"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What is a Christian?

"...and the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, 'There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him." Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, "As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."

Nathan said to David, 'You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? ... David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the LORD.'

Knowing our sinfulness does not come naturally - we must be trained in the sense of sin. It is more than embarassment over mistakes, shame at stupidity or carelessness, or even a sudden demand for domination. As Stanley Hauerwas describes it, "its fundamental form is self-deception." (The Peaceable Kingdom, Notre Dame, 1983, p. 46). We want to believe many things about ourselves and the sense of sin is the secret laughter that exposes the brittleness of our lies.

Part of what is happening in Crawford, Texas is that truth in the form of uncontrollable grief is confronting the glamorous patina of unshakeable pride. There may be much truth to the subterranean rumor that Bush is unable to openly face real emotion, unable to process genuine humanity. Someone capable of the crimes he has committed could not have much sense of the value of human life. Protected by the shield of righteousness, he cannot turn the gaze on himself and realize in what name he has truly acted. Beyond this, there is evidence of a lack of ability to truly engage the battle that must be fought before making decisions that will etch hatred onto generations. He rushes to judgment in a manner that is often praised as "decisive", but this decisiveness hides impatience with the tedious processes of reason and evidence that serious decision require. Gut instinct has to be earned - it's usually not a gift from above.

As fellow sinners, as fellow slaves of violence, we should reach out our hands to him and pray for the recovery of his inner peace, not the false "peace" that comes from self-righteousness, but the peace that comes from accepting crooked humanity and the hard and tedious struggle for truth, which would heal our own souls as well. In fact, this goes to the heart of why we go to war. We go because we have not the patience to endure the suffering that leads to peace. None of us want to see the weeping face or feel a pain that can't be washed away. Pray that the born again will be born anew in the King of Peace.

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