Friday, August 27, 2010
The other day Geoff sent me a link to a blog post done by a friend of his. The link touched upon two Wall Street Journal articles that took a critical view of the role of public charities, unfavorably contrasting them with the greater good (that is the claim) done by "private" entrepreneurs operating in "free-markets." You can read it here if you'd like. As unsavory, naive & reductionistic as I find this type of view to be (the WSJ stuff), it is hardly surprising. It is part of the core of the current debate in our country pitting the private sector against (the perceived)encroachment of the federal government into its affairs and dealings. In the popular media and town halls of America this is expressed, in various forms, and often high-decibels, as the epic and ongoing battle between "freedom" loving capitalists and "authoritarian" socialists. Personally, I think this whole debate, in current format, is a conceptual false-dichotomy orchestrated by people in positions of power to manipulate voting blocks to their advantage and ultimately leverage power and capital for their own ends. It is, in my opinion, fundamentally disingenuous. However, the underlying question is unavoidable. How do we live together and govern our lives in the world? I'm not going to attempt an answer to that question here, or attempt an answer to the question about the future course of American life and polity. I would, however, like to share a couple of things that have happened this week that have been very helpful reminders that impact this larger picture.
The first thing is a thought from the book "Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing," by Chris Rice and Immanuel Katongole. The first of "Ten Theses" that Katongole and Rice offer to help us recover "reconciliation as the mission of God," reads like this:
1. Reconciliation is God's gift to the world. Healing of the world's deep brokenness does not begin with us and our action, but with God and God's gift of new creation.
That statement is something that has given me comfort and hope this week as I've struggled at points to digest the underlying anger and accusation that characterizes so much public & political discourse, and grappled with the manner in which this often filters down to the level of personal and professional relationships and divides us. As a Christian (recognizing that Christians sling a lot of the mud), I take refuge in the belief that this is God's work first and foremost, that we're graciously invited into it and that we can depend on the love and grace that come from the communion of the Godhead to carry us in our shared efforts to make life work, as well as we can, for everyone. It is a gift.
The second thing comes from some time that I spent this morning reading scripture and sitting with an icon that has been critically important for me. I've been reading Luke's gospel and this morning I came to the tenth-chapter. Prior to reading it I looked briefly at the previous chapter to brush up on the context. It was that glance at chapter 9 that set-up a really stunning, heretofore unrecognized, link between the two chapters. At the end of chapter 9 we read:
"He(Jesus)sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But they were turned away. The people of the village refused to have anything to do with Jesus because he had resolved to go to Jerusalem."
This event is followed, at the end of the tenth-chapter, by Jesus making the "Good Samaritan" the "hero" of one of the Bible's most famous, oft quoted and powerful stories. That was a real stunner for me this morning. Jesus responds to the rejection of this Samaritan village (having in the background of it centuries of extreme alienation and hatred between Samaritans and Jews), by making a Samaritan person the heroic figure of one of his most far-reaching teachings about how God wants us to relate to each other. Wow! What does that have to say about the manner in which we engage with each other?
After I finished reading this passage I was sitting in front of the above icon contemplating the reading. For perhaps the first time my attention became almost exclusively focused upon the cock in the left corner that is gazing down as Jesus washes his disciples feet (Judas included). I don't think that to this point I'd ever quite focused my attention upon the cock. And it was in this moment that that cock began to crow at me, bespeaking the inevitable wave of human hyposcrisy and frailty that envelops all of us at some point, and hopefully draws us back out with its tide into the deep graces of God. Life is a gift. Reconciliation with each other and our world is a gift. I just wanted to thank the giver of these gifts for precious reminders of them at an important moment.