Friday, May 27, 2016

A Moral Revolution

"Flowers in the Wilderness"

Today President Obama gave a speech in Hiroshima, Japan. He laid a wreathe at the site of the devastating human destruction where an atomic bomb was dropped some 70 years ago. In his speech the President declared:

Technology as devastating as nuclear arms
demands a moral revolution.
Technological progress without a moral compass will doom us all.

I was very struck by the wisdom of the President’s call for a world-wide “moral revolution.”  This seems to me to be a much-needed message that speaks volumes to our contemporary “me-first” age of “rugged individualism” where the main focus for so many of us  is “self-interest,”  “becoming winners” and “being better than the other guy.” As I see it, all peoples and all nations need to recalibrate the direction of our lives according to the moral compass of compassion and kindness or we are indeed doomed.

In a fast-paced technological age where nuclear weapons can wipe out the human species with the press of a computer key and in a time when unrestrained poisoning of the climate can literally eliminate our planet earth, we all need to revolt against the “every man for himself” mentality that seems to have so infested every corner of the globe.

The poet and environmentalist, Wendell Berry, once put it this way:

‘Every man for himself’ is a doctrine for a feeding frenzy
or for a panic in a burning nightclub,
appropriate for sharks or hogs pot perhaps a cascade of lemmings.
A society wishing to endure must speak the language of
care-taking, faith-keeping,
kindness and compassion,
neighborliness and peace.  

This morning, as I read about President Obama’s call for a “moral revolution,” I was struck by the realization that this is exactly what Jesus called for almost 2000 years ago in his life and teachings about establishing what he called the kingdom of God. For Jesus, the Kingdom of God was not a place up in heaven where you would go after you died; rather this kingdom is a revolutionary new way of living here on this earth - a world order in which every human being is given a place of dignity at the table of life.  Jesus told his disciples that, if they would be his followers, they must continue his “revolution” and devote their lives to transforming this world into the Kingdom of God.

When I look back at the life and times of those very first, ancient Christians, I discover that they were indeed subversives and revolutionaries, feared and punished by the status quo because they were turning society upside down.

A few years ago the Boston Globe published an “Easter Sunday” editorial which wonderfully described the kind of radical moral revolution initiated by Jesus and those first Christians:

Those first century followers of Jesus dared to claim ‘Jesus is Lord,’
 a bold seditious claim that flew in the face of the standard, ‘Caesar is Lord.’
The coming of Jesus marked the end of Caesar’s way of doing things.
It established a new kingdom in which enemies are loved,
the marginalized are given a primary place and the poor are blessed.
In this new kingdom hierarchies are subverted,
prodigal children are welcomed home and all lives matter.

How odd that these core “revolutionary” teachings of Jesus and the early church would come to be so undermined, perverted and tamed down over the years, co-opted by the very institutions Jesus came to overthrow.

I believe that those of us who are “followers of Jesus” today would do well to recognize that we are participants in the great “revolution of compassion” Jesus first began. I also believe that you certainly don’t need to be baptized or even to be a believer of any sort to devote your life to the cause of transforming this world into the Kingdom of God—the future of our species may depend on it.

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