Bearing the Mark of Cain

While reading Thomas Aquinas, I was listening to Rhapsody. In the random mix, up came The Boss, Mr Bruce Springsteen. The song caught my ear and earned itself a few replays. Way to go, Boss!

From his latest album, Working on a Dream, the song "What Love Can Do" concludes with these stanzas...

Here our memory lay corrupted and our city lay dry/Let me make this vow to you/Here where it's blood for blood and an eye for an eye/Let me show you what love can do/Let me show you what love can do

Here we bear the mark of Cain/But let the light shine through/Let me show you what love can do/Let me show you what love can do/Let me show you what love can do/Let me show you what love can do

Over the past several days, I've been thinking about the phrase, "We're all in this together." It has been used in commercials. The concept is being applied to the cultural and emotional responses we are taking to the global economic recession. On the face of it, I guess that's a fine sentiment. To my more jaded world-view, it may be that some advertiser is just trying to tell you that they understand my stress and that because of their magnanimous empathy, they deserve my few bucks over those other unfeeling louts.

Well, back to Springsteen. I've rarely been let down by his insights (I know, Tunnel of Love was bit lacking). But he's redeemed himself several times over. As Bruce sang, What Love Can Do, I heard him step outside of our paternalistic assumptions. It wasn't that he understood in a condescending way. Actually, the lyric grabs all of us and places in the midst of a curse and challenge.

Biblically speaking, we have tended to look at the curse placed upon Cain as a curse that was his, or, to the more bigoted among us, that this mark lasted as a mark upon an entire race. God placed the mark on Cain our God's great frustration at humanities sickening addiction to getting even. Behind which, of course, is the shallow basin of our self-deluded thoughts about sound judgments and justice. As the mark of Cain is told in Genesis, it is a protection for Cain, but also for the rest of the world. Yet, it is also a mark of sin, failure, and the need for responsibility. The world knows that Cain killed Abel, and the earth itself cried out to God at the spilled blood shed on the virgin soil.

But the mark of Cain wasn't to be only Cain's. We all have the mark of Cain. We are all a sign and warning to one another to stop our vengeance, self-justifications, and condemnations. We all are walking with the same mark on us. We are all in this brokenness together. And out of our weakness and heartache, God's mercy allows that there is still light that can show through, and that we can show what love can do. We are victims, but only of ourselves. We are sources of love and light from an unrelenting Source, who empathizes with our brokenness more than any advertiser telling us "we're all in this together."