Tuesday, March 23, 2010

81 / Jesus As Sociologist

Starting when I was about twelve or thirteen years of age, my parents made sure I attended Sunday School. I went to All Saints Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, in what was then a rather small, brown-shingled structure not unlike Calvary Episcopal Church in Santa Cruz (pictured). I sang in the choir, was an altar boy, and paid attention.

I particularly remember the Rector's appeal for the offering, an unfailing part of each service, dramatically accentuated by music, and by the following words from Matthew 6:21, recited each Sunday:

"...where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also."
Because of the context in which I heard these words (a regularly repeated appeal for money), I read this admonition as meaning, in effect, "you should contribute to good causes, to the things you believe in."

In fact, these words mean something quite different, as I realized much later. Attributed to Jesus, this saying represents a kind of sociological analysis of how the world works, as opposed to an admonition to contribute to the good causes you believe in. I think it's an accurate statement, too. What Jesus the Sociologist is saying is that we will end up being committed to whatever it is we invest our money in. In other words, our investment strategy doesn't reflect our beliefs, our investment strategy creates our beliefs.

It's a sobering exercise to consider what this insight says about the real priorities of the people of the United States. Our democratic (so we say!) institutions of government have invested over half of what we contribute to war. Check out the War Resisters League "pie chart" for the details.

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