Monday, December 15, 2008

being present for each other

I was impressed in listening to Krista Tippett interviewing Parker Palmer (you can listen or read the transcript here yourself, or podcast) about the economic downturn and how we as Christians need to look at it. Palmer himself is a Quaker, and the hour was filled with wisdom.

What stood out for me is how this economic downturn may be an occasion for change in the church. I have found the church generous up to a point in helping the poor (I speak in generalities; there are some outstanding examples). Of course there is needed accountability, handouts by themselves aren't the answer. But as Palmer stated, we live in a rugged individualistic society where it's up to each one of us to make it ourselves. There is some help within the system for those who don't, and this varies depending on where people live. But by and large there is not much for us to fall back on, should any of us fall.

I am Anabaptist to a significant extent. The Amish are one group from the Anabaptists (I was raised Mennonite) who do find help and security in falling back on each other. They are committed to seeing each other through. Of course this is a joint venture, and while there are surely those who are wealthier and those who are poorer among them, they work at making it more of a common sharing, helping those in need, one obvious basic example from them being their barn raisings.

The question comes back, what about those who are not so deserving of help because of the continued misuse of their finances? Of course none of us (very rare, certainly not myself!) can claim to have always made wise financial decisions. And there may be some who have this and that expense which they don't really need or maybe would do better in life, without. This calls for a personal, prayerful self-inventory for all of us.

We need to offer help to those in need, and part of that help will be encouragement and indeed, a call toward responsibility. Those whose spending is out of control can't expect to be supported in that kind of lifestyle. They may need special help, but there will always be some who refuse such, and therefore can't be a part of this needed dynamic. After all each needs to be there for the others, as well as having the others be there for themselves. In such cases help comes sadly to them from a bottom rung such as in shelters and soup kitchens. With hopefully the kind of help that can get them back up on their feet.

Should this be a part of our Christian witness in the world? Why is it so lacking among us (or so it seems to me)?

What might you add to these beginning thoughts on this subject?


The Wingnut said...

I think a large part of that is the reason you touched upon in the post, the fact that American culture values individuality and doing things for oneself. In that sort of mindset, it is extremely difficult for those in need to admit their need, and difficult for those who have the capacity to give to not say that, "Well, they've got themselves into this mess, they can get themselves out."

Another reason for this, I think, is that many Christians focus their energy on individual spirituality. Thus the Christian walk becomes between that person and God. This mindset, while important, has led to those people neglecting the needs of society. Add in a healthy fear of works righteousness, and you've got a formula for suburban churches that don't engage the culture and serve only themselves.


Anonymous said...

i think what is truly lacking IS the individual spirituality...REAL individual Love of God and trust in the Holy Spirit to make changes within us. the changes that take place in the church are actually the changes that are taking place in our hearts.

one person at a time going through life in personal relationship with God, and therefore the stuff that we do not understand can happen between us and other people...the being used by God.

we do not see or understand all the ways of being used by God.

we do not understand the timing and ways of God. we can look at our selves all day, every day, for the rest of our lives and all we would continue to see is sin and greed and brokeness. the church is made up of sinners.
we can only look to God and the Love of God and trust that the Holy Spirit is working in us and through us, His broken body.
faith, hope and Love...
those are the gifts we are given.
those are the gifts He gives.
gifts of Life in Jesus.

that is the story we share.
we fall back on God.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Amen. Well said.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I agree with you that individual spirituality is important, what I mean is our relationship with God, and in a certain kind of sense that is private. But it can't help but become public, if it's real. And what is said in the post is part of our being one Body in Christ in this world.

Anonymous said...

what do you think of this...

could the Holy Spirit be the expression of God, which is Love, in us-through us-and through eachother, guiding-changing-and expressing God's Love?

Anonymous said...

i have a post of question thoughts.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I think you're on to something there. You express that well.

I'll head off now to your post.