July 6, 2014

July 6, 2014    Sermon: Love of Country by  Rev. Slabon

Music for Meditation: All the World Is One by  Peter Mayer

Reading: My heart is moved…  Singing the Living Tradition #463 

 This is a simple sermon with a simple motive:  To find, acknowledge, and remind my heart of what I love about this country so that I will once again have hope, and “cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”

 I need to be reminded because sometimes, the liberal religious, get quite discouraged and negative.  After all the disappointments, critiques, 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, we can get jaded and the cynicism, the blame, the battles do wear me down.  You know them and some of you news hounds know them in great depth and with far more precision than I, but here are a few: 

We elect an African American President and watch as he is frustrated and blocked by partisan politics, racism and bigotry; Out of Iraq, In Afghanistan, back in Iraq?;

Then there is the DREAM Act, that is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, an American legislative proposal first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001, (S. 1291 by Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch.).  that would provide conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment.  At least 15 states have some version of this path to qualify for permanent residency, On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would stop deporting young illegal aliens who match certain criteria previously proposed under the DREAM ACT.   Then hear the reports on June 28 of the 50,000 children who, to flee from violence and extreme poverty, have crossed the US border illegally since October of 2013.  And my internal struggle as I hear and grasp President Obama’s stern warning, "do not send your children across the border. If they do make it, they will get sent back". 

 Then finally, c’mon, really?  Last Monday, June 30 our Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that corporations, notably Hobby Lobby, have a right to religious freedom, striking down a key provision in the affordable care act, and they can argue this right to prevent women from receiving  certain types of contraception.  Partisan debates over religious and reproductive rights shall rise again and continue through November elections and beyond.  Just so you know, the High Court’s three women, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan opposed the ruling. 

 So each year in preparation for when July 4th roles around with it’s patriotic splash, I search for readings, news reports, movers and shakers that invite me to truly love my country for the good I see done, and for the good we might do as people of faith and people of hope.   

 I read Gary Kowalski’s Revolutionary Spirits and was thrilled at the range and depth of the faith of this nation’s founders, their commitment to civil liberties, their humility, and hope for humankind.

 I watched the Documentary, The Case Against 8, which is the true story of how 2 Gay couples, two bipartisan lead attorneys – David Boies a Democrat, and Ted Olson, a republican hall of fame-er and Bush’s campaign attorney and lawyer in the Gore/Bush re-count, and countless committed activists who believed passionately in the right to marry for all couples and in the importance of committed, loving families in communities and neighborhoods – how these heroes argued before the Supreme Court the defeat of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the defeat of Proposition 8 that had built a wall heterosexual marriage, limiting rather than expanding our civil rights. 

 Always on the look-out for sermon material and hope, I watched Simon Anholt’s June, 2014 TedTalk “Which country does the most good for the world?” and I was uplifted. 

 Anholt observed that globally we are still organized in Nation States and that politicians, mindful of our demands, look inward – Countries compete, strategize to one up the next, make war for resources, looking in to our own self-interest, rather than telescoping – looking outward toward our global survival.  Globalization has caught us by surprise and we must seek solutions better so we are not victims of our own advances.   Acknowledging that we are resistant to change and limited in empathy, Anholt searched for what self-interest would help us look outwardly to the bigger picture.  In 2005 he launched a study called the Nation Brands Index tracking 200 billion data points on how people perceive other countries and why.  He found that those countries we admire are those that contribute to the world – those who make it better, safer, richer, fairer, and this makes a difference in how much money they make.  He found that in order to do well, you need to do good.

 From his website www.goodcountry.org Anholt explains:  “The idea of the Good Country Index is pretty simple: to measure what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away.  …the Index aim is to start a global discussion about how countries can balance their duty to their own citizens with their responsibility to the wider world, because this is essential for the future of humanity and the health of our planet.” 

 Doing good has become his measure and he asks us both as individuals and communally, as people, as a nation, to see doing good as our measure.  He stated, “I’ve had enough hearing about prosperous, competitive, wealthy, fast-growing nations– even “happy” is still about our own self interest.  How might we use good as the opposite of selfish?  And what if we asked our politicians, “Is that what a good country would do?”

 125 countries were assessed in fields of Science & Technology, Culture, International Peace & Security, World Order, Planet & Climate, Prosperity & Equality, and Health & Wellbeing.  Ranked #1 was Ireland and the next top 4 were Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands, and New Zealand.  Kenya, Guatamala, and Slovenia were in the top 30 and I was relieved to find that the U.S. came in at #21 of 125 countries assessed.

 My prayer for you is that to counter cynicism, disgust, or despair that you feed yourself a diet of the good accomplished – even by our nation.  For now and again we need to remind our hearts of what we love about this country so that we will once again have hope, and “cast our lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” 

Service Date: 
Sunday, July 6, 2014 - 12:00am
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