Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Friday, May 8, 2020

are we selfish enough yet?

“I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement [Libertarians] in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.”
                                                    Christopher Hitchens

It was a sight so profoundly absurd
that it hit my soul with a 2X4

the sight of all those people
living in a city fast in the grip of a deadly virus
with hospitals over full
and people dying

crowded together
in defiance of all logic and sanity
to watch a hospital ship

it got me thinking about
individualism versus collectivism

in America “collectivism” seems to be considered by many
almost a sin
while individualism, is seen, somehow, as “godly”

google collectivism and you will
get quote after quote that suggests that any subjection
of individual will, for the good of all
is stupid

and I get it
I was raised in a remote rural town
where being strong and independent
needing no one
was admired

I was raised in America
Where you go after what you want
You fight to dominate
and where the person who dies with the most toys
(or the biggest bank account)

and it is this individualism
where one thinks only of the self

that, I think
drives masses to the beaches in a pandemic
“I’ll have my fun, to hell with the old folks at home”

It is this individualism
That allows many to look on immigrants with disdain
To see them as threats, who might use a resource
who might cost me, personally, something
rather than as brothers and sisters

It is this individualism that makes
the performance of the stock market more important
then the numbers of people afflicted by Covid-19

I along with all of America
Am immersed in this mindset

Even our religion is shaped by this essential selfishness
Faith is all about
Jesus and me
It is about my personal salvation
My personal “escape from hell”
My personal enrichment (prosperity Gospel)
My protection from illness

We piously put “everything” in God’s hands
And then proceed to list
My family
My home
My security
My fears and feelings

We say “God bless America!” (us)

YES, I do this too,
And it is not all bad

But there are the actual teachings of Jesus
Love your neighbor (as yourself, yes, but love them)
Sell all you have and give to the poor
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle,
than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God
The last shall be first
The first shall be last

Then there is the example of the early church
Where “they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need”
(Acts 2)

does this not sound
as if God is calling us out of essential selfishness

which if the truth be told
makes us cruel,
no matter how we try to frame that behavior

I ran across this quote from Basil, an early church father

“When someone steals another's clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”

I cringe when I read that
and yet
this man, who fought for good theology, and fought against heresies in the early church
saw clearly

the imperative

we are to be aware of the other
we are to value to the other
we are to protect the other
we are to help the other

Ram Dass put it another way, but the import is the same
“we are all just walking each other home”

So what does that mean

In this time when Christianity is all about domination and coercion
And not about service and generosity
What does that mean in this time when we get sick together
Or get well together

It means staying home
It means washing our hands
It means giving to those in need (food banks)
It means making phone calls to the isolated
It means making face masks (as some people in my church are doing)
It means a radical awareness of others
It means praying for others, even those we are struggling to like)

It means saying, “God bless all, all the nations of the world”

Maybe this is what Covid-19 can teach us
That this idea we have
That it is all about “us”

Is wrong

Maybe Covid-19 can actually help us remember
what the way of Jesus
is really all about

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