How would Isaiah feel about the mortgage crisis?

Sometimes I carry this delusion that my faith can be this polite and tame thing.  I pretend, for example, that I can practice my faith on a personal level but divorce it from my politics.

As I was reading the book of Isaiah I realized that there are limits to this.  I read “Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field until no space is left and you live alone in the land.”

The first thing I thought about was farms.  In “The Grapes of Wrath” there are plows that come in and just tear down the homes of the farmers whose homes are being dispossed.  More recently– within my memory– was the farm crisis in the early 80’s, when corporate farms came in again and dispossed the families who’s ancestors had been working the land for hundreds of years.

And then I got to be thinking the mortgage crisis.  Emails and other records indicate that these slimy banks who were bailed out figured out ways to turn things around and make a profit even while being subsidized with federal dollars.

The image from scripture is powerful: Individuals being cast out of their homes and farms while the rich get richer, while their lands grow larger, until eventually there is no one left.

And then, as I was pondering all this, I found myself enmeshed in a “discussion” online.  It was about immigration.  One of the points I was trying to make is that the employers of illegal immigrants are not accountable for their actions.  I shared my concern that this is part of a wider pattern:

There are so many examples of white-collar versions of crime resulting in a slap on the wrist, when the blue-collar version is one that is dealt with much more harshly.  I think that this was all on my mind because Isaiah so frequently calls for equal treatment of the rich and poor, fair courts, and care-taking of the least among us.

I’m thinking about how suburban pirating of songs and movies is smirked at by most people; but somebody who actually went into a store and stole the CD or DVD would be looked down on.

I’m thinking about how we all agree that somebody who robs a thousand dollars from a house ought to go to a high security jail.   But we’re comfortable with sending an executive who robs millions to a “country club.”

Somebody who finds loopholes in the corporate end of the tax code, or manipulates the corporate welfare system is called a lawyer.  Somebody who manipulates the individual welfare system is considered a parasite.

Compare the treatment of the  guy whose negligence behind a wheel kills one person with the treatment of a C.E.O. who negligence to a river leads to toxins that kill dozens.

The thing that is on my mind and heart right now?  Stealing songs is stealing songs.  Defrauding the system is defrauding the system.   Stealing money is stealing money.  Killing people is killing people.

In each of these cases, the white-collar version usually occurs on a bigger scale.  And yet, the consequences are less.  This isn’t justice at all, and someday, I fear that we’ll answer for that.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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