Thursday, April 28, 2016

Suicide and Unbelief

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More people, it seems, want to kill themselves.

While other causes of death in the U.S. are on the decline, the suicide rate has risen by a quarter, to 13 per 100,000 people in 2014 from 10.5 in 1999, according to an analysis by statistician Sally Curtin and her colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and reported recently by National Public Radio.

And it's rising for every age group under 75, she says.

"I've been losing sleep over this…," says Curtin. "You can't just say it's confined to one age group or another for males and females. Truly at all ages people are at risk for this, and our youngest have some of the highest percent increases."

And Curtin points out that in any given year, there are a lot more suicide attempts than there are suicide deaths. "The deaths are but the tip of the iceberg," she says.

What the Experts Say
Experts ascribe the increase to economic stagnation, which left more people out of jobs and probably made it harder for people to access health care and treatment. There was also a switch from the use of cocaine and crack to use of heroin and prescription painkillers, which can be lethal in case of an overdose.

Various other hypotheses are offered for the increase, but none seem adequate. One that goes unmentioned is a possible link between an increase in suicide, especially among young people, and the increased hopelessness that results from estrangement from faith and religion.

I’m not suggesting that atheism or agnosticism cause suicide, but I can’t help but wonder whether there’s a link between the increased suicide rate and reports that more young people are among the “nones,” those who when asked on questionnaires to identify their religion respond “none.”

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Say what you will about faith, it does provide a reason for living, so much so that one famous critic of religion, Karl Marx, fallaciously called it “the opium of the people.”

Young people have always challenged religion and faith, of course, and have often been disillusioned because of it. The 1970s song, “American Pie,” listed by one source as the number 5 “song of the century,” lamented the untimely death of rock-and-roller Buddy Holly and the general disappointment with the path of history after the optimism of the 1960s. 

That disappointment included an apparent loss of faith in God.

“And the three men I admire the most,
The Father, Son, and the Holy ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.“

Even though the NPR report made no mention of this, studies over the years have consistently found a link between religious practice and higher levels of happiness, as well as between lack of religious observance and suicide rates.

People who attend religious services, on average, generally exhibit much lower rates of suicide, says Religious, a non-sectarian organization whose leaders include atheists and agnostics.

"Those who attend church frequently are four times less likely to commit suicide than those who never attend," they say. They add that the effect “is seen in various studies which compare church attendance and suicide rates.

Best Predictor
"In fact, the rate of church attendance predicts the suicide rate better than any other factor (including unemployment, traditionally regarded as the most powerful variable)."

Whether this relationship is a matter of cause and effect is unknown, however. Other influences, says Religious – including the connection between lack of religious observance and depression, the rejection by many religions of homosexuality, and suicide victims’ lack of a support network – may be factors.

Despite the widespread disinterest in religion and faith, they have many seldom-acknowledged benefits that are worth considering by people searching for God. They require an acceptance of uncertainty, however.   

“Faith,” said Martin Luther King, “is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”



Thursday, April 21, 2016

Seizing An Illusive Prize

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For just a few minutes, I ask you to suspend any disbelief you may have about Jesus’ resurrection and the gospel accounts about it because I want to write about a gospel reading for this time after Easter that stirs the imagination. I believe it has much to say to people searching for God.

The scene is after Jesus’ unbelievably cruel crucifixion and incredible resurrection as described in the Gospel of John. Jesus’ disciples are gathered in a rented or borrowed room, locked “for fear of the Jews.” They had reason to lock the door because the disciples were, after all, close associates of this rabble rouser who challenged the Jewish authorities. They had said he claimed to be a King, making him an enemy to the Romans who occupied and ruled Israel.

The disciples were guilty by association. They undoubtedly also felt a great deal of guilt because they all abandoned Jesus when the going got tough. And they felt shame for having done so. When it comes to those feelings, I think we can relate.

Here’s how the gospel describes the scene, according to The Message translation.

“Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.

They were exuberant
“The disciples, seeing the master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.’

“… But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, ‘We saw the master.’ But he said, ‘Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.’

“Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through locked doors, stood among them, and said ‘Peace to you.’ “Then he focused on Thomas. ‘Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.’

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“Thomas said, ‘My master! My God!’ “Jesus said, ‘So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

Cooped-up in that room and rendered immobile, the disciples must have felt enormous relief at Jesus’ appearance. They were freed from fear, that most powerful of emotional paralysis. Not only can fear cause, and be the result of, emotional distress, it can be a great barrier in the search for God.

