Thursday, November 29, 2007

Things Could Be Worse, At Least We're Not...

Today in my class we were talking about Paul's Letter to the Romans and faith based salvation. I'm not very good at teaching Paul because I don't like him much. Paul dramatically changed Jesus' view of Christianity within Jewish Law, and I don't think Jesus would have appreciated it much. Every year at this time I try to read Paul and value him more, because people whom I respect think Paul is so great. But anyway, we were talking about Paul's idea in Romans 5 that we should rejoice in our sufferings. That got us to talking about post-Katrina New Orleans, and how so many people were suffering here, but at times we still rejoice in life with things like Mardi Gras. One of my favorite students, Jessica B., said that she finds happiness and meaning by realizing that no matter how bad she has it, someone has it worse. I brought up that these people who have it worse are getting harder and harder to find for those of us in New Orleans. People here used to complain about our education system and say "At least we're not Mississippi, ha ha ha." Now, because Mississippi reformed their education and we're even worse, we can't say that. We used to be able to say about our violence problem that at least we're not Washington DC, but we can't say that anymore. I think New Orleans has become an often used "at least we're not" sort of place. So my friends and family in Omaha NE who are freezing this winter and now don't even have a good football to follow, they will say proudly "At least we're not New Orleans." But this isn't a way to inact change for the better. I told my students that this idea of a faith based salvation is hurting the world on one level, because we put up with injustice here believing there is a heaven and hell where all matters will be settled for eternity. I prefer the message of Paul's adversary, James the Brother of Jesus, who prefered works over faith. So instead of rejoicing in the fact that at least I'm not some starving refugee in Darfur, I should work to help that person have a better life.


Leigh C. said...

James sounds like an advocate of tikkun olam - healing the world. And it certainly ain't gonna happen if we keep comparing ourselves all the time to justify our joy and/or misery.


thanks. i get the point of your lesson.

i will walk a little lighter in my step this week thinking about what you said and trying to live by it.

please say hi to your alexander st. neighbor mike for me and trish.

The Mighty Favog said...

You've got to have both James AND Paul. That's why they're both there -- works without faith gain you nothing, while faith without works is dead.

Wouldn't it be great to live somewhere James and Paul were in perfect balance? Louisiana is Paul on steroids AND meth; the Midwest sometimes can lean too far away from rejoicing in suffering and too far toward working so hard you never stop to smell the roses.

On the other hand, here in Nebraska, at least government generally works and people generally care.