Bathsheba and Stanford

After a week of reading about the Stanford rape case, I was stunned to see that David and Bathsheba as the subjects of this morning's Old Testament lectionary reading.

I listened to the lector read about Bathsheba mourning her husband (Uriah), David called to account (for theft of Uriah's property and for murder-- not for rape), and I listened to the words of the prophet Nathan: "Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die."

And then we all very peacefully said, "Thanks be to God," and moved on. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got.  

Before I go any further, I want to say: sexual violence is a raw and personal subject for an enormous number of people, and springing it on a congregation from the pulpit is probably not a wise idea.

We have to talk about it somewhere, though, because when we gloss over violence, when we hear it a thousand times in the same scripture stories, it becomes normalized.  We the Church develop an attitude that minimizes assault, minimizes abuse of power, and entirely shuts out the story and perspective of the survivor.  We the Church are participants in rape culture when we read the stories of violence and abuse in scripture without questioning where God really is in the story.  

If we were willing to be uncomfortable, willing to tolerate the cognitive dissonance that comes from seeing David our Beloved Patriarch at the same time as we truly see the horror of David's sexual assault, we would have a powerful foundation for dealing with violence and abuse in our midst. We could recognize the truth that abusers look just like the people we respect-- because they *are* the people we respect.  We could see our part in protecting abusers and rejecting survivors.  We might reach forgiveness by going through the overwhelming fury and pain, instead of leaping to a false forgiveness where nothing changes. If we spoke openly about how the violence of our forefathers afflicted their families and communities, then we could look at what we've inherited from our spiritual family, and begin to heal.

And perhaps Bathsheba, like the glorious Stanford survivor, could become a full character in the story, and not a prop. 


Mondays: Simul Justus et Peccator

I'm energized and excited by learning about people who wring out every drop of their gifts to do good. Whether it's my seminary friend or a long-ago President, the courage and action of others sends motivation surging through me. I've been asking people lately who they're inspired by, and almost every time I do, I hear a robust chorus of, "Don't compare yourself to others!"

Friends, my ego can handle it. 

In the midst of a biography binge, I've been thinking about Martin Luther's perspective that we are, at the same time, both Saint and Sinner. What could free us more than the certainty that all who have concentrated their gifts on their endeavors were also bunglers, in one way or another?

In that spirit, I'll be sharing my favorite sinners and my most exasperating saints with you this year. May you be as delighted by their messy humanity as I am. 


Action-Reflection Friday

In CPE, we used the action-reflection model of learning: do something, process how it went, adjust, and try again.

It occurred to me while I was making my 2016 goals that the same model might be helpful in parenting.  (I seriously considered emailing the other playgroup moms and asking if they'd want to start a peer supervision group, too, but... no.)

So here I am, all set to act and reflect.  I figure I'll pick one thing that worked over the course of the week, and one thing that didn't.  A weekly Ignatian review-- places I saw light and love, and places I struggled.

That's the weekly plan.  We'll see how it goes.


The Compassion Collective is Us

I'm overwhelmed by the sadness and collective need of Syrian refugees. I'm not sure how to find hope in a situation so huge and so devastating. 

Fred Roger's mom told him to look for the helpers in difficult times. I think that's the right answer for small children, but for the rest of us, I think we also have to join the helpers. The Compassion Collective is one way to do that-- small gifts that add up to meet big needs. I gave, Dave is giving, and I'd like to invite you to join us. 


The 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Are you imagining the horrible, helpless grief of refugee parents whose children are dying in the process of trying to get safe? What do we do with this kind of horror? How do we live in a world like this?  

This week, the news was catastrophic, and the lectionary readings were timely:
"Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate;for the LORD pleads their cause..."
"Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin."
"If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."

As I joined the corporate confession this morning, I thought about our serving God in newness of life.  Surely being freed from our sin means that we are freed from the fear that drives us to hide from tragedy and pain in our world.  We are released so that we can roll up our sleeves.  

If Jesus heals, and we are the body of Christ, we can trust that God can and will use us to heal.  We weep with those who weep, and while we're doing that we get to work.  We don't have the strength to do it on our own-- God knows I feel utterly overwhelmed-- but the Spirit who lives in us and renews us is bigger than every news report I see.

It is our job to execute justice for the oppressed, to free prisoners, to watch over strangers, to feed and clothe the poor.  Not to imagine first-century Christians doing it, but to look for the needs around us now.  Not because we're earning our way into heaven, but because grace of God enables us to do the work of God.  My blood boils at the thought of someone watching my son get hurt and not reaching out.  My spine freezes when I think of him left starving, sick, or in the path of violence. I imagine God has a much stronger visceral reaction to the suffering of all those created with joy in God's own image.  

And if that's not the case, then God is not someone I want to know, and grace is not something I'm interested in.  If God is not liberating us for practical, visible love to every one of God's beloveds, then I think we're better off going fishing than being the church.  


Mandatory Waiting Period

Mr. M and I have a Mandatory Waiting Period in our house. No, it's not about the purchase of handguns (he's a pacifist, and I'm more inclined towards a crowbar and an Iron Man mask). It's a conversational waiting period. 

Years ago, we realized that when big topics come up, the wisest and kindest thing to do is to let my introverted husband mull them over for a few days. He comes back with insightful responses, calmed and more cautious than perhaps other parties might concoct. 

Recently, we decided that Mr. M is not the only one who needs a waiting period. Mine's a little different: I have to wait a few days before I'm allowed to argue with an idea

(pause for snickering)

It's damn uncomfortable. The suggestions I most want to fight are the gentlest ones: "Have you thought about talking to X?  I think they're really in your corner?"  "The Biscuit really loves you." "How about you go out with friends this week?"  I can fight absolutely anything, but absorbing kindness and grace, genuinely allowing them to sink in, is far harder. 

I'm taking the idea out of the house a little more these days. When I start to inwardly roll my eyes, I choose to wait a week.* This habit is changing the way I listen. Sometimes. When I'm willing. 

At its best, marriage (intimate relationships, period-- friendships, siblings) can be a safe incubator for all the terrifying growth that helps us become who we were created to be. Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday, and some of my very favorite preachers talked about how the wonder of the Trinity is that God's very self is intimate relationship, and that our call to holiness is a call to be loving, vulnerable, and connected. I've waited a week, and I think that's right on. 

*Sometimes I still think I'm dealing with an idiot a week later. It's growth, not delusion.


What I'm Reading: Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye

I picked up Marie Mutsuki Mockett's book on a whim, grabbing one adult book along with my stack of Bob Staake-illustrated board books.  It looked exactly up my alley: investigating grief and loss with an eye toward the influence of culture.  Even better, it was described as being part travel-narrative, so I figured I had work reading combined with my favorite leisure reading, all in one go.

Mockett addresses her individual grief over the death of her father, while also exploring the corporate mourning in Japan after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  I found the work she describes Buddhists priests doing in temporary shelters fascinating-- chaplaincy both similar and dissimilar to the work done in the West.  Her personal grief and pursuit of religious education felt to me very much like Eat, Pray, Love.  Both authors undertook internal work with a publisher's deadline, and the result for me in both cases seems self-conscious and too quick for deep processing.

The written images in the book are beautiful.  When Mockett describes festivals, traditions, temples, the word pictures are stunning.  It's very enjoyable, but by the end I wondered if it was colored by an outsider's idealism (Mockett is Japanese-American).

I'd recommend it, but it's not going on my resource list.