Aren’t we all like those disciples, gathered in one room feeling fear, guilt, doubt and shame? It may not be the same fear, guilt, doubt and shame they felt. We all have our own reasons for these feelings.

Some of our reasons for guilt are unspecified. Some of us may feel guilt because we’re guilty of something, of course, but much of the time, guilt is an irrational misinterpretation of events, feelings or people.

As for doubt, it may be about God. Many, if not most, of us have had that kind of doubt, being unwilling to accept uncertainty and not knowing how to deal with it. But it could also be a matter of doubting ourselves, resulting in failure to live up to our expectations. Or doubt of others, including family members and friends.

Conscience operating properly
Shame is another matter. We usually have good reason for that feeling, having offended God or each other. In my view, shame is a sign that our conscience is operating properly.

How does Jesus respond to all these feelings?


I believe this word as Jesus used it doesn’t simply mean the absence of fear or conflict; rather, it sums up Jesus’ message about who we are and who we could be. Perhaps it is best expressed in the Letter to the Romans in the Christian Bible: “”…But those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit…. To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

In other words, peace is found when God is found, proportionally by those who sincerely seek him/her.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Unknown and Unsung Saints

Malala Yousafzai
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Growing up Catholic, I used to read about the saints. That may sound quaint, and perhaps boring.

But it wasn’t their piety that attracted me. It was the fact that so many of them overcame huge obstacles and difficulties in their search for God. They were people of their time, stuck with its baggage just as we’re stuck with ours, but motivated by a spirituality that transcended it. They were determined to “do good” and stick to their principles no matter what.

To me, they were heroes, people to look up to and emulate. Today, their places are taken by sports figures, TV and movie stars, some of whom are hardly fountains of virtue. There may, in fact, be a cult of “badness,” but I believe most people still honor goodness.

Three saints who top my list of favorites for obvious reasons are the apostle Thomas; Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More.

The apostle, like me, was a skeptic and doubter, who eventually reconciled with Jesus and the other apostles. He’s mentioned only a few times in the gospels but in passages to which I relate easily.

Overcame Fierce Opposition
Aquinas, who lived in the 13th century, overcame fierce opposition from his wealthy family and others to become a great thinker and revolutionize the scholarship of his time. He contributed greatly to the way we think about God.

Thomas More, who lived in the 16th century, stood his ground against Henry VIII, king of England and one of the most powerful men in history. Like any good lawyer, More tried every legal means to avoid martyrdom but in the end literally lost his head for doing what he thought was right.

Some may think the age of saints has passed, but there’s never been a time when they were more needed, especially by people searching for God. And if we’re open to them, I believe we’ll see them all around us. Most true saints undoubtedly go unknown and they certainly aren’t all Catholics, Christians or even believers. Not all may be described as “holy,” but only God really knows who is, or isn’t, a candidate for that term.

Lou Gehrig
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A few well-known Catholics and Christians, such as Pope Francis, Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Franz Jaggerstatter, would be on my personal list of contemporary and near-contemporary saints, but following are a few others I believe deserve recognition – and emulation in some aspects of their lives. They may not be considered saints in the traditional sense. I present them here as an encouragement to those searching for God.

·       Malala Yousafzai, 19, became an advocate for girls' education as a child in Pakistan, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot her when she was traveling home from school. She survived, and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. In 2014, she became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

·       Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014) was an American poet and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. She is famous for her inspirational and motivational sayings, including: "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."

·       Born and raised in a Hindu merchant caste family in India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa in the Indian community's struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organizing peasants, farmers, and urban laborers to protest against excessive land taxes and discrimination. He led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women's rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability and achieving Swaraj or self-rule. Imprisoned for many years in both South Africa and India, he attempted to practice nonviolence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same.

·       Paul David Hewson (born 10 May 1960), known by his stage name Bono, is an Irish singer-songwriter, musician, venture capitalist, businessman, and philanthropist. He is best known as the lead vocalist of rock band U2. He is also widely known for fighting hunger and poverty in Africa. He was granted an honorary knighthood by Elizabeth II for "his services to the music industry and for his humanitarian work,” and has been made a commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters. Together with Bill and Melinda Gates, he was named Time Person of the Year  in 2005.

