Saturday’s Stray Thoughts

Another week concluding, another opportunity to look back on what we’ve done to extend God’s story and to think about places where it’s interpretive power can shed light in a darkened world. As always, feel free to raise and wave your digital hand if any of the thoughts strike you as worthy of exploration.

I am going to break from my customary practice of not posting on Sunday. Palm Sunday will begin a week of posts reflecting on the passion of our Lord. One of the goals will be to see his humanity made perfect in the things he suffered, as it is shockingly stated in Heb. 2:10. I hope you’ll follow along and invite others to do the same.

If you want to see a picture of release from bondage in human experience, look carefully at the face of Jonathan, the British 17 year-old now made famous by his stunning performance on Britain’s Got Talent. It has become wildly successful on YouTube, much as Susan Boyle did a couple of years ago. It’s worth a listen just for the beauty of this seriously overweight teenager’s voice. I’m quite sure that God hasn’t given many such voices to human males, and when one is heard it needs to be appreciated. What is also striking is that this young man has been subjected to, and undoubtedly damaged by taunts and teasings all of his life, making him quite shy. But the freedom to express himself that came along with the audience’s wild cheers created a palpable joy that to my mind was as good to behold as his voice was to hear. And maybe even better. What Christ wants to do in all of us—yeah, it’s like that.

From the sublime to the mundane (literally). It is looking more and more likely that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president this year. Count me among the non-enthusiastic. In my cynical moments I see a presidential choice between a philosophy that believes government should manage more and more of our lives and one that believes major businesses should be free to do whatever they need to do to be successful, regardless of the effects on the rest of the people, continuing the ever-accelerating concentration of wealth into fewer hands. In reality, both of those things are happening, and have been happening under the watch of either party. Sometimes rhetoric really does obscure the facts of the matter. Once again, what is the vision of the public good? Is politics just about protection from the bad guys on one hand and freeing us to make money on the other? Would this be a time for a Christian political vision? Where would it come from? Just asking.

On this subject, there is an excellent new book by Marilyn Robinson, When I Was a Child I read Books. In the Preface, she cites some of Walt Whitman’s observations from the nineteenth century. They are exceedingly relevant in our moment:

“America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without; for I see clearly that the combined foreign world could not beat her down. But these savage, wolfish parties alarm me. Owning no law but their own will, more and more combative, less and less tolerant of the idea of ensemble and of equal brotherhood, the perfect equality of the States, the ever-overarching American Ideas, it behooves you to convey yourself implicitly to no party, nor submit blindly to their dictators, but steadily hold yourself judge and master over all of them.”

Among Robinson’s points is that such an assessment of things was given in 1870; and our continued presence as a nation shows that giving in to the despair that might be elicited from such a view of things is not the right way to go today, even as it proved not to be so 140 years ago. But she also warns that our conception of human nature today is in danger of being so completely defined by group identity that many are incapable of taking control of their own judgment. I’ve only read the preface; she got me intrigued for the essays that follow.

The season of Lent is moving toward its climax. I’m curious as to how many of our “evangelical” churches are planning a robust Palm Sunday? I’m afraid to ask how many have been holding Lent observances of any meaningful kind. Maundy Thursday? Good Friday? The forms by which we mark these days may well change, and that is all quite as it should be; but the events are integral parts of the story we tell and cannot be neglected without cost to our understanding and experience of life in Christ.

Thanks for reading. Hosanna!