As many people have been doing, I’ve found my thoughts wandering to the tragedy in Connecticut over the past week.
My mind wandered down many paths. I pondered that raw indignity we visit upon other nations by using drones to kill their children in the midst of mourning our own. I wished I could find photos of those children. I want to know all the victims of violence. It’s hard to fathom the numbers and I find it upsetting that we are eager to grieve losses on our soil, but dismiss losses in other countries with fancy euphemisms like, “collateral damage” or, “ravages of war” or … ? … you name it.
Then I wondered why these choices are so polarizing? What is it that makes it impossible to talk about these issues with any kind of sanity or grace. Then I realized that part of the problem is that of competing rights.
When it comes to guns we must balance the right of gun ownership against the right of life for gun victims. When it comes to abortion we must balance the right of life for the baby against the right to self-determination for the mother. What I think is most interesting is that those who are more conservative tend to the former in each equation and those who are more liberal tend to the latter, despite either former or latter being diametrically opposed to one another. That is those who support unfettered gun ownership are often more likely to support a pro-life position on abortion. Those who support restricting gun ownership tend to be those who are more likely to support maternal choice in pregnancy. Neither set of people make any sense. This tells me we (as a nation) need to be more creative in how we discuss and problem solve our way through these issues.
Which brings me to my last thought. I play a game called “Book Worm” fairly obsessively … when I have a few moments to kill you can find me playing Book Worm on my phone. It’s a nerdy little game with lettered tiles and you try to make words with them. Kind of like a solitaire form of Scrabble. Once you reach a certain level, the game introduces burning tiles. If you cannot use those tiles before they get to the bottom of the board, you lose. Up until recently those tiles sort of freaked me out. They made me a little bit panicky. What if I couldn’t use it? Why was it so hard? I did not like those burning tiles, they made me feel poor and inadequate. Until one day when I changed my perspective on those tiles. I realized that if I was willing to look at the surrounding tiles more creatively, I could always … always … use them. Sometimes I’d have to wait a round or two. But I can always use them.
That’s when it hit me. In trying to stop mass murder, we are actually trying to prevent symptoms. It’s admirable, but will ultimately not be successful. We need to look for the illness and then for a cure. When we engage in that search it might be good to approach the whole issue from the perspective of peace, restoration and plenty. That’s going to be difficult because we are entrenched in a perspective of redemptive violence, brokenness and scarcity.
So the question becomes, can we change our perspective? Can we view these issues creatively and find redemptive, restorative solutions? Or will we continue with our zero-sum thinking that continues to impoverish all of us?
This post is part of the April Synchroblog – What If The Resurrection Was A Hoax? Examining faith in light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Do you ever think about life (or some part of it) without basic assumptions in place? What would life be like if …. ? I do that with some regularity. It’s a long held habit. I remember my mother saying to me, “I’m not playing the ‘What if’ game with you anymore,” in sheer frustration over the questions I was peppering her with. So this month’s synchroblog seemed a natural for me … what if the Resurrection was a hoax?
When I was young in the faith, I heard a number of men in various formats and venues arguing the reality of the Resurrection. They made arguments such a Chuck Colson’s; a man will not die for a lie and 12 men will not die for that lie. He based his argument on the response of the co-conspirators in Nixon’s Watergate crisis. It’s a valid argument and has some basis in human nature. But I always wondered why these impassioned arguments mattered. They were fun to listen to because I love a good, well-reasoned argument, but from my very limited perspective it always seemed that the Resurrection of Jesus was a matter of faith – “1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)
Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.
I’ve held on to that definition for a long time. And when I read another recent article about faith some things clicked into place.
Thomas Jefferson is held as an icon of American spirit. He had a firm hand in writing many of our founding documents. He was an early ambassador and third president. He is at the front of many lists about our nation’s founding. Among his things was eventually found a Bible with the New Testament heavily edited with a razor. He cut out all of the stuff that did not come straight from Jesus. A modern wordsmith, using a razor in place of our cut and paste system, he wanted to know if the teachings of Jesus could stand on their own without the miracles and other “distractions.” His conclusion was that it could. That Jesus’ teachings were in and of themselves a divine miracle. And that following them would take divine inspiration for giving up the trappings of this world (power, wealth, fame) in hopes of the next.
