Different Shutdowns

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Edward_Hicks_-_Peaceable_Kingdom

Edward Hicks — Peaceable Kingdom

There are shutdowns that make us cringe and there are shutdowns that bring us to our better selves. This year the two kinds overlapped. Both shutdowns are about economics, i.e., how we live together in the one house in which we all dwell for a speck of time on a small planet in a vast universe. The English words ‘economy’ and ‘economics’ derive from the Greek word for ‘house’ and the management, or governance, of the one house in which we live.

In previous essays on Views from the Edge and chapters of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, we have sought to point to this saner view of life together in the nation and the planet. Saying it again feels like banging my head against a wall, but the coalescence of the government shutdown date and the Jewish Sabbath commandment to shut everything down — Shabbat — prompts this reflection.

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Shabbat meal

 

The Hebrew word ‘Shabbat’ comes from the root Shin-Beit-Tav, meaning to cease, to end, or to rest. The shutdown in Washington, D.C. and the Fourth Commandment shutdown could not be more different. The one is a product of control; the latter is about ending the illusions that come from production.

“Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God.  You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God. On it, you are not to do any kind of work — not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property. For in six days, Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why Adonai blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself.” — Exodus 20:8-11 [Complete Jewish Bible].

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Migrant workers in someone else’s field.

You don’t have to be a seven-day creationist to “get” the meaning of the Hebrew Scripture’s call to stop and think. Step back. Pause. Respect your son, your daughter, your workers, the animals, and the foreigners within your national borders. Shabbat is not just the owners of the means of production but for ALL who labor under the yoke — an enduring sign and call of a better household management (economics) yet to come in the one house (the economy) in which we all live.

Practicing his Jewish faith, Jesus of Nazareth kept Shabbat and aligned himself with the laborers when he invited would be followers to join him in a kind of revolution that would turn the tables on the money-changers and lift up the have nots: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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Oxen laboring under a heavy yoke

 

Jesus was comparing the landless poor to oxen in the the fields of production, driven hard under a yoke that chafes and cuts into the oxen’s neck and shoulder, the yoke of economic cruelty and the burden that is anything but light. Rabbi Jesus was invoking the substance of the Fourth Commandment: the vision and practice of Shabbat economics.

Could the juxtaposition of the different shutdowns be clearer than when they are invoked on the same day of the week?

Shabbat Shalom,

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 22, 2018

 

 

 

 

Warning: Danger Ahead

If you’re interested in a homiletic case consistent with Bernie Sanders, check out the Rev. Ed Martin’s sermon at Shepherd of the Hill Church in Chaska, MN. It’s superb.

Good News and Hard News – Nature and Capitalism

Paul Tillich quote in Tillich Park, New Harmony, IN: "Man and nature belong together in their created glory - in their tragedy and in their salvation."

Paul Tillich quote in Tillich Park, New Harmony, IN: “Man and nature belong together in their created glory – in their tragedy and in their salvation.”

A spiritual reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent, December 7, 2014.

The beginning of the GOOD news is HARD news, according to John the Baptist, calling people out into the wilderness. “We must change,” he said.  “Repent” by which the Judeo-Christian tradition means a 180 degree turn. “About face!” Only by turning will we be delivered from the consequences of the actions that have led us here.

For John the Baptist and the writer of the Gospel of Mark’s opening paragraph (Mark 1:1-8) the system at issue was Roman imperialism, an economic system centered in Rome, expanding out, and enforced by, military invasions, subjugation, religious tolerance (so long as the religious practice did not interfere with Roman prerogatives) and occupation.

One could repeat the sentence in 2014 with little change: “the system at issue [is [American] imperialism, an economic system centered in [Washington] expanding out, and enforced by, military invasions, subjugation, religious tolerance (so long as the local religious practice [does] not interfere with [American] prerogatives) and occupation.”

It is our spiritual, moral, economic, cultural and political captivity to a global system that cannot satisfy our real needs or the world’s that produces a longing in our hearts, a readiness to make the lonely trip to the wilderness.

We’re a weary people in 2014. Wearied and still disheartened 11 years after the “Shock and Awe” that took down Saddam Hussein on the pretense that he had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that threatened us, the Administration’s manufactured association of Saddam Hussein as the cause of 9/11. We’re wearied of lies and misrepresentations. Weary from budget fights that barely reference 10 years of un-budgeted military expenses, the loss of thousands of American soldiers’ lives and as many as 100,000 Iraqi civilians, a military venture undertaken on the assumption that the Iraqi people would welcome our presence as the beginning of democracy and a “free market” economy that would lift them all up.

That belief in the goodness of American intentions hit the rocks as quickly as Saddam’s statue hit the pavement in Baghdad. All the while we were wearied by the earlier invasion of Afghanistan, whose original justification was a quick elimination Osama bin Ladin and Al-Qaida untempered by realistic knowledge of the long history of the military interventions that mired the invaders in quagmires such as the Soviet Union found itself before leaving in defeat. To the Afghans it didn’t matter whether the troops were Soviet or American. They were the same. They were the occupation forces of an imperial power destined to fail.

In the midst of the weariness about what was happening abroad, the financial system at home took the American economy to the brink of disaster in 2008. Occupy Wall Street rose to the top of the news cycles. Although the movement fizzled over time, as such movements inevitably do, it caught the attention of television viewers, internet surfers, and newspaper and magazine readers. Occupy Wall Street and the spot light it placed on “crony capitalism” became a hot topic around water coolers at work and the table in the coffee shops.

