Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More subtle and yet more kind

I was just out on our back deck, looking through our back yard to the brick house 100 yards away or so. It might have been that the neighbor's red mini-van was parked in the driveway that caused me to notice that the bricks on the side of the house appeared to be a full face view of GHW Bush--the good Dad of the wayward son, W. I'd never noticed that before but it was unmistakable to me. I decided to make sure I see it again before I show it to my wife and ask her if she sees it too.

Good thing it looked like the first President Bush rather than Jesus. Jesus has this eerie way of showing up on buildings and pancakes and tuna sandwiches. Then people start showing up with their rosaries waiting for the apparition to bleed from the forehead. Jesus' mother shows up like this more often than her good son. I know you've all read about such things--the BVM outlined by a grease stain or rust from a gutter or the burned spots on a grilled bun. Places like that. I've even seen and wish I had ordered, little presses of Jesus and Mary that you can use to put their likenesses on sandwiches of your own.

Those appearances always seem to make the news and a quickly disappear from the public's consciousness. It would be kind of neat, I think, if we had a God that used bricks and rust and burnt bread to give us views of Mary and Jesus. But, in the end, I don't think we have that kind of God. That seems a little show-offish for God to be involved with. God, it seems to me at any rate, is more subtle than to be revealed in tea leaves at the bottom of your cup.

My friend, Dan Kiger, and I used to play gin rummy in his room in Divinity Hall at Harvard several afternoons a week. I always sat in the same chair, facing the wall where Dan had what I saw as a stylized Asian print made up of black dots on white paper. I looked at it every day but never asked why he had it. Then one day, another student came in to borrow typing paper or something and said, "Neat picture of Jesus" while pointing to the print.

When he was gone I strained my eyes but all I saw were dots.

"Jesus?" I asked Dan, pointing to the dots.

He stood up and put his finger on one particular dot. "That's his right eye," he said, and in less than a nano-second, there was Jesus leaping out from the dots at me. I could never NOT see him again. The print just wouldn't revert to random black dots.

Like I said, more subtle than we might imagine.

The pseudo-prophetic poppycock of some religious leaders recently about God's being engaged in punishing people through natural disasters is even more disturbing than finding the Virgin Mary in the frosting on your honey bun. The logical extension of believing the earthquake hit Haiti as God's judgment on Voo-doo (the opinion expressed by Pat Robertson and others) is the Constitutionally protected rights of those idiots--check that, "evil idiots" from Kansas to demonstrate at military funerals and claim dead soldiers are God's judgment on the US for homosexuality. I keep waiting for the explanation for the earthquake and tsunami in Japan as God's vengeance for some sin or another.

That is a totally un-subtle kind of Deity, wiping out infidels for affronts to Holy Law of some kind or another. It may be helpful to remember that a real OT prophet encountered God not in earthquake or storm or fire, but in a 'still small voice'--or, as that could reasonably be translated, I'm told: "total silence".

Hearing God in the 'total silence', now there's a fine bit of subtlety.

And whenever I heard talk of some obviously vengeful God I realize that God is not only very subtle but kinder than subtle. Bad stuff happens--not because God causes it to happen--but, in fact, because God chose to allow natural law and free will to be part of the Creation. God's reaction to horrible stuff, I believe, is profound mourning, holy sorrow, eternal tears.

The fact that Pat Robertson and his ilk aren't blown to smithereens for outlandish assumptions about God (something I for one would find refreshing!) demonstrates the extent of God's kindness. God, it seems to me, doesn't hate stupid and evil people the way I do. I suppose, in fact, that God's compassion for them is greater than they imagine...or can imagine....

natural disasters etc and tv evangelists
more suble and more kind

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.