This piece began with the story of one individual. This person prefers to remain private so the elements of their story necessary to understand the remainder of this piece are only listed here. If the person who inspired this piece changes their mind, the details of an extraordinary life can be easily included. This is one of the better pieces I’ve received and want to share it with you despite the missing details of the one who inspired it.
This person was born to a couple out of wedlock and was thus labeled ‘illegitimate.’ His route to school was difficult due to the distance and the condition of roads and bridges he must cross. Healthcare was unaffordable which further limited this person’s physical mobility. Electricity was not available at home and had to be pilfered by sitting outside electrified homes. Food was often not available at home either and they had to do without. The person migrated from one country to another to get an education and escape poverty. Some people in America label migrants as ‘illegals.’ His educational success has been remarkable. Many in this country hold out such exceptions, like Obama and Oprah and that one black, female, formerly poor, or queer person in the office, as “proof” of the equality of opportunity, social mobility, and the irresponsibility of the unsuccessful. That fallacy is partly what this piece is about.
To bring this point home to the United States, I’d also like to tell you the story of a man named Rob. Like many white Americans, his life has been immensely easier than the person described above. No one ever questioned Rob’s legitimacy, legality, opportunity, or direction. Every bridge was safe and the lights were always on. He followed the instructions as they were laid out, got an education, and a job. When he found himself in trouble with the law for excessive drinking, the reputation of his grandfather, his father, and the family money helped to limit any trouble to an inconvenience. He now owns his home, can earn more money than he needs, eats well, and is blessed with a fully-functional healthy body. Many people similar to Rob think of themselves as self-made, responsible, hard-working individuals. They have achieved their surplus, they believe, by the sweat of their brow and are entitled to everything they possess. There have surely been times more difficult than others but our dissatisfaction, impatience, and inconvenience do not rise to the level of hardship by most standards. While our lives, and the lives of our children, become easier and easier, generation after generation, the lives of many grow more and more difficult.
Both Rob and the person described above have at least one thing in common. Both are persons of faith and baptized as Christians. The name we spoke at the moment of baptism transcends borders, wealth, and achievement. Jesus may act preferentially for the poor but has always hoped for the quick and earnest conversion of the rich. In the Kingdom that Jesus came to describe to us, there are no nation-states. Everyone is legal and legitimate. No one is threatened because of the place of their birth or residence. Everyone has access to food, housing, health care, and education. Wealth is held in common which means it is not held by anyone at all. No one acquires more than is necessary to sustain a healthy, secure life. Money procures neither eternity nor immortality. The Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven, is never luxurious but always sufficient. The yoke is Light for those who will look and see.
When the person told me their story, they said, “In my homeland, access to school was made easy for the rich and difficult for the poor.” The same can be said in America. For example, the rich and comfortable never have to risk their life to cross a bridge to get to school nor steal light to do their homework. Access to health care is a given. They may be unhappy, dissatisfied, disgruntled, and impatient with their progress, but their progress is the norm; not the exception. In that ease, and its likelihood, lies the trap which entraps us all, rich and poor alike.
Our ancestors (un)intentionally colonized us into a Matrix from which we have yet to escape. Humanity’s concepts of money, profit, debt, and ownership detach us from the web of Life which sustains us. That this present economy is unhealthy for us is, to many, so obvious, and sadly so widespread, they feel powerless and overwhelmed to effect any change. Partly because we, as individuals, feel so small, and insist on the feeling of personal achievement for short-term outcomes, few attempt to try. We are also hindered by a society that educates to content and outcomes, as well as the language of content and outcomes, rather than the methods to learn; the possibilities of uncertainty, discomfort and challenge; the process of loving, interpersonal relationships; and the abilities to think critically and abstractly. Without these abilities, from within the Matrix, we can hardly imagine alternatives beyond the narrow field we think we see before us; much less our power to change it. Those who wish to eliminate universal public education hope you never gain the ability. Humans so equipped would quickly see the false reality created by the moneyed economy which stands in direct contradiction to God’s Economy and the kingdom of heaven on earth. It has been preached, professed, called for, and witnessed yet we tarry to bring it about. We choose the easy path, follow the instructions, and wait: a euphemism for ‘delay’ or ‘postpone.’
Many of the founders of this nation, as well, imagined a democracy based on equality, justice, and freedom for all. But over the centuries their heirs seem to have lost the aspiration. Our democracy, for example, would be more fully realized if suffrage were universal. But the people as leaders do not demand it and the politicians who lead them seem strangely unwilling to offer it. In fact some strive to limit the opportunity wherever they can.
Many Americans have come to twist the definition of ‘justice.’ Rather than fairness and freedom from government oppression, it is now rendered as severe punishment for disobedience. ‘Freedom’ has been twisted from a life of responsible self-restraint to one of unfettered self-interest. ‘Equality’ once meant the elimination of an aristocracy and the peasantry but now is watered down to an equality of opportunity. Which is, in our present economy, as meaningless as a thoroughbred and a hamstrung pony being born on the same day. Everything afterward is intrinsically un-equal. Those who prefer inequality cannot imagine the possibility that great poverty and great wealth could both be seen as misfortune. Poverty due to its intrinsic hardship and wealth for the weakness and shame of one willing to deprive others to satisfy their own need for over-consumption.
Our current economy and government strives to deny the universality of education, health care, and voting rights (i.e. democracy). Anything that can be privatized will be from education and health care to military contractors and imprisonment. Some would argue that elections and political office have been privatized as well. Private industry has but one obligation and it is not the constitutional one to honor civil and human rights. The exceptionality of a few may assuage the rich of the inclusivity of their club, but the truth is that the poor outnumber the rich simply because a Matrix, a false reality, has been constructed through money, profit, ownership, and debt to allow some to take and withhold more than their share while others crawl across bridges, pilfer when possible, and walk cross-country to seek escape and survive. Money has corrupted our planet, our health, our families, our spirits, and our governance. The corrosion it brings about will eventually destroy culture and civilization if not before the vitality of the planet is first destroyed. Before these outcomes are reached, let’s bring about something which seems to us very new but is in fact very old.
During periods of great distress, be prepared, for an opening may soon appear. We will never be liberated until enough people approach the tipping point. This approach takes time and courage. The path is more difficult to imagine than it is to walk. Rather than to set your sights for income, the rate at which you acquire, and wealth, the amount which you accumulate, always towards MORE, seek the middle. Sometimes this will mean the exercise of your freedom to choose less. True freedom includes a wide range of options; some easier and some worse than others. If all legal options were considered good, we would no longer be free nor ethical. Choose well. You too will see that what is true can also be real: the kingdom of heaven, the garden of Eden, the beloved community, is both not yet and already. It is beneath your feet, surrounding your body, above your head, and within your heart. Shalom is waiting for you. The quiet revolution of the heart has been ongoing from Moses to Christ to King to present. As long as Life and Love continue, it will too. Please join. Many have and there is room for many more. Blessings to you and to all those you love.