are justified because you are doing God's will, and that your critics are either unpatriotic or lacking in faith, there are some of us who have given our lives to teaching and preaching the faith who believe that this is not only not moral, but immoral.

When you live in a country that has established international rules for waging a just war, build the United Nations on your own soil to enforce them, and then arrogantly break the very rules you set down for the rest of the world, you are doing something immoral.

When you claim that Jesus is the Lord of your life, and yet fail to acknowledge that your policies ignore his essential teaching, or turn them on their head (you know, Sermon on the Mount stuff like that we must never return violence for violence and that those who live by the sword will die by the sword), you are doing something immoral.

When you act as if the lives of Iraqi civilians are not as important as the lives of American soldiers, and refuse to even count them, you are doing something immoral.

When you find a way to avoid combat in Vietnam, and then question the patriotism of someone who volunteered to fight, and came home a hero, you are doing something immoral.

When you ignore the fundamental teachings of the gospel, which says that the way the strong treat the weak is the ultimate ethical test, by giving tax breaks to the wealthiest among us so the strong will get stronger and the weak will get weaker, you are doing something immoral.

When you wink at the torture of prisoners, and deprive so-called "enemy combatants" of the rules of the Geneva Conventions, which your own country helped to establish and insists that other countries follow, you are doing something immoral.

When you claim that the world can be divided up into the good guys and the evil doers, slice up your own nation into those who are with you, or with the terrorists -- and then launch a war which enriches your own friends and seizes control of the oil to which we are addicted, instead of helping us to kick the habit, you are doing something immoral.

When you fail to veto a single spending bill, but ask us to pay for a war with no exit strategy and no end in sight, creating an enormous deficit that hangs like a great millstone around the necks of our children, you are doing something immoral.

When you cause most of the rest of the world to hate a country that was once the most loved country in the world, and act like it doesn't matter what others think of us, only what God thinks of you, you have done something immoral.

When you use hatred of homosexuals as a wedge issue to turn out record numbers of evangelical voters, and use the Constitution as a tool of discrimination, you are doing something immoral.

When you favor the death penalty, and yet claim to be a follower of Jesus, who said an eye for an eye was the old way, not the way of the kingdom, you are doing something immoral.

When you dismantle countless environmental laws designed to protect the earth which is God's gift to us all, so that the corporations that bought you and paid for your favors will make higher profits while our children breathe dirty air and live in a toxic world, you have done something immoral. The earth belongs to the Lord, not Halliburton.

When you claim that our God is bigger than their God, and that our killing is righteous, while theirs is evil, we have begun to resemble the enemy we claim to be fighting, and that is immoral. We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.

When you tell people that you intend to run and govern as a "compassionate conservative," using the word which is the essence of all religious faith -- compassion, and then show no compassion for anyone who disagrees with you, and no patience with those who cry to you for help, you are doing something immoral.

When you talk about Jesus constantly, who was a healer of the sick, but do nothing to make sure that anyone who is sick can go to see a doctor, even if she doesn't have a penny in her pocket, you are doing something immoral.

When you put judges on the bench who are racist, and will set women back a hundred years, and when you surround yourself with preachers who say gays ought to be killed, you are doing something immoral. I'm tired of people thinking that because I'm a Christian, I must be a supporter of President Bush, or that because I favor civil rights and gay rights I must not be a person of faith. I'm tired of people saying that I can't support the troops but oppose the war. I heard that when I was your age, when the Vietnam war was raging. We knew that that war was wrong, and you know that this war is wrong -- the only question is how many people are going to die before these make-believe Christians are removed from power?

This country is bankrupt. The war is morally bankrupt. The claim of this administration to be Christian is bankrupt. And the only people who can turn things around are people like you--young people who are just beginning to wake up to what is happening to them. It's your country to take back. It's your faith to take back. It's your future to take back.

