A plea for single mindedness
These are times when even those with deeply held faith in our American government are suddenly seeing things from a different perspective, and beginning to ask important questions. David Brooks, normally a defender of the current administration, was overflowing yesterday with anger, not directed at a political party, but directed at the whole way we are doing things in America, and what we're becoming. Of course one could argue that the scope of the tragedy was unanticipated. Of course one could argue that natural disasters will take their toll. But the unarguable reality is that the poor and the sick, the 'least of these' among us were exposed, no longer hidden away in alleys and shelters where we don't need to think about them. They were outside, huddled together, dehydrated and sick, for all the world to see.
I realize that pundits will be writing about this stuff for a long time, and that the full effects of the crisis remain to be seen, but this morning there was just one little moment where I suddenly saw, at the very least, a small part of the problem. I was looking up something on the net, and right there on my news home page was this picture of the disaster, but right next to it was an ad for online shopping with a picture of some crazy chocolate cake and the words, "Isn't it time for some guilty pleasures?" How are we suppsed to keep switching back and forth between compassion and indulgence, between a call to service and self-interest, between the horror of what is happening, and 'guilty pleasures'. I'm not sure we can keep switching. Jesus hinted that it would be tough, impossible actually, to puruse security and upward mobility while also pursuing the kingdom of God. I need to point my life towards one kingdom, one master, and commit to that master's value system.
What does serving one master mean? How does single hearted loyalty affect my financial choices, vocational choices, sexual choices? The answers aren't systemitized for us in the Bible and I don't think Jesus is calling us to a life of austerity. But once one begins to ask the question, the results always lead to an actual change in the way we live. I for one, don't want to watch another story, hear another plea, and then when the commercial comes, or when I turn the news off or close my Bible, revert to mindless pursuit of Ceasar's values and ideals, especially when tragedies such as these reveal the hollowness of Ceasar's words and promises.
I'm glad we're going through Isaiah this fall. The dual calls to pursue the King and the Kingdom of God will, I hope, ground us deeper in these matters, with the result that we will come to display the heart of Christ with greater clarity for our city and to the desparation found even within our own borders.