By Chris Churchill
If you are averse to religious discussions, I warn you now, “Bible Verses Lie Ahead.” Not for the reason you usually see them thrown around, though. I’m not going to judge you here. In fact, being a fan of the Bible for what I see it to be, I strongly value the statement, “Judge not, lest ye be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Jesus (if that is Your real name...) said that in the King James Version of the Bible, Book of Matthew, Chapter 7, verse 2. There are countless translations, of course, take your pick.
It basically means that your treatment of others; your rules for other people, define how you are judged by God (or Love or the Living Universe, or that most honest part of your own introspection which will reveal itself to you only when you are at your weakest, or any other thing that works for you).t
Now you don’t have to believe in a localized, physical, magical creature that rules over us to follow what I’m about to say. I don’t think of God that way. Here comes another Bible verse. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” That’s John 4:16b, apparently. Thanks Internet. I truly believe that God is literally Love. Capitalized. Love is the thing that defines the rules of existence. Not just between people but also in nature. Also at the infinite and the infinitesimal level. Animate and inanimate. For me, I recognize it on the subatomic level in things like quantum entanglement and gravity. We may not understand how Love affects anything other than people, but that just means we need to expand what we understand Love to be.
This is for my evangelical friends, of whom I still have a few, and those who might come across this. This is also for those who claim to “follow the Bible” but don’t even know what it says, let alone endeavor to understand what it means. Please take this in the friendly, loving spirit it is meant.
Here’s the thing many who espouse Christianity without actually practicing it seem to have either missed, forgotten, or chosen to ignore. "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” That’s Matthew 6:24, New International Version.
You may have missed it because the last time you heard it as a kid, falling asleep in church, it was probably spoken on the ever popular King James Version where, instead of “money” they used the word “mammon.” You didn’t know what mammon was. You fell asleep, thought about football or lunch, or you just let it float away. Anyway, you’re not thinking about that anymore are you.
Especially, in this era of Joel Osteen and all the other televised Mega Churches preaching that “God wants you to be rich!” I’ve always been baffled at this, due entirely to the verse above. How can you pursue wealth with all your being and still be serving God, i. e. Love? You can’t.
Reread that verse. If that doesn’t do anything for you, plug in some variables into this equation.
If you are presented with a moral choice, or even a business related choice, you have the option to perform in service of what is best for your fellow human or what will preserve your economic interests. Do you overcharge someone because you can or because everyone would if the could or because they’d do it to you? Or do you not overcharge someone because you honestly know the good or service you offer is only worth so much or that they might need a break or you really like them so why screw them?
You see how one option is in service of money and one is in service of love? Now suppose these patterns were repeated by the same people over and over throughout their lives then, eventually passed on to their offspring. You have two different types of humans. You have the money driven and the love driven. You know what the love driven do in a moment of crisis? They consider what the right thing is to do. You know what the money driven do during those same moments? At the very least, they pause briefly and consider how this will effect their wallet, the economy or some other money related thing. That pause is enough to let the opportunity to do the right thing slip away.
(I’m not saying that all rich people are bad or all poor people are virtuous. There are rich people who get there because they are driven by their work. They love how it allows them to connect to others, to help others, to connect to a greater purpose. And sometimes those driven, effective, successful people get paid for it. As a side effect of pursuing a true love. Not just for pursuing money. Conversely, there are poor people who are just really misguided and really bad at crime. People who chase money to fill the whole they don’t even know they have and at the cost of their seven children, their broken-hearted parents, and society at large. They may never succeed at getting rich, but make no mistake, they love Money and do not serve Love.)
So when the evangelical crowd decides to back a political candidate or government official in their decision making because of money (or as we say in polite political discourse, “the economy,” “the stock market,” unbridled “capitalism”) and instead of Love (empathy, humanity, caring “for the least of us”), they don’t either know or care that they are no longer serving that which they claim to be serving. They’re serving Money. They’re abandoning Love or, as they purport to believe Love is, God.
I preached a short sermon one Sunday as a teen. Something from Psalms. (I couldn’t help but lead with, “I’m a hypocrite.” Just being honest, you know.) I still have a relationship with what I feel “God” means, but not one with any organized faith. Why? Because it seems that most “Christians” these days, at least the most vocal ones, love the label, the cheering for their side, but not empathy, understanding, concern for the “other.” That is to say, they seem to not care about the definition of God as laid out by the Messiah in their guiding book. That definition would be “Love.”
Or to put it in a pithy simple turn of phrase (which seems to work with many people): “Most ‘Christians’ love the rules but are not ruled by Love.”
So when you hear your “ordained” president speaking out loud that he’s actually weighing the financial cost of punishing a country that murdered an American citizen, you’re serving the opposite of God. If you have no problem allowing deregulation of companies that allows them to pollute more or to cut taxes for big business at the expense of those who need it, you’re serving the opposite of Love. If you hear an equivocation on any political point for which he has been paid by a lobbyist with whom his rhetoric aligns, then you know, it’s all about the money.
This is boring to a lot of you, I’m sure. I guess I’m talking to a specific subset of America. Those who hide behind flags and crosses because you’re too scared to have empathy for the “other.” Sorry. It IS fear that causes you to hate and rage and appeal to a paternal, judgmental (but only to your enemies, not toward you), anthropomorphized understanding of God who will quell your spiritual insecurities. It is. You’re scared. And you want Daddy to save you. Well grow up. “Daddy” tried to teach you what was important and you decided judgmentalism, vengeance in your heart, and, well, the love of money was the ticket for you.
A wonderful Jewish atheist friend of mine who is in Heaven now heard me mention that my dad, my grandfather and my great-grandfather were all preachers and she said to me, “Oh, you’re a preacher too.” This was based on my solo comedy shows where I just told stories, did bits, played funny songs on guitar. At that time, my pulpit was the top floor of a place called “Frankie J’s” on Sheridan Road in Chicago. It was a solo comedy and music show I used to do. I told people the truth. I tried to make Love the point. But don’t get me wrong, I was trying to do comedy too.
Sometimes my sincerity would get the best of me, though. As funny as I wanted to be, sometimes I just had to say what I was feeling with no frills, obfuscations or irony. And obviously, I have some background in the Protestant Christian Bible (not those extra books that Martin Luther didn’t like…there was a dragon in one of them, though, wasn’t there? that’s pretty cool). I also have a lot of experience in the world, with people, practicing Love. I don’t know why it is, but I tend to win children, animals, and even the occasional adult human over.
So both the book I was taught to revere and my life experience tells me that in life, it’s either Love (love for your fellow human) or Money (the love of money). In every moment of your life, in every moment of weakness you have, in every thought in your head, and in all your motivations, it’s either Love or Money. That’s the choice.