Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Lately, I've become fascinated with the rhetoric espoused by both the secular and the religious sector that implies evil can be surgically removed, like a cancer. Much of the talk centered on "winning" in Iraq or Afghanistan hinges around the suggestion that by removing a few key players, almost as if they were tumors, could "cure" the situation. Fundamentalist Christians embody evil in a discrete entity--Satan--and work off the assumption that if you just drive Satan away, well, only good will remain. Good. Evil. It's so simple and easy to grasp--so why muddy the waters by complicating it?

Here's the truth: Even when you surgically remove a cancer, you take good tissue out with it. The surgeon doesn't have microscopic vision. Instead, a rim of normal tissue is always taken out with the cancer. Even then, what grossly looks normal isn't always "normal" when scrutinized under the pathologist's microscope. Occasionally, microscopic foci of tumor extend to the edges of that "normal-looking" margin, and then more good tissue must be re-excised for a surgical cure.

Therein, I believe, lies the true nature of evil. Sure, there is obvious evil. Line up 100 people and they'll tell you Adolph Hitler was evil. But sometimes, evil is more subjective...or not evident until exposed to the frame of passing time...or adjucated by which side you were on in the event. Westward expansion didn't seem evil when Americans felt we had to fulfil our "manifest destiny" but the displacement and massacre of tens of thousands of Native Americans, in retrospect, certainly has elements of evil entertwined within it.

It's interesting that we have a human tendency to stratify sin when all sin is capable of giving a person the feeling of "separation from God." We lump all the things we think of as "really bad sins" in the "evil" category and all the little piddly wrongdoings as "failings" or "shortcomings" or whatnot. Yet, in our times of tribulation, we can feel our self-distancing from God for something small just as acutely as for something big. At the same time, we can be blithely unaware of sins not yet come to light, that turn out to be significant failings on our part.

In my mind, this is why I think the concept of being able to perform an "evil-ectomy" is an impossible task. The margins of the "tumor" are so blurred it can never be fully excised. If the prayer "God, please remove all evil in the world" could be answered, who of us would be left standing? Nobody--and that is our divine paradox. Each of us, made in the Creator's image, has to work our way through this co-mingling of our divine nature and our sin nature. The tumorous portions of our soul are not discrete lesions but more like a miscible pair of liquids. One simply can't be separated from the other. Yet in this murky, opaque mix of two totally opposite entities, we still see the light of God shining in people. Go figure!

I know, I know...I do not like to foray into church politics a whole lot on this blog...but once in a while something comes up that I have to say something. This time it is the proposed Anglican Communion Draft Covenant. The short version is: This appears to me to be a very carefully worded document filled with hidden language that appears innocuous but in reality, is not, and gives power to the primates of the AC that have never been historical aspects of the governance of the American church.

I particularly take issue to two parts of it: One, that in part 2, #5, the 39 Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are the guiding bases of our faith; and two, under part 6, #6, it is the primates' call on when "member churches choose not to fulfill the substance of the covenant."

I'll address my last beef first.

Yes, our bishops in the ECUSA have apostolic succession, but our church is self-governed, and has been that way since we broke from the Church of England during the revolutionary period. "We the people" decide through our House of Bishops, House of Deputies, and the General Convention what our church policies are. The wonderful thing is there is lay representation in this process. Frankly, this is what is so "American" about ECUSA. We don't take dictums from higher ups, even in spiritual matters. This is the heart of what the Reformation was all about...that lay people have the power to interpret Scripture. Yes, I defer to a vicar's or a bishop's scholarship, but I don't necessarily defer to his or her view on what Scripture means to ME.

The primates of the Global South wish for a governance more like the church of Rome. This is what the heart of the impairment between the GS and the ECUSA is, but they are conveniently using the issues of ordaining the XX Chromosome Crowd and homosexuality as the whipping boys/girls of their larger agenda.

The AC needs to understand that they are a communion, not a hierarchy.

Now on to my first beef...

Ok, I am going back to the catechism in the 1979 BCP for this (italics mine):

Under "The Creeds":

Q: What are the creeds?
A: The creeds are statements of our basic beliefs about God.

Q: How many creeds does this Church use in its worship?
A: This Church uses two creeds: The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.

Our church is based on a view of Scripture as outlined by the creeds; part of the "Scripture" leg of the classic "3 legged stool of our church--Scripture, Tradition, and Reason". The 39 Articles of Religion and the 1662 BCP are historical documents, part of the "Tradition" leg of the same stool. It seems to me that certain segments of the AC want to merge these legs into one leg, and take the leg of "Reason" away from the laity, give it to the primates, and say, "Here, this is what this leg is supposed to look like. Build your three legged stool however you want, as long as the other legs match this leg."

Meanwhile, I think we have perfectly fine three-legged stool crafters here in the US, and we should be left alone to make them.

