She is Bigger than the City!

She is Bigger than the City! August 11, 2017

2 Photina_of_ProtatThere is a reason the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. We should not love anything disproportionately or inappropriately, but it is worse when out of control loves are detached from reality. If we love a friend poorly, at least we are loving a person and there is hope that he or she will be able to correct you! If we love an imaginary friend disproportionately, even as a child, then this can be devastating. There is less reality to check our mistakes.

Money is a human construct. If we did not accept that money had value, then money would have no value. This is particularly true now that almost all money is a digital construct! Loving a number that glows on a screen is more dangerous than loving a diamond. The diamond is beautiful, but our digital money is not!

Our sub-creations are not evil in themselves, just broken like we are. We must create as creatures in God’s image, but we must always remember the status of these creations: imitations of reality, partaking in the truth, goodness, and beauty indirectly. They are copies of copies. As a result, our love for what we make must always be less than our love for what God has made, particularly humans!

Today at a national conference for educators I looked up to see an image of a woman and Jesus talking at a well. If you look at the image, she is bigger than the city of Samaria. Foolish people think this is because the artist could not do perspective, but this is quite wrong. The inspired artist, the writer of this icon, was telling a spiritual truth: the woman is bigger than the city! The city is a human idea, Samaria, and is not worth one human life. This woman is real in the way a city can never be. Of course, each individual Samaritan also has worth in God’s eyes. One might sacrifice oneself for the other members of a city, but not for the concept.

We can rebuild a city, renew a vision of a community, but we cannot give human life to even one person.

There is a beneficial legal fiction that corporations are “people” or that non-profits are people. When this device is helpful to people, as when it enables them to take shared risks without the threat of personal bankruptcy, this is good. Fiction can teach, as when one uses a parable or fable to reveal a deep truth. When the decision was made to kill men like my grandfather by not giving them protection against asbestos, because Union Carbide valued the fictional corporation over this good man, then they loved their own invention wickedly. The corporation was Frankenstein’s monster. When we forget that our stories are just stories, and fandom turns to fanaticism, then we have gone too far.

A sculpture, a corporation, and great book are all brilliant products of human creativity. They should be treasured, honored, and enjoyed while never forgetting they are shadows of reality in service to people. In my own profession, the school, the academic program, must always be less important than the people.

Jesus saw this clearly. He loved the city of Jerusalem and mourned her coming destruction, but his greatest sorrow was for the innocents who would suffer as a result. Jesus died to save the Woman at the Well, a Samaritan, but did not die for Samaria.

God help us to love as we should.

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