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October 24, 2003
Each Friday's eMo is a meditation on the lectionary texts that will be read in many churches the following Sunday. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution.


And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

People don't always like it when outsiders assert themselves. We want to help, of course, but feel that it really ought to be on our terms. We don't always want them to ask for what they need. Why can't they just let us tell them? Clearly, we're the ones who know how the world works. I mean, if they knew, they wouldn't be outsiders, now would they?

The sick and the poor, the weak, the outcast -- they should try to be quiet. We'll get to them. We have so much to offer them, if they'll just be patient.

But blind Bartimaeus asks anyway. Makes a lot of noise asking. People try to shush him, but he won't shush.

Interestingly, although Jesus knows Bartimaeus is blind, he does not assume that that's what he wants healed. He asks, and in the asking he shows Bartimaeus respect. Disabled people have an existence apart from their disabilities. Some have families. Some have jobs. All of them have lives, longings beyond the ones that are obvious to others. Who knows what Bartimaeus needs if nobody asks him?

And who knows who he really is? What he really knows? Is he stupid because he's blind? A child? Have the people around him lived with him in their midst all their lives without really knowing him? Looks that way.

Sometimes we want the weak to stay weak, so that we can feel strong. We need their weakness in order to hide from our own. And sometimes we need their weakness to keep ourselves strong: some of our power is based on the ongoing weakness of others, and depends upon it. And some of our wealth depends on the poverty of others. Sometimes we fight against the very emancipation we profess to advocate. And we are annoyed when others point this out to us.

A rule of thumb: if you experience a tangible benefit from an opinion you hold, suspect yourself. If there's money in it for you, you may be a good person, but you're not a disinterested one. It's easy to believe in a tax cut if it means you'll have more money in your own pocket. It was easy to believe in slavery when a whole economy depended on it.

Remaining in that state of unconscious privilege depends on not listening to the weak. On stopping your ears against them, on closing your eyes. On not walking where they walk. Not talking to them directly, but talking above their heads, as if they could not hear. On becoming blind, and deaf. Lame. Mute.

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