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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Sins of Economics: Ash Wednesday Liturgy

Today my dad, W. D., and I went to the Episcopalian Ash Wednesday Service at noon in St. Joseph's Chapel in Salado.  Each of us had found our way into such unheard-of settings in the years since I left home, but this is the first time we ever shared an Ash Wednesday service.  It was obvious to me that we were in Texas when the celebrant reached a point in the liturgy when he repeated three times, "LammaGod, who takes away the sins of the world."  Of course, that is what the shift to vernacular languages is all about.

The Litany of Penitence pressed our hearing ears toward the personal and corporate sinfulness that brought down the economy.
Our self-indulgent appetites and ways and our exploitation of other people, we confess to you, Lord.
Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves, we confess to you, Lord.
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work, we confess to you, Lord.
I was forced to remember that an entire culture and milieu fed the speculative, overreaching consumption of the past few decades.  I have been guilty of spending what I did not have, willing to buy underpriced goods and commodities while turning a blind eye toward the exploitative global systems of low wages, workplace dangers, and child labor.  I have to admit the temptation to muse about how much better I would do with millions of dollars than the greedy Wall Street bandits have been--no doubt a dangerous self-deception.  There is plenty of blame to go around.
For the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, accept our repentance, Lord.
For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, accept our repentance, Lord.
For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, accept our repentance Lord.
Even so, with plenty of blame to go around, this week's interactions in Washington, DC, between the Showdown in America movement, the state attorneys general, federal regulators, and bankers, bring our attention to the abuse of structures by robber barons.  One of the most troubling absences of moral conscience is the attitude of brokers and financiers who operated on the assumption that they would "get theirs" before the house of cards began to collapse.  Too many were willing to stretch the system to its breaking point with little concern that children and families would lose their homes, that elderly people would lose their pensions, that workers would be laid off, and that many banks would fail. 

One of the most haunting interviews I heard was on This American Life, in a program called "Crybabies." The relevant part of the show is Act One, "Wall Street:  Money Never Weeps."  It took place in a bar filled with financial executives who a year after the economy crashed were angry with government for proposing regulations on their freedom to do whatever the hell they want to do to make a dollar.  None of the Wall Street executives and managers interviewed would accept any of the fault for the economic collapse and its effects on millions of people.  None of them felt that there might be an injustice in the fact that their bonuses got bailed out while millions more who had nothing to do with killing the economy lost homes and jobs.  Instead, one man had the gall to claim that it was right to bail out his job because he is smarter than everyone else and deserves to continue to be in charge of the economic fortunes of the rest of us.
We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ.
We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sins of Economics: Ash Wednesday Liturgy
Many Psychologists agree that the first step to addiction recovery is to acknowledge there is a problem. As a nation, we know that there is a problem but we refuse to take responsibility. We are like that rambunctious drunk uncle at the family reunion that blames everybody for his problems never reflecting on how he has hurt his children, parents and siblings. I see why the interview on This American Life to took place in a bar. We are a nation of spendaholics.
-Gordon McKinney

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