Andrew Sullivan, writing for The Daily Beast, describes it:
Jefferson feared that the alternative to a Christianity founded on “internal persuasion” was a revival of the brutal, bloody wars of religion that America was founded to escape. And what he grasped in his sacrilegious mutilation of a sacred text was the core simplicity of Jesus’ message of renunciation. He believed that stripped of the doctrines of the Incarnation, Resurrection, and the various miracles, the message of Jesus was the deepest miracle. And that it was radically simple. It was explained in stories, parables, and metaphors—not theological doctrines of immense complexity. It was proven by his willingness to submit himself to an unjustified execution. The cross itself was not the point; nor was the intense physical suffering he endured. The point was how he conducted himself through it all—calm, loving, accepting, radically surrendering even the basic control of his own body and telling us that this was what it means to truly transcend our world and be with God. Jesus, like Francis, was a homeless person, as were his closest followers. He possessed nothing—and thereby everything.
So when I come down to the bottom of everything, I come to this. Jesus embodied love to the point of death. His Resurrection (and Incarnation) are necessary to the holistic theology of Jesus. But these miracles do not inform how we should live. They are celebrated as part and parcel of our theology, but how we live our daily lives in a reflection of the Love Divine becomes the path through which we realize God’s Kingdom come and His will be done … here on earth (as it is in heaven).
This is a Synchroblog post … the following people also made outstanding contributions to thinking about Christian life without the Resurrection.
I may or may not have mentioned it here before but I regularly take some medication that requires the oversight of a psychiatrist. Mostly this is because I also take some meds for my seizure disorder and it’s good to have someone in charge of all brain medication who knows what they do. This is the theory anyway.
In any case, I was meeting with my psychiatrist the other day in order to check on all my meds and how I’m doing and I told her that I’m feeling very unfocused. It’s something I have been struggling with for several years now, but lately it’s been almost overwhelming. She asked me a couple of pointed questions about current events in my life and pointed out what some side effects were for some of the seizure meds I take and said, “I don’t think you’re unfocused. I think you’re distracted by what’s going on with you.”
Um. Really. So what’s the difference? It made sense when she said it, now I’m wondering.
1. the act of diverting from a specified course
2. ( Brit ) an official detour used by traffic when a main route is closed
3. something that distracts from business, etc; amusement
4. (military) a feint attack designed to draw an enemy away from the main attack
1. the act or an instance of distracting or the state of being distracted
2. something that serves as a diversion or entertainment
3. an interruption; an obstacle to concentration
4. mental turmoil or madness
Sooo … it looks to me as though being unfocused (or diverted) is makes me the subject of my own sentence. But being distracted makes me the object. Or is it vice versa? I’m not sure … but I think that’s the difference between the two. I don’t think knowing which is which really matters either. I just needed to know what was what.
There was an ad campaign for something (I can’t remember what) not too long ago that went, “Life is messy. Clean it up.” For the record, all the ads for cleaning products bug me. More than that, they piss me off. Who can live in those pristine houses? Life IS messy. It’s gross and kind of disgusting down here in the trenches of our own stuff. I’m not so sure we should clean it up. I wonder about that sometimes.
Do you wonder about that? Is just cleaning it up a distraction? Or a diversion? What if what we are supposed to do is get rid of that stuff? What if we are supposed to make it new again? Redeem it or reconcile it and by swiping it with some magic eraser, we’re diverting our attention to something else? Have we got “stuff” in our lives that is like that old family room carpet. It’s old and grungy because it’s in the most used room in the home. People are always in and out and yes, they eat in there. Yes, they eat dinner in front of the television on more occasions than any of us would like to admit. And popcorn during movies and sporting events. And snacks at other odd times. So there are probably bits of food ground in there somewhere. Years worth of pets and children going in and out the back door have ground in bits of mud and grass and heaven-knows-what. This carpet has seen better days. We keep vacuuming it and occasionally cleaning it because we know that replacing it is going to be time consuming and expensive. Eventually we won’t be able to avoid that time and expense, but for now we get by.
