Men’s Rights, A Statement from the Queen

(In which she attempts a sophisticated form of humor that usually gets her pilloried, and yet here she is.)

Men of our modern Western world! We have heard your pleas. We must confess that, being ourselves female, we have always naturally held the theory that men are the inferior sex. So much of nature and culture appear to justify this common belief: why else would men so often resort to violence if not for lack of the sophistication of wit that can create peaceful solutions? Why insist on being coddled in every form of social contact if not because they themselves understand, in some simple way, that they are not emotionally mature and stable beings? Man is made for manual labor and woman for rule, it is everywhere apparent. On the whole men themselves have seemed content with this arrangement; and women, although some as individuals have suffered the effects of men’s brutish leanings while others, finding themselves without even the poorest dullard to train to use, have been forced into the world of labor themselves – even so, women have lived and prospered.

And yet there are these murmurs of discontent, and we must assure our beloved charges that Mother, as it were, has indeed heard them. Our sons are no longer content in their natural spaces of boardroom and battlefield; they claim they are ready to take up the mantles of natural right and responsibility that heretofore have belonged to womankind alone. We have decided it is time to make the experiment: therefore we put forward these simple first steps toward man’s goal, so that he may try on the skirts he has requested and see if he can keep their hems off the ground.

In times previous, we have assigned to women the adult responsibility of governing sex and reproduction, minding her manners carefully in public and keeping her privates, private. We have forgiven the errors of men in these regards as the clompings of an animal incapable of governing his own members. But today, O Man, we announce to you that we accept your assertion that you are beings equal to ourselves, and thus capable of minding your sexual affairs responsibly. Your actions toward women who have rejected you (and toward men less muscular, less masculine or heteronormative and thus closer to the elevated state of the female, et cetera) will be yours to answer for rather than theirs, and children fruited from your seed will be yours equally to care for, both financially and in physical and emotional presence. (Naturally, should your failure be such that your child is itself the product of savagery on your part, your part will be only financial, as you will be in prison and deemed an unfit companion for children, just as you were previously unfit before your declaration as an equal.)

Likewise you are now to be held equal in all social contexts. It may shock you to learn of it, dear gentlemen, but historically women have endured many errors on your part, knowing that your constitutions were too fragile to bear correction of the kind we give each other. In fact a great many women have smiled politely at you, all unknowing in your naivete, as you caused what would otherwise be considered great offense. In this way we have coddled your fancy – perhaps, we see now, at a cost to your development – that life was a Disney movie, in which any man could, at any moment, stumble into a great princess, win her affections with no more than a smile and a few clumsy words and a stolen kiss, and ride off happy with her forever. Alas, in truth, few men excel at turning their haplessness into charm, and for them to gain a kiss from any woman at all is a wonder. As equals, however, you deserve to learn the truth of your predicament, so that you may train yourselves to better communication skills and take equal part in civilized society.

This is not to say that you are without any contributions to civilization in our past! Oh, it is true that we have often relegated you to your natural position as the violent catalysts of history. You yourselves have often dismissed your own contributions in other areas, awarding the arts and sciences such words as “queer,” which as we have said elevate men to nearer the womanly position. But perhaps you do so at your own expense, failing to comprehend that mere men could have created beauty of any kind. We therefore declare August to be White Men Who Did Not Kill, Rape, or Enslave Anyone We Know About Month, so as to encourage you to embrace this aspect of your collective heritage. Their little-known examples may inspire you to enter into the true world of culture and sophistication, where men are currently so underrepresented.

We feel that this is enough to begin with. Society cannot be torn to the ground and rebuilt in a day, nor should it be. Be of good cheer, dear brave men, and do not drum yourselves up into frenzy over the hard work of taking on the duties of true citizens; there will be the rewards of free emotional expression, healthy bonding, and glorious fashion soon enough.

