The Economics of Grace

22 years ago when I moved to New York, I was fulfilling a dream.  The city was not quite so glamorous back then.  It still had some of its grit and even more of its noise.  But I used to say that the grit of New York actually scrubbed me clean.  Back in those days I couldn’t understand anyone who complained that the city was too crowded, too noisy, too chaotic.  It was those very qualities that represented my own escape from the quiet conformity of small thinking.  But more than two decades have passed now.  I have changed and definitely gotten older.  And all those things that once attracted me – well, for the most part, they have lost at least part of their appeal.  I have my days when all I want to do is escape the chaos.  And on those days, there is no sweeter sound than the clicking of the deadbolts on the front door, locking me in and the world out. 


In the parsonage where we lived in Logansport, Indiana, there was a very long sidewalk that led from the back door all the way out to the alley, where the trash cans were kept.  One of my jobs was to take out the trash and burn it. Since most little boys are budding pyromaniacs, that was my favorite chore.  But I had another chore that also involved that long sidewalk.  And that chore I hated. The sidewalk was raised very high off the ground and the lawnmower couldn’t get close to the edge, so of course, that’s where the weeds grew.  And it was my job to get rid of the weeds. We didn’t have a weed whacker, but what we did have were my two hands.  And I learned to despise those weeds.  No matter how many I pulled or how deeply I dug, they always came back.

Groaning with Hope

For lots of religious folks, to say that humans are made in the image of God is to say that humans are separate from the rest of creation.  Somehow plants and animals and ecosystems do not reflect the image of God like we do and therefore they are inferior.  Sometimes that means that they are expendable.  It also means that humans have dominion over the earth.  We’re at the top of the food chain.  We’re the only ones with souls. There is a strict separation between humans and everything else.  And that is the way God meant it to be.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

At the coop where we live, I am chair of the Tenant Selection Committee – that group that makes people shake in their shoes and be on their best behavior.  They come fully prepared to tell us why they will be such a good fit for our community. A lot of times people will talk about the 10 acres of manicured gardens on which our buildings sit.  They speak poetically about Morningside Gardens as a kind of oasis, a place to get back to nature, a quiet space in the midst of Manhattan madness.  People say lots of things to pass a coop board interview, but when prospective tenants talk about the garden and what it means to be so close to the earth, I suspect they are telling the truth. 

It's the Little Things

America is a land of superlatives. So much of our popular culture has been defined by the language and concepts of advertising and consumerism. A basic principle of sales is that you must convince people that what you have is so much better than what they currently have. The result is a throwaway society, wasteful in the extreme, and never able to achieve the illusive level of happiness promised by those who sell happiness.

And the American church has bought into this model hook, line, and sinker.