For the first time in recent memory, capitalism was no longer sacred, no longer off limits. Time’s front cover asked the question whether Capitalism was dead. But, as with Occupy, public attention is short-lived. Amnesia sets in when people are weary. How soon we forget…until some new John the Baptist issues the cry for a 180 degree turn for the sake of something better.

Maybe Naomi Klein is edition of John the Baptist. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, reviewed by the New York Times – places the over-riding systemic issue squarely before the general public again. Senator Bernie Sanders, America’s only socialist Senator who names climate action as among his four top priorities, is gaining attention as a possible presidential candidate. Elizabeth Warren, the Senate’s bulldog on holding Wall Street accountable is creating a wave of populist momentum. Put them with Bill McKibbon and 350.org and you begin to hear the echo of John’s all to the hard truth that is the beginning of the good news.

The hard truth that precedes good news is the discovery of the myth that has coupled democracy with capitalism in the American psyche, while demonizing socialism as democracy’s opposite. Ideological blinders are to nations and peoples what blinders are to horses on a race track: they limit vision to the straight-ahead narrow limits of the track. Ideological blinders prevent the owners’ horses from thoughts of anything but the track on which they’ve been placed to race each other.

But when the climate is changing our track in ways that compel our attention, and when we ask how we will make it through the changes together, the bigger question of the economic system – the race track itself – comes into view by virtue of necessity. It calls us off the track into the wilderness of Nature.

The words ‘economy’ and ‘economics’ derive from the Greek words for ‘house’ and ‘the management of the household’.  Economics not about markets, free or otherwise, or about the technicians and pundits who monitor investments and predict quarterly outcomes. It is not an academic discipline, the exclusive province of experts on Wall Street or in university Economics departments who understand how the free market works.

Economics is a spiritual perspective like the one on Paul Tillich’s marker in Tillich Park in New Harmony, Indiana. “Man and nature,” he said, “belong together in their created glory – in their tragedy and in their salvation.” There is no humanity with nature; the human calling of our time is to reshape our lives for the wellbeing of the one house in which all life lives.

During this Advent season of longing expectation, John the Baptist with his axe aimed at the root of the tree reminds us that economics is the spiritual issue of the first order. The good news is what the Hebrew Bible calls “the Day of the Lord” and John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth called “The Kingdom [i.e. Society] of God”. The hard news is we’ve been running on the wrong track, or, you might say, barking up the wrong tree.

The planet – this home we call “nature”, without which no person, society or form of life exists – is an economy that requires different management. The economy for which our hearts long is the one house imagined by the psalmist and announced by John in the wilderness beyond the Pax Romana: the good news awaiting our longing hearts to embrace it, a planetary home where “righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10) and wars will be no more.

The beginning of the GOOD news is HARD news. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, December 7, 2014

Sermon – The Divided House

A sermon at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, Minnesota. It could also be called “Take a Risk – Stand for Something!”

Link

Deepwater Horizon fire

Deepwater Horizon fire

Get “the other side” of the story on BP and the Gulf Coast communities. Everything is NOT fine.

The date is TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10. Time: 7:00 p.m. Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church, 145 Engler Blvd. in Chaska, MN. The Topic: Beyond Environmental and Human Extraction: Deepwater Horizon Three Years Later.

Here’s why this is worth your time (a quote from the MinnPost commentary):

“They call the oil rigs “rigs” for a reason. The whole thing is rigged.

“If we see a stranger on what used to be Isle de Jean Charles; if we see canals still crisscrossing through the marsh; if we’ve seen the fires of Deepwater Horizon light up the Gulf of Mexico and slick the waters and estuaries with black gold; if we’ve seen the evidence of breaking-and-entering in the house of the Gulf Coast waters, if we see empty oyster shells where once there were oysters; if we’ve heard about the oil companies hiding without anyone playing seek, we can ignore the game or we can seek and find for the sake of survival.”

Yesterday’s New York Times published Gulf Spill Sampling Questioned. Click THIS LINK to read the story. Researchers found a higher level of contamination than federal agencies did in water, sediment and seafood samples taken in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Our speakers for this Dialogues event, Kris Peterson and Richard Krajeski, are there in the field. They split their time as researchers and disaster recovery professionals with the University of New Orleans’ Center for Hazards Assessment, Response, and Technology (CHART) and serving as pastors to the Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church of Gray, Louisiana. Kris and Dick work most closely with the subsistence communities of the Louisiana Delta, including the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, whose traditional homeland is disappearing.

Hope to see you there.

All Things Considered commentary and audio

Click HERE and then click the audio link on the Minnesota Public Radio website to hear yesterday’s commentary on the classical spiritual-philosophical-ethical premise we need to remember. This piece was written two days BEFORE the President delivered his speech yesterday at Knox College.

    EXCERPT:

The English word “economy” comes from the Greek work “oikos” – the Greek word for house. The word “economics” derives from the Greek word “oikonomia”- -the management of a household.

Before it is anything else, economics is a perspective, a frame of reference. Before it decides anything about household management, it knows that there is only one house. Good household management – good economics – pays attention to the wellbeing of the entire house and all its residents.