Plagues, Houses

I’m getting mightily sick of both the intolerance of ambiguity and the celebration of ambiguity. Ambiguity pertains to our human condition. Repudiate it, and it will show you a presumptuous braggart; revel in it, and it will demonstrate your fatuousness.

Our job is to discern how to make affirmations in a world of ambiguity, how to deal with uncertainty in an uncertain world. That involves reliance on God, not because God resolves our ambiguities into clear-cut iron-clad certainties that circumvent our travails, but because in turning to God we enter a Way that promises forgiveness for the missteps we make in earnestly endeavoring to draw nearer to God. We follow in that Way, — we don’t determine it ourselves. We offer forgiveness as a condition of our presuming to ask forgiveness. We commit ourselves to pursuing a truth we don’t control, a truth that may lead us to conclusions we don’t like, may oblige us to change our minds. We enter a network of communion with one another, with ourselves, with our forebears and children, and above all with God, in which winning falls out of the vocabulary of our relationships. If anyone “wins” we all lose. God handles the “winning” department; if we share in it at all, we share in it by participating in a humble, partial way in the utter loss on Good Friday, by being baptized into the death of Christ, and it comes not to those who are right, or to those who are the most loving, but to those who receive it as a gift.

Among the simplest, least ambiguous things Jesus said was, “if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” I don’t read the part where he says, “Except if they really provoke you,” or “except if they’re too conservative (or ‘liberal’).” If we made some headway on that one, maybe we’d be in a position to advance our understanding of more complicated issues.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. If only you would let me add the links to your post. Surely we cannot reform the immoderate without ridicule and shame? The message of Christ is lost on so many of those who preach it, shaking their jowels and their fist in the Holy Name of Jesus. Can safe trope of “both houses” do justice to the abuse of religion in politics, for wordly and often vicious ends? Won’t we in the end the have to engage a Church militant? (I wonder what Swift would have said to that?) The utter loss of the Cross is an example with few contemporary imitators.

    Can we moderately reason hardened sinners, often preachers in their own right, with enormous congregations, into decency, humility, and virtue? Doesn’t our own experience repeatedly show that it rrequires negative reinforcement? Couldn’t the High Church reform the Low? Is it too late for the stake?

    Of course, all the same, I know you are right. May your virtue spread by stubborn example. Even to me. Thanks.

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