Don't be afraid to speak out. Don't back down when your friends begin to tell you that the cause is righteous and that the flag should be wrapped around the cross, while the rest of us keep our mouths shut. Real Christians take chances for peace. So do real Jews, and real Muslims, and real Hindus, and real Buddhists--so do all the faith traditions of the world at their heart believe one thing: life is precious. Every human being is precious. Arrogance is the opposite of faith. Greed is the opposite of charity. And believing that one has never made a mistake is the mark of a deluded man, not a man of faith. And war -- war is the greatest failure of the human race -- and thus the greatest failure of faith.

There's an old rock and roll song, whose lyrics say it all: War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. And what is the dream of the prophets? That we should study war no more, that we should beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Who would Jesus bomb, indeed?

How many wars does it take to know that too many people have died? What if they gave a war and nobody came? Maybe one day we will find out.

Time to march again my friends. Time to commit acts of civil disobedience. Time to sing, and to pray, and refuse to participate in the madness.

Mayflower Congregational Church

**I would just like to add here that I am not a Christian - but I am grateful that there are Christians in America who are willing to look beyond their religious beliefs and realize what kind of man is running our country.


Anonymous said...

I'm not either, and I am grateful too.

Amazing words.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, simply beautiful.

JJ said...

I am a Christian and I'm also glad there are other Christians ready to resist.

Happy birthday, Ubie.

Anonymous said...

amen (even though i'm not a christian either)....

Neil said...

Thanks for the sharing. I'm not sure I agree with everything in it, but most of it.

I nominate Brooke as the next Pope! (or at least the next rabbi of Temple Beth Israel of Woodbridge, New Jersey)

yournamehere said...

I grew up in a Christian denomination where most of the ministers I knew had beliefs similar to those of the author. I have seen the good side of Christianity through charities such as Habitat for Humanity, Dare to Care, and Louisville United Against Hunger. Bush and the evangelicals have kidnapped Jesus Christ and hopefully good people will rescue Him.

I promise my next comment will be profane and offensive. Sorry to disappoint.

Knitty Kitty said...

I consider that real christianity. I lived in the south surrounded by people who claimed to be christian yet actually believed they were god.

I would enjoy to read other sermons by this minister..

BamaGirl said...

I love you Brooke, but I guess we disagree on some issues. I am a Christian, and I do support Bush and the war. I feel like Bush is one of the greatest presidents in my lifetime. I know, I know. I hope we can still be blog friends and respect each other's views. You're nothing but great in my book!

Bill said...

Oh my ... so many thoughts zipping through my head. I guess the main one is a thought I often have, which is simply this: I simply don't believe someone is a Christian because they say they are. You are a Christian because it is how you act in the world, and how you see and feel about the world. Why do so many people feel it necessary to claim to be a Christian? Why not actually be one?

People tend to read the Bible selectively, often picking and choosing the parts that support a view they like. And I suppose I'm like that also since I like the Beatitudes ("Blessed are the meek ...") - the Sermon on the Mount stuff.

I'm not sure I agree with the, "Time to march again my friends" business. But I wouldn't say I disagree with it either. I suppose I just wish people wouldn't drag God into the usual idiotic human business, which I'm sure gives him/her a migraine.

March if you want. Stay home if you want. Support a war if you want. But please, don't try dressing up your position by saying God's behind it. I believe God would prefer you stay home and think on what what he/she's actually about.

(And having said that, I also have to admit I'm as full of hoo-hah as the next guy. So I'm really not anyone to talk.)

gone said...

Christian. That's me.

Liberal. That's me.

Progressive. That's me.

And this article along with this article have made my week.

Thanks, Brooke...for making poochie's week.

Anonymous said...

I live here in OKC, that guy writes semi-regularly for the free weekly non-conforming paper here, he usually is a good read...

LoryKC said...

Bush makes it a point, over and over, to mention that he is a Christian. I've just added it to my running list of words that he needs to learn to define or use (correctly) in a sentence.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. I'm not a religious person myself (but I went to a church of England school), but I am sick and tired of people justifying their appaling behaviour by claiming to be a christian. Like it some how means they can fo whatever the hell they like. Have these morons never read the bible? Dubya is in no way, shape or form a Christian. You can't just go to church and listen you have to live your life as a christian, and that man and millions like DO NOT! Oh dear I'm getting angry now.

porchwise said...

