Blogging and the House of Morgan

Having conferred for LO, these many days at the Beyond Walls conference here at Kenyon College, there some valuable insights I feel duty bound to share.

First, when your walking toward your residence through a thunderstorm with a tornado siren wailing, the woman who yells out her door, “You’re supposed to take shelter!” is probably inviting you to a place of safety, not being a sarcastic jerk.

Also, there are rabbis who color coordinate their yarmulkes to their outfits, which is perhaps the coolest thing ever.

IMG_2878
Thanks, Adam!

But here’s the epiphany I really need to share, so much so that I’m actually posting for the second time in two days. I know; calm down and take a breath.

Blogging is an awful lot like private banking the golden age of finance.Marinus_Claesz._van_Reymerswaele_001

In that I just sit around and counting money all day; work, work, work.

Private Banks, like the Medicis in the fifteenth century, the Rothchilds in the nineteenth and the House of Morgan in the twentieth, each dealt with sums of money large enough to be termed capital and not simply wealth; nonetheless, the true value of their product, if one can call it that, rested almost entirely on reputation and character. It wasn’t enough that Pierpont Morgan had many millions of dollars, or even that he was willing to lend those many millions; rather, it was his reputation as a man whose word could be trusted that enabled his bank to exert influence far beyond the value of its capital – not once, but twice stepping in to rescue the United States from financial ruin.
8w6EQ

All while trying to avoid being in the same picture as his nose.

Such Private Banks didn’t cater to just anyone; one didn’t just walk into 23 Wall Street with a bag of money and expect to open an account. Medici or Morgan, you either had to be somebody or know somebody to begin a relationship. Their clientele always came with a reference – a Letter of Introduction. 

Andrew_Carnegie,_three-quarter_length_portrait,_seated,_facing_slightly_left,_1913-crop

Unless they were really, really rich.

a349a1be0509a7059812685df7b980c3

Or the Prince of Wales.

This was the original concept of relationship banking – not seeking to leverage loyalty and familiarity to sell more product, but instead, recognizing the essential connection between banker and client; how not just the fortunes, but the reputation of one might be affected by the actions of the other. Such relationships were long term commitments, generally regarded as sacrosanct by competing banks, and were sources of pride for both parties.

I am a not a banker.

Lionel_Barrymore_as_Mr._Potter

Although I do have the scowl.

 I am a writer; in particular, a sometimes humorous writer of theological and spiritual wisdom from the Christian, Protestant, Reformed, Presbyterian perspective. You, presumably, are a reader, who either seeks humor, or wisdom, or is my friend and responding to my desperate plea for validation. (Thanks, guys.) As a Blog writer (I refuse to use the term ‘Blogger, since it reminds me of a video game at which I was terrible), there are relationships building here, on this page, which may have repercussions for both you and me, especially if you, the readers, take advantage of the comment section, which you can do my clicking on the little blue dialog bubble on the top right.

Did you notice how, in the previous paragraph,  I got you to assume I am capable of sharing both humor AND wisdom? That’s called Branding. Here’s some more.

It is my hope and intention to:

Break down social and theological issues of the day to make them accessible to the folks in (and beyond) the pew, and provide a framework for real discussion.

– my words

OR:

To integrate disparate topics into a meditation we can all use.

-the completely voluntary, totally accurate words of a college classmate. Thanks Michael.

So it seems appropriate, before I go any farther into the Blogosphere, to establish my Bona Fides, so that you can judge for yourself whether or not I am a source you can trust. So, VERY SOON, you will be able read what I shall call my ‘Letter of Introduction.’ I promise. Just as soon as I write it.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…

So. I am at this writer’s conference at Kenyon college, which, you may be surprised to hear, is not in Nairobi.

Kenya_safari

Which may explain why there are no photo safaris scheduled.

Since continuing education is important, even crucial to maintaining a healthy effective ministry, such events have become an intrinsic part of what I do; which doesn’t mean I like it.


I am not a mixer. 

Kenwood_Chef_Model_700

No.

448799824_ce5e94c4cc_o

No.

Hipp_hipp_hurra!_Konstnärsfest_på_Skagen_-_Peder_Severin_Krøyer

Just stop.

At a conference or seminar, I tend to find one particular place to sit at meal times, one particular table. If others come and sit, that’s fine, but I don’t really seek out new adventures in dining halls; very often, I am reading, which really does tend to discourage all but the stoutest extroverts from joining me.

GaryBuseyOct07

Like this guy.

I suppose such self-imposed solitude is the lot of the introvert, but it is self imposed. And that makes a difference.

I often choose isolation, not because I stand in opposition to those around me, but simply because I find relationship building to be exhausting rather than exhilarating. The truth is, in scanning my life, I can recall perhaps a single instance where I was the pariah, the outcast, the enemy – whether in the lunchroom, or the classroom, or the church meeting, or the pulpit.

4855565ec91128b3bf28eea7604a086f

This is not me. I swear.

So it is with a sense of wonder and confusion I find myself contemplating the passage from the Psalm: Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…

Dr. Kenneth Bailey, founder and director of the Institute for Middle Eastern New Testament Studies, spent 40 years living and teaching in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus.  His decades of field research have brought to life much of the Biblical witness, including the Psalms of David and the Parables of Jesus.

bailey-featured1

This is Ken Bailey.

Once, when speaking of hospitality, he outlined the Law of the Desert, which requires one to welcome the stranger, sharing one’s food, drink and shelter with any who happen along. This was simply enlightened self interest; in the searing heat of the desert, the law of hospitality was a matter of survival – you welcomed others so that they might one day welcome you. Further, custom dictated if someone was on the run from their enemies, they must be made welcome in your company, fed, sheltered, defended – while their enemies were mandated to retreat beyond the distance of the firelight.

eyes-in-the-dark-vector

Such law, such hospitality predates theology; it is custom old beyond reckoning. Over time, though, the polar forces of western culture and Sharia law served to erode this Law of the Desert, as they have so many other customs and traditions throughout the Levant. But Dr. Bailey recounted one story of hospitality that was at once ancient and immediate.


As a professor in Egypt, he was arrested by the authorities for the crime of evangelism – ‘Shaking the faith of a Muslim.’ The penalties for such a crime, while not necessarily as severe as other transgressions under Sharia, nonetheless put the defendant in a tenuous position within the community -even if charges were to be dropped, such an accusation alone can prompt mob action in defense of Islam. The accusation required Bailey to travel from his home to Cairo, where news of his arrest had become common knowledge. Having admonished his brothers and sisters in Christ to distance themselves from him, for fear of their own safety, he travelled alone, fearful for his future. He was shocked then, when he descended from the train, to discover the Christian community of Cairo awaiting him, en masse. They conducted him to a public square, where in an outdoor café, they he was treated to a great banquet… under the watchful eyes of the authorities.

Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Banquet_d'Achéloüs

You get the idea.

To open one’s table, one’s home, one’s life to the stranger is gracious; to do so in the presence of their enemies is defiance. In doing so, we may become a target – their enemies might become our enemies. And yet, that is just what God does.

Hospitality becomes something more, something sacred, when it becomes dangerous, for it reflects the grace God bestows on us, and helps us to be the conduits of God’s love we are each called to be.

egypt-muslims-protect-church

I may be sitting alone in the dining room, but I like to think if you were in a jam, I’d make you dinner. May it be so for all of us.