Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Guard Each One's Dignity?

a few evenings ago i sat in the choir loft during our church's maundy thursday service and thought about forgiveness.  i had just witnessed another choir member speak unkindly to my wife during our rehearsal for the service.  a few moments later, this person tried to make amends, and i wondered if my wife was able to let go of the hurt that curt words had caused.  i thought, too, of the strife in our church, with some seeking control by withholding financial support to protest various disagreements with the church:  dislike of the minister, the national church's position on various issues, sundry hurts like the one my wife had just suffered.

and here we sat in a service where we meditated on jesus taking the role of a servant as he washed the feet of his disciples, of jesus blessing bread and wine knowing that one of those closest to him was in the process of betraying him, of jesus going out to pray in the face of the torment he knew was coming soon, of jesus being abandoned by those he had nurtured and taught over the past months.  i thought of jesus saying,  "forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing," as he hung on the cross.

on another evening, my wife and i watched an episode of the pbs series, "grantchester."  this episode revolved around the murder of a gay man in a public restroom where he had gone for a liaison with another man.    in the closing scene the young gay man who was to have been the partner of the victim tells sidney, the anglican priest who is the series' central character, that, while sidney's argument in favor of one's right to privacy is admirable, the real need is for society to acknowledge that everyone has the right to be who they truly are, that none should have to hide behind the right to privacy to find their place in society.

the maundy thursday service and this episode of one my favorite shows highlight the human tendency to want to control.  the religious authorities wanted to control the practice of the jewish religion, to stop jesus from teaching views that threatened the accommodation they had made with the roman authorities.  the radical teachings of jesus were leading people to a view of the religion that diminished the power of the priests in the temple, and jesus had to be eliminated so that control over the people could be maintained.  english society believed it necessary to control the accepted pattern of relationships, limiting conjugal relations to those between a man and a woman.  same-sex attraction could be tolerated so long as sexual encounters between two men or two women remained discreet and hidden--don't ask, don't tell.  once these encounters became public, they had to be quashed.

we are quick to condemn religion for the suffering it causes, but i wonder if religion is the true cause of the suffering for which it is blamed.  perhaps religion is an excuse for our propensity to seek control over others and over events.  we cloak the fiction of control in a mantle of morality to hide our ugly motives.  we pretend that those who threaten the status quo are dangerous, threats to the established order that must be dealt with.  we rail against deviation from what we consider normal, rather than seeking to understand those whose desire for love and to love seems to be unlike our own.  yet when we put aside our fear of that which is different, we find that at our core we are very much alike.  we proclaim that we know the will of god when all we are doing is projecting our own ignorance by creating a god of our own making.

may we let go of the pretense of control and replace that impossibility with acceptance.  may we recognize our inability to force others to adopt our narrow views.  may we love without judgment, seeing ourselves in others.  shalom.

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