“Love one another as I have loved you” (St. John 13:34); all these are my brothers (from St. Mark 3:35); do unto others as you would have them do unto you (St. Luke 6:31); seventy times seven (St. Matthew 18:22); turn the other cheek (St. Matthew 5:39).
What could be simpler? This is the Christian, loving, acceptable way to live and we who are Christian are all called to live in this manner. Jesus modelled it for us and we are to follow His lead. He wasn’t laughing when He said these things and He didn’t have his fingers crossed behind His back. These are some of the things we’re to do to be good followers.
And then we wake up, get the family ready for the day, drive the interstate to work, and start our day at our workplace. All that charming Jesus stuff gets shoved right out the door. But it’s not supposed to be. We’re to carry it in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts. Our day is where His teaching meets the road. It seems there’s an hourly challenge to these precepts and all we can hope to do is get a least one right.
I worked in the debt collection department of a major retailer. It had the most adverse effect on me. I mean I was deeply scarred by what I heard people say every day. I had no idea what people are really like. It completely obliterated for me that cozy little idea that people are basically good. Ahem – I beg to differ. We had two weeks training and then went ‘live’ on the phones in the training room. My very first call was to an 83 year old woman in Chicago who proceeded to call me everything but a child of God. She said words I didn’t know 83 year old women knew! After awhile, you can tell when someone is lying – I’m sorry, you just can. Tons of calls listening to some of the most outrageous stories you ever heard. ‘Tall tales’ didn’t die with Mark Twain. Americans are good at it.
But sometimes, in the lies and abuse and insults, the Holy Spirit happened. A woman was late on her bill; she had just been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. She had spent the last two months going to doctors and hospitals and got behind on all her bills. She was alone in the world – no family. She started to cry and I fought back my own tears the best I could. I said to her, at the close of the call, “If you won’t be offended, I’ll remember you in my prayers.” Oh, my word – it was almost as if Jesus had healed her that moment. She was crying again but with a difference. Someone was going to pray for her. It mattered to her.
The police officer whose mother had just been diagnosed with dementia and had to move in with the officer, who was single and at wits end; didn’t know how he could afford all the doctoring and time off from work. Because my dad was a police officer, I suggested contacting his Police Benevolent Association. My dad’s been gone since 1999, and was retired long before then. How in the world did I remember the PBA? Holy Spirit moment.
As you might expect, Saturday mornings were bad; really bad. But one call set me back on my heels. The gentleman on the other end of the line was really chipper and perky and gosh, he meant to pay the bill so here, take the card information, etc. At one point, I was chuckling and asked him if he was always that cheery on a Saturday morning and he said, “Yes, ma’am; I am. I know Who I belong to.” Holy Spirit moment.
Being a Christian is the easiest thing in the world – even when it isn’t.
It is a joy to have the Rev. Malcolm back with us. This blog was started by an Anglican laywoman, and since her retirement from blogging, we have missed that irenic Anglican voice – and have been much the worse for it. One of the pleasures of having Malcolm back with us is that his posts breathe the air of a Christian who is on the journey we are all on, and who is capable of standing back and reflecting on the experience in a way that helps us all.
His most recent post, Journeying is a perfect example of his reflective writing. He does not shy away from using words like ‘doubt’ and ‘uncertainty’, and when he writes:
One has to be suspicious of individuals who think they have everything worked out, because invariably they haven’t. There is an un predictability about life that is valuable
I sympathise. As Malcolm says, life is more complex than any set of rules and regulations can encompass, and we need, always, to remember that the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way round. Repentance is a crucial part of the Way, for sure, but we must not not make the yoke of regretfulness heavier. There may be fortunate people who, after they have confessed and been absolved, can consign the burdens of past sins to the scrapheap of their own history, but for those of us not granted such Grace, we need to be able to look ahead and set our face to the far horizon.
It is not for nothing that Christianity was first called ‘the Way’. For all the certainties sometimes enunciated by those who feel ‘once saved. always saved’, for myself, and for others I know, our faith is a journey – it is a way we are treading. We know where it leads, but to continue to tread the way requires, as Malcolm has pointed out, faith. The Lord seems to my mind to promise us a reward for our faith in Him; He does not promise us a reward for our certainty. Blessed are those who, having seen, believe, of course, but it seems to me that those who believe through faith are also blessed – and it is harder to have faith than to have certainty. It is there, I sometimes think, that the sort of certainties put out by those such as our friend here, Bosco, are of far less help to the Christian and to the seeker than the language employed by Malcolm.
