From the editor: Am I my brother’s keeper?
As I continue to introduce myself to Craig, I hope you won’t mind periodically learning a little more about me.
One of the first things you should know about me is I’m a devout Christian. Now, this isn’t about to be a column better suited for Friday’s Faith page, I promise, but that’s a detail about me that informs what I’m about to suggest. What follows, though referencing scripture, is simply by way of example. I think it applies to people of all beliefs.
Among the more famous stories in the Bible is the tragic tale of the Earth’s first offspring, Cain and Abel. Perhaps the most well-known line from that story comes from the mouth of the antagonist.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain asks the Lord in response to the latter’s question of Abel’s whereabouts. Cain, of course, had recently — the scriptural record is silent on just how recently — taken the life of his brother.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” was the question of the world’s first murderer — an obfuscating answer, in fact, as Cain avoided directly addressing the Lord’s probing ask.
Obviously, Cain felt he was not his brother’s keeper.
But it’s clear throughout scripture both Hebrew, Christian and otherwise, that it’s the unilateral opinion of Divinity that those are the feelings of — for lack of a better term — a sociopath.
Whatever your religious beliefs, that concept — that we are on some level responsible for our fellow beings — is pretty consistently applied. While the why and sometimes the who or the how might vary from belief to belief, the idea that society, heck, humanity, is better off when we look out for one another is nearly a universal belief.
That’s not to say it’s universally applied. The instinct to “get yours” or “watch out for number one” is hard to escape. Maybe it’s our primal nature? Maybe it’s culturally imbued? I’m honestly not sure. But there’s no question that it takes a conscious decision for most of us to choose to be our brothers’ or sisters’ keepers — and it’s a righteous choice that all of us have failed to make from time to time.
Jesus said to love our neighbor as ourselves — and if there were any question who our neighbor was, He made it clear by way of parable that it was the neighborhood of Earth.
From the Buddha to the Prophet Muhammad to the Vedic sages to Sikh gurus to Sartre, the maxim is oft-repeated and just as often emphasized as critical to our humanity.
It doesn’t matter what you believe, rising above our baser nature is done first and last by caring for others.
It’s the primary difference between a society that thrives and one that fails.
The renowned American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead (no relation — that I know of) said the first sign of civilization in ancient human culture was a healed thighbone. Researchers had discovered the skeletal remains of ancient people with anatomical evidence of having broken and later repaired this massive bone while still alive.
It meant an early human had been badly injured, then cared for and nurtured back to health. It was a sharp distinction from animal culture, where those who couldn’t keep up with the group were left for dead.
It demonstrated the choice of being one’s brother’s keeper.
“Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts,” Mead said.
And it’s times like these for which these ascendant edicts are made.
Just this past week, we’ve seen a lot: Another local pandemic death, the grim return of fire season, and a shooting in Craig. We can’t account for fire, we can’t control the truly sick or deranged, and we’ve been over and over our limited power when it comes to the virus. It feels sometimes like there’s only so much we can really do.
But one thing we can do is watch out for one another.
We can be our brothers’ keepers.
I’m learning quickly that, in general, the will to love our neighbor as ourselves is stronger in Craig than it is in most places. What a wonderful local instinct that seems to be. Let’s double down on that effort today, this week, and into the future. As whatever the future is holding for Craig rapidly washes over us, there’s no question that we’re better together.
Am I my brother’s keeper, then?
I’ll tell you what: I’m going to try to be.
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Jesus takes a vacation in Mark 6:30-34. Or at least he tries to. His vacations go like my vacations sometimes do. Everything that can goes wrong does.