Thursday, July 29, 2010

Idolatry of the Worst Sort

The second of our four Good Friday Walk reflections comes from Rev. Holsey Hickman, a long-time active member of the struggle for justice in Dallas. He has worked on numerous issues, from education to police accountability, from peace to economic justice. Rev. Hickman is a member of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church.

I hope that my words find some place in your heart and in your mind on this rainy day.

It is good to be here to celebrate the hope that we have in Christ Jesus for the world. And I would like to lift up for your consideration some of my thoughts and feelings about the word that has come to infect and to be a virus in all of our institutions. That word is greed. G-R-E-E-D. Greed. It's not a new virus, for it's been with us down through the ancient times of man and woman. Greed has always been a problem for those who would follow God, who would carry out the will of God upon this earth. Greed has infected our institutions that are supposed to serve the life of human beings. It has infected our military institutions, and caused this nation to put more money into destructive, violent power than in health care. It has called this nation to put more money into destructive, violent power than in education.

Greed is something Jesus warned us about when he said in Luke 12:15 that man's life does not consist in the abundance of things.

We gather here guided by this day of judgment that the Bible speaks of in Matthew 25. My brothers and sisters, somehow we have to understand that the greed that infects our institutions is something that demands our attention. Greed is being expressed and has been expressed in our financial institutions and that greed has had a rippling effect down through the lives of millions and millions of people in this country, and not only this country, but in other countries. The greed that has infected our society is a greed that has some legal legitimacy, it has legal legitimacy. We hear people talk about paying these people in the financial world billions of dollars in bonuses, and to hear their claim that there's a legal contract that justifies that, at the same time public money goes to those institutions. That is destructive greed at work in our society.

Somehow we need to understand that economic justice is not to be reflected in our institutions as long as greed grows in those institutions. We see it developing in the institution of public education. Greed has wiggled its head into our public institutions and we hear all this talk about entrepreneurs having the answer to education. That's not to say that people who are greedy do not have some good ideas, but we can see the thrust of it as another institution that is coming under the power of greed.

And so it is that greed has not only a legal justification, a legal basis for it, but also finds some support from the religious institutions. All of this talk about prosperity gospel. Nonsense! Nonsense! To serve as a justification for those who want to and who will and who do practice greed.

The recent decision of the US Supreme Court about corporations-it shows, in my view, that we have reached a point of idolatry of the worst sort. When we would confer human attributes on a corporation and let those corporations do damn what they want to do, that is a form of idolatry. Corporations have no soul. Jesus did not die for corporations! He died for people!

Somehow we have to do something, my brothers and sisters. Or we will be a nation where the idolatry of worship of corporations. Somehow we have to work to stop that, to end that, to withdraw the legal sanctions for that idolatry, that our lives and that our children might have the freedom from the kind of oppression these corporations are guilty of. Not all of them by any means, but too many of them. We will see a deepening and a wider expansion of these corporations prostituting our democratic processes in this country.

There's somebody now in the eastern United States who claims that he's running as a candidate for a corporation. They have too much power over our elected officials now, but think what will happen when these corporations have their people in the House of Representatives, have their people in the Senate, have their people running our country even more than they do now.

And so it is, my brothers and sisters. Let us see and try to understand the depth of this virus of greed that infects our society and that infects the world. We as a nation have some excellent points, but we as a nation have a pattern of destruction and violence that has been unseen upon the face of the earth. Hundreds of thousands of people, innocent people were killed in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Thousands of people have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us come to our senses. We pay $10 million for a tank that someone can blow up with $100 worth of material. Somehow we have to come to our senses, and in an organized, nonviolent way not yield to this force of greed in our community.

As we go forward, let us thank God that there was one who did not yield to those organized forces in the world in which he lived, those forces that were organized against the will of God. Rather he lived out his life to fight for obedience to God.

Yes, he was put on a cross. And yes, he was resurrected. If we seek to live out the will of God in this world we, too, may find ourselves on a cross. But that's all right! That's all right. Because in every case, Good Friday is followed by Easter.

Friday, July 2, 2010

"Who Do We Walk With?"

The first of our four Good Friday Walk reflections comes from Dr. Ruben Habito, a professor who teaches interreligious perspectives in spirituality and mysticism at Perkins School of Theology at SMU. Dr. Habito is the author of several books: Experiencing Buddhism: Ways of Wisdom and Compassion (Orbis Books, 2005); Living Zen, Loving God (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004); Healing Breath: Zen Spirituality for a Wounded Earth (MKZC Publications, 2001); Originary Enlightenment: Tendai Hongaku Doctrine and Japanese Buddhism (International Institute for Advanced Buddhist Studies, 1996); and Ministry and Theology in Global Perspective: Contemporary Challenges to the Church, co-edited with Don Pittman and Terry Muck (Wm. Eerdmans and Co., 1996).

I'd like to offer some pointers for us to experience in a more enhanced way the significance of this event that we are participating in together.

This is Good Friday. Today we have an important image in our mind that you all came here to relive. So the first question I would like to offer for us to ask ourselves is, Who are we walking with in this Good Friday Walk? Who are we walking with in this way of the cross on Good Friday?

The cross is a symbol of violence, the violence that happens to us because we are vulnerable creatures. The violence that nature can bring to us, but also, most importantly, the violence that human beings bring upon other human beings. We are all victims of that violence. And there was a man two thousand years ago who bore the brunt of that violence in his body, and the violence continues now. This is indicated in the signs we are carrying. The 25,000-30,000 children under the age of 5 who die daily because of hunger or malnutrition and related causes, about 11 to 12 million per year, and that goes on. The people who are displaced from their homes because of threats to their lives because of military violence, or because of political, social, economic issues-those who are called refugees. People who are not regarded as human beings by their fellow human beings for many different reasons-race, color of skin, religion, or sexual orientation, they are on the cross today.

So we are invited to breathe with them and walk with them with each step. A couple of suggestions as we walk from station to station. This is a meditation, so as we do so, two points I would like to offer for our own attention. First, the breath. As we breathe in and breathe out, let us recall that each breath is a gift, from the same source that gave us this life. In our Christian vocabulary, that is espiritus sanctus. Espiritus is from espirare, to breathe, or the ruah of the Hebrew language, that breath that makes the earth what it is, the breath that all of our fellow living, sentient beings receive. So let us pay attention to that breath and we will experience more profoundly with whom we are breathing. And look at the signs again to see, to get indications of who they are we are breathing with and walking with.

Secondly, let us also pay attention to our steps. As we step, each step is a way of giving our bodily presence and walking with all of those that we want to represent: the 46 million without health care, those who are sick, those who lack access to clean water, the unemployed and underemployed, not just in the US but throughout the world. Let us have that global scenario in our minds and in our hearts as we walk each step.

And thirdly, and the last point I would like to offer as we go, last night, many of us may have joined in the Eucharistic celebration commemorating the institution of that precious celebration that we continue every Sunday and the central words offered there are, "This is my body given for you." That's an aspect that I would also like to offer as we walk together, perhaps in groups of two or three: "This is my body given for you." As Jesus offered his body for all of us, we are also invited to take that and resonate with that and make those words our own. This is my body given for you. For whom? For "I was in prison and you did not visit me," the one in 100 incarcerated. Those who are denied food stamps. Those who are in pain because of the way they are treated by their fellow human beings. Let us listen to them and respond: This is my body given for you. So I would like to recommend that we walk in that meditative way, so that we can experience the significance of this event. And I thank all of the organizers of this event and everyone who is here together so that we can really share in the bonding that this event on the cross brings to us.