Negotiating with Chance

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Creative Commons {Take A Chance}” by Jennifer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The future is open (not pre-ordained). Our future depends on our ability to negotiate with Chance. 

Mark 10:14 “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.” (CEB)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

The Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice (Kingdom of God), arising out of centuries of Jewish thought, is an ingenious response to the indeterminacy of the universe.

Daniel Matt in his presentation on Cosmology and Judaism suggests:

“Meanwhile here we are. We still have quite a while [until the Sun collapses]. The will be no final perfection. No one has arranged the future ahead of time. Nothing is preordained. Chance will play a leading role in the way things unfold, as it always has. We should learn to negotiate with Chance. We should learn to mend our own brokenness – our social fabric, our planet – as best we can.”

The Commonwealth is our strategy for negotiating with Chance – a plan for mending our own brokenness.

Human society by nature is broken. There seem to be two strategies – both with the approval of some religious societies – for dealing with the brokenness. One strategy is to grasp onto a partial solution that, in the past, has worked for a larger portion of society and establish it as a moral mandate. The other strategy suggests a continual alteration of responses that grow in complexity as human life becomes more complex.

The current political rhetoric among U.S. Republican presidential candidates demonstrates the more limited strategy. Fear energizes arrested development. Fear of losing the ability to negotiate leads to positing a limited response as a universal demand. The “logic” of the rhetoric is difficult to accept:

Since serial monogamy (between one man and one woman) has been an accepted norm, let’s mandate that form of marriage for all – thus keeping the universe “moral.” Ignore the high divorce rate and family break-ups among heterosexual marriage partners… Ignore the deeply committed relationships demonstrated by so many gay and lesbian partnerships… Ignore the damage done by a social atmosphere that prejudices babies born out of wedlock and single mothers. After all, I may have been married four times, but they were the “right” kind of marriages.

Since heterosexual relationships are the statistical norm, let’s legislate against homosexuality and give privilege to prejudice against LGBTs. Ignore the psychological and physical damage of bullying that regularly takes place among Junior and Senior High youth toward those who are different. Ignore the deprivation of civil rights to hard-working, dedicated, productive American citizens who happen to be LGBTs. After all, maintaining “my” moral code is more important.

Since rich white heterosexual Christian American men are superior to women, Blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, LGBTs, etc., let us protect women from themselves by dictating decisions about their bodies… Let us be the arbiters of how much value a Black or Brown person can have… Let us determine the correct composition of the political electorate so that the right people have a better chance to be in power… Let us determine which religious practices are privileged and which are restricted… Let us decide what is best for the earth’s environment. After all, it’s in your best interests. You’ll thank us later.

And so it goes… on and on! Well, no thank you! Please don’t do me any such favors. I prefer an alternate strategy.

There is within human consciousness an invitation, an insistent nudging, an appeal, a lure. We seem called beyond our brokenness and limitations. The Commonwealth is a long-range strategy built on trust, not fear. Israel trusted what it understood of God and mandated special social solidarity with widows, orphans, and strangers. Yeshua exegeted that social solidarity and projected a vision of a level human playing field that did not privilege the powerful, but demanded the well-being of all in society, regardless of social, economic, political, or religious standing. We cannot judge people with pre-determined formulas. Our task is to energize the creativity and integrity of each human being. Our salvation does not come from my being privileged, but from the well-being of all in society.

Unfortunately (or, better yet, tragically) the more limited strategy contributes to society’s brokenness by pitting citizen against citizen, by ignoring the widows and orphans (witness: Flint water crisis) and bullying the stranger (witness: Citizens United and voter suppression acts).

Can a vision of a Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice compete with moral mandates implemented now. Can it be anything more than “pie in the sky in the sweet bye-and-bye?” Can it capture the hearts and minds of a people so desperately in need?

The invitation keeps presenting itself. The insistence keeps nudging. And yet the calling must be responded to and incarnated in the lives of more and more people to demonstrate its credibility. That means it is up to us! Actually, that means it is up to me! If I don’t respond with faithfulness and trust, with credible action that moves toward wholeness, with integrity then brokenness will continue to be the way of life that is celebrated. And the Commonwealth will die an agonizingly slow death!


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