·       Henry Louis "Lou" or "Buster" Gehrig (1903 – 1941) from 1923 through 1939 played baseball 17 seasons for the New York Yankees. He was an All-Star seven consecutive times, a Triple Crown winner once, an American League Most Valuable Player twice, and a member of six World Series Champion teams. He had a career .340 batting average; hit 493 home runs and had 1,995 runs batted in. His career ended at age 36 when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and extremely cruel illness which in the U.S. is known as Lou Gehrig Disease because at the time it was still relatively unknown. He died two years later, but while still able, delivered what has been called "baseball's Gettysburg Address" to a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium. “… Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. …So I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for.”







Thursday, April 7, 2016

Making a Murderer

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Several weeks ago, I finished watching the documentary series, “Making a Murderer,” on Netflix.

Filmed over a 10-year period, it’s an unprecedented real-life thriller about Steven Avery, who was exonerated of a murder by DNA evidence only to be accused and convicted of another.

Set in rural Wisconsin, the riveting series “takes viewers inside a high-stakes criminal case where reputation is everything and things are never as they appear,” says a promotional message. Unbelievably for a documentary, it is wildly popular and sparked a nationwide debate about the criminal justice system. Though Avery and his nephew were convicted in the second homicide, the series leaves grave doubts about their guilt.

But for me, the show evoked thoughts about an overall issue, the primacy of life. The series was all about life – the lives of the women who were murdered and the lives of Avery and his nephew, who were sentenced to life terms in prison. It was also about the lives of the families of the victims and that of the Avery family.

All Lives Matter
It’s a reminder that “all lives matter,” and that the gift of life is, arguably, paramount, to be cherished and protected. It reminds us that people don’t get their dignity from being in control, or from being born into a certain clan, race or sex, but simply by being a human being.

Does this sound like an unsupported, Pollyanna sort of statement? The founders of our country didn’t think so.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Joseph Bernardin
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like the idea of “the seamless garment of life” to express this idea. Attributed to the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago – who himself provided a great lesson on how to live until the last moment of death – it uses as an analogy the seamless garment of Jesus as described in the Christian Bible. This is how Michael Leach, publisher emeritus and editor-at-large of Orbis Books, describes it.

“The Seamless Garment of Life is not a theory but a principle that all life is sacred, from womb to tomb, in the unborn and the dying, in the murderer on death row and the mother in a coma, in the soldier in Afghanistan and the homeless family in Iraq, in the child abused by a pedophile and the pensioner who can’t afford a doctor, in the oil-poisoned Gulf and the coal mines of Pennsylvania, in the Arab and in the Israeli.

“The Seamless Garment of Life is not a religious belief,” wrote Leach, “but a spiritual understanding that all of us are one.”

Said Cardinal Bernardin: “When human life is considered cheap or easily expendable in one area, eventually nothing is held as sacred and all lives are in jeopardy.”

If, like me, you buy into this idea, you may be against abortion because it robs humans, or potential humans, of life before they get a chance to live it. But you favor the maximum protection and help for mothers who find themselves in the dire straits that lead them to seek abortions. And knowing that poverty is the most important factor in choosing an abortion, you favor programs – government-sponsored or not – that help people get out of poverty. 

Importance of Human Life
Abortion arguments, seems to me, miss the point when they get into endless debates about when life begins or when they place abortion in the context of women’s rights. Isn’t the question about the importance of human life, whether born or not? Does being against abortion make you anti-woman? At least half the fetuses aborted are female, after all.

Maybe the most fundamental question is, is abortion the best society can do? Can’t we be more caring about families in distress? More eager to share our resources, either through private or public means, with people living in poverty? Is killing a fetus the most enlightened solution?

Similar arguments can be made about other “life” issues. In adopting the “seamless garment” approach, you can’t just be against assisted suicide, you must favor society doing much more to help people die without loneliness and in peace. And if you’re pro-life, you have to be anti-war, anti-capital punishment and oppose child abuse, human enslavement and the mistreatment and objectification of women.

I support personal responsibility for one’s actions, but society has a role in “making a murderer.” If we’re willing to throw away lives that we believe don’t matter, don’t we contribute to the attitude that life is cheap and the indifference that leads people to disrespect it?






Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Sounds of Silence

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In a recent issue, Matt Malone, editor of America Magazine, passed along a joke about his religious order, the Jesuits, who have a reputation for being highly educated, sophisticated and presumably, religious.

“If you buy a Jesuit a drink, he’ll talk to you about anything,” wrote Malone. “If you buy him two, he’ll talk to you about Jesus.”

Most of us have the notion that religion is, and should be, a private matter. We’re irritated, and even embarrassed, if someone brings religion into an otherwise secular conversation. The more society becomes estranged from religion, the more likely that is. As indicated by Malone’s joke, even religious professionals hesitate to bring faith into a conversation.  

