Archive for September, 2012

The Complicit Church: Part I

Posted: September 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Frederick Douglass:

“I take this law [the Fugitive Slave Act] to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.”

Apparently a disengaged church is not a recent phenomena.

What of the murder of the weakest and most defenseless among us, the unborn?

What of a theft-based, unjust monetary system, that robs from a man that which his blood and sweat have rightfully earned, but is too faceless and cowardly to admit it?What of wars where innocent men and women die but which we are not even told why we should be there?

What of an education system that is a black hole for money, and a black hole for too many of our kids, that teaches lies as truth, and evil as good?

What about blacks and other minorities who are chained by their zip code to attend schools that absolutely and utterly fail them in our inner cities, perpetuating ignorance and the tyranny of low expectations?

What of the immigrants, those who genuinely want a better life for them and their children, who are paid the wages of an indentured servant because their overlords can threaten them with deportation?

What of a government that claims to be able to do with bureaucracy what only genuine human love, charity, and affection can achieve?

What of a debt that RIGHT NOW is chaining those not even yet born, chaining their dreams, their ability to make their own way, their ability to fulfill their God-given potential, their ability to pursue happiness?

What of the human slavery and sex trafficking in our own midst?

What of a government that reinforces a culture of lust and sexual perversion through our education system, reinforcing in the minds of young men the idea that women are nothing but tools of pleasure, and in the minds of women that love can be found by being treated as such by a boy under the false name of a “man”?

What of a government that will not defend its own laws for the sake of marriage, that most fundamental and essential of human relationships, and marginalizes and excoriates those who defend its viability?

What of corporations and the powerful being able to carve up our laws and our tax code to their benefit and aggrandizement, at the expense of those less materially fortunate, who are then told by that very same government that it can save them from the very people it just prostituted itself to?

What of the exception to being salt and light in this world that says “Avoid politics! There let the world reign!”? No phrase as such has ever been written

Politics may not save us, but it sure is damning us.

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We all remember what happened eleven years ago this very Tuesday.  Last year, on the ten year anniversary of 9/11, I wrote the following words in my journal, reflecting on not just the profundity of the day itself, but some lessons that my life’s course had been teaching me the past few years: 

Why does death change everything?  How is it that we can hate the soul of another, and yet when informed of their impending deceasing we arrive at their bed as if we had never left?  Why is forgiveness and love so incredibly easy and forthcoming when the loss of a long lost loved one is upon us?  How can I as a “good” and “loving” human being despise another and then rush to their deathbed should I be called to do so?  I believe this reveals more of the barbarity of man than the inhospitality of God.

One of my favorite movies is “Thirteen Days,” about the Cuban Missile Crisis.  A top member of the national security team at the time looked right at Bobby Kennedy at a certain point in the debate about what to do and said: “Bobby, sometimes there is only one right choice, and you thank God when it’s so clear.”

Looking back on 9/11, I can’t help but feel the same.  I woke up early this morning to a perfectly sunny, blue sky, just like that day.  You know, we throw around the feel-good phrases like “Never Forget,” and “God Bless the USA,” but I am tempted to think that at the end of the day, that’s all they are: lines that make us feel good, but which are ultimately meaningless.  What’s the point of a line we can say, but not live?

We certainly learned things as a nation.  We realized, without any room for doubt, who our enemy was, and to a certain extent, the nature of that enemy.  But if we peel back the veil of time these past eleven years, we, or at least I, remember that there was something much deeper, and far more powerful that we remembered after 9/11.  We remembered each other.  We remembered in a new way love of family, love of friends, and love of fellow man.  Most importantly, at least for a fleeting moment, we remembered God.  9/11 was one of those moments that, while all of us wish it had never happened, nonetheless induced a catharsis that probably would not have happened without it, and despite the pain and the anguish, the images of our fellow citizens being murdered, we thanked God that, at least for the moment, it was all so clear.  Our hearts had waxed cold.  Many of us realized that day that the love we thought we had for our loved ones was not what it should be, or that, perhaps it was strong, but we rarely took the pains to express it.  In other words, we took our loved ones for granted.  On 9/11, it was undeniable that, as the scriptures have taught us for thousands of years and we refuse to listen, life is short.  Those we love most, and even ourselves, could be gone in a moment.

