Sunday, January 9, 2011

the significance of daily life: random ramblings

I heard a comment recently from a person about how he has heard over the years a number of sermons defaming Harry Potter and its use of "witchcraft."
My initial reaction was to laugh and dismiss the criticisms as basic remnants of 17th century superstitions.
But then, I began to think about it more.
My first question to these critics would be whether they have taken the time to read the works. The Harry Potter series is more than just "witchcraft" - it deals with important 'themes' of death, love, friendship, "good" persevering despite the odds, and many other aspects of daily life with which people of all ages struggle.

The books also reflect on the dangers of living in fear, the importance of relationships through times of trouble, and even violence. (For example, Rowling continuously emphasizes the gifts of each individual character to the plot of the story. The forbidden spells/curses are the ones that torture or kill one's opponent.)
I have read multiple reflections about the de-humanizing effects of violence, but I remember Rob Bell's reflections the clearest. In reflecting on the wider subjects of torture, and war, and the Holocaust, he discusses how the effects of torture and murder do not just impact the victim; the inhumane aspects of the acts implicate the doer of the deeds and spread throughout society which remained silent and did not protest. (On a side tangent, how long do brides continue to expect diamond engagement rings when the high demand fuels wars and inhumane living conditions for workers in the industry?)
But how long does the church waste its breath on defaming Harry Potter and remain silent on sectarianism, senseless violence within our society, and the war policies instituted by our governments?

What happens when fear becomes such a part of daily life that society becomes complacent?
A topic that has come up over the past few days while I have been back in Belfast, is how the extraordinary became the ordinary during the Troubles.
When going out shopping in City Centre, one would not be able to park the car and leave it unattended along the road. A person had to be in the car at all times - unattended cars would be towed and often destroyed for fear of a bomb.
Another aspect of daily life was constant searches.
Examples:
- Automatically having your handbag ready to be searched when walking into a grocery store or shopping mall. (People would go to the South and walk into the store holding out their handbags at the ready... Only to realize how ridiculous they looked.)
- Being ready for a police stop while out driving. (Even today, police stops include armed officers holding submachine guns.)
In hearing Belfast residents reflect on some of these "symptoms" of the Troubles, the general comments revolve around how awful it was that it all just felt like normal life. That after awhile, one grew complacent about all of the bomb threats and scares; while they were scary, it still became part of the ordinary. (A believable excuse when one was late to work was "there was a bomb threat.")

There is still a lot to be learned about what happened in Tucson, Arizona over the weekend. But what is important that we recognize the symptoms of the times and choose to not remain silent. (And realize the larger implications that this "symptom" draws attention to.)
We cannot grow complacent about the fear, the bigotry, the violence, and the extremism in our globalized world. We cannot distance ourselves from them. We must wake up and realize we are in the year 2011. That superstitions about witchcraft were due to the ignorance of our ancestors. (Censorship of Huckleberry Finn is a topic for another day.)
Becoming complacent about daily life is not how we are called to live. We must realize just how closely this world is connected. Whatever the results of the elections in South Sudan, we must realize that we have been implicated in being bystanders over the past decades as men, women, and children were killed in the name of religion all over the world.

The significance of daily life is that we realize the presence of God in it. That despite the cruelty that humans can have towards one another, God is calling us to choose civility and compassion. That in all of the hate, sadness, and maddening injustices of the world, that we stand together, in relationship with one another, despite our differences, and we carry this message out to the world.
So take some time to yourself in quiet reflection as you are reading this. Reflect on your place in this world. Think about how your words or daily actions might contribute towards hurting your neighbor. Sometimes it's not what we did, but rather, what we didn't do.
(I am not exempt from this self-examination.)
The importance is that we try to heed the call to mend bridges, heal wounds, provide comfort, and move forward together. Through it all, providing the much needed support for one another. And hopefully in the process, we can discover our true selves and what humanity really means.
Therein lies the significance of daily life.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I leave you in grace and peace with these words of Stringfellow:

"The restoration of the original identity of a person - in all its particularities and all its relationships, in the totality of its political significance - the renewal of a person's wholeness, which is the initiation into holiness, is utterly the effort of the Word of God... Instead of being somehow transported "out of this world," rather than indulging abstinence, evasion, or escapism, rather than fabricating some isolation or separation or privatism, the irony in being holy is that one is plunged more fully into the practical existence of this world, as it is, than in any other way." - William Stringfellow

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