Saying, ‘all you have to do is knock’ is all very well, but what about those who have knocked until their hands and heads hurt? One answer would be the one offered in classic Calvinism – you are simply not one of the elect, Jesus did not die for you. That is an honest answer to the enquirer and the seeker who has not found answers, but is it consonant with the tenor of the teaching of Jesus? Whenever He encounters faith, he praises it, but it is plain to see that faith is not the same as certainty. The Roman Centurion has faith that Jesus can cure his servant, but that is not because he knows who Jesus is, or because he is certain from past knowledge of Jesus; he simply has faith in the authority he sees in Jesus.
Malcolm makes a profound point when he writes: ‘Real faith is about trust and not certainty’. The Way is long and it is winding, and sometimes it seems uphill all the way. But the alternative would be to abandon it – and faith says ‘no’ to that. Lord, help though my unbelief and see me safe to the harbour at the end.
239 years ago today, a document was read out by the town crier in Center City Philadelphia. That document was and is America’s Mission statement. this is it:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Of course, it had been building up to that point for years, the shooting had started over a year earlier, when an unlawful government in Massachusetts tried to disarm the people. but in truth the roots were deeper still than that. If one were to look at the Massachusetts state seal, one would find Liberty, with a sword in one hand and Magna Charta in the other, or one could look at Virginia’s state seal.
Because this marked the start of the second of the three cousin’s wars and was almost the English Civil War, all over again. Again the cause was the rights of freemen, and this time not amongst the relatively calm precincts of England but here where men had learned to breathe free, and already knew the timeless cry of the American to his government, “Leave me alone!”
And so came one of America’s most heartbreaking wars, where we gave up that of which we were most proud, our Britishness, to preserve our English rights. It was hard, and it pretty much ended here.
Tom Paine had it pretty much right when he said, “You can’t conquer an idea with an army.” I’m sure that a few shades of Stuart kings agreed with him. Where that idea went is a modern legend.
4 July 1776 fired off a crazy rocking rolling ride that hasn’t stopped ‘stirring things up’ on a global scale.
America differs qualitatively from all other nations, because of her unique origins, nat’l credo, historical evolution, and distinctive political and religious institutions.
Great Satan is magically especial because she was a country of immigrants and the first modern democracy.
Loud, proud and rowdy – early America forecast future stuff with a provocative lingo that still fits today. “Don’t Tread On Me!” “Liberty Or Death”, “Live Free Or Die”
Great Satan’s superiority of the American xperiment is reflected in the perception among Americans of America’s role in the world. That American foreign policy is based on moral principles is a consistent theme in the American hot diplopolititary gossip – a phenomenon recognized even by those who are skeptic of such an assessment.
This inclination to do right has been virtually unique among the nations of the world – and for this very reason – America has been totally misunderstood. How could a nation so rich, so successful actually, really be so unselfish and so caring?
Unconvincing (and either historically igno – or deceitfully dishonest – either term will do) critics cry Great Satan must have darker motives! America must be seeking imperium – to dominate everyone else, suck up all the oil, to trade and rob blind for America’s selfish purposes.
People from more grasping, less idealistic societies find it nigh impossible to accept that America honestly believes that giving everyone opportunity is the real roadmap for abundance and happiness everywhere – not merely in the magical Great Satan.
Americans honestly believe that securing other people’s freedom is actually like the best guarantee that America can keep her own. […]
Creative destruction is Great Satan’s middle name. It is her natural function, for she is the one truly revolutionary country in the world for more than 2 centuries.
She does it automatically, and that is precisely why creeps and tyrants hate her guts, and are driven to attack her. An enormous advantage, despots fear her, and oppressed peoples want what she offers: freedom.
Amazingly, some suspect states, illegit leaders and some people have not yet comprehended that America’s primary intention is to preserve and keep our own land and liberty and all it’s prosperity and that America will do anything and go anywhereto make it happen.
So, sit back, enjoy the hotdogs and beer, and the baseball and the beer. We’ve got some problems that Tom Jefferson and the boys in Philadelphia would understand, we’ll get them sorted eventually, I reckon. Meantime the band’s playing our song.
You must be logged in to post a comment.