Friday, November 2, 2012

Corruption Among Us: A Response to Despair

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Looking back on yesterday's essay it seems more than a little ironic that the topic was corruption leaving Wall Street and walking down Main Street.  Frankly, I didn't plan on talking about a plague of corrupting influences on the afternoon of Halloween.   

The more I think about it, however, the more it makes sense to me that all those monster movies online and on the television, combined with the ghoulish images the candidates are throwing up of each other, would have driven me toward this theme.


This morning I got another dose of it when a friend and colleague of mine, Don Sewell, was talking about a medical crisis he had been informed of by colleagues in another country.  

Don is director of Baylor Health Care System's (BHCS) Faith in Action Initiatives, a position that challenges him daily to respond to the needs of individuals and communities around the world undergoing humanitarian crises.  

His work, with the strong support of BHCS' senior leaders, its employees and a dedicated corps of Faith in Action employees and volunteers, is making a difference literally all over the world.

Don's counterpart in country  was deeply disturbed at an outbreak of  a condition she feared might be leprosy. 

When Don showed photos and shared a description with a doctor, however, who has experience in public health and disaster relief, the initial answer came back that this was not an outbreak of leprosy, but something more mundane.

It appears that the particular medical condition is related to a bacteria in the soil, one that grows in settings where people who don't have access to clean water and sanitation facilities.  

The solution is simple, and the postive effect on a community's health can be dramatic.  Yet it calls for aid agencies to recognize the problem and to directly address it as a top priority.  Sending more first aid kits and care packages will do nothing to stop the infection that is attacking individuals.  

I couldn't help thinking of the question with which I ended my article yesterday. "How can we resist the devil in times like these?"


More now than at any other time in my life I think that we who say we believe in a loving God are being challenged to resist the corruption that has infected the very soil of our social, cultural and spiritual lives.

That corruption, as I said yesterday, does NOT come from any group of people in this land who are the "enemy."  It goes much deeper and its source is rooted in a spiritual perversion that wants to distort the nature of love until it is twisted completely out of true.

And no matter how many spiritual band-aids we attempt to put on the problem, no matter how many scapegoats we find to blame, these corrupting influences will not disappear until we change tactics and begin to clean up our own spiritual houses and fields.

In times like these, when powerful men seek to further inflate the perception of their power and goodness while simultaneously slandering not merely the goodness but the basic humanity of their opponents, it is easy to believe that love will not do, and that faith requires a "by any means fair or foul" mindset.  

The reality is just the opposite.  There is no time when ordinary women and men are called upon more to exercise faith in a God who reigns sovereign over all nations.  There is no more time when ordinary people need to commit themselves more to integrity, to honesty and to wisdom.


On the eve of the first world war, the great Christian mystic, Evelyn Underhill wrote the following:

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"Many will feel that in such a time of conflict and horror, when only the most ignorant, disloyal, or apathetic can hope for quietness of mind, a book (Practical Mysticism, published in 1914) which deals with that which is called the "contemplative" attitude to existence is wholly out of place."

Underhill went on to write that if the principles for which the book she was writing were to have any real value they had to show that they made a difference at just such a time as the time of war, of violence, of corruption and despair.  Such commitment to live in faith in times of crisis, said Underhill,

". . . will teach (us) to see the world in a truer proportion, discerning eternal beauty beyond and beneath apparent ruthlessness. It will educate (us) in a charity free from all taint of sentimentalism; it will confer on (us) an unconquerable hope; and assure (us) that still, even in the hour of greatest desolation, "There lives the dearest freshness deep down things."

I believe that the heart of the Christian faith is just this belief in a mystical union with God (Galatians 2:20) through Christ that joins our very lives with the life of God and binds us in union to one another, not to a nation or a political candidate.

Work as hard as you feel you must for your political candidate, but if you have any faith at all, do all you can to preserve your soul's integrity.  Pray as you work, and ask God to prepare you, on the day after the polls close, to put your whole heart into the work of loving service to others to which God has called you and me.

What else do you think that we ordinary individuals must do?

Born in Wolverhampton, England in 1875 Evelyn Underhill was educated at home and at King's College for Women. In 1907 she married Hubert Stuart Moore, also a barrister. In that year she also underwent an experience of conversion to Christianity. Much of the rest of her life became a quest to find the meaning of her early religious experiences. Throughout the rest of her life she moved from Neoplatonist to Theist to Christocentric Christian.

Underhill, Evelyn (2011-04-04). Practical Mysticism. Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

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