A provocative “co-incidence!”
Andrea Kastner gave me a book to read during recovery. I started early on but it was dense and so was I! Now I am reading, Out of Babylon (2010), by one of my very favourite authors, Walter Brueggemann. It is a powerful read and I am stunned by the force of his analysis of the Prophetic response to Exile and the call to choose an alternative reality than the Empire. I have offered here one little quote to tempt you.
Then yesterday I was sent another email with another long story which I almost didn’t read! Yet, in its own way it provides the narrative that spells the deep domination of the Empire that we have become enslaved by.
Here they are:
Out of Babylon (p. 93) In parallel fashion [to the prophetic call], the contemporary news of the gospel is that God invites and summons the faithful to a life beyond the demands and gifts of empire. In the New Testament, that offer is a call to discipleship. In contemporary practice, it is the joyous possibility of joyous existence beyond what I have elsewhere called the “therapeutic, technological, military consumerism” of our society. While the texts portray this homecoming as a joyous alternative, it is at the same time a costly alternative. Just as the erstwhile slaves in the book of Exodus yearned to return to Pharaoh’s Egypt and just as many Jews preferred life in Babylon, so the imaginative possibility among us for an alternative life in the world is not cheap. But to “go out in shalom” is a mantra that continues to ring in the ears of those gathered in the “local tradition” of Yahwism.
Here is the email story:
In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”
That’s right, they didn’t have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.
In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks. But she’s right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day.
Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts – wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right – they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.
Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.
Back then, they didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right, they didn’t have the green thing back then.
They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But they didn’t have the green thing back then..
Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
But that old lady is right. They didn’t have the green thing back in her day.