Posts Tagged ‘benefit

09
Mar
22

“I want it. I’ll take it.”

“How is it with your soul?”

This is the question John Wesley – founder of Methodism – recommended leaders of small groups go around and ask each member as they began their weekly gatherings.  

Today, I will ask it of you. How is it with YOUR soul?

OK. I’ll start. Furrowing my brow and listening carefully with my Soul Stethoscope, I find significant unsettledness there. 

This is probably the third time I have sat down at my laptop to write this blog post. Each attempt has been inspired by events swirling around me and my heart’s response. And yet each attempt has faltered. Too much swirling. Too few coherent words with which to describe it. 

One of those dancing threads is the current horror we are witnessing in Ukraine. Nightly news reports regularly afflict me with a poisonous potion of tears, rage, and complete helplessness. I ask; How can something happen in 2022? What can be done to stop it? How am I called – both as a humanitarian and a Christian – to help alleviate this unbelievable level of innocent suffering. 

Tears.

Rage.

Helplessness.

Twisting around that first thread is this one: “I’ve seen this story before. Many times over.” As appalling as the Russian invasion of an independent, democratic country and the accompanying slaughter of civilian men, women, and children is, it is a familiar refrain. 

For untold millennia, one group has looked at land next door and said, “I want it. I’ll take it.”

This phrase is the story of every act of violence perpetrated in human history. It is the motto that has driven every robbery, every murder, every rape, every colonization, every enslavement, and every crime committed by one person against another from the beginning of time.

The European explorers who first landed on this continent were guided by this motto. The words were occasionally polished up and nobilified and even burnished with a shiny missionary patina. But it was exactly the same underlying motivation.

“I want it. I’ll take it.”

And when those first settlers wanted free laborers to plant their fields, raise their children, harvest their crops, and build their homes, they sent ships to Africa and TOOK them. They took people from their birthlands. They also took them from their languages. They took them from their communities. They took them from their families. They took them from their faiths and symbols. 

“I want it. I’ll take it.”

The taking has continued, unabated, to this day. And as I look around at the wealth and advantage spread at my feet, I am also called to face the fact that I have benefited from that taking. 

And I have remained silent.

That is the third, and final, thread weaving throughout this tapestry of tumult in my soul today. That thread is the recognition of my overt complicity in the tragedy of these times. No, I am not driving a tank on the outskirts of Kyiv. No, I did not pilot a slave ship through the Middle Passage. No, I did not whip or rape one of the hands on my cotton plantation. 

But it is no leap of imagination to recognize an ancestor of that same TAKING impulse living in my heart today. 

It begins with the belief that all agendas but mine are trivial and unimportant. It begins when I find myself listening to RESPOND instead of to UNDERSTAND. It begins when the righteousness of my cause supplants the righteousness of all others. It begins when I can’t let go of an ancient injury until “justice” (my personal justice, that is) is finally served. 

We are right when we see evil at work in the world and call it by name. We are right when we work to end its reign.

But we are badly off target and self-deluded when we fail to recognize the capacity for evil we each carry in our own hearts. 

Abundant blessings;

19
Aug
19

Uncommonly Common

Alien invasionIf there is one thing we have proved conclusively in this country, it is that, contrary to the old saying, what’s good for the goose is NOT necessarily also good for the gander.

At least that’s what the gander seems to think.

Even a casual glance will tell you that here in 2019 these states of ours are anything but united.

Group A passionately defends their version of a “common-sense solution,” while Group B howls in protest, deeply offended. Group C is convinced that both A and B are “wacko nutjobs” and wants nothing to do with either.

Each of us has become adept at articulating the outcome that will be in MY best interest, but we have become clumsy and tongue-tied when it comes to nailing down a clear picture of what WE, together, might need.

What I am referring to, of course, is that ancient concept called “the common good.” A version of the common good was first articulated by the authors of the Magna Carta in June 1215 in Runnymede, England. This cornerstone document established the principle that everyone is subject to the law, even the king, and guaranteed the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial.[1] The foundational principle of the Magna Carta holds that leaders of nations should devote themselves to pursuing a “good” that is held in common by all… regardless of political party or station in life.

What a concept!

One has to wonder though; in this age of runaway individuation is it even possible to speak about pursuing something so all-encompassing as a “common good”?

Last year former Clinton secretary of labor Robert Reich wrote a book called The Common Good in which he said, “What binds us as Americans is not birth or ethnicity but a commitment to fundamental ideals and principles: respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions, toleration of our differences and belief in equal political rights and equal opportunity.”

These ideals and principles, Reich says, are not political, at least not in the partisan sense; to affirm them is not to take sides in debates between Democrats and Republicans.

I am sure that people of varying political stripes can easily agree that things like safety, health, shelter, education, and freedom are all social goods worth pursuing. But what happens when two of these goods conflict with each other? Or when there are two or three or 500 different ideas of how to attain one of these highly desirable ends?

It might be that the real obstacle to rallying around a common good is that it will likely require each of us to sacrifice something. And as our current climate shows us, Americans are not terribly good at – or even very willing to – sacrifice.

When Jesus taught his disciples the words of what we now call The Lord’s Prayer, he included the line, “… thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That phrase helps us see that God’s kingdom is that place where the common good is the watchword of every citizen and where people understand that none of us is well until all of us are well.

Sometimes I confess to feeling as if we are moving further and further away from that vision instead of coming closer. When one nation says, “America first!” and another says, “Italy first!” and another says, “India first!” I can’t help but wonder if we are, in fact, pronouncing the death sentence to any consideration of the common good.

The way Hollywood dramatizes one solution to this issue is by having earth invaded by vicious, city-stomping aliens. As our collective future is suddenly thrown into dire jeopardy, everyone lays down his or her partisan flag and bands together to save the planet!

Maybe it won’t come to that.

Maybe there will be an invasion by the Holy Spirit instead.

[1]The Independent, Feb. 2, 2015




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