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Saturday, August 27, 2011

It's Just Mister

     I wish Americans would stop treating elected officials like royalty and stop using titles as though they are conferred for life. I read an article recently that referred to “five living presidents.” No! We have one living president. Those who have been president at some point are now Mr. Carter, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mr. Bush, but you’ll hear every one of them called President. When Sean Hannity interviews Newt Gingrich on the radio, he calls him “Mr. Speaker.” No, people, no. The United States got out from under King George III and established a republic. We have equal standing before the law. We have no inherited titles and no Divine Right of anything. Anyone can grow up to be president. And I do mean anyone. Ba-bump.
     The story goes that when Teddy Roosevelt attended the funeral of Edward VII in England, he was offered a fancy carriage for the procession through London. He declined. As representative of a republic, he thought he should walk. When Harry Truman and his wife left the White House, they caught the train home. Compare that to the loads of limousines that American presidents have been flying to other countries for decades. How about Pres. Obama using an enormous black bus and a 40-car motorcade to tour a few Midwestern towns? (I couldn’t help thinking of Strelnikov’s scary train in Dr. Zhivago.)
     Anyway, there’s nothing mystical, nothing divine, nothing permanent about any elected office. They say some wanted to make George Washington a king, but he declined. Good on him. Now if only our elected officials, journalists and citizens generally could remember that we have a constitution and not a hereditary nobility, I think the body politic would be a whole lot healthier.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Where's Middle C Again?

     A couple of weeks ago, the mix of ideas in Sunday school and sermon worked like a combination of chemicals in a beaker, boiling and glowing and producing something I’d never quite seen before. When I tried to talk about it that day, my brain tied itself in knots, but here’s an attempt to put it down on… I want to say “paper,” but you get the idea.
     Righteousness. It isn’t just good behavior and avoidance of “R” movies, and it’s certainly not the attitude of “I’m behaving so much better than you” that sometimes goes along with such strictures. Instead, explained Pastor Bill to his adult class, righteousness is a desire for complete justice and fairness in every circumstance, every exchange, every relationship.                                 
     Then he poured in a sermon on the tenth commandment, not to covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. As usual, there’s more to it than it sounds like. Keeping the commandment doesn’t start with the neighbor’s new car and your struggle not to hate him for it. It starts with being content with what God has decided to give you. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content,” says 1 Timothy 6: 7.8. The epistle goes on to tell how much trouble we can get into by lusting after money and possessions. So, instead of coveting, be content.
     Now, back to righteousness. It seems that if I am content with what I have and equally content with others having what they have, I ought to desire justice for them as well. I ought to object to any unfair treatment of my neighbor just as strongly as I object to unfair treatment of myself. More, even, if I claim to follow Christ. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but  in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of  others. (Philippians 2: 3, 4)
     God combines all these characteristics perfectly in His own being, like a great symphony. I listen like an ape hearing Mozart played on the savannah. He tells me, “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24) “In these last days,” (Hebrews 1:2) He has spoken to us in His Son, Who cared so much for us, and so little for Himself, that He sacrificed Himself to give us life. He plays the music of the spheres. I think I may be closing in on middle C.