We want to create a context of dignity for suffering people. To do so, it is essential to put our fingers on the pulse of our own hearts and make sure our own context of dignity is intact.
Roshi Joan Halifax
We are very mixed up kids. So much in the news points to how mixed up we are. The other day a photograph was put out on a television programme of an American teenage girl aged about 16 or 17, posing with a rifle in one hand and a bible in the other. After we had had a moment to take that in another picture was placed beside the first one, of a young Jihadist girl in exactly the same pose as the American girl held and of about the same age, holding a rifle in one hand and a copy of the Koran in the other. There didn’t need to be any commentary. The pictures were better than a thousand words.
I lived in the USA for a year from 1966 to 1967 and loved it although in some ways it was a fearsome time. My father was teaching at an American college. Although it was in the east, in Pennsylvania, tensions between some of the black and white students were so heightened that there was a curfew in the town every night from 11pm onwards. It was the middle of the Vietnam War. I met a student who went off to the war and came back in a wheelchair. Both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated in those twelve months. And, as usual, the reaction to the shootings was that something needed to be done about the ease with which people could buy a gun in the US, whilst those against gun control shouted as loudly from the opposite corner. There was a bumper sticker that was very popular on cars at this time. It said,
God and guns made this country great. Let’s keep it that way.
Here’s another bit of news that shows how mixed up we are. Today we heard from an Oxfam report that the richest one percent of all the people in the world will soon own as much as the other ninety-nine percent and that eighty-five people in this world are as wealthy as the poorest half of the world. This seems absolutely outrageous and almost unbelievable. But Oxfam tells us it is the case, and of course, along with money goes power.
What would Jesus say?
We in the west and we who are so well heeled are so good at taking the moral high ground, but, as the quotation by Roshi Joan Halifax at the top of this blog says if we (really) want to create a context of dignity for suffering people, we have to look at ourselves first. It is no use our pointing to the speck of dust in someone else’s eye when we have a log in our own. It is no use bemoaning the injustice in the world when we are part of that injustice and do not see it and then having seen it, do not speak out against it. One of the greatest indignities we place on suffering people is to see them as charitable cases rather than human beings who have a right to live decent lives. We need to look at ourselves and see how in need we are of charity. Someone needs to help us to face ourselves and learn that we have a lot to learn about being really human, human beings. Thanks be to God, for Jesus Christ!
The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.