Disproportion in 2 applications

Mary Magdala Community

Rev. Jim Ryan, PhD  — jimryan6885@gmail.com

Co-pastor of Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles Community

Wauwatosa, Wisconsin 53213


In the span of 8 months we have adopted new patterns of thinking and of marking events.  I’m guessing that you/we all have started a comment with, “When we used to be together…” or “Now that we’re closed in…” or, perhaps better, “I wonder if the Barber Shop / Hair Salon is open.”  And then of course, “What do you suppose it will be like when we get back together?”  In 8 short, though excruciatingly long, months life has permanently changed particularly as we consider “before and after covid.”

Yet, how we were who we were, and are, continues on.  By this I want to point specifically to conditions that have become more exposed and still fester in our society made obvious by the effect and impacts of Covid.  These times sadly have made these conditions worse.

For example, as a percent of population, as we know all too clearly, Covid deaths are higher in communities of color than in the white population, oftentimes double the percent.  And don’t you just want to put out of its misery the term “essential worker?”  If essential workers are so essential why are they paid so little?  Unemployment, prior to covid, was so low, in part, because essential workers had to find 2 or 3 essential jobs and still couldn’t grow anything that comes close to being wealth for themselves.  And isn’t it curious that these essential workers are so essential that they are first to be fired when the jobs go away or state and local finances just get too tight?

Since I’m on a roll where are the pedestals, let alone the extension of unemployment benefits, for the essential workers who have lost their essential jobs with wages that essentially stretch only from paycheck to paycheck?

This wide and scandalous variation in death rates and cynical treatment that abandons the working class has been called an example of disproportion.  What a dismissive use of a very fine word.

Yes, disproportion exists when more, far more, persons of color die (again, as percent of population) than white persons.  Used in this example disproportion masks the scandal of the lack of universal health care in this country.  Disproportion hides wealth and capital’s steamrolling and inevitable rise to the top of the economics of a society that uses the term competitive wages when its real strategy is to wring out greater and greater production from the workforce that has been deprived of a living wage.  Disproportion salves the mindset (I almost said conscience) of those who regard workers as disposable.

Finally, disproportion, used in this application, is a word that takes aim at numbers rather than persons.  You know, let’s calculate how to increase/decrease the percentage so the disproportionate rate is not so noticeable.

What I have just described is disproportion that reveals/uncovers the chasms that exist economically, racially, and certainly spiritually among us.  It is a disproportion that reveals greed, separation, and disrespect.

Now, let me speak of disproportion that reveals love, community, and gift.

Ask yourself where did I ever get the notion that love – the kind of love that is given with no expectation of response – that love is the solution.  For that matter, where did we ever get the idea that to give is better than to receive?  And where in the world did we come up with the commitment to believe in loving and giving in the first place?

Let’s be clear that these ideas are not exclusive to the message of Jesus though they are certainly compatible with his teaching and example.  These applications for community living and thriving have been around for thousands of years.  You would think that we would have figured that out by now.

Please consider that we live by these ideas because loving and giving comes from an infinite and a forever reserve of a disproportionate source.  We can solve disproportionate death rates and vast inequities by drawing upon our relationship with this source of love that, itself, floods us with disproportion.  We could never maintain on our own such love as is needed.  We require returning to the infinite, disproportionate source.

This relation with a source that disproportionately floods us with gifts of reassurance and solidarity may be religious for you.  It may be an affirmation of the universe with its cosmic wonders.  Or it may simply be your response to that quiet, inner voice that says, “This is the way life must be.”

When you see those death rates that are labelled disproportionate because of who covid kills, maybe you will renew your commitment to act for justice while giving thanks for the disproportionate source of those gifts that keep you in love.

And when we get back together won’t we be disproportionately overwhelmed!

A Prayer (JR)

Disproportion is the name of inexhaustible love, since not any one of us is the source of all that any one of us needs.  This is the well that never dries up, the night sky of numberless stars.

May we end disproportionate death rates, even as we beat covid, and see that essential workers earn a living wage.

When we search for love and we desire to be renewed with gifts that are simply given may we do so with confident faith in that inner voice that calls us to respond.  Amen.

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