We Christians believe that we have a moral obligation to point to the pain that the rest of the world can’t see. Others may stroll past the suffering, but we stop and stare, take up an offering, make an appeal and collect blankets, sighing as we do our bit to alleviate some of the misery. That life may not actually be rotten in our part of the world today only increases our guilt for our occasional lapses into joy. How dare we sing when others are sufffering?
A banner in the Alice Millar Chapel at Northwestern University features these two statements set off from each other: Do not DESPAIR one of the thieves was SAVED; Do not PRESUME one of the thieves was DAMNED. The couplet refers to the two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus, as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. The second half of the couplet, which is attributed to St. Augustine, is ambiguous. We could treat it as a command to presume that the second thief was damned. But I prefer taking the word presume as a synonym of assume: we should not necessarily assume that the second thief wasn’t saved. After all, Luke’s Gospel says nothing about his fate.
When Studs Terkel, described by Donna Seaman as “oral historian, writer of conscience and raconteur-on-a-mission,” died on Halloween in 2008, he left a tall stack of books behind him. None affected me more than one called Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.
In response to the religious leaders' concern that Jesus was welcoming
and associating with clearly unreligious people, Jesus told stories
about God's attitude toward such wayward folk, as we find in Luke 15, from which this week's Gospel reading comes.
Having lived in the town of Jonathan Edwards and his grandfather Solomon Stoddard for some 20 years, I’ve come to feel a kinship to the 17th- and 18th-century Puritan divines—as if they were relatives who somehow got left off my family tree.
Over 50 Muslim employees walked off the job at an Ariens manufacturing plant in Wisconsin after being told they no longer could take prayer breaks during the work day. Ariens, which manufactures lawn mowers and snowblowers, said they want Muslims to pray only during the usual ten-minute breaks that all employees get. “Nobody complained to us about our prayers,” one of the Muslims said. “People take breaks to go to the bathroom and nobody says anything about that.” A company spokesperson said the Muslims’ prayer breaks were disruptive on the assembly line (Daily Mail, January 20).