Somewhere along the way, Christianity developed the idea that the world was evil and Christians were not to be tied to it. That notion would certainly suggest that a clergy person should not be involved with the “secular” community. The Rev. Jerry Falwell (of the moral majority) may have been one of the most vocal advocates for this notion when he said in a sermon on March 21st, 1965:
Believing the Bible as I do, I would find it impossible to stop preaching the pure saving gospel of Jesus Christ and begin doing anything else — including the
fighting of communism, or participating in civil rights reforms. . . . Preachers are called not to be politicians but to be soul winners. (Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg Virginia)
This idea of the world being evil certainly did not begin with the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) nor with Jesus — both saw the world as intrinsically good, but in need of transformation to reach it’s full potential.
My understanding of religion is quite simple — it’s goal is not to get you into heaven, or enable you to be blessed materially — the goal of religion is to help you develop a relationship with God that will enable you to see the world around you in a new way. The world is not evil, instead God wants us to see the potential that we all have to make the world into the kind of place that God desires. I am not Christian so that I can get into heaven, or become “rich,” which seems to be the motivation for much of the religious right. I am a Christian because Jesus models for me a way of living that seeks justice and a relationship with God for all people.
My passion in life is all about helping people connect in a meaningful relationship with the living God, a God who desires us to learn to live together regardless of our religious tradition. In the fall of 2002, I went to a local bank to open an account, while I was there I met Mike McIntyre the branch manager, we began to talk and Mike invited me to join him the next week at Rotary. I said yes, and he helped, unknowingly, change my life.
Prior to that experience I saw Ridge Church as my parish, but Mike opened up to me a much larger world in which I could share my love for God and maybe, make a difference. From that chance encounter, I joined the Munster Rotary Club, and soon after the Munster Chamber of Commerce and the Munster Education Foundation.
Working with the business community, I am able to see and understand the needs of Northwest Indiana in a better way. I see the poverty and the injustice that exists, but I also see the business leaders who really want to solve those issues, but don’t know how. We don’t always agree on the solutions, but I have come to know and respect great people who want to see, and help create a better world. The wonderful thing is that even though we come from a variety of traditions: Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Agnostic, it doesn’t matter. Together we can work to make a better world. In the end, isn’t that what we all really want? My God is big enough for us all! Regardless of how we understand the divine, we are all God’s children.
Why did the Munster Chamber of Commerce choose me as their citizen of the year? I don’t know for sure, but it is my hope that I was chosen because they can see my honest attempts to help them navigate the realities of the marketplace and live an authentic relationship with God.
Twenty-five years ago when I was a graduate student at Duke University I was a member of the rebellious culture: long hair, military jacket, sunglasses at night. Some of my friends joke that I sold out, but I don’t think so. I have come to understand that the best way to change the world, is to get to know those who can make the changes; to see the possibilities and to work together to get it done. I am still a revolutionary, just in a whole new way.