by Brian Walsh
I love thank you notes. And I know that I don’t write enough of them. But I love getting them and on those occasions when I write one, or when I send an email to someone to say thanks for something, I love that too. Now I know, some of those Hallmark thank you cards are pure sap, pure sentimentality. But even those cards mean something to me. Sometimes it really is “the thought that counts.”
In the last few months I’ve got more than my fair share of thank you cards and notes. Sometimes it is a card in our box at church from someone who simply wants to say thanks to Sylvia and I for picking up on a lot of the preaching while our church is without a pastor.
Sometimes it is an email out of the blue from someone who has appreciated something that I have written (sometimes on this website!). But most often these thank-you notes come from folks in the incredible community of people that I get to hang out with as a campus pastor at the University of Toronto.
Now I know, you might be thinking, “well this is all nice and sweet, but nice and sweet is not what we have come to expect from Empire Remixed.” And you’re right. Nice and sweet hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in hell in the face of empire.
But gratitude … that’s something different.
You see, one of the things that characterizes our imperial reality is a sense of deep dissatisfaction and incessant craving. And paradoxically, with such dissatisfaction comes a sense of entitlement. It’s either, “I can’t get no satisfaction” or “the satisfaction I get is my right!”
In her wonderful book, Radical Gratitude, Mary Jo Leddy says that we live in a culture of ingratitude. It’s a culture in which we are held captive by a consumer induced longing that can never be fulfilled. And radical gratitude, Leddy argues, is what can liberate us from such a captivity.
Radical gratitude engenders a spirituality of gift in the face of self-made accomplishment. Gratitude is born of an economy of enough in the face of the hyperactivity of “more.” Gratitude is rooted in grace, while a spirituality of entitlement is decidedly a “works” theology. Gratitude abandons the sullen adolescence of our culture and embraces a humility and gregarious openness born of a mature spirituality.
Will gratitude dismantle the political, military and economic imperial realities of our day? Perhaps not. Or at least not immediately.
But without gratitude, without a sense of the profound gift-character of all of life, without a deep sense of grace and the thankfulness that such grace engenders, then all of our struggles against the empire won’t matter.
When gratitude is gone, when our hearts have been captivated, any attempt to ‘remix’ will be little more than empty posturing.