Back when I was growing up in the Super 70s – my whole family would gather together on a Saturday evening, often with popcorn and sodas – to watch the Fab Four on CBS.
No, not the Beatles but:
All in the Family
Followed by the Mary Tyler Moore Show
Then Bob Newhart
And finally, Carol Burnett.
The actor Carroll O’Conner masterfully played the character of Archie Bunker on All in the Family.
Archie had an opinion about everything and everyone – including God.
He once declared, “God don’t make no mistakes – that’s how he got to be God.”
Another religious Bunker-ism: The Lord might be out finding sheep - but they still end up as lambchops. . .
For those of you too young to remember Archie, he was once listed as number 1 on Bravo’s 100 Greatest TV Characters. Wikipedia says Bunker was characterized by his bigotry toward: “blacks, Hispanics, commies, gays, hippies, Jews, Asians, Catholics, women’s libbers and Polish-Americans.”
Archie was presented as a Christian, however, and often misquoted the Bible. He took pride in being religious, although he rarely attended church services.
Archie Bunker is an excellent reminder that way too many people have a theology rooted in ignorance or immersed in hatred. And the Bible, for them, is only an excuse to hold onto their bigotry or to justify their brand of politics.
And Archie is a humorous reminder that we must NOT remake God in our image, but allow the Spirit of God to remake US into the image of God.
So Archie could be the poster boy for today’s pseudo-Christianity, in which many substitute
“Popular Wisdom” - the kind you see on bumper stickers – for the teaching of Jesus.
Popular wisdom likes a Jesus who would confuse religion with a misguided patriotism that proclaims: America: right or wrong.
Who would describe the poor as lazy and interested only in a free ride.
Who would easily jump to conclusions about the guilt of others with phrases like “lock them up” – who would dare lump “God, guns, and country” in the same phrase.
Popular wisdom likes the plastic Jesus, the one whose being is portrayed in countless images as bland and melancholy, who understands and approves of our prejudices, our clinging to popular belief instead of JESUS’ actual teaching. And as one preacher recently put it – if you think this is hard to listen to – then just wait until you meet Jesus face to face. . .
Within the last few months, I have become a frequent reader of Tish Harrison Warren. She is a priest of the Anglican Church in North America and frequently writes columns in the New York Times.
Her God, she writes, “is not a culture warrior.”
“In the news and on social media” she writes, “God usually shows up when we are fighting about something. The subject of faith seems most often discussed in conversations about voting patterns and campaigning and promises kept or broken by politicians.
God appears in public discourse when a politician calls for Christian Nationalism.
Or when another paints ‘Jesus, Guns, and Babies’ on the side of a campaign bus.”
“This doesn’t sound much like Pope Francis,” Warren says, “who has said that instead of being a player in the culture wars, the Church should be a ‘field hospital’ where modern people, buffeted by the indifference or outright hostility of various ideologies, philosophies and politics are treated with the medicine of God’s love.”
I love it when our protestant brothers and sisters quote Pope Francis when so many in our own Church turn a deaf ear to him. . . Like the majority of our American Bishops who voted in a very anti-Francis bishop to be their leader for the next 3 years.
Funny how others – know Francis is on to something. . . something radical and new and holy and true. Something akin to what Jesus taught.
Warren believes that the way religion is used in the culture wars inevitably shapes, as a culture and as individuals, how we discuss faith. “And that,” she says, “inevitably shapes who we understand God to be.”
Instead, faith is about fundamental issues with which, acknowledged or not, every human being must deal.
Warren calls them “questions that haunt every human life: how does one know what is true and false, right or wrong? Is there a God? If there is, can we interact with him, her, or it? If so, how? Can God speak to us? Can we speak to God?
What are our obligations to God and to other human beings? How can we have joy? How can we live well? How can we be wise?”
People searching for God must not be distracted by popular wisdom or the hot-button issues foisted upon us by the culture wars.
The wisdom accumulated by the “great cloud of witnesses” the billions of people who have found God through the ages –
shows that the true God can be found by open-mindedness, prayer, silence, reflection, and study.
And it should go without saying – so probably needs to be said: the true God also decries both lies and violence.
Obviously, that’s not Archie Bunker’s god.
But it is our God, our king – who we find with outstretched arms on the cross.
Who, without judgment.
Without worrying about what anyone else will say or will think–
Turns to a thief hanging near him, and to any and all repentant sinners - and says: Today you will be with me in paradise.
I don’t know about you, but that is certainly the merciful God into whose arms I want to be embraced. . . In whose image and likeness we are all made. And who – I hope & pray – We can do our best to be like.
Moments in time...