Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

God-Fearin’? -or- The Post That Really Brought the True Believers Down On Him

Following the news stories about the Occupy Wall Street (and Other Places) movement will get a fella thinking a bit. I’ve endured the mainstream media commentators who profess to be confused about just what the message of the Occupy movement even is. Please. I am reasonably assured that the majority of those commentators are willing to be willfully ignorant of this (as opposed to unaware or uninformed, and there IS a difference), in the service of whomever signs their paycheck. Which is to say, it may be in their personal best interests to cast doubt upon a movement that professes to challenge the status quo, and not in their best interests to bite the hand what feeds ya.

That status quo, boiled down, appears to be this:

There is a system in place in this country which allows a relatively small group of people to do what two-year-olds do, before they’re taught to share: they put their arms around all the toys they can reach; they reach for more toys to put inside their arms; and they shoo away anyone who asks if they can play with some of their toys. It’s a gigantic, institutionalized game of Keepaway, played with instruments of political and economic power. And money. Lots and lots of money.

Or, to use an analogy that I once heard on an episode of “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (curiously, from a panelist who was a conservative commentator): the upper 2% of the population is the Mob, and the rest of us are the restaurant they’re burning down for the insurance money.

Whatever happened to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

Oh, that’s right. The Golden Rule long ago turned into “Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.”

 

You know, all this explains a lot of things. All through my life I’ve had this strange, unaccountable feeling that something was going on in the world… and no one would tell me what it was.” 

      -Arthur Dent, in the BBC radio version of Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

 

Let me get this straight. Scientists are warning us about extreme weather to come. Our infrastructure fails us at the drop of a hat. All it takes is a simple large early-season snowstorm to take down the power grid that serves a large chunk of the Northeastern US.  In the face of this reality, we could direct political will and economic resources toward reducing fossil fuel dependence and developing new energy sources, and re-building / shoring up the power grids, bridges, roads, etc., etc., which would employ more people, thereby reducing unemployment…

But, instead, no.

All Congress can see fit to do is spend their time doing things like confirming that the nation’s motto was and still is “In God We Trust”.

Who’s in Congress? Increasingly, members of the group that have been labeled “the 1 percent”; those who make the very most money and therefore have the very most power, influence and control over government policies that affect all 100 percent of us.

Perhaps many of them think that this is in fact the best, most desirable option: trust God to deal with our problems. Pray, kids; because at heart, we, your elected officials, have no interest in bucking the will of the oil companies and major corporations and many of the “1 percent” — because they keep us properly funded during re-election time, so that we can do their bidding, so they can stay prohibitively wealthy, so they can essentially rule the world.

Oh. Sorry. I get it now. Never mind. As you were.

It’s really a matter of selfishness.

 

For a time, I thought that it was strictly a case of Republicans in Congress and elsewhere doing whatever they had to, politically, in order to not have the incumbent Democratic president achieve any successes – to keep him from being able to point to any achievements, the better to defeat him in the next Presidential election. Senators and Representatives have gone on the record to say that their goal was to make the 44th President of the United States a “one… term… president” (insert rapturous applause of Koch-Industries-funded non-original Tea Party members here).

Whether or not this laughable legislative agenda has any deeper roots in personal enmity toward the actual human who is the Current Occupant of the Oval Office, it seems a remarkably politically-insular and short-sighted philosophy.

Now, thanks to the perspective-widening effect of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’ve changed my thinking a bit. Although the “deny Obama success at all costs” strategy is childish and unhelpful – and let’s be honest, most of pure politicking is childish and unhelpful – I’m thinking more and more about that short-sightedness in the context of Saving the Planet, not to mention its people. For all its shortcomings, the United States’ economic power in the world has the capacity to do large things in the service of the rest of the world. For the sake of short-term political and personal gain (and maintenance of individual wealth and comfort), at the expense of everyone else around them, a small group of people are, indeed, wrapping their arms around all the toys.

Again, whatever happened to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

 

That gets me thinking further, in a different but related direction – especially considering one of my current occupations, church musician, and the fact that I’m a church musician at the Methodist church in which I grew up, still surrounded by many of the people who helped my parents shape my belief system.

