Glenn Beck’s Sermon on the Mount

This is an amusing quote that Glenn Beck actually stated in a radio interview. To read Beck’s response and most of the interview, click here.

Honestly, if you go to a church and they do not mention social justice or economical justice, you should run. Christianity is a politic; Christianity was in biblical times and should be in the present a movement that calls out the injustices of the world, while providing a separate politics for those fed up with the system.

Being an aspiring religious scholar, it is very insulting to hear brilliant women and men who speak of social injustices within the church walls called Marxists.

Special in General

I have been reflecting lately on how specialized our culture is today. Many people learn one skill and get very good at that skill so that they can make their living off of it. They specialize in their trade, taking classes and working at places that are specific to their talent. Through this we have the Yellow Pages full of specialists and we have mall that have stores that focus on one particular product or commodity.

Although this is nothing unusual to us today, this is very odd compared to the culture of 50 or 60 years ago. Half a century ago there were very few specialists in society. Of course you had your mechanics and your doctors, but most people did a little of everything. This was so because the average person had to be the jack-of-all-trades just to survive. You couldn’t afford to hire a landscaper, and there was no time or demand to go to school to be an accountant. So back then the average person did multiple jobs around the house or farm, and rarely could afford to hire others to do their own work. Nor were there a Yellow Pages or malls full of specialized stores. You had the Sears catalogue and your local general store that had just about everything you needed in one place.

Sadly though, few of these “handymen” still survive today. The occupation of the general practitioner all but died out. But there are a few that survive today that we often overlook. This has never been clearer to me than until just last week. I have the amazing opportunity to be able to travel around eastern North Carolina and speak at various churches and other functions. Over the last few weeks I have had the new and exciting opportunity to preach a Mother’s day service and also address a group of pastors from the Newton Grove area at a local pastor’s appreciation dinner. In preparing my messages for both topics, I realized that these two tasks-that of being a mother and a pastor-involve being a one of the last general practitioners today.

Mothers do and are so much for their children. They are their children’s teachers, friends, nurturers, chauffeurs, chefs, coaches, doctors, and counselors among many others. Pastors are the same way. They have to teach their congregation, use psychology to reach different age groups, be excellent writers and public speakers, plan events, and motivate people to do better and be better.

Although it is inspiring to see occupations like that of mothers and pastors who take on so many different roles, it is scary for us who do not have those various skills, including myself. I have spent thousand of dollars and thousands of hours learning my profession to teach religion. I may be able to translate Greek and Hebrew, but what happens if my roof starts to leak or I need to grow a garden. I am not sure I could do those simple things without someone else’s help.

I have realized lately that I may be very proficient in my own profession, but that is so minor compared to the breadth of knowledge it takes to survive in this world. This week I encourage you to branch out and try new things. Don’t just focus on what your good at, but focus on what you need to be good at.

 

G-old-en Days

Occasionally I begin contemplating a lot of what people are saying around me. One interesting reoccurrence in the last few weeks is the fact that almost everyone I know that is significantly older than I am thinks that the world was much better when they were growing up. You all know what I am talking about. There is that uncle or older friend who always uses the phrase, “my time,” when reflecting on the problems of today in contrast with their problem-less past.

 

Just turn on the news or talk to an old-timer and you will usually conclude that 30 to 40 years ago, things were much simpler, less expensive, and all around better. But is this so? Is the world, as these nostalgia-ridden folk would suggest, progressively getting worse?

 

I am not going to go on the speak of the doom of humanity and the progressive collapse of society—Fox News has that covered so I will leave that to them. The two bigger problems that I see with this “dwelling-on-the-past” sort of mentality is this: What hope and encouragement does this type of thought leave us college-age kids who are about to enter the world; and why are older people so caught up on the past?

 

First, let us deal with the influence of this nostalgia on the younger generation. To be quite honest, its gets pretty old hearing that today will never be good as yesteryear. I speak to my mother and most of my older family and they are constantly reminiscing on the “good ole’ days.” But were they really that good? Granted that life 30-40 years ago was much simpler and much less expensive, I will have to challenge the thought that it was all around better than today. First, just because something is more complex does not automatically defer it to the “evil” category as some would say. Yes, I am talking to you Grandpa John Doe who despises the smart phone for the simple reason that you do not know how to use it! I have a phone right now that I can check my email on, pay almost all my bills, and call anywhere is the world in seconds. I have saved time, energy, and money with a complex invention that is intended to make life simpler. Again, this generation has greater expense, but with a higher quality of life comes a higher quantity of money to support it.

 

To be upfront, it is discouraging to hear that the world I am about to enter will never live up to the legend of the “used to.” But, this is not even the biggest and most depressing problem. Some of these same people who salivate over their cherished past miss all of the wonderful things going on right in front of them because of their nostalgia. It is as if their best years are behind them, and the only happiness they will find is in reliving those old memories.

 

When it comes to time, maybe old does have some greater value than the new. But when it comes to experiences and impactful moments in our lives, we should always look forward to what could and can be. New-borns and new-lyweds far outweigh the old cars and broken dreams (or at least they should).

