The Personalist Project

Now the men of the city said to Eli′sha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.”  He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.  Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it, and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have made this water wholesome; henceforth neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.”  So the water has been wholesome to this day, according to the word which Eli′sha spoke. - 2 Kings 2:19-22


Doug Grane and LifeSiteNews would like us to believe that the consistent life ethic--the "seamless garment"--is a "vast swimming pool of almost-unrelated issues" that will dissolve "prolife sentiment like a pinch of salt." As far as I can understand his argument, Mr. Grane would have us hoard the salt of our "sentiment" so that we can keep it concentrated in the dish of political opposition to abortion.


But the gospel has some pretty harsh things to say about hoarding material or spiritual gifts. Christ has called us to be the salt that lends flavor to the world, in every time and place. The salt has value not by virtue of its concentration or outward appearance, but by virtue of its saltiness.


The crude salt of Christ's day was not refined. If extracted from the earth and left stored in warehouses exposed to the moisture of the air or ground, the sodium chloride--the source of the "salty" flavor--could slowly dissolve or sublimate. One imagines the displeasure of the owner/investor on finding his valuable investment of salt rendered worthless by his lack of care.


The only way to avoid this fate was to use the salt while it was still fresh. Salt used as a preservative would be carefully packed in barrels made as air- and water-tight as possible. Salt used for blessing, fertilization, or flavoring would be promptly distributed through the water, soil, or food as evenly as possibly, to get the most use from it.


If we are to build a culture of life, as Saint John Paul II called on us to do, we cannot hoard the life-giving truth of the God-given dignity of all persons. We cannot hoard our salt or our light. We must, like William Wilberforce and the Christian reformers of his age, throw ourselves—urgently, recklessly, passionately on fire with the Gospel--into every dark corner of the age we live in.


When Elisha throws salt into the water of a dead land, the salt dissolves, but it is in dissolving that the salt is efficacious. The entire spring is made life-giving by the prophet's blessing of salt. The efficacy of salt dissolved in water is echoed by the ritual use of salt in holy water.


Mr Grane calls prolife "sentiment" a pinch of salt in a swimming pool of social justice issues. I wonder if he has forgotten the prayer for the blessing of salt traditionally used in holy water:


“Almighty God, we ask you to bless this salt, as once you blessed the salt scattered over the water by the prophet Elisha. Wherever this salt (and water) is sprinkled drive away the power of evil, and protect us always by the presence of your Holy spirit. Grant this through Christ our Lord."

Amen, Amen, Amen.

Image credits:

Salt image via Pixabay 

Seamless garment image by Elisa Low, used by permission (Image of Malala Yousafzai by Simon Davis/DFID).

Spring water image by Gaius Cornelius via Wikimedia Commons

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