I especially liked this part:
All of us need help with birth and death and good and evil, and religion can give us that. It doesn’t solve problems. It reminds you that, yes, those challenges are real and important and folks throughout history have struggled and thought about them too, and by the way, here is some profound writing on the subject from people whose whole job is to think about this stuff.
Over much of the rest of the piece, however, I have struggled to gauge my feelings. I am glad to see a Christian “come out,” and sad to know she felt “oppressed” by the cool kids in the cafeteria. I would like to say “welcome, Ada, to the constant reality of Christ,” but I am not sure she would like that; I suspect if I opened my arms she would veer left to escape the embrace, in order to huddle within her circle and say, “but I’m not the sort of Christian you are, with your women-hating oppressive patriarchal church, your sin-talk, your abortion-mania and gay-bigotry.”
Calhoun has decided to “come out” defensively; making an appeasement offering to her progressive circle that hits all the proper hate-notes and narratives against other Christians.
All in all, the piece reminds me a little of that scene in Schindler’s List, where the female Jewish architect tries to stay alive by offering to help design a better, stronger gallows so that Amon Goeth could kill more Jews. She hoped, of course, that the value of her usefulness to the cause would outweigh her unfortunate Jewishness.
Amon Goeth, of course, allowed the architect to have her say. Then he casually dispatched her with a single bullet to the head.
Too much of Calhoun’s piece sounds like she’s saying, “Okay, I’m coming out as an oppressed Christian, and all you progressives have to accept me, because I’m the right sort of Christian; an Episcopal with full progressive credentials, who will never challenge your shibboleths. I’m not like those other Christians, whom it is permissible and right to despise.”
It is never easy to “come out,” – whether one is doing it as a gay person or as an atheist or even as a believer – there is always the wondering: how will this be received; what will I lose or gain with this self-exposure? Will love disappear?
When we are children playing hide-and-seek, at game’s end we call “olly-olly-oxen-free.” It means “come out, step into the light where you may be found/seen; there is no risk, no penalty.”
As adults we know, of course, that there is always a risk when you are in the light and can be seen; that is why we hide in layers. Christians, however, are called to step out into the light, anyway with trust:
Really, all of this comes with the job. The job of the Christian is to hold fast in the face of chaos and recall that Christ is more powerful than any man or media, and that darkness does not overcome light. To be honest, all the fretting from us Christians is a bit unseemly. If we are secure in what we believe, a cartoon does not take us down, no matter how perverse and offensive, because Christ is alive, and Grace abounds, and because just as an Abbess or Abbot is entitled to use whatever resources his or her community contains to advance the stability of the abbey, the Holy Spirit has a way of confounding us by using what is out there in the world – sometimes very surprising things and people – to do the will of the One.
The Christian who “comes out” steps out into the light and the world of paradoxes. Love does not disappear; it turns up everywhere. It challenges. It waits. It serves. It demands your surrender, only to give you more.
I very naturally began to refer to Him as “His Majesty.” Teresa of Avila always used the phrase and I always wondered about it. Now, suddenly, I knew. I had had a glimpse of what it was to be in the Presence of the Eternal Majesty, and it took away all of my resistance, all of my words. I surrendered, gave it all, understood the illusion that I had anything to give, and the paradox therein; that God never takes away a gift given, but accepts the surrender of everything by gifting even more.
The life of faith, in truth, is -like Jumpin’ Jack Flash, a g-g-gas; it is a mind-blower. We humans tend to try to put everything, including God, and love and life, into manageable compartments, and we hide in them. We hide inside our frameworks, our structures, our plans, our narratives, our willful and our unintentional bigotries.
But God -who created a world of order- points cannons at those tidy compartments and goes “ba-boom!” And when we ask, repeatedly, “why did you do that, when I had it all so beautifully arranged,” God says, “it was blocking my love. My love couldn’t fit with all that stuff in the way.”
When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger realized he was about to be elevated to the Chair of St. Peter, he is reported to have put his head in his hands and prayed, “Lord, don’t do this to me…” He had planned for a quiet retirement; a little house in Bavaria with ten thousand books, a cat, a piano and a word-processor. And then – “ba-boom!” – he was sent, like Peter, to where he would rather not go.
To not obey would have blocked God’s love.
Obedience, for all it is decried, is in fact, the Royal Highway by which His Majesty speeds along his love, and his glory. It is the Autobahn of the Spirit. But we don’t find it half as amusing as the German one with the fast cars.
At this point in Advent, we are slouching toward Bethlehem, bearing a heavy load; family gatherings are not always fun. Social pressures mount. Outlooks are grim. A week ago we were bathed in a sort of afterglow as we recognised the God who is our self-immolating lover. As the journey plods on, however, the night begins to seem very long, and all of our hope is on the distant star.
Standing on his Holy Mountain, and looking East, I spot my frightened sister Ada, and say, “welcome, Ada, to the constant reality of Christ; to the Body of Christ, which is broken, and despised of men.”
Welcome to the crucible of faith, where everyone gets a turn.
To quote Michelangelo, and the great Anthony Bloom: As I am a beginner myself . . . we will try to begin together.
It is so hard, and so good, to belong to Christ.
UPDATE: Joe Carter wonders “If this is what it means to come out as a Christian, why bother? If you’re embarrassed to be associated with orthodox Christians, with Scripture, and with Jesus—the Jesus of history as revealed in the Gospel, not the hippie, guru Jesus of the denatured social gospel—why would you even want to be called a Christian at all?”