I know I could have turned off the TV, but I was a bit concerned about Hurricane Irene. Mayor Nutter said we might lose power for two weeks! Mayor Bloomberg shut down New York! It certainly sounded serious. And, of course, for some people it was extremely serious. David’s sister’s house in the mountains is by a little stream they never expected to pour through their first floor windows!
But, overall, don’t you think the coverage was a bit much? Aren’t we being overseen and instructed a bit too much? I don’t usually agree with right wingers, but it does seem like we have a lot of regulations just waiting to be applied in Philadelphia. We might actually have a “nanny state” already. A couple of girls were caught on TV walking down Main Street in flooded Manayunk yesterday and were also caught on TV being given a citation for doing it! Whatever you do, don’t overtax the “first responders” by being a fool! They are going to overtax themselves by giving you a ticket for violating some statute you never imagined existed. My rule in Philadelphia is, “Don’t forget. Everything is illegal if they want it to be, especially if you are a homeless or unlicensed human.”
We are definitely going the direction of Suzanne Collins’ picture of a super nanny state based on the ever-broadcasting tube in her very popular books for teenagers: The Hunger Games. The trilogy is a very inventive and subversive look at where we are going. I said on my personal Goodreads site: “[The Hunger Games] is an entertaining primer on how to react to a dystopia dominated by manipulative media and a huge military-industrial complex. To no one’s surprise the lessons are: be a superhuman survivor, be super individualistic, be superviolent but moral and, when you are completely burned, be super in love and start over in Eden/home/the wilderness.” (Here is the Circle of Hope Pastors site).
Katniss really does not like to do what she is told. The big problem for the authorities is, every time they try to kill her, she manages to incite a revolution. Plus, she is very good with a bow and arrow – a Rambo for the 2010s. It is a big problem for her oppressors when Katniss’s resistance is televised by the nanny state or televised by the rebels who take over the airwaves — it disrupts their programming schedule! The other day, I found myself wishing that one of my hacker friends had discovered how to hack an alternative feed into CNN and could broadcast a huge crowd of us shouting, “Will you please shut up, already!” We need the info, but not the constant, irrelevant making-news-out-of-nothing that programs us to buy every battery in Target! (I know. I could have never turned it on. But I did.)
What are Jesus-followers to do? We could just do whatever the nanny tells us. Within that constant blather are seeds of actual information, after all, and we like being supportive and nice-looking. We could do like Katniss and find ways to get over the electric fence around our lives and murder our opponents – we like being judgmental, superior and holy-looking, too. I never think either of those solutions is adequate, no matter how many times the myth is replayed in the media. I still think we need to painstakingly work on living as an incarnation of the kingdom of God in the here and now. I think we need to take ourselves seriously as people entrusted with the Holy Spirit and live out an alternative that not only undermines, but transforms the self-destructing status quo.
When the BW men met last night, their topic was “What do we do in a disaster?” (Timely, eh?) One of the conclusions voiced was that our connection with one another was possibly too weak to survive a disaster. We were either reliant on the government or reliant on ourselves. We agreed that our meeting was a great way to start something. But it was not enough to build the trust that would make one’s brother or sister reliable in a disaster. We don’t want to rely on the TV for our communication and we don’t want to be left alone on the other side of the fence. We really do need each other. To form an alternative community that allows us to be our full selves in the face of the powers that be we need to remember a basic truth Mike and Mimi scripted into their wedding on Saturday: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:9-10)
I may be too optimistic, but I think both the nanny state and Katniss Everdeen are shooting (sometimes literally) for those goals listed in Romans. They just can’t get there without Jesus, and it is hard enough with him. We need to keep at it with true devotion on behalf of us all.