Last night at about 1:30, I was sitting under the gas heater at a sidewalk cafe, drinking oversized glasses of Belgian ale and listening with amazement to an itinerant Mexican guitarist - a modern-day John Henry! - who was trying to outperform the electronica blaring from the sound system. He wouldn't offer his foe even so small a concession as to play in its key or tempo, and the result was a category 5 storm of atonality.
It was ghastly, and yet weirdly touching. And at that moment I decided I'd consecrate Sundays to excerpts from American sermons and religious writings that stand in a similarly discordant relation to Christian and secular viciousness (and thus to conservatism, that idiot child of both).
I'll start with a sermon preached on December 9, 1621, at Plymouth, New England, by Robert Cushman. His text comes from I. Cor. 10. 24: Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.
What then must you do? May you live as retired hermits? And look after nobody? Nay, you must seek still the wealth of one another, and enquire as David, how liveth such a man? How is he clad? How is he fed? He is my brother, my associate; we ventured our lives together here, and had a hard brunt of it, and we are in league together. Is his labor harder than mine? Surely, I will ease him. Hath he no bed to lie on? Why, I have two; I'll lend him one. Hath he no apparel? Why, I have two suits; I'll give him one of them. Eats he coarse fare, bread and water, and I have better? Why, surely we will part stakes. He is as good a man as I, and we are bound to each other, so that his wants must be my wants, his sorrows my sorrows, his sickness my sickness, and his welfare my welfare, for I am as he is. And such a sweet sympathy were excellent, comfortable, yea, heavenly, and is the only maker and conserver of churches and commonwealths, and where this is wanting, ruin comes on quickly....
[T]rue it is, that as Christ was fain to crave water of the Samaritan woman, so men are forced to ask sometimes rather than starve, but indeed in all societies it should be offered them. Men often complain of men's boldness in asking, but how cometh this to pass, but because the world hath been so full of self-lovers, as no man would offer their money, meat, garments, though they saw men hungry, harborless, poor, and naked in the streets; and what is it that makes men brazen-faced, bold, brutish, tumultuous, mutinous, but because they are pinched with want, and see others of their companions (which it may be have less deserved) to live in prosperity and pleasure?
[W]hat is a man if he be not sociable, kind, affable, free-hearted, liberal? He is a beast in the shape of a man, or rather an infernal spirit, walking amongst men which makes the world a hell what in him lieth; for, it is even a hell to live where there are many such men. Such the Scripture calleth Nabals, which signifyeth fools and decayed men, which have lost both the sap of grace and nature; and such merciless men are called Goats, and shall be set at Christ's left hand at the last day. Oh therefore seek the wealth of one another.