Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Acting Upon the Revelation

From The Witness; "Joseph the Righteous" by Elizabeth Morris Downie:

...Joseph's righteousness, however, was deeper and more profound than simply observing laws and customs. It was a righteousness that grew out of God's presence in his life, a righteousness that allowed him to hear the angelic voice of his dream and obey its commands. As a righteous man, he could look directly at the reality which now confronted him, see it and all its implications fully, and do God's bidding without regard for his own reputation. He could accept the angel's word that the child was of the Holy Spirit; he could accept the duty, usually assumed by the mother, of naming the baby.

Matthew's narrative doesn't record a single word from Joseph, in marked contrast to Luke's record of Mary's “Let it be with me according to your word.” Joseph just acts upon the revelation received in his dream.

Can Joseph's clear view of reality call us to open our eyes and act upon the revelations we have received? Too many Christians in America today are mired in pretense and denial. We pretend that everything is going to be OK when the crescendo of evidence that all is far from well grows to a deafening level. We effectively deny the reality of what we have allowed the economic and political structures of our country to become. We do our best to apply band-aids to the wounds right under our noses, with our food banks and other charities. But we refuse to see the systemic problems, and we refuse to address them. We would have to risk our comfortable positions in society, to give up what we have come to believe is ours.

Clearly the most dangerous of our coping mechanisms is denying our own roles as Christians in the public arena. When progressive Christians remain silent, there are no religious voices in the public arena except those of the far Right, and we are seeing the havoc they are wreaking in the lives of our least affluent sisters and brothers–under the banner of “moral values.” We cannot remain wordless; we must speak up with the clear sight of Joseph and the willingness to risk all that Mary offered to God. Like these parents of the Christ Child, we look for the coming of the Commonwealth of God, and like them we must be ready to act.
From the January 2005 Harper's Index:

Years since the Justice Department last released the number of U.S. terror suspects taken into "preventive detention": 3

Estimated number of people who have been taken into detention since then: 4,000

Factor by which an Iraqi is more likely to die today than in the last year of the Hussein regime: 2.5

Factor by which the cause of death is more likely to be violence: 58
From the Guardian; US faces new torture claims...

The US government was today facing fresh allegations that its soldiers seriously abused and tortured prisoners in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay.

The revelations came in US government documents released yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The group got the documents - some dated after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal - as part of a lawsuit accusing the government of being complicit in torture.

FBI agents witnessed prisoners being beaten, choked and having lit cigarettes placed in their ears, the New York Times reported...
From the National Coalition for the Homeless;

In 2001, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' survey of homelessness in 27 cities found that children under the age of 18 accounted for 25.3% of the urban homeless population (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2001). This same study found that unaccompanied minors comprised 4% of the urban homeless population. However, in other cities and especially in rural areas, the numbers of children experiencing homelessness are much higher. On a national level, approximately 39% of the homeless population are children (Urban Institute 2000)...
From Bread for the World's February 2004 Hunger Report;

...People are considered food insecure and at risk of hunger in the United States when they do not know where their next meal will come from, or have to cut back on the types and amount of food they eat because they do not have enough money. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's most recent survey, nearly 35 million Americans live in homes at risk of hunger - about 2 million more people than the year before...
There's much more to be outraged about going on right now, but that's enough for today, I suppose. As we prepare for the coming of the Christ child, who do we say that he is? Is he our personal Savior, or the Savior of the world? If the latter, then I think we have some work to do. We are the hands of Christ in the world today. We are the voice for those who have none. The light of Christ that is enkindled within our hearts is intended to shine out to the world.

There is some risk involved in challenging systemic problems. People may feel that you are threatening their place in the sun, or at least their promised tax cut. They might revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you...but if not us, then who?

My salvation is yoked with yours. And with the prisoners in Gitmo and Iraq. And with the families freezing tonight. And with the child who is crying himself to sleep because his empty tummy hurts.

Rejoice! Our Savior draws near. Be ready to act.


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