Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Few Are Guilty--All Are Responsible

After I posted earlier today about Hiroshima, I received an e-mail from Dr. Robert Jensen of the University of Texas. He gave an address at the Henry David Thoreau UU Congregation in Fort Bend County, TX. This is a good followup to the piece about Hiroshima. I think it also relates to the shooting in Knoxville in addition to the issues Dr. Jensen addresses. I urge you to read The Prophetic Challenge: Few Are Guilty, But All Are Responsible. Here is a portion:

In the Christian and Jewish traditions, the Old Testament offers us many models -- Amos and Hosea, Jeremiah and Isaiah. The prophets condemned corrupt leaders but also called out all those privileged people in society who had turned from the demands of justice that the faith makes central to human life. In his study of The Prophets, the scholar and activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel concluded:

"Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible. If we admit that the individual is in some measure conditioned or affected by the spirit of society, an individual’s crime discloses society’s corruption. In a community not indifferent to suffering, uncompromisingly impatient with cruelty and falsehood, continually concerned for God and every man, crime would be infrequent rather than common."

In our society, crimes by leaders are far too common. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as individuals, are guilty of their crime against peace and war crimes in Iraq that have resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands, just as Bill Clinton and Al Gore before them are guilty of the crime against humanity perpetrated through an economic embargo on Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of innocents as well. These men are guilty, beyond any doubt, and they should be held accountable. But would those kinds of crimes be as frequent if the spirit of society were different? For that, we all are responsible.
(Read More)

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book is Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007). Jensen is also the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang). He can be reached at rjensen at uts.cc.utexas dot edu and his articles can be found online.


8 comments:

  1. I haven't read the whole challenge yet, but I personally don't think that I am responsible. I want change more than anything. The author says,"But would those kinds of crimes be as frequent if the spirit of society were different? " No, I don't think they would be. But what I can't figure out is why people insist that change is going to come from society without some MAJOR shift in our foreign and domestic policies. We need leaders who demand justice and have true character based on sound principles. Until people realize this things will just get worse.

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  2. We need leaders who demand justice and have true character based on sound principles. Until people realize this things will just get worse.

    I think the point of this post is that leadership grows from people taking responsibility for the leaders they elect and for the society they envision.

    As you say, "until people realize this..." which is another way of saying until people take responsibility...

    And you, my friend, are taking responsibility. That is good for you and for all of us.

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  3. Thanks Rev. Shuck for pointing that out. I guess I'm not very optimistic that people are going to figure it out because they are so deceived by mainstream media and their comfortable lifestyle. Really what I mean is that I am afraid they won't figure it out until it is too late and things get really bad. Or maybe things are getting better. It's all in perception.

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  4. Hey Rachel,

    You can call me John. When you call me Rev. Shuck I have to watch my language! : )

    I was talking with someone just the other day who told me that perhaps our role is to make people aware and courageous so we and they can help pick up the pieces when (if?) the crap hits the fan.

    We need to prepare for a world beyond the crash. That's a world that adorable little baby you have will help build.

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  5. Good comments by Robert Jensen. You know, I think he'd make a good Presbyterian. Maybe he should join a local Presbyterian church. Oh wait, never mind.

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  6. I love Heschel - even have 3 books by him I have to read - so I need to comment here.

    I think the pst is very accurate when dealing with the posture of what a prophet is/does and the roles of the people in that work.

    We are not removed from society - individualism makes us think this - but is obviously not true. One person's crimes can effect many people's lives - in that sense we are a community. I come from a community that recognizes this fact - one for all and all for one - and when one glorys - the rest will see the benefit...when one suffers, the rest will feel that pain.

    I truly believe the church has lost it's touch with the prophetic and what that really means...due to a trap of individualism and a faith that focuses on that. No one person can speak into this faith anymore - so if a prophet actually came to the church's door - they wouldn't know actually know it. Now that's what it means to be asleep.

    But I also agree we are responsible for our parts in society and 'what we put out there'. Are we going to love or are we going to ruin relationships? We have a duty to our fellow human beings to be the best we can be for their personal benefit also. The better we do - the better they do also. The wrose we do, the worse others will do also (ie: having to deal with us on that level - yuck!).

    The prophets are all about morality and what a just society people need to return to - for one another's safety. I see that as a very plausible worldview and agree with a communal viewpoint.

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  7. Seeker, LOL, naughty are you and right on!


    Society--

    We are not removed from society - individualism makes us think this - but is obviously not true. One person's crimes can effect many people's lives - in that sense we are a community. I come from a community that recognizes this fact - one for all and all for one - and when one glorys - the rest will see the benefit...when one suffers, the rest will feel that pain.

    Very well put.

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  8. Wow- great words.

    And Heschel was right about the guilty and the responsible (he is one of my heroes)...

    We are so dis-integrated as a culture and society. The bombs of the current administration have torn us asunder. We must knit ourselves back, heal and be responsible for each life. We are interconnected and interdependent.

    How unAmerican! You know me though!

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