"Which comes first, my spirit or my religion?"
Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama is no different than many in asking himself this question. He is a member of the United Church of Christ, a denomination of about 1.2 million members that is considered on the far left statist-socialist end of the mainline Protestant spectrum. This church champions the teachings of Karl Marx under the label "Liberation Theology." The Wikipedia Encylopedia states, "In Christianity, liberation theology is a school of theology that focuses on Jesus Christ as not only the Redeemer but also the Liberator of the oppressed. It emphasizes the Christian mission to bring justice to the poor and oppressed, particularly through political activism."
This is a strange form for a Christian religion to take since Jesus in no way attempts to use politics to bring about change, and in fact emphasizes again and again that the kingdom of heaven, which is available to everyone right now, is not of this world.
So in this case Barack Obama feels his religion pulling him in one direction and his spirit pulling him in another direction altogether. His spirit gives him a feeling of compassion for the poor and for those who might be oppressed. His spirit guides him to help voluntarily and even rally others to help voluntarily. As he progresses spiritually, he might be guided to participate in a community which voluntarily shares wealth, a sort of voluntary socialism.
But his spirit would never guide him to sell his soul to the devil (the ego) who says, "I'll give you earthly power, and you can use it for all good." [See Matt 4:8-10] One doesn't serve the Lord by using legalized government force to coerce others into doing good. The statist-socialism of Marxism is dictatorship, and no truly spiritual person supports dictatorship, not even dictatorship of a voting majority at the ballot box.
Just as Barack Obama is conflicted between his spirit and his religion, so it is with many others who feel spiritual longings, embrace religions in the hopes of satisfying a deep desire, and then find that their religion is capable of severely twisting and turning them away from the experience they are really longing for. And so there is conflict and controversy. Yet Jesus Christ is with us always making course corrections, so at any moment we can say, "Wait a minute! It doesn't have to be this way!"
Here's how Jesus Christ says it in his revelation for the 21st Century, A Course in Miracles:
"All terms are potentially controversial, and those who seek controversy will find it. Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well. They must, however, be willing to overlook controversy, recognizing that it is a defense against truth in the form of a delaying maneuver. Theological considerations as such are necessarily controversial, since they depend on belief and can therefore be accepted or rejected. A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience toward which the course is directed. Here alone consistency becomes possible because here alone uncertainty ends."
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"...nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21)
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