The Prophetic Voice

I am a self-diagnosed Aspie.* One of the ways this has tended to manifest itself in my life is my big mouth. “Authority” was only meaningful to me if the person in charge demonstrated to my satisfaction that they knew better than I did; if they couldn’t do that, it didn’t matter who or what they claimed to be, obedience and agreement were no longer guaranteed. If they said something I didn’t think was right – whether factually or morally – I spoke right up. If they didn’t admit I had a point or at least that I was very clever and had given them something to think about, I came back the next day with evidence.

As you can imagine, this has not always been in my favor. When I was an adorable little girl, adults tended to be blown away by that and hailed my maturity. Other than a few trips to the principal or the school counselor, there wasn’t too much blowback. Oh, sure, that kid in my civics class who told me to “show him some fucking respect” and then invited me to shave my back was a bit of a bother, but he was the first person to ever call me a bitch, and since I had already been reading feminist and witchy writings about that term, I was kind of delighted that I’d earned my badge of honor. As I’ve gotten further into adulthood, I find people more and more set in their ways and suffered more real consequences for being the person who always brings up the inconvenient elephant in the room or points out when there’s a fact that clearly ruins the pet theory (even if it’s the one I was championing a few minutes ago). Even in Paganism there’s only so much room people want to make for the cawing crow.

And then I became a Christian. Well! It’s even harder wearing those dark feathers as a Christian. For one thing, I’m quite confident that right now, even people who know who I am are putting “argumentative” and “Christian” together in their heads and squirming with discomfort as they imagine what an “argumentative Christian” usually looks like. Meanwhile I was also maturing more in my thinking about intersectionality, various –isms, where I’m seen as an insider and where I’m seen as an ally (at best). Remembering stupid things that have come out of my mouth at earlier points in my development, you know, like you do if you’re introspective. And I had battle scars by then, and I was getting tired of arguing.

And maybe it wasn’t even a Christian thing to do, you know? I talked to my priest about it: she generously dubbed it “the prophetic voice,” and agreed that perhaps it was good to learn how to control it. Now, I can’t blame the rest of it on her. After all, she’s not trained in how to talk to the Aspie. But I added this suggestion to the fact that there’s a strong streak of liberal Protestant “smile politely and shut your mouth” ethic in my church.

And I decided that what was best for my soul was to withdraw from all arguments entirely. No matter how trivial or how noble, how personal or how global. Smile politely and shut my mouth.

I tried that for a couple of years, even. Those of you who know me will be shocked to hear that in the long term, it didn’t work. I could do it for a while, and I felt very serene and spiritually developed. I also felt increasingly silenced, isolated, and devalued, because during that time I had to face down –isms that applied to me or those close to me without one of my main tools, smiling politely and shutting my mouth. And that does. Not. Work. As a means of getting your difference seen accurately and treated with some shred of dignity.

And even then I was trying to hold onto it, because despite the examples of innumerable saints and holy people who have spoken up, I didn’t trust myself to do it, and I didn’t trust my faith to see me through doing it (partly because I didn’t trust myself to pick the right battles).

The final nail in the coffin came while I was watching the Pantheon Foundation’s Pagans of Color internet conference panel, because one of my friends was on it (jazz hands!). It was all excellent, and available for your viewing convenience at the bottom of the post. A fair deal of it was addressed to allies and would-be allies, and one thing that stuck with me was said by Elena Rose. She talked about how frustrating it was when “allies” let all the real work fall on others, even when they saw someone being victimized or ostracized at first hand. How many people stay silent, and then creep over when no one’s looking and say, “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”

That hits me, because I’ve been the person who gets that useless apology, more than once. I’ve been the one left thinking, how does that help me? Surely they see how hollow that is? How all they’re saying is “I don’t care enough to help or risk anything myself, but I’d like us both to pretend I came through for you, all right? Because the important thing is that I don’t go home feeling bad that I totally stood by while that happened.”

Why in the world would I aspire to be the kind of person who gives that apology?

So I learned, and again this will shock everyone who knows me, that what I’m really aiming for is a dynamic balance. It is absolutely worth being the person who stands up and says “No, I can’t be a party to that.” For my own sake I may have things to learn about when and where and how to do it, but I didn’t inherit the “prophetic voice” to lock in a box and throw into the basement.

I don’t even have a basement.

