I don’t like politics. Men and women struggling over power, wealth, and good. Forces of human action contending valiantly and corruptly, if need be, to control, coerce, or more nobly, to free. Senators beaten with canes in full view (see pre-Civil War politics), Congresswomen shot at close range in grocery store parking lots, and furious ill-will pretty much all around.
What is good? It’s a simple question, really. What are the conditions which make for health, life, possibility, and the cultivation of the good of the human? Immediately–wouldn’t you know it–a bias is found in that statement that it’s the human’s good we’re after, which, someone argues, may not be the highest moral position. What about the rest of the planet? What about the stars? What about macro and micro life forms and systems? What about a thousand things in life’s ecosystem that are not human? What about matter itself? Energy? Who are we to think that we homo sapiens are special? Aren’t the human-centered folks arrogant and small, refusing to listen to the ongoing voice of discovery and guidance science affords?
The questions seem endless. What do the temperature fluctuations in the earth’s weather patterns mean? What is the story, and who gets to tell it? What is the nature of family, marriage, and love? Just what exactly, is a human right? Who makes that list? Where does it come from? What is the best way for civilizations to negotiate the relationships between the powerful and the weak? What is “the good life?” What is the mix of chemical and spirit in the mass of innards held together by skin? Where and who might God be, and how would we ever know? Which religious book tells me the truth of life, and what might that truth be referring to? What is the relation of what is with what ought to be? What is the most trusted impetus for my action, appetite or ideal? Whose “good” trumps?
Narrative reality is all the rage. We make everything up, we’re told, and I’m inclined to go down that road, at least for a good distance, agreeing. Facts are what they are, but the meanings and stories about those facts are always up not only for discussion, but for war. Such and such a budget deficit means liberals are weak-kneed, conservatives are devils, and independents are irrelevant. Name-calling is everything, and who wins the battle of language…well, wins. Disagreement over best and Godly (as if there were such a thing) ways of living is bigotry and phobia automatically, and fair enough: when lives are at stake, blood letting seems to be appropriate, according to almost everyone. Ayn Rand vs. Jesus, right-wing Jesus vs. left-wing Jesus, capitalism vs. whatever-else-anyone-can-think-of-that-might-be-better-than-the-free-market, and finally after all the battles, we die, and others rise to fight on.
I call it the human enterprise. My bias is toward the human both biblically and experientially, and the rise of concern for the earth and its totality of inhabitants heartens me about the state of that same human. What are we for? What are we here for? To do what? To survive? Thrive? Do “good?” Be fruitful and multiply? Till and keep the earth? Love?
I’m lamenting that life is a fight. Frankly, I don’t like fighting. Some people get excited by the rush of it, by the opportunity to win, the feelings of power and superiority that come with standing over the defeated, regardless of what the fight was about. To my credit or shame, depending on which story you’re in, I’m not one of those people.
But there’s something wrong with earth and the human enterprise it hosts. Few disagree. And here is the crux of the matter: what is that “wrong” and how best to “right” it? People have lots of names for it: imbalance, misalignment, brokenness, bad karma, evil, sin. Whatever we call it, death is a force, “bad” things are everywhere, and to confuse things further, some things that feel “bad” are actually “good” for you. But what can be worse than the core of who I think myself to be to feel “bad?” As it turns out, that “bad” feeling in my core identity is the worst “sin” in experience, one not to be tolerated. For after all, we are all miracles of God, or at least miracles of something, even if the something turns out to be little more than the universal nature of nothing in particular. (Which of course, calls the miraculous into question.)
All of which comes to this banal statement: If you believe in something, put up your dukes. Or as Jesus said, put ’em down, and get ready to get hit. We don’t get to not be in the fight. My question the Apostle Paul, who said “We do not fight against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers…”, would be, “What is it about principalities and powers that cancels out the flesh and blood fights I experience every day?” Flesh and blood and principality and power and spirit and mind and things visible and invisible is where the human enterprise is lived. Paul also said, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” So I guess Paul fought in the flesh and blood, too.
Somehow, the way of the cross is not pacifist, but it’s chief weapon is not the strike of a raging blow, but an act of humble, sacrificial love. And here’s the truth, sometimes that move of sacrificial love can break our hearts (almost) beyond repair, at least for this side of reality. It ought not to be, but Christ proves it: he died alone, betrayed and truly forsaken. The end. Kaput. Done.
Victory was on the other side. Victory will always belong to the unseen side of things, to the Spirit of life, to the other side of death.
Let us now all stand and sing.
Faith is the victory…