"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Friday, September 26, 2008

Chaos or Community

There certainly are a lot of things to think about these days. Of course, tonight is the Presidential debate. That should be interesting in light of recent events. I also understand (although I haven't read the article yet) that there is a group of clergy that plan to tell their congregations in no uncertain terms how they should vote this November. Now that is scary!

I just happen to coordinate a social justice ministry in the United Methodist Church, and I can tell you that, tax exempt status or not, I would never tell a United Methodist (or anyone else) how to vote. I would, of course, tell them where I believe we should stand on issues and let them take it from there. It's their consciences. I just wrote something relevant to the election for our church's October newsletter, and I thought I would share it with you here (with one or two minor revisions). I think it is pertinent. Enjoy tonight's debate.

Chaos or Community

I recently sat with a group of people at a get-together at the home of someone in our congregation. More than once the discussion gravitated to the subject of “community”. Our host (as did others) made the point that she lived in what she considered a real community, where people were there for each other both in good times and bad. That got me thinking about the meaning of community and its implications for our nation (and the world), particularly in light of the coming election for President.

There are many definitions of community in the dictionary, but I think that one can extrapolate any of them to a global context; in a very real sense the world has become a global community. The nations of this global community need to find a way to build up a real sense of community or suffer the consequences of our folly. Just how can our nation help foster a true sense of community among all nations? How can we (a nation that considers itself a leader) lead the world towards a truer sense of community?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once (in 1964) articulated his vision of a global community as “a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.” In his World House essay King described what he believed to be the three great problems facing humanity – racism, poverty/materialism and war. But Dr. King went beyond stating the problems and laid out the solutions to those problems.

Dr. King calls us to:
Transcend race, religion, tribe, nation and class, and embrace the vision of a World House,
Rid our nation and the world of the axis of evil – racism, poverty and militarism,
Change from a “thing” oriented society to a “people” oriented one, and
Resist injustice and resolve conflicts using nonviolent methods in a spirit of love.

If one studies Dr. King’s concept of the World House and compares it to our current state of affairs, it becomes apparent that we are far from that vision. From the current economic crisis to the endless War on Terror, our nation is approaching a state of financial and moral bankruptcy of astronomic proportions.

Dr. King once said that, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” He was being charitable when he used the word “defense”.

Just what implications does this have for us right here and now with an election coming up? We have a choice. As Christians, we claim to follow the nonviolent Jesus. If we are to faithfully follow him, we have to make a difficult choice, whether to cooperate with systemic evil or choose the ways of the Prince of Peace. Dr. King said that, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” Today we do, indeed, stand at a crossroad. The choice we make when we vote for President will very likely affect the future of not just our nation, but of the entire world. We face an awesome responsibility. It is time to face down our values and determine whether we walk with Jesus or empire. It is in a very real sense time for a revolution, a revolution of values.

As Dr. King said in The World House, “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

When we go to the polls in November, how will our votes reflect our values? Will we vote for perpetual war or peace? Will we vote for a minimum wage or a living wage? Will we vote for national security or global security? Will we vote for hate or love? Will we vote for chaos or community? We have been merely throwing coins to those poor beggars for far too long; it is high time we transform the entire Jericho Road. This will be an extraordinarily difficult task, but do we have any other choice as people of God? May Dr. King have the final word.

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The ‘tide in the affairs of men’ does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’ There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. ‘The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on….’ We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. This may well be mankind's last chance to choose between chaos and community.”

Author’s Note: You can (and I hope you will) read Dr. King’s World House essay at http://www.theworldhouse.org/. This November, exercise your right and duty to vote, and remind your friends to do the same.

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