A Nation of Sojourners
You can make a kind of portrait or character-study of a person who reads a lot simply by mapping the books he reads. Each reader will have a unique list, unlike that of any other, so that the list itself is a kind of character-study or mindprint.
One important aspect of reading is that it connects us with the flow of human thought and imagination through the ages. In our age we have largely abandoned the notion that this is at all important. We are expected to be aware of the past only insofaras we can justify scorning it as irrelevant. It is considered more important to revel in pop culture than to know and relish our human heritage.
But for others, their is a kind of thirst for books which, once acquired, is never lost. I know people who would walk through a bookstore with bored disinterest. I know people, intelligent people, who believe they have a kind of mental-block or disability which prevents them from reading, even though they'd like to. I confess I don't understand this attitude.
This morning I began reading a book called The Kingdom of God, by John Bright. The book was written in 1950, but the author draws on a wealth of knowledge acquired through his own reading and study, which he then passes on to his readers. His book then is our access point to his lifetime of study. Or think of it this way: his lifetime of study was molded into the unique shape that is his book, and the book is a "view-finder" through which we catch glimpses of earlier thinkers and writers. In reading his book we are looking back over a path that he alone tread, and seeing along that trail the signposts of other thinkers and writers who contributed something to his understanding. That's why, if you like the book, its footnotes and bibliography are a kind of goldmine from which to select further fruitful reading.
Well, I had no intention of saying all this when I sat down to blog this morning. In fact, I didn't know I had these thought rattling around up there at all. What I really wanted to do was share a passage from Bright's book. Bright is considering the establishment of the Israelite kingdom under David, and the close association of that kingdom with the "temple cult." The temptation for Israel, he says, was to so closely associate the promises of God with the Davidic kingdom as they knew it as to believe that God's purposes in history were realized and completed in "the existing order."
I think this qualifies as a "deep thought," and it raises a question we would do well to ask ourselves. With regard to Israel, Bright puts the matter this way:
Would the robust confidence in the future which had activated her and driven her on to the Promised Land, and written in her spirit--though she may not have known it--the vision of a city not made with hands, be saitisfied with the city of Jerusalem and the material plenty which Solomon could provide?Applying the same questions to our own situation--or, more precisely, to the United States in 1950--Bright asks,
Will our destiny as a nation which calls itself Christian be satisfied in terms of the economic prosperity and the national might which we have created? Will we seek no higher salvation than that the present order can provide in terms of increased income, autmobiles, and television sets? What is worse, will we, because we have churches and because our political forms are hospitable to their growth, assume that the present order is the God-ordained order which God--if he be just--may be called upon to defend always? The people that answer that question so, will see it as the sole function of religion to support and to hallow in the name of God its own material best interests. But it will never begin to understand the Kingdom of God.Think about these things. It is always good to remember that, if we truly are a Christian nation, then we are a nation of sojourners for whom no earthly nation can really be considered home.