At a time when everything can be politicized, it is important to distinguish between what is a partisan statement and what is true by all verifiable standards.
For example, a recurring ad on CNN depicts a mask, or rather, several images of a mask. The accompanying wording is simple: "This is a mask. It is not a political statement. It's a mask."
Then there are the words of Dr. Fauci who in a recent National Geographic panel discussion, said: “We certainly are not where I hoped we would be; we are in the middle of very serious historic pandemic.” This is not a political statement but the informed opinion of one of top infectious disease experts in the world.
Another grim reality check comes from Keith Richardson, president of the American Postal Workers Union, Chicago, Local 1. “I’ve never seen anything like it... Some stations have so much mail backed up, it’s three times more than the volume you would see at Christmas.” This is not a political statement but a factual assessment as to how Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's policies have derailed USPS.
And then, today, at the protest on the National Mall, Rev. Al Sharpton had this to say: "It's time we have a conversation with America. We need to have a conversation about your racism, about your bigotry, about your hate, about how you would put your knee on our neck while we cry for our lives. We need a new conversation." This is not a political statement but a cry for America to face systemic racism and to pass legislation that will finally make good on "broken promises."
This is a time for putting national interests before partisan politics, a time for Truth seeking and Truth speaking, a time for being prophetic. Is it "being political" to be outraged by video footage of a white police officer pumping bullets into the back of an unarmed African American? Or to be disgusted at the sight of a 17 year old boy gunning down peaceful protesters in Kenosha with an assault rifle? Or to be stunned at Fox News host Tucker Carlson's defense of the gunman? What are we prepared to ignore, "white-wash" or excuse in the name of politics? When will be learn to be prophets who see with God's eyes and speak with God's voice, demanding justice for all?
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Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Those of you who wish to come after me must deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow me.
For those who wish to save their lives will lose them,
but those who lose their lives for my sake will find them.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his or her life?
Or what can one give in exchange for life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in God's glory, and then he will repay all according to their conduct.”
Short-term gains and long-term losses -- this just about sums up what we humans end up doing with our lives. From the time we're old enough to distinguish between "yours" and "mine," we're on the consumer path to wanting more, at any cost. Once we're clear about what we desire, we set goals and go after whatever it is -- a credential, a skill, an opportunity, a job, a promotion, a career move, a relationship, a bigger home, a flashier car, a more toned body, greater popularity, political success, artistic recognition, the most likes on social media... Now there is nothing wrong with any of these aspirations, but when we make them the focus of our lives, then, in effect, they become our idols. We can be so driven to achieve and to acquire, that we lose sight of everything else -- including our loved ones, including our health, including God...
We sacrifice everything for something finite -- for a few moments of pleasure, for the illusion of happiness, for fantasies of glory, for a mirage of wealth, for delusions of grandeur... Sometimes, we even sacrifice our integrity, believing that the ends justify the means. We make compromises, spout lies, flatter "the King" (or Queen), alter facts, live a lie. To make matters worse, we silence the prophets in our midst because we cannot bear to hear them speak truth. That, of course, was the fate of Jeremiah whose prophecies not only earned him disgrace, but also death threats, beatings, and incarceration in a dank cistern. Worn out in God's service, he was stoned and scourged, his bones twisted in the stocks. Tradition says he was ultimately murdered by his fellow countrymen while in exile.
Now, unlike some international heavyweights, few of us have the power to poison our critics or to let them rot in jail, but we have other ways of discounting those who would call us back to our senses. We mock them, insult them, question their intelligence, spread rumors about them, and close them out of our lives. In this way, we can continue to believe our own craftily concocted narratives and, like Shakespeare's King Lear, see ourselves "more sinned against than sinning." We cling to being right and refuse to consider other possibilities. Denial, it seems, is a typical human response, with few being able to stomach reality.
In his dialogue with his disciples, Jesus asks, "What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his or her life?" As Christians, we need to be able to distinguish between what is life-giving and what is death-dealing, between healthy goals and unhealthy obsessions. To what causes do we give our time and energy? What are we investing in? What are we neglecting as a result of our pursuit of "whatever"? Dr. Faustus, for example, sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and magical powers:
FAUSTUS: "Had I as many souls as there be stars,
I'd give them all for Mephistophilis.
By him I'll be great emperor of the world ..."
What is the state of our souls? To whom have we sold ourselves and why?