I'm having one of those weeks where I'm "thinking heretical thoughts". I get those once in a while. Many of these thoughts I've harbored since childhood, only expanded on them a little as my mind expanded.

We're always told that Jesus was "fully human and fully divine." (We've been "officially" saying that since the adoption of a doctrinal statement created at the Council Chalcedon in 491 C.E., anyway.) Fully human. Fully divine. That is just a really hard concept to wrap one's mind around. Allow me to expound on my heresy:

If we totally bought, hook, line and sinker, the concept of a "sinless Christ" (which seems to be the party line in more fundamental denominations)...Wouldn’t anyone have noticed that Jesus, while growing up, was one weird little kid?

I mean, if you follow the notion of Christ’s deity and sinlessness literally, here’s this kid, who’s God made flesh...who never does anything wrong. Never gets sick. Never beats the crap out of his brother. Never taunts little girls with frogs or snakes. Never got his buns warmed by his parents. Never had a temper tantrum.

That notion creates in my mind this extremely un-endearing, disgustingly perfect little kid that, had I been one of Jesus’ playmates as a child, would have schemed up some way to get his little goody-goody behind in trouble. (Now THERE's another concept to wrap one's mind around--I have to live with the notion that I am flawed to the point I would, as a child, like to have left Jesus "holding the bag" on some scheme to get him in trouble. If there's a great white throne of judgement, I'll certainly be squirming while answering that one.)

Wouldn’t the other kids in town have ragged on Jesus for being such a goody-two-shoes?

Wouldn’t Mary and Joseph had ever thought, “Wait a minute...what’s wrong with this kid????” (Sure, they know the score about who He was, but they would have HAD to have some wild dinner conversations....)

"Joseph, doesn't it ever bother you that Jesus never does anything wrong?"

"Well, yeah, but I've never reared the Son of God before, Mary...what do you want ME to do about it. Besides, really, he's more YOUR kid than mine."

How could a kid like that NOT have attracted attention in town?

"What's up with that Jesus kid anyway? He never steals fruit off my fruit stand like the other kids."

"Yeah, and who does he think he is anyway, talking about 'his father in Heaven' all the time. Everyone knows he's the carpenter's kid."

"Well, maybe he's not REALLY the carpenter's kid. I heard she was already knocked up by someone else--I heard some Roman soldier got to her--and Joseph just didn't want to make a big deal about it. That Joseph is a bigger man than I am, if he could do that."

But then I find I have to reconcile myself to the notion that the human form of Jesus had to have SOME kind of human frailties somehow. I say that b/c of the temple story. Let’s look at what happened:

He took off away from his parents for 5 days. Obviously, his parents would not consider that being “led by the spirit.”

If I had told my dad, “Don’t you know I’m in my Father’s house” after they found me, he wouldn’t have gone, “Oh. Ok.” It would have been more like, “We’ve been looking all over Hell’s Half Acre for you for 3 days, don’t you DARE give me any lip! Whaddy’a mean ‘my father’s house’? I’M your father, you ungrateful little turd!” and would have dragged my sorry smart-mouthed butt out of the temple and whipped it raw.

My mom certainly would not have “treasured” that incident, either. “Look, I know you’re smart, but don’t you be going all prima donna precocious on me here. I didn’t raise you that way. I’m not going to listen to all the mothers in town rag me for you being a precocious, spoiled brat. You need to learn a little more humility. Don’t you ever take off on us like that again, or I’m telling you, there’ll be hell to pay.”

So, really, he did something wrong here. He took off from his parents without their permission and gave them what would have appeared to be a rebellious, smart-alecky answer when they find him after 3 days. So Jesus the human HAD to have some human failings. He may well have been a perfect soul, but he HAD to be an imperfect human or at least had committed some acts that people around him would have deemed “wrong.”

I think where the mental disconnect takes place when one thinks about this problem is we undervalue Christ's humanity and at the same time, undervalue our divinity. We tend to virtually ignore the possibility that Jesus was truly "one of us"--fully human. To be fully human means you make mistakes, or at the very least, commit acts that others perceive as "sin". There are plenty of statements He makes in the Gospels that I think, "Well, gee, that was a little harsh." (Cursing the fig tree comes to mind. That smacks too much of impetuous parlor magic to suit me.) See--there I go again. Curses were considered to be "wrong" in His day, or at the very least, not fit for polite company--but there He is, ragging on the fig tree.

(I won't even begin to go into how Mark has him cursing it BEFORE He entered the temple, and Matthew says it was AFTER he went into the temple--that's a subject for another day.)

I realize this might attract some grief from the more fundamentalist crowd, but I just have one request if I'm going to be nailed for heresy--use wet wood when you burn me at the stake so I die of smoke inhalation first.



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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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