We all have stuff in our lives that is deeply ground in, musty and yucky that needs to be replaced with good new and clean stuff. We want to get at it. We know we’ll be better off for it, healthier, more well-rounded, and we might even like ourselves better. But … there it is. It’s going to be time consuming and expensive. I don’t mean money. I mean it’s going to be hard. It might hurt. It might cost us some friends. It might cost us some intangible things that we don’t even imagine when we set out on that journey. We know that … somewhere in the remote places of our hearts. So we divert and distract by vacuuming and dusting and saying it’s okay for now. It’s really okay. I’ll get to that later.
Life is messy. I don’t want to clean it up. I want to embrace the mess and understand it. I want to own it and then. I want to redeem it. But I don’t want to just clean it up with a whitewash of pretty paint. Because that’s just a mask and I’m done with that now.
This post is part of October’s Synchroblog – Down We Go. You can read other, insightful, posts at these links:
Way back in the dark ages before electricity, indoor plumbing, and television. Back when I was a young adult in the mid-1980’s … at least that’s how the LightChildren think of my early adulthood and childhood … snort. Anyway. Back in the day, my first apartment was a tiny studio in an old brownstone in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC. That’s a couple streets up behind the National Zoo off of Rock Creek Parkway for those of you who don’t know the DC neighborhoods. These days, Mt. Pleasant has been somewhat re-gentrified and somewhat claimed by the Hispanic wave of immigration. It’s still one of the more interesting neighborhoods in the District and fairly integrated.
The building I lived in was originally a brownstone rowhouse built sometime in the early 1900’s or late 1800’s and meant to be used as a single family domicile. It was part of a wave of development that hit the city during that time period after the Civil War and before WWI when times were good and people could afford fancy homes. In particular, they built those homes up the northwest side of the city starting with Embassy Row and heading towards what is now Chevy Chase Circle. When hard times came as they did in the 30’s and again in the 60’s with the riots, homes closer to the center of the city lost more value and were left for those who had less money. This was a common occurrence in cities across the country. During the 80’s and 90’s as wealth grew, it became common again to re-gentrify or rebuild these old neighborhoods. In other words, the white people brought their money back.
By the time I came along in early 1984 the building I would live in had been carved up into 6 apartments from its original single family rowhouse. There were 2 apartments on the top (or 3rd) floor, 2 on the middle (or 2nd) floor, 1 on the first floor and 1 in the basement. My apartment was on the second floor and looked out on the street. I had a bathroom, two enormous closets, a living area and a kitchen in which if I stretched out my arms I could touch the opposing walls on all sides. I had a tiny, antique refrigerator with an even tinier freezer than hung down into the refrigeration area and I had to defrost it once a month with my hair dryer. In order to create a counter top, I covered a 1 x 10 with some contact paper and put it on top of the radiator. It was a tiny kitchen, but just right for me. I was enormously proud of achieving that first apartment. I slept on two 3″ thick foam cot mattresses; sometimes I stacked them, other times I laid them side by side … on the floor. I had a table, two chairs, a rocking chair (which is still in my basement), a dresser (which LightGirl now has) and a desk. Everything was a hand-me-down. I purchased sheets to make curtains and a Garfield poster for the bathroom. I had a bicycle to ride to work each day. I took the bus to buy my groceries and to do my laundry.
There were 5 other apartments in our building and the people in them were as different as night and day. On the top floor was an apartment which seemed to have a revolving door and I never quite knew who was in it. The other apartment was inhabited by a slightly older man (in his 30’s) who rode an English motorcycle. He took me for a ride once and I was never sure if I was flirting with him or the idea of having a relationship with an older slightly dangerous man. The flirtation was fun, but it never went anywhere anyway. The basement had the largest apartment and it was occupied by a large Hispanic family who I worried about having enough space to sleep. There seemed to be many more people than there was enough space for beds, but they were always pleasant, kind, quiet and clean. The first floor had a slightly larger apartment than mine and it was occupied by a middle aged African-American couple who always seemed to have their eye on me … in a very good and inconspicuous way. I knew that if I was in trouble, they had my back. If I remember correctly, he was also the building superintendent and he did a good job of keeping things running smoothly.
