liberal ["liberalis" L - suitable for a freeman, generous; "eleutheros" Gk - free] (adj) generous, open-minded, not subjugated to authoritarian domination; (n) one who believes in liberty, universal suffrage and the free exchange of ideas. elite ["eslire" Fr -- to choose fr.L "eligere" -- choose] (n) the choice part; best of a class; the socially superior part of society.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


I had to search for ten minutes before I was able to find the key quotation by Jesus about humility and self. I was looking for the teaching about being a guest at a great feast, where the lesson is to sit in the lowest place and be called up to a higher one by the host. Don't sit in the highest place and then be asked to move to a lower one by the host when someone of greater dignity and virtue than you arrives.

Then in Luke 14:11 we read the verse that we should all remember, but that I only record here because I stumbled upon it in my search for the teachings about where to sit at the feast.
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

How could I have forgotten this?

Todd Huffman jogged my memory with This Christmas, Where is Our National Conscience? in Common Dreams. This is one of the more penetrating essays I have read this season. Huffman begins by invoking God and the blessings He is commonly understood to have bestowed upon the United States, and that we have learned to take our good fortune for granted. But the essayist goes on to inveigh that
as a nation obsessed with money and possessions, celebrity and sport, we are not advanced morally or spiritually.
He iterates that we have "established monetary criteria for success or failure ... and increasingly misuse[] religion as justification for intolerance and division."

He criticizes us for "silently tolerat[ing] widespread poverty and blatant inequalities."
We give tax cuts to the wealthy, and budget cuts to the poor. We allow forty percent of our fellow citizens to go without health care. We demand lower levels of government spending, thereby allowing higher levels of economic inequality. All this, even though the provision of decent subsistence, shelter, and health care are well within our national capacity to provide.

He tries to remind us that religion is for helping us "rediscover" the value of each individual, our inter"connectedness" and "the common good." He wants us to be conscientious about caring for each other, not about assuming a holier-than-thou posture from which to accuse one another of immorality or unworthiness.

He quotes Jacob Marley, Ebeneezer Scrooge's old, haunting business partner in his claim that living on earth, "Mankind was my business."

Huffman opens the piece with FDR's statement that, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much. It's whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

These are ideas that have vanished from the national conscience today in America. We seek to defend ourselves, to righteously vanquish our enemies no matter the cost in suffering and misery to them. We seek to hold others to an ideal standard of morality that we choose for ourselves but seek to impose by any means necessary upon those who disagree with our "moral values."

But love, generosity, or what the Apostle Paul called, "charity," is only something that can be given by those who feel an abundance of grace. If we live in the richest country in the world, blessed beyond proportion of any people in history, we can still live like scrooges and act like curmudgeons. Being good requires being grateful to God for what we have, and for the less fortunate with whom we can share and know God better by becoming more like Him.


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