*It’s a long story for another time, but every trait that made me suspect Asperger’s/mild autism in my child, which was verified by lengthy tests by medical professionals, is a trait he got from me. Every single one. So while it’s not official and I acknowledge that for those to whom it matters, I feel pretty confident in the self-assessment.

Roid Rage Theology

I don’t see the point in arguing about the nature of God or the gods. I mean, in the sense of cool-headed theological contemplation I do see it, but if we’re all honest with ourselves, that’s not usually what happens. I mean the kind where I believe something about how many gods there are or aren’t, and I am so confident in my view that everyone who thinks something else seems like a moron – and I tell them as much, with much shield-clanging and posturing. It is the theology of teenage boys on steroids, and every religion seems to get a share of it.

One of the problems is that we’re not dealing with hard sciences here. None of us can definitively prove that there’s only one God and that one matches my particular description, or that there are many gods that all reflect one, or many that are many down to the bone, or gods of this type but not of that type, or no gods whatsoever.  That means that if you are not a great philosopher or theologian or rhetorician, as most of us aren’t, arguments in this subject are liable to run in this direction:

“Worship Thor!”

“He’s made up. He is totally not even the god of thunder.”

“Is too!”

“Nuh-uh.”

Which is all about useless. And worse, if the speakers’ enthusiasm for their subject prevents them from letting go of their unprovable point, it can spiral out this way:

“You are dirt stupid for worshipping a made-up god.”

You are the dumbest person ever and you should be drowned in a sack!”

“Threat! Threat! Oh, you are going to be sorry you said that, filthy heretic.

And so on until each person has decided that the other person is everything that is wrong with the universe throughout time and space. (I’m not exaggerating, and this doesn’t apply just to the Christians, the Muslims, the Atheists. Browse the internet, and see how many examples of this argument you can find! Make it a drinking game, because you’ll want to numb the pain.)

But there isn’t anything to prove in at the core. And even when what we’re really arguing about is religious practice and how it intersects with public life, many people really do prefer to “keep it pure” by focusing on “is not.” “Is too.”

Where I’m ultimately headed with this is toward “Christians, don’t push so hard,” but that may have to wait for a separate post.

Introduction 2.0

Having come back from such a long absence, perhaps I should take a second to re-introduce myself, especially since there’s more to say about where my head is and isn’t compared to last time I wrote a “first post.”

Hi! I am a spiritual polyvore. After an agnostic upbringing, I spent nearly twenty years total in various forms of Paganism, ten of them in leadership roles. Then comes a long story it’s not time for here, so we jump to the present, where I have been Episcopalian for several years. Either way, I have always had a contemplative and mystical bent, which means I do a lot of thinking about how my own thoughts and actions relate to my ideals and tend to have an, um, experiential component to my religious feels. “Discernment of spirits,” I think we call it here. I have strong Carmelite leanings. All of that said, I haven’t turned my back on other religions being benign and right for other people, and retain respect for and interest in just how many ways there are for people to dig into that wonderfully rich and strange aspect of human life. And I still watch violent movies and listen to rock music and play video games and swear.

This potentially stirs up any of a whole pot of problems for people. Cussing Carmelites are not normally a thing. Neither is a high-church Christian still hanging around with the Pagan intellectual elite, which I know from experience blows minds on both ends of the equation. I can’t help it: I don’t do dualism very well. And that is ultimately likely to be a theme here. When I’m not on overtly spiritual topics, expect to see my dualism fail applied to things like autism, gender, sexual orientation, gamer and geek culture.

Effects Stack

I’ve decided I’m going to come back to blogging with a bang.

GamerGate. There, you know where we are. Now we can proceed.

The aspect of the shitstorm that I’m going to focus on here is the one that reflects a mood in general culture, that of shouting matches over privilege. These often come down to someone trying to shut up a member of an oppressed minority by saying that after all, they too are oppressed in some way, so don’t they deserve just as much attention and concern?

Since GamerGate is currently the most visible form of this argument on the Web, with its cries of “But they mocked me in high school! They called me mad at university!” I had been thinking about it with gamer terms in mind. And just as I was going to sleep last night – of course – I understood where their understanding was going wrong in game terms.

