Do you remember how Superman couldn't see through lead? This discovery may be why whenever I have an X-ray they cover parts of me with a lead dress. How would medical teams know to do this if it wasn't for Superman's boundaries?
Boundaries are great things. They provide the means for living cells to accept nutrition and fend off poisons. They also, in theory, keep neighbors at bay. I remember one morning in our Pennsylvania home being awakened by the cock crow. I discovered the next door suburban neighbors had decided to raise chickens. Determined to protect our castle, I planted pine trees on the perimeter that afternoon. What made it memorable was that the chickens lined up to watch me work, a short-lived entertainment for them as it turned out. Two houses down the man living there had planted grass seed, a boon to the chickens but the key to their demise. A day after my tree-planting I saw the chickens in the newly seeded yard. A day after that I saw the yard's owner cleaning his hatchet. We returned to a chicken-free existence thereafter.
Neighborhood associations are supposed to deal with chickens and axe-wielding angels of death, in my opinion. That is, they are called to face and solve real problems. Yet I live in a neighborhood in which the walls are too high and the boundaries too thick.
It is a county neighborhood surrounded on 3 sides by city property and on the 4th side with a city road. Last night, at our association meeting, the neighbors dealt with serious questions, such as what happens if our well-water continues to show evidence of E Coli and how close we are to the imminent collapse of all our septic systems. This was followed by dire concerns that surrounding city neighborhoods were drawing down our water supply. But these issues were set aside for a far more pressing problem: determining the best places to dump undetected mounting yard garbage in the neighboring city property.
To the problems, no solutions were offered. To the illegal dumping that passed expenses on to the city, no shame was expressed.
The meeting ended with the annual celebration of how we of the far horizon have successfully resisted being added to the city's rolls of taxable properties, thereby keeping ourselves independent of the city.
What's that? The neighborhood's well and septic systems are falling apart, and we need city property to handle our yard waste. The city is draining us dry. Put simply, we association members are not independent of the surrounding city: We have a dysfunctional relationship to it. My efforts to suggest that this might be the case caused my neighbors last night to suggest that my septic tank might be the one polluting the well water (we are at the opposite end of the neighborhood, with a system recently inspected and certified as workable; nevertheless, we Masseys are having our system cleaned and rechecked to make sure that we are keeping all of our skubala to ourselves). So shares the fate of all whistleblowers, I am afraid. To name a problem is to be designated as a problem.
So something and somebody is leaking, but there is truly one impermeable boundary, one impossibly thick dress that is impervious to X-ray vision and razor-sharp wit: our neighborhood association's discourse about the city or any other number of possible solutions. Like photons bouncing off a perfect mirror, no light can enter the black box of our self-congratulatory ruminations. The Titanic has struck the iceberg and we party on. The Red Death rages outside of our city gate and the masquerade ball goes uninterrupted. The grass withers, the flower fades, but no word of the Lord is sought.
Think of those institutions and organizations that operate within ideological traps of their own making. I think of congregations I have served in years past. NPR mentioned a book entitled "It Is Worse Than It Looks" about the Republican Party. Can any boundary be so impermeable as closed human minds?
It has been awhile since I blogged. I suppose the lack of protesters outside the church insisting that I have a greater web presence allowed me to snooze through the Lenten season :-). More likely, thoughts about what to blog came and went with such speed that I never found a focus. Then along came the bishop of Peoria, Illinois, and I am re-entering the game.
Daniel Jenky joined a conversation the church has had over a long period of time, which is "Who is the anti-Christ?" Popular movies show the anti-Christ with a 666 tattooed on him, a comic attempt to understand the Book of the Revelation's mark of the beast (we once decided against buying a house on the basis of the address being 666: We noticed the eventual new owners had the address changed). We will return to this numerical sign shortly, but let's consider first Bishop Jenky.
It is doubtful Jenky meant that the president is "the" anti-Christ. In the Bible (1 John 4:3) it is the spirit of the anti-Christ that is to be feared and challenged, and Jenky presumes that it is this spirit's presence - a presumption that in times past led to accusations of the Caesars, Pope Julian II, Hitler, and Stalin being the anti-Christ - that is now animating Obama. Yet all these aforementioned gentlemen could claim unanimously not to be "the" anti-Christ.
How so? The anti-Christ is rumored to be like an angel of light, who will bring peace on earth as a wildly popular and benevolent despot. He will have miraculously appearing powers. Mostly, he will be recognized by our inability to recognize him (or her), at least easily. Hitler may have come the closest to meeting this description, that is prior to plunging the world into war and creating the holocaust.
It is the ignorance of who the anti-Christ might be that leads to a certain competition among Christians to be the first to spot the beast. Some thought it was Ronald Wilson Reagan (count the letters in each name, and what do you get?), and others have thought that any president supportive of peace in Palestine or of the United Nations earns the title. It is the unpopularity of all these previous nominees and their obvious flaws that assure us that they were not the anti-Christ.
Yet the search continues. Adding fuel to the competitive zeal is that many so-called liberal churches in Germany embraced Hitler, and it took awhile for other Christians to realize how evil he was. The Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches were particularly nefarious in this regard, a failing that can make them anxious to pull the anti-Christ trigger at the first glimmer of a problem: "Fool me once . . . "
The key to understanding the significance of 666 is understanding 777. The latter is the number of completeness, the transformative wholeness characteristic of the loving, saving God. 666 is a wholeness reached without God, a boastful human incompleteness that insists on the respect that we accord God. 666 pridefully says that humans don't need God: We can do it all ourselves.
Obama tests lots of trial balloons that explode in his face, and the fiasco over insuring birth control and abortions was an obvious one that could have been predicted by anyone who hangs around church for any length of time. I suspect too that world peace, including peace in the Middle East, is not within his grasp. Still, alleged psychic Jeanne Dixon once observed that the anti-Christ would be born in the Middle East (presumably with a Middle Eastern name), and a man of African heritage named Barack Obama surely fits the bill. This may explain why the birthers are so determined to prove that he couldn't have been born in Hawaii.
Frankly, until this president wins over a recalcitrant congress and stops speaking like a Black Baptist preacher, I don't think he has a prayer of being the anti-Christ. Too many people hate him for no good reason.
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