Recession Religion

Mar 25, 09 Recession Religion
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Last Sunday, my pastor preached a wonderful sermon about the psychological, sociological, ecological and theological implications of the current economic crisis, using Psalm 46: 1-4 as the foundation for his message:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,

though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

Se’lah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

My pastor made timely, cogent references to all that abounds, surrounds and drowns us. But he reminded his congregation that we have the power to influence our thoughts and how we filter and react to what is happening in the world. “Your body will follow your head,” he said, “and when you worry about where you’re landing, you can’t see where you’re trying to go.”

Looking towards the future can be cold, teasing comfort to people who’ve lost jobs, are struggling to keep roofs over their heads and food in their children’s mouth, or who have simply lost hope. But I assert that now may be the time for some “recession religion”.

It’s tricky, this perception or idea that we run to God or Allah or Jehovah — or any other deity or religious framework — when things are falling apart, when we’re mystified and stupefied and have been utterly denied on the plane where we exist, and so, we reach for higher ground. It’s trite and trivial and can be a downright cliché, as hackneyed and unoriginal as street corner preachers, manufactured miracles, or violence and oppression that is exacted under the false guise of evangelism .

But for me, our current conditions have brought new perspective and understanding to the allegorical significance of the Bible, allowing me to see parallels between what was once distant and foreign — all the long, implausible journeys of unfortunate, multisyllabically named characters to and between unfortunate, multisyllabically named places — to today’s reality which is hardly remote, undeniably native and ruled, instead, by the quick bursts of micro-blogging, Minute Rice and the dominance of the short-term memory. I see the connection, the sameness, and getting back into the Bible has been both cathartic and educational. For me, it’s been a framework for processing things that don’t seem to make sense and understanding that ain’t nothing new under the sun — hardship and turmoil are the calling cards of true faith, and though the current circumstances may make me jittery and anxious and often times pessimistic, I can truly say that I am not scared. I’m at peace with whatever God’s will will be, and I’m quite grounded, quite content to look above the dire, dingy gray that has enveloped and inhabited the earth around me to a more majestic, warm gold somewhere beyond.

Like I said before, it’s all about the rebirth. And the church has given me an outlet for expressing and exploring the thoughts and emotions that get trampled or ignored in the everyday grind: I have a community, a congregation that lifts me up as I do them, and all I have to do for that gift is gather and participate. And I love that my church merges the personal with the political, that we honestly talk about ourselves and the world as we are — in all our flaws, missteps and misgivings — even as we look to God’s example of what we should be. It works for me because I think God’s word is for naught if it’s not contemporarily applicable and practicable in everyday life, or it stifles His calling to speak truth to power (Jesus was no punk, so by his example, we’re not supposed to either!) I guess I like my religion a bit spicy…I want to feel inspired and like I’m called to do something more, to give something more, to be something more, especially now, when a sense of purpose and destiny may be the only thing you have. Simply put, I want my religious experience to be relevant and relatable; I don’t want to feel like I’m going through the motions or participating in empty rituals.

It’s easy to get away from faith — you’re rolling, you provide, you make it happen. You are the center, the catalyst, the creator and the craftsman. But there are certain circumstances that make it impossible to disregard faith (and times when you have to realize, by hook or by crook, that you can’t do it all and sometimes, you aren’t the one making it happen), and I contend that the world as it is may be one of these instances . Maybe you don’t find this “salvation” in a church, but I think it might be a good place to start. On Sunday, I appreciated the reminder that God was a refuge and strength, and all I had to do was look up to the light. At best, reconnecting with your spirit during these chaotic times can call you to a greater purpose, one that’s not fueled by the folly or ruled by the metrics of man. If nothing else, a little spiritual exploration may be just enough “distraction” to keep you sane in the midst of insanity…and maybe the invaluable calm of one’s inner-being is enough to make all of us indebted to a higher purpose, and thus, willing to return the favor and think, act and serve in such a way whereby this type of apocryphal and shameful economic catastrophe could have been prevented or skirted in the first place.

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent. What a terrific way to explain the importance of religious and spiritual matters, especially during times like these. You have a unique voice. Thanks for a great post.

    E

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