In recent posts I have referenced the work of sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning. Their work points to shifts in our culture. Specifically they not we have shifted from a “dignity culture” (where aggrieved parties tended to let more minor slights go because it was assumed that all people have a central dignity that they don’t need to earn) back to an “honor culture” that we last experienced in the 18th and 19th centuries – where slights had to be avenged; when we had duels. These pistols and swords have been replaced by tweets, posts, and vitriolic. Wounding and death still occurs, only under another guise.
I think about this is the light of the readings for the Solemnity of Christ the King. The gospel, Matthew 25, in its command to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned and more – this gospel points out we are called by Christ to ever live in a “dignity culture” because all people have a God-given core dignity that don’t need to earn back.
I read an article this morning by Dr. Alex Piquero from the University of Miami. His focus was on restorative justice. But I think it again raises the culture divide raised by Campbell and Manning.
32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. 35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
“I, John, looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Rev 14:1) And so begins today’s readings.
In her story “Revelation,” Flannery O’Connor tells a tale of a vision of salvation being encountered by the smug Mrs. Turpin. Her idea was that heaven was an exclusive banquet with just a few guests. The story had told of her unpleasant encounters with the “unsaved” (aka “not like me”) during the day. Later while sitting on her front porch at sunset, Mrs. Turpin is granted a vision from God. Despite all her self-assurances and beliefs, she was about to discover that God’s invitation is for more than just her and those she deems of sufficient moral character and behavior.