Sunday, July 13, 2014

2014.07.13 What Would One Say?

When my oldest daughter was in junior high, she did what most kids do during their growing edge years, she giggled and talked in class. She is an adult now and likely remembers this incident.


 The English teacher, a particularly stern, and I would say prissy person, did what many teachers would do: called attention to the offense and asked for a return of attention to the lesson of the day.

This should have been enough, but wasn’t. The teacher further addressed my daughter after class and said, “Beverley, isn’t your mother studying for the ministry?” My daughter nodded. The teacher’s wasn’t quite through. She added: “Indeed. What would one say?”

What would one say? The little phrase was meant as a thinly disguised moral scold. (Think Maggie Smith at her prunish best.) In our family it became cause for sibling hilarity—a perfect reprimand tossed off for the tiniest infractions, followed by gales of laughter.  Occasionally, I’d remind them that Jesus wouldn’t say such a thing. So what would he say? They’d egg me on. “Get thee behind me, Satan.” (Matthew 16:23) By then we all were laughing. “Mom quotes Jesus now.”  Ha, ha.

I felt proud to quote the gospel Jesus, happy to offer them a good example of a clear-hearted and clean response for any kind of angry confrontation—a curse really. Peter had not been paying attention in class, or if he had, he’d rejected the teaching of Jesus’ reality gospel and even rebuked Jesus for his wisdom. Peter still thought that God would eliminate the suffering part of the suffering-with-redemption equation, make an exception for someone as good as Jesus. Jesus said, NOT.

What would one say? Do you think, in spite of Jesus’ cross and all the preaching about suffering in most religions, we still just can’t bear it to be part of God’s desire and design? OR is it that we can’t forego dualistic thinking? OR maybe it’s the redemption part we can’t tolerate: Okay for Jesus, and other spiritual celebrities, but not for mass humanity? 

Here is a paraphrase of a quote from The Rt. Rev. Samir Kaffity, Retired Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem...............

 Christianity began as a vibrant faith of the victory of redemption and joy in Jerusalem.
It then traveled around and up the coast of the Holy Land.

It crossed the Mediterranean Sea, to the Aegean and landed in Greece,
where it became a philosophy.

It left there and crossed the Adriatic Sea and on to Rome,
where it became an institution.

It continued westward across Europe, and crossed the North Sea to Great Britain,
where it became a culture.

And finally this great religion crossed the Great Atlantic Ocean,
and lapped upon the North American shore,
where it has become an enterprise.

What would one say?  Is Christianity an enterprise, a business, a product to be perfected for consumption, to be twisted into the latest desirable shape? I wonder if the oomph has gone out of Christianity, the gutsy vibrancy of Jesus and other founders, the capacity to be direct without superiority? 

Are churches today embarrassed to offer the profligacy (so, so close to licentiousness) of divine grace, cheek by jowl with profligate violence—and call both truth?

It doesn’t make a bit of sense to do so, you know. I want to holler NO—Godde is Love.  Just how inclusive can Godde’s Love be? I wonder. 

If the junior high school teacher’s attitude seeped into the literary material she was trying to get the kids impassioned about, it would be dry, and they would be rightfully bored, no matter how much attention they paid, nor how hard they studied, nor how enterprising they were. 

What would one say?