Thursday, March 01, 2007

Things fall apart

Chinua Achebe wrote a great novel more than a few years ago about the decay that can eat into us when we attempt to assert change while persisting in methods and attitudes that are hallmarks of the system we are striving to change. He depicts the overthrow of a dictator...and the Orwellian twist that takes the liberators into the depths-they become the same sort of oppressors that they were trying to eliminate.

Not a novel thought...and one that has worked its way out in liberation theology for the better part of a generation. Deeper credence is asserted to that reality when we take up reading folks like Freidman on systems theory, Allison on mimetic theology or even dig in to the more pop interpretations of the effect that quantum mechanics have on us and our universe.

Take the recent plunges in the stock markets. We are all holding our breath on these runs signal a recession? Is there something happening to the world economy? What does it all mean to me, with my paltry sums tied up in mutual funds, Roth IRAs and annuities? One commentator held up last night that the reality of our economic universe is turning, and that one clear indicator that the US economy is no longer the big kid on the block is that this whole thing started in China. "It used to be that when the US got a cold, China got pneumonia; now, when China gets a cold, then we get pneumonia."

So, the reality for us as human beings, in economic, geo-political or ecclesiological terms, is that things fall apart. We can only hold on to one way of doing things for so long before things change, parameters shift and we are challenged to adapt to a new environment.

It is almost too easy, and perhaps a bit sinful, to try to persist in patterns of behavior and discipline when the signifiers call for new patterns of response. When income drops, we can't keep spending, right? Absolutely, but we also have to take into account that some of that might be due to the fact that we did not anticipate a changing environment. Case in point, it was in the news this morning that the new casino industry in PA is generating more income than forecast. This makes our Governor happy, and means he can kick some of that revenue back into the system for property and income tax relief. But, what happens when the people losing money on the slots can't pay their mortgages? When the gambling culture takes its bite out of the areas they exercise trade in, with higher rates of crime and dropping property/tax revenue values...who foots that bill?

It is HARD to forecast what the system will, perhaps we can change the system.

Great idea...but tough to embrace. In the Anglican Communion, we are struggling with that in spades. The Communique' from the Primates' meeting in Tanzania, our PB's response and the wider engagement with the documents here at home (+Gene Robinson's response, +Bob Duncan's report to his diocese) and abroad (Anglican Church of Canada's statements and the synodical address by the ABC in England) all indicate that NO ONE really knows what is about to happen. We have tried to work our mojo out on a global scale in a context of NOT knowing how we all work in our individuality while presuming community. Now, we reap conflict.

Things fall apart. I am convinced that is not a bad thing. It is in fact a way of God loving us into change. By consistently reminding us, over and over, that just because we expect things to be a certain way does not mean that they will work out according to our will. Sometimes, we have to be willing to change. Sometimes, we have to be willing to change the system...and sometimes it takes a proverbial funeral or two before we are able to experience true resurrection.

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1 comment:

  1. Marshall,
    While reading your comments on change, I was reminded of an old unofficial definition of insanity: doing the same things over & over & over and getting the same bad results but expecting better.