Thursday, April 30, 2015

Justice in a Tribe of Tribes

If I chose, I could ignore Baltimore completely.

Around me, what I encounter tells me only that it is spring, and that life goes busily on.  The only riot I see is a riot of pinks and whites, as the dogwoods explode into flower.  The only thing rising up is the grass, and the dandelions, and the bright little flowers in my strawberry patches.  When I listen out the window, no human voices are raised in conflict, though the birds fill the morning with their lewd and violent shouting.

I could ignore Baltimore, completely.  Just steer away from the news, lose myself in Buzzfeed and Colossal and and Avengers hype-fanboying, and it is gone, as if it didn't happen at all.  Which is where low-attention-span America will be, I'm sure, in another week.  Balti-what?  What state is that in again?

We, as a nation, are a tribe of tribes, a people of many disparate stories and histories.  We inhabit different lands, tell ourselves different stories from our family histories, and live out different lives.

What happens in Baltimore is far removed from the place, life, and story of my particular tribe.  It would be so easy to simply ignore it.

Only I have another story, one that I have both adopted and married into, which stirs and tickles and whispers warning to my soul.  It is the ancient story of another nation that was a tribe of tribes, a family of families.

In that story, there are rules laid out, rules that establish how different tribes are to live together under one roof.  Here is how you should keep the house in order, it says.  Here's how you keep the house together.  Oikonomia, the word is, in the Greek.  Economy.  "House rules."

For the peoples that made up Israel, a central rule for the covenant economy was this: do not let things get out of balance.  Do not allow one tribe to rule over all the others, either by the power of the sword or by gathering in the wealth of all the others.  If that happens, the nation will fall apart, ceasing to be a people of shared story.  Those with the wealth will separate themselves out from their debt-enslaved brothers and sisters.  Those who struggle will see and know only hopelessness.  Tribe will turn against tribe, in condescension or resentment.

And the people, weakened, will fall.

Israel and Judah, as it so happened, proved to be not quite so good at actually implementing that rule.

And neither are we.