Monday, July 25, 2016

Yes; yes it does.

Good preaching isn't about telling people what to think; or even telling them what they want to hear.  It certainly isn't about berating them for their sins or their shortcomings, or otherwise browbeating them into line.

Good preaching is about giving people the words to understand their own lives better.  It is about giving them narratives that open up their world rather than contract it.  Mark Shields just told the panel on PBS that further violent attacks such as the one in Japan today (a knife attack that left 18 dead?  News to me....) will redound to the benefit of the "law and order candidate."  Well, only if we let the narrative, the presumptions, of "law and order" prevail and explain the world to us:  a world in which we must be concerned if not afraid, until someone comes to impose "law and order" through swift and merciless justice.

Except "Law and Order" is a phrase, and idea, a narrative; and we don't have to accept it as the only possible narrative, the only "right" idea.  Law does not lead to order any more than military might leads to freedom.  No one has died for my freedom since World War II ended.  Law does not equal order, because it can as easily equal disorder and injustice.  If the law only prevents the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges, it is not bringing order, only cruelty and inequality; and those conditions breed disorder.  We can reconsider what we know is true; and we don't have to accept attitude as the answer to discontent and wishes for a world long gone.

The speakers on the first night of the Democratic convention remind us of America's richness:  black men, Latinas, Minnesota senators and sassy comedians who tell the hold outs they're being ridiculous, just before Paul Simon croaks out (there's no other word for it, sadly) his most hymn-like song.

It is preaching, of a kind.  It is good preaching.  It gives us words to understand our own lives better, to see the world as a better, not a scarier, place.  It gives us narratives that don't depend on empty cliches like "law and order."

We can lean on that.  We can stand on that.  We can rise on the steps of our dead selves to better things, as people; as a nation.  We can learn that Love Trumps Hate.

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