Monday, March 9, 2015

On Determining God's Address

In the last week I've seen a handful of Facebook posts that have a picture of the White House with this caption. "Time to put God back in this house. Do you agree?" I'm sure you can guess the political views of those posting the picture, but I wonder just what they mean by putting God back in the White House.

I've not asked and don't plan to. Such Facebook discussions rarely lead anywhere that is good or helpful. Still, I wonder how those reposting this measure whether or not God is there. The current resident professes to be a Christian and quotes Scripture on occasion, so apparently that is not it. So just how are we to know whether or not God has been evicted?

I thought of such things when reading today's lectionary passage from Jeremiah. It also talks about whether or not God is in a certain house. This house is the Jerusalem temple, also referred to by God as "the house that is called by my name." But in this case God has not been evicted. God has decided to move.

God has moved out of God's own house but will consider returning "if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt." I wonder if aliens, orphans, widows, justice, and such have anything to do with God current residency, or lack thereof, at the White House.

One of the constant temptations for people of faith is trying to enlist God in our causes. This isn't a problem restricted to any particular sort. Conservatives and liberals can be equally guilty. That said, people who tend to wear their religion on their sleeve often can be incredibly arrogant and certain when engaging in this temptation.

We religious sorts can be quite adept at critiquing others who aren't sufficiently religious in the manner we deem correct. However, the biblical prophets don't critique those who aren't religious. Their critique is an internal one aimed at the way religious practice has gone astray. Jeremiah is fussing at people who come to the Temple and claim God's blessings. In the same way, the prophet Jesus reserved his most scathing critiques for the dedicated, never-miss-a-Sunday, religious folks.

If religious folks want to worry about whether or not God is in particular houses and buildings, Jeremiah and Jesus suggest that we had best start by looking at the one we call our religious home.

Click to learn more about the lectionary.

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