Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Story, Then?

One wonders what story, then? One wonders that if we shouldn’t live inside the story of judgment, the story of condemnation, the story of punishment, what should we do? What can we do? I mean, isn’t this the story in which the rest of humanity is living? Isn’t this the story that the rest of humanity puts on each morning with their clothes? Is not the jurisprudence system required for orderly living? Isn’t civilization dependent on the judgment paradigm being one of the dominant modes or themes of its citizens’ lives?

If civilization depends on the jurisprudence story—and the institutions and power assertion and social contract that allows these—for the enforcement of its orderliness, its safety, its predictability, its promise of happiness, then what does this imply about civilization’s interest in the Kingdom of God? Aren’t the Kingdom of Judgment and the Kingdom of God at odds with one another? Isn’t the conflict between these in our own minds and in our behavior at the heart of the Christian Drama? At the heart of the choice we are daily asked to make as Christians?

Doesn’t Jesus ask us to choose our story? Do you want to live in the world and affirm the world of worldly ideas, beliefs, expectations, and moral choices? Or do you want to live in the world of heaven and affirm the world of heavenly ideas, beliefs, expectations, and moral choices? Do you want God’s order or the world’s order? Do you want God’s justice or the world’s justice?

Do you want to be the bringer of the good news or the bad news? Do you want to be an agent of change or the status quo? Do you want to reveal heaven or more of the same sorry, sad world? Do you want to look for and save the lost, or do you want to leave the lost to their own devices?

Sin through Jesus’s eyes is what we all do most of the time because of the story we choose to live inside. We choose condemnation and punishment for the transgressions of others, not suspension of consequences and forgiveness.

Oh, we say to ourselves and one another, civilization would break down. We need to protect ourselves from the scoundrels. From the thieves and the rapists and the murderers. From the liars and the cheats. From the charlatans and the confidence men.

And so are we protected? Does our story of jurisprudence protect us? Does it, for example, keep people from doing evil? I don’t know. It seems like there is a lot of evil in the world, even though there is a lot of jurisprudence.

Have you been following the presidential debates? And the ads? The campaign speeches and sound bytes? I have, a little. And what I see and hear are people who believe that lying and fraudulent misrepresentation are okay. These are people who want our confidence. Who want our votes. And this is openly done. It is repeatedly done.

When the fact-checkers come on after one of these speeches or these debates—the next day, usually—we discover that both of them have told dozens of lies. Are fraudulently distorting many, many facts. Their ads do the same.

What should we do? Will jurisprudence help us here? Should we put both candidates and all their handlers in jail for lying to us? Lying to us over and over. And pretending they are telling the truth? Smiling at us like a couple of power-mad idiots through it all?

These people are competing to be the most powerful person on the planet. And here they are. In front of us. The most common dissemblers. The vilest liars and cheats. Trying to picture themselves as devoted family men. As devoted public servants. As patriotic. As honest. As straight-talkers. As men we can depend on to lead us wisely, virtuously. As men we can rely on to do the right thing.

Why are they lying so unashamedly? So transparently? So repeatedly? Is it because they can? Is it because there is no judicial restraint? No legal consequence?

That is of course how the world works. If it isn’t illegal, it’s okay. It’s fair game. By definition, if it isn’t illegal, we may do it. And it must be good enough.

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