Treasures and Light

The question of why a woman would choose to abort a pregnancy is similar to why a person feels it necessary to arm themselves.

 

I’ve been a supporter of getting non-sporting weapons off the streets for decades. I still think Wyatt Earp had the right idea about open carry in urban settings. But I don’t think that outlawing guns will solve our addiction to violence. By the same token it’s my personal opinion that an abortion is a tragedy. Family planning resources are available to make an unwanted pregnancy an anachronism. Outside of situations of rape and incest, unwanted pregnancies are a symptom of being irresponsible with one’s sexuality. Still I don’t believe in outlawing abortions, harassing those who choose to have them or those who choose to perform them. Why? Because both these hot button issues are spiritual matters. As to abortions I believe, as a country, a state, a city, a community, a congregation – regardless of the choices around sexual intimacy people make we could accelerate the reduction of the numbers of abortions which we are now seeing by removing the social and financial obstacles and fears some women have about raising a child. That’s consistent with Isaiah’s assertion that the naked be clothed, the homeless housed, the hungry fed, the captives emancipated and get this, even the manacles on the wicked loosen. Only then, Isaiah insists, when you call on God, will God answer.

The question of why a woman would choose to abort a pregnancy is similar to why a person feels it necessary to arm themselves.

I think the answer may be found in Jesus’ admonition in the 19th through 21st verses of the 6th Chapter of Matthew: 19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Underlying much of our national anxiety and unrest is the fear that many people feel of losing to others the treasure that they personally have accumulated or that had been amassed by a generation before them. Many who once identified themselves as middle class have lost much of their purchasing power and with it social status. Where as it was once possible for one person in a family to earn a livable wage for a traditional family now two or more are required to makes ends meet and a necessity if they want to educate their child. In our system of economics, business, industry, and government are charged with being as efficient as possible, producing goods and services at competitive prices. But the world expanded, markets have become international, people in developing countries are excited about receiving a living wage and business is pleased to enjoy lower costs per unit of production. Ocean going freighters bring more goods to our shores than we send away. And that results in ever fewer jobs for American workers, regardless of whether they are willing to do such work.

By the same token banks prefer that we use automatic teller machines, complex computers, instead of them having to hire human tellers to handle our financial transactions. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the impact artificial intelligence has had upon our lives. And the loss to middle income jobs increases our sense of vulnerability.

In our generation people of color have broken out of stereotypical roles as have women and more recently those who manifest atypical gender identities. The fact that people from south and central America live and work among us isn’t new – they were actually on this land before most or our ancestors arrived. Only recently has that reality begun to shift the lines of political power. And think about it, the Chief Executive of the United States is a person of color. I can remember when that was unthinkable. As for women, in the State of Washington both our U.S. Senators (a word that means ‘old men’) and the person who represents us in the House are all women. The majority of the County Council are women. Almost half of the City Council are women. We have a woman running for the highest office in our land. That’s a huge change. And more recently lawful marriage now makes space for people of the same gender to form a household. You might recall that just like the church fought the Copernicus revolution churches divided over the emancipation of slaves, woman’s suffrage, and now gender issues.

One of the first political issues I faced working in a bi-racial urban neighborhood was with the introduction of a Federal program called Community Action Against Poverty. We had worked to develop a neighborhood organization and it seemed that all CAAP did was to hire people. And then one day it struck me that hiring people was a good thing. Of course the other side of the economic fears of those who have is the experience of the havenots. Just as real is the sense of being held captive to the privilege enjoyed by others which deny opportunity.

We know, because the data is readily available, that some people have come out of these changes in our culture quite well off while others haven’t fared so well. We currently celebrate 536 U.S. Billionaires. That’s contrasted with 320 million individuals. The effective tax rate in 1954 was seventy percent. Today, for the top ten percent of tax payers the average rate is around twenty percent. The point isn’t what is fair or equitable – it’s that we all know that over the past three decades the very wealthy have gotten wealthier while the great majority has experienced a reduction in their standard of living. And that feeds the feeling of vulnerability and the sense of being held captive to a rigged system. So the idea of building a wall to keep persons from the southern climates out of our jobs, out of our hospitals, and off our welfare roles gains traction. Fearing that international trade agreements will move even more jobs to developing countries bring together groups who are normally estranged, the best example is the nominees for President of both the Republicans and Democrats have taken positions in opposition to the proposed Trans Pacific Trade agreement.

Now into that volatile mix add the fear of an environment gone haywire with threats of rising sea levels, changes in the distribution of rainfall across the continent, crops no longer feasible where they once were the staple. Add into that corporations and reservations with hydrocarbons buried in the ground meeting resistance to their being transported and sold on the world market. And what about fears of genetically modified plants and animals and an array of chemicals use to increase crop yields.

You could argue that the problem is that we know too much. Ignorance is bliss is similar to our wanting the world as it was. We know how many people were killed by a suicide bomber in a town the other side of the globe which only moments before we didn’t know existed. We know of every mistake made by those charged with keeping the peace at home – and abroad. We know the voting record and the moral behavior of every public figure – and the economic interests that have contributed to their campaigns for re-election. Seeing the world in this way can make us physically ill. In the face of all that we read Jesus’ words 19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. He challenges our priorities, to the core. He goes on and says that our problem is how we see things. The few remaining lines of Matthew 6 which we have yet to explore are these:

22“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

And that’s the darkness in which we swim. And its antidote is the light within us. We need healthy eyes so we can be full of light. Now our eyes are filled with anxiety and fear. An astigmatism is distorting our vision of what is truly important. What is needed is a relationship with Christ, the light within, that enables us to see the world differently.

There is an approach to human behavior that suggests that how we think about something determines our mental health. It’s an interesting corollary to what Jesus is saying. Cecil Hinshaw in 1945 said: In describing his early ministry, George Fox wrote, “I was sent to turn people from the darkness to the Light.” The “children of Light” knew that they had been redeemed from sin and its power, and that conviction and experience was their message. They had experienced the moral tensions which were native to Puritanism, and they had found an answer to them. That answer is the keynote of early Quakerism. Fox expressed it in classic words, “I saw, also, that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.” Without question, the Light within is, in early Quakerism, that which William Penn called “the first principle.” The cornerstone of their faith was the belief that Christ did lead and guide them out of darkness into the glorious light of God’s perfect love and power. Out of this experience of the redemptive power of the Light came their message of victory over the forces of all unrighteousness.

The Light within was equated by them with Christ. Instead of a vague, impersonal spirit, they believed that Light to be the eternal Christ who had been manifested perfectly in the historical Jesus and who continued to dwell in the hearts of his followers. “Christ is come and doth dwell and reign in the hearts of His people,” They genuinely believed that Christ, the same power and spirit which was in Jesus, had taken up his abode in them. If you are looking for a solid bit of Quaker Christology this is it: The Light is the eternal Christ who was manifested perfectly in the historical Jesus and who continues to dwell in the hearts of his followers.

We aren’t talking philosophy, we are talking rugged, naked Christian spirituality. Jesus calls us to pray, give, fast, get our priorities straight and open ourselves to Christ’s light illumining our inner world so that we see the outer world through the eyes of Christ. When Christ is come and dwells and reigns in the hearts of us, his people, Christ will lead and guide us out of darkness into the glorious light of God’s perfect love and power.

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.