They were forgetting that effects stack.

Let us suppose that life is, in fact, one great big role-playing game. First of all, congratulations! You’re a LARPer. Second, let us understand that as with most role-playing games, your choices on things like gender, race, and player class are going to come with various sets of advantages and disadvantages. So do your starting attributes and talents.

Let’s look at the bright side of this first. Say you’re a white, non-disabled, cisgendered, heterosexual male born into the middle class. Let’s call this character Bob. Bob gets a lot of good things right out of the gate. Unless he really botches his rolls on appearance or intelligence, he will usually get neutral responses or better out of NPCs. Unless he’s crazy drunk/high in public or grooms himself like a punk on meth, he will seldom get a second glance from law enforcement or anyone else whose job includes eliminating “likely threats.” He will probably go to decent schools, which will make it easier for him to go on to success later in life, whether through college or trade or the military or even sports. He will be more likely to afford all the pleasant perks of life, which ironically will sometimes also be cheaper for him.

It gets better! Because of all this access to training and tools and friendly help, Bob will level up quickly. That will help him move into positions of greater prestige, security, and/or money. Now, without giving up any of the advantages he had before, Bob will have even more advantages, because effects stack.  He will get even better reactions than he did before, possibly to the point of having crimes he commits actively overlooked or at least under-punished. He will be able to afford luxury items, and some necessities – ironically again – will become even cheaper to him than they were before. He will be able to hire people to do the parts of his daily life that he doesn’t like. He will have access to better health care to make sure he doesn’t lose his “non-disabled” perks.

Now we’re going to build our second character, Dave. He’s still white, non-disabled, cisgendered, heterosexual and male, but he comes from a poor family in the sticks. He didn’t roll anything impressive for looks or intelligence, and in fact, some of his interests are not shared by a lot of his peers. Because of these things, it’s absolutely true that he’s not going to have as easy a road as Bob. Not everyone reacts positively on meeting him, though he still gets more neutral responses than negative ones (except maybe during junior high, which sucks for all but about three people per class year regardless). He’s probably at a worse school, getting less prepared for the future. Even if he manages to get into Bob’s school, he has little social currency to spend there, so the benefit is still limited. He may eat poorly enough at home to have lasting effects on his health, and that’s not going to help his adult life any. He’s going to level up slower than Bob and may hit a limit as to what he can accomplish.

That’s pretty bad, right? That’s worthy of our compassion, isn’t it?

Yeah, but. Hold on to your seat, because we’ve only thrown one of many possible wrenches into Bob’s cheery storyline.

Just for laughs, let’s compare Susan, who is like Bob except cisfemale. She gets back the good school and a lot of social currency, but for her there are strings attached. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, feels they deserve a vote in how much Susan weighs, what clothes she puts on, and what makeup she wears. Oh, and she is all but required to pay for makeup, more expensive clothes and more of them, and will probably spend a fair portion of her life on expensive diet plans as she chases the dream of being the magic shape that will satisfy everyone. That puts her at risk for eating disorders, so every so often we’re going to have to roll against anorexia, bulimia, extreme weight yo-yoing, and so on. If she’s pretty and/or works her presentation well enough, she gets a lot of theoretically positive responses, but for virtually every cisfemale some of those will cross over into people being creepy, making unwanted physical contact, stalking, or even full verbal and/or physical assault. It is guaranteed; it is part of the feature pack for this gender. Despite all her extra expenses, she will actually make less than Bob if she does the same job Bob does. Some jobs will not welcome her at all; others will mysteriously fail to level her up even when she’s earned all the points.  There’s other advantages and disadvantages in there, but this is enough to get where we’re going.

At this point you might be tempted to think, yeah, Dave’s got problems, Susan’s got problems, that’s what I’m saying, isn’t it? We’ve all got problems, so it’s not fair for Susan to point hers out like they’re a priority, is it?

But that’s not what I’m saying.

