“Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, Oh, Lord, standing in the need of prayer” — African-American spiritual
“Senators, Congressmen, please head the call/Don’t stand in the doorway/Don’t lock up the hall… for the times/they are a-changin’ — Bob Dylan
“People are people/so why should it be/that you and I should get along so awfully?” — Depeche Mode
I have been thinking a lot — about politics, and economics, and America and what it could be and what it is lately. All of these things jam up in my head and nothing gets done, but I get worn down. As I was lamenting to my friend Gerry Claytor this morning, I begin thinking of a song she might sing and it all became clear to me. You and I are standing in the need of prayer — as individuals and as a country.
Traditionally, the ancient Hebrews saw God’s word as being about national life — communal sin. Modern American Christians more often see faith and the reading of scripture as a personal, private thing. I don’t think we have to choose between them, and in fact, I don’t think we can. Our communal sin and our individual sin are inextricably linked and that’s why we’re in the mess we’re in. As a therapist, I ask people t think about what they can control and what they can’t and to give to The Universe what’s beyond us. As a Christian, I can think about both, all while in prayer, and I am standing in the need of prayer.
Recently, I was reading or listening to a report on Obamacare and how it might actually cost more for health care under the new plan. The irony of paying more for care under the Affordable Care Act is not lost on me. This morning on the radio, they were talking about the economy and saying that your average person’s income is not going up, but that the upper-level salaries are going up. This is not new, but my two choices seem to be cynicism or letting it suck from my soul. Earlier this week, I began a blog about America for the 4th of July and stumbled around Liberty and abortion rights in Texas and voting rights in the South. Clearly, we have not — as previously thought — moved beyond sexism and racism in America. We have hired a bunch of haters to lead us, thus the mess we’re in. So much for progress. We as a nation — and me, because that’s what I can control — are standing in the need of prayer, or — for my atheist friends- at least a whole lot of introspection.
I like traditional terms and sometimes wonder if Christianity will become like Jedi training — left to some old guy in the middle of nowhere to preach it because it seems outdated and impossible to believe. We’re pretty close to that now, but still believers pray in the middle of the spiritual desert that is America today. So, using old terms, I’d like to sum up all of the realities above in three sins — Greed, Hatred, and Lust for Power. What does that have to do with me? In a democracy, we make the decisions and once again I find myself standing in the need of prayer.
Why might cheap healthcare not become a reality? Why do people go hungry while the stock market goes up? Why don’t people’s votes count? It’s because we, as a nation and as individual people, are greedy. In old fashioned terms, it is as simple as that. Arianna Huffington recently gave a commencement speech where she suggested that unlimited wealth and seeking for things, rather than each other, might not be the way to go. The fact that she had to say that points to how far into “greed is good” we have gone. The fact that her voice was relatively unique furthers the point.
Some of us have jobs as stockbrokers, some of us have jobs as lobbyists, some of us want more and more junk or the latest gizmo, some of us design things so that others have to have the latest gizmo or things won’t work. Some of us raise children to think that this is acceptable. Most of us convince ourselves it’s acceptable. It’s not. No system of change, no hope of a better economy will ever work as long as we accept lobbyists from companies making our legislation. If every other bill is reduced but the water lobby (it’s a metaphor, I don’t think there is a water lobby) says we have to pay more for bottled water, then they will charge as much as they can for water — and everyone will rush to buy stock in water. If it’s medicine or labor or blood products or food lobbies, the same thing will happen.
How did it get this way? We elected these politicians, we put the stock market ahead of our neighbors, we became lobbyists or lawyers or CEO’s. We chose to work for big companies or we chose to give CEO’s their stock options while they stole from us, because we came to believe in greed ourselves or we capitulated because we thought greed had to win eventually. We are standing in the need of prayer for the strength to think differently and to fight the places in our lives where greed prevails. If we do, “the times will be a-changin”‘. If we don’t take time to be introspective, we will continue to “get along so awfully”. We need to accept/confess that greed exists and it’s not good for us and we need to get rid of it as best we can.
Returning to the news, voting rights protections have been stripped away, and if we didn’t hate each other, that wouldn’t be a problem. But apparently we do. The judges believed that racism didn’t need to be put in check anymore. They were wrong, not because I want them to be wrong, not because I cling to old wounds and want racism to exist so I can complain, but because — in modern day America, with less than a minute’s hesitation, elected officials in some of those counties who were covered by the law began making laws to keep people away from the voting booth. I don’t know much about the way policy got us to here or which generation of politicians is to blame, but I am clear that somebody voted for these people because they thought “that person best serves my political interest” and ignored the fact that they didn’t like somebody else’s political interest”. Somebody out there, in fact voted for that politician because that politician didn’t have someone else’s interest at heart. Did we really think that the person who hates gays and lesbians wasn’t good at hating in general? Did we really think that so-and-such a politician who kept Blacks “in their place” wouldn’t also try to keep women “in their place”? Do we really think that politicians who keep us in fear and ready to fight at the borders of Mexico so they can stay in power won’t keep us in fear of any other country so they can stay in power?
I heard on the radio this morning that the U.S. won’t be buying as many weapons (aka “defense products”) as developing nations. That seems vaguely scary, unless you think that we’ve found enough places to bomb and enough ways to do it already. Building things that kill us so that we can have jobs means we have to support Hate to live. Is that really in our best interest? Let’s make money building weapons so that our enemies can fire them at us — there’s a plan for defense! No, but that’s the bill of goods we’re being sold. Actually, that’s a plan for Fear and Hate. So who has fear and hate in their hearts? Us. It doesn’t matter much how it got here, but we need to stop it. We are standing in the need of prayer to find it in ourselves, call it what it is, and free ourselves of it.
We must elect officials who won’t “stand in the doorway” or “lock up the halls” so that we can secure real liberty for ourselves, realizing that a person who can hate can be good at all around. And if we can’t find any to elect, we need to become those non-hateful, non-fearful people and find the strength to run ourselves. The times will not change, and we will continue to live this awfully, if we don’t.