When I wrote that journal entry, at the same time that I was reflecting on 9/11, I was also remembering the death of my Aunt Felicia.  She was not a blood relative, but she mine as well have been, for she was probably the single best “family” member I have ever had beyond my immediate family.  She was like a second mother to me, and no one, no one, served as selflessly, as lovingly, as joyfully as she did.  I remember the day my mom called in 2006 to tell me that her cancer had returned.  Through a long series of many months, and what eventually was slightly over a year, I saw this truly beloved person in my life deteriorate right before my eyes.  The cancer began in her lungs, and quickly spread to her liver, her kidneys, her spine, her brain, and every other conceivable place in her body.  It was everywhere, and it was literally consuming her.  At the end, she could no longer walk because of the excruciating pain in her spine, and she was sleeping twenty three hours a day.  She was completely bald, and her face, her beautiful, loving, welcoming face, had become swollen almost beyond recognition. 

I remember the last trip we took to go see her.  She was so happy just to be with us.  She had always been happy, but Aunt Felicia outdid herself that time.  We all just baked, made great food, watched movies, talked for hours, laughed like little kids…it was a truly wonderful time.  But then it came to an end, and the weight of the fact that this could very well be the last time we ever saw our Aunt Felicia hit all of us.  I kept it together for the sake of my cousins, my sister, and most of all my mom, but I was literally in pain at the thought of losing her.  I remember the last hug, which lasted for at least a minute.  I remember her whispering in my ear not to worry, that even if she did leave, she’d be with Jesus.  I was hugging her with the desire to encourage her, and here she was encouraging me.  I said I loved her, she said she loved me, we kissed, and that was the last time I saw her.  She was dead a few months later.

A few months after the trip, but before her death, I put pen to paper to write a letter to my Aunt Felicia.  Because she had to sleep so much, it was hard to get a hold of her to say hello over the phone, so I figured the fail-safe way would be to send her a letter.  I wrote it in February of 2007.  I really poured my heart out to her, recalling the so many good memories, and offering my own encouragement.  But I never sent it.  I was afraid to.  The letter mine as well have been a goodbye letter, and I remember a deep inner sense that by sending it, I would almost be acknowledging, perhaps even sealing her fate.  I set it aside, saying to myself that I would send it later, but never did.  I never got to speak with her on the phone.  That last hug was the last time we ever spoke.

Rummaging through some of my papers in February of 2011, I found the unfinished letter.  When I found it, I wept.  Why had I not sent it?  What had I been so afraid of?  It was one of those tasks that for all those years I had actually remembered was undone, but which I always, and quite conveniently, stashed away in the file cabinet in the back, pretending as if it wasn’t a big deal anymore.  I was confronted in 2011 with the consequences of my poor, and ultimately cowardly decision to not send that letter four years previous.  I had refused to love as I should have because I was afraid.  Did my Aunt Felicia know I loved her?  Absolutely.  But man, what a letter like that would’ve meant to her at a time like that.  But my fear won the day. 

