Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Monday, December 29, 2008

Same as the Old Boss



I'm back to that Pastor Dan controversy I stuck my nose into earlier. I know better than to get into this, but:

But while the RRE has had a pretty consistent agenda, which it has never been shy about enunciating, the DRE has a tendency to elide the tough issues. Sure, it's against poverty and genocide and unjust wars. But where does it stand on abortion rights, on gay marriage, on hiring rules for publicly funded faith-based social services? In the name of "common ground," it doesn't like to say. That's what drives mainline Protestant lefties like Pastordan nuts, and leads them to accuse the DRE of selling its prophetic soul for a mess of priestly pottage. With the Democrats now about to take charge in Washington, it will be more than a little interesting to see how the DRE comports itself, and what its place at the table of power will be.
The "DRE" is the "Democratic Religious Establishment," which Herr Silk says is the new equivalent of the RRE(you figure it out). The problem, of course, is that both are establishments first (as in "The Establishment." I am a child of the 60's, after all) and religious second. So being "prophetic" is not only not on their agenda, it's not even in their organizational DNA. You could say that's more or less the point Niebuhr was making in Moral Man; but you'd be misreading Niebuhr to say that was a good thing, or even necessary. What it is is inevitable, and what Niebuhr would take as yet another example of Original Sin. It is not a condition to be accepted, in other words; just recognized as one of the conditions that prevail.

But not a condition that has to; indeed, this is why all the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament were not organizational men. Stephen, the first martyr, got enough people mad at him to get stoned to death for his trouble of speaking the truth (which is all that prophesy is). Jeremiah constantly cried to God to relieve him of the stress of being a prophet. Ezekiel reads like he found some funny mushrooms there on the banks of the Chabar, and clearly suffered the torments of the damned on more than one occasion. Hosea took a whore for a wife, and named his children after Israel's most prominent sins, all to make a point. Amos averred he was simply a dresser of sycamore trees. None of these guys lead a movement or administered an organization. Which is ultimately the problem, of course. Does the DRE "elide the tough issues"? Sure. Who doesn't? We are Niebuhrian enough to argue that we must serve the greatest good to the greatest number, but then we end up with a lot of people locked in a basement we won't even visit:

As I contemplate how to pry a few dollars from these systems designed to humiliate and degrade my clients, already struggling with being social outcasts, chronic illness, drug addiction and mental illness I sigh audibly. I read of billion dollar bailouts and disappearing pallettes of cash as I ponder how to help a family with $400.00 so they will not be homeless in three days. I am so very tired.
"Jesus, Jesus, rest your head,
You has got a manger bed.
All the evil folk on earth sleep in feathers at their birth,
Jesus, Jesus, rest your head,
You has got a manger bed."

Funny just how many people fit in that definition of "evil," isn't it? Maybe this is why I try not to get too worked up about politics and religion. I'm still not sure discussing that subject is even asking the right question.

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