Saturday, April 6, 2019

When Love Your Enemies Becomes More Then Mere Words

This post is inspired by a convergence of 2 thought streams: Nonviolence and the Scandal that nonviolence represents.
 First - Looking at scandal and in particular reflecting on and recommending Jeremiah Alberg's book, Beneath the Veil of the Strange Verses: Reading Scandalous Texts (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture) 
My very abbreviated attempt to sum up the book:
...Violence is a privileged access or portal to what is going on in a society and plays a significant role as to how we relate to ourselves and others.

One must find a way to see beneath the surface, to discover the “real workings of a society (and ourselves)." The key is not to get caught up in all the scandals at the surface but persevering through to see beneath the surface so to track the real life beneath that surface.

Why a situation is scandalous and not paradoxical is that a paradox is a seeming contradiction that leads to ever deepening thought, understanding, and love. Scandals, on the other hand, are blocks to thought, understanding, and love. Good interpretation is the art of transforming scandals into paradoxes.

Second - Exploring the struggle one encounters when trying to engage in the art of nonviolence: Alberg's book is vital in guiding us past all the scandals involved with the “real workings of society” when it comes to violence and all of its tentacles. It will help in our need to get beneath the surface - to recognize the scandal at the heart of trying to work through violence and to actually come out the other side to nonviolence... to love your enemies.

One of the keys to seeing beneath the surface is to recognize where one has expelled the truth; the truth as Christ lived. To help us recognize the “real workings of society” which has its underpinnings in the human propensity to expel a scapegoat and the extreme difficulty not to get trapped by that expulsion, Alberg quotes Nicholas Boyle; “Even in the works and words that seem to hide God’s face, or to spit on it, we can see God revealed at the heart of our world and in our culture.”

For this task of going beneath the surface we will rely on the following tools: a) Interpretative keys that will allow us to go deeper and through scandal, and b) "soul work" of nonviolence.

I came across a couple "bridges" I hope will help conceptualize the melding of Christ's message of “Love your enemies” and the tough love of nonviolence.

Let's begin by meditating deeply on this message from Caryll Houselander:

I had long been haunted by the Russian conception of the humiliated Christ, the lame Christ limping through Russia, begging his bread; the Christ who, all through the ages, might return to the earth and come even to sinners to win their compassion by His need.  Now, in the flash of a second, I knew that this dream is a fact; not a dream, not the fantasy or legend of devout people, not the prerogative of the Russians, but Christ in man.  Christ in His perfect human nature, Christ in His risen glory and Christ in His need and His suffering on earth, are reconciled.  We have the whole Christ.

Although this did not prevent me from ever sinning again, it showed me what sin is, especially those sins... so often held to be “harmless” – for to sin with one whom you loved (or against another) was to blaspheme Christ in that person, it was to spit on Him, perhaps to crucify Him.  I saw too the reverence that everyone must have for a sinner; instead of condoning his sin, which is in reality his utmost sorrow, one must comfort Christ who is suffering in him.  And this reverence must be paid even to those sinners whose souls seem to be dead, because it is Christ, who is the life of the soul, who is dead in them; they are His tombs, and Christ in the tomb is potentially the risen Christ.  For the same reason, no one of us who has fallen into mortal sin himself must ever lose hope.

This is an example of an author going beneath the surface and being able to feel the pulse of what Christ would call Kingdom Reality.

What grabs me here is that she is saying that Christ is abiding in our friend, our enemy and making sure not to forget that Christ abides in one's very self as well.  When we sin, we are crucifying Christ in our very selves and we somehow need to find a way to reconcile with Christ within ourselves. And when we engage with another sinner we need to not only recognize but come to the aid of the suffering Christ within the other, even though they may mistreat you and debase you. For as they sin against you they sin against Christ, within you as well as within themselves. And it is our commission to love Christ even in others who, knowingly of not, through their actions, are attempting to expel Christ, becoming His tomb, "and Christ in the tomb is potentially the risen Christ."
So, can we apply this "soul work" of going beyond the scandal, loving our enemy, seeing Christ within the person who is spitting at you or abusing you? What sort of belief system, discipline or training does it take to stand in the place of abuse, totally open to receiving Christ at that very moment, so to be Christ for another?
I hope in this "sit-in" clip from, The Butler, we might be able to observe where we are expelling Christ, where we are sinning against one another and Christ and to recognize "Christ in the tomb" where the potentially risen Christ exists.

