The Good China

In spite of all the tremendous strides we have made in science, medicine, and technology, we have watched a deterioration culturally, socially, and religiously that should disturb us far more than it does. One reason for our lack of concern is that we have allowed ourselves to be satisfied with what is convenient, what is useful, and what feels good. The price for this cheap satisfaction can be observed in what’s happening in politics, in schools, in churches, and in our families.

Something from my childhood seems to parallel what’s happening. My mother had what she called “the good china.” Though they were not that expensive, they were what she kept aside for use when a special occasion or special company called for using “the good stuff.” Our normal dinnerware was an eclectic collection of dishes that served our daily purpose.

On one occasion, when I was quite young, the pastor was in our home for dinner. Mother set the table with the good stuff. Dinner went quite well, until we had all eaten our fill. Then I sought to be helpful and announced before our guest, “Mother, I didn’t use my knife, so you can put in back in the trunk.” Mother was humiliated, and the family never let me forget it.

I also remember what Ovid Young said when he and his partner, Stephen Neilson, were at World Gospel Church for an organ/piano concert. Commenting about some of the music being produced today, he referred to it as “throw-away music.” In our desire for the convenient, the utilitarian, the feel-good, we have put the good stuff in the trunk and contented ourselves with paper plates.

What else can explain why we think the great literature and the great music of the masters are no longer relevant or worth the effort? We have lost the ability to appreciate greatness; we have discarded past values as out-of-date. Who needs good china when we have paper plates?

So I wrestle with what is happening religiously today. Religious bookstores are filled with throwaway books; sermons are supposed to be homilies, brief and not “above our heads”; and music is supposed to make us “feel” worshipful, even if it lacks quality as music and the words lack substance.

Mother's china.1

My wife, Ann, and I keep our “good china” in a fancy china cabinet; and the common stuff, kept in a kitchen cabinet, serves our purpose for day-to-day usage. We use “the good stuff” so infrequently that I almost forget we have it. I wonder if we modern technocrats have already forgotten the really good stuff that has made us who we are.  Have we come to believe that all anyone really needs is a paper plate?                                                                                   –William B. Coker, Sr.

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