Reclaiming a language of generosity...

This afternoon we hosted the movie, "Soundtrack for a Revolution" at church for about 50 people.  If you haven't seen it, it tells the story of the American civil rights movement through the use of music - blending old TV clips and songs with reworkings by contemporary soul artists.  It is brilliant - and heart-breaking - and encouraging and sobering all at the same time.
Marilynne Robinson writes in her most recent book of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books, that "the language of (our contemporary) public life has lost the character of generosity."  Watching this film underscores this fact.  Not only have we lost the generosity in our language but:

The largeness of spirit that has created and supported the best of our institutions and brought reform to the worst of them has been erased out of historical memory.  On both sides the sole motive force in our post is now said to have been capitalism.  On both sides capitalism is understood as grasping materialism that has somehow or other yielded the comforts and liberties of modern life.  Capitalism thus understood is seen on one side as providential, so good in its effects that it reduces Scripture with its do-unto-others to shibboleth. The other side sees it as more or less corrupting and contemptible but beyond human powers to resist. (p. xv)

As I sat weeping over the heroism of those who have gone before me - and inspired me - cheering their heartfelt commitment to love and compassion in the cause of justice, two thoughts washed over me.  The first had to do with how important it is for faith communities to keep telling and retelling this story to families and children in each generation because it has almost been eliminated from our consciousness.  The second was a bit of encouragement to keep celebrating the ethics of "the beloved community."  Or as Douglas John Hall says, a way of living in the world that is based on I Corinthians 13.  To be sure, it will be denigrated but realists and other cynics, but that has always been true. And considering the alternative, we could do much worse.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.


While on retreat this past week I rediscovered a well of tears that need to be wept; it seems as if personal, social and even cosmic grief is alive and well in my heart.  I also came to embrace this as a necessary albeit complicated part of my journey of faith. As some of my friends put it: Nous allons donc les larmes et le processus de guérison ... et la confiance dans le Seigneur.

Comments

Peter said…
I took a course on historiography in university. Historiography examines the way history has been written by a society, and invariably, it is an exercise to some degree in history as community-building--history is never objective. Ever.

I was reminded of the "consensus" model of history that North America employed up until the 1960s. Here, history was written in such a way as to denote that more or less everyone agreed that the way society went was the way they wanted it to go. It left out dissenting voices, such as the poor, Aboriginals, blacks, etc.

I see a history something like that emerging again, in films such as Argo, and in what you so eloquently described as capitalist values surmounting everything else in the national discourse (same here in Canada, btw). It is ugly, and it is dangerous, as you have suggested. Now, the marginalized include those who have different values, but who otherwise more or less fit society's norms.

These are dark, dark times, indeed.
RJ said…
And so in small ways that are faithful and kind, we shine as an alternative, yes? Blessings to you, my man!

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