I think there is a reason that the Bible tells us perfect love casts out all fear.  It does.  It truly does.  What I think 9/11 taught us, on the deepest level, was that we had better stop being afraid of loving each other, we had better get over the occasional awkwardness of expressing love, we had better get over the fear and the risk of pain that it always involved, for the fear and pain that comes when you no longer have any chances is far worse.  We also realized that true love is sacrificial.  It’s not just some fuzzy feeling.  It’s a commitment.  It took unspeakable tragedy for many of us to finally get a closer glimpse of the type of love Jesus had always called us to, and had exhibited perfectly Himself.  At the time I wrote my journal entry, I was also struggling with some issues with very close friends.  I had no doubt that if one of us was on our deathbed, all argument would immediately cease, our frustration would turn to true love and solidarity again, and all issues would be gone.  How strange I thought.  Perhaps it was a thought very similar to that which came to mind on September 12.  We are so quick to judge God Himself, to ask Him “How could you let this happen?”  And yet, it was our hearts which were cold, unfeeling, and dead.  What we came face to face with on September 12 was not God’s sins, but our own.

So have we forgotten?  Do we still run to the God who was so important to us on September 12?  Have we forgotten the brotherhood of that day? 

One of the great ironies of the aftermath of 9/11 was that so many of our leaders, in an effort to encourage us, quoted Isaiah 9:10, when after a national tragedy the people of Israel said the following: “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stone; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.”  What was apparently not realized is that in the previous verse, it said that this was said “in pride and in arrogance of heart.”

So have we forgotten?  I fear that we have, and as I said in my journal entry, it is not owing to God’s lack of hospitality, but to the barbarity of our own sinful nature, if it indeed takes a 9/11 for us to be reminded of the love we ought show to each other, and but for a very short time indeed.

Today, I remember to give that hug, to make that call, to offer that encouragement, to love sacrificially, to dare to even say “I love you” to someone I actually do love.  I remember that to be a friend is a holy and sacred honor, I remember that to bless is far better than to be blessed, that time is short, so there is no time to waste.  I had better remember to love as I have been loved by my Father in Heaven, for the risk of not loving is so much greater than the risk of loving.

My Lord once said: I came that you might have life, and have it to the full.  And yet, He died on a Cross for me, for you, condemned, with spit on his face, having been betrayed by His closest friends, all while doing it for them.  My Lord, while appearing weak, contemptible, and cowardly, carried to completion the single greatest act of courage in the history of mankind.  So today I remember that love like that, first with that man, and then with others, is what it is to have life to the full.  Today, I remember that love is an act of courage. 

That is something that I hope I shall Never Forget.

Alexis De Tocqueville wrote the following in Democracy in America, published in 1834-35.  I offer it to you for deep thought and reflection.  It is somewhat lengthy, but please read it.  I believe he was writing prophetically.  This is not a Republican vs. Democrat, Conservative vs. Liberal thing, for those carrying all banners have advanced tyranny.  This is about the existence of freedom in our country:

“I had noted in my stay in the United States that a democratic state of society similar to the American model could lay itself open to the establishment of despotism with unusual ease…

When the Roman emperors were at the height of their powers, the various nations inhabiting the Roman world still preserved their different customs and manners: although they obeyed the same monarch, most of the provinces were administered separately: they abounded in powerful and energetic townships and, although the whole government of the empire was concentrated in the emperor’s hands and he remained the arbiter of everything when the need arose, the small details of social life and private everyday existence normally eluded his control…their tyranny was an excessive burden on a few people but never spread over a great number; it latched on to a few main objects, leaving the rest alone; it was violent but its extent was limited.

If despotism were to be established in present-day democracies, it would probably assume a different character; it would be more widespread and kinder; it would debase men without tormenting them

I, too, am having difficulty finding a word which will exactly convey the whole idea I have formed; the old words despotism and tyranny are not suitable. This is a new phenomenon which I must, therefore, attempt to define since I can find no name for it.

I wish to imagine under what new features despotism might appear in the world: I see an innumerable crowd of men, all alike and equal, turned in upon themselves in a restless search for those petty, vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, living apart, is almost unaware of the destiny of all the rest. His children and personal friends are for him the whole of the human race; as for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he stands alongside them but does not see them; he touches them without feeling them; he exists only in himself and for himself; if he still retains his family circle, at any rate he may be said to have lost his country.

