Forced to Sit with People Who Are Wrong

images-1     Millions of people, including many Christians, will see the incoherent Christian response to Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh as yet another reason to abandon the Christian project altogether. I feel that way myself sometimes, and I’m a Christian seminarian.

   Her most enduring memory is the laughter of those boys. In every laugh she hears, she must hear them. And she must feel that hand over her mouth, the one she feared might suffocate her, accidentally, while the other hand worked on purpose at her clothes, and those boys laughed.

   That news, and the way Dr. Ford was treated for bringing it forward, made a lot of people sick of this world, including a lot of people who call themselves Christians.

   Sick of this world, where women are routinely pinned to beds.

   Sick of this world, where the boys who will become the men who run the country laugh while they assault a girl.

   Sick of this world, where a man who says that women let you put your hand between their legs, if your a star, can be the president of the United States.

   Millions of people, including many Christians, laughed when that man mocked the woman who can’t forget the laughter of those boys, one of whom was appointed to a seat on the Supreme Court Saturday. He’ll sit there for the rest of his life.

   Where will she sit?

   Millions of other people, including many Christians, felt pinioned by that laughter and that mockery, and feared a different kind of suffocation.

   The world was turned another notch away from the Kingdom of Heaven this week. Or, the world came one step closer to the reign of Christian Righteousness this week.

   One or the other, maybe, but not both.

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   One thing that keeps me in the faith is a set of Bible readings called the Revised Common Lectionary, which functions like a newsfeed from the world that we can’t see.   There, too, the readings seem to work against each other. In the Gospel reading, a man runs up to Jesus and asks how he can secure eternal life.

   “You know the commandments,” Jesus says: “don’t kill, don’t fornicate, don’t steal, don’t lie.”

   “I’ve done all that since my youth,” the man says.

   At which point Jesus looks at him. He looks like Brett Kavanaugh — the right family, the right schools, the right connections, which lead to right clerkship under the right judge.

   “Well then give all your money to the poor,” Jesus says.

   And liberal Christians are like Psyche! No one gets to be on top in both worlds, Brett!

images-2.jpg   In one of the companion readings, another man who resembles Brett Kavanaugh expects to be rewarded for keeping the commandments from his youth, and through adversity in later life. Job believes that God will side with him against the people who believe he’s lying about something in his past. And he’s right: God gives him twice as much money as he had before, plus 14,000 sheep and three new daughters. Which is exactly how a conservative Christian might expect God to handle obedience and money.

   Shouldn’t all the readings point in a single direction, toward a single truth, one that will tell me whether to rejoice or weep about convulsions like the one that culminated Saturday?

   No, they shouldn’t. Because reality doesn’t point in a single direction. In fact, the Christian paradigm’s refusal to pretend that human experience, or human relationships, or the relationship between people and God can be reduced to a single line is one of its strengths.

   I think Christians who rejoice about the Kavanaugh appointment are wrong, and they think Christians who lament the Kavanaugh appointment are wrong, and Christianity is going to make us sit beside each other.

   That’s the only way we’re ever going to be less sick of this world.

5 thoughts on “Forced to Sit with People Who Are Wrong

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  1. “I think Christians who rejoice about the Kavanaugh appointment are wrong, and they think Christians who lament the Kavanaugh appointment are wrong, and Christianity is going to make us sit beside each other.”

    The great irony of life is that it often calls on us to do the most, which we would prefer to do the least. There is hope in moving forward though.

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  2. I’m struck by your suggestion at the end of the post that the only way forward through this mess is to sit beside each other and keep on trying. It brings into focus another way that what happened in the Senate confirmation hearings offers a stark contrast with what would go on in the Kingdom of God. The ultimate goal for the people involved – far more important than gaining or denying a seat on the court – should be reconciliation and healing; but those are terms that don’t seem to translate into the language of power politics.

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  3. Nice writing, Mark. After agreeing with much if not all of the content, I was left with a question about the “Christian project.” I wonder if christendom as an institution is the product of Christianity being subusmmed by the more trustworthy or at least manageable project of democracy and liberal welfare state institutions. Chrstianity in the United States simply sereves to allow for self-justifying political decisions that produce desired outcomes, a reality that eliminate faith from communities of faith who instead seek to establish a moral kindgom through the arm of government. Perhaps Christianity has not failed, as much as it has taken a seat on the margins as civic religion attracts and motivates folks who see God or Jesus as an unwaivering authority for their own ideas of political righteousness in covenant with their own desires for power and control. scot

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  4. Your writing is very evocative and quality. I have to admit it was difficult to get through to the theological point because while the writing was catching it also triggered me. I wonder if you could articulate your perceived audience for me. Maybe I do not fall within the spectrum?

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    1. I hope to speak to people who have abandoned Christianity because the version of it they knew in youth seems too narrow to process the reality they know as adults. That narrowness often manifests as dogmatic insistence on the rightness of a single perspective. I find that immersion in the Bible challenges adherence to a single perspective.

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