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Cesspools Abound!

Oh, the stuff we slip into unawares! Sure, there are big, bottomless pits like addiction and abusive relationships. But consider how even those two are inclusive of a mess of manifestations. Lots of different ways addiction and abuse play out in our lives. For instance, we could be addicted to a substance or an experience or a food or some manner of media or another person. And abuse cuts across a wide swath of human life: physical, emotional, social, financial, spiritual… and it ranges from overt to covert, from the easily identifiable to the barely detectable. Sometimes we don’t recognize the signs until we’re down the road looking in the rearview mirror.

But, oh, there’s so much more stuff we slip into unawares! Cesspools abound and we may not even realize we’re bobbing in them. Cultural customs, thought patterns, unexamined habits, power plays, unquestioned attitudes, idolatry. Yes, that’s a strong word, idolatry. But, according to our culture, we know, “There are singers, and then there are idols.” Someone or something adored, admired, uh, yeah, idolized. Something so desired it slops over into “gotta have.” Someone so esteemed s/he becomes a demi-god. Putting stock in every word we hear from [fill in the blank]. This huge cesspool sucks us in ever so quietly and seemingly innocuously. And pretty much not a one of us is immune.

For readers of the Doonesbury cartoon strip, the character of Rev. Sloan is familiar. Sloan was modeled after the real William Sloane Coffin, longtime pastor of Riverside Church in New York City. Some find Coffin commendable, but others lean toward reprehensible, in part because he didn’t dilute his thoughts or mince his words. Coffin asks this pointed question: “Why should we want all things to enjoy life when we have been given life to enjoy all things?”

Wanting. It’s so much a part of being human. It bubbles just below the surface of our awareness and sometimes cascades into decisions and choices that are more life-sucking than life-giving. The next thing we know we’re standing in a cesspool up to our knees. Sure, it’s human to want to be accepted and appreciated, secure and satisfied, and, whenever possible, right. But when our wanting slips over into willing, it can potentially get in the way of healthy relationships – with things, with intangibles such as status, with others, and even with ourselves – and that is the essence of idolatry. What or who will be our guide as we navigate life on earth without a map of the cesspools which abound all around?

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