Pro Se
April 27th, 2007 by Sonja

My most beloved television program is “Law & Order.” I’ve been watching it for years. I first discovered it in re-runs on A&E during the day. I was breaking a very naughty soap opera habit and looking for something to replace them with. I was newly home with a baby and bored out of my skull. I know that the proper emotion to express as a new mother is delight and everlasting joy at your new child. But housework and infant care are also boring beyond belief, especially if one is accustomed to daily adult interaction and stimulation. So, I began watching “Law & Order” reruns during the day … 1 o’clock in the afternoon on A&E. Then I’d turn the television off, in an act of supreme self-discipline. Sometimes.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that this television show was in production on NBC! WOW! What you have to understand is that NBC is not on my radar. It just doesn’t exist. Well, it exists, but you see … we don’t get that channel. It broadcasts on the other side of the mountains in New York, so we don’t get it. I know, now there are the wonders of cable and satellite (not to mention that I currently live in Virginia not Vermont), but I forget about all of that and just discount NBC. It’s just not on my radar. Other people watch it, because they get that channel. I don’t. Weird wiring from my childhood strikes again. So anyway. I watch Law & Order very nearly obsessively. I watch it in reruns on TNT. I watch Special Victims Unit on USA. I watch Criminal Intent on Bravo. If it’s on, I find it and watch it. Some of the episodes I know so well, I can begin to recite the dialog. But there is one episode in particular that haunts me.

It’s one of my favorites and, yet, it makes me cry every time it airs. It was first aired in season 6, entitled Pro Se. It’s about a homeless man who went on a murderous rampage and killed 3 people. It turned out that he was schizophrenic and off his medication. Once he was in jail and on his meds, he calmed down, stopped hearing voices and turned out to be a brilliant attorney. He defended himself during the case (hence the title of the program) and was well on his way to winning when suddenly he threw it all down, decided to allocute and spend the rest of his life in a mental institution.

During his allocution it became apparent that his inner demons were back, indicating that he had stopped taking his medication some time during the trial. He had been faced with Hobson’s Choice. He knew that having freedom meant that he was responsible for himself and he was unlikely in that instance to reliably take his medication. Being institutionalized meant that he would be medicated and therefore aware and able to function, yet in an environment where he was unable to use his faculties. Or be institutionalized and not medicated, yet others would be kept safe from his delusions. There was a lot of dialogue concerning this decision and all of the ramifications; whether or not an adult can be forced to take medication against his will when not taking it meant that he became harmful to others. There was even a small part of his mind (soul or brain) which knew this, but could not overcome the power of the delusions caused by the schizophrenia. On the other hand, taking the medications caused such a fog to come over his thought processes that that was not who he was either. In one particularly gripping scene, he said to ADA Claire Kincaid, “It’s taking every single ounce of energy I have, just to hold this conversation with you. When you leave, I will be exhausted.”

In either choice he was caged. In one by his illness, in the other by the state. There were no choices left for him and if he chose physical freedom, he was likely to harm others again. A fact which he knew and abhorred. But neither could he abide the fog the medication caused. I can understand that. I take medications for combined seizure disorder, depression and anxiety disorder. Sometimes it takes all of the energy that I have just to hold a conversation. To keep my thoughts in one place and have them come out of my mouth in a cohesive organized fashion. I did not used to be this way. So I empathize with the character in this episode, even though my problems are an anthill compared to his fictional issues.

All of which is to say that I did not make the comparison between a person with multiple personality disorder (e.g. mentally ill) and the Bride of Christ lightly yesterday. Nor did I do so in criticism of one thread of memes (People Formerly Known As …). My criticism, if any, was aimed at the increasingly shrill commentary coming out of blogs more associated with the institutional church than with the emerging conversation. I am sad because for two years now I still hear the same complaints and criticisms. Yes, indeed we are, many of us, terribly hurt. I’ve been hurt by two churches now; the second badly enough to increase my medications. I’m not for one moment suggesting that the conversation take on a plastic positive spin. I am suggesting that we remember a couple of things.

The first is that we are all of us, both hurting and whole, institutional church and emerging conversation, all who claim the name of Christ as Savior, are part and parcel of His Bride. When we engage in this name calling and so-called Truth bearing, we are harming each other and putting distance between ourselves (Christians) and those we want to invite to the wedding feast. People, for good or ill reason, fear the mentally ill and they are sequestered on the fringes of society. I’m not terribly concerned with being on the fringes, but how can we invite people in to the banquet, if they’re looking askance at us?

The second thing we need to remember is that we have a Lover who is anxious to heal us. So while there is no magic touch. No miraculous cure. He is there is to gather us up under His wings as hen does her chicks; giving consolation and comfort from He who can provide it. I’m not calling for false bravado, but real grace which comes from Living Water. That as the healing takes place we will each encourage one another to stand in forgiveness. That this grief, hurt and anger will indeed be a journey and not a stopping place.

Last, we all in all of our separate communities are standing separately before God. As with my meds, the insanity is taking every ounce of our energy just to think about the conversation. There is very little left for moving forward or even more importantly looking around to seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters. We were given a commandment by Jesus (to love God and love others – our neighbors) and a Commission (to go out, taking the Gospel to our neighborhoods, our towns, our cities, our countries, to the ends of the earth) and deliver it in a winsome fashion, not beat people over the head with it. What is there about the Gospel that is inviting? We know what is inviting, but we need now to make the venue welcoming. Our human equity has long since vanished. So the time has come, I believe, for us all … every last one … to be humble in repentance for the wrongs we’ve done each other and ask for healing within the Body, the Bride. That the meek will be lifted up and carried forward to receive comfort and blessing. That those without a voice, will be given an open throat and ears willing to hear.

There is a Promised Land somewhere out there and we must stumble towards it together, because separately we are hearing voices and slowly but surely losing our way.

3 Responses  
  • jamie writes:
    April 27th, 20071:49 pmat

    Again, I have to just say that I love your writing and your thought processes.

  • Bill Kinnon writes:
    April 28th, 200710:57 pmat

    Let me apologize for being slow to respond – I’ve been away from blog reading for a few days. Let me also echo Jamie – I too love your writing and how your wonderfully creative brain works. And I appreciate your call to unity.

  • aBhantiarna Solas writes:
    April 29th, 200711:57 amat

    Thanks, Jamie and Bill … I appreciate your kind words very much! 😀

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