Thursday, February 24, 2011

today's steam of consciousness

The other day I was listening to an interview with Lambert Wilson on NPR. Who? He's a french actor starring in the film Of Gods and Men. It is inspired by the true and tragic tale of seven French monks in Algeria who were kidnapped and later killed in 1996 during the Algerian Civil War.

In the course of the interview the question arose, "why would [the French] people go to see this film?" Wilson's answer took me a little by surprise. He suggested that there is a yearning in the culture for altruism, and that the lives of monks reflect that quality. This got me to thinking about the serious lack of altruism in our own culture, and the invocation of the notion of sacrifice in the current political debate raging in various (if not all) states, as well as our nation.

I remember learning about altruism in grade school, and that an example of altruism was found in the behavior of a colony of monkeys. Altruism made sense to me then, and is a value I've held consistently ever since. What doesn't make sense to me is the lack of its place, and practice, in our culture. Did it go out the window in the 80's when the tag "me generation" was applied, and entitlement became the plumb line of the culture?

I keep wondering where the "Christian" voices are that insist that God be evident in our pledge of allegiance, and that God Incarnate is synonymous with our national identity. Peculiarly the commandments of Jesus appear absent from behavior and equally absent from the rhetoric. Which is it? Do we proclaim Christ crucified, as Paul writes, or protect the bottom line? The evidence speaks volumes to the  hypocrisy of so many mouthpieces.

In thinking about sacrifice I also got to thinking about how fear seems to rule the lives of so many. I found myself acknowledging that I would rather live a short life free of fear than a long life dominated by it. Fear is such a prison, and yet it seems to drive so, so many, made manifest by the need to exercise power to control or limit the freedom of others. The most recent bizarre example of this from my very own state is proposed legislation to criminalize sharia law, making it a felony to follow that aspect of Islam. Forget that the First Amendment of our Constitution is protects the free exercise of religion.

And among the revived war against women's health and the choices pertaining to health, my very own US Senator is "a cosponsor to the Life at Conception Act. This legislation would declare that the right to life guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution is vested in each human being beginning at the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual comes into being." I love the latter part of this: "or other moment at which an individual comes into being," which betrays the reality that such a determination can't be made. I suspect that such a "declaration" by Congress falls outside its purview, but it will be interesting to see where this goes. Can legislation even make declarations?

So those are my meanderings of the moment. Eventually they may settle into some kind of formed view that I can articulate, but as an introvert that's a bit of a challenge. For now I'm content to raise the questions and ponder the implications that are cast into the domain of public debate. 

3 comments:

The Bug said...

I often wonder what religion, exactly, folks are following. It's not Gospel as I read it. And you're right - it's fear that makes us want to ban things (ooh - maybe their Sharia/gayness/skin color will rub off on me!). Sigh.

Carolina Linthead said...

Holy Will Willimon, alter ego! Very well stated. We want certitude, and yet this is not the way of the Gospel. The only certitude is that, come what may, God loves us. The only true calling is to follow the path our Lord has shown us--the path to Golgotha and beyond. Preach on, sister!

Jayne said...

I was thinking these same things as I read this week that the GOP was "gearing up" for the "Gay Marriage Debate" to dominate the 2012 election. Really? That's all we have to worry about in this country of ours? I just keep shaking my head...

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