Gods, Governments, Bicycles

On the day that Good Friday, Passover eve, and Jumu’ah coincide, Joey seeks guidance (here, from Shakespeare) to answer the Ultimate Question: What should I do?

Jeffrey subscribed to a bicycle touring listserv.  The list owner posted that his “touring” bike hurt his wrists.  Jeffrey politely suggested that the owner try a recumbent bike.  The owner was offended by the question!

Jeffrey unsubscribed.  The listserv was not about bicycle touring.  It was about touring-bike worship.

As we noted on our first post for the Ride to Nashville, worship (religion) gets a lot of play in an election year.

Worship is not necessarily about God.  It is about bicycles, as our touring friend showed.

Some swear by these machines, and swear at those who prefer other designs.

It is about “sacred soil”.

Afghanistan.  They say every inch is worth killing for.

It is about colored cloths on sticks.

People die for the “honor” of “their” particular cloth.

It is about money.

Unlike chocolate, this stuff has value only because others value it.

It is about freedom.  Defined as … ?  Freedom to force others to be like us?  Freedom to be left alone?  Freedom from “socialized medicine” so you don’t have to help your sick neighbor?  Messrs. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner can’t tell us how they defined freedom, because they are dead.

In memory of three men murdered 48 years ago in Philadelphia (ironic!), Mississippi, USA, for helping American citizens enjoy the freedom to vote.

So . . . what do we worship?  Bikes, land, flags, money, freedom?

What about God?  Jesus spoke for God, reminding us to love our neighbor even if it costs us.  Jesus got that crazy idea from his fellow Jews, prophets like Micah (do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God) and Isaiah (help the needy, let the oppressed go free).  These holy riffs on the Golden Rule cut through the ritual murk and are easy to understand.

But somehow the holy words are drowned out.  Today’s politicians invoke religion when they talk about bedroom topics not addressed outright in the Bible.  Yet on a topic on which the Bible is explicit, candidates proudly contradict God’s word:

There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you.  Exodus 12:49.  When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him.  The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  Leviticus 19:33-34.  You shall have one standard for stranger and citizen alike.  Leviticus 24:22.  You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:19.  You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land.  Deuteronomy 24:14.

Et cetera.

Some Americans quote the New Testament and say it is Godly to render to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s.  They treat foreigners cruelly, saying, “Ceasar’s orders.”  Hogwash!  There’s nothing holy about cruel crazy laws passed by a hapless Congress and enforced by a callous Executive Branch.  (There was nothing holy in 1776 about King George III’s orders either. )  No matter what the government says, God’s law forbids us to oppress innocent (even if federally unauthorized) foreigners in our midst.

Maybe you don’t agree that God gives us moral imperatives.  Fine.  It’s your right to worship bikes, land, a flag or money.

But then, don’t call yourself a Believer.  Like the usher said to the Jew who, without a High Holy Day ticket, came to a synagogue to deliver a message, “OK, go inside, but don’t let me catch you praying!”