Reflections/Jonathan Gramling

Jonathan Gramling

Keeping Values Above Water

It seems that it feels more and more difficult to keep one’s moral values above the water line these days. It is difficult to know where to turn and how to keep the sludge and mire of today’s world away from one’s soul and inner child. I say inner child because of a passage in the New Testament where the disciples, I think, were trying to prevent some children from approaching Jesus and Jesus basically said, ‘Unless you are like one of these, you will not enter the Kingdom of God.’ And I have always taken that to heart in the sense of keeping a sense of wonder about the world and all of its complexities and also loving others as yourself and helping even despised strangers who need help.

It’s not always easy to keep that inner child alive because of the ways of the world where there is so much anger and cruelty directed at people whom one has never met. But due to group dynamics and the need to belong to some clan, one can adopt these wicked thoughts and actions in order to belong.

I was raised Catholic and feel that I still hold many of the values that I was taught, especially by the Jesuits. But as I explored the world and got to know people of different faiths and nationalities, it seemed as if the Catholic Church became too small, too much of a cultural institution and place of contradictions. It became a place where there was total opposition to abortion and yet remained silent on the unprovoked attack on Iraq that left hundreds of thousands of people murdered. I thought the 10 Commandments implicitly said, ‘Thou shall not kill’ and din’t have any qualifying phrases that began with ‘except.’

And then there are the fundamentalist Christian Churches to whom I was exposed when I lived in Mississippi. Again there are professed values like the sanctity of marriage and yet they overwhelmingly support Donald Trump for president even though he has been married and divorced a couple of times and has sexually assaulted some women. It’s a glaring contradiction to me. Why don’t they see it? Is it just the thirst for power no matter how it is achieved? I find it ironic that they thirst for this power over the state when Jesus purposely avoided it and gave onto Caesar’s which is Caesar’s and onto the Lord what is the Lord’s. Have they given in to false prophets?

And so where are the moral voices to help us decipher something like what is going on in Israel and Gaza? I was horrified by the slaughter on innocent unarmed young people at the concert near the Gaza border. And I was disgusted  by the militants pumping their fists while driving around in a jeep like they had just won a military victory. Who are they fooling? These and other incidents were acts of terror and should be condemned.

And then there is the bombing of the Gaza Palestinian refugee camp by Israel. I was appalled when I saw the photos. That was an awfully large and deep crater from a bomb that was dropped by someone far away in some protected inside bunker who doesn’t have to hear the screams or see the agony of people killed and injured: men, women and children alike. And was all of this done just to get rid of one Hamas leader?

What are the Israelis really achieving? Another 1,000 years of unbound hatred between the Jewish and Palestinian people, with people growing up learning to hate and don’t really know why they hate?

And then we have the antisemitic terrorists in the United States attacking buildings and people out of a hatred, blaming the Jewish people for killing Jesus, the same one whose precepts they do not follow? Where is all of this hatred coming from?