Now let’s check in on Nancy. Nancy is like Dave except cisfemale. So she has all the strikes against her that Dave has when compared to Bob, and all the disadvantages that Susan has when compared to Bob. All in play at the same time. Effects stack.

What if we made Rick and Anne, cisgendered people of color? Even starting from middle-class or better, they get marked down on stranger response, and especially so in encounters with law enforcement. If they’re middle class and in Bob’s school, they still get looked at funny because they’re not the same as Bob. If they’re middle class and in Dave’s school, Dave’s friends are likely to see them as uppity and hostile unless their charismas are through the roof. Rick has to earn more points than Bob or Dave to level up, and Anne has that problem plus Susan’s problems with leveling, because effects stack. In fact, Anne has all of Rick’s race-connected problems plus all of Susan’s gender-connected problems. (Granted, this isn’t a pure exchange, because in this case Rick has some special baggage connected to the intersection of “color” and “male.” But then again, Anne has some special baggage connected to the intersection of “color” and “female.” But for the most part we’re looking at simple stacking; and you can also see from this that when an intersection of two problematic tags occurs, it is generally a change for the worse and not the better.)

Now what if Rick loses an arm in the war? What if Dave realizes he’s actually gay or trans female? Sad to say, positive effects are easier to get rid of than negative ones. Rick keeps all his “male of color” issues and gets to add all the limits of being disabled; he loses the perks of being able-bodied. Dave keeps his poor roots and quirkiness issues and adds the many, many problems that attend on being gay or transgender. He will lose many, if not all, of the perks he got from being a heterosexual cisman.

What if Dave, now Debbie, loses feeling in her legs? Effects stack.

So my point is not that we all have problems and so we’re free to dismiss each other’s cries for help with “I’m a victim too!” I’m saying that if, as has become a trend, you are a person with one or two strikes against you and a sense that you’re disrespected from both ends, then on one hand you do indeed have a genuine problem. On the other hand, you might benefit from some perspective. Think about the people who have your set of problems plus more problems. Think about how it feels to be told your problems don’t count, and consider whether the people further down the slope than you might not feel the same way when you do it to them. Think about whether it is more constructive for us all to fight amongst each other, or to work as a team to address all our grievances in a way that will balance the game properly.

Effects stack.

Destroying the Oppressor

Destroy all those who would oppress me, for you are my redeemer, O Lord. – Psalm 143

Today I’m reading Chanting the Psalms by Cynthia Bourgeault. I bought it, logically enough, for tips on learning to chant the Psalter. Being of a musical bent, I have always been very attracted to the meditative power of chant, and the fact that my faith has a millenia-old tradition of it just sitting there unused has picked at me for long enough.

As I was browsing through the book, confirming that it should indeed prove interesting and useful (and it comes with a CD!), I found a section discussing the issue that some people have with the language of the Psalms themselves. The passage quoted above, for example. For a lot of people – and certainly for many non- and ex-Christians, I think – quotes like this are proof of the violent and condemning nature of God and/or of faith generally. Right away that comes into issue because these are not the words of God but petitions to God, prayers said by people – most often King David, according to canon – in a whole wide variety of human conditions, some very harsh. That people in dire straits prayed to God for the destruction of their enemies tells us more about people than it does about God.

Still there is the issue, and I have felt it myself, of how a Jew or Christian of modern mindset and good conscience can continue to utter prayers like this one in our own practice. In this book, Bourgeault describes taking this question to a woman who had been a contemplative Christian for many years. The woman’s answer was, “This used to bother me too. But what I’ve come to understand is that this prayer really means destroy in me that dualizing tendency of the mind that divides my world up into friends and enemies. Let me see through the eyes of divine Oneness that my so-called oppressors are all projections of my own deepest fears.”

That sounds very Eastern, doesn’t it? The non-dualistic tradition certainly does exist in some forms of Christianity, mystical and contemplative ones in particular, but it doesn’t make a big show of itself; you have to go looking for it. Or else you have to have already studied something like Buddhism or – oh, say, Sakta Tantra – for long enough to have references like this pop out at you when you cross them.