I’d like to focus, though, on the family unit with which I shared the second floor. I didn’t know who they were for a long time. When I finally got to know them, it was quite a shock. But then I began to spend time with them on a regular basis … well … as regular as a young woman of 23 can manage. Living next door to me was a middle-aged (in her 50’s) African-American woman and her 7 year old son. I was particularly bothered by the fact that the lights were never on in that apartment. Never. The only light that ever escaped from under the door or that I could see when she opened the door, came from the cathode ray tube and it was on permanently. 24-7. An occasional ray of sunshine might sneak through the curtains which staunchly guarded the windows, but that and the television were the only available light.
As I got to know them, I began to spend time with the little boy. He was an absolute darling and I really enjoyed having him come to my place to hang out with me. He was fascinated by the fact that I did not have a television. I read books to him and we talked. Or he talked fairly non-stop and I listened. I’m not sure if I could ever have told you one word he said to me, but he had a lot of seven-year-old words to say. He was also fascinated by my coke-bottle-bottom glasses. Back in those days, I wore my contact lenses every waking moment, so he thought it great fun to prance around the house with my glasses on and be amazed by how funny the world looked to him. I know he went to school with some regularity and I remember seeing grocery bags filled with food that made me cringe. It made me cringe because the mom had very few teeth in her mouth and the food she chose was not helpful to her remaining teeth. I never quite knew what to do about that or if I should do anything. I was perplexed by the idea that a woman who was my mother’s age looked and acted older than both of my grandmothers and seemed to be less equipped to handle the world than I was.
As time went on, I discovered that the little boy had some older siblings. I can’t remember how many … maybe three? They were all around my age or a little younger; in their early 20’s. They lived in Maryland; Howard and PG County for the most part. All of them were independent and had jobs. I think at least one was engaged or married. There were girls and boys in some combination (2 of one and 1 of the other). Hey … it’s been almost 30 years and I did not know the siblings very well. As I got to know them, I became aware that it was a family fact that the little boy had been conceived out of necessity for the mom to remain on welfare. This information was not viewed in either a negative or a positive light, but merely as a fact of how their mom was getting through life. The older siblings seemed to have come to an understanding that they did not have any desire to receive public assistance or continue in that form of lifestyle. They were insistent that they would make it on their own. But they were not particularly embarrassed by their mom either. She did her thing and they did theirs.
Then one day I came home from work to find that the apartment next to mine had been emptied and the mom and little boy were gone.
The mom had died very suddenly in the night. To this day, I find that shocking and appalling. How does a 50-ish woman just die like that?? She had a 7 year old son to take care of. Not that she was doing a particularly good job of it, but he did love his mom and now she was gone. I know he went to live with one of his siblings. I always hoped that things worked out for all of them. That in her younger days, the mom had been able to give them enough starch to see that through. The little boy would be in his early 30’s by now. I’ve always hoped that those young people went on to have productive normal lives with problems which are dull and manageable (as a friend likes to say). That they managed to remain self-sufficient and healthy and to raise their little brother into that paradigm as well. I know the odds against them were long, but that’s what I hoped.
For today’s snack, we have a walk down memory lane:
If you could go back in time and meet your 16-year-old self, what three things would you tell yourself?
Well … now. Things just got really heavy, didn’t they? And sort of existential or something like it. I’m bleary-eyed this morning because I stayed up too late watching the Chicago Blackhawks win Lord Stanley’s Cup last night. This might be more raw than ordinary because I am less guarded than usual … so here goes.
I would tell my baby girl self (even though she would not listen) that time is a finite resource. When you are sixteen your life stretches out before you in an almost limitless road with countless possibilities. Choose. Pick something, anything and do it well.
I would also tell her to enjoy herself more and be responsible less. That it’s okay to have fun once in a while and be less serious all the time.
