Even more fascinating is the way our understandings and images of God shape and inform our perspective of the way the world works and the way we order systems of government.
A few years back, I sat in a packed university auditorium and listened to Bill Clinton talk about the Government. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time he talked for over an hour, focused on the words from the preamble of the US Constitution, " . . . a more perfect union . . ." .
Not "more perfect" as in surpassing even perfection, but "perfected over time".
It was important because, in 2008, a certain Senator from Illinois, one Barack H. Obama who was running for President of the United States, had given a "Race Speech" in front of the Liberty Bell, to give context to some remarks made by his pastor at the time, Jeremiah White.
The title of that 'race speech' was "A More Perfect Union".
Mr. Obama said that the Constitution as written was "ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations."
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.Not perfect. Not "more perfect" as in surpassing perfection, but "perfected over time."
In the speech I heard in 2010, Mr. Clinton picked up on that theme and talked about how important it is that this perfection ought to be "forged in the crucible of disagreement and debate". He underscored the importance of having a healthy, vital two-party system of government so that, in disagreement and debate, we might perfect a government "for the people, by the people".
That foundational idea of government resonated deeply with my understanding of what it means to be a Christian who is an Episcopalian and a member of the world-wide Anglican Communion.
It reflects my understanding of a God who is an active participant in our lives, but one who has given us the gift of free will. And, because God made us human, flawed and faulted as we are, God also gave us the gift of Jesus who, when we fail and fall short of the mark, provides us with grace to continue to grow and change and transform, as our Baptismal Covenant says in the words of St. Paul, "into the full stature of Christ".
Not perfect. "Perfected over time."
Yes, it's messy. The human enterprise is very messy. So are our various systems of religion. So are our systems of government.
Unless, of course, you subscribe to the ideas in "Dominion Theology".
King James Bible's rendering of Genesis 1:28, the passage in which God grants humanity "dominion" over the Earth.
Most of the contemporary movements labeled Dominion Theology arose in the 1970s in religious movements reasserting aspects of Christian nationalism.
According to Wikipedia,
Dominion Theology or Dominionism is the idea that Christians should work toward either a nation governed by Christians or one governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law. It is a form of Theocracy and is related to Theonomy, though it does not necessarily advocate Mosaic law as the basis of government. Prominent adherents of Dominion Theology are otherwise theologically diverse, including the Calvinist Christian Reconstructionism and the charismatic/Pentecostal Kingdom Now theology and New Apostolic Reformation.Understanding Dominion Theology is important if you want to know why the government has been shut down these past few days.
Dominion Theology is the animating force of The Tea Party segment of the Republican Party which has picked up the thread of the aversion of the GOP to "Big Government" and infused it with an understanding and image of God who has given "dominion" over the earth and all of the people of the earth - or, at least, to this country - to a few, select people.
Those would be Christian people.
Only those Christian people who have the "right" understanding of how God and Jesus want the world to be ordered, based on their interpretation - and only their interpretation - of Holy Scripture.
So to pull all this logic together, God anoints priests to work in the church directly and kings to go out into the marketplace to conquer, plunder, and bring back the spoils to the church. The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian "kings" who will accomplish the "end time transfer of wealth." Then "God's bankers" will usher in the "coming of the messiah." The government is being shut down so that God's bankers can bring Jesus back.
No, I'm not exaggerating.
We're talking Theocracy here.
I don't normally like to quote Pat Robertson, but an undeniable millions of people listen to him and believe and hang onto every word he says.
So, here's that "perfect union" of Dominion Theology according to Pat Robertson.
God's plan is for His people, ladies and gentlemen, to take dominion. . . .What is dominion? Well, dominion is Lordship. He wants His people to reign and rule with Him. . . but He's waiting for us to. . . extend His dominion. . . .And the Lord says, "I'm going to let you redeem society. There'll be a reformation. . . .We are not going to stand for those coercive utopians in the Supreme Court and in Washington ruling over us any more. We're not gonna stand for it. We are going to say, 'we want freedom in this country, and we want power. . . .'"And that, friends, is what this government shut down, at least in part, is all about.
Those "coercive utopians in the Supreme Court and in Washington" have crossed the line in providing affordable health care to millions of Americans who are the working poor - except the Tea Party calls them something different.
"Takers" is what they are. "Takers" who will always be dependent upon the Government. See? They need to be dependent upon "The Lord". And, of course, they need to be dependent upon those whom God has "anointed" with power to bestow upon others who are deemed "deserving".
Our understandings and images of God shape and inform our perspective of the way the world works and the way we order systems of government.
Mary Daly said it best. "If God is male, then male is God."
He's angry about contraception and abortion. He's angry because a Black man is in the White House. He's angry about "non-Christians" (read: Muslims and Jews) who are allowed to enter this country through a "broken immigration system".
He's angry about multiculturalsim and diversity and globalization. He's angry about gun control and hate-crime legislation. He's angry about "global warming" and evolution. He's angry about radical egalitarianism and feminism.
He's angry about LGBT people whose perversion of the natural order is a "real and present danger" to "family values" and are tearing at the very fabric of this nation and the world.
Hyperbole and exaggeration on my part?
If you don't believe that this is the line of thinking and belief - the theology and ideology - of the Tea Party, just line your headphones with fire repellent and anti-toxin agents and listen in to local radio stations which carry preachers and politicians along with their listening audiences who tune in and call in to have these conversations.
It's pretty scary, but it will give you some sense of what would otherwise appear to be utter nonsense.
Beneath the smug, arrogant tones and the sharp, angry words you'll hear lies a clear image of the God of the Tea Party. Listen up!
Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors—in short, over every aspect and institution of human society. —D. James Kennedy
We need to understand Dominion Theology so that we don't cave into it or allow it to crush our democratic system of government.
If our legislative process is "dysfunctional" - and I believe it is undeniably so - that is so because we do not have a healthy, vital two party system. There are three parties at play here: Democrats, Republicans and The Tea Party.
We are far from perfect. We're not supposed to be. We are human beings, flawed and faulted.
Our goal is a "more perfect union" - with ourselves, our neighbor, our nation and the world.
And, a more perfect union with the God of our understanding, in whose service is perfect liberty.