What are the real sources of oppression? Not some particular person or creed. If you get rid of those, others will arise in their place, just as bad or maybe worse. And if oppression were purely external, how could we have so many historical figures, great ethical heroes, who were treated with every kind of external harshness and yet refused to act properly oppressed? How did Nelson Mandela get kinder and wiser in prison? Why didn’t Rosa Parks just stand up? How could Frederick Douglass, in his time and place, develop such a fierce conviction that he was not intended by God to be a slave?

What is it that really oppresses us? States of mind. If I become so fixated on possessing material goods that it becomes the focus of my life, at the expense of all other goods including the good of others, then I am oppressed by greed, and I aid the spreading of greed’s oppression. If I fixate on my own glory and honor, I am oppressed by pride and become its servant in oppressing others. 

I can be oppressed easily by superstitions, by prejudices. We all carry a thousand of these. Muslims are violent, Christians judgmental, Jews greedy, Buddhists wishy-washy, Pagans flaky, Atheists smug. Women can’t drive, men think with their genitals, the fat are lazy, the thin are superficial, the poor are greedy, the rich are heartless. Those who dress conservatively are unliberated, and those who dress suggestively are beholden to their lusts. It goes on and on. But these are not facts, only superstitions. They are rules we impose on the world, not real natural laws; they are ways we remove ourselves from the reality of the moment, and in doing so we cripple ourselves against responding to truth in an honest way. That is oppression.

Destroy all those who oppress me, for you are my redeemer, O Lord.

Bad scholarship is bad religion

It’s hard to find a commentary on the Bible that I can take seriously. The problem is, of course, that I took a class on this stuff, so now I know just enough to be able to weigh what I’m given.

I’m tempted to comment on “what’s allowed under ‘Biblical scholarship,'”, but the truth is that this happens in academic approaches, in religious-minded ones, and in political exploitation of religion, all three. It’s the most disappointing to see it in academia, of course, where people are supposed to know better, but there you go. It’s a heavily charged subject.

What happens, in a nutshell, is that whenever a person – scholar, preacher, political wingnut, whatever – approaches the Bible, they tend toward the following process. Note the order of the steps:

1. Form a hypothesis as to the nature of God the Father and/or Jesus. (Or Paul, or Topic X.)

2. Read and evaluate scriptures and/or other sources.

3. Dismiss material that does not match your hypothesis as later, less reliable, tacked in, etc.

4. Embrace what remains as the truest and most reliable information.

5. Declare that, since this information matches your hypothesis, the hypothesis is correct.

I’d love to assume that we all see the problem with this line of reasoning without my pointing it out, but if that were true it wouldn’t be so common, so I’ll call it for what it is: totally circular. If you use your hypothesis to choose which evidence you’re going to use, of course you’re going to end up “proving” your hypothesis. That’s how we manage to project onto God, onto Jesus, onto Paul, Christianity, Judaism, etc, etc, so many contradictory and sometimes seemingly insane personalities. I’ve seen it in academic treatments and religious ones, on the left and on the right. 

How do we learn to read with an open mind, and let the evidence form the hypothesis?

Prayer of contrition for Christianity

Lord, forgive us our corporate sins.

Forgive us, Father, for all acts of violence we have committed against ourselves, each other, and all people, especially those we committed while claiming to act in Your name, forgetting Your infinite love and Your desire to spread Your grace to all peoples of the world. Forgive us for those occasions when we failed to trust the news of Your grace to be sufficient, and tried to drag souls to You by means of our own force and coercion. Lead us away from this error, o Lord: fill us with the love and peace of the Holy Spirit, and bless and heal all those whom we have hurt.

Forgive us, Father, for those whom we have made to feel unwelcome in Your house because of our rejection, forgetting how Your Son always went first to the leper, the beggar, the adulteress, the tax collector. Forgive us for our temptation to sit in the seat of Judgment that is Yours alone and declare the sins of others, and which are to be forgiven or not forgiven. Lead our busy minds toward our own sins, and our hearts toward welcome to all who approach us, for only You know the path Your grace is taking within them.

