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Altar, throne and cottage...

...a quaint notion, minted in early nineteenth century Europe, which has been variously juggled as a framework for the ordering of society.

Or, to put it another way: God's in His Heaven, All's right with the world. So sang Pippa, the little silk-winder from Asolo in Robert Browning's poem, Pippa Passes. I sometimes think he should have made that a qualifying clause: When God's in His Heaven, All's right with the world.

I was reminded of this recently by a fellow Redroomer. In her first blog The Power of Words, Marsha Hansen revives the convention of giving honour to God before a public address. Sadly, she feels that only African Americans of a certain age will know where she's coming from. As a European observer, I couldn't help wondering what this practice might signify to Barack Obama and even John McCain.

This is the priority system that evolved into the Constitution and from which the American dream was forged.

Time was, in England, when, before a meal, with all family members assembled (simultaneously!) around the table, the head of the household would say the 'Grace', a prayer of thanks to God for providing their food, but not only that, a blessing upon it that it would nourish the flesh and do no harm if it were contaminated. It was a kind of domestic Eucharist. The tradition survived through WWII and into the sixties when a certain degree of affluence and taking things for granted began to permeate social life. Today, it is observed only in religious orders, in academe and at (some) public functions. Even Christian families seldom subscribe to it.

Whatever the colour of your politics or your creed, this calls for genuine humility. It says that we're all equal before God and we're all in this together. It unites and focuses our will. It incorporates us, validates each of us and gives us a place to belong. It calls down a blessing on the things we endeavour, that they will be used for the benefit of everyone. It consumes the idea of a democratic free-for-all where dishonourable dealing is accommodated and the weakest get trampled in the crush.

Yes, of course it's an ideal, and one instinct with nostalgia for what never quite existed. History lays bare the legacy of corrupt Popes, self-serving kings, abused and disaffected peasants. But does that make the ideal misguided?

Isn't it precisely because of the excesses of human nature that we need such a paradigm to get us back on track?

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I think of putting all

I think of putting all humans on an equal playing field (so to speak) and thanking the earth for the bounty one is about to consume is a great thing.  We are all human, we all need to eat, we are damn lucky to have food!  And certainly, my oldest son would suggest that having the food isn't a given and prey to the corrupt human systems taking hold.

However, since I don't believe in god and wouldn't put god before humans or put god's view on humans, does the basic notion of thanks still work in your paradigm?  My disbelief does not come from the corrupt folk who practice (d) religion but just from an understanding of human need for a story, a damn big one.  We want an over story because otherwise, it's too scary.

So without god in the picture, would such thanks put us "back on track"?


Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Thanks for your comments, Jessica. In answer to your question, yes, I believe your approach would put us back on track. God is present in loving your neighbour as yourself so, except for an acknowledgement of that intent, he doesn't desire to come before humans with whom he identifies in Jesus. But doing that is a pretty tall order. It's certainly not a thing I can achieve alone, because my 'neighbour' is sometimes unappealing and I want to run a mile from the situation.

A lot of people would take issue with this for very sound reasons, but the 'overstory' you describe is the only thing which makes any kind of sense of the human condition for me. Its image is in our psyche, in the myths and legends of our classical heritage, and I see its stamp constantly in everyday life. I look at the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and it is the interior journey of one human soul, almost a stream-of-consciousness story. That has to be a reflection of God.

Yes, in the beginning was the Word. We're made to need a story.





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We ARE made to need a story

the good news is that we can pick which one to listen to, at least most of us.

The Golden Rule is a good rule not matter how it is said, and if only we could learn to apply it.



Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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I am not Christian

but when I go to my childhood friend, John Pollard's house, we always bow their heads and one of the kids say Grace for us all.  I used to be embarrassed, because I was self-conscious about not being from the Christian tradition.  Now, I love the humility that the act symbolizes.

Thanks for this post.

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Belle, thank you. You've struck gold. Humility is the subtext and key to all this. In Western democracy, it seems to have dropped over the horizon.