Friday, October 10, 2008

Sad, Scared ... but Full of Hope

It's been a strange week here in Lake Woebegone. Markets crashing. More than enough anxiety to go around in the lives of so many folks.
We had a credit card canceled last week. We had never used it, and the reason given for its cancellation was "lack of use." I know card companies do that, but the timing struck me as interesting, then I heard a commentator on NPR say that card companies were shedding as many accounts as they can, and that having a card canceled by the company is never a good thing for one's credit score. Ah well, one can hope that this is the only nick we get beyond the huge losses on those retirement savings. The quarterly statement arrived today; I'm not planning on opening it.
And in the midst of all this, today, right here in "communist" Arlington (oh, that's what Joe McCain, John's brother, said about our community last week), I saw a car with a bumper sticker that said "Obama bin Laden '08."
I have always considered myself a small 'd' democrat. I believe in hearing lots of voices from lots of communities in the body politic, so the past week of presidential politics has been deeply sad. I am also a Southerner, so when I hear hatred aimed at an African-American leader I get scared, too.
But I heard an older man preach a few weeks back about the way America pulled together in his youth during the Great Depression. I certainly hope that we are not going as far down the economic road as that.
At the same time, we do have resources as a people that we can tap into. That sermon reminded me. Then yesterday, I came across this post from David LaMotte, a man whose music inspires me. As David puts it, "it is the job of Christians to stand with all persecuted people when they are persecuted unfairly, as some Christians stood with Jews in southern France during the holocaust (told beautifully in the book “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed”) Read what Jesus had to say in the Sermon on the Mount. These are our instructions, and Obama in [Dreams of My Father] is talking about unfair persecution of a religion within our country. Friends, if we’ve stopped believing in religious freedom, we have ceased to be America. If we will only stand up to defend people who agree with us, we have nothing left to be proud of."
Right after I read David's blog, I caught Sarah Vowell's Blog of the Nation on the Puritans. Her commentary led me to look up John Winthrop's sermon, "A Model of Christian Charity," in which he holds the New World up as a city on a hill.
He wrote the piece during the 1630 crossing of the Atlantic as the Puritans came to America to found that city, and lay claim to their share of its promise. The Puritans' vision surely foundered on the shoals of reality and their own excesses -- including Winthrop's -- but Winthrop's advice to those voyagers rings true today as the nation struggles in the rough water of a battered economy and a diminished politics.
"Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end, we must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."