I had several thoughts accumulating yesterday—I was halfway through this video, which caught my eye because of all the writing I’ve done about Revoice over the last couple of years, and then there was this graph that is generating no little comment on Twitter. But this morning all the news is about what happened in Nashville yesterday. There are tons of “takes” in my feed, from every conceivable point of view, a cacophony of grief and schadenfreude.
I cannot help but observe with immense sadness the unstable and shifting sand of “abuse narratives.” It is never the victim’s fault when something bad happens…except maybe in this case. Maybe in this case those Christians deserved it because the person was enduring “justifiable” anger at this school for having taught something that was upsetting, like the gospel.
I need hardly point out that embracing the idea that in some cases it might be ok to shoot children is not good for children anywhere. To say it in the words of the sign outside of our local Unitarian Universalist church, “Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.” Every time I drive by I try very hard not to roll my eyes because it is such a naive and fanciful thing to say. There is no such thing as “justice everywhere.” By nature, we are unjust, unfair in all our dealings. And yet, that sentimental, nearly jingoistic proverb is true in a deeper sense. Three decades of unfettered abortion certainly have degraded the value of the lives of children in the minds of millions of people. In some cases, it appears to be reasonable to kill them, like before they are born. In some situations, unrestricted use of guns is basically fine, like in so many inner city situations, and no one can think of anything to do about it. We have been living in the shadowland of justice platitudes for such a long time most of us don’t even notice how unjust—and unmerciful—our world has become.
And then there are the usual scolds crying “Where now is your God?”
I find the thoughts of David Pakman rather ironic given this reporting by NPR:
BOOKMAN: The experienced work with the less experienced. Everybody shares guns. They geek out on scopes. There's not a ton of data on LGBTQ gun ownership, but a UCLA study from 2020 found that about 21% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people live in a house with a firearm. That's compared to 36% of heterosexual adults. In terms of partisan breakdown, a recent Pew study found that about 1 in 5 self-identified Democrats own a gun compared to nearly half of Republicans. Rainbow Reload is not a political group. It doesn't advocate for any gun policies. And amongst the members, there are a variety of opinions.
Do you consider yourself on the political left?
GUARDIAN: I mean, if you go far enough left, you get your guns back.
BOOKMAN: If there's a stereotype that everyone who isn't a conservative opposes gun rights, Guardian is here to scramble that. Obviously a fake name, Guardian says he's fearful of his family being targeted. His hat, worn backwards, says Make Fascists Afraid Again. He's been around guns his whole life and sees them as a way to protect queer people and queer spaces.
GUARDIAN: And I want people to feel safe to be who they are. It's not a matter of politics. It's a matter of whether or not you think certain people should get to live and be their genuine selves.
I want to go on record as saying that I do think people should get to “live” as that person says, but I don’t think our “genuine selves” are a solid enough basis for the kind of peaceful society most of us desire. There has to be something else, something beyond the “genuine self,” something transcendent that holds powerful, even fearful sway over what each person does. “Affirmation,” as such, cannot produce a “safe” kind of world where every person gets to “live.”
No, there has to be some other way. Strangely enough—or rather not strange at all—the daily office lections for this morning couldn’t be more apt. If you glance at them, you’ll see that God first instructs Moses in the construction of the Tabernacle:
…the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; 12 the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the veil of the screen; 13 the table with its poles and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 14 the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light; 15 and the altar of incense, with its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the door, at the door of the tabernacle; 16 the altar of burnt offering, with its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin and its stand; 17 the hangings of the court, its pillars and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court, and their cords; 19 the finely worked garments for ministering in the Holy Place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests.”
And then offers up his own son:
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Several details lept out at me as I struggled through these texts, as well as the Psalm, trying, I’ll be honest, not to cry. First, the women of Israel “twist” threads for fine twined linen—blue, purple, and scarlet yarn—and the soldiers “twist” a crown of thorns for Jesus’ head. Second, while the garments of the priests have precious stones sewn into them so that Aaron might bear the household of Israel before the Lord in his heart, Jesus has his seamless garment torn off so that he can be flogged, and then put on, and then torn off again so that he can hang, humiliated and naked, before the jeering crowd. Third, the beautiful smelling fragrance of the incense and the oil are exchanged for the stench of excrement and filth.
In order for God to deal with “injustice everywhere” he goes into the very pit, the deep mire. He gives himself up into the hands of his enemies and dies—and this is the astonishing part—in their place. One act of horrific injustice, indeed the only act of perfect injustice overturns injustice everywhere in all places for all time.
And so, it is no real loss to suffer the shame and disapprobation of the Twitterverse. Where now is our God? In heaven listening to the prayers of the people he purchased for himself by his own blood. Where is our peace? Living in our minds and bodies and hearts by the very Spirit of God who seals us, like the fragrant oil, to be kept safe forever. Where is our joy? In contemplating the very throne of God where we stand, even now, spiritually incorporated in the Son who intercedes for us every moment.
Every prayer you pray today for those in every corner of the world suffering any trial or tribulation—if you are in Christ—is heard and answered by the God who overturned on that dark and terrible day the sins of the world.
May God have mercy. See you tomorrow.
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Anne, all of your devotions are good but this was excellent. Thank you
Well said! Thank you. 💕