Sunday, April 04, 2010

Amazing Grace and a shaky path

The other day I rented Amazing Grace. Have you heard of the movie? I dare say many haven’t. From 2006, with director Michael Apted and a score of actors without big industry names (excepting Albert Finney), the movie seems to be getting lost in the shuffle somewhere. That’s a shame.

I sat down to watch it the other night and both of my kids expected not to stay longer than the beginning while they were in the living room anyway. As the story continued, they both stayed , all the way through to the end.

Amazing Grace is the story of two men: the man who wrote the song, an ex slave ship captain who escaped the position to join the church and had continuing nightmares about it, and the brave legislator determined to stop the slave trade in England. It’s a beautiful story of determination through 20 years of fighting that threatened William Wilberforce’s health versus those who wanted to keep their eyes closed to the reality of the trade. At times, he wanted to walk away, afraid he was doing no good and that his stomach condition would become life-threatening, as it did indeed. With support of only a loyal few who believed in what he was doing, he continued, and he won. There are so many lessons to learn from this film.

Since it is Easter Sunday, the lesson I’m pulling into focus with this entry is how mixing religion with politics is what made the difference between continuing the evil and abolishing it.

The group standing behind Wilberforce were “itinerant prophets”  -- religious leaders of different kinds. It was William’s religious beliefs that God created all men equally that drove his conviction to continue the fight. It was his friendship with William Pitt, prime minister of England during part of the fight, that helped his cause stand through the rigors of parliament’s one concern: money.

Fast forwarding to the slave trade in America, it was the Quakers insisting on that same conviction, that God made all men to be equal, who fueled the fire to end the trade here, as well.

And now we spout “separation of church and state” as though it says as much in the Constitution and as though religion will cause the downfall of our country. If we look through history, we see quite the opposite.

Where did we fall so off track?

I believe the separations are what causes much of the problem, not religion itself. There are so many branches of Christianity with so many stems reaching so many directions, all having their separate rules about what is accepted and what is not, about how to worship, about who will go to hell and who will be saved … that we’ve lost track of the one important message:

Love each other.

That doesn’t mean, and was never intended to mean, only those who believe as you do or think as you do or worship as you do. It means everyone. It means stop the separation and realize we are all the same in God’s eyes, regardless of what we call Him or how we see Him or which church we attend or if we don’t.

The separations and miniscule little rules that make us bicker and push each other away are hurting both Christianity and our nation. It’s making our kids turn away from religion so that too many are claiming to be atheist simply because of the rules and separations that make no sense to them.

They’re right. It doesn’t make sense. That’s not what it’s about.

So archeologists are studying the man called Jesus and looking for answers. Why? That’s not the point.The point is His message and it’s the same message all religions have at their basis:

Love each other. Treat each other well. Don’t do anything to someone else you don’t want them to do to you.

Simple. Maybe we should go back to that focus and bypass all the little rules that were man-made and most often made for political reasons.

Religion and politics are, and always have been, tied together because it must be that way. Without religious ideals, laws would be based entirely on finances and without humanity. I don’t believe any of us want that. On the other side, there is not one church that doesn’t have politics going on in the background.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is free, and freeing. And it’s personal, while still connecting us all to each other.

”I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
Amazing Grace

”Men are not punished for their sins, but by them.”
Kin Hubbard


Dorothy said...

Beautiful, and perfectly stated. This blog should be read in every pulpit in the land, and every week if necessary until it soaks in.

I saw "Amazing Grace" in the theater, bought the DVD, and still end up in tears everytime I watch it - esp. when the bill is finally passed, and the speech is made by one of his supporters.

I love the quote from Kin Hubbard, included at the end of the blog. It beautifully explains the reason for God's laws, that unlike most of men's laws/rules, were made to protect, rather than control us.

I've become very interested in the spirituality of Gnostic (opposite of agnostics) Christianity, and would recommend it to anyone who feels that organized "religion" is not what it should be. I agree. Too many "religious" men have made too many selfish rules for money or control/power.

LK Hunsaker said...

Exactly: too many rules and too many trying to control everyone else. Rules that harm more than help need to go.