Waking this morning, I am thanking God that yesterday was not so much worse. As my heart is full of Thanksgiving, sadness, guilt, fear and shame, I am also asking how do I respond to all these feelings with truth and love?
I think my first response requires Truth. As a Christian, I have come to believe that prayer seems to be my first response in most situations. A prayer that’s been on my heart for quite a while is “God forgive us for we know not what we do.” It is a prayer I have prayed daily for myself for a long time. It is a prayer that flows out of my ignorance, my confessed arrogance and my understanding that I am not better than anyone.
More than ever, I believe it is imperative that we quit asking “What happened?” and “How did this happen?” and start asking “Why did this happen?”
It seems rather easy to blame yesterday on corrupt politicians, the lack of morality, conspiracy theories, the absence of truth, greed, misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, lies, social media, the misuse of power, unchecked narcissistic personality disorder, meaningless lives, extreme groups, the news and the absence of God in our homes, schools, communities, economy and culture.
But why have all these things occurred? Are they the reasons or they the results or are they both?
As I pondered this, I have learned that to find the truth, you have to look for it and because there is nothing new under the sun, and because we seem to make the same mistakes over and over- there must be witnesses of truth who have been there, done that and have wisely spoken about the WHY for thousands of years.
From Socrates to Confucius to today’s Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Neil Postman, Viktor Frankl, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, C.S.Lewis, Simone Weil, James Baldwin, and Gandhi are just a handful are people who are worth our time and study when we start asking why.
To Christians, I say, of course -The Bible. But like Johann Hamann said when Christ became his center and all things were being filtered through that center- then he says “To me, every book is a Bible.”
To Christians, I also say- our words mean nothing and truth means nothing if it is not lived. Soren Kierkegaard had quite a lot to say about this matter.
“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in this world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.
I open the New Testament and read: ‘If you want to be perfect, then sell all your goods and give to the poor and come follow me.’ Good God, if we were to actually do this, all the capitalists, the officeholders, and the entrepreneurs, the whole society in fact, would be almost beggars! We would be sunk if it were not for Christian scholarship! Praise be to everyone who works to consolidate the reputation of Christian scholarship, which helps to restrain the New Testament, this confounded book which would one, two, three, run us all down if it got loose (that is, if Christian scholarship did not restrain it).” -From Kierkegaard’s Journals
I recently read the following from Viktor Frankl’s book “Yes to Life, In Spite of Everything”:
“An ancient myth tells us that the existence of the world is based on thirty-six truly just people being present in it at all times. Only thirty-six! An infinitesimal minority. And yet they guarantee the continuing moral existence of the whole world. But this story continues: as soon as one of these just individuals is recognized as such and is, so to speak, unmasked by his surroundings, by his fellow human beings, he disappears, he is “withdrawn,” and then dies instantly. What is meant by that? We will not be far off the mark if we express it like this: as soon as we notice any pedagogical tendency in a role model, we become resentful; we human beings do not like to be lectured to like children. What does all this prove? What has come through to us from the past? Two things: everything depends on the individual human being, regardless of how small a number of like-minded people there is, and everything depends on each person, through action and not mere words, creatively making the meaning of life a reality in his or her own being. Therefore, we must counter the negative propaganda of recent times, the propaganda of “Non-Sense,” of “Non-Meaning,” with another propaganda that must be, firstly, individual and, secondly, active. Only then can it be positive.”
What does this mean? It means we have to stop with this nonsense of making America great again and stop participating,by omission and commission, in identify politics, denominational religion, a destructive and consuming economy, a comparative culture, a mob, a tribe, mocking, scoffing, spreading lies, judging and we must (as individuals) start loving human beings and being good human beings. It means we have to first stop doing violence to our own selves, and to our neighbors and the very places we live, before we make attempts to address violence at a larger scale.
It also means if a small minority of individuals loved God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, and loved their neighbor as themselves, then we would unleash a power of love and truth that would change the world.
This love and truth would start with remembering who we are and how we are naturally designed to be healthy, whole, holy and human.
I have been reading Bill W’s “The Language of the Heart.” It speaks directly to our addictions, our weaknesses and the confession that Truth asks each one us (individually) to make, so that we can know The Who and we can begin to understand the whys, the hows and the whats of our actions
“First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work.”― Alcoholics Anonymous
I believe what occurred yesterday has led me to acknowledge and confess my own participation by both omission and commission in what happened. Like Gk Chesterton said…
“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton”
So…Why did yesterday happen?
Because I have not loved God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and I have not loved myself or my neighbor. I am the problem. I care more about my comfort and convenience. I care more about the economy than my neighbor. I care more about making my kingdom come and my will be done. I care more about being entertained than being educated. I care more about curating my own pleasure than doing my duty.
And knowing this- I can join my brother Søren and pray…
“Father in heaven! You are Spirit, and they who wish to worship you must worship you in spirit and truth2—but how in spirit and truth if we are not or do not first of all really strive to become sober! Send, then, your Spirit into our hearts. Oh, so often we call upon your Spirit to come and bring courage and life and power and strength, but might it first of all—and this is indeed the condition for everything else and for its being of benefit to us—but might it first of all make us sober!” Søren Kierkegaard