Dec 28, 2009

About Pettiness

I believe in the democratic process and know that at times it can be rough and tumble. Like philosophic arguments the process gets testy at times. Yet there needs to be a more objective and prophetic voice that defends those who cannot defend themselves; those locked out of the places of power. I am always warmed by the thought that one year two major presidential candidates who could not have been further apart politically were both Methodists in excellent standing with their local churches—George Wallace and George McGovern. What a pair!!! Yet they remind us that our Semi-United Methodist Church is large enough to embrace all people and all points of view—whether or not we agree with them.

I am writing about pettiness because from time to time individuals suggest to me things like, “You need to preach against the policies of the Republican/Democratic party with regard to ______________.” My pastoral inclination tries to take into account the teachings of Jesus who reminds those who aspire to be disciples that: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” Jesus also says that “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). When Jesus talks about blessed people he does not talk about party affiliation, but rather functional goodness as when he blesses those who are “the peacemakers” and “the pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8-9).

The church is not a gathering of political viewpoints that happen to meet on the Sabbath. Rather, we profess that we are trying to be disciples of Jesus Christ, despite our political, social, or economic perspectives and differences. About twenty-five years ago I read something in The Wittenburg Door(December 1984/January 1985) that spoke to me. I share part of the article with you without further comment:

Mike Yaconelli, one of the founders of Youth Specialties and the humor magazine The Wittenburg Door, was recently killed in an auto accident. Mike was one of those people I never met and wish I had. In one of his occasional serious moments, Mike urged the church to deal with people who would divert us into petty issues:

“Petty people are ugly people. They are people who have lost their vision. They are people who have turned their eyes away from what matters and focused, instead, on what doesn’t matter. The result is that the rest of us are immobilized by their obsession with the insignificant.

“It is time to rid the church of pettiness. It is time the church refused to be victimized by petty people. It is time the church stopped ignoring pettiness. It is time the church quit pretending that pettiness doesn’t matter. Pettiness has become a serious disease in the Church of Jesus Christ—a disease which continues to result in terminal cases of discord, disruption, and destruction. Petty people are dangerous people because they appear to be only a nuisance instead of what they really are—a health hazard”

(The Wittenburg Door, December 1984/January 1985)

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