For Advent, I’ve been reflecting particularly on what it means to tell the Christmas story to my 4-year-old daughter. Particularly, as one for a preference […]
This week sets conversations of happiness (Thanksgiving with a long table of friends) and sadness (our region is on fire) in sharp contrast.
1. This has been a week of loss on loss. In nearby Thousand Oaks, California, a shooter firing on celebrating college students, a half mile from our home a cyclist run down by a murderous driver, then massive fires driven by Santa Ana winds (so-called devil winds) turning green mountains grey and homes to ash, then an entire retirement town called Paradise flattened by a wild blaze, including some who were trying to escape and were burned alive in their cars on the fiery roads. Loss on loss. We grieve with our neighbors, mourn the losses of people we do not know, and realize we are all within the reach of tragic events.
2. Sing, Unburied, Sing, a book by Jesmyn Ward. Last year this novel won the National Book Award for excellence. The clear link between the injustices of the past and the desperation of the present in rural Mississippi creates a masterpiece of recent literature. The ghosts that haunt us in the family rules, community legends, generational legacies, repeating life scripts are real phenomena, and this book offers multilevel truths in an age of untruth. The Women’s Book Club spilled over into the evening worship in talking about the wisdom of Ward.
3. Election results. Our multiple circles of California friends keep sorting out the various races and the final win/loss decisions. One high official questions the integrity of the system (“it’s all rigged unless I win”). Visible racism crafts ways of excluding the minority or the less privileged from the process (voter suppression is not fake news). Societal regression leaves us ruminating (the bovine word for chewing one’s cud over and over) on how to guarantee a voice for the voiceless.
4. Nationalism as corporate narcissism. We talk to one another about the idolization of country. The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, nailed it as he pointed out the dangers of this 18th century pseudo-religion of exaltation of state over world citizenship and human responsibility. The similarities of supreme loyalty to SELF (narcissism) and total commitment to one’s nation (nationalism) as well as worship of a private/personal salvation (pietism) provides the grist for some very intriguing conversations. What do we make of the Galilean who taught love for neighbor as for self in the oppressive Roman Empire?
5. Genesis 1 revisited. Rabbi Shai Held, one of the outstanding commentators on the Torah, has written a marvelous witness to the power of the first chapter of the Hebrew Bible. If you read only one article the rest of 2018, perhaps it should be this one, from the October 30, 2018, issue of Christian Century, available here.
David and Leann Augsburger are two semi-retired people who co-lead a home base church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.
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