Saturday, August 22, 2009

22 AUG 09: A Healthy Peace

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following item humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

Before this past week's big health care reform meeting in Columbus, we received an e-mail which seemed to belong in a Saturday Bible discussion....

"Without an ultimate concern as its basis, every system of morals degenerates into a method of adjustment to social demands, whether they are ultimately justified or not." Tillich: "Dynamics of Faith" 1957

My congressman's chief of health care reform called me today with regards to my letter. I got the impression that my ideas were timely and resonated. I was told that despite appearances that my congressman really had no practical input in the process. Conservatives are being left out. There are at least three differing proposals on the table and they agree that congress and this administration has bitten off more than they can chew.

The more I think on it the more I like the strategy of MLK and Gandhi. As this "Chicago" style politics revs up to respond violently, they can be outflanked on the left by peaceful resistance and the cadences of the civil rights era. How embarrassing for the president and the liberals to be cast in the same mold as the racists of generations ago. Such an approach will transform a health care debate into a civil rights, moral and ethical debate on which we can claim the high ground.

As in every battle, we need a bold leader to step up and take the high ground, giving the enemy an uphill battle. By rising above the din of fighting, propaganda, petty details and focus on compromise for the moment, we need someone to articulate the larger picture; to claim for the American people our true values, compassion and liberty. We need a passionate visionary to speak the truth with boldness, divide the moral from the amoral, to point to that which is the constant center of our dynamic faith (our ultimate concern) which is the infinite and transcends reason. Yet as these words divide they do so as a surgeon cuts with purpose to bind our wounds, to unite and inspire all in a common courage to venture forth together as one people into the future in faith. By being able to grasp, embrace and capture the imaginations, hopes and dreams of this people such a person can, as Tillich teaches, enact faith and transform humanist reason to that which is beyond reason yet in the imagination of reason - reason in ecstasy. This is the reason that works with faith and the reason that seeks the truth for our humanity rather than the vain hope of a technological or legislative solution. It is reason that reaches courageously upward in obedience and then embraces others in love.

Health care for us is liken to the divide of slavery 150 years ago. It divides brother against brother, friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor. It ruptures community in the swill of selfish self interests and annihilates our agape love of others. It raises the eros above and over the agape. It turns our ultimate concern away from its true love and turns it inward to self being transformed to idolatry. What is freedom but the escape from the bondage of the mores, passions and powers of this evil world in order to serve God and others? What is liberty but the capacity to enact our free moral agency? While in bondage to the idols of this ruptured time and place we have lost both freedom and liberty - that which was bought and paid for by the precious blood of our Saviour and by all who fought and died for idea that man can indeed be free.

What is this current crisis but a rupture of our highest and most noble aspirations and relationships by materialism, politics and self interests. What is at stake is not only the shape of democracy but it's very survival in the face of this rupture. What is the core of this conflict but the failure of moral relativism, positivism and materialism to improve self and the human condition? What is the balm but the lost sheep, the pearl of great price, the lost treasure which is our ethic rooted in the abiding faithfulness and steadfast love of our Creator and His will for our renewal as individuals and as a community living in cooperative communion and peace. It is an ethic that envisions this life dialectically but the truth as absolute. It is fides ut intellegatam, or faith seeking understanding. And when the object of our faith is self it is idolatry and false because we can never be the object of our own faith. Faith demands the existence of one that is wholly other, apart and separate from the creature. For if the creature were to be able to grasp the Creator he would possess God and such is impossible. Yet are we not as they who built the Tower of Babel, grasping up to possess God and make a name for ourselves? And failing to learn this lesson we shall be scattered in confusion and the din of incomprehensibility. We fail to listen and obey (schema) and prefer to voice our own for our own.

The ground has shifted and the political landscape covered in fog and confusion such as right is left and left is right and neither are true to that which binds men in love and peace. There is no right, there is no left for in this post-modern sickness of epidemic proportions there is no center! We are falling back to the time of the Judges which is framed by the recurring theme for "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes." And who or what is our King? Where is the center upon which man must determine himself? When every view, ethic and moral can be judged right even if they are in conflict and defy reason, where are we but in the Bronze age of the Judges? Postmodernism errs by the false assumption that our attempt to tolerate and resolve all individual points of view as accept as true that which anyone may hold is a means of achieving peace and harmony. Nay, it is simply moral chaos without discernment and reason and will degenerate to factional fighting and violence! With no center, no one ultimate concern, we are lost, disoriented, groping in self-delusion only to awake in vanity and vapor.

America needs another Lincoln. The world needs another Lincoln. We need someone who is capable of transcending this dissonance and who can point us to the way, the truth and the light - for all Americans and all people regardless of individual faith. We are the enemy who now haunts the empty caverns of our souls. We must be reconciled and redeemed but we cannot do this ourselves. We can only do it by, as Tillich said, having the "courage to be." And that courage is the courage to risk all in faith and abandon that which we have and are for that which we ought. It is courage through surrender and mortification of self. It is true courage.



MY CHILD, I will teach you now the way of peace and true liberty

Seek, child, to do the will of others rather than your own.

Always choose to have less rather than more.

Look always for the last place and seek to be beneath all others.

Always wish and pray that the will of God be fully carried out in you.

Behold, such will enter into the realm of peace and rest."

Thomas A. Kempis: "The Imitation of Christ." III:23

The town hall at the National Infantry Museum proved health care reform certainly has touched an emotional nerve with many people -- with plenty of name- calling and finger-pointing in both directions. This is what happens when college football season doesn't start until September.

The "larger picture" in this debate seems to be how to provide the most health coverage for the most people at the lowest possible cost. If that was really as easy as some people think, wouldn't Wal-Mart stores include doctors' offices and urgent care clinics?

I don't claim to be a "passionate visionary," but I've been studying a book which offers a vision of the future. A local pastor warned in a sermon a few weeks ago Democrats want to bring about socialism - but he didn't quote Bible verses to prove God is a capitalist, or socialism is of Satan. And I'm sure he was unimpressed when Fidel Castro legalized Christmas in Cuba several years ago.

An article I consulted in one religious magazine declares God offers obedient people "private property and opportunity for every family." That was based on Deuteronomy 6 in the Bible. But it's also based on obedience to God's laws -- and Deuteronomy 15 states one of them is debt forgiveness every seven years. Some mortgage bankers might jump on that, and pursue foreclosures even faster....

The article goes on to say after Jesus returns, His kingdom "will NOT be an economy of socialism with its accompanying heavy taxation and oppressive governments." Yet the writer goes on mention a passage in Leviticus about property returning to its original owners in a "year of Jubilee." Somehow, I think Jesus will lose a lot of conservative talk show hosts with that one.

I mention this to show the moral dividing line for health care reform is not easy to define, even when a Bible is pulled out. Some believers insist you should avoid doctors completely, and trust God in faith - while others respond by asking why a physician named Luke would be allowed to write two books of the New Testament.

One good answer to the health care issue could lie in a Bible verse many people overlook. I Timothy 2 reminds us to pray "for kings and all those in authority...." Pray for God to give them wisdom to find the best answer - instead of stopping with praying for clever words to calm down an unruly crowd.

And as for the question, "Who is our King" - I don't give that title to Michael Jackson. I wouldn't even give it to Elvis Presley or Richard Petty. I like the phrase U.S. colonial leaders used long ago - I have no king but Jesus.

SCHEDULED SUNDAY: Is the central library falling apart? We're challenged to get an answer....

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