Summary: Dramatic monologue, as if the speaker were "Dives" ... an appeal to move beyond "cool" and distant religion into compassion.
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC January 26, 1986
I am Dives; and I have come to you today only because for this brief moment the unbridgeable is bridged, the chasm is spanned. I can speak to you only for a little while, and even then I am not certain that I can fully get through to you. Our worlds are so different, our circumstances so much at variance.
But then in a sense I have always lived in a world different from most people. You see, I was, in my former life, quite comfortable. I was living very well indeed, able to have a generous supply of friends, able to eat well and dress well and keep up appearances. Not necessarily your everyday working stiff kind of existence. I had all I wanted and more, and kept a sizable stable of friends happy as well.
Oh, that's right. You are wondering why I am speaking about what used to be, you are puzzling at this talk about my life before, my other life. Well, I don't quite know how to tell you this -- but, well, you see, the truth is, I am dead. That's right, dead. Dead Dives. Dead, gone, buried, and now, great God, I am in torment. You can scarcely believe what is happening to me; for me there is unspeakable agony, for me there is nothing day in and day out but the fire that burns but does not consume, nothing but the anguish of remorse; nothing but a penetrating longing in my heart that I might escape. That is why I am coming to you today, that is why for this moment at least Father Abraham is permitting me to reach out and to speak from across this chasm. There is something I must tell you -- something you absolutely must hear.
Let me begin by telling you about the house of Dives and about what we were able to do there. You see, I lived in a fine home in an upscale section of the city, and, quite frankly, most of my time and energies were spent in maintaining myself and furnishing the home and in entertaining my friends. Now I ask you, whatever could be wrong with that? Isn't that just good stewardship? Isn't that simply prudence? After all, as a good solid believer I felt that I understood that the Lord had blessed me with all these things and that the stewardship of them was mine and I needed to preserve them and take care of them and … oh, my God, how things have changed! How things have changed! Things, indeed. That was at the heart of my problem. I loved things. I told myself I was taking care of all this as a responsible person who obeyed God's commands, but now I know that I loved things, I loved them for what they could do to me. How mistaken I was! But that's getting ahead of the story. Let me continue.
Near my home there was a shelter for homeless people; I had joined in the protests when it was opened just three blocks over from where I live, because it seemed to me that the city government just did not understand that people like this do not belong in our kind of neighborhood, that it will reduce property values, that it will be a danger to our children, that respectable women will not feel safe on the streets. Oh, wait, there I go again; I guess this is no time for me to get on my soapbox about that. A little too late for that kind of rhetoric.
As it turns out that shelter was not too bad after all. We did not see or have too much trouble from the residents. But there was one of them, a man whose notoriety became so great that there was no ignoring him. Honestly the way the guy manipulated the press and got his name and his picture in the papers was beyond me! I rather believed in the old idea that the only time a decent person's name appeared in the papers was when he got married and when he died; When he died! Oh, my Lord, I did die. Somehow it never really occurred to me that I would. Oh yes, of course, up here in my head I knew that sooner or later all men must die, but, well, everything went so well and so smoothly that I never gave it a second thought. And, you know, in our church they never say much about messy realities like that; spoils the beauty of the worship service, you know.
At any rate, this old reprobate kept making a fuss about how he was hungry and others were feasting, about how he had no place to live and others were warm and comfortable. I tell you, if he had spent half the time earning an honest living that he spent blabbering to reporters and making wild accusations, I suspect he could have provided for himself the way the rest of us do. After all, you know, I did get mine the old-fashioned way, I earn it!