Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Dear America...

Congratulations on another birthday! I'm not a nation doctor, but if I were, I'd say that you've been blessed with lots of good DNA, and that this is why, even though you're in your 230's, you are still kicking. Stellar moments of Courage, Integrity, Idealism, Optimism, Innovation, Faith, Generosity...these are all significant parts of your story, and have contributed profoundly to your longevity. In a world where the map today is almost entirely unrecognizable when set against a map from even 30 years ago, that's something for which you can be both proud and grateful.

In spite of the rich heritage though, this is no time for resting on your past accomplishments because the signs of infirmity are starting to show, so much so, that they really can't be drowned out by fireworks and another verse of Stars and Stripes Forever. I hope you'll not think me unpatriotic for asking you to take a good long look in the mirror and, where you see signs of unhealth, take appropriate action. What kind of signs? I'm glad you asked, and since I am America too, I'll answer in the first person plural...

1. We've lost our commitment to the common good. The gaps between the rich and poor are increasing rapidly, with wealth being increasingly concentrated in the hands of few, while more and more constitute, 'the masses' who are lacking basic health insurance and lack of affordable housing. I'm not suggesting handouts here. Instead, I'm suggesting that you consider a restructuring that will allow any and all who are hard working Americans to enjoy access to the fundamental things that allow a safe and secure life, because as a pastor, I encounter many people working full-time or working the system, or working two jobs, or working two jobs and working the system, who still can't make it. This just isn't right and of course, is also the breeding ground for many of history's biggest upheavals and revolutions.

2. Our dependence on your institutions is excessive. Sure, you might think after my first observation that I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth, but it's surely true that the days when extended family lived close together, and neighbors were deeply involved in each others lives are gone for most Americans. As a result we're increasingly isolated, and this isolation has been the soil out from which deep pathologies have grown, pathologies which need relational, rather than clinical, governmental, or institutional answers. You can't create a program to facilitate relationship, but perhaps you'll understand that it has been our relentless pursuit of economic expansion that has created this disease breeding hyper-individualism. When is enough enough?

3. We need to face up to our age. We have infrastructure issues at home, including aging roads and schools, a loss of cutting edge investments in research and development, an energy policy that is terribly myopic, and a propensity to turn to military solutions rather quickly when faced with threats, as if we're the biggest kid on the block. But the fact is, other nations aren't too worried about us; neither are they threatened; neither do they feel that our self described 'superpower' status is accurate. Just look at our national debt, military recruitment challenges, trade deficit, and state of the dollar in the global market, to name but a few of our ailments.

So, America, I hope your next leader will be held accountable, not for giving speeches about a brighter tomorrow, nor for inciting patriotism by appealing to our so called strength, but by talking about sacrifice, moderation, the need for community, the dangers of fear, unbridled individualism, unfettered growth, and of the need for all of us to work together for the common good of Americans and the world. We need to face up to some mighty challenges America... and I'm excited to help. But the solutions we need won't come from the left or the right - rather, they'll come from somewhere yet unknown and unnamed, a place that will be born when we're willing, as a nation, to face the truths that need facing, without becoming despairing or cynical. That's called courage and vision, and its the prescription for what ails us. We can become healthy again, but not until we acknowledge our signs of illness.

Happy Birthday America -


At 6/7/08 22:09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard: You are right when you say that we need to reflect on what we have become. Yet, it isn't more affordable housing, or universal health care, or even a "restructuring" that helps the working masses make ends meet. It is Getting back to what we were; to living within our means rather than beyond it; to trusting God and glorifying Him rather than calling upon His name to help us with our indebtedness. The children of Zion had to learn that lesson the hard way. Hopefully, we will not.


At 8/7/08 17:41, Anonymous Scott said...

Great post Richard. I just hope "America" is listening...we can't continue our hyper-consumer and individualistic culture without serious ramifications into the future.

Just got O2 in the mail today! Looking forward to some page turning tonite!


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