Above these men stands an immense and protective power which alone is responsible for looking after their enjoyments and watching over their destiny. It is absolute, meticulous, ordered, provident, and kindly disposed. It would be like a fatherly authority, if, father-like, its aim were to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks only keep them in perpetual childhood; it prefers its citizens to enjoy themselves provided they have only enjoyment in mind. It works readily for their happiness but it wishes to be the only provider and judge of it.  It provides their security, anticipates and guarantees their needs, supplies their pleasures, directs their principle concerns, manages their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances.

Why can it not remove from them entirely the bother of thinking and the troubles of life?  Thus, it reduces daily the value and frequency of the exercise of free choice; it restricts the activity of free will within a narrower range and gradually removes autonomy itself from each citizen. Equality has prepared men for all this, inclining them to tolerate all these things and often even to see them as a blessing.

Thus, the ruling power, having taken each citizen one by one into its powerful grasp and having molded him to its own liking, spreads its arms over the whole of society, covering the surface of social life with a network of petty, complicated, detailed, and uniform rules through which even the most original minds and the most energetic of spirits cannot reach the light in order to rise above the crowd. It does not break men’s wills but it does soften, bend, and control them; rarely does it force men to act but it constantly opposes what actions they perform; it does not destroy the start of anything but it stands in its way; it does not tyrannize, but it inhibits, represses, drains, snuffs out, dulls so much effort that finally it reduces each nation to nothing more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as shepherd.

Our contemporaries are ceaselessly agitated by two conflicting passions: they feel the needed to be directed as well as the desire to remain free…They conceive a single, protective, and all-powerful government but one elected by the citizens…Under this system citizens leave their state of dependence just long enough to choose their masters and then they return to it.

At the present time, many people very easily fall in with this type of compromise between a despotic administration and the sovereignty of the people and they think they have sufficiently safeguarded individual freedom when they surrendered it to a national authority. That is not good enough for me. The character of the master is much less important to me than the fact of obedience…

Equally, I realize that when the ruling power represents and is dependent upon the nation, the powers and rights taken from each citizen do not simply serve the head of state but the state itself, and that private individuals derive some advantage from the sacrifice of their independence to the public good…

We forget that it is, above all, in the details that we run the risk of enslaving men. For my part, I would be tempted to believe that freedom in the big things of life is less important than in the slightest, if I thought that we could always be guaranteed the latter when we did not possess the former.

Subjection in the minor things of life is obvious every day and is experienced indiscriminately by all citizens. It does not cause them to lose hope, but it constantly irks them until they give up the exercise of their will. It gradually blots out their mind and enfeebles their spirit, whereas obedience demanded only in a small number of very serious circumstances involves enslavement on rare occasions and burdens only a certain number of people.  It will be useless to call upon those very citizens, who have become so dependent upon central government, to choose from time to time the representative of this government; this very important but brief and rare exercise of their free choice will not prevent their gradual loss of the faculty of autonomous thought, feeling, and action so that they will slowly fall below the level of humanity.

I may add that they will soon lose the capacity to exercise the great and only privilege open to them.  The democratic nations which introduced freedom into politics at the same time that they were increasing despotism in the administrative sphere have been led into the strangest of paradoxes.  Faced with the need to manage small affairs where common sense can be enough, they reckon citizens are incompetent; when it comes to governing the whole state, they give these citizens immense prerogatives.  They turn them by degrees into playthings of the ruler or his masters, higher than kings or lower than men. Having exhausted all the various electoral systems without finding one which suited them, they look surprised and continue to search, as if the defects they see had far more to do with the country’s constitution than with that of the electorate.

It is indeed difficult to imagine how men who have completely given up the habit of self-government could successfully choose those who should do it for them, and no one will be convinced that a liberal, energetic, and prudent government can ever emerge from the voting of a nation of servants…

The vices of those who govern and the ineptitude of those governed would soon bring it to ruin, and the people, tired of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions, or would soon revert to its abasement to one single master.