It's refreshing to read a piece that goes counter to the counterculture hype. So many things that are celebrated by many and by the media are really no big deal. I get that sense when we get a lot of coverage of the illnesses or deaths of celebrities in the political and entertainment worlds (these worlds converge in reality). Every day thousands are stricken with cancer, yet we are expected to put at the top of our prayer lists the latest celebrity over the anonymous Joes and Janes who are suffering a similarly tragic misfortune. Why do celebrities go to the top of the list? Yes, let's pray for all without exception but why prefer the rich and famous over the "unrich" and unknown? As Christians, we should pray for all conditions of men, as the famous collect says, and not prefer the rich over others. That, I submit is a crucial message in the too often neglected Letter to James:
James 2:1-3 RSV 1 My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "Have a seat here, please," while you say to the poor man, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet," 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Do we do this very thing, at times, even with the focus of our prayers? You judge.
Our culture makes a big deal even over things that are actually unwise and self-destructive. You see this trait in the glamorization of promiscuity and lust. Will someone ask the question that begs to be asked: Does it really make you happy? I often think that many really believe that nothing can really make you happy--that's why there is a manic embrace of the self-destructive as a sort of fling of despair. Will someone ask if accumulating a lot of monetary assets will really make you happy? Will someone ask if attending rock concerts one after another will really make you happy? Lately, in talking to a friend, I have repeated this advice: "Ask the stupid question." Let's ask the stupid questions that everyone else is too sophisticated to ask. It's a good habit to cultivate in the classroom and in the streets.
Here is the famous collect from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer which I mentioned above:
O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are any ways afflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; [* especially those for whom our prayers are desired;] that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them, according to their several necessities; giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.