Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Goodness

A warning.  I'm going to post twice today...I can feel it already.  E and I have been cuddled under blankets in front of the TV for the last 2.5 hours (we don't turn heat on at this end of the house...we like to live the way the pioneers did--other than the whole HD TV, of course!),  As always, I've been completely caught up in the pagentry, the collegiality of the participants.  Gracious, though at moments also pointed, toward the former President, President Obama, with his Kenyan relatives, his Indonesian sister, his black family surrounding him, first took a rather bungled oath (the chief justice, who really should know it by heart, mis-ordered the first phrase.  I mean, even I know it's 'faithfully execute the office of President of the United States,' not 'execute the office...faithfully!').  Then our 44th president spoke to the massive crowd of this massively important moment.  Not simply the historic nature of his asendency, of this turbulent storm our country is trying to raft through.  When he listed everything that comprises that storm, it sounded tsumani-like.  Impossible to come out the other side of, but somehow the very presence of those millions of people (J who's there, thinks there are many more than the 4 million predicted.  He couldn't even get close to the mall, sadly.) made me feel the hope everyone is talking about.  One man alone standing on the capital steps can't change direction for an entire country.  It's those standing shoulder to shoulder in the cold, those sitting in coliseums watching jumbo-trans, it's kids in classrooms (SK at her university, Beve in a history class at the high school), their classes suspended for this moment, people in restaurants, people home alone, cuddled under down comforters! 

The other day I had a conversation with my sister about the impulse to do good, to live ethically, to serve one's community and country.  For me, those impulses are founded on my faith, my sense that we were created by and belong to God, who is essentially good. Our goodness as response to the Good He is and does.  But my life experience tells me that there are many, many people--including my sister--who are moved to good without an eternal perspective.  Benjamin Franklin (I'm reading one of his biographies at the moment) believed that God--whatever God that might be to a person--was best served by doing good works and helping people.  "His morality was build on a sincere belief in leading a virtuous life, serving the country he loved, and hoping to achieve salvation through good works...a belief in the link between private virtue and civic virtue...and led him to suspect that these earthly virtues were linked to heavenly ones as well."

This view falls short, in my mind, because discounts the cornerstone of good works, "Without faith, good works is dead," Paul tells us.  But to be fair, today it feels like all those who who bend with MLK's 'arc toward justice,' will participate in a sea change for this country, for this world.  It is true that God uses the righteous and the unrighteous, and, in this moment, I stand with all those--within the Kingdom, and without--to see a better world.  Yes, evil is always with us, the enemy has not been defeated, but He is not the last word, and I love that.  I love that God uses even those who think they are the authors of their own lives.  And I believe that this goodness of all people, the impulse to do justly, can (will!) lead people to THE Good.  And this is my hope today--that goodness, that good works will be a pulley, in this country and this world, to THE good that is God.

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