Our Only House — John Lewis and Kosuke Koyama

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Introduction

John Lewis never knew and had no reason to care that we held some things in common. We shared a point of view that comes from reading the Psalms (“The earth is the LORDS’s and the fullness thereof…”[Ps. 24:1]), and the Book of Micah (“What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?” [Micah 6:8]), singing the same hymns in our Baptist and Presbyterian hymnals, and finishing theological educations at Fisk and McCormick.

John Lewis knew what a cracked head was

Yesterday’s Views from the Edge’s post pointed to what might be considered the centerpiece of John Lewis’s life — the conviction that “we all live in the same house.” John Lewis lived that conviction before and after the batons cracked his skull at Edmund Pettus Bridge.

John Lewis knew what a cracked skull was, and he knew that the Crackers’ skulls were cracked worse than his.

John Lewis and Kosuke Koyama

There is no evidence that John Lewis met Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama or read any of Koyama’s books on the anguished heart of God. But focusing on the Congressman’s witness in word and action brought the two of them together in my cracked head. I’m even more confident that John Lewis never knew of or read “The Economy: Only One House,” “Only One Sin: Exceptionalism” or “The World in an Oyster” in Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, the collection of essays dedicated to Koyama. (Note: Click the above link to Amazon, click “Look Inside,” open the Table of Contents, and click the titles to glimpse the essays, or read “Just One Country” published May 2, 2012 by Views from the Edge.

A Poet’s bow to gentleness and strength — Peggy Shriver’s Haiku to Koyama

The haiku tribute to Koyama by his friend and faculty colleague at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York featured on Be Still!‘s dedication page, expressed how I felt after Ko’s death in 2009. Today the last stanza of Peggy’s haiku puts words to what I feel about John Lewis.

Gentle and strong, as trees
Bend gacefully in wind,
You stand — and I bow.

Peggy Shriver, 2009

Gordon C. Stewart, author Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017 Wipf and Stock), Chaska, Minnesota, July 21, 2020.

The President’s Speech on the Economy

Aired earlier today on All Things Considered (MPR, KNOW, 91.1 FM).

Paul Tillich quote in Tillich Park, New Harmony, IN.

Paul Tillich quote in Tillich Park, New Harmony, IN.

Today President Obama began a series of speeches about the future of the American economy. I hope he takes us back to the basics of what an “economy” is.

Economics is about a household and how to manage it. The household is a family, a state, a nation, a planet.

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.

In America and elsewhere across the world, we are coming to realize that the planet itself is one house. What happens in one room of the house – one family, one city, one nation – affects what happens everywhere in the house. Paul Tillich caught the clear sense of it when he wrote that “Man and nature belong together in their created glory – in their tragedy and in their salvation.” That is to say, there is only one house.

The essential question of economics is not about systems – capitalism, communism, socialism, or something else. The essential question is spiritual, philosophical, and ethical. It’s whether we believe that there is only one oikos, one house; the subsequent question is about how best to manage it for the wellbeing of all its residents and the fragile web of nature without which the house of the living would not exist.

Very often what we call ‘economics’ is not economics. It’s not oikonomia. It’s something else. It assumes something else, and when we forget what an economy and economics really are, we enshrine greed as the essential virtue, ignoring and imperiling everyone else and everthing in the one house in which we all live.

I dream that the President will preach the old Greek common sense: that in his own way, he will reclaim the essential premise of an economy and the ethical task of economics. By bringing the Greek origins to our television sets, headsets, and iPads, he can call us to move forward out of the partisan houses of nonsense.

There is only one house.