samedi, octobre 14, 2006

Hunting and Havens

I live in an area where hunting is a part of normal life (for humans, and, I suppose, for birds of prey). It used to be, a friend of mine tells me, that the local public schools were on holiday the first day of hunting season-maybe now that's what they call an "in service day." When I run down past the lake in the increasingly chilly and dark afternoons, I often encounter archers or men in camouflage carrying shotguns. Although I am aware than about 40 percent of American householders own guns, I still feel a shiver of fear when I run past the hunters. Donning my perkiest smile, I give them a friendly "hey there"-and let the adrenaline push me up the steep hill towards houses, and lights, and places where the inhabitants take their meat out of the freezer in a form that little resembles the animal from which it came. I can understand why hunting deer around here might be necessary. I can comprehend eating the meat of the creature one has shot. I just cannot understand getting pleasure from killing it. We have several deer that visit our little development. Last week the kids pointed to one, quietly resting in our backyard. As I mowed the lawn late that afternoon, it sat there observing me-and didn't move far when I got close to it. Eventually the little brown animal with the pointy ears moved back into the trees, where it munched on fall leaves and watched me as I mowed-up and around, diagonally and at an angle, making a game out of what can often seem a chore. As I watched the mower dissect the grass and blazing fall leaves into mulch, I pondered the beauty of the scene, happy that this tame young deer found, at least for an evening, a fire free zone in a dangerous month.

vendredi, octobre 13, 2006

Some thoughts on forgiveness: From this past Wednesday's Inquirer

Posted on Wed, Oct. 11, 2006
Everyday forgiveness By Elizabeth Evans
Students of Amish practice have said much recently about the stunning way in which the plain people incarnate the practice of forgiveness. As I watched that forgiveness in action, I wondered: Can a typcial Christian like me draw some meaning from this tragedy in ways that have everyday consequences? Can I learn from my brothers and sisters in Christ?
If the Amish seem different, it is because in some ways, in their insularity and ascetic practice, they take the words of the New Testament more seriously than many of the vocal advocates for "family values" and cultural conservatism or liberal proponents of peace and social justice. If we really took Jesus at his word, we'd find ways to build bridges with our ideological opponents, not slam them.
How many times have Christians heard Jesus' injunction to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44)? How many of us could have met, as Amish families reportedly have, with the widow of Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who shot their children?
Are you feuding with a coworker? Taking sides in a family quarrel? In everyday circumstances far less traumatic, we as individuals have many opportunities, not to just practice forgiveness, but to encourage others to lay down the burden of vengefulness and hatred.
However faithful we are in church attendance, we tend to face sickness, loss and disability out of the public eye. We feel it's something better kept within our nuclear families.
But our Amish neighbors have a historical heritage of enduring affliction for their faith that may make them stronger in the face of suffering. This puts them squarely in the tradition of the early Christians to whom the author of I Peter (4:13) wrote: "Rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed."
None of us would choose grief, nor would we wish it on others - yet life offers us many opportunities to draw deeper meaning from bad fortune and tragedy, instead of taking refuge in drug and alcohol abuse, cynicism or despair.
As we become more and more dependent on our electronic toys to build relationships with others, we run the risk of losing the interdependent threads that make renewal possible, not just for individuals, but also for communities. There, too, the Amish show us a promising way forward.
By offering mutual help when it is necessary, the Amish truly bear one another's burdens: "The body does not consist of one member but of many" (I Cor. 12:14).
I suspect that if you look around, you will find someone in your area, someone you already know, in need of a bag of groceries, or a ride to the doctor, or just a listening ear. Beyond that, we could all benefit, both in city and suburb, from the sense that a healthy community is a reciprocal responsibility.
For those of us who get caught up in the troubles that currently afflict mainline Protestant denominations, there may be a wider moral in observing how the Amish community faced tragedy together.
As I sat down to write this column, I got an e-mail from the "Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion." I had never heard of them, but they described themselves as a "catalyst for the survival of a strong Anglican presence" and invited Episcopal clergy to join them in preparing for a formal schism.
Reading this missive, I smiled wryly. The Amish, who do not use computers, let alone electricity, would never have gotten such an e-mail, with its call to arms on behalf of the "true faith. A church "revolution" could occur, and the Amish would miss it.
Living without electricity, automobiles and televisions is a small price, perhaps, for the peace that no individualistic and schismatic American denomination can truly promise its members - the peace that the world cannot give.
The Amish probably wouldn't take credit for any of these ideas. Instead, they would point fellow Christians back to our roots in the life and teachings of the man we call Savior. In the weeks to come, "English" Christians may want to renew their acquaintance with him.
Elizabeth Evans lives and writes in Glenmoore.
© 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

mardi, octobre 10, 2006

Gridlock with an order of fries?

If the Democrats take control of the House and/or Senate in November...For those of us who have felt shut of the democratic process for what? twelve years? this notion has all the wistful quality of a phrase like "If I win the lottery" or "if the newspapers would stop covering Terrell Owens" (maybe you have to live in Philadelphia to feel that way about TO's yen for melodrama, but I doubt it). Those of us who tend to vote Democrat have to look way far back to remember the good old days when the party ruled the halls of Congress and...very often made a big mess of it. There was a fair amount of corruption in Congress when the opposition was in power-it's just what happens when one party is in power for too long and nobody else can rein them in. It was the Democrats who got us into Vietnam, was it not? Now it is a Republican President who took us into Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died. I think that's the thing that infuriates and saddens me the most-how dare we destroy a people in the name of democracy? As far as I am concerned, those who approved of this war have blood on their hands. Then there is the whole question of what we have done to ourselves in the name of "the war on terror." When history judges George Bush (let alone the God with whom he claims such close friendship) will it be as a man of vision, even if a failed one? Or will it be as a man of limited imagination and black and white thinking who managed to rule a country with a witches brew of secrecy and fright ? Frankly, I could care less. What bugs me is: why did our Democrat and Republican elected reps let him trample all over our civil liberties? Clearly, this was a tremedously conservative Congress-in many ways, more so than even a lot of Republicans. In addition, they had a vision and a plan. The Republicans were bent on cutting taxes-some of it because they really have faith that it will help the economy and that the gains trickle down to the poor. Although green Republicans are a growing voting bloc, particularly in the suburbs, Americans could not hope for much from this phenomenally pro-business and anti-environment Administration. Given that the ranks of the poor are growing, and African Americans tend to be disproportionately represented, it also would be challenging to suddenly transform the Republican party into the party of Lincoln-or even the party of Gerald Ford. But it is amazing that so many in both political parties let the President trample on both the prerogatives of the Congress and of the courts. All this to say-there is a lot of work to do-particularly on problems like global warming. The question is: can the Democrats restore some health to this dysfunctional mess? With this particular White House, their options are limited. They haven't been able to agree on a strategy for getting us out of Iraq-although that shot across the bows from conservatives is a bit of smoke and mirrors, because the Republicans don't have one, either. And they've never been as good at party unity as the Republicans. If the Dems take the House and/or the may be that the best we can hope for is that they curb the machinations of a White House feeling the consequences of its kingly view of the power of the Chief Executive. It may be a while before we can ask for anything more. Who ever thought obstructionism would look this appealing?