Your Blog Steward

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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence and being Exceptional

Well, it's the Fourth of July and time for my annual blog on politics--theologically considered. (This is different from what politicians do who give us theology-politically considered.)

So the United States of America is "exceptional." And I suppose from some historical perspective that is true, as there is a lot that is from the USA that is rather exceptional. But how much difference does it make for our freedom today? On the one hand, you are still guaranteed freedoms in this country you can get in few places. To gather with people for religious reasons, to write and speak publicly, and to be able to participate in government with only limited restrictions. And granted, in most cases, these freedoms exist only in ideas; although, if you look at the trajectory of the leader of this "exceptionalism" stuff, one Ms. Sarah Palin, you can see that she did not start out very high on the political tree. She grew and morphed her way to the characterization of politician that she is now, but she was never the wealthiest or the smartest person in the room...but she believes so now-- "Exceptionalism" at its best.

But most people want to say the USA is exceptional for more than just being the breeding grounds for people like Sarah Palin, and that is where things get interesting. Because in order to do that you have to argue that the USA is not like any other empire has, is, or ever will be...and that argument gets tougher and tougher to make each day. We have a horrible war in our past, slavery and segregation, dimissal of women and their rights over their bodies, rapacious greed of land and natural resources (remember the buffalo?), and the list could go on...And there is also no doubt that we have exceptional people still making lemonade from our collective lemons (look at the buffalo--if you've ever seen one alive in its native ecosystem know that 100 years nobody thought you would! Somebody did something right somewhare.) And it's precisely the exceptional people that make the USA "exceptional."

This is rather akin to what Jesus of Nazareth used to say about his Jewish faith. Even though "salvation comes from the Jews" (exceptionalism par excellence), Jesus understood that is was only individual men and women (and as it turned out mostly women) who would bear that burden. When salvation happens it doesn't come from some Jewish "center of faith", but rather from the love and grace of a Jewish man or a Jewish woman...and, since Jesus of Nazareth's resurrection, from the love and grace of a Christian man or woman.

You have heard me argue on this blog for the past three years about the importance of community--and in a world where the individual stomps on the community, I will always issue that clarion call of collective living together in God's world. However, we must remember the pendulum will swing the other way, and the tromping of individual gifts and talents for the security of the community can never be tolerated, else what was the cross of JESUS for?

It is a balance, and that is why one day out of 365 I give thanks to God for being individual and being exceptional (warts and all)--just like you are, gentle reader. Happy Independence Day!

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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