Why are we so reluctant to talk about our faith, or even faith in general?

May Cause Discomfort
There are lots of answers. Among them is the traditional reluctance to bring up religion or politics because they’re controversial and may cause discomfort or conflict in another or in a social context. This is understandable, and may be even wise is some circumstances.

It’s surely a sign of wisdom to know when to speak and when to hold your tongue. But isn’t it a sign of cowardice to be silent in the face of attacks on faith or even worse, on people or classes of people - such as the poor and marginalized - that our faith pledges to defend?

We may pass off our silence as tolerance, but there’s a fine line between tolerance and cowardice.

As a society, we’re rightly suspicious of attempts at conversion, and those who have attended public schools have a special appreciation for the need to be careful about wearing your religion on your sleeve. Open mindedness is encouraged, though not extended to religious expression.

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But if something means a lot to you – a movie, book or experience – wouldn’t you want to talk about it and encourage others to share it? Yes, it seems, except in the case of religion.

I read an article recently in which the writer complained that someone was injecting his “subjective religious beliefs” into the presidential campaign, and it brought to mind an issue with which I often struggle. Many people are uncomfortable when one’s political views are shaped by their religious convictions. It’s interpreted as “shoving your religious beliefs down others’ throats.” But why shouldn’t religious beliefs shape political views, just as liberalism or conservatism does?

Should believers keep their religion to themselves when they are contemplating or commenting on politics? Do the teachings of Jesus, or that of the Hebrew Bible, become irrelevant at their juncture with social and political issues?

Fact is, the Judeo-Christian tradition has a lot to say about issues that are discussed – and are often highly controversial – in the public domain.

Pope Francis, for instance, recently spoke again against the death penalty, saying that all nations should abolish it. Joseph Fiorenza, writing in the online magazine, Religion and Politics, wrote that the pope, arguing that it is “unreasonable and wrong to support state-approved killing as a deterrent to killing,” is motivated by “the inalienable dignity of human life,” a gospel value. Because it is also a political issue, should believers stay silent?

Citing the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and the Koran, thousands of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith have marched, prayed, and protested in support of immigration reform.

Welcoming the Stranger
“Our Church,” says a statement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “has responded to Christ’s call for us to ‘welcome the stranger among us,’ for in this encounter with the immigrant, the migrant, and the refugee in our midst, we encounter Christ.”

Why shouldn’t religious views motivate the politics of believers and people searching for God? One of the reasons religion turns people off, after all, is the perception that believers don’t put into practice what they preach. Perhaps the real question is why religion doesn’t provide more of an incentive for political views.

There is an element of guile in all of this, of course. It’s OK for religion to motivate political views when those views are in agreement with ours, we may believe. It’s fine in the case of capital punishment, immigration and the economy, “liberals” may say, but not in issues such as abortion, birth control and assisted suicide. “Conservatives” may have a contrary position.

What good is a faith that isn’t reflected in people’s real lives, including their political lives? And how important is faith to people who are determined to keep it to themselves?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Is God a Feminist?

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OK, so we don’t usually think of him/her in those terms, which may conjure up women protesting, marching and going bra-less. But does God buy into society’s biases against women, males’ illusions of superiority, the violence perpetrated against women and their objectification in entertainment and pornography? Not the God for whom I’m searching.

Somehow, however, the equality of the sexes has been lost on many religious people. In the case of Christians, it’s especially hard to understand.

Christians believe that God became a human being in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. Presumably, God chose a certain time, about 2,000 years ago, and a certain culture, that of Judea, to do so. The time may have been right in the development of Jewish religious views, but the contemporary culture did not hold women in high regard.

You can say that about all the cultures of the ancient world, perhaps, but surprisingly, the ancient Hebrews were probably among the best in that regard. Look at the story of creation in Genesis, for instance. Many aspects of the story may seem sexist in our eyes – like the role of Eve as temptress – but it was unprecedented, say Scripture scholars, that Genesis had Eve created from Adam’s rib, exhibiting an equality that was unheard-of among other cultures.

Because Women Do It
That message was lost on most males, however, and has continued to be so throughout the ages. Women are still, in many ways and places, considered second-class. A recent New York Times article reports that women’s salaries are stubbornly stuck at about 20 percent below that of men for the same work and cites research showing that “work done by women pays less because women do it.”

People searching for God, especially Christians, should do all they can to change this, based on Jesus’ teaching and Christian writings. 