I ask again,what sort of belief system, discipline or training does it take to stand in the place of abuse, totally open to receiving Christ at that very moment, so to be Christ for another?  

Gil Bailie sheds light on this "soul work" in one of his lectures when talking about the powerful meaning behind partaking of the chalice at Eucharist and entering into the new and eternal covenant poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
He said: We are called, we are commissioned to be witnesses for Christ meaning that we are to be:
... simply the kind of person who when something begins to swirl, when the melodrama gets set in motion, when accusations are made we can, at the risk of our own reputation, our own standing in the community, our own livelihood whatever it happens to be, we can step into the breach and absorb some of that animosity and break up the knot that has formed. Not by going in as John the Baptist would do and fighting it back in the other direction. But simply by stepping into that world and absorbing that tension (like the old Rolaids commercial, absorbs 47 times its own weight in access stomach acids…). Can we be the kind of people that can move into that place, and drink the cup and be part of Christ forgiveness? The world is going to choke on its own unforgiven-ness if we don’t. That is our role in the world. This is not cheap forgiveness. The forgiven one has to hear the cock crow,,, People have to hear the cock crow - we have to hear it. Jesus, when He forgives people, He always says, “go, and sin no more.” It is not forgiveness on the cheap. So it is a subtle process, it requires character and dignity and courage and most of all it requires an enormous moral generosity. So Jesus is inducting us into service for history in a world which is going to now increasingly be deprived of its old mechanism for taking away its own sins on the cheap. He is bringing us into this mission of taking them away in such a way that not only honors our dignity and our freedom, but also rehabilitates everyone of us.
This act of being a witness for Christ is at the heart of our quest to unhook ourselves and others from all the trappings of sin that are embedded in all the structures of our world. It is the work of revelation through the Holy Spirit illuminating us and commissioning us to help those who are most caught up in the powers and principalities so to experience the Truth that Christ is and came to reveal - that God is Love. 

We error if we think we can be about this "soul work" relying only on our own power and resources. To stand in the breach of sin, absorbing the unforgiven-ness that so often breeds sin, takes a new self, a new "I", a new creation. It goes against all our human survival instincts. St Paul uses up many word in his effort to describe this new way of being human. James Alison provides some insights to this new way of being human, not possessed by the world, but rather being possessed by Christ:
God working through Jesus Christ, is able to re-form the “I” of Paul so completely that his “I” is actually replaced by Christ: “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20).” There could be no clearer indication of a mimetic psychology than the de-possession of the “I” formed by the world, and the constitution of an “I” that is possession by Christ.
You can see that since the logic of sin is the expelling of Christ, why when sin takes a hold of us, and we allow Christ to slip out of mind and heart, we are caught in the scandals of the world, the ebb and flow of the violence. Knowing it or not, this is where we most often go to re-set our structures of security, violence and at its heart is a "justifying myth" which is the home of injustice and sin. Unless we are about the business of "going beneath the surface" to recognize the expelling of Truth and not see the scandal of what we call justice and peace. Without 'seeing' the Truth of our propensity to expel we cannot begin the healing and reconciliation work of nonviolence. 

There really is no avoidance of scandal; only a transforming of it into a paradox that reveals the mystery of being... the mystery of love.  By a discipline and perseverance in prayer, allowing God to take possession of our mind, heart and soul, are we able to get beneath the surface of violence and injustice and stand lovingly with the resurrected Christ who abides within all of us, transforming the world one person at a time.

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