 

So this week encourage the generation that come after you. Give us hope that the future can be as good as your past. Look forward and be happy that new things are yet to come, and your best days are not behind you.

Living the Dream

Patriotic holidays usually get me pondering quite a bit on the topic of politics and the current predicament our country is in financially. With the Fourth of July holiday just past, words like freedom, independence, and liberty all flop around in our minds until they become so ingrained within our everyday jargon, we stop remember what those words truly mean. On top of that, we also forget what those words are truly worth to our everyday lives. Nonetheless, in American society today there is a greater negative fervor and dissatisfaction with the “American dream” than ever before. People have realized that most of what we call freedom and liberty has been so perverted and misconstrued that they simply walk away and turn their backs on the USA, or at least its suggested way of life.

If you read your paper or your internet news site, you will notice an ever-increasing number of protests and alternative lifestyles combatting with the American dream. People are no longer wishing for a nice house and a sports car; now they are planting gardens and focusing on community renewal. The Green revolution has been sweeping the nation of late, but no one has uttered that the “hippies” and the conservationist have been pushing the green revolution for decades. But with a vast growing economy of the 1990s, including the growing empires like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, no one listened. Now with our economy in shambles and people on the edge of losing everything, citizens are reconsidering these alternative ways of living and they are beginning to believe there is something powerful and renewing about it.

So this is the question I have been thinking about so often lately: Are these people right? Do they have a point and should we all step back and re-evaluate the way we live our lives in this country where we are free to live our lives?

These questions remind me of a historical group that went through the same dilemma that we are facing now. They were the first followers of Jesus. These were people who were fed up with the life Rome had to offer them, and set out on a journey to find a more abundant life. But why would the early Christians want reject the greatest empire in the world? There are old sayings that Rome was magical and dazzling. It is said that the whole world stood in awe of her. The Jewish historian, Josephus, said that Rome’s military was “irresistible” and “beautiful”. Aristides stated that “if anyone wants to see beauty on earth, travel to Rome. Everything grows and exists in Rome in abundance . . . anything that you do not see in Rome does not exist or is not accountable”. Everything was bigger and better in Rome. Jesus Christ lived in the golden age of Rome. So if Rome had everything to offer these people, these Christians, then why did the early followers of Jesus not want any part in the paradise of abundance and gold?

The simple answer is because they found a better and more intricate life in simpler and honorable things. As we live in the greatest country of the world, know that you have the freedom to love others and live a life that looks nothing like the American Dream if you choose. True liberty is liberating the captives. Moreover, true freedom is not the right to do what you want; it is the right to have the freedom to better yourself and others.

Misery Business

In the wake of the Casey Anthony trail, I cannot truly believe what I have seen on TV the last few weeks, and I am not referring to the trail of the century and the ruling that was dished out. Last week, you could turn on any news station and it seemed like everyone was salivating on what was going to happen to Casey Anthony. Some thought her innocent, most thought her guilty, but nonetheless an astounding number of people watched the trail religiously.

Let us be honest for a second. I am not commenting at all on whether or not I believe Casey Anthony was innocent or guilty—either way there is no perfect justice to what happened to that little girl— but what I am suggesting is that the publicity of everyone’s misery that was involved in this trail was consumed by viewers like a new hit TV show. Tragically, this trail was not “Two and a Half Men.”

So why do we all become somewhat obsessed with trails and public events like the Casey Anthony trail? Maybe it is pure nosiness—although nosiness is hard to blame when every channel you turn to is covering the story. Could it possibly be curiosity? Maybe so. But most would say, “I just want to see that Casey Anthony has justice brought down on her.” This may be true, and I could say a hundred things about judging others but I will not bother because you are responsible people who had heard that too many times.

Okay, maybe I am being a little hard on the viewers, and not so much on the TV stations that utilize events like this to boost ratings. I am speaking of folks like Nancy Grace and others in her field who host entire shows speaking nothing else but opinions and taking callers about events like that involving Casey Anthony. Nancy Grace was actually quoted saying that “the devil was dancing” when the verdict was announced. Talk show host and such are paid hundreds of thousands dollars to talk about other’s misery. They humiliate, trample, and elevate any and every situation that can bring in a buck.

I have a hard time believing some of the stories I hear on TV shows like the ones I have mentioned, but I have an even harder time believing that these people actually care about what they broadcast to the world. These stations and the people (seemingly) intimately involved truly make misery their business.

The truth is that I have become a little resentful to the media that covers such events in America (if you cannot tell). Not necessarily because people talk about things though. Heck, look at what I am doing right now. On top of that, we live in a social media world where everything that happens can and will be known by most very quickly. What upsets me is that they do nothing to solve these sorts of problems that they expose. Granted, journalism and reporting can make an impact; literature is some of the most powerful motivators of change in the world. But we are not talking about Mark Twain reporting here, are we?

I truly believe there is a reason why it is harder to use your legs and hands than it is to run your mouth. So this week, help be part of the solution and back up your words with proactive means.