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,” writes the author of the Letter to the Galatians in the Christian Bible, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus repeatedly broke the rules about the separation of the sexes, like when he had his extended conversation with “the woman at the well.” The early Christian biblical authors chose to include it in the gospels, rejecting the prohibition against single men speaking to unrelated women.

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But perhaps the most touching scene of its kind in the Christian Bible was Jesus’ encounter with “the woman caught in adultery.” The woman was brought before leading men of the community where Jesus had been preaching, the idea being to corner Jesus.

They remind Jesus that Jewish law requires that such a woman be stoned to death. If Jesus agrees, his reputation for compassion ends. If he does not, he is an apostate from Judaism.

Nothing is said, of course, about the man with whom the woman had adultery – even though the prohibition against adultery applied to both sexes. Jesus seemingly has no patience with the notion that the woman was expected to answer for her sin, but not the man.

He resolves the tension with a remark that is a blow against hypocrisy and misogyny. It has become among history’s most famous quotes: “Let him without sin throw the first stone.”

The Catholic Church, to which I belong, has especially struggled with the status of women. Although women do the bulk of the work in the church and are arguably the most faithful, they are barred from the ranks of the clergy.

Arguments Are Vacuous
I really believe this will change, and hope that it does. The arguments against women priests appear to me to be vacuous, and are needlessly alienating many women of good will. There are enough legitimate issues in the church that can cause alienation without clinging to one that has little merit.

Women priests could contribute immensely to the church’s mission in a way that men can’t.

So if I feel this way, why do I stay in the church? Perhaps if I were not a male, I would feel differently, but I think women’s equality in the church will arrive a bit earlier if I stay in the church and make my views known.

Apart from that, there are lots of good reasons for staying. The principle one is that for me, it’s the best way of finding God.  










Thursday, March 17, 2016

How to Be a Success

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A recent National Public Radio broadcast discussed the huge differences in salaries that result from the choice of a college major and subsequent career choice.

The presumption underlying the story was that you could achieve much more “success” in life by choosing a major and career like engineering over fields like psychology, education, philosophy or social work. Nothing was said about the value of knowledge itself.

It made me think about how we define “success.” To me, the presumption of the report shows how little influence faith – especially the Christian faith and its values – has on our lives. That’s because it prompts us to ask the question, “How much money can I make with this major and career?” instead of “Which major and career will help me serve others?” or “Which will make me happy, or contribute to my knowledge or insights about myself and the world?”

To cynics, the latter questions must seem terribly naïve. People who ask them will be “losers” to many people, including many who profess faith.

Moral Bucket List
David Brooks of the New York Times in a famous column last year wrote about his “Moral Bucket List,” in which he briefly examined the lives of people who made a real difference in the world. They did so not because of their career successes but because of who they had become through selflessness and concern for others.

“…It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success,” Brooks wrote, “but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character.

A few years ago I realized that I wanted to be a bit more like those people. I realized that if I wanted to do that I was going to have to work harder to save my own soul. I was going to have to have the sort of moral adventures that produce that kind of goodness. I was going to have to be better at balancing my life.”

David Brooks
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Brooks identifies two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. “The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace,” he wrote. “The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

“We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.”

This is not to disparage people who make money, or suggest that if they do, they don’t contribute to society or serve others. I know people who have had great success financially and have also been models of living out their faith by serving others. But if we start with the primacy of money we’re ignoring what faith has to say about what matters.  

As I’ve mentioned, the search for God is not merely an intellectual matter. It’s a mix of the cerebral, the emotional and the “social,” or the way in which we’re influenced by the world around us. And just as this was true in Jesus’ time – when he struggled against commonly held views that were distortions of Judaism – we must sometimes struggle against what society would have us believe about life, ourselves and God.

I recently listened to a radio interview of a man who supports a presidential candidate who is a billionaire businessman. The man who was interviewed criticized one of his candidate’s rivals for “never having achieved anything in life.” His candidate, on the other hand, had achieved great financial success, the presumed measure of a person’s worth.

Preoccupation with Money
We may deny it, but I think that view is common, even among people who hear the opposite at church or from church leaders. Jesus warned about our preoccupation with money and status, but the message bounces off us like a baseball off a center-field wall.

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or – worse – stolen by burglars,” says Jesus in The Message translation of Matthew’s gospel. “Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”

Obviously, “success” is subjective. Its meaning is different for different people. But for believers, or people searching for God, it can’t be mainly about money – in the choice of a college major, in a career, or in life.