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Lectionary readings, tidbits of wisdom point to absurdities

Many churches follow the lectionary list of Bible readings for use in worship services on specific dates.  As is often the case, the readings for the day commonly mesh with current headlines.  Some in congregations unaware of the lectionary may think a pastor is cherry-picking Scriptures to fit a topic he or she wants to talk about anyway.

Lately Jesus’ parables have been the Gospel readings.  Social justice issues illustrated in parables are tightly interwoven with current problems.  Once we become attuned to issues we begin to hear connections with other bits of wisdom.

On a recent KPBX Writers’ Almanac, Garrison Keillor said it was Voltaire’s birthday, and read two quotations.  One is familiar: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”  The other reflects on issues today: “As long as people believe in absurdities they will persist in committing atrocities.”

One absurdity we deal with repeatedly is the idea there must be one ideal solution to a complex problem.  If we just find that one solution, we can avoid having to think through details.

Consider homelessness—a gargantuan monster in our midst.

We’re not going to find the solution to homelessness.  We will have to take many measures, including supporting shelters and transitional housing, and building houses with Habitat for Humanity and other organizations while dealing with the multiplicity of individual and societal problems associated with homelessness.

While the situation grows worse, one candidate for President says cuts in our social safety net will not create more serious problems because churches and other nonprofit organizations will take up the slack.  Does he think churches are not being affected by the recession, homelessness, foreclosures and unemployment?

How would your church manage to find health, food, housing and educational services for, let’s say, 50 homeless people with their variety of serious special needs?

Then imagine how your church would add those costs to its budget.

Various suggestions are being made for dealing with parts of our current predicaments. 

Frequently, the main fault found with a proposal is that it won’t take care of the whole problem.

Much of our infrastructure is antique, and it’s more expensive to take care of emergencies, such as burst water mains, than it is to replace the system methodically.  However, public works programs won’t  completely eliminate unemployment, so that is not the answer to the unemployment problem.

Tax loopholes rob the treasury of billions of dollars, but eliminating them will not completely finance the social safety net.  Deep six that one, too.

We aren’t going to find the solution to any complex problem.  We need individual action, small group action, large group action, government action at all levels, and thoughtful cooperation among all of them.

With the failure of the so-called Super Committee in Congress, we may face across-the-board budget cuts with intended and unintended consequences.  One is the automatic cutting of wasteful spending for the military budget, which tends to be invisible in rhetoric on budget cuts.  Wars are an unspoken reason for much of the deficit. 

The necessity for an over-simplified approach is a failure of will and an absurdity.

May lectionary readings continue to make us uncomfortable and Voltaire’s gem keep us wary of stumbling into absurdities.

Nancy Minard - Editorial Team