Christ "has broken down
the dividing wall. . . . that he might create in himself one new humanity in
place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in
one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it."
It was the last concert of the season. From my seat I could see the hands of the young Israeli pianist as she played Edvard Grieg’s piano concerto. The guest conductor was a Norwegian (like Grieg himself). The rest of the orchestra included Asians, African Americans and Anglos. Ah, I thought, music does bring people together!Then I was struck by another thought: my own field, theology, tends to drive people apart. In fact, it’s mostly intended to divide people. What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong is that in the apparently innocent effort to arrive at truth, theology inculcates pride, the very vice that Christians claim is the consummate sin.
Americans are obsessed with happiness. We are bombarded daily with images of things that promise at least temporary happiness—whether it’s a laundry detergent, a gourmet meal, an exotic vacation or a sexual triumph. Meanwhile, social scientists study whether we feel happy, and if not, why not.
My tradition of origin said, “Find a teacher.” My first teachers, of course, were my parents, especially my father, who taught me to paint a room, saw a board, read poetry during thunderstorms, climb tall logs in the playground and catch fish.
Our parents are our first and most important teachers, but they cannot teach us everything. Sometimes they are not equipped to teach us some things we need. Sometimes they teach us things that we do not need. So we move at age five or so to additional teachers.
Eleven-year-old Jennifer has invited her friend Claire to spend the day. Jennifer’s younger sister, Laurie, who is eight, is trying to keep up with the older girls. None of them has any interest in Claire’s six-year-old brother, Michael, who is staying with them for about 15 minutes.
What is the most important spiritual gift that we can pass on to our children? What will protect them against the evil welling up within themselves, expressed in the senseless violence they now perpetrate against one another? They need the power of God, the armor of Christ, and the knowledge that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Each day’s newspaper seems to carry yet another story about a shooting by or of children, whether by accident or intention, on the street or at school, from gang violence or by a lone gunman. We understand some of the reasons behind these events: the pervasive and extreme violence which is constantly portrayed in the mass media, and the easy availability of weapons.