as readers of this blog know, i am a some-times practitioner of the ancient tradition of fixed-hour prayer. i love its structuring of my day according to foundational things amid all that keeps me busy.
this morning, the gospel text was matthew 13:24-30. it is a kingdom of god parable and here, while a man sows good seed in the field, an enemy comes at night and sows weeds. when asked by the laborers if they should pull out the weeds, the owner says, no, you might pull the wheat out with the weeds. let both grow till harvest time when the weeds shall be burnt and the wheat shall be gathered into my barn.
my work on U2 has caused me to reflect deeply on the divide between evangelical theology and my own Lutheran tradition, and how this ties into the larger politics of the united states historically and at present. one key way this plays out is in our national tendency to think of our own purity versus the evil of others. One hears this in presidential rhetoric now, but it resounds throughout our history. the task here is dividing the world and making sure to be on the side of the pure. how does one do that? define who is on the other side. this has happened time and again to U2 when they do something that doesn't look "squeaky clean" to those interested in purity. for example, when bono dressed up like the devil during the zootv tour. this view is much harder to hold if you are convinced of the seriousness and durability of sin--that is, that no one is pure, and only god can 'cover' our shortcomings with grace. in this view, we all are both pure and evil, saint and sinner. that leads, i might add, to a pretty different understanding of christian community and for that matter of national politics. i think abraham lincoln had that sensibility, and ronald reagan did not. i'd like to write about this in a book sometime, but not now. the basic point of the argument, however, is in what i've written about U2.
anyway. all this came to mind in relation to the text from matthew. one view is that seeds are good people and weeds are bad people and the field is the world. note: even if you adopt this view, we're not charged with the responsibility of sorting out the weeds from the wheat. another view, however, is that the field is each of us. we are all of us made up of weeds and wheat, and the argument is against a sort of ascetic self-examination that tries of its own accord to achieve perfection, purity, outside of god's gracious final purging that as a refiners fire makes us pure.
i truly think this theological distinction is at the heart of a major divide in the american soul, if you want to call it that, and that the difference is important for not just for individual lives or for the church. it is important for our polity, for our common life as a nation, and given our power, for the whole world.