by: Rev. Dr. Robert Bennett and Marceline Donaldson
We are fighting huge battles with the forces of good and evil. Our current society doesn’t like to talk in these terms, however, it is hard to do otherwise as you look at just how stratified we have become around the issues of truth, justice, goodness, and more. And, whether we are on the side of goodness or on the side of evil there is a “Christian” group to which we can belong.
Christianity has as its central figure and the one it calls you to follow, Jesus the Christ. He was a person who had nothing. He went from one city or area to another and depended upon the residents of that place to provide. He did not seek gold, silver or any of the indicators of wealth. He sought those who would walk with him following his example and being true to a kind of openness, giving, caring, calling evil into question.
His quest was not for human values of being “better than”, of having “more than” or doing whatever it took to acquire wealth and power. It was not what is presently held up and set forth as life’s goal. It was about bringing forth God’s kingdom on this earth with values very different from those we all presently claim and are living our lives to acquire.
Today, we have groups which call themselves “Christian” and which are so imbued with evil, resentment, jealousy, stripping others of whatever they have anyway possible that we wonder and truly expect them to be struck by lightning or some other dramatic happening. We find such groups developing colleges and other institutions of learning to pass on their values and their concept of what it means to be Christian. We find the way they live so affluent and so lacking in inclusiveness we wonder how they are able to even claim “Christianity.” Their exclusivity, their narrowness, their seeking after money and spending it on an amazing lifestyle which screams “over the top” belies everything Jesus taught.
All over the planet are these groups. In the United States they thrive and reach enormous stages of wealth shedding the goal of actually helping others with judgments on all of those around who do not follow their examples or their beliefs. They are wealthy, live in huge mansions, have money to spend in anyway they desire. Their wealth seems limitless and when they call on the general populace to send them more the response is immediate and fulsome.
The people they look down on are those who could be equated with jesus of Nazareth.
We do our best to denigrate those following the road Jesus trod. We do even more to emulate those calling themselves Christian who are walking in Satan’s path reaping the material rewards promised to Jesus on the Mount if he would fall down and worship Satan. How many would resist that call? Or would you deny Satan and walk away in poverty with nothing but your core Christian values which you live out daily?
If ever a human being was walking this path of exclusivity and doing whatever was necessary to acquire endless wealth, that person is Donald Trump.
What is amazing about him are the people following him! Before he was elected president he had lived many years in the public eye. During those years, his lifestyle was apparent to all and it was clear that amongst other things, he sexually abused women. That was not hidden or cleaned up before the election, we all knew about that and a lot more, yet millions voted for him. He built a business and a political campaign which put him into the White House in the United States as president. What happened to this country that this is who we elected as one of our leaders.
All of us have the ability to walk in Donald Trump’s shoes. There is the promise of wealth, power, and so much more which this world holds up as goals for us to reach. What causes some to reach for those goals and others to walk the path Jesus of Nazareth trod knowing the pain, agony and finally one of the most horrible deaths imaginable? What does one group have that the other does not? What goes on inside those who choose Donald Trump’s path. What makes him continue down that road bringing as many people with him as possible?
Where do those who choose the path of Jesus of nazareth get the stamina, the commitment, the need to walk that path almost from birth to death.
We have taken pieces of the earth and given them values which have made others risk their lives to go out and find as much of those pieces as possible even knowing that they may be destroying the very planet on which they live?
What made those at the top of cigarette companies manufacture and produce a product that everyone knew was harmful to the health of humans and could cause cancer and a horrible death, yet they marketed and developed and did everything they could to build their own wealth by building and distributing such a product? What is even more mysterious is why they, knowing the harm the product they were producing caused to the human race, take part in excessive smoking which gave them the same cancer and pain before death, they were giving to others as their marketing and distribution became successful and produced enormous wealth for them and others at the top.
There is so much in our environment which points us to the paths we should take. We spend so much of our time denying all that we see, hear and feel.
We went to the introduction of the Festscript written to remember and honor Howard Thurmond – dean of the chapel at Boston University- after his death. Robert had written a chapter in the book and so we were there with others to acknowledge Thurmonds life and the influence he had on so many and to introduce this festschrift remembering his work amongst us.
His wife, Sue Bailey Thurmond, gave a talk about her husband and one story she told was about the times at the end of his life when they talked about what would come after death. Thurmond agreed that, if he could, he would come back to tell her there was life after death. If he didn’t come back, well……. We sat in stunned silence as the story unfolded. Most of the people in that room who had been invited to this celebration did not hear that part of the story. We asked the people sitting on either side of us if they heard Sue Bailley Thurmonds comments and they said they heard her talking, but did not hear her say that. We decided, the four of us, to talk to her after her comments and ask about that particular part. Had we imagined it or had that really happened.
What we were asking was did she really say her husband had come back from death and told her about life after death and its existence. She said she was not surprised that many had not heard what she said, but he had come back and had told her about life after death and she had included that in the story about his life and death. Most of the people in that room were ordained clergy.
The beauty of life in its fullness is right there for all of us to see and experience. Instead, we look to what we have given value – gold, silver, oil, and more to give us the feelings of a life well lived and to dictate our actions as we seek to accumulate such so our status in this society would rise.
May we take our lives and live inclusively. May we take our values from the life of Jesus of Nazareth. May we live on this planet as human beings accepting who we are with our strengths and weaknesses and stop following the example of those who develop their lives walking the path Satan walks.