Jerusalem: History kills

Nobody who does not live in Eastern Jerusalem should tell anyone who does anything at all. I have no idea what it would be like to try to raise children or care for a mother here. I am pretty sure that access to healthcare would be among my least worries; falling way behind worrying about my kids or mom getting shot, insulted or run over by a tourist bus on the way to get milk. But if you did need healthcare, you’d have to worry fast and deep, leaving plenty of time to negotiate the check-points and aforementioned tourist busses (and hope your physician did, too).

This is the home of every pathological and transcendent impulse that ever crossed the mind and spirit of a human being. Our hotel, on the Mount of Olives, is surrounded by graves for a half mile in every direction, interspersed with a monument or church marking something or another that happened one, two or three millennia ago that causes people to think of genocide today.

Of course, any disease condition linked to stress, poverty, inadequate housing, food, preventive screening is epidemic. More people surely die from unmanaged diabetes than gunfire; way more from undiagnosed cancer, too. But the problem is not the science and not even presence of clinical facilities and skilled, committed providers. It is hard enough to run a health care organization in troubled Memphis so I pause in wonder watching nurses, doctors and administrators showing up at work here and doing their best to care for those who need them. Showing up for work and giving one’s competence to others is a mundane miracle that is far more wondrous to me than all the monuments put together (and here that is really saying something).

Jesus was killed for showing little respect for the extrinsic formalities of his religious traditions and the self perpetuating trappings of power that tradition had prostituted itself to defend. He attacked with sarcasm, disrespect, simple stories that cut through the deadly pomp like razors. He was deeply, transcendently maladjusted to the world we want to merely tweak and improve. He flipped over the tables of those that make money selling religious distractions amid injustice that mocks God’s generous, creative shalom. He’d be dead again today for the same reasons.

Find somebody you disagree with today and ask them something about their life. Anything, really; but best to ask about their kids and what they hope for them. Ask what they are proud of; what they hope their children see in them; why they show up at work and give themselves to their labor. But, really, just ask anything at all. Don’t explain anything about yourself at all, unless they ask. Your head is not the point. Ask.

You’ll be laying down one thin thread of hope that God might weave with.

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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