British comic Eddie Izzard once quipped this one-liner about how the pilgrim’s story all began: “They set off from Plymouth, and landed in Plymouth! How lucky is that?”
But as we all learned in grade school, the rock upon which the pilgrims landed and subsequently named Plymouth turned out to be a mixed blessing. The first Thanksgiving was anything but bucolic, and our pastures of plenty have seen both good times and bad ever since.
If this year’s record drought that devastated crops, followed by ravaging floods that washed away entire seaside communities isn’t bad enough, one of the most contentious issues remains unresolved; namely, the federal deficit / budget crisis, the battle over new revenues (taxes) and a looming “fiscal cliff.”
The day after the presidential election, the Speaker of the House of Representatives alluded to scripture in a speech meant to re-establish his political party’s position on such matters:
“In the New Testament, a parable is told of two men,” he reflected. “One built his house on sand; the other built his house on rock. The foundation of our country’s economy – the rock of our economy – has always been small businesses in the private sector.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the “rock” to which that little scriptural illustration was referring was Jesus’ ethical teachings; based on an unconventional and (as it turned out) unpopular form of radical egalitarianism.
It concludes that section from Matthew’s gospel commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. And, that particular “rock” had little to do with keeping one’s fiscal house in order, taxes to Caesar, the entrepreneurial spirit, or the free enterprise system.
That bedrock of Jesus’ teaching did however have implications as to how we might order our lives in society; in closer alignment with what those scriptures depict as something more akin to what the divine had in mind. As well as how we ought to treat one another, without vacuous pretence or self-embellishment.
As we reflect on this quintessential American holiday we call Thanksgiving, we might ask what resemblance Plymouth Rock might bear to bedrock Christianity, as we levitate precariously over the cliff of our own devising.
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© 2012 by John William Bennison, Rel.D. All rights reserved.
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