One could get the impression that the world is not a kind place. News reports provide constant evidence that the cruel, powerful, greedy and shameless are running the show. As Leo Durocher once said, “Nice guys finish last.”
Today I read a news article (from a reputable source) that a large bank weaseled out of paying its fine for abetting the mortgage meltdown of 2008. The Feds ordered the bank to pay 1 billion in cash out of a 5 billion levy. The rest had to be doled out in debt forgiveness to homeowners in financial distress. The bank figured out a way to shuffle accounts, canceled debts on properties it no longer owned, and saved 4 billion. The article noted that this institution has holdings valued at 1/8 of the United States economy, implying that there was no financial need for this subterfuge. The officers in charge felt no remorse for helping to cause the Great Recession and no need to make a pittance of amends.
Last Sunday our pastor at Winter Park Presbyterian preached on passages from 4 Philippians in which Paul advised his readers to be unafraid, to pray constantly to God and give thanks, and to focus on everything that is good, pure and just. Pastor Micheli noted that this letter was the last that Paul wrote as he waited in a Roman prison to be executed. Micheli expanded on the passage and spoke of turning to God in troubled times as a source of comfort, as the one true rock on which we can stand.
I was struck by Paul’s faith and knew that I would never be able to match his courage. I’d spend my last days and hours looking for an escape, making bargains with God to save my sorry butt, and sweating in full blown panic. As I sat in the pew I felt a longing for the peace and sureness of conviction of those who have a strong relationship with God.
I’ve rarely been able to sustain a life centered on spirituality, but now I see the necessity. I might be deluding myself, but my wavering agnostic path no longer seems to be working. And I’ve noticed that the company is a lot better when I hang around with people who believe in something more than blind self-interest.
Last place doesn’t look all that bad to me.