Unlikely Partners

Armodoxy for Today

In celebration of the anniversary of Independence of the oldest continuous democracy in the world, the United States, this week we are looking at issues of church and state.

Part 2: Unlikely partners

If you want to keep the peace in the family or among friends, you’ve been told from an early age to steer clear of discussing politics and religion. Even Peanuts character, Linus Van Pelt, with security blanket in hand, knows, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people – Religion, Politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”

It was the 18th century satirist, Jonathan Swift who put his finger on the reason for this unfriendly mix when he wrote, “You cannot reason someone out of something he or she was not reasoned into.” Yes, most of the time we’re “born into” our persuasions, be they religious or political, we adopt them from our family and friends.

But the basic understanding in Armodoxy is that all things are connected in a universal network of life. Economics gives us the resources to buy the Bible, which defines sin, which psychology attempts to diminish. Physics explains the movement of the building blocks which chemistry and biology exploit into physical realities, that art presents in forms that express ideas that form ideologies that philosophy dissects and analyses. Politics creates systems that organize those ideologies, and religion is there to ensure the equity of distribution, claiming to have a connection to a higher understanding of fairness.

We get into trouble when we claim one system of distribution is better than another. An old Hindu proverb claims, “There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.”

Jesus avoids the discussion by turning the responsibility onto the individual. Equity is achieved by sacrifice – by giving of yourself. He teaches this, and then demonstrates with his own life. There is no argument here, for when we give it is between us and God. We do not give to prove a system better than another, nor do we give to the justify the system. We give, because it is the expression of love, which is the expression of God. It is not up for discussion nor debate. If you want to practice Christianity, then love, then sacrifice yourself. Plainly, religion is not to be debated but lived.

The Armenian Church saint, Hovhaness Voskeberan (= St. John Chrysostom) 4th century writes, “”If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Him in the chalice.”

We end with one of his prayers, Almighty God, you have promised through your Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

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