This little series is near drawing to a close. In it, we ask persons to take a contemplative look at cultural happenings in order to decide what is pagan (culturally reactionary) and prophetic (progressively relevant) in the various utterances emitted by our leadership.
Our president (God bless him and his family) wishes for a civil discourse in American life. His Chief-of-Staff, Mr. Emmanuel, closes the door and calls various colleagues "retards." Left unfinished is the task to decide if this is a greater slap at politicians or at the mentally challenged. At any rate, it is hardly polite, which is the word Mr. Obama probably means, rather than civil.
It is hard to be the President. One remembers the story Mr. Lincoln liked to tell about the salesman who failed to deliver on certain promises. He was peeled down to his underwear, tarred and feathered. Then the citizenry set him up on a splintery rail log, all tar and feathers, hoisted him, log and all, up on their shoulders and rode him out of town.
On the journey, someone called out to the poor fellow, "How do you like the ride?"
Of course, he replied, from on high, plainly visible and miserable, "Well, except for the honor, I'd just as soon walk."
Mr. Obama may be wishing he could just cover himself and walk.
He should have company if he decides to leave or if voters decide he should go. There is plenty of blame to share.
The previous Democratic administration relaxed credit standards in the interests of broadening home ownership. The previous GOP administration obliterated regulatory standards in the interests of the "Free Market." Naturally, the laxity of both groups combined for a perfect credit/housing storm. People bought houses they could not possibly afford, enabled by commercial practices that could not possibly called "business like." It is natural to see now, and say, that the recovery measures taken by the public and private sectors mostly benefit the irresponsible and so inflame public outrage. In fact, financial policies promoted irresponsibility. In fact, the economy required fiscal irresponsibility on the part of consumers.
If a little was good, a lot had to be better. We were winners if we borrowed more and conserved less.
Greed, envy, covetousness; a life defined by possessions quite naturally did not lead to better or even happier people. Greed at the grass roots could not quite match the greed at the top of the food chain but differed only in quantity, not in quality. The powerful took more because they could. The less powerful took what they could reach.
Greed is not good, not even in a capitalist economy. Greed does not make anyone happy or healthy.
The Majestic Paganism that sits enthroned insists all will be well if we can just get back to the way things never were. People have to live within their means, a euphemism for "know their place." Wealth must favor the wealthy.
Well, no. The very wealthy had their chance. They took all of us to the brink of collapse, protected not by their wits or guile, but by their wealth and influence.
So, prophetically, we might offer the Meditative Reflective response to the Pagan philosophy. People may want to do what is right but seldom bother with it for long and almost never when under duress or when tempted beyond what we are able. We need a corrective influence.
The ancient Hebrew prophets (the real ones, not the corporate sycophants) did not ask people to stop doing wrong. They defined justice and held it up as goal to reach. Yet, the prophet's corrective influence was always theological. Persons were to love and serve God. The king had his place but God knew more than the king, who often had to be corrected by God and God's people.