In the United States Air Force, we have something called core values. In the Air Force it is “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in all we do.”
Beyond any organization, I think each of us has core values too. One of the questions I ask myself is why the news this year seems to “punch my buttons” more than any other year? We have had many different leaders. Each has had different ideas. Why now, Tom? I had a good friend who has a different outlook from me ask why I shared my thoughts as frequently as I do. “I’ve never seen another pastor do this.” I responded to her with an initial response but, in the end, the more I thought about it, it is because current events are running head into some of my core values. There are two that stand out in particular:
- I believe in freedom of religion. Now, let me explain what I mean by that. It is not that I can take my religion and shake it in anyone’s face. It is not about people ascribing to my faith and if not my rejecting theirs if it is different (even if they don’t believe in God at all). But what it means to me is that I can live out my faith in the public arena and I will advocate for values that are in accord with those beliefs. I do not believe in personal and private religion, in that we should live one way of life in the church or in the home and then be comfortable with wholly different values advocated and advanced in society at large. Therefore, if I see my government, at any level acting in a way that is – against the way of God – I am compelled to speak up. So, counter-intuitively, if Mayor Jones wants to pass an ordinance to say we all must say “Merry Christmas” at the town hall each December – I am opposed to it because we are not all Christians. But, more importantly, if Mayor Jones wants to install spikes under bridges to prevent the homeless from sleeping there because it will increase property values- I stand opposed.
- I believe the stronger should help the weaker. Our experience of life is like a horse shoe. We start out weak and vulnerable. If we are blessed to live long enough, the same thing happens to all of us at the end of life. The admirable are those who take care of others at those early or late stages. Likewise, we laud our armed service members for being strong enough to step out of our largely safe and comfortable society and step into some very dangerous and volatile places to help make them and, by extension us, safer. We laud teachers who work diligently to pass on knowledge to a next generation that doesn’t know what they need to know yet. We laud our police, firemen, EMS workers – etc for helping those who cannot help themselves. Ultimately, it is a religious conviction. God helped us when we couldn’t help ourselves. We should do likewise.
The news today punches my buttons because I feel we are regularly urged to check our faith at the door. Again, I don’t mean by that we are asked not to waive our Christian flag or put a Christian Fish on our car. What I mean by that is we are asked to affirm that we are not to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are not to believe that the love of money is the root of all evil. If someone strikes us, we should blow them away versus turn the other cheek. It punches my buttons because I see us taking from the weaker and giving to the stronger – not vice versa.
That is me. That is where I am. It is my confession.
I will take a deep breath and try anew to encourage the good. I will also try not to compromise my core values. It is where I am.
What do you think?