I have trouble with people who, while supporting and promoting these “keepaway” economic and political systems and goals, are willing to invoke the name of God, Jesus Christ, and/or the Church as their rationale, or their source of support, or both. They obfuscate the discussion about theories of global climate change, even as more and more extreme weather patterns and events emerge – heralding a future state of climatic affairs from which we still have time to save ourselves (if someone would just step forward and do it!!). They work to exert religious influence upon the public education system and any other elements of American government, even as the US Constitution remains in place as a document that intends to separate religious influence from functions of state.

(Never mind the folks who think the End Times are near, and look forward to them, perhaps working under the presumption that at such a moment, they will experience ascent rather than descent.)

Anyway, I went digging around in a document that I suppose I should be more familiar with than I have heretofore been: the basic Social Principles of the United Methodist Church. At least in the neck of the woods where I attend services, we’re distinctly and heavily into social justice (although there are isolated pockets of Methodists out there who seem to behave in a less-than-tolerant way). “Social justice” is a term that has been turned by some commentators into a buzzword meant to inspire instant mouth-frothing (and therefore proper voting response) in their listeners, much like “ACORN”, “socialism”, etc.

Before we even get into the depths of the Social Principles, I could hope that those among us who revel in strict and literal Bible interpretation might be given cause for pause when they hit the book of Matthew, chapter 6, the first verse, and discover that it warns, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them.” Also, Christ teaches us to feed the hungry and care for the sick, not to abandon them. Perhaps there are people who fancy themselves Christians but who haven’t read that part of the Bible where Christ admonishes us to care for “the least among us.” Oh crap. I liked the bit that sounded like God thought the gays were sinners; do we have to strictly-interpret these verses, that are definitely in the Bible, too?

Anyway, the Methodist Church says this about its Doctrinal Heritage:

Our forebears in the faith reaffirmed the ancient Christian message as found in the apostolic witness even as they applied it anew in their own circumstances. … Their preaching and teaching were grounded in Scripture, informed by Christian tradition, enlivened in experience, and tested by reason.

The underlying energy of the Wesleyan theological heritage stems from an emphasis upon practical divinity, the implementation of genuine Christianity in the lives of believers.

The Wesleyan emphasis [is] upon the Christian life — faith and love put into practice …

We see God’s grace and human activity working together in the relationship of faith and good works. God’s grace calls forth human response and discipline. Faith is the only response essential for salvation. However, the General Rules remind us that salvation evidences itself in good works. For Wesley, even repentance should be accompanied by ‘fruits meet for repentance,’ or works of piety and mercy.

Scriptural holiness entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.

For Wesley there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. The communal forms of faith in the Wesleyan tradition not only promote personal growth; they also equip and mobilize us for mission and service to the world.”

The Process for Carrying Out Our Mission: We make disciples as we: … send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel … As servants of Christ we are sent into the world to engage in the struggle for justice and reconciliation. We seek to reveal the love of God for men, women, and children of all ethnic, racial, cultural, and national backgrounds and to demonstrate the healing power of the gospel with those who suffer.”

 

So. How’re we all doin’ on that?

At the moment, it is in the practical best interest of too many people in charge of our government and economy to hold onto money, therefore hold onto communicative and influential power, therefore hold onto control of our government and economy. The system is in place, and the people whom it most benefits would logically be uninterested in changing the status quo, no matter who else in society is being adversely affected (um, HURT) by it.

As a colleague of mine put it recently: until we find some way to communicate substantively with the members of the “1 percent” who are in charge of the largely-unregulated banks and other forms of Wall Street tomfoolery, until we find some way to convince them that unbridled greed is (contrary to Gordon Gekko’s postulation) not good – in fact, is morally not good – we really can’t make headway. The Citizens United decision from the Supreme Court not long ago, surrounding money and its application to our means of communication and electoral persuasion, has only served to further cement the difficulty of making forward progress.

How are the 1 percent doing at that “service to the world” thing? And is it even possible to find a way to appeal to the moral conscience of a segment of our population who have been brought up in, and live fully in, an environment that encourages them not to have one?

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December 16, 2011 - Posted by | government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Sigh. I don’t know what the answer is, but at least some of us are asking the right questions.

    Comment by Steve Robinson | December 20, 2011 | Reply


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