Last, I would tell my LightGirl self that all the world really is her oyster. She really is that smart, that good and she really can make it. She really is the sort of girl who can make it out in the world; there’s nothing to be afraid of. When the time comes (and it will) she should just jump in with both feet and swim.
As regular readers of this blog may be aware, I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Loved the books and loved the movies. I still read the books from time to time. And watch the movies over and over again. But I guess I don’t need to tell any of you that.
One of my very favorite scenes in either books or movies is the scene between Merry, Pippin and Treebeard where the hobbits are trying their very best to convince the ent that the ents must join with the forces of men, elves, hobbits and dwarves against the orcs in this epic battle. It takes them quite a bit of convincing just to get Treebeard to move. But he finally decides that meeting would be a good idea and off he went for an interminably long meeting. He came back to make a report after days … literally, days … of talking. His report? “Weeeeee haaave decided. Yoooouuuuu aaaarrrrrreeee noooooot Orcs.”
The look of dismay, mixed with disgust, need and something else on Merry and Pippin’s faces was priceless. I love that moment. It is such an amazing clash of cultures and paradigms. Each learning how to interact with the other.
Yesterday morning, I was brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed and mulling over some long standing issues in my life. By long standing, I mean they’ve been sitting out there for about three or four years. So I mulled and thought and came to some resolution about how I wanted to moved. I finished up, went downstairs and said to LightHusband, “I’ve made a decision.” He looked at me with a grin, “What? I’m not an orc?” I laughed and replied, “Well, I’ve known you’re not an orc for 20 years now. But I’ve decided that there are some people who are orcs to me. Or at least I need to treat them that way … sort of. For me to be healthy.” He arched a brow and said, “You mean I got it right? You really are an ent?” “Yes, I really am an ent.”
I went on make the following explanation. Well. My explanation to him was similar. But not the same.
I’ve spent the last three years playing the part of Lot’s wife. Sometimes I wonder about that story. I remember reading about it in some popular literature when I was younger. There was speculation that the weapon of destruction for Sodom was a nuclear bomb and Lot’s wife died of radiation. But I think she was turned to stone from grief. Grief can stop us in our tracks and turn us to stone and the operative action that causes it is “turning back.” Lot’s wife turned back, and her tears turned her into a pillar of salt. That has been my reality for far too long now.
I have allowed myself to look back and pine for what was, what can never be and what I wish for. I doubt they ever will be and my wishing my life away is not healthy for me or anyone else involved. So my quilts will be for those who I am in active contact with at this time. That means people I see and talk to on the telephone … who know what is going on in my life beyond Facebook and Twitter statuses (stati?). To those of you reading this who have gone down that road (and you know who you are), choosing to believe your church leaders about us and thinking you might still love us is no longer possible. It is time to stop looking back.
Those of you who would like to remain in relationship with us, you will need to be able to talk with us openly about that horrible time in our lives and hear our pain without denying it or taking it away from us. It is a wound that continues to bleed and tear at our souls. You will need to be unafraid of picking up the phone and calling us or writing us an old-fashioned e-mail now and then. More now than then. In short, you will have to desire a relationship with us that requires something of you. So … I am going to un-Friend you on Facebook and Twitter. And sever those tenuous ties with you. I need to move forward. I need to release myself from the grip that era has on my mind and my soul.
Because sometimes … people who are not orcs, really do have an orc-like effect on others. And then they need to be kept at a distance if one is to remain healthy and on the road to happy without “looking back” and turning into a pillar of salt.
Four years ago I re-discovered an old acquaintance. I’m having fun now watching again.
Four years ago I was in the middle of the darkest caves and curling was the only time of day I could breath freely. Something about the commentary, the rhythm, the pace all combined to give me peace and comfort.
It’s been a long and winding road. But I can finally say that the fall is over. I might even be out of the caves and in the sunshine on most days.
Life is good.
