Here in the land of sunshine and smiles this is the weekend before things happen. It is the last weekend before the summer term starts at the university. Or if you are working, this is the weekend before the long-awaited month of multiple holidays and vacations. Or if you are Christian this is Palm Sunday. There are other things about to happen in the coming month: US Supreme Court cases and decisions, spring or fall (depending on your hemisphere), the annual draft lottery here in Thailand, new things to become enraged, enthusiastic or passionate about on Facebook.
I have a feeling, but it is a pervasive and powerful feeling, that things are shifting and in transition. There is no one thing you can put your finger on (well, I can’t anyway). The US economy is losing its lifting power? China is emerging as the next military-industrial giant? Gay rights are changing the way societies around the world define themselves? There’s a new Pope with a track record of ability to be expedient even on boundary issues, maybe? Thailand is not moving toward civil disorder over its support of basic institutions? The Church as I knew it and was committed to is withering before our eyes? All my childhood friends are gone, one way or another, out of my life or somewhere? Nothing is what I was sure it was?
Now comes the undermining of another basic assumption: that “We the people” (as the preamble of the US Constitution begins) can be trusted.
It comes as a democratic assumption that the masses can be trusted, unless they are tyrannized and subjugated. Give “the people” freedom and they will guide themselves toward the best. I grew up on that idea.
Palm Sunday is as good a day as any to scrutinize this assumption. According to tradition, on the first day of Passover week (that being a Sunday) Jesus entered Jerusalem to an enthusiastic welcome. His popularity with the people was at an all-time high. 5 days later he was dead, abandoned by even his most loyal followers and ridiculed by his detractors. So much for trusting the people.
The chink in my basic assumption about the trustworthiness of the people was leaking even more last week as I noticed a posting about gun control on Facebook. It was inflammatory. Without thinking, I responded with a short comment before scrolling on to other issues. Ten minutes later I checked back to see if there had been any response to my comment, and I could not find it. Comments were flooding in to this posting at the rate of ten per second. My comment was too far buried for me to locate it. By the end of the day I noticed more than 23 thousand postings; most of them had deteriorated to name calling and threats of violence or suggestions about how appropriate it would be for someone to do something difficult or despicable to themselves.
This was not confidence inspiring in the trustworthiness of the people. If that’s the level of discourse, and the fight of choice, where is the US headed? Back here in Thailand we have our own concerns that, by the way they are handled, tend to undermine confidence in the trustworthiness of the people, as well. Meanwhile, across the border there is a developing popular movement among Buddhists to attack and murder Muslims, leading to yet another outflow of refugees; this confounds the consensus that Buddhism is alone among the world religions to unfailingly advocate peace.
I am just a little pessimistic heading toward Easter.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.