Wednesday, May 23, 2007

You Shall Have no Gods before Me.

We had so much hope in 2004. There was so much excitement and enthusiasm. We were going to defeat the beast, drive the dragon from his lair, usher in a new age of hope. Everybody was buzzing around; there were new songs and speeches and demonstrations everywhere. How could we lose, it would be glorious! But... we did lose. It doesn't matter how it happened, we lost. So we wept, and we despaired and we wept some more. And the grinning gargoyles sat smugly on their perches above the cathedral of the anti-Christ as they explained that God's promises were not for us, that we were the accursed, and they were the truly anointed. We began to heal. lick our wounds, band together and learn from our mistakes; we would get them next time.

And we did. We began preparing for 2006 the day after that dark January morning that the beast was installed on his throne. As the brave soldiers came to give praise and honor demanded by the dragon, forced to make their own way and buy their own food amidst the limousines and delicacies of the privileged hordes, we planned and protested and waited. And then we voted, and we took the house and, after much struggle from the entrenched powers, the senate. And we rejoiced. The air seemed cleaner, it appeared that America returned. We had hope.

Our saviors took office this January and... nothing has changed. They have not vanquished the beast, they have not dislodged the evil from his lair, they have made a lot of noise (actually not even that), but have accomplished nothing. We expected they deliver us from the dragon, but they have instead fed him. And worse, they have fed him us. He dines on bread made form the bones of our children, ground lovingly by our paladins. And he washes it down with the blood of our brave warriors, who like their predecessors, die at his pleasure for no other reason than to entertain him; and they do nothing. Children are still hungry and the sick still suffer, the prisons still fill and random victims are still beaten and raped and murdered in the name of “freedom”.

And we are shocked! They promised! We feel betrayed and hopeless. We have played our last card, and whatever shall we do now? We did what we were supposed to do; we diluted our faith with partisan politics. It worked for the religious right, why not for us? The received glory and power and riches, and all they had to do for it is crucify one insignificant Jewish prophet. We did not hurt anybody, we didn't betray any of our ideals; we just put our trust in men. And they let us down. How could they do otherwise? They are concerned only with preserving the empire, albeit in a more humane form; we want to spread the kingdom of God. We are concerned about two different, if not completely incompatible things. We are focused on blessing the people, and are not adverse to using government; they are focused on building a strong empire and are not adverse to using people. We lean on God's love, they on armies and prisons. We see every person as a precious child of God, they as an employer at best and a subject at worse.

We work inside the system, but we realize that our deliverance comes from God. When we lose focus on Him we are destined to fail. This sounds like a lot of religious bombasity, but it is hard won humility. We can be pretty sure that if we just throw up our hands in disgust and withdraw things will get worse; God never called us to do that. Jesus spoke truth, powerfully, to power. The prophets of Israel strode forcefully into the royal chambers to pronounce God's judgment on the residents there in. The disciples fed the hungry and healed the sick, and they spread the word that all are precious in God's sight and none deserving of oppression. In every case, throughout the world, when the gospel is first preached, before the powerful have a chance to dilute it, it inspires a desire for freedom. And in a society where we are, in theory, the sovereign, we have no excuse for the results we are receiving. So, depend on God, roll up your sleeves, make your elected representative learn your name (even if they use it to cuss) and “preach the gospel unceasingly, sometimes use words” as St. Francis of Assisi used to say.

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