I signed up some time ago to receive the e-mail posting of the Washington Post’s opinion page. So every weekday morning I get an e-mail with a tickler about that day’s opinion pieces. I don’t always read them, but sometimes …
This morning I read through them and saw this:
I need (but have no desire) to read the piece. Some years ago I could tolerate Krauthammer and sometimes even agreed with him. I don’t know if it’s age or what, but he has gotten more and more regressive as time has gone on. Maybe it’s the confluence of our culture and his age. But he gets more and more shrill as time goes on. But the question posed struck me. The Krauthammer of years passed would have gone to the mat for our and others civil rights. He would have been protective of the U.S. reputation abroad. He might even have stood firm on the idea that the Geneva Convention has protections worth caring about.
So … here’s my answer to that question. We are and should be more worried about the Miranda rights of any perpetrator, because … once the gloves are off, it is difficult to put them back on again. Who is to say how the definition of “terrorist” might change over the years? At this point, we seem to have a clear idea that a terrorist is someone “other” … a person who does not belong to our culture. But what happens when the government decides that anyone speaking out against a sitting president is a “terrorist” or might have terrorist affiliations? I know that sounds silly and well, we have the First Amendment. Or do we? If Miranda rights do not apply to everyone within our borders, including “terrorists” … then they can be suspended for us too. It really is an all or nothing deal … if those rights do not apply to everyone, then they can at some point be suspended for anyone.
What happens when they come for you? Don’t you want to have those protections? I know I do. The Miranda rights do force our justice system to work harder in order to successfully prosecute a case against an offender and we find people who are innocent sitting on death row. It is not infallible so the ordinary citizen (including suspected terrorists) needs to have as many protections against the almost overwhelming power of the state as they possibly can.
In his own words the Blind Beggar, Rick Meigs is going home!!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009 11:54 AM, PDT
This is Rick sending greetings! Will be going home Thursday and hope to be online more. I’m using a computer at the rehab. center and doing this with left hand, so I’ll keep this short.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009 11:54 AM, PDT
This is Rick sending greetings! Will be going home Thursday and hope to be online more. I’m using a computer at the rehab. center and doing this with left hand, so I’ll keep this short.
Two months to the day after his near-death accident, Rick is going home. He spent weeks in a ICU in Boise, ID. Two more weeks in a regular ward in a Portland, OR hospital. Then a little more than a week at nursing home center in Portland and has been in the Rehab center since August 1.
Rick, his wife Fran and sons will continue to need prayer for his continued healing. That he will continue to be able to carry on his business and that their re-adjustment process will go well. Most of all that they will be able to lean into the process and rest, just as if they were floating away on Aslan’s breath.
I seem to be a little dry lately and don’t have a lot to say, either in real life or here in on my blog. So I haven’t been saying much. That’s why you haven’t seen me around here very often. I have a feeling that might be changing soon (or not), I don’t know.
A little while ago, Mike Todd did a really good piece on atonement (it’s long) and it sparked some really great discussion. I read through it all and tried to jump in the conversation here and there, but … as I said, I’m kinda dry right now. So I just listened and absorbed it all. If you weren’t privy to it, I’d recommend reading it now. Or not. I’m just telling you about to set the scene, so to speak. So you know what I was percolating on.
In the meantime, I’ve been watching a lot of afternoon television the last couple of weeks. It’s been keeping me company while I’ve done lots and lots of sewing. I have two channels I prefer in the late afternoon and they run re-runs of “murder” television, as my family calls it; Law & Order, mostly, but also Bones and House. One episode of either Bones or House ended with a song one day that I could not let go of. It was a mostly a refrain that went, “none of us are free, none of us are free, one of us in chains, none of us are free.”
So I did some internet sleuthing and found the song and artist. Bought the whole album from iTunes. It’s a blues album. I’m a sucker for the blues. If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to absolutely choose a favorite genre of music, I likely choose the blues. Of course, I like almost all genres equally, but there’s something about the blues that gets under my skin.
The song is “None Of Us Are Free” by Solomon Burke and you can enjoy it below … watch the video and listen hard to the words. It’s a spiritual wrapped up in the blues.
This song reminds me that no matter what theory of atonement you subscribe to, in the end it doesn’t matter. We are all bound up in this kingdom together until we enter God’s Kingdom …. all together.
None of us are free. Maybe that’s why this gospel of my own personal Jesus always feels so empty and void.
None of us are free. One of us are chained. None of us are free.