Tearing Down the Temple

Reactions to reading the book of Romans

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Romans 1:18-24. The Unholy City—VI. …but have not love

The mechanism that the machine hides is the systematic quenching of the Spirit.

It makes no difference to the proprietor of a shop whether the customer is a saint or the most wicked villain imaginable. That is what money does to us. A popular quiz show (in 2001) is entitled, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” Not, “Who wants to give lavishly to the charity of his choice?” nor, “Who wants to provide for his family in a great way?” nor even, “Who wants to be able to satisfy his every whim?” We all know what power money confers. It enables all the choices above and many more besides. Never mind what the record of sudden riches is in our world, the way it has torn apart and destroyed lives, families, relationships, communities. Never mind that the things we truly need cannot be purchased with money. We know that having a pot of money is an unarguably good thing. Profit does not need long explanations.

High regard for money reduces our business relationships with people to the quantifiable. It helps us stack our society, the rich at the top, all the rest down below. As it impersonalizes our transactions, it impersonalizes our society. It makes remote what should be intimate. It means that we do not have to see the person: we exchange money for service, and the relationship is ended.

This is even true of what used to be our neighborhoods. The neighbor next door may be greeted once a week or so, on the way to retrieve the mail or the newspaper, without reference to his moral or ethical qualities. Some may say that this is a good thing: everyone is treated equally, with dignity and respect, at least until he does something to make himself notorious.

Behind these facts stands a terrible but hidden truth: the superficial respectability behind which we all conceal ourselves is the sin-shell that blocks the light to our homes and hearts. If we cannot reveal ourselves to our neighbors, we cannot love them. If we cannot love them, we cannot function in a society with them unless that society insulates us from one another.

Our society does insulate us from our neighbors. And it does much more, but not to our benefit.

(Continued)

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