Forgive us, Father, also for those times when rather than sitting in condemnation of sins not ours to judge, we have allowed hatred and harm to be spread before us, in our name, and been silent. Forgive us for Your work that we have left undone, and build in us the courage and resolve to perform it according to Your will.

Forgive us, Father, we beg, for having taught the world by our example to fear us rather than to love You. We have made ourselves a stumbling block for many hearts that thirsted for Your love and wisdom. We pray most dearly for the souls of those whom we have misled by our error. Flood our hearts with Your Holy Spirit until we are so full of Your love that there is no space left for the fear and pettiness by which we have misguided ourselves and others.

Mardi Gras

Tonight I prepare myself for the Great Defragging, 40 days of paying attention. Tomorrow, I will start to re-organize and simplify my life, stripping away what no longer fits and giving the opened space to God.

In practical terms, for me, this will mean getting back on the Weight Watchers wagon, and also committing at minimum to doing “the hours” for morning and night. (I will be making an honest effort to also do noon and compline, but I don’t want to get perfectionistic about it and crash myself.) Incidentally, if you’re interested in the Hours and are Anglican/Episcopalian, I strongly recommend St. Bede’s Breviary, which not only is available and highly customizable on the internet, but is now testing a good tablet and smartphone-friendly version.

Meanwhile, I am going to resume reading and thinking about At Home in the World by Margaret Guenther, a book about applying principles from monastic Rules of Life to one’s own life shy of actually joining a Third Order. My life is often full of little pokes in this direction: in fact they were a big factor in my being a Pagan priestess for so long. But having burned out on that particular function and changed houses, I’ve been slow to move this time. Having given myself a year to ripen in the basics, and the poke not having gone away, I am moving temerously into the interest in Rules and Hours that I suppressed last year.

Tonight, however! Tonight I go to church to gorge on pancakes. Let it not be said that Episcopalians don’t know how to debauch properly on Mardi Gras. *chuckles*

This Week in Scripture, 12/4/11

A little late, partly because reasons and partly because there was so much to work with this week that I had trouble deciding where to focus.  A lot of good lines in this week’s scriptures, particularly famous ones and ones I know from classical music pieces. “Comfort, O comfort my people” and “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd” (both from Isaiah 40); “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10).

But what I really find myself thinking about is the reading from the second letter of Peter 3:8-15a, so much so that I am going to give it in its entirety:

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

This is the passage that always comes to mind for me when I hear or read about the sort of Christian who seems to form the popular opinion of what Christians are today: the one who wants this to be a “Christian nation,” not in the sense of promoting love between neighbors or aiding the poor and oppressed but of making sure no other voices are heard and people who stand out or commit “sin” by their definition are punished. The one who, far from holding out the promise of grace from a loving God to others, seems creepily gleeful at the prospect that those different from themselves will burn forever, hopefully starting as soon as possible. The one who prays for Judgment Day to hurry up and get here.

There are, of course, lots of places in the Bible I would take to imply that God does not endorse this kind of attitude in His followers, that what He wants as our guiding principle is love, not vengeance.  Likewise there are lots of places where He warns us that if we are hateful in our condemnation of others, it will count more against us than them. But this from Peter is a particularly direct and, bless him, tactful reminder that this warning applies to our thoughts on the Judgment itself. Even if it ultimately means an age of righteousness, dude, the elements will melt. What kind of person wishes that on anyone?

It sounds in this passage as if Judgment is something of a last resort: perhaps (in fact certainly, in context) He would prefer for us to do at least some of the work of saving the world ourselves. And “saving” anything in the New Testament, at least, almost always involves things like healing and feeding and forgiving. Things many of us sadly remain bad at, particularly those of us who get the most excited about condemning each other to fiery judgments.

God is waiting, and the patience of the Lord is salvation. Maybe He is giving someone time to have a change of heart – maybe the person you’re yelling at or about. Maybe you.  Maybe you’re getting a minute to think about whether you really are without sin before you cast that stone. Maybe you’re being given time to ask yourself whether you really know better than God who needs punished and when it needs to happen. Whether it really is holy, or even decent, to hurry toward the end of the world.

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