“ashes and diamonds
foe and friend
we were all equal in the end.”
(Pink Floyd, The Final Cut, “Two Suns in the Sunset.” 1983.)
While it is true that we all pass from this life into the next equally silent and we come into this life equally crying, that is where the idealized equality of persons created in God’s image begins and ends. Try as we do to distract ourselves from this truth, we are reminded of it in plain sight, again, and again. No matter how much TV we binge, Youtube you surf, video games played, or prayers you offer in confession or intercession, this will not just go away nor be solved with ease. People of goodwill of all races and economic backgrounds will have to decide to change the systems that enable racism and other “isms” that create injustice. And even then, better as it will become there will still be work to do. Like the Dragon capsule docking with the International Space Station on Saturday, our personal lives and communal lives are a constant work of repositioning, sometimes in large bursts of energy and sometimes small bursts, to align the trajectory of your life with the source of your being. Tethered to that source, even when you don’t know you are being carried, can help when you are adrift in life. At some point, we all become adrift during the journey of life and journey in faith. What’s your source?
The ideals, core values, and principles of our faith statements and our Nation are just that: ideals, values, and principles. The systems built from those, like some infrastructure around the Nation and the globe, are failing the rainbow of humanity who are all precious in God’s sight. It is not a new problem. It is exasperated by the speed of information and images. The open firehose of images and information oxidizes our ability to filter information from entertainment or protest from people who just like to cause problems and watch the world burn.
A couple of years ago we began, ever so gently, intentionally thinking about and talking about reconciliation between human beings at summer camp. Junior High and High School youth alongside adult volunteers struggled and I know some did not return to camp because it was perceived as becoming political. I understand. My toes and my feelings were hurt a bit too, but that is where Jesus meets us. The First Testament prophets told hard truths about their context. The parables that Jesus told are not warm fuzzies though we’ve worked to make them more appetizing. Mirrors show us who we are at any given moment. They reflect you to you, and the US to us, more clearly than a stylized Instagram or Snapchat selfie. “It is unimaginably hard to do this–to live consciously, adultly, day in and day out.”(1)
Near the end of the film, “Bruce Almighty,” the city of Buffalo is rioting as Bruce has filled in for God. Bruce and God are mopping a floor. As they finish, God remarks, “It’s a wonderful thing. No matter how filthy something gets you can always clean it right up.” We’ve got some clean up to do and two lyrics point a direction. “Let it begin with me.”(2) In our private and public work, “we shall overcome someday.”(3)
1) David Foster Wallace, This is Water: Some Thoughts Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. Little, Brown and Company (New York) 2009.
2) Jill Jackson and Sy Miller, “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” 1955.
3) Based on a song structure of “I Will Overcome” by Charles Albert Tindley and first published in 1900. “We Shall Overcome” published in an edition of the People’s Songs Bulletin 1947, and said to have been sung by tobacco workers led by Lucille Simmons during a 1945 cigar workers strike in Charleston, South Carolina. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Shall_Overcome).