“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” [Jesus] said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:8-14).

Reportedly, Kim Kardashian’s wedding cost $10,000,000 for 500 celebrity guests. Each of her Vera Wang wedding dresses was $20,000. Her invitations had a real crystal border. And despite all that expenditure, she’s no more or less married than somebody who spent very little and went down to the courthouse or had a quiet ceremony in a church chapel with a minister and a couple of friends. Not much cash outlay is actually necessary if your main interest is getting married, not showing off for the media.

Such self-indulgence and expenditures like it, such as huge bonuses for corporate moguls, should be condemned for what they are: an obscenity and idolatry, an affront to decency and a dismissal of the concerns of those in our nation who are unemployed, underemployed, and struggling financially. Most people in our nation will never make $10,000,000 in their entire lifetimes nor will their families realize such gain over two or three or more generations. Yet this “celebrity” and her family spent that amount on one party! (And by the way, shame on the American public for making this woman and those like her famous by watching their “reality” shows and shame on the starry-eyed, superficial media for following her around.)

For comparison to spending $10,000,000 for one self-centered event, consider the following:

  • a Habitat for Humanity home in a midwestern city I know of costs a total of $80,000 when administration and program expenditures are added in; “hard” costs for construction amount to $63,000. The Kardashian wedding could have housed 125 families. Internationally, the figure would be 10 times that.
  • the median household income in the US is $51,425 according to the US Census Bureau (figures from www.ask.com); one event thus cost almost 200 times the annual income of the American family on the middle of the income scale.
  • in Mississippi, where I live, the median household income is $37,790 (2008 figures; http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/rankings.html), making us 50th on the state ranking; Ms. Kardashian’s elaborate nuptials cost 264 times more than what a Mississippi family can expect in a year; in other words, her party budget would provide for one MS family and its descendants until the year 2275.
  • my congregation helped found and continues to support a local food pantry; a significant percentage of its food is donated, for example by Wal-Mart through its “Feeding America” program or obtained free, from the Mississippi Food Network. Still, that was not enough to feed the 11,567 people/4204 families who needed its help (and received it) in 2010. The Food Pantry had to purchase $50, 795.48 worth of food last year. 
  • at Wal-Mart in Amory, 2% milk is $4.33/gallon; one dozen large eggs, $1.78; basic whole wheat store-brand bread, $1.50 a loaf; a 32 oz. bag of carrots, $1.48; cabbage, 54 cents/pound; and a five pound bag of potatoes, $3.97. You do the math.

If Kim Kardashian and her ilk have the money and want to spend it on idolatry and partying, they will be held accountable for that by the Judge of us all. Perhaps the judgment against her kind would be tempered if at least she would at least give an equal amount to charities that help put food in the mouths and roofs over the heads of those who would never be on her wedding banquet guest list.

© 2011 Tom Cheatham

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime, and the punishment of his guilt” (John Philpot Curran, Irish judge, July 10, 1790).

Eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty” (Andrew Jackson, March 4, 1837).

What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias” (Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944).

Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Jesus, Matthew 26:41).

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers…” (Paul, Romans 13:11).

Vigilare (Latin,keep awake”)

Funny how my mind works. I was out pulling weeds the other day when I thought of the famous statement usually quoted as “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom”  (erroneously attributed to Thomas Jefferson). I suppose that at the same time I was thinking about my blog for this week, I was reflecting on how I have to keep a constant watch on the weeds or they’ll take over. And for good or ill, this post was the result of my down-in-the-dirt, on my knees meditation.

Freedom is extremely important to me. It forms a kind of trinity of essentials, along with love and truth. That’s why I’m glad I’m an American, blessed with a Bill of Rights that grants my neighbors and me freedom to worship (or not) as we please, to speak, to enjoy a press not under state control, to assemble with others peaceably, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Freedom is also one of the reasons I have chosen to remain a Presbyterian. One of our dearest historic principles is that “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship” (Book of Order, Presbyterian Church [USA], G-1.0300). Another important viewpoint from my tradition is that God is completely free and sovereign. Related to that affirmation is the recognition of the human tendency to try to usurp the place of God or to worship something or someone else in the place of God. Thus we become tyrants and seek to force others to bend to our control and our ideas (cf. Book of Order, G-2.0500a[4]).

For me, the greatest threat to our freedom comes not so much from outside enemies, but from those tendencies toward tyranny and idolatry that we have within ourselves. Because of our fear, lust for power, drive for control, ignorance, and whatever else, we want to restrict the freedom of others while maintaining the broadest possible set of rights and greatest array of choices for ourselves.

Ironically, some of the most vehement opponents of freedom are found among those who name the Name of Christ and profess love of America. Many preach and act against reproductive choice. Others (falsely) proclaim America a “Christian nation” and long for our land to be a theocracy, governed, of course, by their narrow interpretation of God’s law. Still more rail against the separation of church and state and/or try to have fundamentalist doctrine enacted into law or replace sound science in our schools. Freedom of thought, of exploration, of relying on one’s own moral judgment go out the window. Those of a different faith or none are looked on with suspicion, made to feel second-class or regarded as intellectually and morally inferior.

But don’t be smug, progressives! Just because you or I might have a kinder, more tolerant heart or a broader mind doesn’t mean we won’t be susceptible to the same tendencies toward tyranny and idolatry we see in fundamentalists and the Religious Right. We merely express them in a different way. So we need to be eternally vigilant, ever on the watch for those weeds of prejudice, hatred, and fear in our own lives that would lead us to be unfaithful to the One who said his Truth would set us free. Root them out lest they choke the good seed of the liberating Word. Freedom is too precious a gift not to be thus protected and allowed to grow and flourish in our hearts and minds and in those of our neighbors.

© 2009 Tom Cheatham