Philippians 2:6-11 CEB: Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
It doesn't matter if we are atheist or theists, it is in our DNA to put our love and worship towards something. For the Philippians, they were told who to worship: Caesar. This was a community part of the Roman Empire. They understood to live within the rules it gave them such great things like roads and aqueducts. It was in their best interest not to speak negatively about the ones ruling over them. But when I say worship the Emperor, I mean worship. He was considered a god. It is in that light, what Paul wrote to the Philippians could be considered treason. See what I mean as I put Caesar and Jesus side by side and line them up to scripture:
It was simply a treasonous statement. He was telling them to worship the one who rightly held the power and used it appropriately, and don't worship the one who falsely holds the power and exploits it. Christians could have been sent to the coliseum to be torn apart by wild animals for following faith in Christ openly, and Paul... Well, Paul knew the statements he had made and continued to make would probably get him killed.AP: Photographer Pablo Martinez Monsivais
So many of my sermons in my childhood were surrounded with the words, "We have it easy." We have it easy, because we are not going to be killed to practice our faith. Before I continue I reiterate that statement, because it is true. Even though the Christian faith is no longer the cake walk it used to be, we still have it extremely easy.
Now the next part, at least for me, is not that easy. It has been one of my goals since my call to ministry to remain politically neutral. The United States is split almost in half. It has been more important for me to speak biblical truth and let people decide for themselves what that means for their politics. I have seen politics at the pulpit create chasms between congregants. I have seen congregants leave over it. Yet this ties so directly into scripture I must address it. I am talking about Obama Christ.
Obama Christ is different from President Obama. Obama Christ is an icon created by the media to exhibit the overwhelming hope created post the 2008 election. Like all icons they are representative of the person and their acts. They are not the literal person.
Just into his first term I began to see images, like the one to the left, pop-up as different photographers wanted to capitalize on the president's seal being used as a halo around Obama's head. This image is subtle but later images/paintings would be down right blatant. I collected them at first. As someone who appreciates iconography I was taken by how obvious the connection was. Then I was down right upset.
President Obama just allowed it to continue. I daresay, he exploited it, using his power and powerplaying the name when it suited him. Obamacare. Obama Phone. Now, as scandalous and aggravating Bush's Patriot Act was, President Obama seems to have taken infringing on personal freedoms to a whole new level of intrusiveness with the IRS, NRA, and who knows what other organization. The corruption is so expansive it either makes the President look like an empty vessel, clueless of the country he is running. Or, he is part of the corruption.
There are people who really believed this guy was the anointed one. Never in my recollection did he humble himself when he was raised to such levels. It begs the question, which side of the above chart does he really belong to? (I mention Obama because I don't see cultural iconography of Congress, but I have issues with any person, no matter what party affiliation, who use their power for themselves instead of the people they are supposed to be serving.)
This even goes further than politics. We should be careful what we choose to iconize. Has Super Mario Brothers, Dr. Who, celebrity, Marvel and DC replaced God? I would say it has when all we have to do is look on Etsy to see quilts, knitting projects, and other homemade wares that celebrate the culture. I am guilty of it too. Give me just a little more free time and I would have a Super Mario Brother's quilt pieced together and on our bed. The culture is full of icons of everything. It has to mean something when we are no longer creating images of each other or the world around us. I cannot express this enough, love and faith is all about relationship. We are not supposed to make secondary deities out of our leaders. They do not sit atop a tall throne like Urtle the Turtle. If they do, that throne will eventually fall. Leaders should be among us and with us. Power comes with responsibility. The more power a person gains the less it becomes about themselves and more it becomes about the people they have power over. This is why good power is self-sacrificing. Real leadership is among the people, not above them. Perhaps even a little below them, so to raise them up.
We have it easy. As silly as the media was in creating these Obama Christs, we live in a society where it is understood our leader is not a god. While there might be a social stigma in outwardly professing our belief in Jesus Christ being our Lord, we do not fear for our lives in doing it. Who or what are you worshipping?
Today's meditation is in cooperation with The Despised Ones. This scripture ties into a synchro-blog. To read other thoughts on Philippians 2:6-11 check out their Facebook page.
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Also consider checking out the bible study. Introduction to the Bible using Wizard of Oz. This week we are discussing evil and God's wrath!