BP and Bach

Bill’s sermon last Sunday reminded me of Garrison Keillor’s editorial “BP and Bach” published June 2 in the New York Times. Keillor is the longtime host of NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion” available on radio (yes, radio is still around!) every Saturday evening from 5:00 until 7:00. He’s a believer, a decent writer and a very funny man. In his Times essay, he indulges in some ironic musings about human nature that, despite the differences in our theology and our political philosophy, I am struck by forcefully.

“I flew home from Washington Monday night, looking at live pictures on the BP Web site taken by an underwater robot of the greasy waters of the Gulf, and how’s that for a Metaphor of Our Times?

Aboard a Delta Airbus at 37,000 feet maneuvering around giant thunderheads, connected to the Internet via satellite, looking at dark gloop a mile below the sea, contemplating the death of a beautiful body of water, unable to think of a single sensible thing to do or say about this that would make a milligram of difference, and yet here I sit with a clear view of the situation, like a passenger in a car skidding slowly into the median…

We are self-centered, short-sighted people, intent on comfort, averse to sacrifice. We know this. Knowing it does not empower us to change. The new guy at MMS will attempt to exercise oversight, Congress will hold more hearings, but in reality we have given over the Gulf to British Petroleum. Only the oilmen can plug the hole. The value of moral harrumphing is rather minimal, and though, as an ex-fundamentalist, I can sermonize with the best of them, I will spare you my tiny outburst of dudgeon…

If man is pushing the planet toward extinction, then we should stop doing what we’re doing, and if we cannot stop ourselves or tolerate government making us stop or slow down, then I suppose we should enjoy the ride. The condemned man ate a hearty breakfast.

I can’t think of anything better to do right now than to sit in my backyard and look at the Mississippi and listen to Bach cello suites and enjoy a dish of ice cream with fresh raspberries.

As the Gulf turns dark and the polar ice cap melts, I intend to listen to Bach more and listen to the news less. It’s good to know that, in the midst of vast indifference and mediocrity and narcissism, mankind did manage to produce the St. Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor.”

How could the same creatures who trashed the Gulf also write the B Minor Mass? We are, in the words of Francis Schaeffer, “a glorious ruin”, made in the image of God, capable of Bach and better.  But at the same time we are, in Paul’s words in Romans 1, foolish, futile, degraded fools. Why are we surprised when the same species that brought us Chernobyl also produces Deep Horizon?

Thankfully the last word in this story isn’t ours.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'” (Revelation 21:1-5)

For those of you who, like Keillor, can’t get enough of the B Minor Mass, please be advised that All Saints’ own Dorea Cook will be singing it with Conspirare this Sunday, June 13, in what is sure to be an outstanding performance. Want tickets? Contact the Long Center.