Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The measure of a person (or society)

How does one measure dominion, beauty wealth, power? The soul of every human being possesses within it the tendency to value those things that it likes, and to bow down to that which appears to be valuable. This is a test that everyone passes. How easy it is to be attracted by outward beauty, and how hard it is to remove the mask and penetrate to that which is inside. If a Greek poet, for example, had arrived at Samaria, the capital of the Kingdom of Israel, he would have been surprised and overcome with emotion; he would have praised and lauded in verse the idols, the beautiful temples and palaces which the kings of Israel and their ministers had built. But the prophet Amos, after visiting Samaria, did not sing, nor did he bow to the glory of the ivory buildings. When he looked at the buildings of carved stone, at the ivory temples and the beautiful orchards, he saw in them the oppression of the poor, robbery and plunder. External magnificence neither entranced him nor led him astray. His whole being cried out in the name of the Lord: “I loathe the pride of Jacob, and I detest his palaces." Could it be that the prophet Amos’s heart—the purest of that generation—was not captivated and did not tremble before beauty? Was the prophet Amos lacking all feeling and appreciation for beauty?

When the annual congress of the Nazi Party convened in Nuremberg in 1937, journalists from all over the world, such as The Times of London, described with enthusiasm the demonstrations of the various Nazi organizations. They could not find enough adjectives to praise the physical beauty, the order, the discipline, and the athletic perfection of the tens of thousands of young Nazis who marched ceremoniously and festively before the leader of the “movement.” These writers who were so excited by the exterior splendor lacked the ability to see the snakes in the form of humans—the poison that coursed through their veins, which not long after would bring death to millions of people.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 58-59

<idle musing>
Not a whole lot has changed in the last 85 years, has it? We still bow before the gods we've created, be they silicon or flesh. We embrace the lies and become zealous to route the enemy, which unfortunately, is all too often a neighbor or family member.

Even if we happen to be right, which is usually not the case!, we have no right to seek vengeance. As scripture says, "Vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord." Note that, it isn't ours. It is his. We, on the other hand, are called to pray for our enemies. And I don't mean praying an imprecatory psalm over them the way so many did over Obama. I mean a heartfelt concern for their spiritual and physical well-being.

And that just might mean doing something for them, too. Scary thought, isn't it? God might be calling you to embrace that person who disagrees with you! OK, scratch that, not he might be—he is callling you to embrace them.
</idle musing>

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