Saturday, April 16, 2005

Christopher E.

My name is Christopher Eshelman. I am a United Methodist lay speaker from Wichita, KS.

My faith journey has been a long and winding one. Baptized Lutheran, raised Episcopalian after my parents divorce. Seriously studied Catholicism as a teen, spent a few months being very dogmatic then abandoned the church once I realized I just could not buy the whole package . Spent some time in a Unitarian Universalist setting, tried to ignore it all, but kept finding God in nature and humanity. Challenged and called through a series of events in which I encountered the divine in a Native American Drum ceremony where I believe God was present, but that was obviously not my path.

I was ultimately attracted to the UMC by my encounter with what's called the Wesley Quadrilateral - his teaching that Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason are all equally valid and necessary ways of considering our relationship with God. Having found a home in a progressive, thinking and always challenging UMC congregation, my faith and my passion for ministry have grown to the point that I am seriously looking at way to go to Seminary and become an ordained minister within this tradition.

I view my varied background as a gift. Very early on I figured out that my grandparents - one set Lutheran one set Catholic, disagreed about many things - but were all wonderful, god-fearing people. I could not accept the rhetoric I heard from the extremes of either camp and I learned that God - the creator of all life - values diversity. We see it all around us - in animals, in plants, in the myriad rock and earth formations, and in the universe.

I learned that over the centuries, various groups have controlled parts of the church so rigidly that men like Copernicus and Galileo were persecuted for violating the teaching of the church by observing and reporting the universe around them. I learned that neither science nor faith are really about easy certainty, but about exploring God's creation. I learned that when we focus more on persecuting each other than growing in our relationship with God, that we lose sight of the true Gospel message.

In recent years, I've met and developed friendships with people from a number of other traditions, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhist - as well as people who have been deeply hurt by the Church and now rejected religion altogether. I have learned that we all have some insight into ultimate truth and that any of us who claim to fully know God and God's will are likely guilty of the worst form of idolatry.

I have learned that true religion is not about enforcing our view of God's will on others, but surrendering control of our will to God. I claim as my path the Christian tradition, I value it's insights and love it's stories - but one of the most profoundly true things I've ever encountered is Sura 5:48 of the Koran (translated). "If Allah had so desired, He would have made us all one congregation. To test us, He chose not to and we are to compete with one another in good works. In the the end, all will return to Allah, and then that which we have disagreed on will be made plain to us.

Senator Frist, the Family Research Council, and this debacle they are calling Justice Sunday - do not speak for all people of faith, let alone all Christians. Opposition to this handful of judges has nothing to do with faith and it is a deep insult to people like myself that they would make such a claim. The cold fact is that more of Clinton's appointees were blocked than have even been seriously challenged, let alone blocked by this Congress. What these people want is absolute power. The irony is that if they got their Constitution shredding Theocracy - they would soon disintegrate into a series of purges - for they have deep disagreements on their beliefs that are masked by their current craze to achieve power.

Our nation's founders looked out on a dangerous and threatening world. They realized that each of the colonies had been founded by different groups with different religious ideas. Groups which had fled religious persecution elsewhere, only to fall into the trap of practicing it in the new world. Groups which had deep disagreements. Our founders came together in a common dream of Liberty and Justice - and created a nation which honored religious freedom while explicitly rejecting the establishment of a state church. For almost 230 years, what these wise men did has been a model for the rest of the world. Now a handful of religious extremist seek to end that and impose their will, their understanding, on our entire society. I don't say these words lightly, but that is both un-American and un-christian.

As a person of faith I reject their attempt and I rebuke them for it.
They are fools, blind guides, vipers. They make a great show of their religion for worldly gain. They ignore the beam in their own eye. They forget that the greatest commandment is plain - to love our neighbor as ourself.

Today I stand with people from many faiths, and with all those, religious or not, who honor our nations ideals - to reject the "far right's" foolish, shortsighted plans and I call on every person of faith to demand an apology for and a retraction of their arrogant claims.

2 Comments:
At 5:21 AM, Blogger Steve said...

Awesome, what a great story....

 
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