-At the Desert Retreat House-
Now that we are moving into the season of Autumn, those rather annoying "campaign ads" are beginning to surface in the media. The other day a candidate for local office ran an anti-immigration ad in which a legalized citizen who had come to this country from Mexico decried how "unfair" it is to offer a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants, "I followed all the rules and I worked hard to become a citizen; it's not fair that we should embrace and offer refuge to those who cross the border by breaking all the rules."
Upon hearing this, I immediately remembered a time many years ago when I was a 10 year-old boy who had just moved into a new house and a new neighborhood. All the other kids on my street had lived there all their lives and they all knew each other well. In fact they had even constructed a little treehouse in the woods that served as a "members-only" clubhouse. I so very much wanted to play with them -I would have done anything to be allowed entry into the club. But I was told I had to prove myself before I could belong-when you are 10 years old, it's pretty painful to be told you don't belong.
After about a year of proving my worthiness, I was finally granted access - a full-fledged member in good standing. I had finally made it and it felt good.
A few months after that another new kid moved into the neighborhood, and like me when I first arrived, the new boy wanted to join us and be a member of our club. Some of the kids said, "sure, why not?" But I was horrified at this response - it just wasn't fair! I had worked hard to get in, I had suffered the pain of rejection, but I paid my dues and won myself a place. So I campaigned against the new boy until the others all agreed that he would also have to "prove himself" before he could belong.
When I was 10 years old I had learned how to speak the language of a self-centered ego, and ever since that time I have done my best to lose that ugly voice.
I think about the path of the Buddha and the way of Jesus. They preached a message that many established citizens would have thought was "unfair"- a message of radical acceptance and unrestrained compassion. They pointed a path that went in the opposite direction of the way accepted by established society.
Jesus would often get himself into trouble with the good religious people of his day by breaking all the temple rules as he shared illegal meals with outcasts and sinners and illicitly welcomed pagans and gentiles to sit at a place of equal dignity at the table of his life.
He once told a story about a vineyard owner who paid those who worked all day the exact same wage as those who had worked for only an hour at day's end. The religious people who heard the story were outraged and they railed against Jesus-- dismayed at how unfair the owner of the vineyard was. Everyone shouldn't have been treated with the same amount of generosity-those who worked longer should have been given more.
But Jesus told his detractors that this is how love works. Love is NOT fair! Love is lavish, abundantly generous, unrestrained and unbridled, and he invited those who would follow his "way" to be just as generous in their own lives.
A few years back Andrew Lloyd Weber wrote a song about how "Love changes everything." Every time I hear it I think about just how unfair love really is:
Love bursts in and suddenly all wisdom disappears.
Love makes fools of everyone; all the rules we made are broken.
Yes, love changes everything; live or perish in it's flame
Love will never ever let you be the same.