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Critique of Empire -- More Travel Stories

For a couple of hours Monday morning I lay in Bushnell Park reading. It was about as beautiful as a day can be. Bushnell Park is this lovely, sloping expanse of lawn, bordered by trees, that leads from the heart of downtown Hartford toward the state capitol atop a hill. The capitol is this odd mixture of French villa with Moorish and even a few farther Eastern architectural influences thrown in. It stands out compared to the mostly classical and federal style buildings of this old, historic city.

The main features of the park are the stunning Civil War memorial arch that sits nestled by trees and surprises one with its grandeur when one moves through the trees to see what goes with these towers poking just above the treetops and the fountain with the sculpture of the stag and Native American men and women. I had sat the night before and watched the fountain.

The night before I had been melancholy. Dinner had been early and there was much time to fill. I didn't have anything to do or anyone really to hang out with and the day was too lovely. I didn't want to go too early back to the room to read or sleep. Plus half a continent away my friends were all having fun at the OKC Pride Parade and the drinking and dancing that follows it. My melancholy that night was a foreshadowing -- though I had only the vaguest sense of that. I wandered around looking for ice cream and found none. There's a metaphor there, it seems.

But not on Monday morning. I was anticipating the day with Brian. Brian is a retired minister and our time in OKC had overlapped by just a few months, but we had really bonded. There is a deep connection between us -- a common sharing of the gay hermeneutic, the calling to ministry, a keen eye for popular culture and how it speaks. Brian is much quieter than I am, but when he speaks it is profound. And the day we spent together didn't let me down.

I was reading V. S. Naipaul's Beyond Belief, about his second travels through converted Muslim countries, writing about the people, their faith, and their world. It is a profound book. Written in the mid nineties, it is a window into a world. Naipaul is insightful about so many things that it seems most folk in 2007 still haven't realized. Though, it was interesting to see that even Naipaul himself, as insightful as he is, didn't grasp what was happening or about to come. I eagerly craved discussing this book with Brian.

And the speeches and sermons two days before. At the 26th General Synod, celebraing the church's fiftieth anniversary, there were many prominent speakers. And it seemed that their messages were connected, at least the ones I heard (I wonder if we self-select or it just happens that way?). They were critical of empire. American empire.

Moyers had plenty of words against the current state of media and politics. In recent months he has talked about our system being broken, though he didn't go into that as much this time. This was more like his calls to arms of the last couple of years. A last ditch effort to save the republic from the ever encroaching power of the empire.

Brueggemann was the best. Probably because he stays so close to the text and nothing is more powerful than the written word of God. There is a line of development from Pharoah through Solomon to Augustus (though Brueggemann didn't make this point) and on to Bush and Cheney (he did make this point). He wants us to recover a society based upon covenantal love, justice, and righteousness, the three themes of Torah and prophecy, in response to the society based upon wealth and control of wisdom (represented by these various empires). He called for a recovery of Deuteronomy and its establishment of such a society. A society where the money-making engines of the economy are told to leave aside some for the widow, orphan, and immigrant. He called for us ministers to remain close to the text. He said, "anyone can do therapy, management or youth programs, our job is the text."

So I am to embody this story. To stand as a witness between God and the people, standing for covenantal love, justice, and righteousness. It is to be my very being. A humbling and difficult task.

And just the next day I try to be a witness of love and forgiveness and covenant and am reminded how difficult it really is.

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