I wrote this after viewing video footage on youtube of Sarah Palin agreeing with a pastor that prayed for her rise to office, rather than God's will. As FYI, this is a very rare occurrence for me to send anything like this through email. So you can understand that this misuse of Christianity and hijacking of Christian diversity in the US deeply troubles me. Here is the video (it's just the first few moments that are important to me): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8twqZpUT2NQ Sarah Palin, in the video, is praising a pastor for praying for her to be in office. NOT praying for God's will. In fact, she explicity states that he did not pray "for God's will," but rather that she would get into office. This is a huge concern of mine. Why? What's the difference? Everything. As a Christian, I believe in Jesus' teachings. I believe that Jesus taught us how to pray, and we are to follow Christ in all ways as much as we are humanly able. Jesus did not teach us to pray for what we want, or what we think is best, or what our pastor thinks is best. He taught us to pray for God's will. Praying for God's will shows humility and recognition of our limitations. It shows that we are accepting God's sovereignity over our lives, and putting our own desires, perceived needs, and so forth below His will. It shows that we realize that we don't know what is best. Only God knows what is best. This is why Jesus said to us: "This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Matthew 6:9-13 I am very concerned with people that misuse Christ's teachings and pervert what cannot be mistaken... as it is Christ's own words. Praying for your own will is not something Christ condoned, and I find it troubling that someone who is so broadly supported by Christians is doing something that shows a lack of understanding of very basic tenets of Christ's words. I believe Jesus told us how to pray for a reason and that we ought to pray as He taught us if we are seeking to follow His teachings. Furthermore, we should be following Jesus Christ's teachings in all ways. But are we? How do our candidates (and our churches, and ourselves) stack up on these standards... "But I tell you anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement." Matthew 5:19 How do the smear campaigns against Obama in some of the Christian community uphold our dignity and commitment to treat our brethren in the church (Obama is a member of a Christian church) with grace and love? Are we showing, as a Christian community, love for our fellow Christians (which include all four Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates)? Or are we tearing them down, something that is repeatedly considered wrong in the Bible (Romans 14:1-4, 1 Cor 4:5)? "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also... But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:39, 44-45) Are we really praying for terrorists and our "enemies" in the world the way we pray for our families and ourselves? Are we willing to sacrifice our securities to uphold Christ's teachings about non-aggression? "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men... But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:5-6) Are we supposed to use our religion to get ourselves noticed by others? To sell ourselves? In this case, to get votes? Or is our religion supposed to be an authentic relationship that is between ourself and God? Should we be taking our prayers into a public forum, outside our church community, so that we are noticed? "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matthew 6: 24) Should candidates pray for resources? For money? Are these the things we should be concerned with as Christians? Palin has prayed for gas pipelines and is tying religion to things like oil drilling. Is this an appropriate use of religion according to Christ's teachigns? He clearly states we can't serve God and Money at the same time. Does our treasure lie in the money and finances of earth, or in our spiritual life in heaven with God (Matthew 6:19-20)? "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34) How much of our politics and decisions are grounded in worry and fear? Shouldn't we have faith that God will be sufficient? If we have faith in God's deliverance, why do we spend all our time on issues of fear and worry? Why do we cave in to our fears about terrorism and enemies, rather than trusting that God delivers us, even in death? If we are afraid to die and afraid to have freedoms taken away, is that not an indication that we don't trust God's promise of resurrection and ultimate freedom in Christ? If we truly die to self and live in Christ, we are not afraid (Phil 1:21-24). "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measures you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2) How much of our decisions about our priorities as a country is based on judging others personal sins, versus attacking the single biggest (and most frequently mentioned throughout the OT and NT) issues: poverty and social justice? Are we basing our beliefs on judging other people rather than working toward Jesus commands to love God with all our heart and mind, to love our neighbors as ourself, and to serve people in his name (Matthew 22:37)? We must remember what Jesus taught... that what saves us through Christ is serving others in the name of Christ. In fact, serving them in a way that we are seeing and touching Jesus in them. This serving should be in ways that meet their earthly needs and demonstrate God's love and our commitment to social justice (Matthew 25:31-46). We are called to serve "the least of these." I have no doubts that if Christ were among us today in person, as opposed to in Spirit, He would be healing the sick, feeding the poor, and visiting those who are in prison. These are the fundamentals of Christianity. Christ's words. Plain and simple. He tells us what to do (to serve and love others and God) and He tells us what to pray for (God's will). He tells us what our attitude should be (non-judgemental, non-aggressive, strong enough in faith to cast out our fear and anxiety, unconcerned with money and materialism). Now, I struggle with this as much as anyone. But I can't shove Christ's words under a rug because some pastor or Sarah Palin or some organization says that their way is correct and "truly" Christian, when it isn't aligned with what Christ Himself taught. I know some of you are not Christians, and that's OK with me. I send this to you for your FYI about Sarah Palin. And a little reminder of what fundamentalist (if you wish to call it that) Christianity should really be about. Christianity should be about following Christ's teachings. Above all else, we as Christians should be profoundly committed to the principles that Jesus taught. We are Christ's voice, His hands, His feet... in the world. In a time of great anxiety and fear, we should be calm and full of faith so that others' fears are soothed. This is the hard one for me! In a time of great anger and aggression, we should be gentle, graceful, merciful, and kind so that others see Christ's love in us. In a time of using religion as a way to get votes and money, we should insist that our faith is not for sale- that what is Ceasar's is Ceasar's and what is God's is God's. (Matthew 22:21) In a time of shoving Christians outside the "real" church based on denominational lines, we should be gently correcting those who go astray from Christ's teachings, exhorting and encouraging following the teachings, and expressing our concern in ways that lifts up rather than tears down. In a time of great materialism and devotion to money, we should be concerned with sharing so that everyone has their needs met, and focusing on developing our own relationship with God. In a time of serving the self first (or as McCain would have it, the country first), we should pray for guidance to know how to serve all of humanity, because we are all God's children and Christ knows no national or other boundaries but came for us all. I am not going to tell anyone how they should vote. I believe that is for every American to decide, and if our religious or spiritual ethics infiltrate our politics, it is for us to take up with God in prayer individually, asking for guidance and God's will and not for a specific outcome, as Jesus taught us to do. What I ask... is that non-Christians and Christians alike realize that Jesus' teachings are not what they are being made into in some of this country. They are not capitalist or nationalist. They are practical teachings about how to be a good human being that shares God's love with other people and so illumines the world. What I ask of Christians is that, in these days as we approach a monumental election in a time of very troubled waters, that we read the Gospels. Not focusing on what our pastors say. Not focusing on what Paul said in his letters to the churches, even. Focusing on what Jesus had to say. What kind of people are we to be? What are our priorities? Who do we serve? ETA: Somehow in cutting/pasting from Word, I lost my apostrophes. Sorry, but I won't be putting them back in since it's a long post. Please excuse me!