Ever since I first started reading Down We Go by Kathy Escobar I’ve been promising you a discussion of some of the main points of the book. So here we go…
Chapter 1 – It Stinks Down Here but I Really Love the Smell
Kathy begins by telling us this book is based on the Beatitudes, and on 12 Step programs. She says
I love the Beatitudes and I hate the Beatitudes. They are powerful words from a radical man who messed with my life…. Success, war, vengeance, power and strength are the guiding principles of our day. Humility, gentleness, desperation, spiritual poverty, advocating for justice and being persecuted for standing on the side of the oppressed are sure to make us inconvenienced, challenged and humble.
Questions for Reflection:
1. What does “downward mobility” mean to you?
It means that I have to quit looking for the loveable people around me, and start looking for the unloveable. There are plenty of folks who will love the loveable, but the unloveable need someone to support and help them.
2. Where are you seeing pain right now? Is it in your own life? the lives of others?
Most of the pain I see right now is in the lives of people who are struggling to find employment. These are folks who have been upwardly mobile all their lives, and maybe, through no fault of their own, find themselves struggling to make it in the world. They may be middle-aged and have lost their job and have run out of unemployment insurance. I see pain in their families when I learn that almost 30% of the children in South Dallas go to bed hungry every evening. I see it when I learn that many of the clients of North Dallas Shared Ministries, used to volunteer there and help others, and now they have to go there to get enough food to feed themselves and their children. I see it in the new graduates from seminaries who search desperately for a church to serve and can’t afford to serve in the churches who desperately need a minister because they have student loans to pay off and families to feed and the churches can’t afford to pay them even the Presbytery minimum.
3. Read the Beatitudes several times. What verses pop out? Consider re-writing them in your own language as a way to connect with some of their power.
Presbyterian Women are studying the Beatitudes this year, and I love “The Aymer Translation” from Margaret Aymer Oget, the author of the study and a friend.
Greatly honored are the destitute in spirit, for of them is the kingdom of heaven
Greatly honored are the humbled, for they will inherit the earth
Greatly honored are those who are famished and parched for justice, for they will be satisfied
Greatly honored are the merciful, for they will receive mercy
Greatly honored are the pure in heart, for they will see G-d
Greatly honored are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of G-d
Greatly honored are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for of them is the kingdom of heaven
Greatly honored are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven, for so also they persecuted the prophets who were before you
The ones that really “pop out” at me are the ones about the destitute and the hungry (see #2 above), and the ones about justice. We first started the study when the Occupy Movement was coming to national prominence. That movement, at its core and at its purest, is exactly about the destitute and hungry pleading for justice.
4. Reflect on the 12 Steps. How are they similar to the Beatitudes?
The 12 Steps encourage us to take an honest inventory of ourselves. They remind me that I am unable to cope by myself, that I must have the help of other people and the help of G-d. My particular addiction is to food, and I am in the midst of a struggle to keep it from ruling my life – either the eating or the not eating. The problem with being addicted to food is that you can’t say “I’ll never eat again” like you can say “I’ll never drink alcohol again” or “I’ll never smoke another cigarette again.” You always have to keep on eating – the trick is not to OVER-eat. I quit smoking cold turkey, after a 25-year, 2.5 pack a day habit. I tried for months to “cut back”, but the only way I was able to kick the habit was the stop completely. Unfortunately you can’t do that with food. So I struggle daily with my diet.
5. When you hear the call of Jesus to come and follow him, what does that mean to you?
It means I need to leave my comfort zone of interacting with people like me, and to get to know those who are struggling even more than I am. It means being willing to give up some of my personal enjoyment, so I can help folks who can’t help themselves. I have volunteered to be a financial mentor for people who are experiencing the most difficult times of having either lost their homes, or being on the verge of losing their homes. But because I have had periods in my life when my disposable income was severely curtailed, I believe I can help them dig out of the hole they find themselves in.