The most succint words rarely come from the pulpit and this preacher needs to run for president...then maybe, just maybe, we would have a true Christian in office. Bravo, bravo, bravo. And thanks, Brook, I'll be checking in often.

God said...

I had my feelers out when these words were spoken. I am pleased to hear my words and teachings aren't misconstrued when it comes to morals. Amen Brooke for finding this and passing it on to the world of blogs. I understand you aren't a Christian and that's just fine with me. Bless you and your readers. Have a great weekend!

Shawn said...

I came over from Skinny Legs... and wanted to thank you for posting this one. I was beginning to wonder when and if anyone who calls themself Christian would stand up and say exactly what this guy did.

It made me realize the whole world isn't falling apart...

Brookelina said...

I'm glad that this touched so many of you. I know it did me when I read it. It actually restored my faith a little. For the last several years the word "Christian" has begun to strike fear in my heart. I hope that from now on, when I hear that word, I will think of this man.

Bama - I would never dislike someone because we disagree. But I will say that I am stunned that someone like you - a teacher, a woman, a spouse of someone in the military - would feel this way about this president. I stand by my beliefs that he is the single most destructive person on the planet today.

Anonymous said...

Well, Brooke, I'm saddened such smart and logical (and clutter-hater!) woman like you find all this liberal nonsence admirable and true.
Every paragraph of this Rhetorics ( see, definition 3b) professor is false, in fact and interpretation.
I will not honor him with detailed rebuttals word-per-word, just give you one observation, with no theorising.
I came back from a trip to Portugal, the poorest and the politically extremist socialist country in European Union. I have been talking for 2 weeks with all kinds of Portuguese people, poor and well-to-do, political junkies or football-crazed - and nobody, but nobody ever said anything bad about Bush's Iraq war or his supposed fondness for torturing prisoners. They have weird notions about reasons for global warming (if such thing would ever be proven) - they blamed GW for it, and other funny stuff - bit they do like America and Americans (not same atttitude towards Germans, f.ex, although biggest chunk of their income comes from that country). And people in the street restaurant in a tiny Southern city of Lagos expressed their condolences to me as American for the NO disaster. With this characteristic saudade ( of coastal peoples) the restaurant owner said, "Oceano Atlantico...Is cruel".

You have just darkened this sunny morning for me, sigh.


Brookelina said...

Tatyanna - sorry I ruined your day. Yes, I am a proud card-carrying liberal. If you look up liberal in the dictionary you will read definitions like: Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
So yes, I am a liberal.

This man is not a professor, he is a reverend. I honestly don't know how anyone could read this and call it rhetoric, it is well written, and it is the truth as he sees it. Just as millions - if not billions - see it as well.

I am happy to know that the people of Portugal do not hate us. Unfortunately they are in the minority in the world today.

Tatyanna, just as you can't see how someone like me could feel the way I do, I feel exactly the same way about you. I can not, for the life of me, understand how anyone on the planet can not see how this man is destroying our country - and the world. We probably should just agree to disagree, and leave it at that.

Let's both have a good day. :)

Anonymous said...

My position is quite straightforward, really: I've lived thru socialist paradise, learned on my skin all the practical consequences of theoretical ideals of equality, fraternity, etc. - and sort of got a bit cool to the lefty blabber. It would be illogical, actually, to suggest I would support intention of turning this country, land of my refuge, into the country I fled from.

Regretfully, the Left hijacked perfectly fine Anglo term Liberal and despite its dictionary definition you site, turned every word of it into the opposite.
"Anti-authoritarian"? Please.

But thanks for the laugh, at least you still have a sense of humor.

Thanks for good wishes, right back to you with'em.

Melody said...

Brooke, thanks for posting this. Down-to-earth, reeking of common sense, logical, irrefutable. All the things religious conservative types hate.

becky said...

Jack asses like Dubya and Bill Frist give Christians a bad name.