Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What Is Ours?

The mind, Hindus say, is a restless monkey that swings from branch to branch. So true. I'm amused at my own mind for its scrambling to find connections in a tangle of seemingly unrelated words and images that I encountered this past weekend:
  • the annual blessing of animals, including my happy dogs Bo and Luis, in the parking lot of St. James Episcopal Church, Marietta, on St. Francis' Day
  • rants about immigration, such rants being ubiquitous as humidity in the air of Cobb County
  • hearing a nun on the radio who interrupted her interviewer 's assertion that "the last election was won on values" to correct him: "on some values -- the morality of sexual relationships is important, yes, but Scripture spends much more language discussing the conditions of the unfortunate. . . ."
  • hearing Bush decrying torture at the same time that he refers to the need for "tough" questioning of terrorism suspects
  • hearing one of the church's finance committee members say, "Stewardship isn't about giving money; it's an attitude towards life"
  • a sermon about Luke 17:5-10, which begins with the faith-mustard seed story and is followed by a seeming non-sequitur about the slaves of a Lord doing their jobs without expectation of reward. Priest Joseph Shippen told how he used to see the first part of the passage as a promise of magical powers to the faithful.
  • a sign on the little church I passed on the way home: "Pray for Rain," certainly an expression of the idea that prayer is a kind of magical incantation to get results in the natural world.
These separate items suddenly came together as links in a chain that I recognize now as central to whatever my personal creed must be. It's something like this: The only thing we truly possess is our own action. Everything else is a gift to be cared for, and that's so it can be shared. We are to do what's right in faith that it will turn out the way God would want, but that's not to say "in faith that we'll get what we want."

So, applying the elements of this creed backwards to what I've seen and heard this weekend . . .

. . . blessing the dogs isn't magic to keep them healthy another year, but a statement and personal reminder (and, just fun -- and a good connection to others in the church)

. . . my money isn't mine alone; and, contrary to the conservative writer who mocked the application of the Bill of Rights to non-US citizens, those rights are not ours alone. The universality of those rights is asserted in our founding documents, and those rights should be recognized wherever we have authority over people -- suspected terrorists and illegal immigrants and prisoners in our penitentiaries included.

. . . pray for resolve, for stamina, for insight, for wisdom -- not for rain.

I wonder, if we really trusted to what we know is right (as Bush knows in his heart that torture goes against both our Christian and humanist values), how we might deal differently with those prisoners in Guantanamo? Think how our founders trusted in free speech and the open market of ideas. We trust free markets in economics. Part of my creed is trust in doing the right thing, rather than trusting in power that's guarded by arms and fences and exclusions, all predicated on keeping what's ours to ourselves.

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