Monthly Archives: August 2012

Miscarriages of flesh and faith

For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves.  (II Corinthians 11:19)

As some of you who have been following this blog for a while can attest, I don’t suffer fools gladly.  I have even less patience with people claiming to be Christ’s disciples acting like jerks.

This morning, a U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri, Todd Akin, had this to say about a raped woman’s chances of getting pregnant: 

“It seems to me first of all from what I understand from doctors that’s really rare,” Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”[i]

According to the Denver Post, Mike Huckabee lauds Akin as a “courageous conservative” and “Bible-based Christian” who “supports traditional marriage” and “defends the unborn.”

From where I’m sitting, he comes across as the kind of guy who loves the book of Deuteronomy, especially the second half of chapter 22.  He comes across as the kind of guy who cheerfully lays heavy burdens on others without giving much thought to helping them carry those burdens (see Matthew 23:1-4).  And he appears to have entirely missed the point of James’ words:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  (James 2:15-17)

From where I’m sitting, this is the kind of guy who, though he says he believes “deeply in the protection of all life,” hasn’t given a nanosecond’s thought to the quality of life of millions of women of child-bearing age and, not incidentally, their children.

My point today is not political, despite the preceding polemic.  The question that arose for me today is, “How the hell am I supposed to love this ass clown who worships the God I worship and quotes the same sacred text I do?”

My first reaction was rage.  I stormed around our living room spewing rhetoric of my own and escalating my blood pressure until my husband took charge and dosed me with about eighteen mint Oreos and a cup of decaf.  Considerably mellowed out fifteen minutes later, I did what most people I know these days do in moments of moral indignation: I posted a link to the Denver Post article on my Facebook page accompanied by this cartoon:

Words to the wise

Then, I got the bright idea of creating a special Marian the Seminarian award along the lines of Keith Olberman’s “Worst Person in the World.”  I was going to call it “The Love’a Jesus” award and after conferring it on Akin, I was going to give a special lifetime achievement award to Pat Robertson.

Over evening conversation and a starchy dinner of noodles and repurposed bruschetta topping, my dear husband’s moderating influence finally cut through the self-righteous static in my head and I started wondering what my heart’s response should be.

I believe Christians are called to love in a Christ-like way.  Christ was a master at meeting people right where they were and responding to them, individually, in ways intended to bring them into closer relationship with their God.  This does not mean that Jesus spent all of his time leaning in and patting people’s heads like some kind of first-century Oprah.  The Prince of Peace angle was all well and good for some, but not all; some needed a different approach. 

The poor needed comfort.  The outcast needed compassion.  The sick needed care.  The oppressed needed tenderness.  All throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus relating to these people in these ways.

The wealthy and the powerful, on the other hand, needed to be challenged.  So we also see Jesus doing a lot of that, often vociferously.

A Christian who makes nicey-nice to the privileged and beats the crap out of the poor has gotten the message of Christ backwards.   And a Christian who fails to speak truth to power and advocate for the disenfranchised is also missing the boat.

So, Citizen Akin, if you’re reading this[ii], allow me first to ask your forgiveness for referring to you as an ass clown.  Allow me, then, to respectfully suggest that you reassess your position.  This isn’t so much about whether or not life begins at conception.  It’s about what kind of life you want to help provide for your fellow human beings.  How are you going to help ensure that all of those children of rape grow up in loving families?  Human life may very well begin at conception – I don’t know.  But I damn well know that our responsibility toward one another, as Christians, doesn’t end at conception. 

To behave otherwise is a radical miscarriage of the Christian faith.

[i] Check it out – it was the lead story this evening on the Denver Post’s website:  Rep Akin: Pregnancy From Rape is Really Rare

[ii] Actually, if you ARE reading this, Citizen Akin, I’d love to know how you found your way here.  Seriously, dude, this really isn’t your kind of blog.  I might need to start marketing it differently. 

© Marian the Seminarian



Serving the 99%

Then Jesus told them this parable:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  – Luke 15:3-4

I have concerns about the 99%.

I’m not taking up Occupy’s banner here.  Frankly, I don’t understand economics well enough[i] to speak to income inequality in terms any more sophisticated than wondering why, on average, most preachers, teachers, and social workers at the height of their earning power make about the same amount of money in a year that Peyton Manning makes in the time it takes to shake Gold Bond into his shorts.[ii]

No, the 99% I’m talking about are the sheep the good shepherd leaves behind in order to drag the one back into the fold.

Being a common sinner and having spent my fair share of time as the one ornery sheep, I appreciate Jesus’ parable as a description of God’s character and commitment.  As a metaphor of relationship between flawed human beings and the God of second chances, the story of the good shepherd provides enormous comfort to those of us who are, as the old hymn says, “prone to wander.”[iii]

But recently, I’ve found the story inadequate to inform the profoundly difficult ethical question of “the needs of the many” versus “the needs of the one.”   During the last ten weeks of full-time internship at a  Catholic charities hospital, I’ve seen more than one “million dollar baby” receive intensive – and exorbitantly expensive – health care for which they will never be able to pay.  Among these are the homeless hospice patient who, because she is dying in a hospital, has access to far more medical resources than any home hospice patient ever would; and the twenty-one year old meth addict who has spent much of the summer in and out of ICU, about whom the hospital staff are under no misapprehensions that his near-death experiences will compel him to stop abusing drugs.

I do not question the compassion of individual staff toward these patients or the Catholic Church’s commitment to serve the poorest of the poor.  But I am also not alone in wondering how long the lamentably limited resources of a charity hospital can continue to provide astronomically expensive care to particular patients when so many others have needs as well. 

The story of the good shepherd doesn’t help much in outlining how a compassionate system should work, because the story presupposes that the ninety-nine sheep left on the hillside are going to just keep on doing their sheepy things in peace and safety while the shepherd focuses all of his energies on the one.   But if we apply the real-life examples I’ve just described to the good shepherd story, it winds up looking more like this:

Then Jesus told them this parable:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country at the mercy of slavering wolves and poachers, lightning storms and hail, and the very real possibility that the dumb gits will decide to dine on poison ivy, and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” 

What happens if so much time and so many resources are spent on the lost sheep, other sheep fall into a crevasse?  How does that setup honor the compassionate spirit Jesus emphasized in the good shepherd story?

A compassionate system, like healthcare, needs a story that clearly defines our responsibility to one another at a community level.  In this respect, I think the story of the sheep and goats is more helpful:

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”  – Matthew 25:31-40

In the story of the sheep and goats, our responsibility is not to rescue one another.  Our responsibility is mindfulness of and compassion toward the “least of these.”  We are told that “the least of these” are those who are too poor to feed and clothe themselves, those who stand at the outskirts of our communities (which, to my mind, would include immigrants, people with disabilities, people of minority ethnicities, and people who are mentally ill), and anyone cut off from society due to hospitalization, institutionalization, or imprisonment.   God calls us to care for one another, not to save one another.   To do otherwise, not only means that we miss opportunities to spread wide our nets to serve as many people as possible, we also hijack God’s job.

By leaving the business of redemption and salvation to God, we free ourselves for sustainable service. 

[i] And neither, I suspect, do most people involved in Occupy.

[ii] Granted, even in my most extreme career iteration as a jail librarian, I was in no danger of friction burn.

[iii] Per “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

© Marian the Seminarian, 2012

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