23 November 2005

Nothing Is New Under the Sun

On our last shopping trip to Costco, I picked up Jimmy Carter's newest book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis. It has become my bedtime reading and it's quite good. I've always had an enormous respect for Mr. Carter and thought that his biggest problem when he was president was that he was, perhaps, too good for the job. By that I mean he was, and is, too morally upright to perform in that position. But that's for another discussion.

He begins the book with a description of his faith and his faith journey throughout his life. It's very interesting. It also becomes very clear that he is most distressed with the Southern Baptist Convention, the church of his youth. In fact, he and Rosalyn have left that church. When I was first reading about it, I thought it was anger and there is certainly some of that. But the further I've gotten into the book, the more I'm becoming convinced that he is also heartbroken over how the church is misrepresenting God and Jesus to the world. One of his comments was particularly interesting. He said (and I'm paraphrasing, because I'm supposed to be cleaning for the Thanksgiving Extravaganza, NOT blogging) that the church is not supposed to be administered by CEO's with top-heavy bosses, that the church should take it's direction and model from Jesus who came not to be served but to serve.

And then I read this today in my Book of Celtic Daily Prayer. It's St. Columbanus' Day today and this is an excerpt from his Letter to a Young Disciple:

"Too many of our models for authority are ones of hierarchy or domination. We think of rulers and leaders as those who are over other people and supported by them. Instead of a pyramid model where the few dominate the many, in God's Kingdom it is more helpful to picture a huge saucer into which is thrown all the people of God in all their giftedness, from the least to the greatest. Those more strongly gifted for ministry will not rise to the top, but sink to the bottom where they may undergird and provoke the rest of the people of God."

Hmmm ... in the 600's A.D. they were struggling with these same issues. I shouldn't be surprised, and a part of me isn't. I'm glad to know that Jimmy Carter is a latter-day Columbanus, calling us to a higher plane. I'm also slightly relieved to know that these problems have been around for a long time. But, you know, I wish it weren't so egregious. I wish we'd made some progress in the intervening 1400 years.

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